A gripping plot and the author’s research get buried in backstory, exposition and subplots.

FLOWER FROM CASTILE

THE ALHAMBRA DECREE

A young woman learns a secret about her past while Columbus plots to explore the world in this historical novel set during the Spanish Inquisition.

Isabella, a young noblewoman in Castile, is soon to marry her love when she is kidnapped and thrust into the world of persecuted Jews. She learns that her parents weren’t really the Catholic nobles who raised her. Her captors hide her in the harem of a Moorish king. Meanwhile, a young rebel called Miguel Costa fights for religious freedom, and Christopher Columbus plots to convince Queen Isabella, who is focused on ridding her domain of Moors, to support his worldly explorations. Gafni’s understanding of the time period seems paramount, and her plot is solid. Isabella’s movement between different cultures allows readers to explore what it was like to be a Catholic, Jew or Moor during one of history’s darkest periods. However, Gafni’s omniscient third-person narration overreaches, so that instead of focusing on a few touchstone characters, Gafni delves into backstories, emotions and motivations of countless characters. As a result, the novel feels unfocused, and many sections could have been edited out without affecting the novel. Scenes of negotiation between Columbus and Queen Isabella, though they may be important to the story in the grand scheme, only distract from the more interesting trajectory of Isabella’s awakening to the deadly bigotry in her world. The author frequently editorializes about characters’ actions or motivations instead of letting words or actions speak for themselves. For example, telling a reader that “Isabella stood in the middle of her bedchamber feeling lost and powerless. It was an overwhelming feeling” does little to evoke emotion or interest. Furthermore, the author is prone to revealing her hand too easily. The reader knows long before Isabella who her real parents are, so the reader feels no surprise when it is finally revealed to Isabella herself.  

A gripping plot and the author’s research get buried in backstory, exposition and subplots.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-1463744588

Page Count: 396

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

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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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