Minimal action, but the focused setting and rounded characters will prime readers for further stories.



In the first installment of Giacomazzo’s (co-author: Swimming with Sharks, 2015) dystopian series set in the near future, a group resists a dictator who’s taken control of America.

It’s been over two decades since New York City resident Jamie Ryan was frontman for the popular glam-rock band Faust. Since that time, the country has come under the control of the authoritarian regime of Roger Cunningham, who’s known as “Emperor.” After winning a presidential election, Cunningham declared a state of emergency; members of his police force, The Cabal, now use psychic powers known as “psi”— capable of stripping “your spiritual life force, your psychic energy, the very aura that made an individual unique”—to make citizens docile. Jamie became a Cabal officer to support his pregnant wife, Angelique Denham. But after a fellow officer killed Angelique, Jamie and two other officers, Basile Perrinault and Kanoa Shinomura, defied Emperor and went on the run. Since then, they’ve been covertly killing other Cabal members; now, they’re planning to bring together other insurgent groups, including one called The Uprising, to stand against Emperor. Jamie also finds out that Ramira “Rosie” Diaz, the ex-girlfriend of late Faust bassist Jordan Barker, is now Emperor’s wife; Emperor’s soon-to-be-betrothed stepdaughter, Evanora Joy Diaz-Barker, is Jordan’s child. Giacomazzo wisely condenses the plot to its essentials; the number of characters is relatively small, and although Emperor has taken over the entire country, the narrative is centered in New York. The coarse language throughout and sharp instances of violence make the novel decidedly adult in tone. There’s a notable theme of family as Basile fights for loved ones he’s lost and Evanora acts as Jamie’s surrogate daughter. Moreover, the story adeptly tackles topical issues: Emperor’s “therapy,” for example, essentially aims to turn gay people straight. The plentiful dialogue is rife with slang, clipped sentences, and light insults. Nevertheless, very little happens in this first book, leaving readers to wait for particulars on such things as The Trials (tests for joining The Cabal) and Faust’s decision to disband.

Minimal action, but the focused setting and rounded characters will prime readers for further stories.

Pub Date: March 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-980613-78-7

Page Count: 148

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2018

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Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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