A gleeful and action-packed, if utterly unbelievable, ride.

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Streak of Fire

In this debut thriller, a war between the United States and North Korea approaches, and only a teenager with peculiar powers can stop it.

Jessica DeLucca, a half-Italian, half-Navajo 19-year-old, grew up on the reservation where she lives. One day, during a fair there, a mysterious older woman seeks her out and gives her a necklace with a silver pendant. It turns out that this innocuous-looking piece of jewelry possesses extraordinary powers that only Jessica can access; for example, it can slice through any substance, even military-grade metal. Meanwhile, the United States government becomes embroiled in a parlous standoff with North Korea, which has somehow acquired a special long-range, anti-ship missile from China, with which it threatens to annihilate the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford. Jessica’s father, Jacob, works in a highly classified capacity for the government, and he’s part of a team trying to figure out how to respond to the new danger. Jessica reveals the awesome power of her necklace to him, and he realizes that it could be precisely the advantage the United States needs. He signs Jessica up as a government intern, and the two work as a team to avoid the recommencement of the Korean War. Webb’s novel combines sci-fi, magical fantasy, and political intrigue, making it resistant to easy classification. The pace of the plot is breakneck, and the action unfolds cinematically; indeed, there’s hardly a page without some drama or surprise. However, even for a story that’s explicitly designed to be fantastical, it not only stretches the limits of readers’ credulity, but seemingly dismisses them, layering one implausibility upon another. However, to the author’s credit, it does so very entertainingly. For example, Jessica not only speaks several dialects in different languages—she also plays drums in a Christian rock band, rides a motorcycle with the proficiency and confidence of a professional, and is an expert in eskrima, a Filipino martial art in which she uses a pair of hardwood “fighting sticks” that allow her to neutralize considerably bigger opponents.

A gleeful and action-packed, if utterly unbelievable, ride.

Pub Date: May 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5127-3093-7

Page Count: 258

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS

These letters from some important executive Down Below, to one of the junior devils here on earth, whose job is to corrupt mortals, are witty and written in a breezy style seldom found in religious literature. The author quotes Luther, who said: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." This the author does most successfully, for by presenting some of our modern and not-so-modern beliefs as emanating from the devil's headquarters, he succeeds in making his reader feel like an ass for ever having believed in such ideas. This kind of presentation gives the author a tremendous advantage over the reader, however, for the more timid reader may feel a sense of guilt after putting down this book. It is a clever book, and for the clever reader, rather than the too-earnest soul.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1942

ISBN: 0060652934

Page Count: 53

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1943

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