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CLAIRE

THE TUTOR'S GHOST STORIES

A charming and sometimes frightening ghost story.

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An apparition remains trapped in a house where a tragic crime occurred.

The novel opens with Max, a young boy, asking his tutor, Claire Harvey, to tell him a tale. She spins a moving ghost story about a young girl whose family plans to move far away. Her distraught boyfriend kills her and then himself so they can always be together. The twist is that Claire is that girl, and she’s a spirit stuck in the house where she was murdered. That first chapter could stand alone as a short story, but the rest of the book builds off of that, showing Claire’s afterlife in the house and the various people who reside there, ending with a battle that involves ghost hunters. She feels a special affinity for Max, who falls in love with her. It affects him later in life when he tries to date and then start a family. There is also a backstory about Claire’s confusion when she first woke up and didn’t realize she was a phantom. She thought her family had abandoned her and had to figure out what happened, which provides some sad and intriguing moments. Half the fun of reading ghost stories is in the rules authors create for their universes, and Galindo (The Tesla Project, 2016, etc.) has made his enjoyable and slightly complicated. Only people who believe in ghosts can spot Claire, but she has trouble seeing some of the living souls who don’t believe in spirits. This becomes poignant when a nonbeliever dies and can suddenly spy her, and she watches him move on while she can’t. In this entertaining story, Claire is an appealing character. Galindo has added some superb twists to her world, and the timeline allows him to show her perspective as technology and trends advance. But the novel isn’t faultless. Despite her comments about strange devices, Claire feels more modern in her dialogue and action than she should be—at one point, she craves a hamburger, recalling what it smelled like in real life. But she died in 1899, before the item became popular in America. And one philosophical battle toward the end between Max and a ghost hunter appears suddenly enough that it feels more like a plot device than a natural, story-driven occurrence. Still, none of these quibbles should wreck this tale for fans of the supernatural.

A charming and sometimes frightening ghost story.

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-946921-00-0

Page Count: 298

Publisher: Tin Can

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2018

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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FIREFLY LANE

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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