Tragic history conveyed with honesty and candor.

THE HOTEL TITO

A young girl is caught in the turmoil of adolescence and war.

Drawing on her own family’s experiences during Yugoslavia’s struggle for independence in the 1990s, poet and fiction writer Bodroži? (The Hole, 2016, etc.) creates a captivating tale that earned acclaim and literary awards when it was published in Europe. Translated by Elias-Bursa?, the story begins when the slyly observant narrator is 9 and suddenly is sent, with her older brother, from their home in Vukovar, on the Croatian-Serbian border, to the seashore. Although her parents do not explain why, she has “a sneaking feeling it has to do with politics because everybody talks about politics all the time.” A few weeks later, the children’s mother arrives, but their father remains in Vukovar to defend Croatia against the Serbs, a long siege that ends in the imprisonment—and, the family later learns, the murder—of 400 men, her father among them. The remaining family members become refugees, housed in one shabby room at the former Political School in Kumrovec, which they sardonically dub the Hotel Tito, after longtime Yugoslav president Josip Broz Tito, a native of that city. Living on a meager displaced family’s allowance, they find a community consisting only of other refugees. Repeatedly, they petition the government for an apartment. “Believe me,” the mother writes, “it is much harder for the families of the missing because there are things we can never accept, and the uncertainty is crushing us.” Equally crushing is widespread disdain toward refugees. Against the backdrop of political news and rumors, the narrator grows up, setting aside Barbie dolls for disco clubs, dealing with jealousy, hurt feelings, her brother’s volatile anger, her mother’s depression, and her own mysterious emotions. “How cool it was to be all melancholy and sighs,” she reflects. Desperate to leave the Hotel Tito, she is elated when her excellent grades make her eligible for a fine secondary school in the capital city of Zagreb. In the new setting, though beset by grief and fear, she is buoyed by hope.

Tragic history conveyed with honesty and candor.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-60980-795-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Seven Stories

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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

THE CHASE

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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LAST ORDERS

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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