An ardent supernatural tale with a bundle of appealing, electric characters.

WRONG SIDE OF THE STORM

From the Mothman Mysteries series , Vol. 2

Someone controlling a fierce storm attacks a secret government agency that works with aliens in this second installment of a YA series.

Eric Jansen is an alien who’s lived on Earth for centuries. In his human form, he’s a mere teen, albeit a roguishly good-looking drummer in a rock band. But his true alien form is the catalyst for the Mothman legend in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. When his failed attempt to save a bridge jumper sparks yet another Mothman sighting, the Agency, Eric’s covert government employer, disciplines him. He’s an asset to the Agency, as he regularly snacks on vampires who, like Eric, are offworlders (excluding the humans turned into vampires). Eric knows he must follow the rules on the humans’ planet so he willingly heads to the Agency’s base for punishment. But once there, along with his human pals Bridget North and Alaire “Duey” Dupont and his handler, Agent Carey Warner, an icy storm aggressively targets the base. Eric manages to escape and tracks down his only clue: information on the dead bridge jumper, Dr. Henry Wallen, a storm scientist. Meanwhile, Bridget, Duey, and Warner try to combat the storm while stuck inside the base. Butler’s (Wrong Side of the Grave, 2015, etc.) delightful supernatural novel moves at a frantic pace with beaucoup action. While the titular storm is the focus, there are intermittent subplot teases throughout, some possibly for later series installments. For example, Eric has good reason to be fearful when Bridget’s estranged mother, Miranda, contacts her daughter. Character backstories are so comprehensive that numerous spinoffs are feasible. Duey, in particular, could carry his own series; after his death in the late 18th century, his consciousness lived inside computers before its present-day return to a 19-year-old body. Interactions between Eric and Bridget are endearing (romance is unquestionably brewing), even if the two characters are disappointingly separated for much of this volume. Their scenes are also quite funny, such as discussing the unintentionally misleading names of Bridget’s book review blog: “Stacked and Dangerous” and “Between the Covers with Bridget.”

An ardent supernatural tale with a bundle of appealing, electric characters.

Pub Date: March 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-79530-087-2

Page Count: 179

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2019

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

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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