STOWED AWAY

A MODERN PIRATE TALE

Debut author Riensche presents a 21st-century high-seas mystery woven from a series of flashbacks.

Riensche’s tale follows three slack-jawed sailors as they attempt to circumnavigate the continent of South America. Most of the book’s action comes via flashback as the rakish trio shares their individual narrative memories during what is mostly an uneventful voyage. Irrepressible Capt. Blake recounts wistfully how his greatest love (a storybook marriage) went awry thanks to seemingly unavoidable criminal dalliances, whereas the less cocksure Malcolm tries to unravel his feelings concerning a romantic entanglement strangely accented by the disappearance of an important family member. It’s seasick writer Iván, though, who boasts the tale most befitting of this book’s subtitle—he was once kidnapped in the middle of the night by the devious El Segundo, a shadowy pirate figure most folk assume is nothing but legend. At first, the novel’s breezy tone and erratic timeline don’t feel like they’re building to much, but Riensche does a fine job bringing all the fragments of these initially separate plots together for a satisfying, engaging conclusion that will keep readers glued to the pulp. Riensche makes up for his occasional use of hackneyed dialogue with his vivid descriptions of the exotic landscapes his characters inhabit. There’s also a sprinkling throughout of fascinating practical knowledge for survival situations; for example, a reader learns to use his foot, not his shoulder, to break down the locked door of a nefarious sea-faring scallywag. Fitting escapism that pays off in the end despite the general meandering tone.

 

Pub Date: May 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-1461152255

Page Count: 394

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 30, 2012

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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