A grisly reflection on human nature.

EMPIRE DECAYED

From the Death and Life of Zebulon Finch series , Vol. 2

Born in 1879, murdered in 1896, and awakened 17 minutes later as a sort of animated cadaver, Zebulon Finch offers this second installment of his autobiography, spanning 1941 to the 21st century.

Blond, white, self-proclaimed handsome devil Finch, perpetually 17, continues his limping course through key moments of American history. He unfailingly reveals humanity’s most brutal tendencies, including World War II concentration camps, the vitriol of 1950s suburban housewives, and chronic abuses within mental health facilities. As in The Edge of Empire (2015), Finch still occasionally longs for acceptance from his fellow man, even fantasizing about becoming a stepfather figure at one point. But any sympathy these episodes may garner from readers is soon destroyed by his inevitable return to cruelty. It’s difficult to forgive decisions like his formation of a strange 1970s desert cult in which he encourages followers to practice cannibalism. Kraus’ signature gory prose offers details of these practices: “A typical recipe was to remove a chunk of meat from one’s thigh…and simmer it in broth before offering it to a friend.…It was an acquired taste, so new mothers rubbed blood on their nipples so that their breastfeeding children would develop the craving.” Moments like these may haunt readers far beyond any of Finch’s emotional or theological ruminations. In the end, Finch's fancy vocabulary and occasionally affected formality never obscure his interior monster.

A grisly reflection on human nature. (Horror. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1142-4

Page Count: 784

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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A crackerjack thriller done in by its own dopey protagonist.

LOCK THE DOORS

A blended family seeks a fresh start in a new home.

Tom’s mother believes that the family may have finally found happiness. After years of dating losers, she’s finally settled down with a nice guy—and that nice guy, Jay, happens to have a daughter, Nia, who is just a little older than Tom. The new family has moved into a nice new house, but Tom can’t shake the feeling that something’s wrong. They discover a strange message written on the wall when they are stripping the old wallpaper, and there’s clear evidence that the previous owners had installed locks on the exteriors of the bedroom doors. Those previous owners happen to live a little farther down the street, and Tom quickly becomes obsessed with their teenage daughter, Amy, and the secrets she’s hiding. This obsession unfortunately becomes a repetitive slog involving many pages of Tom’s brooding and sulking over the same bits of information while everyone tells him to move on. Readers will be on everyone’s side. But then, a blessed breath of fresh air: The perspective shifts to Amy, and readers learn in spectacularly propulsive fashion exactly what she’s hiding. Regret and intrigue blend perfectly as Amy divulges her secrets. Alas, we return to navel-gazing Tom for the book’s final pages, and everything ends with a shrug. Main characters default to White.

A crackerjack thriller done in by its own dopey protagonist. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-72823-189-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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Beautifully written historical fiction about giddy, queer first love.

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LAST NIGHT AT THE TELEGRAPH CLUB

Finally, the intersectional, lesbian, historical teen novel so many readers have been waiting for.

Lily Hu has spent all her life in San Francisco’s Chinatown, keeping mostly to her Chinese American community both in and out of school. As she makes her way through her teen years in the 1950s, she starts growing apart from her childhood friends as her passion for rockets and space exploration grows—along with her curiosity about a few blocks in the city that her parents have warned her to avoid. A budding relationship develops with her first White friend, Kathleen, and together they sneak out to the Telegraph Club lesbian bar, where they begin to explore their sexuality as well as their relationship to each other. Lo’s lovely, realistic, and queer-positive tale is a slow burn, following Lily’s own gradual realization of her sexuality while she learns how to code-switch between being ostensibly heterosexual Chinatown Lily and lesbian Telegraph Bar Lily. In this meticulously researched title, Lo skillfully layers rich details, such as how Lily has to deal with microaggressions from gay and straight women alike and how all of Chinatown has to be careful of the insidious threat of McCarthyism. Actual events, such as Madame Chiang Kai-shek’s 1943 visit to San Francisco, form a backdrop to this story of a journey toward finding one’s authentic self.

Beautifully written historical fiction about giddy, queer first love. (author’s note) (Historical romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-55525-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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