A spiritual thriller that skillfully celebrates determination and self-discipline.



This YA fantasy debut sees a tormented teenager who loves reading drawn into a battle between heaven and hell.

Seventh-grader Noah Thomas has just moved to Mid-Town with his mother, Evelyn. Because his father died in an accident, his mother works three jobs. The lonely boy is bullied mercilessly by a gang of kids led by Mike Nason. But life improves when tomboy Wendy Sherman moves to Mid-Town with her father, Earl, and her brother, Josh. Earl, a mechanic, has purchased Hersey’s Junkyard, and Wendy herself adores all things automotive. She and Noah become fast friends in class, and when Mike’s gang chases them home, Earl’s presence forces the punks to back off. Later, Noah begins helping at the junkyard, and Wendy fixes an old BMX bike for him. He rides downtown and finds The Book Shop, a strange store run by a man named Enoch who seems capable of floating and changing size. Enoch and his twin, Elijah, provide a series of instructional works to Noah, magical volumes that the boy can physically enter and train with powers like superspeed, flight, and astral projection. When Noah eventually finds an odd, ancient book at the library, he wonders if it’s connected to the mysterious twins. Little does he realize that opening it will unleash hell itself. In his novel, Smith explores religious subjects such as the Akashic records—which contain the history of all life—and bittersweet issues like growing up fatherless. The narrative first offers a coming-of-age foundation, where rooting for Noah and Wendy is a pleasure. Smith’s prose, perhaps better suited to high school readers, succeeds in emotionally satisfying moments with Evelyn and Earl and even reveals how Mike’s bullying doesn’t occur in a vacuum. The story becomes fantastic by stages, beginning with Noah’s travel through the books and then revealing Enoch’s and Elijah’s true identities. Genuine horror pervades the last third, with demons causing grisly carnage in Mid-Town and Noah transforming spiritually to enter the fray. A downbeat ending embraces life’s habit of surprising readers.

A spiritual thriller that skillfully celebrates determination and self-discipline.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68433-138-3

Page Count: 309

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2018

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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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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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