An intriguing start with a brave heroine; too bad readers must await the sequel for some real action.


From the Book of Ivy series , Vol. 1

In this YA novel set in a post-apocalyptic future, a teenage girl is charged by her family with killing the president’s son—who is also her new husband.

Two generations ago, nuclear war almost destroyed the world. A small town of less than 10,000 survivors was founded by narrator Ivy Westfall’s grandfather, but President Lattimer’s father won the struggle for control. He now rules autocratically rather than heading up the democracy Westfall favored. Criminals are exiled and left to die. To soothe old wounds, the town instituted a tradition: Sons of the winning side marry the daughters of the losers, and vice versa. Now Ivy, 16, must marry Bishop Lattimer—son of the president, who had Ivy’s mother killed. Nervous as any young girl might be about marrying a stranger, Ivy has an additional burden: She has promised her family that she will kill her new husband so as to aid the rebellion. Ivy, outspoken and reckless, soon realizes that Bishop is gentle, thoughtful and guilty of nothing, which presents her with a terrible dilemma: “If I kill Bishop, my family will be in power, but Bishop will be dead and what will I be? A murderer.” When Ivy is given an ultimatum to poison Bishop, she faces a terrible decision. In her debut novel, Engel employs the first-person, present-tense style that’s almost de rigueur in this genre. Together with the emotionally fraught situation—simply having to share a house with a man is unsettling for Ivy—the book has immediacy, and there’s justification for plenty of teenage angst. Ivy is forced to question her family’s motivations as Bishop keeps surprising her, and she surprises herself with her growing feelings for him. The worldbuilding is mostly well-thought-out, with some complicated issues: Westfall lacks resources to make jewelry but can make electronic security systems? The pace becomes slow, too, and it seems as if the real drama is still to come in a planned sequel, which may frustrate some readers.

An intriguing start with a brave heroine; too bad readers must await the sequel for some real action.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-1622664658

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2014

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A love letter to fans who will forgive (and even revel in) its excesses and indulgences.


From the Twilight series , Vol. 5

A long-awaited Twilight (2005) companion novel told from vampire Edward’s point of view.

Edward Cullen, a 104-year-old vampire (and eternal 17-year-old), finds his world turned upside down when new girl Bella Swan’s addictive scent drives a primal hunger, launching the classic story of vampire-meets-girl, vampire-wants-to-eat-girl, vampire-falls-in-love-with-girl. Edward’s broody inner monologue allows readers to follow every beat of his falling in love. The glacial pace and already familiar plot points mean that instead of surprise twists, characterization reigns. Meyer doesn’t shy away from making Edward far less sympathetic than Bella’s view of him (and his mind reading confirms that Bella’s view of him isn’t universal). Bella benefits from being seen without the curtain of self-deprecation from the original book, as Edward analyzes her every action for clues to her personality. The deeper, richer characterization of the leads comes at the expense of the secondary cast, who (with a few exceptions) alternate primarily along gender lines, between dimwitted buffoons and jealous mean girls. Once the vampiric threat from James’ storyline kicks off, vampire maneuvering and strategizing show off the interplay of the Cullens’ powers in a fresh way. After the action of the climax starts in earnest, though, it leans more into summary and monologue to get to the well-known ending. Aside from the Quileutes and the occasional background character, the cast defaults to White.

A love letter to fans who will forgive (and even revel in) its excesses and indulgences. (Paranormal romance. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-70704-6

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Sure to please fans of the author and of the vampire-romance genre.


From the Beautiful series , Vol. 1

Forbidden love is tested by suspicion and murder in this latest addition to YA vampire lore.

Celine Rousseau, a French and Asian (mother’s exact origins unknown) seamstress, sails from Europe to America in hopes of leaving her shadowy past behind. En route, she bonds with Pippa, a white English émigrée, and both girls find refuge in an Ursuline convent. Celine’s talent as a couturier leads to a commission from Odette, a beautiful member of the opulent-yet-mysterious Cour des Lions, where students of the occult practice their craft unmolested. Before long, Celine is swept up in a world of mystical forces centering around Sébastien Saint Germain, an enigmatic aristocrat to whom she is irresistibly attracted. When a fellow convent member is found murdered, Celine suspects all her acquaintances, including Sébastien. The novel, wading into the waters of forbidden romance between teenage girl and hunky immortal vampire previously navigated by Buffy Summers and Bella Swan, feels less magical than it should despite the lush Victorian-era New Orleans setting. At times the mounting attraction between Bastien and Celine is told rather than shown, which makes the central relationship feel forced rather than organic and passion filled. Ahdieh (Smoke in the Sun, 2018, etc.) brings New Orleans vibrantly to life, particularly when exploring the complicated racial and gender restrictions of high society through main and supporting characters of mixed-race origin.

Sure to please fans of the author and of the vampire-romance genre. (Fantasy. 12-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-3817-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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