Clever, funny, and complex, if somewhat labyrinthine.

Revealing Hannah

THE MYTH OF CASSANDRA

From the Revealing Hannah The Greek Myths series , Vol. 1

A classics major’s life is turned upside down when she becomes part of the Greek gods’ comeback plan in this comic novel.

Hannah Summers, about to graduate with a degree in classics, should know all about the dangers of Greeks bearing gifts. But that’s no defense, it turns out, against the Greek gods. They’ve found ways to exist in the modern world; Hera, for example, runs Ladies’ Home and Hearth magazine. But a shady publicist, using the pitch that it’s time for an Olympian comeback, convinces Apollo to give Hannah, a descendant of Cassandra (whom the rejected Apollo cursed so that no one would believe her true prophecies), a gift that reverses Cassandra’s fate: everyone will listen to and believe her. As a spokesmodel for the gods, she’ll convince humans to worship Olympians again. The very organized Hannah just wants to turn in her thesis and meet her boyfriend, Carl, and his parents for dinner, but her life turns into a comedy of errors that only snowballs as Apollo’s gift starts working—but not as the Olympians had hoped. With help from some unexpected quarters, Hannah must work out a complicated plan and admit some truths about herself if she’s going to face down Greek gods and other troublemakers. In her debut novel, Fedolfi blends a smart, witty mix of ancient deities with campus culture and modern media, and it all works. Hannah’s influence spreads via YouTube, for example, and Carl’s experience with Dungeons & Dragons comes in handy along with Hannah’s classics knowledge. Fedolfi does a nice job with her characters, who trace some challenging personal journeys as they navigate the screwball plot. Though the trope of uptight person who needs unloosing through chaos is familiar, the author finds additional dimensions that add interest. Many lines are laugh-out-loud funny as well: “Is it aged single malt? Because I like my bourbon the way I like my women…old and single.” The book, though, is overburdened with lengthy explanation as well as shifting, hard-to-follow alliances; it could use sprightlier pacing and a sharper focus.

Clever, funny, and complex, if somewhat labyrinthine.

Pub Date: April 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-99-097931-9

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Illuminated Myth Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 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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