An amusing, somewhat peculiar story about secret government agencies, conspiracies and the bond of friendship formed in a...

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HOLLY

A BRANDI BARE NOVEL

In Outlaw’s illustrated YA/conspiracy novel, a cash-strapped college student befriends a young woman claiming to be a top-secret government spy on the run from the law.

College freshman Dylan Dighton assumes she will be having a much-needed relaxing, solitary weekend on campus during Thanksgiving break. After explaining that she can’t join her roommates on a trip because she needs to work at the local record store to earn money, Dylan decides to take a walk around the neighborhood, where she witnesses a car accident. A young woman named Holly springs from the wreckage and begs Dylan not to call the police, but sirens are already blazing in the distance. After Holly injures a campus security guard with some top-notch martial arts, Dylan agrees to shelter Holly for the night in her vacant dorm. After Dylan awakes in the morning, she discovers that Holly has fled the coop and nicked a few items on her way out. When they encounter each other at a coffee shop a few hours later, Holly tells Dylan that she’s part of a government agency so secret it has no name, and she has been trained in a program related to an executive order given by President Kennedy before he was assassinated. Meanwhile, Dylan lands in hot water with campus security for the injured security guard, and she begins to wonder just what her new “friend” has dragged her into. Featuring a series of comic-book-style illustrations that show the titular character and Dylan in various states of undress and distress, the book attempts to inject mild erotic tension and playful camaraderie into a 50-year-old conspiracy about devaluing the nation’s currency. What the storytelling lacks in nuance it makes up for with relentless, page-turning pace: “The hand that came to rest on her shoulder was firm, impressive, and direct, as was the voice that followed. ‘Dylan Dighton, can we have a word with you?’ Her head pivoted quickly, and she found herself staring at campus security.” Dylan and Holly’s story is far from clichéd, but its implausibility puts it into the realm of stylized action-adventure.

An amusing, somewhat peculiar story about secret government agencies, conspiracies and the bond of friendship formed in a crisis.

Pub Date: July 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1497493056

Page Count: 158

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2014

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An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

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THE WATER DANCER

The celebrated author of Between the World and Me (2015) and We Were Eight Years in Power (2017) merges magic, adventure, and antebellum intrigue in his first novel.

In pre–Civil War Virginia, people who are white, whatever their degree of refinement, are considered “the Quality” while those who are black, whatever their degree of dignity, are regarded as “the Tasked.” Whether such euphemisms for slavery actually existed in the 19th century, they are evocatively deployed in this account of the Underground Railroad and one of its conductors: Hiram Walker, one of the Tasked who’s barely out of his teens when he’s recruited to help guide escapees from bondage in the South to freedom in the North. “Conduction” has more than one meaning for Hiram. It's also the name for a mysterious force that transports certain gifted individuals from one place to another by way of a blue light that lifts and carries them along or across bodies of water. Hiram knows he has this gift after it saves him from drowning in a carriage mishap that kills his master’s oafish son (who’s Hiram’s biological brother). Whatever the source of this power, it galvanizes Hiram to leave behind not only his chains, but also the two Tasked people he loves most: Thena, a truculent older woman who practically raised him as a surrogate mother, and Sophia, a vivacious young friend from childhood whose attempt to accompany Hiram on his escape is thwarted practically at the start when they’re caught and jailed by slave catchers. Hiram directly confronts the most pernicious abuses of slavery before he is once again conducted away from danger and into sanctuary with the Underground, whose members convey him to the freer, if funkier environs of Philadelphia, where he continues to test his power and prepare to return to Virginia to emancipate the women he left behind—and to confront the mysteries of his past. Coates’ imaginative spin on the Underground Railroad’s history is as audacious as Colson Whitehead’s, if less intensely realized. Coates’ narrative flourishes and magic-powered protagonist are reminiscent of his work on Marvel’s Black Panther superhero comic book, but even his most melodramatic effects are deepened by historical facts and contemporary urgency.

An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-59059-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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THE STARLESS SEA

A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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