While slowed by a dry backstory, this engaging tale transports readers to an intriguing village.

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LEGEND OF LOVADA BRANCH

BOOK ONE: THE COVE

A series opener focuses on a hidden settlement in the Smoky Mountains.

Karen Karper Fredette (Where God Begins to Be, 2015, etc.) presents husband and wife Wren and Kyle Makepeace. As the novel begins, the two, both in their early 30s, are out for a hike near the Tennessee/North Carolina border. They follow an old railroad path and come across a woman named Mencie. Wren and Kyle have arrived at Lovada Cove. Mencie informs the couple that people only get to the Cove if they have been “Sent or Summoned.” It turns out the Cove is a village of sorts all on its own with homes, a church, and, thanks to some local ingenuity, reliable internet service. As Wren and Kyle learn more about this community, they also discover a great deal about themselves. Wren, who was raised by foster parents and whose middle name is Lovada, will become acquainted with her sometimes disturbing family history. Kyle, who is of Cherokee descent, will find a connection to his ancestors. Yet the couple will also learn that the Cove is in trouble. Someone even plans to tell the outside world about the settlement. The opening pages of the novel are laden with dull information about Wren and Kyle (for example, he was initially impressed by her “poise as she addressed a conference for compensatory education teachers”). Nevertheless, the pace of the story—which features black-and-white illustrations by Paul Fredette (Consider the Ravens, 2011), the author’s husband—soon picks up. The Cove is an odd enclave if ever there was one. Everything from the thickening mists capable of blocking out sound to a cat with the ability to get people to follow it adds to the vivid, otherworldly atmosphere. The story progresses with a feeling of mystery and later, when the narrative reveals someone wants to betray the Cove, a sense of urgency. Dialogue, on the other hand, tends to lack depth. For instance, Kyle proclaims awkwardly in a time of distress: “At least, let’s get clear of this place!” Yet even with such obvious sentiments, the narrative deftly takes the characters to places that both they and the audience could hardly expect.

While slowed by a dry backstory, this engaging tale transports readers to an intriguing village.

Pub Date: March 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-72303-058-1

Page Count: 222

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

ALMOST JUST FRIENDS

Piper Manning is determined to sell her family’s property so she can leave her hometown behind, but when her siblings come back with life-changing secrets and her sexy neighbor begins to feel like “The One,” she might have to redo her to-do list.

As children, Piper and her younger siblings, Gavin and Winnie, were sent to live with their grandparents in Wildstone, California, from the Congo after one of Gavin’s friends was killed. Their parents were supposed to meet them later but never made it. Piper wound up being more of a parent than her grandparents, though: “In the end, Piper had done all the raising. It’d taken forever, but now, finally, her brother and sister were off living their own lives.” Piper, the queen of the bullet journal, plans to fix up the family’s lakeside property her grandparents left the three siblings when they died. Selling it will enable her to study to be a physician’s assistant as she’s always wanted. However, just as the goal seems in sight, Gavin and Winnie come home, ostensibly for Piper’s 30th birthday, and then never leave. Turns out, Piper’s brother and sister have recently managed to get into a couple buckets of trouble, and they need some time to reevaluate their options. They aren’t willing to share their problems with Piper, though they’ve been completely open with each other. And Winnie, who’s pregnant, has been very open with Piper’s neighbor Emmitt Reid and his visiting son, Camden, since the baby’s father is Cam’s younger brother, Rowan, who died a few months earlier in a car accident. Everyone has issues to navigate, made more complicated by Gavin and Winnie’s swearing Cam to secrecy just as he and Piper try—and fail—to ignore their attraction to each other. Shalvis keeps the physical and emotional tension high, though the siblings’ refusal to share with Piper becomes tedious and starts to feel childish.

Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296139-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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