An eccentric tale about a misleading relationship that burns bright and fast.


Stair (Food and Mood, 2016) offers a novel, based on a true story, about a medical student who flees to Los Angeles to escape the pressures of her everyday life.

Becka is an ambitious and promising young medical student. Halfway through her second year, she and her male roomie, Chase, both begin to crack under the pressures of school. Chase accuses Becka of being a prostitute and believes that she’s bugged the apartment, while Becka struggles with bulimia and a recent breakup. On the verge of a breakdown, she impulsively quits medical school and flies to Los Angeles. On her first day there, she meets an alluring man on the street named King. He says that he’s a lawyer in the process of moving, and that’s why he sleeps in an empty house with no furniture. He also claims to be a minimalist who loves living off the land, so he bathes in the ocean, forages through dumpsters for food and clothes, and rejects medicine as a dangerous crutch. Becka is deeply attracted to King’s free-spirited lifestyle despite having recurring doubts about his background. She finds that he gives her new vitality, and she gets back in shape and conquers her bulimia while with him. But when she finally tracks down King’s history, she finds that he’s far from what he seems. Stair writes in a conversational, evenly paced, and easy-to-follow manner. However, this is an incredibly bizarre tale that she says is based on her own story, with several fictionalized elements. Although Becka’s behavior seems meant to highlight a mental breakdown, Stair writes surprisingly little about the character’s mental health or what drives her to stay with King, and the reader may find it difficult to understand Becka as a result. Still, the author builds the momentum and suspense leading to the explosive and unpredictable ending, when Becka finally discovers King’s true identity, and the reader will likely be as shocked as Becka is.

An eccentric tale about a misleading relationship that burns bright and fast.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-984032-95-9

Page Count: 294

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 9, 2018

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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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