A quirky and engaging crossroads for fans of baseball, the Civil War, and time travel.

BLOWBACK '63

WHEN THE ONLY WAY FORWARD IS BACK

From the The Blowback Trilogy series

In this YA sequel, twins embroil themselves in further time-travel high jinks while searching for their mother.

Astrophysicist Dr. Octavia Jongler has been lost in time for over a year. Her twins, North High School juniors Iris and Arky Jongler-Jinks, possess the device that sent her to another era—an enchanted cor anglais, or English horn. While Iris experiments with the instrument to learn more about their mother’s location, Arky focuses on his college application essay. He travels with his father, history professor Howard Jinks, to Fredericksburg, Virginia, for a Civil War re-enactment that may inspire his essay. Later, in a baseball game between North High and City High, Arky’s friend Danny Bender accidentally hits former classmate Rafael Santeiro in the head with a pitch. After a brawl between the teams ends the game, a gang of City High teens hunts for Danny at his dad’s junkyard. Iris, meanwhile, believes that finding her mother’s journal (The Book of Twins) and a disc of grenadilla wood proves that the cor anglais is about to work its magic again. As Arky rushes to save Danny from Rafael’s friends, Howard catches Iris handling the instrument. He asks her to play it—in memory of Octavia—and as she does, its mists cocoon Arky and Danny, sending them back to 1863. In his energetically plotted sequel, Meehl (Blowback ’07, 2016) once again merges his love of history and sports for a winsome adventure. Nevertheless, upon finding soldiers encamped in 1863, Arky compares them to the enthusiasts back home and sees “gaunt masks of darkened hide or unruly whiskers that veiled the face-carving effects of war.” But overall, Meehl weighs his narrative in favor of baseball, not war, exploring the game’s early days of Massachusetts rules, which involved overhand pitching and “plugging” runners with the ball. In the present, Iris and a boy named Matt Grinnell begin an adorably awkward courtship as only a music nerd and a jock can. Hints regarding Octavia persist, but locating her won’t matter if Arky damages the Jongler-Jinks lineage. A perfect cliffhanger blows readers toward the next installment.

A quirky and engaging crossroads for fans of baseball, the Civil War, and time travel.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59330-937-4

Page Count: 419

Publisher: Twisco Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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