An appealing fictionalization of the mysteries surrounding humanity’s desire to communicate with aliens.



A quest to find life elsewhere in the cosmos causes trouble on Earth in this sci-fi sequel from Bangs (Forsaken, 2011).

As he prepares to complete his journey from Los Angeles to Adelaide, Jarrod McKinley cannot seem to shake the “sense of evil” that seems to prevail. McKinley, who in the previous novel in this series helped to unravel a conspiracy fomented by a hypocritical reverend, now heads to Australia to examine a message purportedly from outer space. Galactic dispatches are, after all, the stuff that concerns McKinley and his colleagues at the center for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, located at the breathtaking site of Wilpena Pound in South Australia. McKinley is eager to get there as this message mentions him specifically. Unfortunately for him, his fears are proven correct as he is kidnapped not long after disembarking from his flight. Though his captors wind up being more empathetic than he might have expected, why would aliens try to contact McKinley? As the plot unfolds, it includes aspects of McKinley’s growing ability to sense evil and many of the implications of uncovering life elsewhere in the universe (for example, how destructive would humans appear to a distant civilization?). Bangs delivers plenty of physical confrontations as well, although action sequences can lean toward the silly. This is the case when a boomerang partially diffuses a struggle (what else would one expect in Australia?), leaving a character “still rubbing his head” once the danger subsides. But McKinley’s adventures help to breathe new excitement into the hunt for aliens and all of the possibilities for actual contact. Who knew such an enticing, if sedentary, mission to listen to beings unknown could result in kidnapping, murder, shady characters, an unlikely hero (one villain describes McKinley as “just an overrated, low-level technician who got in over his head”), and all sorts of violent clashes? On the whole, readers intrigued by McKinley’s motivation to discover extraterrestrials will likely be eager to see how it all shakes out.

An appealing fictionalization of the mysteries surrounding humanity’s desire to communicate with aliens.

Pub Date: June 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-943650-27-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Bookcrafters

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2016

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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