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

A Clearing in the Forest

From the Journeys from Ayrden series , Vol. 1

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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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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