More of the same: Sparks has his recipe, and not a bit of it is missing here. It’s the literary equivalent of high fructose...

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Sparks (The Longest Ride, 2013, etc.) serves up another heaping helping of sentimental Southern bodice-rippage.

Gone are the blondes of yore, but otherwise the Sparks-ian formula is the same: a decent fellow from a good family who’s gone through some rough patches falls in love with a decent girl from a good family who’s gone through some rough patches—and is still suffering the consequences. The guy is innately intelligent but too quick to throw a punch, the girl beautiful and scary smart. If you hold a fatalistic worldview, then you’ll know that a love between them can end only in tears. If you hold a Sparks-ian one, then true love will prevail, though not without a fight. Voilà: plug in the character names, and off the story goes. In this case, Colin Hancock is the misunderstood lad who’s decided to reform his hard-knuckle ways but just can’t keep himself from connecting fist to face from time to time. Maria Sanchez is the dedicated lawyer in harm’s way—and not just because her boss is a masher. Simple enough. All Colin has to do is punch the partner’s lights out: “The sexual harassment was bad enough, but Ken was a bully as well, and Colin knew from his own experience that people like that didn’t stop abusing their power unless someone made them. Or put the fear of God into them.” No? No, because bound up in Maria’s story, wrinkled with the doings of an equally comely sister, there’s a stalker and a closet full of skeletons. Add Colin’s back story, and there’s a perfect couple in need of constant therapy, as well as a menacing cop. Get Colin and Maria to smooching, and the plot thickens as the storylines entangle. Forget about love—can they survive the evil that awaits them out in the kudzu-choked woods?

More of the same: Sparks has his recipe, and not a bit of it is missing here. It’s the literary equivalent of high fructose corn syrup, stickily sweet but irresistible.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4555-2061-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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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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