A steamy tale and beguiling thriller, with plenty of local color and some provocative twists.

Riverside

A young landscaper gets caught up in the drug trade in this debut novel.

Bobby Patrick is a 24-year-old in Austin, Texas, whose days are spent getting high, swimming in the lake, and dreaming about how to get ahead. A dyslexic, he failed to get through college, as words on a page “ran every which direction, as if something big was chasing them.” He has a new girlfriend, Katherine “Katie” Ann Smith, a waitress at a local diner, and the two are getting serious and talking marriage. Within their relatively small social universe, which is largely made up of marijuana dealers and thieves who have wealthy parents, Bobby and Katie navigate through various personal dramas. Katie’s not-so-nice best friend, Sara, slept with Bobby once. Katie doesn’t know about it, and Sara is holding it over Bobby’s head. Katie harbors a skeleton or two in her closet as well. While Bobby struggles to save money as a landscaper, he and Katie plan to open a restaurant. Katie has an affluent lawyer father, but there is a complication. Sara gets arrested and wants Bobby to bail her out and pay for an attorney. Just as Bobby realizes Sara may have gotten mixed up with the wrong people in the drug trade, he faces an uncertain future as he is drawn further into a mess that may have more to do with Katie than he could ever have imagined. Burlison sets his story in the heady days of the early 1990s in Austin, though his characters are perhaps more aloof than one would expect of the Generation X social scene. But they are certainly Texans. Bobby, an East Texan, is a scrappy self-starter and problem solver, while Katie and Sara are forthright and controlling, but still looking to daddy to bail them out. Burlison manages to make Bobby a sympathetic protagonist, even though the characters here are involved with drugs by their own choice. The winding and increasingly sinister plot holds some exciting scenes. But the author relies too much on small talk and continual dialogue, and he takes his time shaping the storyline.

A steamy tale and beguiling thriller, with plenty of local color and some provocative twists.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9969696-0-4

Page Count: 348

Publisher: Barton Creek Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2016

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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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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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