An accomplished wordsmith, Wynne-Jones achieves an extraordinary feat: he illuminates the hidden depths of personalities and...

THE EMPEROR OF ANY PLACE

After the shock of his father’s sudden death and the arrival of a grandfather he was taught to hate but never met, Evan must unravel a family mystery.

His father, Clifford, had been reading a peculiar, leather-bound memoir of a Japanese soldier who was marooned on an island during World War II. An accompanying letter suggests that it’s somehow connected to Evan’s grandfather Griff, a military man with “steel in [his] backbone.” Evan knows that his father never got along with Griff, whose very presence irritates Evan as well, especially when he calls him “soldier.” Not wanting to reveal anything to Griff, Evan starts to read Isamu Oshiro’s memoir and finds himself mesmerized by the haunting, sad journal addressed to Isamu’s fiancee. This book within a book, with its monsters, ghost children, and mysterious glimpses of the future, is as tightly written as Evan’s modern-day story. Evan’s resistance to his grandfather, colored by his father’s poor relationship with him, slowly adjusts the deeper he gets into Isamu’s memoir. Dual stories of strength and resilience illuminate the effects that war has on individuals and on father-son relationships, effects that stretch in unexpected ways across generations as Evan and Griff make their ways toward a truce.

An accomplished wordsmith, Wynne-Jones achieves an extraordinary feat: he illuminates the hidden depths of personalities and families through a mesmerizing blend of realism and magic. (Fiction. 13-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6973-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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An enjoyable, if predictable, romantic holiday story.

10 BLIND DATES

Is an exuberant extended family the cure for a breakup? Sophie is about to find out.

When Sophie unexpectedly breaks up with her boyfriend, she isn’t thrilled about spending the holidays at her grandparents’ house instead of with him. And when her grandmother forms a plan to distract Sophie from her broken heart—10 blind dates, each set up by different family members—she’s even less thrilled. Everyone gets involved with the matchmaking, even forming a betting pool on the success of each date. But will Sophie really find someone to fill the space left by her ex? Will her ex get wind of Sophie’s dating spree via social media and want them to get back together? Is that what she even wants anymore? This is a fun story of finding love, getting to know yourself, and getting to know your family. The pace is quick and light, though the characters are fairly shallow and occasionally feel interchangeable, especially with so many names involved. A Christmas tale, the plot is a fast-paced series of dinners, parties, and games, relayed in both narrative form and via texts, though the humor occasionally feels stiff and overwrought. The ending is satisfying, though largely unsurprising. Most characters default to white as members of Sophie’s Italian American extended family, although one of her cousins has a Filipina mother. One uncle is gay.

An enjoyable, if predictable, romantic holiday story. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-02749-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Slightly educational, mostly fun.

THE PERFECT PLACE TO DIE

A twist on disturbing historical events.

Sisters Zuretta and Ruby want to escape their abusive Utahn family, but Ruby manages to leave home first. When her letters abruptly stop coming, Zuretta heads east to Chicago to discover why. The teenager is immediately beset by grifters, but she has plenty of pluck: When police refuse to help her locate Ruby, she finds work as a maid in the hotel where her sister was last employed. That building, the Castle, is an ominous warren of hidden rooms and false doors populated by sinister employees—and the charming Dr. Henry Holmes. Holmes, a real mass murderer active during the Chicago World’s Fair, published writings after his conviction, and excerpts open each chapter. Zuretta’s involvement in the case is fictionalized, but the story’s true origins add suspense and excitement. Zuretta’s dreams of her sister as a moldering, ambulatory corpse don’t quite match the realistic events of the rest of the novel, and certain characters and events (the Pinkerton heir who helps her on her first day in Chicago, a hotel worker whose appearances stop once she’s less useful for the protagonist) are more convenient than is satisfying, but this novel will appeal to readers excited about an account of gruesome historical events steered by an intrepid young woman. The setting seems to include almost exclusively White people, including the main characters.

Slightly educational, mostly fun. (author's note) (Historical thriller. 13-17)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-72822-911-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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