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BUZZKILL

A historical thriller enriched by characters who sparkle and refuse to be forgotten.

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A college student’s work as a confidential informant puts her dangerously close to a radical group with sinister plans in this novel.

Mary Jane Bailey’s freshman year at Cal State Long Beach in 1968 doesn’t involve the typical campus activities one might expect. Not long after her registration, a federal agency asks her to be an informant in order to infiltrate a group known as Burn It Down. Shortly thereafter, she witnesses masked individuals attack one of her handlers, Terry Griswald, a local detective. Jane furthermore encounters enigmatic Thaddeus Blank, who indirectly threatens her by brandishing a straight razor in plain sight and demands details on any BID reports she gives to the cops. Jane has a way into BID with classmate Maggie Molyneaux, who soon introduces her to Junior Higgins, the apparent leader. Including other female members, the BID “family” appears to be a batch of harmless, peace-loving hippies. But it’s evident that Junior is concocting something devious which involves Jane, whether she’s a willing participant or not. With help from Terry and fellow student Rider, Jane tries to decipher what exactly Junior’s ultimate objective is while dodging—or outright confronting—the occasional assailant. Preston’s (Crashpad, 2017, etc.) story is a fairly straightforward mystery; villains are generally pronounced, and even Junior’s scheme isn’t surprising. But the characters are a lively, extraordinary assortment. Jane, for starters, is a remarkable protagonist, unfazed by facing multiple baddies with a two-by-four or just her purse. Others stand out via their discernible shortcomings: Blank is shaken by Jane’s lack of intimidation when he sports his straight razor, and unassertive Terry wonders whether she set him up for the attack. The story thoroughly embodies the ’60s era, both its anti-war sentiments and pop culture. The decade is also humorously portrayed through Blank’s largely failed attempts at using slang; at one point, he confuses Jane by referencing already-outmoded “sock hops.”

A historical thriller enriched by characters who sparkle and refuse to be forgotten.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9911516-6-0

Page Count: 171

Publisher: Rendrag Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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