A little-known historical event is brought to life in this stylized, creative retelling.

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NELSON'S CASTLE

A BRONTE FAIRY TALE

A debut novel infused with magic realism in 19th-century Sicily.

Petito-Egielski’s novel uses the history of the small Sicilian village of Bronte as a basis for a tale about unlikely heroes who break free from oppression. The narrator, known as Muntagna, has been living as a hermit far from his home village, where everyone considers him a coward. He’s haunted by the ghost of his cousin Alfiu, who led a peasant revolt against the British landowners but was killed for his bravery. Muntagna earned his reputation as a coward for not taking part in the revolt. Alfiu’s ghost wants Muntagna to look after his daughter, Gratia, whom he knows to be in danger. Muntagna returns to Bronte in the form of a dog and spends his days spying on Gratia through windows and doorways. Alfiu’s widow has gone crazy with grief, but she’s sure her daughter can redeem everything by murdering the wealthy landowners in the castle. Gratia’s life is a difficult one; thankfully, though, Muntagna’s wife, Vincenza, keeps an eye on her. Shunned by the village for her wild red hair, which villagers fear marks her as a daughter of the devil, Gratia becomes friends with another outcast, a shepherd boy. When a deadly illness sweeps through Bronte, the healing arts that Vincenza has taught her lead to Gratia being called into service at the castle. Now within range of those whom her mother expects her to murder, Gratia finds herself questioning her duty. Touches of magic and fantasy color this historical tale, with Gratia able to summon magical powers to help her in times of need. Muntagna tells the story in a colloquial, sometimes-poetic style with passages such as “ ’Neath the sheets that August night, I was safe from peasant madness. ’Neath the sheets that night, I was a coward through and through.” The narration and dialogue are filled with Italian words and phrases, some translated, some not—a style that further slows the book. Patient readers will be rewarded with a satisfying conclusion.

A little-known historical event is brought to life in this stylized, creative retelling.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2013

ISBN: 978-0989471107

Page Count: 326

Publisher: Amuninni Press

Review Posted Online: April 6, 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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