Spare and intriguing but unresolved.

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LOVE SPELLS

A NOVELLA

In this novella, a girl leaving foster care plans to move in with one of her Internet boyfriends.

Almost 18, Angelique knows that in “three days the system wouldn’t want her anymore. Which was fine with her.” Angelique can’t wait for freedom—even though she lacks a job, birth certificate and high school diploma. A pretty blue-eyed redhead, Angelique figures one of the three potential boyfriends she’s lined up on Internet dating sites (but hasn’t met) will give her a place to live. “She had been locked up long enough, and nobody was going to tell her what to do anymore. She would be telling them.” Though the reader at this point may be filled with dread on Angelique’s behalf, nothing too horrible happens as she seeks out one Internet boyfriend, then another, in isolated, remote locations. Being abandoned in a Florida motel by a marijuana grower and then picked up by a sex trafficker isn’t so bad: “[S]he still felt stupid about that. But it had been a place to stay for a while, even a place with a swimming pool. She had liked lying out in the sun.” She’s happy, not dismayed, to discover she’s pregnant. In her debut novella, Casebeer employs a minimalist, pared-down style reminiscent of writers like Raymond Carver, the kind that powerfully leaves things unsaid. After a girl commits suicide in Angelique’s group home, “Nobody wanted to go back to the cottage, but there was nowhere else to go.” Casebeer shows a nuanced understanding of the forces that get and keep a girl like Angelique in her situation: the troubled families, the difficulties with anger and impulse control, the overwhelming need for love. And Angelique is never just a victim (her hero is Lisbeth Salander). The novella is unfinished by design, a choice not all readers will find satisfying. Angelique’s story continues every week as an online serial, the author explains, inviting readers “to vote on what happens next in Angelique’s life.”

Spare and intriguing but unresolved.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0615923697

Page Count: 84

Publisher: Serealities Press

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2014

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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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When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.

THE HONEY-DON'T LIST

A toxic workplace nurtures an intoxicating romance in Lauren’s (The Unhoneymooners, 2019, etc.) latest.

Rusty and Melissa Tripp are the married co-hosts of a successful home-makeover show and have even published a book on marriage. After catching Rusty cheating on Melissa, their assistants, James McCann and Carey Duncan, are forced to give up long-scheduled vacations to go along on their employers' book tour to make sure their marriage doesn’t implode. And the awkwardness is just getting started. Stuck in close quarters with no one to complain to but each other, James and Carey find that the life they dreamed of having might be found at work after all. James learns that Carey has worked for the Tripps since they owned a humble home décor shop in Jackson, Wyoming. Now that the couple is successful, Carey has no time for herself, and she doesn’t get nearly enough credit for her creative contribution to their media empire. Carey also has regular doctor’s appointments for dystonia, a movement disorder, which motivates her to keep her job but doesn’t stop her from doing it well. James was hired to work on engineering and design for the show, but Rusty treats him like his personal assistant. He’d quit, too, but it’s the only job he can get since his former employer was shut down in a scandal. Using a framing device similar to that of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, the story flashes forward to interview transcripts with the police that hint at a dramatic ending to come, and the chapters often end with gossip in the form of online comments, adding intrigue. Bonding over bad bosses allows James and Carey to stick up for each other while supplying readers with all the drama and wit of the enemies-to-lovers trope.

When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3864-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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