An interesting glimpse into a little-known aspect of Chinese history and culture and a fitting conclusion to an epic series...

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DRAGONS OF SILK

From the Golden Mountain Chronicles series

Silk, an ancient legend and family history tie several generations of formidable females together over three centuries in this conclusion to Yep’s monumental Golden Mountain Chronicles.

Beginning in 1835 and ending in 2011, the novel artfully weaves a tapestry made up of threads of silk production, Chinese history and folklore and immigrants’ eventual success in America, the “Golden Mountain.” Yep traces girls and women through to their modern descendants, who bear the collective memories of ancestors, each of whom had to make a heart-wrenching, life-changing sacrifice in her own time. Readers will learn about the lovely Chinese legend of the celestial “Weaving Maid” and her sisters (the star cluster Pleiades) and the annual festival held in their honor. They’ll also learn a great deal about silkworm cultivation and how the lustrous cloth was once produced by hand. Yep doesn’t shy away from some harsh historical truths: the pervasiveness of opium addiction, bloody battles erupting between silk-factory owners and independent weavers and severe exclusion laws. The earlier chapters, while slowly paced, are more interesting, as Yep deftly conjures the culture and spirit of long-ago China; the modern-day chapters fare less well, with rather clichéd characters. Overall, however, the author captures the world of women well, and lush silk is a prominent backdrop.

An interesting glimpse into a little-known aspect of Chinese history and culture and a fitting conclusion to an epic series that began in 1975 with the Newbery Honor–winning Dragonwings. (Historical fiction. 10 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-027518-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

AFTER ALL I'VE DONE

A middle-aged woman sidelined by a horrific accident finds even sharper pains waiting on the other side of her recuperation in this expert nightmare by Hardy, familiar to many readers as Megan Hart, author of All the Secrets We Keep (2017), etc.

Five months ago, while she was on her way to the hospital with an ailing gallbladder, Diana Sparrow’s car hit a deer on a rural Pennsylvania road. When she awoke, she was minus her gallbladder, two working collarbones (and therefore two functioning arms), and her memory. During a recovery that would’ve been impossible without the constant ministrations of Harriett Richmond, the mother-in-law who’s the real reason Diana married her husband, Jonathan, Diana’s discovered that Jonathan has been cheating on her with her childhood friend Valerie Delagatti. Divorce is out of the question: Diana’s grown used to the pampered lifestyle the prenup she’d signed would snatch away from her. Every day is filled with torments. She slips and falls in a pool of wine on her kitchen floor she’s sure she didn’t spill herself. At the emergency room, her credit card and debit card are declined. She feels that she hates oppressively solicitous Harriett but has no idea why. Her sessions with her psychiatrist fail to heal her rage at her adoptive mother, an addict who abandoned her then returned only to disappear again and die an ugly death. Even worse, her attempts to recover her lost memory lead to an excruciatingly paced series of revelations. Val says Diana asked her to seduce Jonathan. Diana realizes that Cole, a fellow student in her watercolor class, isn’t the stranger she’d thought he was. Where can this maze of deceptions possibly end?

One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64385-470-0

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Compassionate and compelling.

CLOSER TO NOWHERE

Sixth grade cousins learn to navigate complicated family dynamics.

Cal came to live with Hannah and her parents nearly 15 months ago. The two share a mean-spirited, alcoholic grandmother; their Italian heritage; and red hair. Hannah, a gymnast and dancer, has enjoyed stability, attention, and affection from her parents. Cal’s life has been filled with the loss of his mother at age 9 followed by a period of abuse and neglect by his now-imprisoned father. Cal suffers from PTSD and a defensive kind of vigilance while Hannah resents that Cal’s peculiar behavior makes him a target at school. Brief chapters in the first-person voices of Cal and Hannah reveal their divergent personalities. Imaginative Cal describes the world in terms of “Fact or Fiction,” his statements and answers offering sometimes wryly ambiguous observations of his experience. Practical and more certain of herself, Hannah’s poems with the header “Definition” are a jumping-off point for sharing glimpses into a more physically and emotionally privileged childhood. Hopkins’ use of free verse provides a canvas for sure-handed, brush-stroke development of the backstory and plot and emotional investment and identification with the characters. A school lockdown and shooting at the climax of the story allow Cal to demonstrate his new ability to connect with others and to see the ways that kindness can come back around.

Compassionate and compelling. (author's note) (Verse fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-10861-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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