An often entertaining, mostly upbeat magical adventure.

HOW TO SET THE WORLD ON FIRE

A YA fantasy novel about an enchanted school competition.

Debut author Riggins tells the tale of Kase Garrick, a young warrior-in-training at The Academy, a college of sorts that also produces wizards and scholars. He gets into trouble on his first day at the school when he runs afoul of a whiny boy named Niveous, who’s his older sister Cali’s boyfriend and also a professor’s son. Following an incident with Niveous, Kase reports for detention, during which he befriends Lenia and Talen. Lenia is studying to be a wizard and Talen a scholar. Although warriors, wizards, and scholars don’t usually mix, the three nevertheless form a bond. They eventually team up (along with Cali, after she breaks up with Niveous) for The Academy’s annual Quest Series competition. During the “Q,” as it’s called, Kase and his group, who call themselves the Liberati, are given seemingly impossible tasks, such as fetching molten rock from a volcano. Of course, the application of magic makes tackling them a bit easier, but they’ll also need problem-solving skills, among other, non-magical strengths. Aside from some sadness surrounding Cali’s breakup with Niveous—although it’s hard to tell what she saw in him, anyway—and some controversy involving a dragon, the book maintains a rather cheerful tone throughout. There is some dull dialogue, as in Kase’s long-range weapons class (“Help each other out, but safety is of utmost importance,” the instructor explains rather blandly). However, most of the narrative’s events move along quickly. The fun for readers comes less from trying to figure out how the tasks of the Q will be completed than from watching the chirpy young cast accomplish them in an expansive fantasy setting. In it, the team encounters creatures as varied as gargoyles, unicorns, and mermaids—and readers never quite know what will come next.

An often entertaining, mostly upbeat magical adventure.

Pub Date: May 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9959002-0-2

Page Count: 278

Publisher: Franchise Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2017

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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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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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