A bevy of sublime characters elevates this smashing paranormal tale.



In this second installment of a new-adult supernatural series, a college student capable of seeing ghosts finds herself linked to a deadly arsonist.

It’s been months since the death of 19-year-old Callie McCayter’s best friend, Izzy Miller. Determined to stay at Astoria College in Oregon, where Izzy died, Callie is ready for the spring semester. But she’s isolating herself from many people, such as Izzy’s parents, who took Callie away from her abusive, alcoholic father and loved her as their own daughter. Callie has been able to see and occasionally communicate with Izzy’s ghost. Lately, however, she’s observing other spirits and having trouble distinguishing them from the living. Callie’s afraid of what her loved ones will think if they catch her interacting with someone only she can see. Unfortunately, trouble is brewing before the semester starts, as Callie’s relationship with her boyfriend, Jay Houghten, isn’t as precisely defined as he would like. Callie, who fears losing someone she loves, as she did her mother to cancer years ago, has been pushing Jay away. Suddenly, transfer student Reid Halsey arrives at Astoria. Sure, he’s arrogant, but Callie can’t deny the inexplicable power between them when the two make physical contact. Meanwhile, Callie is dreaming of “the burning man,” who is leaving fiery destruction in his wake. She soon realizes a string of local cases of arson—with fatalities—has been unfolding in real life. Callie’s abilities put her in a unique position to stop the arsonist, an endeavor that will undoubtedly put her and possibly her friends in danger. As in her earlier novel, Rosengard (Spooked, 2018) concentrates more on Callie’s real-world drama than paranormal elements. Though ghostly sightings and burning man dreams create an eerie ambiance, they often take a back seat to Callie’s romantic turbulence. Nevertheless, characters are endlessly enthralling. Jay, for example, is transparently envious of Reid and gets maybe too close to one of Astoria’s professors, but his concern for Callie’s well-being is genuine. Additional standout characters are Callie’s pals Noemí Orozco, Bethany Humphries, and especially resident adviser Jenna, who has an uncanny knack for reading people. The dynamic protagonist continues to grow in this installment. She learns that she has other abilities and encounters people who also sense ghosts. And even without supernatural powers, she’s formidable. Though readers witness little of her “self-defense prowess,” her instincts are superb (for example, she figures out that keys are handy as makeshift brass knuckles). Much of this story’s mystery stems from Callie’s messages from Izzy. She rarely hears her ghost friend, who communicates by moving books or tarot cards. But Izzy manages to deliver an ambiguous warning via a dream: “He’s coming.” Surprisingly, identifying the burning man is more or less resolved well before the ending. But this precedes an intense and revealing final act, which includes a plot turn or two that shakes Callie’s world and leaves prime material for another volume to pick up. To offset the generally somber tone, there are dashes of humor: Callie Googles a potential word for her ability, “touched,” and gets websites she isn’t exactly looking for.

A bevy of sublime characters elevates this smashing paranormal tale.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-73291-522-0

Page Count: -

Publisher: Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Publishing, LLC

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2019

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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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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...


Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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