An elegiac and celebratory fantasy.

THE PRINCESS & THE PARAKEET

Clark (The Royal Fables, 2016, etc.) offers a middle-grade fairy tale about two people hindered by a sorcerer’s spells.

To celebrate Princess Brooke’s 12th birthday, the king and queen give her a bedroom containing loads of flowers and an apple tree sapling. It also has a ceiling with an open skylight. However, when Brooke steps beneath it, she briefly disappears, then reappears beside her parents. It’s revealed that she’s not allowed to go outside because of a spell that a sorcerer, Beauregard, created to punish the queen. The next morning, Brooke wakes to find a creature perched in her small tree—“a snow-white Parakeet with golden feathers on its head.” She’s further surprised to learn that the bird speaks; his name, he says, is Prince Benjamin Mordecai Higginbotham. He’s also under a spell, and Brooke is the first person to understand him. They become fast friends, but then the princess comes down with a horrible fever. She dreams of being a bird herself, battling her way through the flora and fauna of an evil forest. Later, the princess and parakeet decide to do something about the spells holding them back—and to face the sorcerer who meddled in their lives. In this elegant fantasy, Clark presents characters who cope gracefully with affliction and enjoy life on their own terms. Along the way, the story discusses various forms of meditation, including the king’s, which involves “taking the time to figure out how things went together, looking at things from every angle.” It also offers intriguing details, such as the idea that parakeets “see the world slightly more enhanced than humans, more colorfully.” In the book’s first half, Clark delivers an enjoyably wandering narrative, following on Benjamin’s notion about stories: “when a character veers away from the plot....It’s as if I’ve been given a glimpse of them off the page, sharing something private.” Later, the narrative gallops down a more traditional fantasy path, even confronting the horrors of war. An afterword tells of the late Brooke Hester, the young girl who provided the inspiration for the tale, which gives the happy ending a bittersweet flavor.

An elegiac and celebratory fantasy.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-9910345-7-4

Page Count: 265

Publisher: BlahBlahBlah Press

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2018

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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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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