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THE GHOSTS OF WATT O'HUGH

Fast-paced, energetic and fun; a dime novel for modern intellectuals.

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Watt O’Hugh tangles with love, danger and high adventure in Drachman’s engaging tale of Western science fiction and amazing fantasy.

On the surface, Watt O’Hugh’s beginnings mirrored many who dwell in a time of poverty and strife. Born in 1842, the young man’s existence could have been chalked up to a textbook stereotype, like a New York City Oliver Twist. Were it not for his special abilities, his could easily have been a story that would fit nicely into a work of prose dashed off by Nathaniel Hawthorne or Ralph Waldo Emerson. O’Hugh’s life veers from normalcy, however, when he learns the ways of magic and embarks on a journey throughout Earth’s history. In a pompous literary world ripe with mundane characters, Drachman pens a standout lead in the character of Watt O’Hugh. The cool hero’s tale is told in charming, romping detail, from the magical adventurer’s poor childhood in the Five Points and the Tomb, to his notorious, gun-toting dalliances in the Wild West and his wilder exploits through time itself. Were it not for a few lurid scenes of romance and a humble allotment of expletives, the book’s first-person narrative would surely win over a younger audience as well. O’Hugh’s singular name, derived from the words “what” and “who,” adds to the character’s simple charm. Time travel proves to be an enduring ingredient for fiction authors; from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, to Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five and Stephen King’s The Langoliers, the uses for jumping in and out of the present never fails to develop a story to a slam-bang conclusion. Adding legitimate historical figures, such as the esteemed author Oscar Wilde, to the fictional mix builds levels of believability to the time traveling romp’s fast-paced flavor. While occasionally too expeditious in the telling, this introductory tale of a planned trilogy often has the fleeting pace found in many of the historic Western pulps authored in the 1800s.

Fast-paced, energetic and fun; a dime novel for modern intellectuals.

Pub Date: June 28, 2011

ISBN: 978-0578085906

Page Count: 196

Publisher: Chickadee Prince Books

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2011

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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FIREFLY LANE

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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