Routine monsters, but the story’s no less invigorating and the hero’s always entertaining.

The Agreement

From the Shadow Tales series , Vol. 3

Drummond’s (Something Wiccan, 2015, etc.) latest supernatural thriller finds its recurring teen hunter and his pals confronting vampires who’ve taken control of a Scottish town and its residents.

Now that his son Toby’s back in Silver Falls, Oregon, Sheriff Walter Hoffman’s reluctant to let the teenager return to Germany to train with the European Huntsman’s Network. But when baddies show up to retrieve powers Toby’s “inherited” from a dead warlock, Walter agrees that his son may be safer overseas. Toby’s girlfriend, Rachel, tags along, wanting to know how his decision on whether or not to be a hunter will affect their future together. Already in Germany is friend Natalie, a witch with newfound and inexplicably potent abilities who’s spent the last couple of months training. Hunter Jack Steele, meanwhile, has lost contact with colleague Angelina, in an area where other hunters have disappeared. She’d been tracking Gavin, a bloodsucking crony to vampire Alister McKean, who killed Jack’s parents years ago. Jack and Toby follow Angelina’s trail to Loubcroy, where vampires have made an agreement with humans: if vampires can be fellow citizens, they won’t harm humans. Rachel and Natalie join the two hunters later, and soon they’re facing off against a batch of sinister fanged foes. The hunters can only hope the frightened townsfolk will stand their ground to take back Loubcroy. Despite head trainer Henry Graves recommending that the girls “forget everything” they’ve read or seen about vampires, the author’s third series entry relies primarily on genre conventions. Readers know that sunlight hurts, wooden stakes kill, and vampirism equals virus. Drummond, however, fills his narrative with scorching, relentless action, the bulk of it set in vampire-infested Loubcroy. There’s a plethora of undead villains, and Toby’s increasingly chic capabilities allow him, among other things, to stake vampires telekinetically. The girls unfortunately stand on the sidelines for most of the story: Rachel does little as a mystic, while Natalie can barely control her powers. But everyone’s engaged in battle by the final act, with a gripping dilemma to close the book: Toby does something drastic that makes him not much better than the fiends he’s been staking.

Routine monsters, but the story’s no less invigorating and the hero’s always entertaining.

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5176-2992-2

Page Count: 422

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2016

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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