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HOW TO BAKE A MAN

There's little to distinguish this novel, but it hits nearly all the notes it aims for, and there's a tidy ending for those...

In this frothy, food-filled contemporary romance by Inclán (The Beautiful Being, 2012, etc.), the way to the heart is indeed through the stomach.

Desperate for a new direction in life, 27-year-old Becca Muchmore abruptly quits grad school and starts a baking business in San Francisco. This venture introduces her to a circle of customers who become potential friends, lovers and enemies. In particular, she develops an instant crush on preppy lawyer Jeff and encounters opposition from Jennifer, his beautiful but nasty lawyer girlfriend. Fortunately, Becca’s baking skills are so astonishing that everyone clamors for more. She hires her sexy neighbor Sal as her assistant, relying on his charm, good humor and uncanny ability to find parking to expand her business. At the same time, she chases Jeff and spies on Jennifer in an effort to win the love she assumes she wants. In an effort to address deeper issues, Inclán uses a single coincidence as a major theme: Sweet Becca is apparently the spitting image of mean Jennifer. However, this quirk is only intermittently thought noticeable or significant by most characters and in the end seems an unnecessary gimmick. The stock characters—including the boy next door, the perky secretary and the critical mother—break no new ground. It’s clear to the reader from the outset who belongs with whom, and getting to the happy ending requires tolerance for the cast’s unsurprising foibles. However, for readers desiring a more immersive experience, the book does include recipes for each treat mentioned in the story.

There's little to distinguish this novel, but it hits nearly all the notes it aims for, and there's a tidy ending for those looking for a comfort read.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-957627-15-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Ghostwoods Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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