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...

SEE ME

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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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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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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