An oddball curio, but the teen angst enhances its far-fetched premise.

BLITZBALL

In this thriller, a volatile teenager living in a nationalistic German community finds evidence that he’s part of a secret experiment that aims to re-create Adolf Hitler.

High schooler and first-person narrator Addie dwells in Upper Reichfield, Pennsylvania—a strange, closed-off community that no one ever seems to leave. Teutonic sitcoms, such as Leave It to Hauser, air on television, and classes teach propagandistic lessons about German/Nordic cultural supremacy. Addie works a bleak customs-office job, but he’s passionate about his paintings—and about leading his soccer team to victory against the so-called “lowlies” of a rival school from a poorer neighborhood. He’s courted by a blonde beauty named Ava, but he finds himself attracted to a biracial Lower Reichfield player named Shaylee. Her associates are involved in an art-forgery scheme, so they take advantage of Addie’s talents. Later, he and Shaylee discover a document from the late 1990s, stuffed in a drain, that indicates that Addie is actually a clone of an infamous tyrant named Hitler, who’s absent from Addie’s school history lessons. It also appears that everything around Addie is an elaborate setup to psychologically mold him into that villain of old. Will the petulant protagonist’s innate sense of rebellion make him a good guy despite his DNA? Readers who’ve ever wondered how a sequel to Ira Levin’s 1976 bestseller, The Boys from Brazil, might go will be the ideal readership for Ludwig’s (Planet of the Orb Trees, 2017) latest novel. It seems to be aimed at the YA market despite some R-rated elements, including raw language, a scene involving oral sex, and a violent Götterdämmerung climax. The tone hits a range of notes between Suzanne Collins’ 2010 book, Mockingjay, and Mel Brooks’ 1967 film, The Producers. Still, it’s striking and disconcerting when Ludwig makes a young, malfunctioning pseudo-neo-fascist speak in a voice not unlike Holden Caulfield’s. Even before the book tips its hand as sci-fi, it feels akin to past fabulist/surreal fiction, such as Günter Grass’ The Tin Drum (1959), which tried to interpret Nazism in avant-garde terms.

An oddball curio, but the teen angst enhances its far-fetched premise.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9950441-9-7

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Heartlab Press Inc.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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TRUE BETRAYALS

Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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