Nuance becomes a little lost in the mix of monsters and humans, but an unwavering pace promises unending entertainment.

Wicked Prayers

An evil, hellish entity attacks a small town in Washington, creating minions and plotting the destruction of humankind in this horror yarn.

When pregnant Elizabeth Holly is abducted by crazy ex-reverend Old Man Wilson, her husband, John, and daughter, Julia, manage to save her and her infant son. But Julia fears it may have been more than a mere kidnapping when her new baby brother, Waed, sports “the face of evil”—a twisted expression, dark eyes, and a long, thin tongue. Later, a nurse, following what seem to be Waed’s telepathic instructions, cuts hearts from people’s chests and flees the hospital with the child. Waed rapidly grows into the Beast and assaults citizens in Autumntown, either killing or infecting them, slowly building an army of creatures at his command. The townsfolk, including detective partners Del Camron and Jack Richards, soon learn the Beast is the Dark One, the guardian of darkness, with aspirations for hell to reign on Earth. Not quite at full power, the Beast needs to consume three particular kinds of hearts. Del, Jack, and others arm themselves to battle tentacled creatures, eventually called Leapers, and hopefully find a way to kill the Beast. The novel certainly isn’t short on action, with a myriad of confrontations between humans and monsters, making it sometimes hard to keep up with the scores of characters filling the pages. Moore (The Adventures of PJ and Split Pea Vol. II, 2010, etc.) wisely names a few of the more formidable Leapers, like Dairitch, the sinister soul of a trickster infused with an infected human. Conversely, some of the humans barely register, introduced immediately prior to their deaths or transformations into nameless creatures. Nevertheless, the back story involving a character’s father provides a strange but enthralling origin for the Beast, or at least explains why he chose Autumntown. The Beast, too, becomes gradually more terrifying as he garners more powers, such as levitation. The narrative does have its lighter moments; the humans’ surprisingly effective homemade defense, “monster acid” (a clever concoction best left unspoiled for readers), paves the way for cheerworthy combat moments.

Nuance becomes a little lost in the mix of monsters and humans, but an unwavering pace promises unending entertainment.

Pub Date: June 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5246-1665-6

Page Count: 246

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2016

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

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.

FRIENDS FOREVER

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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