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BALLET ORPHANS

A stimulating and entertaining tale in which passion and art intermingle.

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Rivalries and power plays roil a San Francisco ballet troupe in this romance.

As a 24-year-old soloist at New York City’s dazzling American Ballet Theatre, April Manning is near the top of the ballerina heap when suddenly she loses everything: Her mother dies, and a Bolshoi-trained phenomenon steals her role and her boyfriend, Vincent, a handsome ABT dancer. April decamps to the seemingly friendlier climes of San Francisco’s West Coast Ballet Theatre, where her pal Anders Gunst, the brilliant new artistic director, makes her a principal. Alas, WCBT proves to be a snake pit. Anders faces a mutiny led by the domineering, Machiavellian dancer Dmitri Petrenko. Meanwhile, April struggles—the crowd boos her after one performance—and feels that she’s in cutthroat competition with everyone from the senior ballerinas to the company’s 16-year-old prodigy; in addition, she becomes the obsession of a sinister ex–WCBT ballerina fallen on hard times. The one bright spot is her romance with Russell, a nerdy childhood friend from Omaha who’s become the attractive director of a hot Silicon Valley startup. That relationship becomes complicated, though, when Vincent arrives to dance with April in Romeo and Juliet; he’s a superlative partner who makes her shine onstage but also a possessive, egomaniacal jerk. In this prequel to her Ballet Theatre Chronicles novels, Rose paints a vivid portrait of life in a cloistered dance company—one that’s seething with insecurities and antagonisms yet also capable of pulling together when the chips are down. April endures both the physical pain and social sacrifices required by her devotion to her craft, but she also basks in the sensual exhilaration of sublime performances, which Rose conveys in sharply observed but also exuberant prose: “See how you’re making my heart pound? I pantomimed, and took his hand, laying it on my chest….He lifted me and I draped myself over his shoulder with wanton abandon, every move imparting a feeling of joyous euphoria, absolute infatuation.”

A stimulating and entertaining tale in which passion and art intermingle.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-9860934-8-7

Page Count: 370

Publisher: Classical Girl Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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JAMES

One of the noblest characters in American literature gets a novel worthy of him.

Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as told from the perspective of a more resourceful and contemplative Jim than the one you remember.

This isn’t the first novel to reimagine Twain’s 1885 masterpiece, but the audacious and prolific Everett dives into the very heart of Twain’s epochal odyssey, shifting the central viewpoint from that of the unschooled, often credulous, but basically good-hearted Huck to the more enigmatic and heroic Jim, the Black slave with whom the boy escapes via raft on the Mississippi River. As in the original, the threat of Jim’s being sold “down the river” and separated from his wife and daughter compels him to run away while figuring out what to do next. He's soon joined by Huck, who has faked his own death to get away from an abusive father, ramping up Jim’s panic. “Huck was supposedly murdered and I’d just run away,” Jim thinks. “Who did I think they would suspect of the heinous crime?” That Jim can, as he puts it, “[do] the math” on his predicament suggests how different Everett’s version is from Twain’s. First and foremost, there's the matter of the Black dialect Twain used to depict the speech of Jim and other Black characters—which, for many contemporary readers, hinders their enjoyment of his novel. In Everett’s telling, the dialect is a put-on, a manner of concealment, and a tactic for survival. “White folks expect us to sound a certain way and it can only help if we don’t disappoint them,” Jim explains. He also discloses that, in violation of custom and law, he learned to read the books in Judge Thatcher’s library, including Voltaire and John Locke, both of whom, in dreams and delirium, Jim finds himself debating about human rights and his own humanity. With and without Huck, Jim undergoes dangerous tribulations and hairbreadth escapes in an antebellum wilderness that’s much grimmer and bloodier than Twain’s. There’s also a revelation toward the end that, however stunning to devoted readers of the original, makes perfect sense.

One of the noblest characters in American literature gets a novel worthy of him.

Pub Date: March 19, 2024

ISBN: 9780385550369

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2024

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IT ENDS WITH US

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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