These strange, sometimes beautiful tales might find their best readership among those who think they have moved beyond YA.

READ REVIEW

EARTH AND AIR

TALES OF ELEMENTAL CREATURES

Twice before, Dickinson teamed up with his wife, Robin McKinley, to create short story collections centered on elemental themes; now he concludes the elemental quartet with this solo collection of earth and air stories.

The elements are not the only thing holding these six stories together; thematic territory here is concerned primarily with the meanings of humanity and love. Divinity and magic also weave throughout, from the earthy, lonely troll of “Troll Blood” to the small magics of an almost forgotten goddess in “Scops.” Aside from science-fiction gem “The Fifth Element,” these are all firmly fantasy, half set approximately now and two set in a somewhat indeterminate past. Opening tale “Troll Blood” is perhaps the weakest in the collection, with imaginary academics and exposition-heavy chunks; “Ridiki,” a version of Eurydice about a boy and his beloved dog, and “The Fifth Element” round out earth, while air is covered by the peculiar “Wizand” (witches as hosts to a parasite that lives in their broomsticks, with the burning of witches part of the wizand’s life cycle) and the haunting, ancient-world–based “Talaria” and “Scops.” None of the stories focus particularly on childhood or adolescence, making it hard to pin down the ideal audience.

These strange, sometimes beautiful tales might find their best readership among those who think they have moved beyond YA. (Fantasy and science fiction short stories. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-61873-058-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Big Mouth House

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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Provocative fare for students of the themes and tropes of literary and traditional folk literature.

FEATHERS, PAWS, FINS, AND CLAWS

FAIRY-TALE BEASTS

Ten “vintage tales” chosen to challenge assumptions that fairy stories offer cut-and-dried values and life lessons for, specifically, children.

Reaching for an audience that is, as the editors put it, “beyond childhood,” the collection is introduced with an eye-opening analysis of “Little Red Riding Hood” (Perrault’s actual wording, it seems, hints that Little Red and the wolf weren’t exactly strangers) as part of a broad claim that fairy tales are often transgressive. The ensuing mix of original and traditional stories, all either written or first translated into English in the Victorian era, includes tales both familiar and un-. There’s “East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon”; “Ballad of the Bird-Bride,” which is a selkie variant featuring a sea gull; a “Puss-in-Boots” antecedent (“Costantino Fortunato”) from 16th-century Italy; and a Punjabi tale about a rat who almost parlays a bit of found root into marriage to a princess. For younger readers, the highlight is likely to be Joseph Jacobs' rendition of “The Story of the Three Bears,” as the home invader is not Goldilocks but a foulmouthed old homeless woman. But the selections are held up more for analysis than enjoyment, even Madame d’Aulnoy’s “Babiole,” which makes for labored reading despite an eponymous princess who spends most of the tale as a monkey. Kusaite’s visual jumbles of patterns and textures are as mannered as the 19th-century prose.

Provocative fare for students of the themes and tropes of literary and traditional folk literature. (source notes) (Fairy tales. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8143-4069-1

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Wayne State Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

AFTER ALL I'VE DONE

A middle-aged woman sidelined by a horrific accident finds even sharper pains waiting on the other side of her recuperation in this expert nightmare by Hardy, familiar to many readers as Megan Hart, author of All the Secrets We Keep (2017), etc.

Five months ago, while she was on her way to the hospital with an ailing gallbladder, Diana Sparrow’s car hit a deer on a rural Pennsylvania road. When she awoke, she was minus her gallbladder, two working collarbones (and therefore two functioning arms), and her memory. During a recovery that would’ve been impossible without the constant ministrations of Harriett Richmond, the mother-in-law who’s the real reason Diana married her husband, Jonathan, Diana’s discovered that Jonathan has been cheating on her with her childhood friend Valerie Delagatti. Divorce is out of the question: Diana’s grown used to the pampered lifestyle the prenup she’d signed would snatch away from her. Every day is filled with torments. She slips and falls in a pool of wine on her kitchen floor she’s sure she didn’t spill herself. At the emergency room, her credit card and debit card are declined. She feels that she hates oppressively solicitous Harriett but has no idea why. Her sessions with her psychiatrist fail to heal her rage at her adoptive mother, an addict who abandoned her then returned only to disappear again and die an ugly death. Even worse, her attempts to recover her lost memory lead to an excruciatingly paced series of revelations. Val says Diana asked her to seduce Jonathan. Diana realizes that Cole, a fellow student in her watercolor class, isn’t the stranger she’d thought he was. Where can this maze of deceptions possibly end?

One of those rare thrillers whose answers are even more scarifying than its mysteries.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64385-470-0

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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THE RING OF SOLOMON

From the Bartimaeus series , Vol. 4

The entertainingly cocky djinni scraps his way through a 950 BCE escapade mostly unrelated to his series (The Bartimaeus Trilogy) but in that same metaphysical world. Any competent magician can summon Bartimaeus to Earth and enslave him, though none can suppress his amusingly snide commentary (complete with witty footnotes). Assigned to chase bandits outside a corrupt Jerusalem, he meets Asmira, a young woman whose third-person-limited narrative sections are told in a reserved, pragmatic voice. She treks to Jerusalem on a mission to assassinate King Solomon, who threatens her country of Sheba. Magical detonations enhance the tension as Asmira creeps closer to King Solomon and his world-controlling ring. Semi-success in her quest raises new questions, expanding her worldview and making her think in new ways. Despite Asmira’s likability, copious action and suspense, the text’s sharp elegance and Bartimaeus’s funny panache under duress, the prose moves slowly throughout, partly due to over-description. Best for worshippers of popular Bartimaeus and fantasy readers who don’t require a quick pace. (Fantasy. YA)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4231-2372-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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