A traditional vampire tale with an emphatic emotional core.

THE SCRIBBLED VICTIMS

In this supernaturally imbued novel, a centuries-old vampire develops a rapport with a terminally ill girl who has the ability to see the evil in people.

Yelena Solodnikova needs blood for sustenance. It’s been years since her love (and the vampire who turned her), Marcel, abandoned her. Subsequent relationships with mortal men have been comparatively shorter as she continues to yearn for Marcel. But it’s Yelena’s distaste for killing that has proved to be her biggest burden. She feels such guilt over the people whose lives she’s taken that she regularly sees a therapist, Dr. Sloane, under the guise of having an eating disorder. One day, Yelena has a chance encounter with a 12-year-old orphan, Orly Bialek, a hospital patient with leukemia who may have mere months to live. The vampire is understandably fascinated by Orly’s drawings—scribbles, really, in which the girl can see others’ atrocious acts or desires. Later, at a special gallery, Yelena gets her hands on several of Orly’s scribbles, complete with corresponding names and graphic details of each person’s deeds. Now Yelena can feed and kill guilt-free, as the list includes a con artist, a rapist, and a serial killer. Meanwhile, she grows close to Orly and entertains the idea of fostering or even adopting her. But Yelena is once again distressed when debating whether she should make Orly a vampire; it may save the girl’s life, but could also afflict her with the same torment that has saddled Yelena for the longest time. Despite the vampire-laden plot, Tomoguchi’s (The Dead Girl I Like Heart and Stuff, 2015, etc.) character-driven story zeros in on the grounded and often bewildering human element. The mother-daughter dynamic, for one, is prevalent throughout. Neither Yelena nor Orly has a family, so their evolving connection is both convincing and endearing. But it’s a closer examination of various characters that truly fortifies the novel. Orly is initially terrified of Yelena, as her scribbled portrait of the vampire shows the girl a killer. Yelena’s vamp best friend, Hisato, acts as a constant reminder of her nature; he joins her as she takes out baddies but has no qualms about murdering innocents (for example, potential witnesses). Even more profound are the villains marked for death who, as it happens, are just as hard to read as Orly’s scribblings. Supernatural aspects are treated pragmatically; Orly’s ability is more a talent than a power. In the same vein, immortal Yelena can die if her head is severed, a staple of vampire lore. This flaw ultimately makes her vulnerable to a serial killer who has an affinity for beheadings. Tomoguchi tackles fairly dark subject matter, from domestic abuse to child molestation. Fortunately, the few instances of humor are vampire-related: When Yelena asks Orly whether she’d like anything to drink, the girl responds, “You have stuff that’s not blood?” The book’s latter half features surprising plot turns while the overall story, even at its gloomiest, remains enthralling. There’s a definite finality to the ending and, as this is part of a planned series, a few unresolved issues as well.

A traditional vampire tale with an emphatic emotional core.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-692-79974-1

Page Count: 346

Publisher: Ink Bleed Books

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2018

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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