An immersive tussle between belief and uncertainty.

SPELLBOUND

From the Pagan Light series , Vol. 2

A teenage girl faces doubts about love and fear about the origins of her psychic abilities in the second paranormal fantasy in Keltner’s (Possessed, 2019, etc.) Pagan Light series.

It has been four months since 18-year-old Jackie Turov learned to embrace her psychic gift—the touch that enables her to “read” the past and to heal people. It has also been four months since she fell for David, a 24-year-old seminarian. Jackie and David are in love, but in two months’ time David will enter the priesthood (apparently Russian Orthodox), either as a married man or forever to remain celibate. Jackie is sure of her feelings but worries that David’s religious beliefs won’t allow him to accept her powers. This worry only grows when an old woman at church accuses Jackie and Babu, her great-grandmother, of being witches, and it grows still further when the woman starts choking to death and David won’t let Jackie help her. Jackie glimpses terrible events in the woman’s past. She senses that Babu was involved somehow and, despite the love she feels for her great-grandmother, can’t help wondering if she herself has inherited a spark of evil. Babu is evasive on the matter. Jackie needs to know. So when David asks her to travel with him to Russia—where his family lives in a small village near where Babu grew up—she agrees. David asks Jackie to marry him, but Jackie finds herself caught between Christian and pagan beliefs, between faith and magic. Will she and David live happily ever after, or are they fated for something much darker? Keltner narrates in the third person, past tense, mostly from Jackie’s perspective but occasionally from that of her best friend, Jason. The story is simply told yet brought to life with well-targeted descriptive passages, particularly with regard to the Russian characters and rural Russian setting. (The dialogue features quite a lot of untranslated Russian, but this adds to the atmosphere and is contextualized to give the gist.) Jackie herself comes across as less of an individual than in the first book in the series—less of an outcast, more a naïve, love-struck teen—but this regression turns out to be plot-driven; as tension builds and the story ramps up, Jackie at heart remains a protagonist that young readers will invest in.

An immersive tussle between belief and uncertainty.

Pub Date: July 28, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-07-543919-3

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2020

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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