An engaging narrative voice and thoughtful back story add depth to a fairly standard portal-adventure plot.

Accidental Arrival

From the The Water Stone Triology series , Vol. 1

In this YA fantasy novel, a teenage girl unexpectedly travels to another planet, where she learns that Earth may soon join an intergalactic coalition.

When Emily Harrison was just a few years old, Earth discovered the secret of “water travel”: an instantaneous journey via molecule rearrangement to anywhere that has flowing water. Now, 17-year-old Emily, in turmoil over her parents’ divorce and just wanting to get away, takes a lake dip that somehow lands her on another planet called Arden. The friendly inhabitants’ mission is to help planets like Earth “technologically and artistically prepare for mergence with The Accordance,” the intergalactic governing body. There’s much that intrigues Emily about Arden, which has highly developed technology but a quaint appearance: “sunlit lanes nestled between the cottage-style shops draped in lush foliage from the surrounding trees.” Especially intriguing is Lachlan Belean Elgin, the brother of Emily’s new friend, DeRenne. He’s a handsome, emotionally guarded young man with heavy responsibilities. Emily feels self-conscious and wrong-footed around Lachlan, even when he becomes romantic. As a result, Emily again acts impulsively around a body of water after some emotional turmoil, which gets her in more trouble—but it could also, with the help of her friends, aid The Accordance and thwart a traitor. In her debut novel, Barnett employs many tropes that are standard to YA fantasy: a portal to another world; an insecure heroine with a special role to play who can’t imagine why the uncommunicative hero would be interested in her; and wish-fulfillment details, such as fancy clothes. Still, Barnett marshals some imaginative back story regarding history and politics, describes nifty alien inventions (including wallpaper woven with light-emitting “nanoprisms”), and gives sufficiently scientific-ish explanations for miracles such as water travel, which help bolster the book. The plot moves along well, giving Emily a chance to grow as a character, and her voice is lively and amusing. The romance, though, doesn’t offer much beyond dramatic high school emotions: “How did it get to this level so quickly?” Emily asks herself—a good question that the book doesn’t really answer.

An engaging narrative voice and thoughtful back story add depth to a fairly standard portal-adventure plot.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62747-186-2

Page Count: 328

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2016

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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