An adept offering of diverse characters engaged in a suspenseful sci-fi storyline that’s far from common; might even appeal...



In the third book in Smiles’ (Choices, 2013, etc.) sci-fi Rothston series, a young and in love college couple deals with family issues, special powers and a secret international organization that may have a sinister agenda.

At the beginning of Smiles’ new Rothston entry, trust-fund kid Greg Langston and his girlfriend, an “adept named Kinzie Nicolosi,” are back at school, though they’re hardly carefree college students. As Kinzie reminds her beau (and catches up new readers), they just “spent months escaping from a mad scientist who was using [them] for genetic experiments.” Their dangerous, adventurous past was centered on The Rothston Institute, a sort of Hogwarts for “adepts”—individuals with powers that include translocating, “reading into the past” and the ability to “guide” others in their decision-making. Adepts feel both protective of and superior to regular folk, aka “commons.” In spite of Greg’s insistence that “nothing good ever happened” in Rothston, the pair returns to the institute to witness the execution of Bradley Jamison, the man at the heart of Kinzie’s nightmares. Jamison, who had experimented on Kinzie in his lab, has been sentenced to die for his role in the killing of a common newborn during an experiment to create enhanced adepts. After the execution, Jamison’s ghost haunts Kinzie as she searches to understand the origin and location of the mysterious Pierre Rouge, a red stone said to increase the power of adepts. Kinzie, who was raised by her solo dad, also seeks to discover her own origins as she tries to find out the identity of her mother. Meanwhile, Greg, who loves Kinzie more than anything, worries that she expects the answers to have “some fairytale ending.” But, he wonders, what if she finds out otherwise? His concern is justified. Author Smiles easily creates tension, and many chapters have cliffhanger endings that pull readers forward into the story. Having Kinzie take turns with Greg as the narrator in alternating chapters gives the narrative a nice female/male balance while letting the reader understand the story from different points of view. Dialogue is strong, and minor characters prove to be as intriguing as the leads. This is new adult fiction done right.

An adept offering of diverse characters engaged in a suspenseful sci-fi storyline that’s far from common; might even appeal to an audience outside the sci-fi realm.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2014

ISBN: 978-1937979126

Page Count: 386

Publisher: PlotForge, Limited

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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