Readers valuing plot over prose will appreciate the book’s strengths.

THE STUDENT PROPHET

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International intrigue with an inspirational twist.

In the second book of his series, Logue (The Student Prophet: Initiation Rites, 2009) creates a world where both the FBI and God find college football as important as global acts of terrorism. Jeff Fitzpatrick—Penn State sophomore, Blue Band drummer, part-time FBI agent and prophet of God—defends the Earth from the work of the Leader and his evil, archangelic cohorts the Dragon (disguised as terrorist Professor Ronald Blackstone) and Adam, now a rogue FBI agent. In this installment, Jeff gets help from two new international prophets, Jewish Rachel and Muslim Fatima, who possess his same ability to foretell tragic events. The FBI faces enemies from within and without while the prophets suspect their friends of being guardian angels and Jeff finds romance in an unexpected place. The powers of evil prepare new terrorist attacks, including some close to home for Jeff, and draw al-Qaida cells, Mexican drug cartels and even the CIA into their plot. A bevy of effusive family, friends and religious confidants supports Jeff through the challenges and dangers that come from occupying the difficult position of being a student prophet, helping him juggle school, family changes, physical danger and spiritual doubt. Though all the elements of gripping drama are present, Logue’s repetitive, clunky prose gets in the way of the suspense. Unnecessary, unnatural dialogue makes the characters feel one-dimensional. Key moments, such as fights between the forces of good and evil, are briefly narrated, wasting many opportunities for drama and excitement. Despite this, the book’s world is compelling for its mix of the strange and the familiar. Characters and their struggles are broadly relatable, even if their inner lives are too often told rather than shown. Family values, the importance of friendship and God’s constant presence are inspirational themes that could be better used in service of the author’s religious goals. However, Logue possesses an inherent understanding of what makes an action and adventure novel, and this keeps the story moving despite itself.

Readers valuing plot over prose will appreciate the book’s strengths.

Pub Date: June 30, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4327-6078-6

Page Count: 411

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2010

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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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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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