A satisfying introduction to a new series, featuring relatable characters and an engaging storyline.

Leaving Oxford

From the Southern Hearts Series series , Vol. 1

A relationship between an ad executive and a football coach changes them both in ways neither could have imagined in this debut romance.

Sarah Beth LeClair teaches an advertising class at the University of Mississippi, but with a degree of trepidation. She’s a specialist in her field, and she enjoyed a successful career with a prestigious agency in Los Angeles until a tragic loss prompted her to return to the safety of her family home in Oxford, Mississippi. Sarah Beth drifted away from the church after the deaths of her parents, but then she renewed her commitment to her Christian faith. Although teaching is rewarding for her, it can’t quell her constant anxiety. One afternoon, football coach Jess McCoy stops by her office to discuss one of his players taking her class, and they begin a casual, if cautious, friendship. Despite his reputation as a ladies’ man, the nonreligious Jess finds himself drawn to both Sarah Beth and her faith. As their friendship deepens, she opens up to him about her tumultuous past, her tragic losses, and her anxiety. He resolves to help her overcome the latter, and their friendship turns into a romance. But after Jess receives an offer to coach a professional team, he wonders whether he should stay with the woman he loves or leave Oxford to pursue his dream. This first novel in Ferguson’s Southern Hearts series offers strong, well-developed characters and a nuanced narrative that never strikes a false note. Sarah Beth and Jess are appealing protagonists with complicated, painful pasts who draw strength from their growing friendship. Ferguson handles the subplot about Sarah Beth’s anxiety with great compassion and sensitivity. Subtle foreshadowing hints at the cause of Sarah Beth’s unease, while extended flashbacks expand her back story and offer insight into the importance of religion in her life. Ferguson builds Sarah Beth and Jess’ relationship slowly and methodically, and the story is particularly effective at conveying the positive effect that she has on him. The well-rounded cast of supporting players includes Jess’ best friend, Nick Russo; Nick’s young daughter, Katie; Sarah Beth’s brother, Mark; and her colleague, Jill Martin.

A satisfying introduction to a new series, featuring relatable characters and an engaging storyline.

Pub Date: April 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9974822-0-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Southern Sun Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 8, 2016

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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