A unique novella that offers a passionate, if somewhat incoherent, defense of quality journalism.

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THE NEWSPAPERMAN

In a new book by Nudo (The Millionaire’s Cross, 2014, etc.), a man investigates a local publication run by staffers who may be more dangerous than they seem.

Seth Kesler, who works in advertising, is “the last of a dying breed” of people who still love reading high-quality print journalism. So he’s intrigued when he meets Cedrick, an eccentric yet friendly old-fashioned newspaper hawker, outside his office building one morning. The C-U Journal, a long-defunct daily serving the Champagne-Urbana region of Illinois, has recently been purchased by Richard W. Fields, a media mogul who’s buying up local papers across the country. Seth, disenchanted by the fact that shallow internet click-bait is replacing quality journalism across the United States, is initially pleased to read a real newspaper. But the publication’s standards decline rapidly, resulting in sensationalized, poorly written, and likely inaccurate stories that seem aimed to titillate rather than tell the truth. Just as disturbingly, Cedrick proves himself to be quite capable of violence when crossed; in broad daylight, he brutally attacks some disrespectful teens who later mysteriously disappear—and Seth worries that they may have met a worse fate. Aided by his wife, his co-worker, and a local journalism professor, Seth investigates Cedrick, Fields, and the shady group of characters who churn out the C-U Journal, which he begins to see as a destructive force in the community. As Seth becomes increasingly passionate about defending his cause, however, he realizes that the C-U Journal staff may be a threat to his life. This quick, readable novella’s enthusiastic advocacy of good journalism feels very relevant in today’s era of “fake news.” Seth’s alarm at his friends’ and family’s reliance on unreliable sources (such as trending Twitter terms) rings true, as does the fact that the C-U Journal becomes widely read for its calculated, salacious content rather than for quality reporting. The C-U Journal staffers are more like horror-movie characters than denizens of realistic fiction—they talk and act bizarrely, enact frequent violence with theatrical élan, and experience either delayed consequences for their actions or none at all; for instance, no one beside Seth seems to notice Cedrick’s aggressive public behavior toward the teens. Seth is so calm and reasonable that it’s hard to determine what kind of reality he shares with the C-U Journal people. Indeed, the text leaves some major questions unanswered: Why are the local police so incompetent at investigating crimes when the culprits seem obvious to a casual observer? Why would Seth, after suspecting murder and witnessing terrible violence by C-U Journal staffers, accept an invitation to enter their building unaccompanied? If Fields is meant to serve as a symbol of the evils of modern journalism, why does he refuse to publish online, where some of the worst journalism trends of the past few years have festered? Although this work is certainly an entertaining read, these plot uncertainties make its message a murky one.

A unique novella that offers a passionate, if somewhat incoherent, defense of quality journalism.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-981783-28-1

Page Count: 166

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

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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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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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