An excellent Western tale with a winning heroine.

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BECOMING BEATRICE

In this YA novel, a debutante from California decides to escape her smug suitor and test her mettle as a teacher in a frontier logging town.

Beatrice Blake, 17, is leaving Oakland and heading to Snohomish, Washington. As it happens, her two Blake uncles have prospered there, and her brother, Stewart, the black sheep of the family, has joined them and invited Beatrice to the town. She will work there through the winter and spring, having promised to return to marry her arrogant suitor. Her mother is a toxic snob and overprotective, but Beatrice takes her stand, and her father, his own dreams faded, backs her up. To say that Snohomish is not as idyllic as Beatrice had envisioned would be a gross understatement. Although there are good people there, many are both suspicious and superstitious. Beatrice, on the other hand, has been badly infected with her mother’s prejudices so, for example, it takes her forever and much pain to accept the fact that Twasla, a half Native American, is not her social inferior. Beatrice then is fighting on two fronts: the insularity of Snohomish and her own deep biases. Wood (Langley, 2012, etc.) stirs the pot nicely, and for every step forward, Beatrice takes two steps back. The worst troubles occur when the smallpox plague strikes and kids die. Somehow Beatrice is blamed and branded a witch. For a time, it looks as if her life is in danger, but she refuses to scoot back to Oakland as Stewart urges. A few of the plot strands are a bit too pat (Stewart and Twasla become engaged). But while this is Wood’s debut novel, she is an experienced writer—with many nonfiction books under her belt—and it shows. Her tale should appeal to both the YA audience and older readers. The author has a deft hand with characters, especially Twasla and George Hess, who may turn out to be Beatrice’s great love. Readers should cheer as, after many difficult trials, the heroine finds the path to her true self. Along the way, she must determine whether she will stay in Snohomish and become the inspired teacher that she hoped she could one day be.

An excellent Western tale with a winning heroine.

Pub Date: June 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9656119-0-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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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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