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CLANDESTINE

An exceptional sequel courtesy of driving plot and remarkable protagonist.

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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 LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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THE RUMOR

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Hilderbrand’s latest cautionary tale exposes the toxic—and hilarious—impact of gossip on even the most sophisticated of islands.

Eddie and Grace Pancik are known for their beautiful Nantucket home and grounds, financed with the profits from Eddie’s thriving real estate company (thriving before the crash of 2008, that is). Grace raises pedigreed hens and, with the help of hunky landscape architect Benton Coe, has achieved a lush paradise of fowl-friendly foliage. The Panciks’ teenage girls, Allegra and Hope, suffer invidious comparisons of their looks and sex appeal, although they're identical twins. The Panciks’ friends the Llewellyns (Madeline, a blocked novelist, and her airline-pilot husband, Trevor) invested $50,000, the lion’s share of Madeline’s last advance, in Eddie’s latest development. But Madeline, hard-pressed to come up with catalog copy, much less a new novel, is living in increasingly straightened circumstances, at least by Nantucket standards: she can only afford $2,000 per month on the apartment she rents in desperate hope that “a room of her own” will prime the creative pump. Construction on Eddie’s spec houses has stalled, thanks to the aforementioned crash. Grace, who has been nursing a crush on Benton for some time, gives in and a torrid affair ensues, which she ill-advisedly confides to Madeline after too many glasses of Screaming Eagle. With her agent and publisher dropping dire hints about clawing back her advance and Eddie “temporarily” unable to return the 50K, what’s a writer to do but to appropriate Grace’s adultery as fictional fodder? When Eddie is seen entering her apartment (to ask why she rented from a rival realtor), rumors spread about him and Madeline, and after the rival realtor sneaks a look at Madeline’s rough draft (which New York is hotly anticipating as “the Playboy Channel meets HGTV”), the island threatens to implode with prurient snark. No one is spared, not even Hilderbrand herself, “that other Nantucket novelist,” nor this magazine, “the notoriously cranky Kirkus.”

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-33452-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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