A fast-paced, rewarding read whose combat realism is extraordinary.

THE JOURNEY

A teenager develops a talent for killing, both in and out of the Army, in this riveting Vietnam-era thriller.

Rick Fountaine, 15, flees Connecticut after murdering the family that abused him and his mother. In Chicago, he finds a job and friends, but death follows him. He kills again—in self-defense, but no matter. He moves on to Peoria, then to Texas, then to California. His fake IDs catch up with him: Because he has pretended to be older than he is, he is drafted. Posted first to Texas, his platoon is shipped out to Vietnam. There he excels. His talents for finding the right way through the jungle and spotting ambushes—perhaps, he thinks, something innate from his Native American heritage—make him no friends with his commanding officer, but others appreciate him, including the CIA. He goes on a black-ops mission, providing critical covering fire for his team. Wounded on what was supposed to be a safe patrol, he is discharged. He connects with an old Army buddy and finds that there is a civilian demand for a man with his skills. He joins a team of fellow veterans working as “independent contractors” and soon finds himself pitted against embezzlers, high-end art thieves and Chinese drug smugglers. First-time author Le Beau has delivered a potent mixture of teen rebellion and true-to-life combat. Enormously compelling, this book doesn’t let you put it down. Le Beau, a Vietnam veteran, realistically depicts jungle patrols and firefights like no other. Yet there are quibbles. The first chapter makes Fountaine seem like an irredeemable psychopath, a notion the rest of the book does not support. What made him so good at violence needs to be reworked. The frequent switching from past to present tense doesn’t work, either, and the pacing at times is almost too fast. And who is the intended audience? It has the tone of a YA novel because of Fountaine’s voice and youth, but it could easily have mainstream appeal as well.

A fast-paced, rewarding read whose combat realism is extraordinary.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-1483415758

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2014

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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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