A sparkling ode to music’s most enduring legend.

CLIFF OF THE KING

In Koeff’s debut novel, a man stumbles upon a hermit who may be the King of rock and roll.

Roy Redford has a fear of flying creatures, and to battle this phobia, he’s taken up bird-watching. On a day off from his job at the High Towers Casino Resort, he visits Zion National Park in Utah. While watching for birds on a cliff face, he sees something fall—something bigger than a bird. While investigating, Roy finds a battered acoustic guitar and an ornate, red, sequined jumpsuit. He climbs along narrow, rocky pathways and eventually hears some “sweetly majestic” singing. However, the singer, a naked elderly man, doesn’t take kindly to the intrusion. From his ramshackle cabin, he blasts Roy with a shotgun. When the bird-watcher awakes, he’s inside the cabin with a bandaged right leg. Roy discovers that the hermit, though “weathered with age...was surprisingly handsome.” The man wishes to be called “Friend,” has a pet monkey named Pistol, and possesses a beautiful voice, reminiscent of Elvis Presley’s. Later, a storm brings chaos to the hermit’s oasis, and Roy must act quickly to save his life. Upon leaving, Roy promises never to tell anyone about the cabin. Yet his souvenirs—the aforementioned guitar and jumpsuit—beg to be explained. In this clever, heartfelt work, Koeff writes not just for lovers of the King, but for anyone fascinated by modern mythmaking. Roy’s sleuthing eventually leads him to Katherine Florence, a writer who’s strictly interested in Elvis-related facts, which include the existence of a twin brother named Jesse and numerous impersonators, including a man named Sid Hooper. The details of Roy’s own story lend much to the narrative, as well, such as the death of his brother, Matthew, and his casino job, in which he mingles with gamblers to conjure a good-time atmosphere. Friend’s advice to “find a job where folks are taken care of, not just taken,” is splendid and suitable for anyone. Koeff also captures the American Southwest in gorgeous lines such as, “Up ahead lie hundreds of miles of brown sun scorched emptiness...one might as well be traveling into space.”

A sparkling ode to music’s most enduring legend.

Pub Date: April 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5301-9411-7

Page Count: 200

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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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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A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.

THE CHASE

From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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