A stylish, if not terribly original, preface to a paranormal series.

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THE SERPENT’S CHILD

Hannah offers a debut YA novella about a Catholic teenager who discovers something deeply troubling about her ancestry.

Seventeen-year-old Malady, nicknamed “Mal,” never took her classes seriously in parochial school. She sometimes has flashes of uncontrollable anger, but she dismisses them as typical teenage angst; sometimes she dreams about strangers dying right before they do so in real life, but that’s probably just a coincidence, she thinks. It turns out that Mal’s family has a big secret that they need to tell her, although her parents keep insisting that she isn’t ready to hear it. Then Mal’s grandfather, whom she thought was long dead, comes for a visit. His identity has huge repercussions for Mal, as it means that she’s destined to fulfill a prophecy to be a leader in an upcoming war. She’s understandably upset by this news—but unfortunately, she doesn’t have much say in the matter. Hannah’s prose is sharp and snarky, and her characters speak in the familiar, perennially bored sarcasm often seen in modern YA fantasy: “I’m an Angel of Death,” says one, “or if you’d like, a Grim Reaper of some sort. But that’s not what’s got your sister’s feathers all riled up.” This slim volume builds slowly to the big revelation of Mal’s heritage, although the reader will likely see it coming from a mile off. (Who has a grandfather nicknamed “Lucie,” after all?) And although the author assembles a large array of otherworldly cast members, they don’t have much to do—at least not yet. At fewer than 80 pages, this book is a mere introduction to a forthcoming series in which Mal navigates a dark and dangerous supernatural world. Whether Hannah’s take on this well-trod fantasy territory will offer anything new remains to be seen.

A stylish, if not terribly original, preface to a paranormal series.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5255-0747-2

Page Count: 72

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: July 26, 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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