A slow-burn narrative, but one that overflows with imagination.

JUNGLE BEAUTY GODDESSES

PRETTY BLUE BALL

Sturges (Aquatic Ball, 2019, etc.) presents the first novel in a myth-inspired intergalactic adventure series.

Some “multimillion miles” away from Earth lies a planet called Ventopia, on which there’s an opulent palace. It’s home to two cosmic beings named Dematter and Nebula, and to say that they’re a power couple would be an understatement. About 14 billion years ago, they caused the creation of the universe, simply by kissing. The pair later created septuplets (all girls), whom they give a planet to care for on their 7 millionth birthday. That planet would later be known as Earth. In between sips of lavender tea, the sisters get the hang of DNA coding and conjure the many creatures of our world. As with any group of siblings, though, disagreements run rampant. Still, the siblings eventually get around to creating humans, and they give their new creation abundant natural resources and intelligence. But when the humans wreak havoc on their environment and each other, the sisters must decide whether to intervene. Sturges’ vividly imagined story progresses at a carefree pace, with the result that that it takes a few chapters before events really get moving. Reader will likely guess early on that this group of cosmic sisters will be creating Earth as we know it. Before this point, however, there are less compelling events, such as a “Deity Ball,” which serves partly as a vehicle for describing, at length, how magnificent the girls appear: “Kalahari’s toasted tan face looked especially beautiful.” Readers will already know what the girls look like, though, as the author’s photos of cloth dolls depicting them can be found throughout the book. Greater substance arrives once the humans enter the picture, and the tale takes some dark, unexpected, and inventive turns that underscore the seriousness in all the wildness.

A slow-burn narrative, but one that overflows with imagination.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-70706-428-1

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Out Reach Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 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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