An exceptional sequel courtesy of driving plot and remarkable protagonist.

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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