A highly readable work of historical fiction that will appeal to teenagers as well as adults.




Kono’s (Ho'olulu Park and the Pepsodent Smile and Other Stories, 2004, etc.) debut full-length novel is a bildungsroman based on historical events, which traces a brave teenager’s journey to Tokyo during World War II.

For Himiko Aoki, a teenager living in Hawaii, life is anything but simple. Her father dies suddenly from an infection, leaving Himiko with her strict and often harsh mother and her cloying sister, Miyo. Himiko finds solace in the arms of Akira, her secret boyfriend, and the two comfort each other as the war around them looms ever closer, calling for rationing and constant concern. But Himiko’s sorrows are far from over; she becomes pregnant and is sent away to spare her the shame and grief that her own neighborhood would heap upon her. She arrives at the home of her aunt and uncle in Tokyo, where she is quickly put to work and treated by all except for her uncle as more of a burden and a slave than a relative. Himiko suffers verbal abuse from her aunt and cousin and is subjected to a series of humiliations as she tries to navigate her new environment and struggles through the final stages of her pregnancy. Himiko learns quickly that she has only herself to count on and grows independent and fierce as she defends herself against her family and fights to survive the threat of war that has followed her. But Himiko’s newfound strength proves a liability when the war brings devastation to nearby Hiroshima, endangering the very family she has resented for so long. Himiko soon learns that there is sacrifice in survival, and that time will never heal some scars. Lyrical and almost hypnotic in its telling, Himiko’s story is written with a sure hand and a keen eye for detail. Himiko’s growth as a character is deeply felt, and the vivid characters she encounters make for a colorful, evocative read. Enriched with the texture of historical fact, the novel not only traces the trajectory of one girl’s coming-of-age, but also captures a time period fraught with tension and fear.

A highly readable work of historical fiction that will appeal to teenagers as well as adults.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-910043-83-0

Page Count: 327

Publisher: Bamboo Ridge Press

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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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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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.


Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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