Pulpy in places but sweet and sassy enough (à la Gilmore Girls) to attract magic-light teen or women’s fiction fans.


Turning to YA/adult fantasy, prolific mystery writer Lourey (January Thaw, 2014, etc.) tells of a matriarchal clan of witches joining forces against age-old evil.

Faith Falls, Minnesota, is your average small town apart from one sinister surprise: Every 25 years, the Native American burial ground hosts a plague of snakes. In the prologue, set in 1965, Ursula Catalain’s mother, Velda, asks her to craft a deadly poison. Little does 12-year-old Ursula know that her sixth sense for magic botanicals will end with her father, Henry, becoming a merciless ghost. About half a century later, Ursula’s daughter Katrine returns from London, leaving behind a job with Vogue and a failed marriage. Back in Minnesota, she starts work as a local reporter and sets about cheering her depressed sister, Jasmine. The seven female witches of the Catalain coven (including Ursula’s twin sisters, Helena and Xenia) each have different gifts: Katrine helps people become their better selves, Jasmine cooks comfort food that masks traumatic memories, and her teenage daughter Tara can see people’s emotional wounds. When the snake outbreak and a visit from Henry’s avenging spirit coincide, the Catalains hunker in their haunted Queen Anne mansion, preparing every spell in the titular handbook to defeat malevolent powers. The novel is tightly plotted, and Lourey shines when depicting relationships—romantic ones as well as tangled links between Catalains. Inspired by Bryan Sykes’s The Seven Daughters of Eve (2002), about common human ancestry through mitochondrial DNA, Lourey emphasizes the ties that bind in spite of secrets and resentment. Her metaphorical language is often inventive: “cushiony claws of sleep,” “hair curling like tender artichoke leaves,” and the sun “a whiskey-liquid ball of fiery hope.” Excerpts from the spell book are an added highlight. The villain—a “demon in [a] cowboy hat,” cursing, “Damn straight you witches are a lot of work….But I’ll just come back”—isn’t the most intriguing of the bunch, but characterizations elsewhere make up for it. Ursula and Katrine are especially distinctive.

Pulpy in places but sweet and sassy enough (à la Gilmore Girls) to attract magic-light teen or women’s fiction fans.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9908342-1-2

Page Count: 364

Publisher: Toadhouse Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2014

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The years pass by at a fast and steamy clip in Blume’s latest adult novel (Wifey, not reviewed; Smart Women, 1984) as two friends find loyalties and affections tested as they grow into young women. In sixth grade, when Victoria Weaver is asked by new girl Caitlin Somers to spend the summer with her on Martha’s Vineyard, her life changes forever. Victoria, or more commonly Vix, lives in a small house; her brother has muscular dystrophy; her mother is unhappy, and money is scarce. Caitlin, on the other hand, lives part of the year with her wealthy mother Phoebe, who’s just moved to Albuquerque, and summers with her father Lamb, equally affluent, on the Vineyard. The story of how this casual invitation turns the two girls into what they call "Summer sisters" is prefaced with a prologue in which Vix is asked by Caitlin to be her matron of honor. The years in between are related in brief segments by numerous characters, but mostly by Vix. Caitlin, determined never to be ordinary, is always testing the limits, and in adolescence falls hard for Von, an older construction worker, while Vix falls for his friend Bru. Blume knows the way kids and teens speak, but her two female leads are less credible as they reach adulthood. After high school, Caitlin travels the world and can’t understand why Vix, by now at Harvard on a scholarship and determined to have a better life than her mother has had, won’t drop out and join her. Though the wedding briefly revives Vix’s old feelings for Bru, whom Caitlin is marrying, Vix is soon in love with Gus, another old summer friend, and a more compatible match. But Caitlin, whose own demons have been hinted at, will not be so lucky. The dark and light sides of friendship breathlessly explored in a novel best saved for summer beachside reading.

Pub Date: May 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32405-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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