A novel entry into the world of teenage fantasy that ultimately unfolds into a truly epic saga.

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THE TALES OF CONOR ARCHER, VOL. 1

From debut author Barr comes an urban-fantasy novel about an adolescent boy on the cusp of mysterious change and the strange town within which he seeks refuge.

As a young man in Chicago, Conor shares an apartment with his mother: “They weren’t well off, but they weren’t dirt poor either.” The boy is handy with a tin whistle and makes a little extra money playing in a local Irish bar as his mother slowly dies of cancer. One night, he meets a stranger who informs him that he, Conor, is one of the “Dark ones.” Without supplying any further details, the stranger then proceeds to bite Conor on the hand and vanish into the Chicago River. Afterward, a series of events, including the death of Conor’s mother and a letter from an obscure aunt, brings the boy to the small town of Tinker’s Grove, Wisconsin. Arriving with a severe fever, he’s soon whisked to the local monastery with the aid of friendly townspeople, who have a chocolate Labrador retriever named Troubles. As the man in charge of the monastery explains to the local physician, Brother Luke, “What ails this boy is beyond the power of your medicine.” After a bizarre occurrence involving wild animals, a swirling fog, and an Indian burial mound, Conor recovers from his illness, but he’s never quite the same. The novel expands to include a complex affair that involves the river-dwelling creature Piasa, “the Devourer of Souls,” and ancient beliefs, showing that a lot can happen in a seemingly quaint little Midwestern town. Full of folklore and charm, the story is an inviting mix of the fantastic, the innocent, and the altogether sinister. Readers are unlikely to forget the ever-present Troubles, to whom Conor remarks later in the book, “wherever we are is different from where we’ve been.” The book does hit its share of speed bumps, though, as it’s dotted with flat declarations (“Don’t you see, Conor has to accept who he is,” one character explains, rather obviously). All in all, however, the book avoids the clichés of the genre while providing a swift, spiraling journey.

A novel entry into the world of teenage fantasy that ultimately unfolds into a truly epic saga.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-937387-66-2

Page Count: 570

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2015

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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