A sprawling cast and deep family history invigorate this sequel.

READ REVIEW

Highland Circle of Stones

From the The Highland Healer Series series , Vol. 2

In the second volume of Karsner’s (Highland Healer, 2015) romantic fantasy series, a vendetta between powerful beings threatens the MacKinnon clan’s hard-won peace.

It’s the mid-18th century, just after the Battle of Culloden and several months after she thwarted the foul desires of Cmdr. Campbell and Lord Warwick, and Caitlin the Healer is beginning her new life with the MacKinnons. Originally hailing from the Isle of Skye, she joins the four brothers (Alex, Jack, Hector, and Ian) in their lodge on the Scottish Highlands. There, she wants to marry Alex and expand her knowledge as a Healer. Yet some people, like Jack, call her a witch because of her elemental abilities, bequeathed to her as one of the Creator’s Called Ones. Although she has hopes for her future, Caitlin, formerly a loner, must now deal with being surrounded by people, including Lady Millie Sinclair Warwick, whose baby she helped deliver. The Healer is also unaware that the jealous Drosera—who failed to woo Alex in the past—has insinuated herself into the MacKinnons’ lives, just in time for the wedding. Caitlin copes by visiting the nearby circle of Druidic stones, within which she can feel a presence calling to her. For the second installment of her series, Karsner creates an elegiac battlement on the first novel’s foundation. The narrative’s strongest theme is family; for example, as Alex kneels at his Mam’s grave, he thinks, “Everywhere we look we still see yer touch, and yer name always brings a smile to our faces.” It uses its fantasy elements sparingly, though it also depicts them beautifully, as when the wizard, Uncle Wabi, uses “time weaving,” moving “at a speed that had stars melting...and the colors of Aurora Borealis racing across the sky.” Readers may find a climax in the story’s midsection to be jarring; it’s a moment that could have ended the story, but Karsner instead continues weaving her plot. As a result, it gives the later events an episodic feel, rather than that of a single, grand arc. Nevertheless, a savage finale tests the clan and should rivet readers.

A sprawling cast and deep family history invigorate this sequel.

Pub Date: May 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-943369-06-5

Page Count: 364

Publisher: SeaDog Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

ALL ADULTS HERE

When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus run over a longtime acquaintance of hers—Barbara Baker, a woman she doesn't like very much—it's only the beginning of the shake-ups to come in her life and the lives of those she loves.

Astrid has been tootling along contentedly in the Hudson Valley town of Clapham, New York, a 68-year-old widow with three grown children. After many years of singlehood since her husband died, she's been quietly seeing Birdie Gonzalez, her hairdresser, for the past two years, and after Barbara's death she determines to tell her children about the relationship: "There was no time to waste, not in this life. There were always more school buses." Elliot, her oldest, who's in real estate, lives in Clapham with his wife, Wendy, who's Chinese American, and their twins toddlers, Aidan and Zachary, who are "such hellions that only a fool would willingly ask for more." Astrid's daughter, Porter, owns a nearby farm producing artisanal goat cheese and has just gotten pregnant through a sperm bank while having an affair with her married high school boyfriend. Nicky, the youngest Strick, is disconcertingly famous for having appeared in an era-defining movie when he was younger and now lives in Brooklyn with his French wife, Juliette, and their daughter, Cecelia, who's being shipped up to live with Astrid for a while after her friend got mixed up with a pedophile she met online. As always, Straub (Modern Lovers, 2016, etc.) draws her characters warmly, making them appealing in their self-centeredness and generosity, their insecurity and hope. The cast is realistically diverse, though in most ways it's fairly superficial; the fact that Birdie is Latina or Porter's obstetrician is African American doesn't have much impact on the story or their characters. Cecelia's new friend, August, wants to make the transition to Robin; that storyline gets more attention, with the two middle schoolers supporting each other through challenging times. The Stricks worry about work, money, sex, and gossip; Straub has a sharp eye for her characters' foibles and the details of their liberal, upper-middle-class milieu.

With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59463-469-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more