A compelling story of a woman’s trauma and strength.

A Sworn Virgin

BROKEN PROMISES

A young woman struggles against the strict social roles of 1910 Albania in Dukes’ debut historical novel.

In the mountain village where Diana Aganis lives with her father, Frenk, and stepmother, Mirlinda, society is governed by an ancient code known as “the Laws of Lekë Dukagjini.” Under the laws, a man’s honor is everything, revenge killings and blood feuds are commonplace, and women are little more than property, like “a sack, made to endure.” Diana has dreamed of escape since she was 5 years old, when a visiting foreign woman’s sketches sparked her interest in art and let her know that feminine existence could be more than drudgery. Luckily, her father encourages her creative endeavors, and they travel to the nearby city of Shkodra to meet a priest who can help her attend art school in Venice. Then Frenk is shot dead in the street, the apparent victim of an honor killing. Diana makes the only choice she can to protect herself and Mirlinda: she becomes a “sworn virgin,” taking a vow of chastity “in order to gain the right to live like a man…inherit property, earn a living, carry a gun, and kill for vengeance”—which she does, after tracking down her father’s killer. Then she falls in love, putting her vow and her life in danger. Overall, Dukes has chosen an engaging setting for this novel, with its mix of medieval and modern elements, and fleshes it out with vivid details, such as the simple meals of goat cheese, cornbread, and yogurt and the elaborate costumes that show clan affiliation and social status with different patterns (“Diana did not recognize the pattern of the braiding, so she was unsure what tribe they came from”). Diana herself is portrayed as plausibly independent-minded without feeling like a feminist anachronism; for example, at one point, she concludes that “Sheep had more freedom [than women], and were less likely to be hit by their owner.”

A compelling story of a woman’s trauma and strength.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5175-4736-3

Page Count: 292

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

TELL ME LIES

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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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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