A serious but overwritten flood fable.



A debut novella tells the story of a gifted orphan attempting to survive a harsh world.

India, 1769. Ravi, 14, lives with his grandparents in the small village of Panchali. He is a cloud dancer who, via his preternatural sensitivity (or imagination), is able to see incredible paintings in the clouds. “Clouds tell stories, in shapes and designs and images,” says Bali, the village elder and mystic, “of things that happened in the past, and things that will happen in future days.” When Ravi sees a bank of dark clouds obscure the sky, he can’t predict what exactly will occur, but he knows it will be bad. Sure enough, torrential rains fall for days, causing dams to break upriver and flood the land where Panchali lies. Ravi and his best friend, Vijay, work to save their neighbors from the cataclysm of water and mud that descends on Panchali, but many are killed, including Ravi’s grandparents. Bali, Vijay, and a few others manage to escape on an ancient raft, but Ravi is swept away, clinging to a piece of driftwood. Washed far downstream, Ravi is forced to contend with crocodiles, brigands, hunger, and deadly waters in order to reunite with his community. Along the way, he will discover the true power of existence, nature, and the extremes (good and bad) of which humans are capable. Henson’s prose is image-laden but overwrought, sacrificing flow in favor of complex syntax and 50-cent words: “Dazzling images appeared, but pushed by solar winds these light-chiseled pictures vanished, and in a flash of moments, ominous configurations materialized, etched by a spectral light.” The plot at the novella’s heart has a pleasing folkloric simplicity to it, though Henson spends so much page time making Ravi stare at the sky and ponder the nature of the universe that the story never develops sufficient momentum. While it seeks to evoke the epics of an earlier age, the final product feels more like a Hermann Hesse knockoff: a humorless series of episodes populated by flat characters coming to epiphanies that aren’t nearly as cerebral as they want them to be.

A serious but overwritten flood fable.

Pub Date: May 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-1681111872

Page Count: 122

Publisher: Wasteland Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2017

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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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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


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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