–> The Year of Disappearances: An Ethical Vampire Novel by Susan Hubbard
Fourteen-year-old Ariella Ari Montero, who’s half human and half vampire, wants to know why bees are vanishing as well as humans in Hubbard’s smooth supernatural thriller, the sequel to The Society of S (2007). Ari has moved to Homosassa Springs, Fla., hoping for happiness with her reunited parents, but after a hurricane hits and a fire almost kills Ari and her scientist dad, he leaves. Ari is further upset when a new friend, Mysty, disappears. The precocious Ari enrolls in college, dates and gets a crush on a visiting (vampire?!) politician, but is horrified when Autumn, another new friend, is murdered. After Ari’s father returns and becomes ill, she and her mom wind up fighting for her dad’s survival. The ending promises greater challenges ahead. Though Ari sometimes sounds more like 40 than 14, Hubbard’s intriguing tale poses a tantalizing question: will humans or vampires ultimately inherit Earth?
–>City of Strangers by Ian MacKenzie
A novel as grim as it is extraordinary, MacKenzie’s debut tells the story of two estranged brothers at odds on how to view their Nazi-sympathizer father. Paul Metzger has troubles: a struggling writer with a dying father and an intense longing for his recently ex-wife, he’s also estranged from his much older brother. In what ends up being more than a random act of violence, Paul is pummeled while trying to stop two men from assaulting a boy outside his Brooklyn apartment. Shortly after, Paul’s father, Frank-an early Nazi sympathizer who retains some notoriety decades later-dies, and Paul receives a lucrative offer to write a book about his father. Meanwhile, Paul’s hedge fund brother, Ben, under investigation for insider trading, faces prison time, and one of the goons who beat Paul pursues him across the city. All of this leads to unexpected turns that shed light on the major characters. MacKenzie sets up a New York rampant with alienation and misunderstanding, and his visceral narrative, powered by taut prose and braced with sturdy philosophical and psychological underpinnings, is a winner.