Even if she’s not a crime-solver, the beguiling protagonist should attract readers just as much as she attracts trouble and...

Winning Texas

Texas reporter-turned-editor Annie Price once again finds herself immersed in deceit, political conflict, and murder in Stancill’s (Saving Texas, 2013) thriller.

Annie misses her time as an investigative journalist, a gig the Houston Times eliminated a few years ago before promoting her to assistant metro editor. She may soon return to the field, though, when a reporter quits and leaves the newspaper short-staffed. And there’s a lot of story material in her area. State Sen. Sam Wurzbach, for starters, pushes a German-Texas agenda, which would see designated counties emphasize German language and culture. The senator has support from some who see tourism potential, but, sadly that includes seedy strip-club owner Kyle Krause. Adamantly opposing German-Texas are secessionists, who believe it will obliterate their chances of converting the state into an independent republic. Annie’s dealt with the secessionists before, like two particularly dangerous ones on the lam, either hiding out in South America or sneaking back into Texas. Meanwhile, a possibly Eastern European body floating in the Houston Ship Channel may be tied to human trafficking, and Betsy, the 16-year-old daughter of ex-politician (and Annie’s “almost-boyfriend”) Tom Marr, has run away. Things take a momentous turn when someone Annie knows turns up bludgeoned to death, followed shortly thereafter by another murder. So Annie and her colleagues do what journalists do bestinvestigate. The author loads her narrative with seemingly unrelated subplots that gradually and sufficiently come together. There’s little mystery since Stancill, once a reporter herself, focuses much of the plot on Annie’s time at a slowly dying newspaper. While the murderer (or murderers) isn’t hard to pin down, the sudden shakeup at the office, likely resulting in fewer jobs, becomes a fascinating storyline. Annie, too, is a sterling protagonist, surprisingly humble considering she’s a guy magnet, from old flame/fiance Jake Satterfield to smitten co-worker Travis Dunbar. As a pseudo-gumshoe, Annie doesn’t do much, especially when people merely show up at her door with pertinent information. But she willingly puts herself in peril to expose villains, while a significant character’s death near the end (that’s not a murder) is unquestionably shocking.

Even if she’s not a crime-solver, the beguiling protagonist should attract readers just as much as she attracts trouble and men.

Pub Date: April 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61296-683-0

Page Count: 230

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2016

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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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