An enjoyable beach read with a likable heroine.


From the Shady Park Chronicles series , Vol. 3

This third installment of a series maintains the author’s satirical take on modern American suburban life while dealing with some serious societal problems.

The Shady Park characters return, with Nicole Ernst taking the starring role in this volume. Nicole is the seventh grade teacher who was accidentally shot at an open school board meeting convened to overturn its unfortunate decision to switch to fundamentalist textbooks. She also got into serious trouble when she discovered that Chelsea Grosbeck, the daughter of a wealthy real estate developer, had plagiarized her school essay. Now 37-year-old Nicole has been transferred to Northbrook High School, where she is teaching a group of generally disinterested, ill-informed teenagers. It doesn’t take long for her to run afoul of her new boss, Principal Matthew Higgenbottom, who has been dragging his feet authorizing delivery of the nonfundamentalist books ordered by the board. Nicole makes an end run around Higgenbottom, and the volumes suddenly arrive. But more trouble is on the way. Fifteen-year-old student Juan Moreno begins receiving unsolicited naked photographs on his cellphone from an eighth-grade girl, and suddenly Shady Park becomes engulfed in a sexting scandal. When one of these photos is sent to Nicole’s cellphone, she is drawn into a dangerous undercover police operation. Simultaneously, she becomes romantically involved with Ralph Novich, the relationship-shy editor of the Shady Park Ledger, whose wife left him for her Virginia-based true love: her first cousin. Keech’s (Shady Park Panic, 2018, etc.) narrative rests somewhere between Oscar Wilde and Desperate Housewives. From ostentatious McMansions to crooked politicians and religious zealots, little escapes the author’s sharp eye for hypocrisy and amusing excess. Here Keech describes Nicole feeding her cat: She “stopped by to serve Smokey some Cod, Sole, and Shrimp Paté in Florentine Sauce.” There are strange characters aplenty. Chief among them is Andre Smyth, a tenderhearted neurotic who can’t answer a simple question in less than a tangents-filled paragraph. Despite the quirky cast and more than a hint of melodrama, the author uses well-directed sarcasm to highlight some critical, real-world issues: anti-immigration fervor, anti-science mania, and child pornography. In addition, readers should find the story’s conclusion satisfying.

An enjoyable beach read with a likable heroine.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73305-240-5

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Real Nice Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2019

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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