An imaginative fantasy stuffed with too many characters and details.

THOUGHTS TO DIE FOR

A debut YA novel focuses on a magical land of positive thinking.

Rousing presents Levi Levy: a 15-year old who has received a strange message from something called the Interdimensional Council of Cognition. Levi is invited to attend the Selective Thought Studies Program in Dimension 11. It certainly sounds like a wild idea. Yet Levi doesn’t have a whole lot going for him in Earth’s regular dimension. Perhaps he can become something greater in a new place. Levi is soon transported, thanks to a purple funnel cloud, to a land of magic where he will be in training to become a “thought sifter.” The key throughout his training will be the ability to harness the power of his thoughts. He will even be able to fly in this world if he can train his mind to keep him in the air. Under the gentle watch of a wizardlike man named Hemp, kids like Levi keep thought journals, engage in an aerial sport called Solarshay, and eat veggie burgers at the local diner. But all is not mere fun and games. A figure named Orable has his own set of dastardly plans for up-and-coming thought sifters. Will Orable be successful or can his schemes be halted with the power of positive thinking? Positive thinking is, of course, the whole point here, and it is a theme that is driven home time and again. As Hemp asserts, “Directing your thoughts is the key to, well—everything.” While the message may be obvious, that does not mean the events surrounding it always are. A lot happens in just over 300 pages and it all progresses quickly. Nevertheless, the story can be jumbled at times with additional aspects like enchanted cupcakes, a creature called a “think bug,” and supporting characters of varying interest (take, for instance, Levi’s Yorkshire terrier, who has managed to follow him to Dimension 11 without a whole lot to contribute). But ultimately, the tale is open to any number of tantalizing outcomes. The burning question is: Will Levi be able to direct his mind to choose the right one?

An imaginative fantasy stuffed with too many characters and details.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-615-71924-5

Page Count: 334

Publisher: Thoughts To Die For Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 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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Above-average formula fiction, making full display of the author’s strong suits: sense of place, compassion for characters...

TRUE COLORS

Female rivalry is again the main preoccupation of Hannah’s latest Pacific Northwest sob saga (Firefly Lane, 2008, etc.).

At Water’s Edge, the family seat overlooking Hood Canal, Vivi Ann, youngest and prettiest of the Grey sisters and a champion horsewoman, has persuaded embittered patriarch Henry to turn the tumbledown ranch into a Western-style equestrian arena. Eldest sister Winona, a respected lawyer in the nearby village of Oyster Shores, hires taciturn ranch hand Dallas Raintree, a half-Native American. Middle sister Aurora, stay-at-home mother of twins, languishes in a dull marriage. Winona, overweight since adolescence, envies Vivi, whose looks get her everything she wants, especially men. Indeed, Winona’s childhood crush Luke recently proposed to Vivi. Despite Aurora’s urging (her principal role is as sisterly referee), Winona won’t tell Vivi she loves Luke. Yearning for Dallas, Vivi stands up Luke to fall into bed with the enigmatic, tattooed cowboy. Winona snitches to Luke: engagement off. Vivi marries Dallas over Henry’s objections. The love-match triumphs, and Dallas, though scarred by child abuse, is an exemplary father to son Noah. One Christmas Eve, the town floozy is raped and murdered. An eyewitness and forensic evidence incriminate Dallas. Winona refuses to represent him, consigning him to the inept services of a public defender. After a guilty verdict, he’s sentenced to life without parole. A decade later, Winona has reached an uneasy truce with Vivi, who’s still pining for Dallas. Noah is a sullen teen, Aurora a brittle but resigned divorcée. Noah learns about the Seattle Innocence Project. Could modern DNA testing methods exonerate Dallas? Will Aunt Winona redeem herself by reopening the case? The outcome, while predictable, is achieved with more suspense and less sentimental histrionics than usual for Hannah.

Above-average formula fiction, making full display of the author’s strong suits: sense of place, compassion for characters and understanding of family dynamics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-312-36410-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008

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