A traditional vampire tale with an emphatic emotional core.


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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Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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