A promising first effort—filled with strong characters—that shines despite its ponderous writing style.

Calypso Sun

A debut novel explores the past and present of a war-torn land and its leaders over the course of one night.

Violence has haunted Braeland for centuries, as different families and regions repeatedly clash in brutal battles punctuated by only tenuous periods of peace. The source of this unending conflict is religion. While most people live in accordance with sacred texts called the Way, which tell the stories of the two brothers Faedelin and Mehsani, the South sees the latter as their ultimate savior, while the North adores the former. The tale focuses on only one night and the tenuous attempt to sign a peace treaty that follows. Flashbacks explore the pasts of four main characters and connect their personal histories to their emotional and physical wounds. Jon Carrow, a Northern general, is unstable and traumatized after years of displacement and rejection, while his compatriot Payton Tallhart puts on a resolute public face as the soon-to-be-queen of Braeland. She quietly wrestles with memories of her turbulent youth and religious fanatic father. Payton maintains a close friendship with the thoughtful Jem Nalda, now a soldier for the South. Jem’s lover is Lanair Mavogar, reputedly the last living descendant of Mehsani and once the adoptive brother of Carrow. Alexander convincingly depicts a complex society riven with deep divisions while also creating fully realized characters whose relationships reflect both personal and political turbulence. The book’s major weakness is a tendency toward laborious writing. Though his characters, worldbuilding, and plot are all intriguing, Alexander often gets bogged down in overly long and complicated metaphors that explore his players’ mental states. These passages elucidate those states far less than sequences that describe these characters in plain language. The story’s many flashbacks sometimes become jarring, as the narrative intercuts between past and present with little indication. The highly complex histories of this sweeping world and the dynamic characters are examined over the entire course of the novel, so acquiring a full understanding requires patience and close reading.

A promising first effort—filled with strong characters—that shines despite its ponderous writing style.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-60414-4

Page Count: 422

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2016

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A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.

THE CHASE

From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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