One need not be an Anglophile to enjoy the heroine’s London adventures, but it definitely adds to the overall experience.

London Belongs To Me

An aspiring playwright, fresh out of college, moves to the city of her dreams in this debut novel.

After an inauspicious arrival, including delayed baggage, a sudden downpour, and cramped living quarters, Alexandra “Alex” Sinclair settles into a routine of sorts in London. Still, the Emory University graduate battles with occasional panic attacks as she navigates the ups and downs of living abroad, including an economical housing arrangement that sparks many complications. She hopes to deepen her relationship with her father, who returned to his native England after divorcing her mother many years ago. But Alex also desperately wants to make it on her own, without financial assistance from him, so she seeks employment opportunities that will allow her the flexibility to work on her writing projects. Eventually, she will face a blatant case of plagiarism and other acts of sabotage, so she is fortunate to rely on the support of relatives and friends, principally Lucy, a former online acquaintance, and Lucy’s sidekick, Freddie. They both share Alex’s obsessions with Doctor Who, Sherlock, and the like. Will Alex ultimately make some real progress with a love interest? Will her chief antagonist finally receive a richly deserved comeuppance? Undoubtedly, Middleton’s novel is a love letter to London. As such, it goes a bit overboard in its effusive style and passionate outbursts, but the underlying sentiment remains sweet and contagious. At times, the author is overly fond of clunky similes and unlikely coincidences. For instance, Alex’s accidental reunion with Lucy (with whom she had lost contact) is one of the plot mechanisms that strains credibility, though most of them involve her encounters with a potential suitor. Middleton sometimes risks venturing into the realm of torrid, bodice-ripping romance novels, as in this overwrought passage: “Friday’s kiss and the possibility of seeing him today kept her awake last night, teasing and tormenting her; the ache for him still constant, it warmed her like a fever that wouldn’t break.” Still, despite these minor drawbacks, chances are that even the most skeptical or cynical readers will surrender to the many delights of this compelling narrative. Prepare to be seduced by engaging characters, irresistible in their own quirky way, and transported by keen descriptions of the sights, sounds, and tastes of London (plus two side trips to Manchester).

One need not be an Anglophile to enjoy the heroine’s London adventures, but it definitely adds to the overall experience.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9952117-1-1

Page Count: 398

Publisher: Kirkwall Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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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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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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