An often delightful fantasy that will stick with readers long after they turn the last page.

Leaving Time and Tennessee

A debut time-travel romance that romps through more than 200 years of history.

Audra Makenna Manning, born and bred in Tennessee, is a daydreamer. She has a great fondness for the music and movies of the 1940s as well as a passion for horses; she’s also socially awkward, much to the displeasure of her well-to-do paternal grandmother in New York City. In 2008, when Makenna is 19, her parents are killed in a motorcycle accident, and she decides to live with her nearby maternal grandfather, nicknamed “Pa,” whom she adores. On a horse farm, she gets a job tending horses and masters the art of trick riding. One evening, the son of the horse farm’s owner accosts her, so she escapes on her favorite steed, Quasar, and heads out into a storm. A spectacular flash of lightning stuns her senses, and she and her horse find themselves in a strange place: the year 1772. It seems that in the woods near Nashville, not far from Pa’s home, there’s a portal that allows travel through time. As Makenna tries to get her bearings, she meets Gabriel Christian, who warns her that a nearby band of Chickamauga warriors could be dangerous. Gabriel, an Englishman who moved to the American Colonies, is traveling with some partners, all intent upon staking land claims. Lost and befuddled, Makenna agrees to ride with them, hoping to find her way back home. The relationship that Taylor develops between Makenna and Gabriel is funny, sweet, and often cantankerous, although it takes a couple more time jumps before the possibility of romance develops. The time-travel plot construct also presents a fertile field for humorous miscommunication; when Makenna asks for a phone, for example, Gabriel says, “I am unfamiliar with that weaponry.” Taylor also makes great use of the cultural dissonance between a feisty 21st-century woman and a proper 18th-century gentleman. One leap brings the pair to 1863, and the author viscerally portrays the magnitude of suffering in the rural South during the Civil War. The surprise ending is pleasant, although it will require readers to willingly suspend their disbelief.

An often delightful fantasy that will stick with readers long after they turn the last page.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5127-5173-4

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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