This spunky heroine sees dead people, to readers’ delight.

THE HAUNTING OF ELMWOOD MANOR

From the Pekin Dewlap series , Vol. 1

A debut YA novel features the message that ghosts have problems too.

In this series opener, McCord introduces a feisty protagonist. Pekin Dewlap, 15, is starting her own ghost-hunting business and plans to draft her best friends, Amber and Scout, for this venture. She has chosen to clean up haunted houses because, up until middle school, she was able to communicate with spirits. As she explains to her mother, Melissa, who used to have that same ability, “I want to be special again.” Pekin already has a client, Elonia Collins, who says the property she inherited at 12 Elmwood is haunted. Elonia suspects the apparition is Miranda Talbert, who was 14 when she disappeared in the house in 1918. Pekin, accompanied by her two reluctant friends, encounters Miranda on her first visit to Elmwood Manor. After Miranda gets comfortable with the trio, she admits she was murdered. During the attack, Miranda bit off and swallowed one of the killer’s fingers, keeping him from crossing over when he died. Since then, the culprit, imprisoned at Elmwood Manor, has been tormenting Miranda. So the three friends, aided by local psychic Mildred “Mildew” Willingham, must determine how to banish the killer and help Miranda find peace. In this novel, McCord certainly knows how to reach her target audience. Pekin is dealing with emotional changes in her life, including a growing attraction to Scout. In her thoughts, Pekin debates whether he really likes her. Amber is even more boy crazy while Scout is sometimes a typical, monosyllabic male teen when expressing his feelings. But, while acknowledging the teens’ daily struggles, this volume is primarily about solving the mystery. Pekin and company get away with pluck and ingenuity for a time, finally gathering enough knowledge to put them in danger. When the three friends inevitably get in over their heads, they wisely seek help from the adults in their lives, especially Mildew. What results is a winning, lighthearted paranormal tale for all ages.

This spunky heroine sees dead people, to readers’ delight.

Pub Date: March 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-947392-46-5

Page Count: 214

Publisher: Acorn Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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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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