An exceptional follow-up with a menacing monster and characters worth rooting for.

SEARCH FOR AQUASAURUS

In Lee’s (Him, 2017, etc.) thriller sequel, a group of people who miraculously survived an encounter with a huge, prehistoric crocodile set out to find and stop the creature.

Texas State University student Katie Marshall is suddenly a rich woman; her late father, Clint, left her a sizable inheritance, including assets from a couple of oil companies. She decides to use her wealth to track down the “Aquasaurus”—the media’s moniker for a giant crocodile that she and her friends faced in Lee’s 2016 novel of the same name. Clint’s airplane and boat are now at her disposal, as is pilot and driver Hootie Johnson, his former “right-hand man.” Katie assures her pals Rita Martin, Jesse Perrine, and Jake Haw that she only wants to find the crocodile and then contact authorities to handle it. According to news reports, the Aquasaurus is in Mexican waters, so that’s where Katie and company go. Another survivor from the previous book, earth science professor Tom Morrison, is about to publish a story in Discovery Magazine, but the editors want new pictures of the Aquasaurus to accompany the article. Tom promises them “clear and close-up” photographs and recruits his student assistant, Mark Carter, to accompany him on a trip to Mexico. When the professor learns of the other group’s undertaking, he opts to secretly follow them in lieu of teaming up. This is a potentially dangerous decision, as the area is also populated by pirates and drug runners. And, of course, there’s a massive reptilian creature out there, as well, that has the ability to set traps for its prey. As in the series’ first installment, this novel favors suspense over gory monster attacks. In fact, Lee merely implies much of the violence, and he also keeps the story free of obscenities or explicit sex. Most of the previous novel’s characters return, and the author smartly zeros in on the evolving relationships among them. For example, Jake, who’s been seeing Katie romantically for a few years, is jealous of her easygoing banter with much-older Hootie, while Mark’s periodic obtuseness vexes the professor. Occasional moments from the creature’s perspective generate effective suspense, as readers often know how close the Aquasaurus is to the protagonists—even when they don’t. And the titular croc isn’t the only thing that will put readers on edge; for instance, Hootie is worried about a “device” that Clint left on the boat, and he’s anxious when officers board the vessel and examine the mysterious object. There are also run-ins with another colossal reptile as well as sea lice, which hook tiny spines into human skin. This spotlight-sharing does somewhat diminish the presence of the crocodile, especially as there are so few scenes of its attacks. Lee describes the Aquasaurus realistically, and its most frightening features tend to be those that are shared by regular crocodiles. Nevertheless, it proves to be utterly terrifying in an inevitable clash in the final act.

An exceptional follow-up with a menacing monster and characters worth rooting for.

Pub Date: March 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73211-311-4

Page Count: 419

Publisher: Aim-Hi Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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