THE BOOK OF SPELLS

A PRIVATE PREQUEL

Though other girls attend Billings to prepare themselves for marriage, 16-year-old Elizabeth Williams only wants to find freedom and good books at the Connecticut boarding school in this prequel to the Private series, set in 1915. Progressive-minded Eliza is determined not to repeat her older sister May’s sudden transformation and engagement. The attentive (if inconveniently engaged) Harrison Knox soon challenges her feelings about romance, though—and worsens her relationship with haughty Theresa Billings. Forbidden from creating a literary society, Eliza and the other ten members of her coven secretly study The Book of Spells. Their initial magical experiments are trivial and cosmetic, but when Eliza and Theresa’s rivalry over both Harrison and group leadership endangers the life of a mutual friend, the coven attempts a dangerous spell with disastrous consequences. The supernatural elements and class tensions are a welcome addition to the standard boarding-school romantic liaisons and social sparring, as is Brian’s skill at sketching out early-20th-century upper-class life. An enjoyable stand-alone and an entertaining series supplement. (Paranormal romance. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Dec. 21, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4424-1236-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2010

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A must-read with a conclusion that will leave readers craving more.

THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS

A monster spreads madness through the streets of Shanghai.

It is the autumn of 1926, and Shanghai is poised at the brink of transformation. Foreign powers have carved out portions of the city for themselves; what remains is divided between two feuding gangs, the Chinese Scarlet Gang and the Russian White Flowers. Eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai has returned home from New York City, wreathed in a reputation for ruthlessness and ready to step into her role as heir to the Scarlet Gang. Four years ago, a betrayal by the White Flowers heir, Roma Montagov, a young man of 19, led to the deaths of countless Scarlets, and Juliette is determined to avenge her gang. But when a lethal contagion strikes the city, targeting Scarlets and White Flowers alike, Juliette and Roma grudgingly agree to cooperate on an investigation in order to save their city. The slow-burning romance in this book takes a back seat to the gripping mystery grounded in immersive historical detail. Allusions to Romeo and Juliet are evident in names and specific scenes, but familiar themes of family, loyalty, and identity bear new significance in Gong’s inventive adaptation. Language is a tool wielded deftly by the multilingual characters, who switch easily among English, French, Shanghainese, Russian, and more, with Mandarin as the primary dialect for Chinese phrases. A strong supporting cast that includes a trans girl completes this striking debut.

A must-read with a conclusion that will leave readers craving more. (Historical fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-5769-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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Chilling, poignant, haunting, and, unfortunately, all too timely.

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THE GRACE YEAR

A rebellious 16-year-old is sent to an isolated island for her grace year, when she must release her seductive, poisonous magic into the wild before taking her proper place as a wife and child bearer.

In gaslit Garner County, women and girls are said to harbor diabolical magic capable of manipulating men. Dreaming, among other things, is forbidden, and before girls embark on their grace year, they hope to receive a veil, which promises marriage. Otherwise, it’s life in a labor house—or worse. Strong, outdoorsy, skeptical Tierney James doesn’t want to be married, but a shocking twist leaves her with a veil—and a dangerous enemy in the vindictive Kiersten. Thirty-three girls with red ribbons symbolizing sin woven into their braids set out to survive the island, but it won’t be easy. Poachers, who trade in the body parts of grace-year girls, surround the camp, and paranoia, superstition, and mistrust rule. Not everyone will make it home alive. The bones of Liggett’s (The Unfortunates, 2018, etc.) tale of female repression are familiar ones, but her immersive storytelling effortlessly weaves horror elements with a harrowing and surprising survival story. Profound moments lie in small details, and readers’ hearts will race and break right along with the brave, capable Tierney’s. The biggest changes often begin with the smallest rebellions, and the emotional conclusion will resonate. All characters are assumed white.

Chilling, poignant, haunting, and, unfortunately, all too timely. (Dystopian. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-14544-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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