Just in time for a beach read—or a guilty pleasure in a deserted boardroom.

NEVER TOO REAL

Friendship steadies four powerful women, all seeking to support each other through personal and professional trials.

Television personality and advice columnist Rita’s debut novel reads a bit like a multicultural edition of Sex and the City. The four friends, all gorgeous, sassy, and independent, anchor Latina culture in multiple ethnicities: Mexican-American, Venezuelan-American, Puerto Rican, and Dominican–African-American. Each chapter is chock full of enough twists to be an episode, but so much activity leads to a fair amount of burdensome exposition and some awkwardly integrated (“It was six years earlier…”) back stories. One of the few Latinas to grace the small screen, Cat has just been released from her contract, a casualty, in part, of network executives thinking Hispanic equals bilingual. But instead of feeling devastated, Cat has a strange joy bubbling up through her body. Losing her job may be the best thing that’s ever happened to her. The head of her own culturally diverse venture capital company, Magda suffers no fools in her ambitious, aggressive life. Yet when she came out as lesbian years ago, it created fissures in her family that may now be breaking into pieces. Luz, an advertising executive married to a perfect, supportive Chinese-American husband, balances her career and life with her adorable twin girls and toddler son. A surprise from her parents’ past, however, may upset not only her stable family life, but also her own sense of identity. Luckily, the fourth girlfriend, Gabi, is a therapist who helps shift each woman’s perspective from seeing a crisis to seeing an opportunity, no matter the curveball. She may, of course, be missing a few clues in her own life that point toward marital disaster. Brimming with smart dialogue and ricocheting plot twists, Rita’s potentially clichéd tale is actually ripe for a screenplay.

Just in time for a beach read—or a guilty pleasure in a deserted boardroom.

Pub Date: May 31, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4967-0130-5

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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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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