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WEST PACIFIC SUPERS

RISING TIDE

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In this first installment of Johnson-Weider’s planned series, superheroes battle villains for sponsors and media attention on an alternate-history Earth where supers are organized by city like professional sports teams.

Before the 2013 super-season begins, a fatal attack by an unknown evil-doer (some suspect a mole) drops the West Pacific Supers’ rank in the West Coast conference. To win the title and protect the citizens of West Pacific, Calif., Seawolf, White Knight, Starfish and their unflappable operations director, Dr. Sterling, need to rebuild the WPS quickly. Using draft picks and old favors, they manage to get a top-tier rookie and an aging ladies man under contract. Seawolf is even able to bully Nova Woman (who’s given up her secret identity and goes by “Camille” now) to move back to the coast. On top of the stress of finding commercial sponsors, doing PR events and surviving Sterling’s infamously depraved training sessions, the new members bring with them plenty of personal baggage—which is to say, they’ll fit right in with the other misfits and mutants. But there’s plenty of crime for everyone to fight this season—a geological expert with military-grade explosives and an offshore lair is out to literally change the face of the world, and a madman calling himself “Mr. Darwin” has decided that it’s time for the WPS to go extinct. As exciting as that sounds, the author (like the “superazzi” in the story) is so focused on the supers’ private lives that the villains’ plots are relegated to mere distractions until the final fourth of the book. That feeling is reinforced by the way the heroes undercut the dramatic impact of their heroics by treating the citizens like nothing more than faceless opportunities to boost their stats. Despite these missteps, the well-imagined world and strong cast of do-gooders save the debut novel and will keep readers interested through the epilogue by offering new takes on surprisingly human personal struggles, like a less cynical Watchmen with more likable characters. Clever, fun and occasionally tense, but in more ways than one the West Pacific Supers are their own worst enemy.

 

Pub Date: June 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0983798415

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Blue Moon Aurora, LLC

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2011

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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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THE RUMOR

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Hilderbrand’s latest cautionary tale exposes the toxic—and hilarious—impact of gossip on even the most sophisticated of islands.

Eddie and Grace Pancik are known for their beautiful Nantucket home and grounds, financed with the profits from Eddie’s thriving real estate company (thriving before the crash of 2008, that is). Grace raises pedigreed hens and, with the help of hunky landscape architect Benton Coe, has achieved a lush paradise of fowl-friendly foliage. The Panciks’ teenage girls, Allegra and Hope, suffer invidious comparisons of their looks and sex appeal, although they're identical twins. The Panciks’ friends the Llewellyns (Madeline, a blocked novelist, and her airline-pilot husband, Trevor) invested $50,000, the lion’s share of Madeline’s last advance, in Eddie’s latest development. But Madeline, hard-pressed to come up with catalog copy, much less a new novel, is living in increasingly straightened circumstances, at least by Nantucket standards: she can only afford $2,000 per month on the apartment she rents in desperate hope that “a room of her own” will prime the creative pump. Construction on Eddie’s spec houses has stalled, thanks to the aforementioned crash. Grace, who has been nursing a crush on Benton for some time, gives in and a torrid affair ensues, which she ill-advisedly confides to Madeline after too many glasses of Screaming Eagle. With her agent and publisher dropping dire hints about clawing back her advance and Eddie “temporarily” unable to return the 50K, what’s a writer to do but to appropriate Grace’s adultery as fictional fodder? When Eddie is seen entering her apartment (to ask why she rented from a rival realtor), rumors spread about him and Madeline, and after the rival realtor sneaks a look at Madeline’s rough draft (which New York is hotly anticipating as “the Playboy Channel meets HGTV”), the island threatens to implode with prurient snark. No one is spared, not even Hilderbrand herself, “that other Nantucket novelist,” nor this magazine, “the notoriously cranky Kirkus.”

Once again, Hilderbrand displays her gift for making us care most about her least likable characters.

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-33452-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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