Sometimes droll but persistently earnest tales that scrutinize the reputed baddies.


Brunner’s debut is a collection of interlinked stories revolving around patrons and employees of a bar catering to supervillains.

After a day of lawbreaking and battling superheroes, many of the villains of Titan City head to Friday’s Bar. It’s a sometimes rowdy place for villains to unwind, which is why owner/bartender JJ (ex-villain Joe Friday) doesn’t allow superheroes inside. Whip-smart waitress Georgia and likable, simple-minded bouncer Edward are also former villains whose pasts occasionally surface. Georgia’s powerful, recently imprisoned ex shows up unexpectedly in “Theories of General Relativity,” and Edward gets an unwanted reunion with his old crime boss’s son in “Along Came a Painter.” Friday’s fresh hire, Gil, however, aspires to be the villainous Seaguller despite JJ’s attempts to talk some sense into him. Other stories feature a relatively unknown superhero who manages to gain access to the bar as well as a reporter looking for a scoop. A supervillain known as the Mandroid, who recurs throughout, headlines the hilarious “Poker Night,” in which his subpar poker skills disguise a secret agenda. Brunner’s collected tales are generally lighthearted, particularly in their depictions of vibrant villainous characters like Friar Freeze and Quiz Master (who speaks only in rhymes). JJ and his employees narrate most of the stories in this book, which has a welcome variety of villains, not merely in their abilities but in their personalities: Some are vicious while others are seemingly hapless. Notwithstanding its humor, the book’s more sincere moments are its most memorable. JJ, for example, reminisces about his lost love and villainous cohort, Charly, in “One of Those Days.” The bar owner, similarly, acts as a mentor to Gil, which is a theme until the end. With that in mind, readers may best enjoy the collection by reading the stories chronologically. Meanwhile, Roehling’s (Wasteland Vol. 8, 2013, etc.) masterful artwork complements the book’s sharp characterizations. The illustrator’s heavy use of shadows makes for a dingy Friday’s but also spotlights the patrons, whose outfits, body shapes, and even facial expressions are discernible and distinctive.

Sometimes droll but persistently earnest tales that scrutinize the reputed baddies. 

Pub Date: March 30, 2018


Page Count: 133

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2019

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Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable...

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Sydney and Ridge make beautiful music together in a love triangle written by Hoover (Losing Hope, 2013, etc.), with a link to a digital soundtrack by American Idol contestant Griffin Peterson. 

Hoover is a master at writing scenes from dual perspectives. While music student Sydney is watching her neighbor Ridge play guitar on his balcony across the courtyard, Ridge is watching Sydney’s boyfriend, Hunter, secretly make out with her best friend on her balcony. The two begin a songwriting partnership that grows into something more once Sydney dumps Hunter and decides to crash with Ridge and his two roommates while she gets back on her feet. She finds out after the fact that Ridge already has a long-distance girlfriend, Maggie—and that he's deaf. Ridge’s deafness doesn’t impede their relationship or their music. In fact, it creates opportunities for sexy nonverbal communication and witty text messages: Ridge tenderly washes off a message he wrote on Sydney’s hand in ink, and when Sydney adds a few too many e’s to the word “squee” in her text, Ridge replies, “If those letters really make up a sound, I am so, so glad I can’t hear it.” While they fight their mutual attraction, their hope that “maybe someday” they can be together playfully comes out in their music. Peterson’s eight original songs flesh out Sydney’s lyrics with a good mix of moody musical styles: “Living a Lie” has the drama of a Coldplay piano ballad, while the chorus of “Maybe Someday” marches to the rhythm of the Lumineers. But Ridge’s lingering feelings for Maggie cause heartache for all three of them. Independent Maggie never complains about Ridge’s friendship with Sydney, and it's hard to even want Ridge to leave Maggie when she reveals her devastating secret. But Ridge can’t hide his feelings for Sydney long—and they face their dilemma with refreshing emotional honesty. 

Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable characters and just the right amount of sexual tension.

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-5316-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2014

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.


Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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