A popular series shows strain.



The soap opera never stops in the latest installment of Thomas’s Venus Johnston series (Nappily Married, 2007, etc.).

Venus, now Johnston-Parson, and husband Jake Parson surface in Atlanta, having survived the murder charges (and more) that chased them from L.A. But their new life with Venus’s beloved daughter Mya is already under threat. Venus’s ex, Airic Fisher, whom all believe to be Mya’s biological father, has married gospel singer Trevelle Doval. The TV and recording superstar believes her life won’t be complete until she and Airic have a daughter, and since she’s unable to conceive she’s set her sights on Mya. Framing this battle, which will bring up Jake’s rap past and Venus’s emotional tribulations as possible proof of parental unfitness, is the story of Judge Delma Hawkins. More than qualified for a higher position, she’s stuck handling routine domestic cases by virtue of her gender. She’s lonely, despite the companionship of Hudson, her handsome clerk, and she’s living with the secret of how she adopted her adored daughter Keisha. Thomas neatly weaves issues of family, parental and social responsibility into the domestic dramas, padding a skimpy story. She manages to give reasonably distinct voices to the major players, who alternately narrate events. But when things start to heat up, enjoyable African-American chick-lit degenerates into bad romance. The mix of down-home and steamy gets downright silly when Thomas has the judge confess that the “hypnotic glory of one man’s big long richness [made] her do things she was shamed to say out loud.” The fun runs out long before the plot devices do, and they’re hardly worth bothering with, since the resolution is trumpeted far in advance.

A popular series shows strain.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36131-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2007

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.


Piper Manning is determined to sell her family’s property so she can leave her hometown behind, but when her siblings come back with life-changing secrets and her sexy neighbor begins to feel like “The One,” she might have to redo her to-do list.

As children, Piper and her younger siblings, Gavin and Winnie, were sent to live with their grandparents in Wildstone, California, from the Congo after one of Gavin’s friends was killed. Their parents were supposed to meet them later but never made it. Piper wound up being more of a parent than her grandparents, though: “In the end, Piper had done all the raising. It’d taken forever, but now, finally, her brother and sister were off living their own lives.” Piper, the queen of the bullet journal, plans to fix up the family’s lakeside property her grandparents left the three siblings when they died. Selling it will enable her to study to be a physician’s assistant as she’s always wanted. However, just as the goal seems in sight, Gavin and Winnie come home, ostensibly for Piper’s 30th birthday, and then never leave. Turns out, Piper’s brother and sister have recently managed to get into a couple buckets of trouble, and they need some time to reevaluate their options. They aren’t willing to share their problems with Piper, though they’ve been completely open with each other. And Winnie, who’s pregnant, has been very open with Piper’s neighbor Emmitt Reid and his visiting son, Camden, since the baby’s father is Cam’s younger brother, Rowan, who died a few months earlier in a car accident. Everyone has issues to navigate, made more complicated by Gavin and Winnie’s swearing Cam to secrecy just as he and Piper try—and fail—to ignore their attraction to each other. Shalvis keeps the physical and emotional tension high, though the siblings’ refusal to share with Piper becomes tedious and starts to feel childish.

Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296139-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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