An exceptional sequel courtesy of driving plot and remarkable protagonist.

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CLANDESTINE

In the second installment of Rials’ (Ascension, 2016) YA paranormal series, a uniquely powerful human-vampire hybrid must decide her part in an imminent revolution against dominating vampires.

Seventeen-year-old Cheyenne Lane and her bestie, Anne Lacroix, both human-vampire Deuxsang, are prisoners. Their own families have restricted them to Anne’s room for a couple of weeks until classes begin at Clandestine. The college for Deuxsang students offers academics as well as physical training to aid the Deuxsang in mastering a specific ability. While most hone one ability out of a possible four, Cheyenne is already capable of two—compelling and inflicting—and may be able to learn them all. She’s miserable at Clandestine, however, separated from Anne and constantly monitored by her personal guard, Hugo, not to mention having no contact with her witch love interest, Eli. Cheyenne soon infers her family wants her at the college for critical training. If she masters all four abilities, she can be a weapon in a revolt against the vampires and its ruling Council. It isn’t long before Eli and his witch kin manage to get a message to Cheyenne. As it happens, they are likewise invested in overthrowing the vampires but want to protect her from the vamps, as her potential power rivals that of the Council chairman, Lamia. This incites Cheyenne into further training so she can join the fight even as the witches and the Deuxsang are at odds. She’s thrown, however, by startling new information concerning both the Deuxsang’s origin and the real reason the vampires are interested in Cheyenne. At the outset of the second installment, Rials plunges right into the action, making readers’ knowledge of the series opener a necessity. This establishes a steady pace from the beginning. Moreover, interesting surprises abound, like the identity of “the most powerful vampire in history.” The novel’s highlights are scenes of Cheyenne training, mostly inflicting, which is easily her most intimidating skill: She breaks noses, pulls bones out of sockets, and wills someone’s “skin to squeeze his bones.” There are unfortunately few particulars on another stellar ability, dreamwalking. But Cheyenne’s difficulty in mastering this showcases Rials’ subtle humor; when she steps into one of Eli’s dreams, she’s just as shocked as he is. In fact, Cheyenne spends much of the story in a bewildered state, which the author perfectly captures. Readers, for one, will understand her growing sense of distrust: Her own family forced her into Clandestine, and it seems that everyone wants to exploit her gifts. Though the novel has unmistakable shades of Twilight and Harry Potter, there are also nods to popular fairy tales. Cheyenne’s first meeting with her boyfriend’s mother, for example, is via a magical mirror, while the teen, in lieu of evil stepsisters, must contend with evil brother-in-law Thomas. The inevitable confrontation among vampires, witches, and Deuxsang leads to an exhilarating ending that sublimely sets up a third installment.

An exceptional sequel courtesy of driving plot and remarkable protagonist.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-935426-04-1

Page Count: -

Publisher: Aletha Press

Review Posted Online: June 22, 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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