For the adventurous, then: wonderfully well told.

TRIADS

Expanded from a novella that first appeared in Douglas E. Winter’s anthology Revelations (1997), the silkily textured tale of two boys sold to a Peking Opera troupe is now a full-fledged transvestite fantasia.

In late-1930s Hong Kong, six-year-old Ji Fung is sold to the troupe by his crazy mother, who then murders the rest of the family and sets herself afire. Ji Fung falls in love with Lin Bai, a boy who plays women and is raped nightly by the company’s Master Lau. After several years, the Lucky Dragon café dismisses the troupe and turns to jazz. As Lau is about to kill Ji Fung, Lin Bai spears the master instead, and the boys hide out. They fall in with Perique, a wealthy French-Chinese hedonist, and later uncle Gong Sut Fo, a top Triad mobster, rescues Ji Fung from gangsters and gives him a job: he must deliver a lacquered box to Shanghai. But in Shanghai, Ji Fung, Lin Bai (in drag), and Perique are at a jewelry counter when falling bombs kill Perique, embedding his handsome face and eyes with diamonds, emeralds, and slivers of crystal: “Precious stones glittered in the flayed meat of his cheeks.” Lin Bai dies of his wounds, and Ji Fung leaves for Hollywood. By 1945, he’s an Asian bit player who tends bar on weekends, fights his emptiness, and lusts after transvestite café singer Tansy Chan. Tansy (Victor) is only one of many cross-dressers, including hard-boiled mystery screenwriter Blake Blackline (really Nan Blake), who skulk across the page as the novel shifts into artfully bloody Hollywood noir, while weaving in unflinching depictions of bigotry against gays and Asians. Then the story leaps into the present. Be warned: graphic sex splits the page and puts an Eastern shimmer on a boy’s “silken muscle”; it won’t be to everyone’s taste.

For the adventurous, then: wonderfully well told.

Pub Date: May 3, 2004

ISBN: 1-931081-40-9

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Subterranean Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2004

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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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A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.

THE CHASE

From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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