Eloquent tales that skillfully tap into a deep well of ideas.

THE PRINCESS WHO SANG LIKE A FROG

AND OTHER TALES OF LOVE

This debut collection of fairy tales tells lyrical stories of loss and grief transformed through the power of compassion.

In the title story, a princess must sing so a man will fall in love with her, but she realizes that she can’t. Fearing she has no heart and will never know love, she leaves home. On her journey, the Frog King, the Snake Queen, and the Wolf King teach her to sing by croaking, hissing, and howling. She meets a singing young man who reassures her that “there is nothing wrong with you. You are perfect as you are,” but she doesn’t believe him. A cruel wizard bars her path because it’s prophesied that “a princess with four voices will destroy me and free the prince whom I have been holding prisoner.” Nevertheless, two birds teach her the fourth voice: shrill and shrieking bird song. Before surrendering the prince, the wizard poses four riddles to the princess. The answers reveal the wizard’s past, how he became evil, why he enjoys being wicked, and his path toward redemption. In “The Yellow Bird,” a boy follows and then becomes one with a small yellow bird, forgetting his human self. He helps a king mourning his son to discover the purpose of life, which is “to love and comfort others on their journeys.” In “The Woodcutter’s Daughter,” an older mother rabbit gives a young woman the power to hear her angry, brutish father’s true yearning for love. But the woman can’t save him, so she journeys to offer her love to the wider world. She’s given the task of filling a lake with healing water, which gives new life to many. Her father’s heart, too, is freed. In another tale, a childless older fisherman catches “The Joyfish,” which gladly allows itself to be eaten. The man and his wife are taken to an undersea kingdom where they are magically renewed.

In her book, Cardamon achieves an authentic and pleasing fairy-tale cadence, as in the opening line of the title story: “Once upon a time, when wishing still mattered, a princess lived in a land neither here nor there.” Elements such as the quest motif, animal helpers, and special tasks and characters like the princess and the woodcutter also give the tales a solid grounding in tradition. More contemporary are the stories’ themes of discovering redemption and purpose through love for everyone, even villains like the wizard and the woodcutter; there’s no typical fairy-tale revenge ending. This could seem unfitting, but the author makes it work by staying true to the worlds of the stories and the symbolic imagery. The woodcutter, for example, dies (in one sense) beneath a beautiful magic tree that grew from the buried eyes, tongue, and heart of the mother rabbit, who sacrificed herself to save the man’s daughter. But in another sense, he is asleep, dreaming of finding peace. Although the well-written collection has lessons to teach, they aren’t didactic among so much magic. While “The Princess Who Sang Like a Frog” meanders somewhat, the other offerings are more focused.

Eloquent tales that skillfully tap into a deep well of ideas.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-578-96548-2

Page Count: 222

Publisher: Sublimatio Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2021

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An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

THE SUMMER PLACE

When a family convenes at their Cape Cod summer home for a wedding, old secrets threaten to ruin everything.

Sarah Danhauser is shocked when her beloved stepdaughter announces her engagement to her boyfriend, Gabe. After all, Ruby’s only 22, and Sarah suspects that their relationship was fast-tracked because of the time they spent together in quarantine during the early days of the pandemic. Sarah’s mother, Veronica, is thrilled, mostly because she longs to have the entire family together for one last celebration before she puts their Cape Cod summer house on the market. But getting to Ruby and Gabe’s wedding might prove more difficult than anyone thought. Sarah can’t figure out why her husband, Eli, has been so distant and distracted ever since Ruby moved home to Park Slope (bringing Gabe with her), and she's afraid he may be having an affair. Veronica is afraid that a long-ago dalliance might come back to bite her. Ruby isn’t sure how to process the conflicting feelings she’s having about her upcoming nuptials. And Sam, Sarah’s twin brother, is a recent widower who’s dealing with some pretty big romantic confusion. As the entire extended family, along with Gabe’s relatives, converges on the summer house, secrets become impossible to keep, and it quickly becomes clear that this might not be the perfect gathering Veronica was envisioning. If they make it to the wedding, will their family survive the aftermath? Weiner creates a story with all the misunderstandings and miscommunications of a screwball comedy or a Shakespeare play (think A Midsummer Night’s Dream). But the surprising, over-the-top actions of the characters are grounded by a realistic and moving look at grief and ambition (particularly for Sarah and Veronica, both of whom give up demanding creative careers early on). At times the flashbacks can slow down the story, but even when the characters are lying, cheating, and hiding from each other, they still seem like a real and loving family.

An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3357-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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