Smart, funny, heady, thoughtful, literary; this collection can be enjoyed on many levels by many different kinds of people.

THIS LIFE AS TOLD BY AN OLD NDN

With a beautifully written frame story in the vein of One Thousand and One Nights, The Decameron, and Canterbury Tales, Hansen (Raven’s Spear, 2017, etc.) proves short fiction is a genre in which he shines.

Uncle is a chain-smoking, coffee-swilling, cussing old coot who can weave stories out of smoke rising from an unconscious man. This venerable Native American fashions a series of such tales for a group of children, stitching together the life of Tomtom, the man who lies before him. The Uncle sections are simultaneously humorous, instructive, and world-weary, while the Tomtom stories dance in time, referencing, foreshadowing, and illuminating one another as they construct a biographical and psychological portrait of a mixed-race (Native American and white) young man. The stories range from the Twilight Zone–like “Goat Man,” which mixes teenage ennui with a supernatural hitchhiker, to the laugh-out-loud “The Day I Heard the Bell Ring,” which involves a wild ride on a cooler of beer while slyly alluding to Hansen’s own Tricksters’ War Trilogy. Both the frame (“His words were flecks of gold and smoke that leapt out at the fire before weaving back towards the children’s ears”) and the tales (“they cut away those parts of themselves they do not want. But those parts never go away, hanging from them like dead limbs never to be fully amputated”) are elegantly written and image-filled. Whether Tomtom is wrecking his father’s car and running off to live in a tent or forever swallowing unsaid words of love, each tale abounds with running themes, symbols, and allusions. The ability to see outward from darkness versus the inability to see into darkness, along with the idea of being loved but not wanted, permeates, while the appearances of wasps and butterflies continually portend and color events. The stories Uncle draws out of Tomtom highlight the life of a man in turmoil and just might bring him peace.

Smart, funny, heady, thoughtful, literary; this collection can be enjoyed on many levels by many different kinds of people.

Pub Date: April 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-979748-35-3

Page Count: 278

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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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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