Newcomers to Allen’s work will find this sci-fi-romance to be quite an adventure.

UNIVERSAL TIME

A single mom’s life is turned upside down when she encounters a man from outer space in Allen’s (Beaufort 1849, 2011, etc.) wildly imaginative novel.

Cait has a full plate managing her job at an affordable housing foundation in San Francisco and raising two young daughters, and her ex-husband has an annoying habit of dropping off his new baby for her to watch. One day, a strange man who seems furious with her abducts her on the street, and she’s initially terrified. He introduces himself as Atraxis and says that he believes that she’s in possession of something called a “Tamaranth”—and he wants it back. She’s in his spaceship en route to his home planet of Tivolea when he tells her this, so she can’t exactly tell him he’s crazy. She finally convinces herself that she’s having an elaborate dream; in fact, though, she’s participating in formal Tivolean rituals that result in her getting married to Atraxis. Happily, she’s soon returned to her life on Earth, but her new spouse won’t leave her alone. Instead, he moves into an upstairs apartment and becomes a constant presence in her life. Soon, he offers to help teach her girls, who are learning little at their ineffective school, and even provides Cait with a supercomputer to handle the housework and cooking—all while managing his own job as an arbitrator of interplanetary conflicts. Still, Cait resists his charms and efforts to help at every turn. Luckily, she’s able to turn to her ex-sister-in-law, Nancy, for a dose of sanity—that is, until Nancy becomes smitten with Atraxis’ ex-brother-in-law from an altogether different planet and things really start to get complicated. Allen creates an intricately detailed, remarkably inventive universe encompassing alien languages, physiology, and culture,  as well as advanced technologies. She populates this vivid world with characters that are both layered and believable. Some readers may chafe a bit at the somewhat geeky sci-fi humor (“to her you are as strange as the gas cozzili of Franddon”) as well as Cait’s dogged romantic refusal of Atraxis, even though he’s clearly a catch. That said, most will readily gloss over these minor issues to find out what happens next.

Newcomers to Allen’s work will find this sci-fi-romance to be quite an adventure.

Pub Date: March 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0967178431

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Cabbages and Kings Press

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2015

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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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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