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CHRISTA COMES OUT OF HER SHELL

A fun novel that manages to blend romance, family drama, and animal facts.

When her famous father returns from the dead, a prickly scientist’s life is thrown into chaos.

Christa Liddle was only a toddler when her father’s plane crashed in the Alaskan wilderness. But his death was more than just a personal tragedy—it was also a global one, because Jasper Liddle was a famous conservationist and explorer with a television show and even a line of stuffed animals. Christa, her two sisters, and her mother eventually moved on after his presumed death, but Christa never fully recovered from being in the spotlight. As an adult, she spends her days researching snails on a remote island in the Indian Ocean, relishing her solitude and the lack of (human) company. That is, until her father turns out to be alive after all. Christa winds up back in her family home and surrounded by people with whom she has complicated relationships—and that includes Nate, a family friend who is now quite attractive and quite obviously into her. As Jasper goes on an apology and explanation tour that includes an appearance on Oprah, Christa has to decide if forgiveness is possible…and whether a return to civilization (and a life with companions other than snails) is in the cards for her. Waxman displays her usual talent for creating main characters who are wry and great with a one-liner. Although the plot could have been heavy, Waxman and her characters keep it light and focus on the humor of Jasper’s misadventures. Christa is endearingly antisocial (as she says when explaining why she prefers the company of snails: “Humans talk so much and look at you expectantly, as if you’d been paying attention”), and it’s satisfying to watch her come out of her shell as she accepts the chaos of her family and learns to make peace with the past.

A fun novel that manages to blend romance, family drama, and animal facts.

Pub Date: April 16, 2024

ISBN: 9780593198780

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2024

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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JUST FOR THE SUMMER

A wallowing, emotionally wrenching family drama that leaves little time for romance.

Two people with bad luck in relationships find each other through a popular Reddit thread.

Emma Grant and her best friend, Maddy, are travel nurses, working at hospitals for three-month stints while they see the country. Just a few weeks before they’re set to move to Hawaii, Emma reads a popular “Am I the Asshole” Reddit thread from a Minnesota man who thinks he’s cursed—women he dates find their soulmates after breaking up with him, and the latest one found true love with his best friend! Emma has had a similar experience, which inspires her to DM the man and commiserate. She’s delighted by her witty, lively interactions with software engineer Justin Dahl, and is intrigued when he suggests that if they date each other, maybe they’ll each find their soulmate afterward. Emma upends the Hawaii plan and convinces Maddy to move to Minneapolis for the summer so she can meet Justin in person. The overly complex setup brings Emma and Justin together and the two hit it off, with Justin immediately falling head over heels for Emma. Jimenez then pivots to creating romantic roadblocks and melodramatic subplots centering on each character’s family of origin. Justin’s mother is about to serve six years in prison for embezzlement, which means Justin must move back home to care for his three much younger siblings. Emma was traumatized by her own mother for much of her childhood, left to fend for herself and eventually abandoned in the foster system. When her mother shows up in Minnesota, Emma must face her traumatic childhood and admit that she has prioritized her mother’s well-being over her own. There is little time devoted to Emma’s painful efforts to heal herself enough to accept Justin’s love, which leaves the novel feeling unsatisfying.

A wallowing, emotionally wrenching family drama that leaves little time for romance.

Pub Date: April 2, 2024

ISBN: 9781538704431

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Forever

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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