Familial strife initiates a fresh and lively clique of magic-wielding teens.

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JEREMY CUTLER AND THE TORCH OF TIME

This debut middle-grade fantasy stars a boy whose true parentage hints at a magical destiny.

Ten years ago, Todd Selby missed his morning train at Waterloo Station in London. He also happened to save a woman who’d been jostled by rambunctious children from falling. Enter Grimble the goblin, who presented them with a swaddled baby. He told them to take the child east to Canterbury and settle there. The enchanted couple did so, and now the child is 11-year-old Jeremy Cutler. He has no idea that he’s an Everborn, from the magical kingdom of Averland. Nor does he realize that Harkkruin, the Dark Apprentice of Mordin, once again moves against the Everborn people. Only Jeremy’s neighbor Charles Gaper seems capable of preparing the boy for the challenges ahead. He places Jeremy on a special train to Coventry and into the care of Mr. and Mrs. Nockins, fellow Everborns. From his room in their home, he accesses a tunnel leading to the Fairwoods of Averland. He soon meets his mentor, Windermere Hawksley, who gives him the Seeson and Thyme Observation Deck of cards and informs him that his real parents await in the lost Castle of Airenel. In this novel, Faix unfurls a vibrant, complex tapestry reminiscent of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter universe. Adding emotional weight to the narrative is that it’s set during Halloween and then Christmas, holidays that Jeremy’s adoptive mother, Sharon, hasn’t had the heart to celebrate in the years since her own mother died. Her awakening from a depression coincides with the protagonist’s descent into the magical. Though Jeremy is 11, older teen readers should enjoy the detailed plot that involves a rash of kidnappings, time travel, and numerous inventive fantasy scenarios. One episode includes the pirate ship Polaris, which carries Jeremy upriver and through a forest lit by colorful fairyflies, where “the air tasted sweet and cool, with hints of peppermint and gingerbread.” This opening volume of a series also introduces fellow youthful adventurers Tripp Cunning, Ree Spinnler, and Ckyler Blewett, with whom our hero must prepare to face darker threats.

Familial strife initiates a fresh and lively clique of magic-wielding teens.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-944715-24-3

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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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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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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