An ambitious attempt undermined by an aimless plot and flat dialogue.

A Hero For Our Time

Putala’s debut explores unrequited love and other hardships in this coming-of-age novel set at a Northeastern college.

Jamie Tarnowski, a student at Amherst College, is infatuated with classmate Jessica Dorfmann, aka “the Princess.” Although Jamie maintains a busy social life on campus, he suffers regular rejection from Jessica. When he isn’t thinking about her, Jamie ponders the lives of writers and hopes to join their ranks. His ties to the town of Amherst are complicated: His mother graduated from University of Massachusetts Amherst, where his father was a professor. As a child, Jamie asked his mother to explain the difference between the state university and the private college. She told him Amherst College is “where you get to go if you’re very smart and very lucky. People of privilege send their sons there.” Despite this promising setup, Jamie’s story grows dull and repetitive. Too many characters appear, yet too few are sufficiently described. Conversations are cluttered with small talk, and the richer dialogue flirts with pontification. “Does liberal arts still exist?” Jamie asks his father. When his father suggests that “a college can become a place for vocational training,” Jamie responds that the pressure to earn money “could totally take humanity off whatever positive track it might be on, and just become this cold world where everyone works for the economy and there’s no higher meaning or beauty or anything like that.” Jamie’s thoughts are often variations on clichés: “You can lead a horse to water, but fail in making him drink it” or “Life comes at you in waves.” Presumably pivotal moments—a car accident, a physical threat, the death of the family dog—are glossed over, while classroom discussion is presented in excessive detail. Even the Princess remains underdeveloped and opaque.

An ambitious attempt undermined by an aimless plot and flat dialogue.

Pub Date: June 21, 2010

ISBN: 978-1434874528

Page Count: 268

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2012

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Colorful, wacky escapism.

GLEN & TYLER'S HONEYMOON ADVENTURE

Rich, gay newlyweds put bigots and bad guys in their place in this “bromantic” adventure.

Tyler Conrad needs to marry by his 25th birthday if he wants to claim his inheritance, but he can’t rustle up a bride. His best friend, Glen Merriwether, proposes the answer: They’ll take each other’s hand in marriage. Glen and Tyler are both slightly homophobic (and extremely handsome) amateur hockey players who have only dated women, but their rapturous wedding-day kiss uncorks bottled-up passion. The Hollywood conceit kicks off a pageant of wish-fulfillment financed by Tyler’s $36 billion trust fund, featuring a cavernous Park Avenue penthouse, limos, fabulous fashions, the purchase of his-and-his NHL franchises and constant boasting about net worth. Even better than the luxury is the power—to overawe charities with generosity, breeze past snooty gate-keepers with a phone call, and turn the tables on right-wing homophobes with the news that Tyler, who apparently comes to own almost every company in the world, is their boss, landlord or principal advertiser. The novel’s countless revenge scenes are capped by a gothic showdown in which Tyler evicts his thunderous dad and shrieking stepmother from the family manse. After several chapters focused on glamour and gloating, a lightweight thriller plot gels around assassination attempts and the hijacking of a cruise ship; it furnishes the narrative with some nifty spec-ops set pieces, along with a hardened, muscular security detail for Glen and Tyler to banter with. Sanders stocks the story with eccentric—sometimes cartoonish—characters, giddy contrivances and plenty of racy repartee in the stripe of a screwball comedy. Also, determined to portray a feel-good gay relationship free of trauma and angst, he regales readers with scenes of Glen and Tyler nuzzling and cooing amid lavish décor. Unfortunately, their romance doesn’t generate much heat; Glen has little to do except play the adoring onlooker to Tyler, the smug, frat-boy mogul. Still, Sanders’ fluent, well-paced prose supplies enough lively action and glitzy scenery to keep readers entertained.

Colorful, wacky escapism.

Pub Date: June 10, 2011

ISBN: 978-1257809363

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2012

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A unique mystery that could benefit from more action.

THE DEATH FAIRY

In Stevens’ debut novel, suicidal Asia McPhee wonders why she wants to take her own life; her dreams may provide the answer.

This volume, the first in a series of fantasy stories, introduces Asia, a new mother who fights for her sanity while unknown forces urge her to commit suicide. Asia struggles to grasp that her dead mother’s life holds the key to her problems. The book’s compelling premise and the author’s lyrical style ease readers into the story, as haunting parallels connect Asia to her mother, who took her own life when Asia was a newborn. When Asia starts experiencing dreams and visions of her mother, she follows her husband’s advice and seeks the counsel of a psychologist who had ties to her mother, as well as Asia’s friend Jessica, who has similar dreams. As she struggles to remain alive and in control, Asia realizes that she may be a danger to the one she loves most: her baby. Both mystery and fantasy, Stevens’ novel starts off well in blending the two genres, but the story begins to falter at the midway point, when the action gives way to too much conversation. Redundant dialogue not only bogs down the mystery but stunts the pace of the narrative. Meanwhile, the book’s action sequences are riveting but far too infrequent. The plotline would benefit from drawing out the tension, as the climactic moment occurs too abruptly for readers to experience the full power of its effect. Despite its flaws, though, the book’s vivid journey through Asia’s dreamscapes will enthrall readers to the end.

A unique mystery that could benefit from more action.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2010

ISBN: 978-0986706608

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Paris Press

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2012

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