Forges a sensational protagonist and an engaging story with plenty of opportunities to evolve.

HUM

A programmer learns that the incessant hum in her ears is just one sign of an extraordinary ability in this thriller.

Lilly Hoffnung has made a living and a name for herself as a highly skilled programmer. Though she generally prefers working with established people and deep pockets, she has genuine affection for the company Exousía and its product. But the interactive, artificial intelligence, home management, and security system has a defect: It’s locking people out of their homes. Lilly is unfortunately distracted as she scours the code for a bug. The hum she’s been hearing for the last couple of years is now accompanied by headaches, and she’s shaken by a hum-afflicted colleague’s suicide. One night, when her pain is unbearable, Lilly somehow makes the hum and headaches stop. Soon a man in her dreams, claiming to be a friend, offers to help her through an apparent “transition”—involving her newfound supernatural ability. Lilly isn’t the only one with this particular talent; in fact, she encounters a group invested in studying the phenomenon. What follows is a visit to a secured headquarters for Lilly to get some answers, so long as she can survive one individual’s unforeseen, heinous intention. Schumer’s (SEAL Catch, 2017, etc.) novel is a commendable introduction to the protagonist for a prospective series. Lilly is shrewd, adept, and entangled in diverting romantic subplots. These involve unwanted advances from fellow developer Ted Hendre and interactions with friend Jim Kinard, a potential lover. Despite the steady progress of Lilly’s supernatural discoveries, the shift in the final act is jarring, suddenly introducing a villain and corresponding peril. But there are likewise tantalizing hints of espionage and that Lilly’s ability could be used as a tool or even a weapon, all of which can be expanded in future installments. And Schumer’s writing is sharp, as when the pain of Lilly’s headaches is palpably described: “It focused, narrowed to a fine point, then pierced her temple like an ice pick.”

Forges a sensational protagonist and an engaging story with plenty of opportunities to evolve.

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-9769603134

Page Count: 280

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2018

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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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