This fantasy delivers an energetic ode to quantum mechanics and the culinary arts.

PHIGG & CLYDE SAVE BREAKFAST

This middle-grade novel sees two siblings time traveling after mischievous alterations remove morning breakfast from history.

One night, during a harsh New England snowstorm, 12-year-old Iphigenia, called Phigg, decides to make hot chocolate. Uncle Phineas is watching her and her younger brother, Clyde, while their parents, who are traveling professors, are on a trip. Suddenly, Phineas exclaims that he’s lost his pocket watch. He enlists Phigg’s help in searching for it but warns, “Whatever you do, do not open the case and look at the dials.” But when she finds it, the watch case is already open. Handling the watch prompts an explosion of thoughts and a sensory overload. Phigg regains her composure in a seemingly normal kitchen. Yet her parents are no longer professors—they are sewage inspectors who plan to serve raw liver and fish heads for the family’s nightly breakfast. Clyde, usually tinkering with electronics, is loafing until Phigg hands him the watch, which returns his memories of how life should be. Soon, the device begins speaking to them, introducing itself as the Watcher and informing the kids that they are now apprentice Timekeepers. Phineas has been kidnapped, so they must halt a Timebreaker and his minions who have damaged breakfast and nearly crippled civilization. In this fantasy, Berkin (Cut to Wagstaff, 2012) forges humor and intellect into quite a sharp narrative. His employment of time-travel motifs is sometimes goofy, like the dwarfish Timegoblins, who eat vital artifacts and bring chaos to history. Other devices, like quantum linkage, help the siblings borrow their appearances “from alternate versions” of themselves and introduce young readers to a complicated scientific field. Gastronomic themes also prevail, as time disturbances focus on the invention of the microwave in 1946; the creation of hot sauce in Louisiana in 1868; and the first baking of bread in ancient Egypt. The author offers young and older readers excellent wisdom: “Our world” is “an ongoing experiment of the dreams, ideas, successes and failures of billions of minds.” Timegoblin antics ensure an irresistible sequel.

This fantasy delivers an energetic ode to quantum mechanics and the culinary arts.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72416-680-7

Page Count: 358

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

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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