A fine adventure story that will make readers await the next installment with bated breath.

Fever Quest

From the The Isabella Rockwell Trilogy series , Vol. 2

In Parry’s (Winter’s Bite, 2014, etc.) second book in the Isabella Rockwell trilogy, 16-year-old Isabella continues the search for her father and tangles with a dangerous diamond magnate.

Isabella and Midge, an orphan boy she befriended in the first book, have just arrived after a long ocean journey at the Port of Mombasa in East Africa. Fellow travelers include Livia and Rose, two popular, well-to-do girls whom Isabella envies. Parry fashions a compelling struggle among the trio, highlighted with moments of typical teenage jealousy. Then Isabella receives word that her father, a sergeant in the English army who was presumed dead, has been spotted at the Afghan border—but due to his injuries, he’s unable to identify himself. While still aboard ship, Midge and Isabella meet Col. Remus Stone, the governor of Golconda in India, who drunkenly waves around a large, spectacularly beautiful diamond. He tells them that at the entrance of the Golconda mine sits a statue of a goddess whose “third eye,” a special diamond, was stolen long ago. Stone hopes that it’s the same one he has, as he fervently believes a legend that says that until the diamond is returned, no one can unearth any other gems from the mine. Soon after Isabella leaves the ship, she comes upon an old friend who implores her to deliver a special package to a place far from where her father is rumored to be. To complicate matters further, Isabella and Midge have a falling out, and he opts to travel without her. The heartbroken Isabella soon receives a letter from Stone saying that he’s kidnapped Midge and instructing her to meet them at the mine. Parry’s tale is an adventurous, serpentine journey, rich with poetic, cinematic description (“The docks at the port of Masulipatam were thronged with people….Despite her sadness, to suddenly hear so many people speaking Hindi all around her was lovely, as if some central spring in her, which had been wound tight, could suddenly relax”) and many surprising moments that beg rapid page-turning. She weaves this marvelously complex tale with skill, as all the various subplots mesh perfectly at the book’s end. Isabella is a terrific heroine—daring, industrious, and strong—but her struggles with self-doubt will make her thoroughly relatable for teenage readers.

A fine adventure story that will make readers await the next installment with bated breath.

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9573321-3-3

Page Count: 284

Publisher: Neilsen Book

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2015

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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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