An unreliable narrator, but with all his charm and knack for stumbling upon adventures, readers won’t mind.

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WATT O'HUGH UNDERGROUND

Drachman’s (The Ghosts of Watt O’ Hugh, 2012) time-traveling hero returns for retribution against the man responsible for the death of his beloved.

When Hester Smith comes banging at his door, Watt O’Hugh is a Time Roamer in hiding, wanted for a crime he didn’t commit. Men are pursuing Hester, and it seems her encounter with Watt is not by chance: His ghosts—their “lives violently ripped from them back in 1863”—are needed to help rob a train and also stop a destructive social movement courtesy of the Sidonians. But what’s in it for Watt? The chance to kill Darryl Fawley, the Sidonian leader responsible for the death of Watt’s love, Lucy. Drachman’s exuberant novel is chock-full of fantastical elements; in addition to Watt’s time-roaming ability and spectral allies (often called “deadlings”), there are demons, oracles, dragons and assorted monstrosities. Appearances of such creatures are sometimes played for laughs, as when a city leader reluctant to join the movement is eaten by a “ferocious pond monster,” thereby persuading the next man in line to be a willing participant. Though the novel, set mostly in 1878 and told through flashbacks by an elderly Watt in 1936, professes to be Watt’s memoir, it more closely resembles a standard narrative, with lengthy accounts of fellow Roamer Master Yu presented in third-person, prior to his meeting Watt. Watt unambiguously labels Fawley and another Sidonian head, Allen Jerome, as villains, and he occasionally dilutes his first-person perspective by rushing through specifics, like the teased train robbery, which regrettably is given only highlights. But as an omniscient narrator, even if he has to rely on conjecture, Watt shines, especially in scenes with Yu, who walks the streets of 19th-century Chinatown in San Francisco, sometimes roaming and sidestepping passing cars. Drachman takes full advantage of his historical setting—Watt’s adversary, outwardly aligned in the fight against Sidonia, is J.P. Morgan—and has endless fun with character names: Morgan repeatedly, perhaps intentionally butchers Watt’s handle, including “Walt Hugbert” and “Hugglebuggle.” And Master Yu’s full name is the rather unfortunate Yu Dai-Yung.

An unreliable narrator, but with all his charm and knack for stumbling upon adventures, readers won’t mind.

Pub Date: May 20, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Chickadee Prince Books

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2014

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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A heartwarming portrait of a broken heart finding a little healing magic.

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IN FIVE YEARS

After acing a job interview and accepting a marriage proposal, Dannie Kohan has had the perfect day. That is, until she awakens to find herself five years in the future with a completely different man.

Just one hour in that alternate reality shakes Dannie to her core. After all, highly ambitious Dannie and her boyfriend, David, have plotted out their lives in minute detail, and the sexy man in her dream—was it a dream?—is most certainly not in the script. Serle (The Dinner List, 2018) deftly spins these magical threads into Dannie’s perfectly structured life, leaving not only Dannie, but also the reader wondering whether Dannie time traveled or hallucinated. Her best friend, Bella, would delight in the story given that she thinks Dannie is much too straight-laced, and some spicy dreaming might push Dannie to find someone more passionate than David. Unfortunately, glamorous Bella is in Europe with her latest lover. Ever pragmatic, Dannie consults her therapist, who almost concurs that it was likely a dream, and throws herself into her work. Pleased to have landed the job at a prestigious law firm, Dannie easily loses her worries in litigation. Soon four and a half years have passed with no wedding date set, and Bella is back in the U.S. with a new man in her life. A man who turns out to be literally the man of Dannie’s dream. The sheer fact of Aaron Gregory’s existence forces Dannie to reevaluate her trust in the laws of physics as well as her decision to marry David, a decision that seems less believable with each passing day. And as the architecture of Dannie’s overplanned life disintegrates, Serle twists and twines the remnants of her dream into a surprising future.

A heartwarming portrait of a broken heart finding a little healing magic.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3744-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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