Structural issues aside, the story’s characters, human or otherwise, gleefully soak up the spotlight.

Done with Crazy

WELCOME TO BONHAVEN

An Alabama cop, living with ghosts and a family of mediums, may have found a link between jewelry stolen from her home and a recent murder case in this supernatural debut.

Alma Sue Babineaux’s family home, BonHaven, is already a full house with Al’s momma, granddaddy, aunts, and little sister, Lyci. But otherworldly guests fill it to capacity, from Wallace and John (poltergeist-esque Uglies) to Thruman, a Trow (essentially a short troll). Keeping the ghostly residents in line isn’t easy; Thruman, for one, gets a kick out of throwing clumps of dirt at Al. But things only get worse when her younger brother Jimmy-Don, an aspiring TV star, shows up at BonHaven with his ghostbusting crew. Jimmy-Don’s fascinated by Bastian, an ancient Spanish oak tree near the property line and an apparent lure for inexplicable occurrences. Bastian’s also the place where someone’s left a body and strange carvings, possibly voodoo symbols, on the tree. Back at BonHaven, a fortune in antique jewelry mysteriously vanishes. Not only does Al suspect that somebody’s creeped into the home and snatched the jewels, she soon sees a connection between the theft and the Bastian murder case. Al, partner Bobby Glen Taylor, and handsome, viable romantic interest Carlyle Baveras struggle to put the pieces together to find a thief—and/or a killer. The largely tongue-in-cheek tale, unquestionably a series opener, wisely concentrates on its delightfully bizarre characters. Aunt Merle, for example, “accidentally time travels in her sleep,” while Momma’s dog, Cooper, loves to sprint through a room chasing Thruman, an incident that occurs so often that no one even acknowledges it. But the narrative’s shifting perspective is somewhat bewildering. It starts with Al logging the typically peculiar events into a diary at BonHaven but later bounces from first- to third-person and back, with readers often privy to information Al doesn’t have—like Carlyle’s scintillating secret. Occasional mistakes add to the confusion: inconsistent spellings of certain names (Bastian, in several instances, is “Bastion”), the titles officer and detective used synonymously, and Al’s dad described separately as both missing and dead. Nevertheless, Al is a smashing protagonist, and one can only hope she’ll display her oft-mentioned wrestling skills in a sequel.

Structural issues aside, the story’s characters, human or otherwise, gleefully soak up the spotlight.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9964819-0-8

Page Count: 318

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2016

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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