A journey that’s uniquely informative, though hampered at times by overbearing prose.


Debut author Ripley presents a sci-fi thriller about apparently friendly visitors from another planet.

Indian-American teenager Rohini Haakonsen is in the United Nations headquarters in New York City as part of the Youth Assembly program, when a group of robed strangers appear—space aliens who assure the audience that they come in peace. They insist on being called the “Elders,” and they offer assistance to an Earth that’s in environmental peril, facing rising sea levels. They request that a number of young people be sent to the Elders’ unnamed world to study and learn their ways. Obviously, the sudden appearance of aliens at the U.N. is a shocking event, and not everyone trusts the Elders’ motives. Rohini, for instance, has suspicions about the whole affair, but she winds up being handpicked by the Elders (with approval from the president of the United States) to be one of Earth’s ambassadors. Rohini won’t go unprepared, however, as a government agent named Sinéad McGowan, alias “Jane Smith,” trains her for a few months before she’s scheduled to leave the planet, so that she can stand up to any sort of confrontation. But after an incident in Washington, D.C., leads to tragedy, Sinéad and Rohini flee to China to plan their next move, where more about the Elders is revealed. There, Rohini, along with the reader, also learns much about Chinese history and culture, including about the 13th-century painter Chen Rong and the dongtian fudi system of nature preserves. This information is, however, not always woven seamlessly into the story; for example, the narration heavy-handedly notes that Rohini “had found in the past that learning how people from other cultures viewed life often gave her deeper insight and more appreciation for her own.” There are some occasionally bland descriptions, and some of the obstacles that Rohini runs into along the way, such as conniving FBI Special Agent in Charge Edward R. Rooney, fizzle more quickly than they should. Still, the narrative takes readers to unusual places in a whirlwind of activity that’s difficult to predict.

A journey that’s uniquely informative, though hampered at times by overbearing prose.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-939548-90-0

Page Count: 294

Publisher: Calumet Editions

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

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A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.


From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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