These fledgling ghost busters and their adventures should enchant readers.

THE GHOST ON FIREFLY LANE

From the Pekin Dewlap Mystery series , Vol. 2

Three amiable, young ghost hunters learn lessons the hard way in this second installment of a middle-grade mystery series.

Pekin Dewlap grew up in the spirit world, able to see ghosts. But when the teenage Pekin hadn’t seen any since age 12, she missed the talent that made her feel special. So she started a ghost-busting business with her best friends, Amber and Scout. Later, Pekin developed a crush on Scout. In this second outing, the trio is recruited by the Dwyers, who wish to help their longtime ghost, a crying woman searching for her missing baby, to cross over. After talking with the Dwyers’ elderly neighbors, the Mastersons, the teens identify the spirit as Lily Grayson, who died during childbirth in the house. Shortly after Lily’s death, her husband, Ron, sold the place, then moved away with their infant daughter, Violet. But identifying Lily is only their first challenge. Lily reacts violently when Pekin tries to talk to her about Violet. Ron and Violet reject the team’s efforts to bring them to the Dwyers’ house. The friends then seek aid from their mentor, Mildew, and friendly ghost Miranda, whom they rescued in McCord’s (The Haunting of Elmwood Manor, 2019) series opener. This time out, the author shows the growth of Pekin, Amber, and Scout. Mildew offers them the opportunity to learn from her experiences, teaching them the tricks of the trade so they’re more prepared for danger. That promises to become even more important in future volumes, as McCord foreshadows Pekin’s starting to regain her paranormal ability. The friends also discover that every ghost requires different handling methods. On the personal side, while Amber is blissful in a relationship with jock Josh Parker, Pekin and Scout are stuck in romantic limbo, which interferes with their case until stress leads to a breakthrough. This sequel, with no villain, does lack the suspense of the first volume. And even though the ghost hunt only lasts a week, the pace seems too leisurely, with the teens having time for normal activities while on duty at the Dwyers’ home. Still, this charming mystery remains a step forward for the trio’s Ghost Company.

These fledgling ghost busters and their adventures should enchant readers.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-947392-73-1

Page Count: 225

Publisher: Acorn Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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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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