Like the ghosts who inhabit its pages, the novel lingers long after you’ve put it down.

A ghost story that focuses not on a single spirit but on an entire city whose layered history haunts its occupants.

“Meg had the unsettling sense that she was seeing all the layers of the city transposed over one another, like scrims in a play going haywire.” Meg Rhys proudly carries her “Spinster Librarian card” and does not believe in love, thank you very much. Instead she believes in ghosts, and in New York City there is no shortage of phantasmal company. Haunted by (accompanied by?) the ghost of her sister, who died at 25, Meg armors herself with the weapons that might otherwise be used to attack her: She’s 40 and single, she’s a librarian, and she has a cat named Virginia Wolf (a misspelling only Meg finds funny as well as a wink toward Shearn’s fondness for multi-comma’d sentences). When handsome Ellis Williams approaches Meg at her Brooklyn library to help him uncover the truth about a rental property his father owns in Bedford-Stuyvesant, the circumstances seem ripe for a traditional romantic comedy—that is if their trauma and grief weren’t compounded by the occult. The two of them undertake an obsessive research project as they peel back the layers of the house, and the city itself. Largely focused on Meg, the omniscient narrator occasionally switches to the perspective of a young Black girl whose story is slowly revealed. At times Shearn’s exploration of topics as weighty as gentrification, police brutality, and Black trauma comes off oversimplified and overfiltered by the White heroine. That said, it is clear that Shearn has done her research—and details about the free Black settlement Weeksville in particular are treated with sensitivity and knowledge. Ultimately, the novel is as much a haunting by the geography of New York as it is the story of a few souls who live—or have lived—there.

Like the ghosts who inhabit its pages, the novel lingers long after you’ve put it down.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59709-367-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Red Hen Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020


A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Three woman who join together to rent a large space along the beach in Los Angeles for their stores—a gift shop, a bakery, and a bookstore—become fast friends as they each experience the highs, and lows, of love.

Bree is a friendly but standoffish bookstore owner who keeps everyone she knows at arm’s length, from guys she meets in bars to her friends. Mikki is a settled-in-her-routines divorced mother of two, happily a mom, gift-shop owner, and co-parent with her ex-husband, Perry. And Ashley is a young, very-much-in-love bakery owner specializing in muffins who devotes herself to giving back to the community through a nonprofit that helps community members develop skills and find jobs. When the women meet drooling over a boardwalk storefront that none of them can afford on her own, a plan is hatched to divide the space in three, and a friendship—and business partnership—is born. An impromptu celebration on the beach at sunset with champagne becomes a weekly touchpoint to their lives as they learn more about each other and themselves. Their friendship blossoms as they help each other, offering support, hard truths, and loving backup. Author Mallery has created a delightful story of friendship between three women that also offers a variety of love stories as they fall in love, make mistakes, and figure out how to be the best—albeit still flawed—versions of themselves. The men are similarly flawed and human. While the story comes down clearly on the side of all-encompassing love, Mallery has struck a careful balance: There is just enough sex to be spicy, just enough swearing to be naughty, and just enough heartbreak to avoid being cloying.

A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-778-38608-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022


This subtle, sensitively written family story proves poignant and quietly powerful.

The Pulitzer Prize–winning Cunningham follows a Brooklyn family over the span of three years.

Cunningham focuses his first novel since The Snow Queen (2014) on two siblings—Isabel, a flinty photo editor, wife, and mother of two; and Robbie, her softhearted younger brother, who lives in the attic of her brownstone—and the rest of their somewhat loosely defined family, glimpsing them in snapshots of time over three years: “April 5, 2019: Morning,” “April 5, 2020: Afternoon,” and “April 5, 2021: Evening.” During the course of those days, which comprise the three sections of the book and are punctuated by the pandemic, Isabel’s marriage to aging musician Dan deteriorates; her two children, precocious elementary-schooler Violet and angsty preteen Nathan, struggle and grow; and Dan’s brother, bad-boy artist Garth, contends with his deepening feelings for his friend Chess and the child they share, Odin. But it is Robbie—the sweet emotional center of the family, whom everyone adores; who is trading an unfulfilling role as a schoolteacher for a life of exotic travel and, eventually, he hopes, medical school; and who has amassed a significant Instagram following under the guise of an alter-ego, Wolfe—whose life changes most dramatically. Writing with empathy, insight, keen observation, and elegant subtlety, Cunningham reveals something not only about the characters whose lives he limns in these pages, but also about the crises and traumas, awakenings and opportunities for growth the world writ large experienced during a particularly challenging era—and about the way people found a way to connect with one another and themselves as individuals in a time heightened by love and loss.

This subtle, sensitively written family story proves poignant and quietly powerful.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2023

ISBN: 9780399591341

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2023

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