Though it begins as a byproduct of vampire romance for teens, Nevins’ novel dives into a journey befitting its laudable...

WORMWOOD

Love, catastrophe and angels at war, all in the face of Armageddon.

On her morning hike, the ground shudders beneath Kali and she witnesses spewing lava. Standing over the destruction is a man, Tiamat, whom she’d encountered a decade ago. Tiamat is a half-angel, and he and his legion, known as Nephilim, have triggered an apocalypse. Though the half-angel is responsible for the death of millions, including Kali’s beloved father, the woman is inexplicably drawn to Tiamat, such that the first third of the novel feels like a variation on Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series; the reluctant angel, a forbidden love with a human and persistent reminders of Taimat’s handsome features (expansion of his wings results in a loss of his shirt). Conversations between Kali and Tiamat become Q&A sessions as Kali questions God’s reason for the end of the world and Tiamat is frustratingly unresponsive—though his motive for saving Kali from death is clear. The romance initially overwhelms the story, with Tiamat constantly apologizing for his actions and Kali seemingly more disconcerted over the angel’s apparent rejection of her advances or attempts to comfort him than over her planet in ruin. When the two leads separate, however, the novel shifts to an adventure—Kali’s epic trek across the wasteland. She meets other survivors, acquires some talents from her time with celestial beings (augmented strength and an ability to make the apocalyptic world’s pungent water drinkable) and has a confrontation with a fallen angel, an effectual character whose villainy is proficiently depicted—casually stepping on and crushing the hand of a dying woman. The author refuses to shy away from the story’s divine components, comparing a half-angel to a TV evangelist and the same creature quoting biblical verse while mercilessly beating Kali. Perhaps most revealing is the angelic (and romantic) lead gradually becoming unreliable, as the reader learns his true name and its meaning. Kali is an unyielding protagonist, more than capable with a crossbow and whose resilience makes her the highlight of the book.

Though it begins as a byproduct of vampire romance for teens, Nevins’ novel dives into a journey befitting its laudable female protagonist—a novel that happily approaches its religious overtone with zeal and no reservations.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2011

ISBN: 978-0987761200

Page Count: 331

Publisher: Black Wraith

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

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...

FLY AWAY

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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