A frothy paranormal comedy-adventure that offers a respite from the usual brooding over messy werewolf/vampire love affairs.

BLINKED

A 1970s wife—secretly in a government project to fight supernatural invaders—must find a solution when a magical creature from a dangerous fantasy realm switches places with her husband.

Pseudonymous author Reede (Daisy Dukes ’n’ Cowboy Boots, 2017) conjures a semicomical urban fantasy focusing on the antics of Mindy Nichols, a young New Orleans wife and mom. Mindy is really an agent for the Inner Space Monitoring Alliance Team, a covert U.S. government task force that battles magical intruders from other realms. Readers are told that letting such entities go uncontrolled led to the two world wars. It’s 1975 (ignore the Hugh Jackman reference and other occasional dialogue anachronisms), and ISMAT’s new headache is the “Blink” phenomenon, wherein hostile fairy-tale beings—imps, cyclops, etc.—are teleporting into the U.S. apparently at random from a magical world called Ortharos. For each appearance, an earthling has to teleport to Ortharos in exchange, and outcomes are not good. During Mardi Gras masquerade time, Mindy discovers that her husband, Jim, is missing, having Blinked away. But replacing him is a house-elf–style “brownie”—the first Ortharian to be communicative and friendly. Mindy, to figure out what’s happening and save her family, disobeys standing orders to terminate such beings. Multiple story strands in short, addictive chapters, each in first-person narration by a different quirky character, follow Jim to Ortharos, where he meets a green-skinned witch and her enticing, imprisoned Rapunzel look-alike sister (named Rapunzel, in fact) and the cyclops queen. Meanwhile, Mindy contends with myriad crises and phantasmic fallouts back home. The best conceit is that mythic characters defy expectations of who’s good or evil (though an off-the-rack, Sauron-like baddie lurks behind it all). But with two sets of protagonists teleporting or dodging peril via hidden passageways, there are considerable storyline snarls involving who is doing what, where, and in which world before things intersect at the Bacchus Krewe parade in the French Quarter. (New Orleans addicts, nonetheless, will find somewhat less local color than they’ve grown to expect.) Paranormal romance followers who take the bouncy ride should delight in the playful tweaking of all the ingredients, including the Carnival king cake.

A frothy paranormal comedy-adventure that offers a respite from the usual brooding over messy werewolf/vampire love affairs.  

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62694-807-5

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Black Opal Books

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2018

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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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