While it delivers some hard-hitting action, this thriller is more successful as a melodrama.

A LESSON TO DIE FOR

From the Lily series , Vol. 2

This 1990s-set sequel follows Manhattan teachers who become entangled with a menacing figure: the son of a Peruvian terrorist leader.

Lily Napolitano is a fourth-degree judo black belt and her sensei’s star pupil. But even with her prowess, she can’t fend off multiple assailants one late evening and flees to safety in the midst of gunfire. Because she can’t identify anyone for authorities to make an arrest, Lily settles back into teaching at P.S. 20, a Lower East Side school. The school receives new teachers Luke Natani and Mario DeMaio as well as a new principal, Dr. Seymour Lomsky, who quickly promotes Lily to a job as his assistant. Meanwhile, Paco Ñahui, who spearheaded the attack against Lily, is a criminal establishing a crew in New York. He seems determined to win the approval of his father, who leads a terrorist organization in Peru. As Lomsky’s increasing gambling debts ultimately connect him to the culprit, it’s only a matter of time before Paco finds the woman who escaped the assault. But when Lily proves a formidable and, if necessary, lethal opponent, Paco’s ensuing retribution involves people close to Lily, including her husband, Bobby, and fellow teachers. The early scene of Lily’s attack aptly establishes the protagonist as physically capable and Paco as a vicious baddie. But Rose’s (Lily’s Payback, 2012) urban thriller offers predominantly character development and melodrama. For example, Paco’s crew takes out a rival gang while he recalls—or dreams of—recurrent childhood beatings at his father’s hands. The captivating characters at P.S. 20 include Luke, a Navajo who has a romantic interest in teacher Mimi Purnell and a shocking family secret, and Mario, a former boxer. But when Paco isn’t actively looking for Lily, the pages are free of tension and suspense. It’s only much later, when Lily and her pals band together to try to thwart Paco, that the action picks up, though the inevitable finale is anticlimactic. Rose’s rather plain prose surprisingly tones down the short but periodic sex scenes and instances of violence.

While it delivers some hard-hitting action, this thriller is more successful as a melodrama.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5439-6585-8

Page Count: 342

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 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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