A novel with so many painstakingly well-defined layers that readers may want to flip back to page one for a second read—or...



First-time novelist Von Smith tells a complex tale centered on Survivanoia, an engineering firm with a potential link to a deadly virus.

As the novel opens, Baroness Dacianna “Daci” Von Worthington has been named the new president of Survivanoia. The company specializes in unconventional products, such as radiation-proof jogging suits, and it also develops vaccines. But has it secretly discovered an effective vaccine for the Flower Flu, a disease which renders people blind, and is there credence to a class action suit claiming that the vaccine is being withheld from the public? The Baroness is determined to uncover the truth. This book offers an indisputably novel-length story, but it’s structured as a number of shorter stories, spotlighting different characters’ perspectives. Some initially seem to be digressions, such as one featuring Vonnie, a woman who starts a career in comedy by telling jokes about her estranged, and famous, rapper husband; Vonnie’s friend, Chloe, turns out to be a Survivanoia employee. In the ingenious, intertwining narratives, the author moves back and forth in time, sometimes repeating scenes from other points of view, without ever slowing the momentum of the main Baroness/virus plot. Some events are teased in one story before readers see them fully unfold in another. The stories boast a fetching assortment of characters, including an unemployed genius scientist; the former star of a canceled television series, who takes on his TV character’s persona, uses the show’s catchphrase and hums its theme song; two stepbrothers whose mothers are married; and a noticeably masculine man in a dress. The book’s final act focuses on the Baroness and wraps up the loose ends from most of the previous stories, including revealing the aftermath of a car collision. As the story clarifies the Baroness’ actions at Survivanoia, and her reasons for being there, it gradually makes her a more sympathetic and engaging character. The story finally comes together in a satisfying conclusion.

A novel with so many painstakingly well-defined layers that readers may want to flip back to page one for a second read—or even a third.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-1469905181

Page Count: 338

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.


Piper Manning is determined to sell her family’s property so she can leave her hometown behind, but when her siblings come back with life-changing secrets and her sexy neighbor begins to feel like “The One,” she might have to redo her to-do list.

As children, Piper and her younger siblings, Gavin and Winnie, were sent to live with their grandparents in Wildstone, California, from the Congo after one of Gavin’s friends was killed. Their parents were supposed to meet them later but never made it. Piper wound up being more of a parent than her grandparents, though: “In the end, Piper had done all the raising. It’d taken forever, but now, finally, her brother and sister were off living their own lives.” Piper, the queen of the bullet journal, plans to fix up the family’s lakeside property her grandparents left the three siblings when they died. Selling it will enable her to study to be a physician’s assistant as she’s always wanted. However, just as the goal seems in sight, Gavin and Winnie come home, ostensibly for Piper’s 30th birthday, and then never leave. Turns out, Piper’s brother and sister have recently managed to get into a couple buckets of trouble, and they need some time to reevaluate their options. They aren’t willing to share their problems with Piper, though they’ve been completely open with each other. And Winnie, who’s pregnant, has been very open with Piper’s neighbor Emmitt Reid and his visiting son, Camden, since the baby’s father is Cam’s younger brother, Rowan, who died a few months earlier in a car accident. Everyone has issues to navigate, made more complicated by Gavin and Winnie’s swearing Cam to secrecy just as he and Piper try—and fail—to ignore their attraction to each other. Shalvis keeps the physical and emotional tension high, though the siblings’ refusal to share with Piper becomes tedious and starts to feel childish.

Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296139-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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