Sure to induce chuckles for adult readers looking for a good laugh.

Fifty Shades of Funny: Hook-ups, Break-ups And Crack-ups

A collection of essays about the intricacies of life, love and sex.

Composed of short stories penned by bloggers and comedy writers, and expertly edited by comedy writers Stanfa and Reinhardt, this collection takes readers on a hilarious journey through the trials and tribulations of sex and intimacy. In “Spirited Engagements,” the nightly noises of a young couple in love at an inn are presumed to be the paranormal racket of a resident ghost; in “The Thing at the End of a Sentence,” a young woman visiting the Ukraine receives a painfully public, embarrassing gift of tampons. The stories tend to dig into those most intimate moments while sharing tales of humility and humor. In particular, Lisa Brower’s story about trying to please her military husband upon his return home from duty offers some knee-slapping, laugh-out-loud comedy. Per her husband’s fantasy, she decides to surprise him by donning a rubber outfit, which goes terribly wrong: She “was starting to resemble a breaded cutlet, and the powerful rubber stench of the dress was making me dizzy.” Though authored by different writers—the majority of whom are female—the stories are seamlessly woven together and flow smoothly in tone from one essay to the next, which should appeal to anyone who’s traversed the world of dating and relationships. Despite some of the outlandish premises, most of the dexterously crafted stories are highly relatable and will resonate with readers of all backgrounds.

Sure to induce chuckles for adult readers looking for a good laugh.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0615679174

Page Count: 210

Publisher: Pandora's Boxes

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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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.


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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