An enjoyable and well-written supernatural tale, despite loose ends and a few missteps.

MS. MULLIGAN AND THE ENCHANTED ICE CREAM

When a sixth-grade Florida girl is transformed into a 20-something woman, she and her friends search for a cure in this debut YA paranormal novel.

On the eve of her 12th birthday, blond-haired Tabitha “Tabby” Easterland tells her best friends, Kat Dorsett and Dolly Hargrave, that she has one wish: to go with Finn McKinna to the junior high dance next year. But when Tabby wakes up the next morning, she discovers that she seems to have aged more than 10 years. Luckily, she’s not at home with her Aunt Patti, but at Kat’s house for a sleepover. (Tabby’s mother is dead; her father is institutionalized.) Tabby can’t go home, for the somewhat flimsy reason that she might be jailed “for the kidnapping of...herself.” The girls manage to establish a new identity for Tabby (Elise Mulligan), who gets a teaching job at her own school while they look for a remedy. Her mother’s diary, strange dreams of two evil sisters, and odd experiences confuse Tabby until Mrs. Bumble, a fellow teacher whose spare room the young woman moves into, gives her the bad news: She’s under a curse. A school field trip leads to a dangerous, dramatic confrontation with the Black and White sisters, named for their hair color. Though Tabby learns more about her family, the curse, and other matters, much work remains; the tale will continue in a sequel. In her novel, Elaine mixes up an entertaining blend of middle school best friend shenanigans with the supernatural—witchcraft, curses, a mystical society founded by an ancient civilization—and a family mystery. These last two elements are complex and well thought out, offering several surprises along the way. Although the book feels slow at 300-plus pages, frustratingly so since the story isn’t finished, it could grapple more with the implications of Tabby’s adult body. She’s embarrassed by her new figure but any interest or exploration stops there. And while it’s understandable that young people don’t want to look ancient, must “old and ruined” go together? Nevertheless, readers will likely be eager for the sequel.

An enjoyable and well-written supernatural tale, despite loose ends and a few missteps.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9981659-6-7

Page Count: 326

Publisher: Ingramelliott

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2018

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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