GRIMM WOODS

The literary equivalent of a slasher movie, one that garners its biggest frights with mere implication.

A demented murderer—inspired by a summer camp’s fairy-tale theme—hunts young counselors in this horror outing.

Scott Mamer is one of several first-time counselors for the upcoming three-month stint at Camp Crownheart, but at 21, he’s also the oldest. Losing out on six weeks of construction work and with rent due, Scott responded to an ad for the camp, which caters to troubled kids and resembles a fairy tale, with cobblestone paths leading to huts instead of cabins. Abiding by owner Charlotte Becker’s rule to “behave impeccably” means Scott will temporarily have to give up his beloved cigarettes. But things are looking up once he sparks a conversation with striking blonde and fellow counselor Brynn. The next morning, however, when the first busload of kids arrives, two counselors are noticeably absent. They both turn up dead from an apparent accident, but Charlotte has no plans to shut down the camp, believing that would be more harmful for the hundreds of children who’ll be attending this summer. Sadly, later deaths are unmistakably at the hands of a killer, whose murders recall fairy tales: not the family-friendly variety, but the original, violent stories à la the Brothers Grimm. The generally indifferent Scott will have to decide whether he wants to help others or only himself. Melhoff (Turkey Town, 2014, etc.) hits all the trademarks of a slasher film, from the camp setting to a horde of sex-starved teens. This includes the occasional pratfall: most of the would-be victims, even the protagonist initially, are unsympathetic, seemingly interested in partying above all else. Regardless, the author shrewdly gives prominence to suspense over the murders, often shown after the fact. Tension builds with copious scenes in the woods at night, ominous sounds like hooting owls, and silhouettes lurking in the shadows. At the same time, Scott’s likability gets a significant bump when he conquers his obvious discomfort around children and becomes a protector. And while the killer’s identity isn’t immediately known, there’s likewise mystery surrounding Scott, who receives a cryptic message from the murderer that may have him revisiting a stowed-away memory.

The literary equivalent of a slasher movie, one that garners its biggest frights with mere implication.

Pub Date: June 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9921331-3-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Bellwoods Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2016

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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