A smart, realistic novel, populated by real-life figures, that offers a unique take on the secretive politics of the “Hermit...

Blood of My Fathers


A deadly virus leads to a global pandemic that escalates to a standoff between the United States and North Korea in Bornstein’s debut political thriller.

Blending elements of recent political history with a fictional premise, this thriller is set mainly in 2011, during the final period of Kim Jong Il’s rule of North Korea and preceding the ascension of his son, Kim Jong Un. After a prehistoric strain of influenza is released in North Korea, the virus begins spreading over the entire world, reaching the point of a major pandemic. World Health Organization scientists are able to trace the origin of the disease and attempt to gain access to the isolated country through diplomatic channels in hopes of producing a vaccine. Led by the United States, the United Nations passes a resolution to gain entry to the country, enraging North Korea’s leadership, who threaten potential nuclear retaliation. Complicating the issue is the internal struggle within North Korea’s government as Kim Jong Il’s health deteriorates and party leaders question his son's loyalty to their communist ideals. Bornstein’s novel is meticulously researched, with a thorough grasp of global politics, as well as epidemiology and geothermal energy, demonstrated throughout. This provides the plot with a degree of grounding and context that makes it feel both plausible and very realistic. The depiction of Kim Jong Un is far more nuanced than readers might expect, painting him as conflicted between his loyalty to his father and his own beliefs and concerns for his people; he’s influenced heavily by his past education in Switzerland, fictionalized in the novel to include a romance with an American student. Bornstein’s eye for detail, however, also means that the plot unfolds with a slow, deliberate pace which may disappoint those searching for a more action-oriented thriller, but it also avoids the common hyperbolic trappings of the genre.  

A smart, realistic novel, populated by real-life figures, that offers a unique take on the secretive politics of the “Hermit Kingdom.”

Pub Date: May 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5089-2572-9

Page Count: 318

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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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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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