A fast-paced, funny, and satisfying space tale, with a warm family feeling.


When aliens kidnap a boy, his older brother, his grandmother, and her spaceship come to the rescue in this middle-grade SF novel.

People have been thinking that Grandma Mullin is crazy ever since, a few months ago, she claimed that aliens yanked her husband into their spaceship through a beam of light. He hasn’t been seen since. Nevertheless, while their parents take a cruise, George Mullin, 11, and his younger brother, Pete, are being sent to their grandmother’s house, flying from California to Colorado. Grandma wins over her grandsons with root beer floats, new high-tops, and July Fourth bottle rockets—and then, the aliens come back to abduct Pete. Grandma reveals that she’s not crazy; she’s an alien hunter with her own spaceship hidden in the backyard, which takes her and George to the extraterrestrials’ home, Planet Flerk. In a crash landing, Grandma breaks her leg, and George has to set out alone with nothing but a tracking device, a slingshot, and a lighter. He faces many dangers, including murderous dwarves and pirates, but gains allies, such as Rover, a talking Labrador dog/hippo; and Slim, a cabin boy aboard the pirates’ spaceship. As George performs more than one rescue, he figures out his future profession: “Kicking some alien butt” is “what we Mullins do.” Trine (The Revenge of the McNasty Brothers, 2015, etc.), a prolific author of children’s books, writes a very entertaining space adventure/coming-of-age tale. George’s road to realizing his destiny parallels his newfound appreciation of his grandparents, both former test pilots, and their daring spirits. The book also succeeds as a comic novel, with many amusing scenarios. For example, in Flerk’s rather tentative police force, one cop responds to a hovercraft theft by yelling polite requests for its return: “Do the right thing! I mean it!” Trine packs a lot of action and a few surprises into his story, keeping things effectively moving, with a pleasing conclusion that leaves open the possibility of further escapades. Koehler’s (Santa’s Dog, 2018, etc.) quirky, cool, stylish illustrations deftly match the text.

A fast-paced, funny, and satisfying space tale, with a warm family feeling.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73395-895-0

Page Count: 154

Publisher: Malamute Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2019

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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