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The Last Ma-Loo

From the The Warrensberg Trilogy series , Vol. 3

A satisfying—if meandering—wrap-up to a memorable series of adventures with an appealing pair of protagonists.

An inimitable teenage hero and his short-tempered accomplice must once again save humanity in this final installment of a trilogy.

Warrensberg, Minnesota, might seem like Plainsville, USA, to the untrained eye, but it is the “Octipoint,” the center of the universe, according to the intergalactic travelers Ceek and Wergo. What’s more, the small town’s unwitting resident Alice Jane Zelinski and her long-suffering housemate, Wilkin Delgado, aka Dodobrain, are the only ones who can set things right. The problem this time is that the Ma-Loos are missing. And this is not just another run-of-the-mill endangered species that has suddenly become extinct. The trusty intergalactic plumber Cardamon Webb has news for the improbable duo: the Ma-Loos power the universe; they keep everything ticking. No Ma-Loos means a depressing End of Everything. The good news: there is a way to reverse this madness. All that Wilkin and Alice Jane need to do is to find a Ma-Loo, but that involves traveling to another Reality. Complicating the pair’s expedition are additional members—Alice Jane’s dreamy boyfriend, Carl; Loretta, the Certified Tracking Puffin; and newlyweds Ceek and Wergo. Problems and digressions abound: Carl gets pregnant, mysterious creatures constantly surface, and Alice Jane and Wilkin face severe tests as they attempt to make desperate contact with a Ma-Loo—Greater or Lesser, any kind will do. In Ammerman’s (Escape from Dorkville, 2015, etc.) final novel in his Warrensberg Trilogy, the prose is as sparkling and witty as ever, and Wilkin and Alice Jane, a year older since readers last met them, make for entertaining and engaging lead characters. The plot occasionally teeters under the weight of all the zaniness, and after a while a numbing sameness threatens to fog the narrative’s initial cleareyed focus. Colorful players are fun for a while, but after encountering a few too many Seussian characters (including Magnominious Jaymes Hiranacus III), the novelty starts to wear off, leading to a mild case of are-we-there-yet blues. The novel should nevertheless please fans of the clever and goofy, aka most middle-grade readers.

A satisfying—if meandering—wrap-up to a memorable series of adventures with an appealing pair of protagonists.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9846822-5-6

Page Count: 202

Publisher: Kabloona

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 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 RUMOR

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Hilderbrand’s latest cautionary tale exposes the toxic—and hilarious—impact of gossip on even the most sophisticated of islands.

Eddie and Grace Pancik are known for their beautiful Nantucket home and grounds, financed with the profits from Eddie’s thriving real estate company (thriving before the crash of 2008, that is). Grace raises pedigreed hens and, with the help of hunky landscape architect Benton Coe, has achieved a lush paradise of fowl-friendly foliage. The Panciks’ teenage girls, Allegra and Hope, suffer invidious comparisons of their looks and sex appeal, although they're identical twins. The Panciks’ friends the Llewellyns (Madeline, a blocked novelist, and her airline-pilot husband, Trevor) invested $50,000, the lion’s share of Madeline’s last advance, in Eddie’s latest development. But Madeline, hard-pressed to come up with catalog copy, much less a new novel, is living in increasingly straightened circumstances, at least by Nantucket standards: she can only afford $2,000 per month on the apartment she rents in desperate hope that “a room of her own” will prime the creative pump. Construction on Eddie’s spec houses has stalled, thanks to the aforementioned crash. Grace, who has been nursing a crush on Benton for some time, gives in and a torrid affair ensues, which she ill-advisedly confides to Madeline after too many glasses of Screaming Eagle. With her agent and publisher dropping dire hints about clawing back her advance and Eddie “temporarily” unable to return the 50K, what’s a writer to do but to appropriate Grace’s adultery as fictional fodder? When Eddie is seen entering her apartment (to ask why she rented from a rival realtor), rumors spread about him and Madeline, and after the rival realtor sneaks a look at Madeline’s rough draft (which New York is hotly anticipating as “the Playboy Channel meets HGTV”), the island threatens to implode with prurient snark. No one is spared, not even Hilderbrand herself, “that other Nantucket novelist,” nor this magazine, “the notoriously cranky Kirkus.”

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-33452-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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