An enjoyable memoir that will likely give readers goose bumps.

VOODOO DAYS AT LA CASA FABULOSA

AN UNCONVENTIONAL MEMOIR

A collection of real-life spooky tales of an old Kentucky neighborhood.

You know that a collection of paranormal tales is doing its job when you become just the tiniest bit reluctant to read it after dark. Technically, food writer Dominé’s (True Ghost Stories and Eerie Legends from America’s Most Haunted Neighborhood, 2014, etc.) memoir is more ghost-suggestive than ghost-specific—that is, no actual apparitions appear. Still, it may send tingles up readers’ spines. La Casa Fabulosa is the name that Dominé gave to a six-bedroom, three-story Victorian fixer-upper; he and his boyfriend moved into it in 1999. Located in a slowly gentrifying area of Louisville, his new home offered all sorts of fanciful period touches, including intertwining pillars and dragonlike gargoyles. It also had pictures that spontaneously fell from the walls and unexplained sounds of footsteps or an occasional moan. Dominé mostly opts for a rational view of the spooky goings-on—an old house settling or an electrical mishap caused by ancient wiring. But he still investigated the phenomena in ways that may seem foolhardy to readers who don’t like wandering alone in big, old houses. Soon, he was exploring the other oddities that abounded in his colorful neighborhood. The author eventually discovered the legend of the Witches’ Tree and met transient Romani people, drug addicts, cross-dressers, sewer-dwelling hoboes, a mysterious character called the Stick Witch, and an elusive voodoo queen. Dominé knows how to string readers along; he typically starts with something heard happening somewhere else: “One night, a strange metallic clanging and rattling woke me from a deep sleep around half past three. Ghosts?” The book’s biggest flaw, though, is that he doesn’t know when to stop. After the umpteenth event, readers may think that Dominé should have simply assumed that something “unexplained” was actually something mundane. Still, the author does so much so well that most readers won’t mind. Consider how much information (and tone) he packs into just one sentence: “I had read about documented cases of weirdness where strange things, including coal, frogs and strips of meat—such as during the famous ‘Kentucky Meat Shower’ of March 3, 1876—had fallen from the sky, and I now wondered if Widmer House was spitting things at me to get my attention.”

An enjoyable memoir that will likely give readers goose bumps.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-73466-7

Page Count: 314

Publisher: Myrtle & LaMere

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 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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