An anxious, uneasy and despondent anti-romance novel.

THE WOOD OF SUICIDES

Electra meets Lord Byron. Daphne meets Apollo. Insecure girl with eating disorder meets predatory teacher with dashed ambitions.

Woollett’s debut novel casts Laurel Marks as the brilliant yet underachieving, beautiful yet repressed protagonist. Her disturbed eyes view her voluptuous, free-spirited mother with horror and her frail, intellectually gifted father with reluctant reverence. Suffering from trigeminal neuralgia, her father’s passivity draws Laurel closer while his ardent love for her mother repels her. His early death leaves her feelings for him unresolved and eager to be rid of her mother. Consequently, she jumps at the chance to attend St. Cecelia’s Catholic School as a boarder, although she pockets a vial of her father’s opiates. Suicide insurance. Enter Hugh Steadman, Byronic, charismatic teacher of Romantic poetry. Married to a successful doctor and father to teenage twins, Steadman’s academic ambitions have dwindled from attending medical school to enticing barely mature young women. Soon, Steadman’s virility and Laurel’s desire for a new god figure have her manipulating her body language, changing her locker and wearing black bras under white blouses to attract his all-too-willing attention. Quite the schoolgirl, Laurel rejoices in every morsel of information gained: his first name, his birth date, his wardrobe. An unexpected visit from his wife to the classroom provokes Laurel’s interest and possessiveness. Laurel’s unrelenting focus on Steadman makes for an uncomfortable reading experience. She simultaneously desires and despises her sexuality; she both adores and deplores Steadman. Forced to see the train wreck through Laurel’s eyes, the reader cannot ignore her role in the affair. Nor can the reader ignore Laurel’s heartbreaking naïveté. Their flirtation ignites into a doomed affair, which both try to exalt onto a mythic scale. Sadly, their relationship is merely sordid.

An anxious, uneasy and despondent anti-romance novel.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-57962-350-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Permanent Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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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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