A complex, sometimes-muddled novel but one that’s worthy of comparison to Pynchon’s work.

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The Star-Spangled Triangle

SECOND OF THE BLUE BATTALION CHRONICLES

Luce’s (The Mount of Meggido, 2013) latest installment of the Blue Battalion Chronicles.

Two years have passed since the events of the author’s previous sci-fi novel, featuring near-future political wrangling and a host of eccentric characters, including the Rolls Royce–driving, stovepipe hat–wearing Dr. Frank N. Stein. It’s now 2019; the United States, now slightly altered and known as the Federated States of America, is recovering from a recent civil war, and violence is still rampant. After crime fighter Peter Hassel (a man who “knows almost everything about everything”) and voluptuous former New York street cop Rachel Rothburg survive an attack, they discover that it’s connected to a complex plot by the director of the FBI, Beatrice Orange. She has no qualms about murder and maintains a seemingly unquenchable thirst for power (“Her driving dream is world domination”). As Frank, Rachel, Peter and other members of the Blue Battalion investigate Beatrice and her motives, they trace a long series of seedy activities to Yale University, the Skull and Bones Society and other organizations. The story is complex and zany in its construction, with wacky, Thomas Pynchon–esque characters and secret societies, as well as regular bursts of gunfire. It’s at its best when it follows the stoic actions of its good guys (such as when Peter and Rachel handle an assailant) and brutality of its bad guys (including Beatrice’s cool-headed violence). That said, the story occasionally veers into confusion and sluggishness. The blunt character descriptions (“She has a Master’s in political science from San Francisco State and a law degree from Bolt Hall”) aren’t always particularly insightful or exciting. Similarly, a dinner scene at a New Haven club adds little to the story other than to show that one particular character is capable of eating a lot of food. These are mere bumps in the road, however, and readers looking for a wild tale of lively, violent people are unlikely to be disappointed.

A complex, sometimes-muddled novel but one that’s worthy of comparison to Pynchon’s work.  

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2014

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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A heartwarming portrait of a broken heart finding a little healing magic.

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IN FIVE YEARS

After acing a job interview and accepting a marriage proposal, Dannie Kohan has had the perfect day. That is, until she awakens to find herself five years in the future with a completely different man.

Just one hour in that alternate reality shakes Dannie to her core. After all, highly ambitious Dannie and her boyfriend, David, have plotted out their lives in minute detail, and the sexy man in her dream—was it a dream?—is most certainly not in the script. Serle (The Dinner List, 2018) deftly spins these magical threads into Dannie’s perfectly structured life, leaving not only Dannie, but also the reader wondering whether Dannie time traveled or hallucinated. Her best friend, Bella, would delight in the story given that she thinks Dannie is much too straight-laced, and some spicy dreaming might push Dannie to find someone more passionate than David. Unfortunately, glamorous Bella is in Europe with her latest lover. Ever pragmatic, Dannie consults her therapist, who almost concurs that it was likely a dream, and throws herself into her work. Pleased to have landed the job at a prestigious law firm, Dannie easily loses her worries in litigation. Soon four and a half years have passed with no wedding date set, and Bella is back in the U.S. with a new man in her life. A man who turns out to be literally the man of Dannie’s dream. The sheer fact of Aaron Gregory’s existence forces Dannie to reevaluate her trust in the laws of physics as well as her decision to marry David, a decision that seems less believable with each passing day. And as the architecture of Dannie’s overplanned life disintegrates, Serle twists and twines the remnants of her dream into a surprising future.

A heartwarming portrait of a broken heart finding a little healing magic.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3744-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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