A highly entertaining, sophisticated look at the Second Punic War through the eyes of an unlikely hero.

FOUR NAILS

In Berger’s (South of Burnt Rocks—West of the Moon, 2012) epic historical fiction, a young elephant driver from India fights in Hannibal’s army as it marches toward Rome.

When a Syrian caravan visits his small Indian village in 227 B.C., young Ashoka, who’s known for his talent with elephants, is sold into slavery by his father in an effort to protect his family. Ashoka’s strong sense of duty carries him through a harrowing trip across the desert, and after a display of his elephant skills, he’s eventually sold to a Carthaginian senator who orders him to train his elephants for war. The novel follows Ashoka as he’s sold a second time into Hannibal’s army and eventually becomes head mahout, or elephant driver. A treat for ancient history buffs, the novel would especially appeal to fans of TV shows like Spartacus and Rome. Presented mostly from Ashoka’s point of view, the war is seen through the eyes of an Indian slave, conscripted into a war against his will. Nonetheless, highly intuitive and intelligent Ashoka is able to see the war clearly, and he lives to protect his precious elephants. Unlike the zealots in each opposing army, he recognizes that there’s no real good or evil; the Romans and Carthaginians are equally capable of committing atrocities, and though loyal to his commander, Ashoka is not burning with rage against Rome. He serves as a reminder that armies are often made up of reluctant participants. Spanning more than a decade and far from being a tired history lesson, the story flows naturally and never feels rushed. It’s full of interesting facts about Hannibal’s march to Rome, fortified by Berger’s simple yet rich descriptions of battles and the struggles of war. However, Ashoka’s nuanced, personal narrative drives the novel. Though a slave, he never sacrifices his beliefs, and he’s often outspoken with his masters—a habit that earns him disdain from some, though he’s ultimately rewarded for his moral courage.

A highly entertaining, sophisticated look at the Second Punic War through the eyes of an unlikely hero.

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Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2013

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Heartfelt and funny, this enemies-to-lovers romance shows that the best things in life are all-inclusive and nontransferable...

THE UNHONEYMOONERS

An unlucky woman finally gets lucky in love on an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii.

From getting her hand stuck in a claw machine at age 6 to losing her job, Olive Torres has never felt that luck was on her side. But her fortune changes when she scores a free vacation after her identical twin sister and new brother-in-law get food poisoning at their wedding buffet and are too sick to go on their honeymoon. The only catch is that she’ll have to share the honeymoon suite with her least favorite person—Ethan Thomas, the brother of the groom. To make matters worse, Olive’s new boss and Ethan’s ex-girlfriend show up in Hawaii, forcing them both to pretend to be newlyweds so they don’t blow their cover, as their all-inclusive vacation package is nontransferable and in her sister’s name. Plus, Ethan really wants to save face in front of his ex. The story is told almost exclusively from Olive’s point of view, filtering all communication through her cynical lens until Ethan can win her over (and finally have his say in the epilogue). To get to the happily-ever-after, Ethan doesn’t have to prove to Olive that he can be a better man, only that he was never the jerk she thought he was—for instance, when she thought he was judging her for eating cheese curds, maybe he was actually thinking of asking her out. Blending witty banter with healthy adult communication, the fake newlyweds have real chemistry as they talk it out over snorkeling trips, couples massages, and a few too many tropical drinks to get to the truth—that they’re crazy about each other.

Heartfelt and funny, this enemies-to-lovers romance shows that the best things in life are all-inclusive and nontransferable as well as free.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2803-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

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RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE

The much-loved royal romance genre gets a fun and refreshing update in McQuiston’s debut.

Alex Claremont-Diaz, son of the American President Ellen Claremont, knows one thing for sure: He hates Henry, the British prince to whom he is always compared. He lives for their verbal sparring matches, but when one of their fights at a royal wedding goes a bit too far, they end up falling into a wedding cake and making tabloid headlines. An international scandal could ruin Alex’s mother’s chances for re-election, so it’s time for damage control. The plan? Alex and Henry must pretend to be best friends, giving the tabloids pictures of their bromance and neutralizing the threat to Ellen's presidency. But after a few photo ops with Henry, Alex starts to realize that the passionate anger he feels toward him might be a cover for regular old passion. There are, naturally, a million roadblocks between their first kiss and their happily-ever-after—how can American political royalty and actual British royalty ever be together? How can they navigate being open about their sexualities (Alex is bisexual; Henry is gay) in their very public and very scrutinized roles? Alex and Henry must decide if they’ll risk their futures, their families, and their careers to take a chance on happiness. Although the story’s premise might be a fantasy—it takes place in a world in which a divorced-mom Texan Democrat won the 2016 election—the emotions are all real. The love affair between Alex and Henry is intense and romantic, made all the more so by the inclusion of their poetic emails that manage to be both funny and steamy. McQuiston’s strength is in dialogue; her characters speak in hilarious rapid-fire bursts with plenty of “likes,” “ums,” creative punctuation, and pop-culture references, sounding like smarter, funnier versions of real people. Although Alex and Henry’s relationship is the heart of the story, their friends and family members are all rich, well-drawn characters, and their respective worlds feel both realistic and larger-than-life.

A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31677-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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