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Escape from Dorkville

Zany fun in an exciting adventure.

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It falls upon 14-year-old Wilkin Delgado and his partner in crime, tug of war champion Alice Jane Zelinski, to save the universe again in the latest installment of Ammerman’s (Waiting for the Voo, 2014, etc.) adventures.

Fifteen-year-old Alice Jane knows she’s not cut out for the provincial life in “Dorkville,” aka Warrensberg, Minnesota. She misses Kansas City: “Here in Central Nowhere you can’t get real barbecue or honest-to-god hot sauce, all they play is polka music and they put corn in their gasoline.” Worse, since Alice Jane lives with her mom in Wilkin’s house, she also has to put up with the clueless 14-year-old. She has found a way to hang in there, managing her anger by getting in touch with her inner chi. But relief soon appears in the form of old friend Cardamon Webb, who recruits Wilkin and Alice Jane on yet another adventure to save the universe. Soon, Wilkin and Alice Jane are off on a quest, escaping Dorkville. Their task is almost an impossible mission: the universe is drying up, and Cardamon suspects it’s a problem with fresh water at the Source. To get at the crux of the matter, the team must “travel from the Outside through the Inside to the Other Side” and “pay a visit to the All and Everything.” On the odyssey, they have to make pilgrimage stops at Carthrobrite Cave, the City of the Dead, and the Oracle of the Swamp, not to mention battle evil forces such as Maldavis Chum. The story is a little too glib when it glosses over Maldavis Chum’s “cleansing” activities, which involve killing hundreds of thousands of people, but it’s probably beyond the scope of this wild roller coaster ride. The familiar trope of heroes on a quest gets an enjoyable makeover with endearing Wilkin and spunky Alice Jane, who, along with their sidekicks, make for a lovable pair. As they narrate the adventure in alternating chapters, their distinctive personalities make for memorable storytelling. And how can any middle grader resist a story that begins: “I now have a greater appreciation of toilets.”

Zany fun in an exciting adventure.

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-98-468224-9

Page Count: 202

Publisher: Kabloona

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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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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FIREFLY LANE

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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