An entertaining series starter that will appeal to young readers craving more magical school stories.

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THE LOST AMULET

BOOK ONE OF THE STONE BEARER SERIES

In this debut fantasy set in Australia, three children with magical powers must locate a powerful amulet before their enemies do.

As babies, Alexandra, Jake and Kian were transported from their home world and brought to Earth, a world in which magic fades in the presence of adults. Raised in an orphanage, the three are adopted into different families by parents who are also from their home world; they’re magical creatures disguised as humans to guard the children. Each child is a royal heir and Stone Bearer chosen to wield the protective magic of one of the four kingdoms in their magical lands. But until they can find the lost Amulet of Hazar and a way to keep it safe from the evil Lord Paragon and his minion, Colt, the children can’t return to their true parents. Along with being enrolled in a private school, which others from their world also secretly attend, the three children train in magic and combat under the tutelage of their guardians. Overtones of Hogwarts are clear, including a playful equivalent of Diagon Alley that even mundane humans can visit and a multiple-choice quiz that sorts the children into four houses represented by mythical animals. But the story takes on too many perspectives—including those of the children, the adults and their nonmagical friends—and there are several holes that astute readers will notice. Why were the children not raised by their guardians in the first place rather than at an orphanage? Why is the green Stone Bearer’s identity hidden from the children (but not the readers)? And if the magical beings from the Land of Four Stones are able to pose as humans and infiltrate the school, why is this important quest being handed to the young Stone Bearers? Still, even with these issues, Farrugia creates an interesting world, and Alexandra in particular is a strong female lead determined to do what it takes to keep both Earth and the Land of Four Stones safe from Paragon’s plots.

An entertaining series starter that will appeal to young readers craving more magical school stories.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1452511511

Page Count: 180

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2014

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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