A clever, riveting, and multifaceted tale about sailing, so vivid that readers should taste the salt spray.

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The Downeaster

DEADLY VOYAGE

A debut historical novel captures life on the ocean waves in the late 19th century.

For the uninitiated, a downeaster is a fast, medium-size clipper ship, designed to carry cargo. The year is 1872, and the downeaster featured here is The Providence, anchored in Bath, Maine. The captain of the ship is Isaac Griffin, one of the tale’s three central characters. Griffin, a man down on his luck, faces a choice: bankruptcy or the financially beneficial yet desperately perilous journey around Cape Horn. To complicate matters, a fire severely burned his hand during a previous voyage (“pain shrieked from the damaged tendons and injured nerve endings”). The opening of the story points to a classic “Horn run” adventure with storms, curses, and sea shanties aplenty. On this front, the storyline does not disappoint, yet it is further bolstered by the author’s fastidious charting of his characters’ psychological development. With regard to Nicholas Priest in particular, the novel develops into a well-wrought bildungsroman. A victim of a brutal hazing at his boarding school, where he was tied to a tree in the freezing cold, the young Nicholas is first seen at the elbow of his father, weak and with breathing difficulties. His father’s kill-or-cure solution for him turns out to be a sea voyage. Nicholas’ personal journey into manhood, punctuated by courageousness and healing, becomes one of the most vivid strands in an elaborately woven narrative. The third, yet by no means least important, of the three central characters is the green-eyed nurse Kayleigh MacKenna. MacKenna’s story, a refreshing addition, allows the author to explore 19th-century women’s rights and attempts to perceive the era from a female aesthetic. How each of these distinct narrative threads becomes interwoven is part of the joy of reading this witty, vigorous book. In terms of style, each sentence, elegantly composed, embodies sufficient ruggedness to capture the fervor of a life spent at sea: “The wind had been steady and brisk from southwest and south. Large waves crested with white foam rolled atop sides carved rough with gouges. These made Providence behave like a young stallion racing, absorbed and satisfied by the joy of its own physicality.” Inspired by the close scrutiny of ships’ logs of the age, this historically accurate, engrossing account will likely appeal to seasoned seadogs and landlubbers alike.

A clever, riveting, and multifaceted tale about sailing, so vivid that readers should taste the salt spray. 

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61179-331-4

Page Count: 356

Publisher: Fireship Press

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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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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