A good mix of poignancy and sexy fun, with two well-developed protagonists.

UNTIL THE LAST STAR FADES

A baggage mix-up at LaGuardia Airport leads to a new friendship and more in Middleton’s (London, Can You Wait, 2017, etc.) delightful contemporary romance novel.

Riley Hope, a senior at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, has too much on her plate. She is flat broke; her mother, Maggie, is fighting cancer for the third time; and her three-year boyfriend, Josh King, star of the University of North Dakota’s ice hockey team, has just proposed. There are many reasons Riley doesn’t want to accept, but Josh has promised financial help for her mother’s insurmountable medical bills. And Riley will do anything for Maggie. It’s been Maggie and Riley against the world ever since her father took off. We meet her as she is chasing down a disheveled 20-something who has mistakenly taken her suitcase from the baggage carousel. Ben Fagan, seriously hung over, has just returned from Los Angeles, where he auditioned for a new TV series. The befuddled Scottish lad has no idea how to get himself to the cheap Airbnb he has scored on Canal Street in lower Manhattan. Riley, whose tiny studio apartment is in the East Village, leads him through the transportation maze of New York’s subway system, and the seeds of friendship are planted. Readers will need to wait patiently for that friendship to transition to steamy love. But there are plenty of distractions, both humorous (e.g., Erika Kobayashi’s bachelorette party with male dancers) and serious (Riley’s high-functional depression, Ben’s dyslexia, Maggie’s cancer), to keep a twisty, if occasionally far-fetched, plotline moving quickly. The novel is a stand-alone, although Middleton connects it with two previous books via shared plotlines and characters. While the prose is smooth, carried primarily by fast-moving dialogue, musical references and some colloquial lingo (e.g., FOMO) may be lost on some readers (although a glossary is included).

A good mix of poignancy and sexy fun, with two well-developed protagonists.

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9952117-8-0

Page Count: 498

Publisher: Kirkwall Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

FIREFLY LANE

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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