A pleasant pastiche of teen sleuthing and coming-of-age gay romance.

DEATH AND LOVE AT THE OLD SUMMER CAMP

In Maggiore’s (Love and Lechery at Albert Hall, 2018, etc.) YA mystery, a teenager’s summer vacation takes an unpleasant turn when she and her best friend (and secret crush) uncover an old murder. 

In 1959, 15-year-old Pina Mazzini is staying in a forest cabin with her parents near an abandoned boys camp. While wandering the camp’s ruins, she suddenly has a disturbing vision of a bully taunting a younger boy that seems to end violently. She’s certain that she’s inherited her Sicilian grandmother’s ability to see the past and future, so she rushes to tell her friend Katie McGuilvry what she saw. They go in search of answers in the surrounding area; Katie finds a bone in the crafts cabin, she and Pina find a bloodstained shirt, and Pina and her father find a finger bone with a ring on it in a lake. Pina has more intense visions in which she sees teenage boys plotting the murder, and she eventually realizes that she and Katie are finding evidence of what might be a larger conspiracy. However, they can’t go to their parents about it, because Katie’s father might be involved; he went to that summer camp in his youth, and he has the same square tattoo as the boys in Pina’s visions. Then Katie’s father invites his old camp friends to visit. Meanwhile, Pina grapples with her romantic feelings toward Katie. Indeed, in this debut novel of a series, the narrative focuses mostly on the developing relationship between the two teens. The author’s tendency toward jokey dialogue can sometimes overwhelm the story, but the overall narrative effectively depicts their emotions of initial uncertainty and caring friendship. In the midst of this, however, the murder mystery doesn’t maintain very much of a sense of gravity, and the various clues all end up fitting together a bit too neatly. However, once Pina and Katie begin to see how the killing is connected to family members and friends, the book offers an engaging, suspenseful dynamic. 

A pleasant pastiche of teen sleuthing and coming-of-age gay romance.

Pub Date: July 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943353-77-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sapphire Books Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2018

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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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