Another giddy ride, with no end in sight.

MINI SHOPAHOLIC

Plucky über-consumer Rebecca Brandon has her work cut out for her as mum to tiny terror Minnie.

With a job she loves (personal shopper, natch), happy marriage and an adorable little daughter, Becky Brandon certainly seems to have it all. Sure, two-year-old Minnie is a bit of a handful. Her spirited behavior gets them banned from various shopping malls. And Becky’s PR whiz hubby Luke might be a tad overworked and distracted. But things are generally good, until the global financial crisis has to come along and really put a damper on Becky’s lifestyle. So as a money-saving concession to her husband, she agrees to stop shopping until she has worn everything in her wardrobe at least three times. Torture! She also throws herself into a new project—planning an over-the-top surprise birthday party for Luke. With visions of fire-eaters, jugglers and a live band, it is clear that Becky’s desires don’t mesh with financial reality. But when has that ever stopped her? She enlists Luke’s trusted assistant Bonnie into her schemes, and tries to “barter” party supplies for slightly used Marc Jacobs bags. Meanwhile, she sees an opportunity at work and starts to offer a “discreet” shopping service for her wealthy clients, where she disguises their purchases in computer paper boxes. It is a big hit, although she neglects to tell her bosses about the subterfuge. And then Luke’s estranged mother, the imperious (and fabulously rich) Elinor, reappears and wants to have a relationship with her granddaughter. The two meet, but well-meaning Becky cannot tell Luke about this, adding to all the many things she is keeping from him. But he has a few secrets as well, and getting him to his own party will take all of Becky’s considerable skills. Chock-full of the kind of sitcom shenanigans Kinsella’s fans expect, this latest in the series (Shopaholic & Baby, 2007, etc.) keeps the silly plot moving along. A little more growth from her iconic heroine, though, might have won over new readers as well.

Another giddy ride, with no end in sight.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-385-34204-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Dial Press

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

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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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Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s...

HOME FRONT

 The traumatic homecoming of a wounded warrior.

The daughter of alcoholics who left her orphaned at 17, Jolene “Jo” Zarkades found her first stable family in the military: She’s served over two decades, first in the army, later with the National Guard. A helicopter pilot stationed near Seattle, Jo copes as competently at home, raising two daughters, Betsy and Lulu, while trying to dismiss her husband Michael’s increasing emotional distance. Jo’s mettle is sorely tested when Michael informs her flatly that he no longer loves her. Four-year-old Lulu clamors for attention while preteen Betsy, mean-girl-in-training, dismisses as dweeby her former best friend, Seth, son of Jo’s confidante and fellow pilot, Tami. Amid these challenges comes the ultimate one: Jo and Tami are deployed to Iraq. Michael, with the help of his mother, has to take over the household duties, and he rapidly learns that parenting is much harder than his wife made it look. As Michael prepares to defend a PTSD-afflicted veteran charged with Murder I for killing his wife during a dissociative blackout, he begins to understand what Jolene is facing and to revisit his true feelings for her. When her helicopter is shot down under insurgent fire, Jo rescues Tami from the wreck, but a young crewman is killed. Tami remains in a coma and Jo, whose leg has been amputated, returns home to a difficult rehabilitation on several fronts. Her nightmares in which she relives the crash and other horrors she witnessed, and her pain, have turned Jo into a person her daughters now fear (which in the case of bratty Betsy may not be such a bad thing). Jo can't forgive Michael for his rash words. Worse, she is beginning to remind Michael more and more of his homicide client. Characterization can be cursory: Michael’s earlier callousness, left largely unexplained, undercuts the pathos of his later change of heart. 

Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s aftermath.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-57720-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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