A satisfying blend of history and myth that breathes new life into “Cinderella.”

SLIPPER

A loving re-creation of a well-known fairy tale.

The story, set in the mid-1600s, begins in earnest when Olivia, the fifth Hempstead daughter, catches the eye of a local baron, who subsequently “ha[s] her in the bushes.” A few months later, when it becomes obvious that Olivia is pregnant, Lord and Lady Hempstead send her away from their grand home to hide their shame. But after the young woman dies during childbirth, her loving nursemaid, Bessie, takes the baby—named Lucinda—back to her grandparents and convinces them to let them both live in a high, secluded wing of the manor. Unfortunately, the return to the family home is a mixed blessing for young Lucinda, who’s later put to hard labor by her relatives and forced to deal with condescension and abuse from the other children. Throughout, it’s Bessie—a veritable fairy godmother—who protects and guides the young child, whom one of her half siblings derisively labels “Lucy-cinder.” If this is all starting to sound familiar, it should, because Velmans’ (Jessaloup’s Song, 2011, etc.) ingenious novel is, at its core, an origin story for Cinderella. The author says in a note that she sees her project as a kind of tardy vindication of Charles Perrault, the 17th-century French author who’s often credited as the father of the fairy tale. (Perrault himself looms large as a character in the latter parts of the book.) Many years before the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen put pen to paper, Perrault gave the world Sleeping Beauty, Mother Goose, Little Red Riding Hood, and a host of other iconic characters. So although this novel mainly pays specific homage to "Cinderella," Velmans laces the book with references to those other tales. The author builds this network with remarkable care, and although the resulting novel is a complex web of influences, it’s never a confounding one. Furthermore, she writes in a delicate, ornate prose style that has a transporting effect, bringing readers back to Perrault’s time and nestling them in a thoroughly alluring narrative.  

A satisfying blend of history and myth that breathes new life into “Cinderella.”

Pub Date: April 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9994756-0-7

Page Count: 378

Publisher: Van Horton Books

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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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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