An immensely likable protagonist and consistently absorbing plot lay the groundwork for a promising series.

FORBIDDEN SECRETS

In debut author Ritchie’s first entry in a planned YA fantasy trilogy, a teenager is targeted by strange creatures in her small town.

Twyla Sokolovsky has been plagued with nightmares since her father’s murder a decade ago. The killer was a “monster” with “glowing red eyes,” and she only narrowly escaped death herself. However, everything else seems fine as she enters her senior year at East Riverbed High; she even makes the cheerleading squad, along with her best friend, Carol. But trouble starts with the arrival of a ruggedly handsome new student named Hunter Black. A teacher enlists Twyla to show Hunter around the school, as they attend the same classes. However, head cheerleader and resident bully Sarah White takes offense to their burgeoning relationship, as she feels entitled to first dibs on the attractive new guy. Shortly afterward, a creature, just like the one from 10 years ago, attacks Twyla in the woods.  Later, Carol shockingly sides with Sarah’s hateful “minions” against Twyla. Soon Twyla begins to suspect that there are other supernatural beings in the area, other than the red-eyed monsters—and they’ll go to extreme lengths to keep her quiet about their existence. Ritchie’s novel offers a stellar blend of fantastic goings-on and teenage high school struggles. The author effectively sketches out Twyla’s everyday travails before the preternatural elements creep in; for instance, it turns out that Sarah has taunted the protagonist for years. The story becomes unnerving in later chapters, when it becomes clear that established characters, such as Hunter, are hiding something big. Twyla’s first-person narration is convincing, and her frequent ruminations are neurotic but charming: “Are monsters real? Did I get attacked by one? Was that real too? Most importantly, am I really falling in love with this guy? Despite conspicuous similarities to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, this story gradually reveals an original plot that stands on its own. The final chapter takes a radical turn that resolves lingering questions and deftly sets up a sequel.

An immensely likable protagonist and consistently absorbing plot lay the groundwork for a promising series.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5255-2582-7

Page Count: 228

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2018

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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TRUE BETRAYALS

Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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