A fanciful read that remains loyal to its noble principles.



Book lovers who can change into dogs search for an ancient library in Polo’s follow-up to Retrieved (2012).

Warm and intuitive, Bliss Light is the children’s librarian at the Shipsfeather Public Library in Ohio. She’s also a magical dog-shifter, able to change at will into a sleek white greyhound. In Shipsfeather, she’s joined by a cast of similarly gifted people who fight for knowledge and literacy against power-hungry werewolves. A more immediate problem for Bliss, however, is changing from her dog form back to her human form. Only in the presence of friend and fellow shifter Harry (who’s an English sheepdog/werewolf mix) can she focus enough to change successfully. Harry, sensing that he and Bliss have the potential to be more than friends, joins her on a winding road trip to soothe her spiritual restlessness; they’re also searching for the mythic Library of the Ancients, which supposedly houses manuscripts on the dog-shifters’ origins. In their way are the conniving werewolf lobbyist Sybilla Dinzelbacher Romano and her wolf-shifting goon, Blaze. Besides being Harry’s ex-wife, Sybilla is also the daughter of Sen. Romano, who’s pushing for legislation that will hire more dogcatchers nationwide. While heading west through sacred park sites, can Bliss and Harry stay ahead of the dog snatchers already hunting them? Author Polo does an excellent job organizing the details of her inviting series for new and returning readers. Reformed Harry, after all, had a “role in burning the town’s old Carnegie library,” among other attempts at violence. The werewolves here suffer a madness not limited to urban fantasy—distaste for intellectualism: “The increasing dog population is destroying the fabric of our country,” says Sybilla. Yet Bliss and Harry’s adventure avoids getting bogged down in political parallels. New Age elements, snippets of cleverness—e.g., the “bowser browser, Zoogle”—and dogs in realistic danger find an appealing balance. At its core, the narrative illustrates how some kennels and breeders abuse animals but also how kindness can heal humans and dogs—and maybe even cats.

A fanciful read that remains loyal to its noble principles.

Pub Date: July 7, 2013

ISBN: 978-0985774820

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Blue Merle Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2013

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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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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