A short children’s book with the feel of a modern fable, albeit one with an ambiguous moral.

Antoshka and the Red Rose

A children’s chapter book about a little dog who goes on a big adventure.

Wise’s debut tells the story of Antoshka, a dachshund whom a woman named Mama adopts after finding him outside. She comes home from work one day to find her treasured crystal rose smashed on the ground, and so she sends the little dog to his room. After Antoshka’s dog toys come to life, they all go on a quest to ask the sun for help in replacing the shattered rose. Along the way, they battle lions, go on a sea voyage and visit a magical land where they make friends with a dragon. Although the grand adventures seem to last for many days, Antoshka eventually opens his eyes and finds himself at home in his dog bed, as if no time has passed—and magically, a new crystal rose for Mama has appeared. Many children will likely enjoy Antoshka and his friends’ adventures. However, the book’s intended audience is unclear: Although the chapters are short enough for younger readers, some long words and complex language (“Diligent bees were gathering nectar from flowers, and dragonflies were doing aerial aerobatics”) may present problems for beginners. Some story events are questionable in a book aimed at young children; for example, when Antoshka and his friends encounter some unfriendly lions, they solve the problem by throwing rocks, kicking, biting and clawing, and they receive no comeuppance for their violent attack. Also, when the group boards a boat, the captain assigns each of them a duty but tells the only female, “Well, you can be an onlooker, Miss.” Somewhat amateurish full-color illustrations accompany the text.

A short children’s book with the feel of a modern fable, albeit one with an ambiguous moral.

Pub Date: May 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1493638659

Page Count: 50

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2014

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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A smutfest of epic proportions.

COURT OF THE VAMPIRE QUEEN

A woman who's half human and half vampire is offered as a sacrifice to a trio of powerful vampires in this dark, erotic paranormal romance.

Mina's father, Cornelius, is the head of one of seven powerful vampire bloodlines. His goal is to restore the vampires to their rightful place at the top of the food chain, and he needs more progeny and bloodlines under his control to enact his plans. He has no fond feelings for his dhampir daughter, as half-vampire, half-humans are known. She possesses neither the godly strength of his kind nor the magical affinity that humans have, so he sends her off to be a sacrifice to Malachi, a vampire of another bloodline. Confined to a Gothic mansion, Malachi knows why Mina was sent to him. Her father hopes he’ll either kill her or impregnate her, adding the heir of Malachi's bloodline to his own. Malachi's home quickly becomes more crowded as Wolf and Rylan, two other vampires from his past, arrive. All three take an interest in Mina, whose blood tastes different than other dhampirs’, and they begin to unravel Mina's mysterious heritage and the deadly power play in which her father has involved them. Readers unaccustomed to dark romances may want to steer clear of this one, as there is dubious consent and graphically described violence. The sex is steamy, a nonstop carousel that sometime buries the plot. For a mindless sexual romp with seductive vampires and a woman who begins to recognize her own worth, it can be a fun read, though seeing women used as political pawns and broodmares can be distasteful, especially now.

A smutfest of epic proportions.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-72826-469-1

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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