More hits than misses in this promising collection from a talented newcomer.


Insanity runs through many of the tales in Grote’s (Fire in the Henhouse, 2011) second work of fiction.

The mind is fragile and unpredictable. What might distract one man, making him do unspeakable things, could be brushed harmlessly off the shoulders of another. Grote, a psychologist, offers a collection of 12 short stories in which madness—and the incidents that trigger it—runs like a silent undertow. In the title story, a woman is unhinged by a new baby and the loss of a mother; in the outstanding “Dancing With Stuart,” a woman’s anger and a boy’s rage tip a man over the edge. “Redemption Center” focuses on incidents that warped a woman’s thinking and attitude, making her act in certain ways. “The Five Senses,” “A Cup of Tea” and “Final Rest Stop” also have insanity down the middle but in more twisted ways. Grote’s compelling batch of stories contains hits and misses. When Grote veers away from depicting real people and events and tries fantasy, the stories falter, as with “Philly Folk” and “My Vampire Confession,” both of which try too hard to be clever. “Mass Pike” has potential, but its unoriginal robots-running-amok theme quickly becomes tedious. In several stories, the author unnecessarily tries to fashion surprise endings. Where she excels, however, is in her depictions of ordinary people dealing with the ordinary situations of life—no trick ending required. Two of the stories, “Triangle in the Square” and “Anne/Marie,” do just that, and even though the endings are telegraphed early on, the stories will hold the reader’s attention because of the honesty and familiarity of the characters and their interactions.

More hits than misses in this promising collection from a talented newcomer.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9833341-2-5

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Rule Bender Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.


Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 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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