Though the events of the book are based on history and will be all too familiar to those who have lived through similar...

A GRAIN OF RICE

Three years after the fall of Saigon, 13-year-old Yen, her mother, and her four siblings are barely getting by in a small village on the Mekong Delta.

With little to eat and even littler hope of a better life under the oppressive Viet Cong government, Ma decides to flee from Vietnam with her five children. Yen and Ma sell their possessions and visit friends and family in preparation, encountering both the kindness and the hardness in people along the way. Debut author Tran-Davies does not shy away from the terrible realities of postwar Vietnam, including poverty, corruption, and violence, but the worst atrocities are alluded to with little detail. This may reduce trauma for readers without background knowledge, but the deliberate obfuscation results in choppy, sometimes confusing, narrative flow with uneven pacing. Packed into the last 30 or so pages is Yen’s entire flight out of Vietnam, her narration hurrying past such horrors as getting packed into the hold of a fishing boat for over a week with no food, a pirate attack that includes off-page rapes of several girls, and the capsizing of the boat and the drowning of countless refugees before the few survivors are rescued.

Though the events of the book are based on history and will be all too familiar to those who have lived through similar trauma, some may feel dissatisfied with the bleak narrative, which leaves much unexplained and very little hope. (afterword, glossary) (Historical fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-926890-33-3

Page Count: 154

Publisher: Tradewind Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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Much rousing sturm und drang, though what’s left after the dust settles is a heap of glittering but disparate good parts...

THE ENCHANTRESS

From the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series , Vol. 5

Scott tops off his deservedly popular series with a heaping shovelful of monster attacks, heroic last stands, earthquakes and other geological events, magic-working, millennia-long schemes coming to fruition, hearts laid bare, family revelations, transformations, redemptions and happy endings (for those deserving them).

Multiple plotlines—some of which, thanks to time travel, feature the same characters and even figures killed off in previous episodes—come to simultaneous heads in a whirl of short chapters. Flamel and allies (including Prometheus and Billy the Kid) defend modern San Francisco from a motley host of mythological baddies. Meanwhile, in ancient Danu Talis (aka Atlantis), Josh and Sophie are being swept into a play to bring certain Elders to power as the city’s downtrodden “humani” population rises up behind Virginia Dare, the repentant John Dee and other Immortals and Elders. The cast never seems unwieldy despite its size, the pacing never lets up, and the individual set pieces are fine mixtures of sudden action, heroic badinage and cliffhanger cutoffs. As a whole, though, the tale collapses under its own weight as the San Francisco subplots turn out to be no more than an irrelevant sideshow, and climactic conflicts take place on an island that is somehow both a historical, physical place and a higher reality from which Earth and other “shadowrealms” are spun off.

Much rousing sturm und drang, though what’s left after the dust settles is a heap of glittering but disparate good parts rather than a cohesive whole. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 22, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-73535-3

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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I AM NUMBER FOUR

From the Lorien Legacies series , Vol. 1

If it were a Golden Age comic, this tale of ridiculous science, space dogs and humanoid aliens with flashlights in their hands might not be bad. Alas... Number Four is a fugitive from the planet Lorien, which is sloppily described as both "hundreds of lightyears away" and "billions of miles away." Along with eight other children and their caretakers, Number Four escaped from the Mogadorian invasion of Lorien ten years ago. Now the nine children are scattered on Earth, hiding. Luckily and fairly nonsensically, the planet's Elders cast a charm on them so they could only be killed in numerical order, but children one through three are dead, and Number Four is next. Too bad he's finally gained a friend and a girlfriend and doesn't want to run. At least his newly developing alien powers means there will be screen-ready combat and explosions. Perhaps most idiotic, "author" Pittacus Lore is a character in this fiction—but the first-person narrator is someone else entirely. Maybe this is a natural extension of lightly hidden actual author James Frey's drive to fictionalize his life, but literature it ain't. (Science fiction. 11-13)

     

 

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-196955-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

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