A riveting tale and invigorating characters should have readers locked into this adventure series.

WORLD OF DAWN

ARISE

Some wayward youths unexpectedly find themselves in a world of giant creatures and cannibalistic hunters in this sci-fi–infused novel.

Robbing banks with his uncle could have earned Tanner Kurtz a sentence at a youth detention facility. But he opted to stay at the Halton House, a farm that offers juvenile delinquents a second chance. Returning from a basketball game one evening, Halton House “father” Mr. Conroy has to turn the van around after a landslide effectively closes the highway. The group braves the pothole-laden Windigo Road but unfortunately winds up in an accident. Tanner and others, like hotheaded Colby, assess the aftermath: one person seriously injured; another missing. But their surroundings are considerably more disturbing, with the crew immediately seeing three unfamiliar ringed planets in the sky. There’s a threat of massive, hostile birds and no cell reception, but it’s not all bad: Tanner, et al. come across unicorns and are taken in by a seemingly friendly tribe, the Sawnay. The tribe, which willingly crossed from Earth into the World of Dawn via a portal years ago, is willing to help the newcomers get home. The not-as-cordial Wendo, however, are cannibals that may be more lethal than the beasts. Gale’s (The Stories That Make Us, 2015) book is a striking series opener that quickly introduces its titular world while slyly adding engaging elements. Characters, for one, are gradually drawn out, especially Tanner: snippets of his woeful past (as flashes of memory) form a rounded protagonist whose mother died chasing storms and whose father abandoned him. The narrative’s often playfully ambiguous; details about the World of Dawn (the Sawnay call it “Earth’s mother”) make the realm no less mysterious. The Sawnay, meanwhile, are humanized by a dilemma of their own: their slowly dying river, Cootamain, is making people sick. Lingering questions tease a sequel, not the least of which involves the Wendo’s baffling One Who Sees All, who, for some reason, wants Tanner.

A riveting tale and invigorating characters should have readers locked into this adventure series.

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5144-3660-8

Page Count: 244

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2017

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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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A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.

THE CHASE

From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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