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BORN OF THE SEA

THE UNTOLD STORY OF ANNE BONNY AND MARY READ

An absorbing, romantic twist on the traditional pirate’s tale.

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Shortly after marrying a sailor, a woman boards a pirate ship, takes a new lover, and sets off on the adventure of a lifetime in Castle’s historical novel.

Anne Bonny was born to a housemaid who had an affair with her married father, and her nontraditional parentage led to a life in which the cards always seemed stacked against her. To keep her secret from being discovered while still keeping her close, her father dressed her as a boy and had her work as a clerk in his office. Eventually, the ruse was revealed, and she and her dad fled to Charles Town, Carolina. There, as a young woman, she meets a sailor whom she marries behind her father’s back and later abandons for dashing pirate captain Jack Rackham. At sea with Jack, Anne lives a true pirate’s life—defending the ship from attackers, thieving from other pirates, and drinking the day away. During an encounter with another pirate ship, however she finds herself attracted to Mark Read, one of its crew members, who, she later finds out, once went by the name Mary—and Anne’s life, as she knows it, changes forever. Castle’s approach to the tale of Anne and Mary is consistently engrossing—from scenes of battle to moments of panic when Anne realizes that she has been captured (“A rough gunny sack covered my head. I heard distant gulls and felt a familiar pitch and roll and knew instinctively that I was inside a moving vessel at sea, but it was not the William”). The highly descriptive nature of Castle’s prose also has the effect of keeping readers engaged with the progress of Anne and Mary’s relationship. Mark’s secret is revealed early in the story, but readers don’t know when Anne will find out; the author effectively makes readers feel the tension that Mark feels while revealing the truth to Anne (“Remember…I’m still me”) and the relief that comes after Anne’s reaction.

An absorbing, romantic twist on the traditional pirate’s tale.

Pub Date: May 22, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-91-690311-1

Page Count: 122

Publisher: Dark Horse Publishing LLP

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2021

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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THE FAMILIAR

Lush, gorgeous, precise language and propulsive plotting sweep readers into a story as intelligent as it is atmospheric.

In 16th-century Madrid, a crypto-Jew with a talent for casting spells tries to steer clear of the Inquisition.

Luzia Cotado, a scullion and an orphan, has secrets to keep: “It was a game she and her mother had played, saying one thing and thinking another, the bits and pieces of Hebrew handed down like chipped plates.” Also handed down are “refranes”—proverbs—in “not quite Spanish, just as Luzia was not quite Spanish.” When Luzia sings the refranes, they take on power. “Aboltar cazal, aboltar mazal” (“A change of scene, a change of fortune”) can mend a torn gown or turn burnt bread into a perfect loaf; “Quien no risica, no rosica” (“Whoever doesn’t laugh, doesn’t bloom”) can summon a riot of foliage in the depths of winter. The Inquisition hangs over the story like Chekhov’s famous gun on the wall. When Luzia’s employer catches her using magic, the ambitions of both mistress and servant catapult her into fame and danger. A new, even more ambitious patron instructs his supernatural servant, Guillén Santángel, to train Luzia for a magical contest. Santángel, not Luzia, is the familiar of the title; he has been tricked into trading his freedom and luck to his master’s family in exchange for something he no longer craves but can’t give up. The novel comes up against an issue common in fantasy fiction: Why don’t the characters just use their magic to solve all their problems? Bardugo has clearly given it some thought, but her solutions aren’t quite convincing, especially toward the end of the book. These small faults would be harder to forgive if she weren’t such a beautiful writer. Part fairy tale, part political thriller, part romance, the novel unfolds like a winter tree bursting into unnatural bloom in response to one of Luzia’s refranes, as she and Santángel learn about power, trust, betrayal, and love.

Lush, gorgeous, precise language and propulsive plotting sweep readers into a story as intelligent as it is atmospheric.

Pub Date: April 9, 2024

ISBN: 9781250884251

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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