Fast-paced, energetic and fun; a dime novel for modern intellectuals.

THE GHOSTS OF WATT O'HUGH

Watt O’Hugh tangles with love, danger and high adventure in Drachman’s engaging tale of Western science fiction and amazing fantasy.

On the surface, Watt O’Hugh’s beginnings mirrored many who dwell in a time of poverty and strife. Born in 1842, the young man’s existence could have been chalked up to a textbook stereotype, like a New York City Oliver Twist. Were it not for his special abilities, his could easily have been a story that would fit nicely into a work of prose dashed off by Nathaniel Hawthorne or Ralph Waldo Emerson. O’Hugh’s life veers from normalcy, however, when he learns the ways of magic and embarks on a journey throughout Earth’s history. In a pompous literary world ripe with mundane characters, Drachman pens a standout lead in the character of Watt O’Hugh. The cool hero’s tale is told in charming, romping detail, from the magical adventurer’s poor childhood in the Five Points and the Tomb, to his notorious, gun-toting dalliances in the Wild West and his wilder exploits through time itself. Were it not for a few lurid scenes of romance and a humble allotment of expletives, the book’s first-person narrative would surely win over a younger audience as well. O’Hugh’s singular name, derived from the words “what” and “who,” adds to the character’s simple charm. Time travel proves to be an enduring ingredient for fiction authors; from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, to Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five and Stephen King’s The Langoliers, the uses for jumping in and out of the present never fails to develop a story to a slam-bang conclusion. Adding legitimate historical figures, such as the esteemed author Oscar Wilde, to the fictional mix builds levels of believability to the time traveling romp’s fast-paced flavor. While occasionally too expeditious in the telling, this introductory tale of a planned trilogy often has the fleeting pace found in many of the historic Western pulps authored in the 1800s.

Fast-paced, energetic and fun; a dime novel for modern intellectuals.

Pub Date: June 28, 2011

ISBN: 978-0578085906

Page Count: 196

Publisher: Chickadee Prince Books

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2011

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

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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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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