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

The Last Ma-Loo

From the The Warrensberg Trilogy series , Vol. 3

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 steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.

THE CHASE

From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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