Sensitive and deeply moving: outstanding.

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WONDERFUL FEELS LIKE THIS

Fifteen-year-old Steffi Herrera feels the beat of jazz in her soul, but is that enough to sustain her against her classmates’ relentless bullying?

Returning home from school, she overhears jazz emanating from a window and follows the sound to the retirement-home room of Alvar, nearly 90 and a former jazz musician. These two unlikely friends gradually reveal their stories, Steffi of her music and Alvar of his experiences as a country boy trying to make his way in the jazz world of World War II Stockholm. Steffi’s father is Cuban; her Caribbean roots make her stand out in her small Swedish town, where she’s a lightning rod for her brutal classmates, who insult her, spit on her, and otherwise make her life at school a torment. Achingly talented, she withdraws into her music but suffers nonetheless, her misery blended with her older sister’s, confused by wakening lesbian feelings. Inviting transitions smoothly shift readers into diffident Alvar’s parallel story, as he acquires jazz band experience and tries to find a way to make attractive, charming Anita fall in love with him. A deliberate pace enhances the carefully nuanced progress of Alvar’s relationship with Anita but also with her latter-day alter ego, Steffi, although the aging musician’s connection with her is as a desperately needed mentor. The translation from Swedish is smooth, and the culture, though different, will feel recognizable and relevant to American readers.

Sensitive and deeply moving: outstanding. (Fiction. 12-adult)

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-09523-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.

CHAIN OF GOLD

From the Last Hours series , Vol. 1

Clare’s (Ghosts of the Shadow Market, 2019, etc.) latest is set in the Shadowhunter world in the 20th century’s first decade (with frequent flashbacks to the previous one).

Teenage offspring of the Herondales, Carstairs, Fairchilds, and other angel-descended Nephilim continue their families’ demon-fighting ways amid a round of elegant London balls, soirees, salons, picnics, and romantic intrigues. James Herondale, 17-year-old son of Will and Tessa, finds himself and his “perfectly lethal dimple” hung up between two stunning new arrivals: Cordelia Carstairs, red-haired Persian/British wielder of a fabled magic sword, and Grace Blackthorn, an emotionally damaged but (literally, as the author unsubtly telegraphs) spellbinding friend from childhood. Meanwhile, a sudden outbreak of demonic attacks that leave more and more Shadowhunters felled by a mysterious slow poison plunges James and a cohort of allies into frantic searches for both a cause and an antidote. Ichor-splashed encounters with ravening boojums and even one of hell’s own princes ensue—all leading to final hints of a devastating scheme to destroy the Nephilim in which James himself is slated to play a central role. Characters have a range of skin tones, but ethnic diversity adds no texture to the portrayals; there is a lesbian cousin who wears traditionally male clothing and two young gay men (one tortured, the other less so).

Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3187-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue.

THE BETROTHED

From the Betrothed series , Vol. 1

In an imagined setting evoking medieval England, King Jameson of Coroa pursues Hollis Brite.

The independent teenager makes Jameson laugh, but she lacks the education and demeanor people expect in a queen. Her friend Delia Grace has more knowledge of history and languages but is shunned due to her illegitimate birth. Hollis gets caught up in a whirl of social activity, especially following an Isolten royal visit. There has been bad blood between the two countries, not fully explained here, and when an exiled Isolten family also comes to court, Jameson generously allows them to stay. Hollis relies on the family to teach her about Isolten customs and secretly falls in love with Silas, the oldest son, even though a relationship with him would mean relinquishing Jameson and the throne. When Hollis learns of political machinations that will affect her future in ways that she abhors, she faces a difficult decision. Romance readers will enjoy the usual descriptions of dresses, jewelry, young love, and discreet kisses, although many characters remain cardboard figures. While the violent climax may be upsetting, the book ends on a hopeful note. Themes related to immigration and young women’s taking charge of their lives don’t quite lift this awkwardly written volume above other royal romances. There are prejudicial references to Romani people, and whiteness is situated as the norm.

Skip this uninspired entry into the world of medieval love and court intrigue. (Historical romance. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229163-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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