An intriguing, sometimes-florid, but fast-paced, novelistic account of a European expedition into the wilds of Tibet by an...

Race to Tibet

Schiller (Spy Island, 2013, etc.) fictionalizes the voyage of an ill-fated and little-known French party to Tibet during the 1890s.

Insatiable French explorer Gabriel Bonvalot burns to mount an expedition to Tibet to enter the mysterious city of Lhasa, where no Westerner has ever been. Even the intrepid Russian-Polish trekker Nikolai Prejevalsky fails to reach the fabled city that Tibet has declared off-limits to Europeans, and his travels even eventually cost him his life. One problem plagues Bonvalot in carrying out his improbable plan: he lacks the financial wherewithal to organize such an ambitious venture. To the rescue comes the Duke of Chartres, whose noisome and mischievous wastrel son, Prince Henri, has made a distraction of himself through his wanton ways. Bonvalot promises the Duke to take Henri along for the ride in exchange for the Duke’s fiscal backing. Despite Bonvalot’s protests, the winsome Camille Dancourt wants to find her long-vanished husband, lost somewhere in Tibet. The self-assured Dancourt joins this unlikely crew as it plods ever farther and higher into the thin Tibetan air that makes the hapless band increasingly sick. In addition to battling nature, Bonvalot finds himself tormented by Prejevalsky’s ghost, which appears at inauspicious moments. He doesn’t know whether the ghastly specter is caused by his own mental instability or if the phantom actually exists. Brooklyn author Schiller, an apt storyteller, spins out the many exploits, the gnawing hunger, and the searing cold that befall the adventurers and their companions, including the colorful Belgian missionary Father Dedeken, as they wander deep into the far reaches of the Tibetan hinterlands. In one episode, the group gets caught in an avalanche that is a “dash close for comfort,” says the French prince, sounding for all the world like a posh English chap. This cultural sleight of hand works, though, and Schiller evokes the Victorian era and its explorer ethos through a tale that in style and design should prove compelling to the historical fiction fan.

An intriguing, sometimes-florid, but fast-paced, novelistic account of a European expedition into the wilds of Tibet by an accomplished thriller and historical adventure writer.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-692-25409-7

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Tradewinds Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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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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Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

MAGIC HOUR

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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