A sometimes-engaging horror story with a familiar, predictable conclusion.


Three 20-somethings’ holiday in Bulgaria becomes a vacation from hell in Dash’s (The Evil and the Pure, 2014) horror novel.

Dominic and his best friend, Curran, are easy travelers to please—get them drunk and they’re happy. Martini, Dominic’s girlfriend, has tolerated their behavior long enough and wants more from her holiday experience. Taking control of the itinerary, she surprises the boys with a culture- and nature-filled road trip through Bulgaria. Martini’s excitement about the trip isn’t reciprocated, however. From the outset, the trio’s obvious lack of chemistry is grating, which is only exacerbated by the tired roles they inhabit: nagging girlfriend; combative, crude best friend; and apathetic boyfriend. With each new town they visit, Martini and Dominic’s relationship inches toward demise, mostly because of Curran and his insatiable attraction to the bar scene. Lurking in the Bulgarian shadows, however, is a far greater, more intriguing threat. When Dominic and Curran ditch Martini (yet again) to hang out with a group of local teenagers, the night leads them to a secret lake in the woods where copious drinking, skinny-dipping, and flirtation abound. That is, until Dominic and Curran are beaten and left naked after Curran flirts with the wrong girl. When Dominic wakes the next afternoon, he’s badly sunburned and alone—and then, at his weakest moment, a lurking beast arrives. Dominic’s ensuing struggle to find his friend, stay alive, and defeat the creature is vivid and unrelenting, and Dash fully realizes the unnamed monster in all of its grotesque, imposing physicality. During this section, the novel offers captivating tension and brutal, gory fun. If only it ended there, because after the exhilarating hide-and-seek contest between man and beast, the rest of the story feels flat and contrived. It isn’t helped by references to the silliness of horror-movie archetypes, which only weaken the horror tropes littered throughout the story.

A sometimes-engaging horror story with a familiar, predictable conclusion.

Pub Date: April 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1511568807

Page Count: 412

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2015

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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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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