A Treasure Island for the modern era, recommended for middle-grade readers and fans of pirate-adventure tales.

BENICE

AN ADVENTURE OF LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP

In Karayaka’s debut novel, a young boy finds a father figure in a mysterious old fisherman, starting him on a swashbuckling quest on the high seas.

Levend and Orion, two old friends, return to Levend’s hometown ahead of a party scheduled for the following day. Both men recognize an old boat on the docks, and when a group of local boys ask how the men know the vessel, Levend begins to tell a tale about when he was 14 and confided in an older fisherman calling himself “Mr. Ben Ice.” Levend grew to trust Mr. Ice, who was missing an eye, a hand, and a leg, and followed him out to sea on a search for fish. However, young Levend quickly realized that Mr. Ice had a sinister history and that his own life was now at risk. The boys listen to Levend’s story with bated breath, and after Orion reveals his connection to the tale, they enjoy a drama replete with pirates, secret elixirs, combat, and betrayal. At the center of all of it is the mystery of who Mr. Ice really was. And what of Benice, the wife whom he longed for? Karayaka’s novel is an occasionally violent page-turner that sometimes rewinds the action to allow different narrators to fill in events from alternate perspectives. As a result, it features three different time periods and a plethora of plot twists. However, the aforementioned violence is understated, and the narration keeps all the details clear and concise, making it suitable for younger readers. The writing style is reminiscent of the prose in the 1993 English translation of Paulo Coelho’s novel The Alchemist, featuring turns of phrase that offer nuggets of wisdom. Eason’s (The Gobblings, 2017) illustrations at the start of each chapter are done in a classical style, reminiscent of boys’ adventure books from the 1950s and ’60s, and use a light color palette to evoke a sense of mysticism. It all comes to a touching conclusion, and readers are left with a lasting moral.

A Treasure Island for the modern era, recommended for middle-grade readers and fans of pirate-adventure tales.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9989640-4-1

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Yunka Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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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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A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.

THE CHASE

From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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