A complex, absorbing, and dramatic start to a planned series.



From the The Orphans of Tolosa series , Vol. 1

In this historical novel, set in the Languedoc area of France, two young orphans try to forge their own destinies amid many dangers.

In tumultuous 13th-century France, political ambitions and crusades against heretics—presumably Cathars, although the term is never used—have brought much warfare and upheaval. When the orphaned Azalaïs, a girl, and Azemar, a boy, flee charges of witchcraft, they hastily agree to split up and meet in Bésiers. A kindly forest anchorite helps Azalaïs disguise herself as a boy, and over several years the recluse teaches her herbal medicine, reading, writing, and Latin. But Azalaïs must go on the run again when she makes an unexpected enemy, and she finds shelter with Domna Jordane de la Moux d’Aniort, who takes Azalaïs into her household. Jordane’s wealthy father is planning his daughter’s marriage to a French-allied noble, but she’s in love with a rebellious knight named Raimon de Berenger. After finding out about Azalaïs’ true sex, Jordane insists that the young woman disguise herself and take her own place as the noble’s bride while Jordane pursues Raimon. The disguised Azalaïs must prove herself in a perilous situation that she doesn’t fully understand. Meanwhile, Azemar finds a patron and receives training in commerce and war. It’s nine years before the two orphans briefly find each other again. In this well-researched novel, Dunlap (The Academie, 2012, etc.) breathes life into the distant 13th-century setting by providing many everyday, textural details, such as the uncomfortable realities of wearing jousting armor. Poetry and music are as essential to the plot as warfare, with engaging glimpses of trobairitz (female troubadours). Necessary exposition is well integrated into the story, although the closing author’s note would likely have worked better as a preface, and a glossary would have been useful. The characters are generally believable, although Jordane is implausibly headstrong for a young woman of her era, and Raimon doesn’t seem to be worth so much plotting and difficulty.

A complex, absorbing, and dramatic start to a planned series.

Pub Date: April 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-942209-58-4

Page Count: 388

Publisher: Bellastoria Press

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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