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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A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.

THE CHASE

From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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