While it’s sometimes disorienting, this wild ride remains enjoyable and well worth the price of admission.

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EVENING IN THE YELLOW WOOD

In this debut paranormal novel, a young woman becomes enmeshed in a murder mystery.

Justine Cook is no stranger to enigmas, having grown up with a daydreaming father who walked out shortly before her 12th birthday. But tracking him down 10 years later kicks up more uncertainty and weirdness than even she could have imagined. Having moved back to her hometown after college, Justine has gotten used to playing it safe and keeping her feet on the ground, in sharp contrast to the man who left her behind. But when she catches a glimpse of him in a newspaper photograph, something changes within her, and she finds herself thrust into the peculiar world of the village of Lantern Creek. Her family history aside, Justine ends up involved in a murder investigation, as the victim bears an uncanny resemblance to her, and she finds sparks flying between her and Sheriff’s Deputy Dylan Locke. But the inquiry may have more to do with Justine than she realized, as alongside clues about the crime, she discovers her father’s double life, including her half brother, Adam, and a supernatural destiny that binds them all together. The story’s hook is strong, and the pacing moves very quickly, getting from brief sketches of Webber, where Justine and her mom live, to Lantern Creek and the main action of the novel in a matter of pages. Unfortunately, this speed does leave behind a few overly telling or expository paragraphs, which are sometimes redundant with more evocative scenes or pieces of dialogue, as in an early section where Justine describes her love life. Still, there’s plenty to recommend in Kemp’s tale, from the varied intrigue to the standout secondary characters to the light tone, which still manages to present darker moments effectively. Occasionally, the plot can feel overly busy, glossing over Justine’s feelings, the facts of the mysteries, or the ghosts, visions, and other supernatural facets in an effort to balance these disparate elements. Nevertheless, the author delivers a bevy of good ideas, and readers will find a lot to love if they take the chance to look.

While it’s sometimes disorienting, this wild ride remains enjoyable and well worth the price of admission.

Pub Date: March 31, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-950627-06-6

Page Count: 262

Publisher: Pandamoon Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2019

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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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