A sometimes-crude but unique and oddly endearing tale of self-discovery.

CITIES OF THE COMMON MAN

A road novel from debut author Hasskamp about an out-of-work chef on the verge of turning 30.

Billy MacPherson is sitting in the Portland, Oregon, home where he grew up when he hears about his inheritance from his recently deceased father. Once the news sinks in, he throws a tantrum, because while Billy’s obnoxious relatives receive huge sums of money, Billy gets a 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 automobile. That the DeLorean is in pristine condition doesn’t comfort Billy, who simply sees it as another slap in the face. Recently, he saw his restaurant in New York City go out of business; then, unable to pay the rent on his apartment, he found himself evicted. Add into the mix the presence of Billy’s unstable ex-fiancee, Allison, and it seems like he might as well drive the DeLorean into the Willamette River. But he chooses instead to take the Back to the Future–esque car to visit old friends from culinary school. His trip winds up stretching from Portland to Los Angeles and includes copious amounts of food, vomit, and sexual derangement. The adventure is part Kitchen Confidential, part It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, with plenty of observations on California thrown in (as in a description of a “strange and beautiful” town: “There was an evenness to Cloverdale. The people were familiar, the businesses were familiar, the sights, sounds, and smells were familiar”). It’s a creative spin on the coming-of-age road-trip tale, even if certain bawdy moments can be startling: readers are not only treated to a scene of Billy masturbating in a treehouse but also to his friend’s mother’s graphic description of her son’s conception. The portions explaining the restaurant industry seem melodramatic at times (“Accolades mean nothing when you’re working the line”), although they do give the book a distinct voice; there are countless stories about young men at crossroads in life, but how many of those young men know how to handle a “900-degree grill”? Despite the bumpy road he travels, readers will likely want to know where Billy and his DeLorean wind up.

A sometimes-crude but unique and oddly endearing tale of self-discovery.

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5217-8473-0

Page Count: 345

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 10, 2017

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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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A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.

THE CHASE

From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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