A good mix of poignancy and sexy fun, with two well-developed protagonists.

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UNTIL THE LAST STAR FADES

A baggage mix-up at LaGuardia Airport leads to a new friendship and more in Middleton’s (London, Can You Wait, 2017, etc.) delightful contemporary romance novel.

Riley Hope, a senior at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, has too much on her plate. She is flat broke; her mother, Maggie, is fighting cancer for the third time; and her three-year boyfriend, Josh King, star of the University of North Dakota’s ice hockey team, has just proposed. There are many reasons Riley doesn’t want to accept, but Josh has promised financial help for her mother’s insurmountable medical bills. And Riley will do anything for Maggie. It’s been Maggie and Riley against the world ever since her father took off. We meet her as she is chasing down a disheveled 20-something who has mistakenly taken her suitcase from the baggage carousel. Ben Fagan, seriously hung over, has just returned from Los Angeles, where he auditioned for a new TV series. The befuddled Scottish lad has no idea how to get himself to the cheap Airbnb he has scored on Canal Street in lower Manhattan. Riley, whose tiny studio apartment is in the East Village, leads him through the transportation maze of New York’s subway system, and the seeds of friendship are planted. Readers will need to wait patiently for that friendship to transition to steamy love. But there are plenty of distractions, both humorous (e.g., Erika Kobayashi’s bachelorette party with male dancers) and serious (Riley’s high-functional depression, Ben’s dyslexia, Maggie’s cancer), to keep a twisty, if occasionally far-fetched, plotline moving quickly. The novel is a stand-alone, although Middleton connects it with two previous books via shared plotlines and characters. While the prose is smooth, carried primarily by fast-moving dialogue, musical references and some colloquial lingo (e.g., FOMO) may be lost on some readers (although a glossary is included).

A good mix of poignancy and sexy fun, with two well-developed protagonists.

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9952117-8-0

Page Count: 498

Publisher: Kirkwall Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 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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