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A Clearing in the Forest

From the Journeys from Ayrden series , Vol. 1

Spellbinding and untraditional, this fantasy with a brave royal could teach Disney a few things about princess adventures.

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A debut YA fantasy stars a princess who must venture forth into the world before she’s allowed to rule.

Princess Adriana of Ayrden has just turned 16. Traditionally, royals of the kingdom leave on a Journey during their 16th year, and if they return, they may someday rule. Adriana’s Teachers—in skills like fencing and archery—say that she’s ready to leave, but she may take only a minimum of food and no weapons. The royal Gifters, however, bestow upon her the traits of courage, fidelity, and kindness. With these qualities, along with her father’s advice that “when you are worried you will not make your best decisions,” she departs Ayrden on a horse named Sultan. She rides until reaching a clearing in the nearby forest. Strangely, no animals, including birds, enliven the scene. After a nap, she wakes to the sound of woodland calamity, as trees uproot and shift, eventually presenting her with three paths to choose from: one lined with gemstones, one limned in golden light, and another marked by simple grass. For the sake of Sultan, Adriana takes the prosaic grassy trail and finds herself in the land of Chehalem, where odd new friends and foes await. In her novel, Stump crafts a voluptuous, nuanced fantasy that fans of classics like Peter Beagle’s The Last Unicorn should enjoy. As Adriana explores each of the three routes, readers are treated to gorgeous sights and inventive sounds, like one scene in which “The walls of the ravine were green stone, and bright violet and amethyst flowers spilled down the steep embankments until they touched the water.” The prose nearly lulls a reader into believing Adriana’s Journey is all whimsy and self-discovery, yet dangers crop up (including lost uncles, slave traders, and dragons) that add grim shading to this multifaceted narrative. Certain magical elements, like how the forest changes shape, remain mysterious throughout, which allows Stump’s capable heroine and her accomplishments to carry more narrative weight.

Spellbinding and untraditional, this fantasy with a brave royal could teach Disney a few things about princess adventures.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9975914-0-8

Page Count: 330

Publisher: Foxcroft Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

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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