A war tale that delivers an impressive blend of historical research and narrative drama.

THE BATTER'S BOX

A NOVEL OF BASEBALL, WAR, AND LOVE

A rising baseball star volunteers to serve overseas in World War II and later struggles to bear the weight of what he witnessed in this novel.

Professional baseball star Will Jamison is an unsolved mystery, a historical enigma. A talented up-and-coming player for the Washington Senators, he’s “on top of his game, with money, fame, women.” Then, in response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he enlists in the Army despite being given ample opportunity and the promise of a considerable payoff from the Senators’ owner, Clark Griffith, to continue to play. In fact, even once he’s a soldier, Will is offered a chance to avoid the perils of combat and play ball for the 84th Infantry Division. Yet again, he eschews the easy way out and chooses to become an anonymous soldier, a “common infantryman.” He distinguishes himself in war, fighting in the Battle of the Bulge and earning a Silver Star. When he returns to the United States, he rejoins the Senators, and only a month into the season, his skills beginning to regain their former luster, unceremoniously quits, subsequently vanishing forever from the public eye. Kutler suspensefully unravels the puzzle that is Will’s life and the burdensome emotional pain he shoulders in the aftermath of the war.

While the author’s book is fictional, the rigorous historical research he must have done to achieve such an impressive sense of period authenticity is evident on virtually every page. Kutler vividly portrays the excitement of American baseball, but the best sections of the work are devoted to the depiction of the war and the horrors that were committed in its name. Will’s trauma is powerfully described—forced to helplessly witness unspeakable barbarism, he is forever changed, his experience “etched in his memory for eternity.” The author also gives readers some intelligently conceived insights into Will’s past, especially his “tenuous childhood.” Similarly, his love for Kay Barlow as well as his struggle to reconnect with her following the war are poignantly described: “I love her. He knew because every time he found himself in a shadowy corner since returning from the war, mired in despairing emotions and haunting memories that plagued him since he left Belgium, he thought of her.” Kutler’s prose is consistently lucid, but he can strain a bit laboriously to elicit an emotional response from readers, a tendency that flirts with lachrymose manipulation. For example, the author takes gratuitous pains to demonstrate, in long, drawn-out scenes, Will’s honorable resistance to using his celebrity to avoid military service. In addition, the insertion of a “historical note” further explicating the Battle of the Bulge is more intrusive than clarifying—it has the effect of lifting readers out of the story, suspending a complete literary immersion. Nonetheless, this is an emotionally affecting story, both heart-rending and thrilling, as dramatically captivating as it is historically edifying.

A war tale that delivers an impressive blend of historical research and narrative drama.

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Warriors Publishing Group

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

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PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION

A travel writer has one last shot at reconnecting with the best friend she just might be in love with.

Poppy and Alex couldn't be more different. She loves wearing bright colors while he prefers khakis and a T-shirt. She likes just about everything while he’s a bit more discerning. And yet, their opposites-attract friendship works because they love each other…in a totally platonic way. Probably. Even though they have their own separate lives (Poppy lives in New York City and is a travel writer with a popular Instagram account; Alex is a high school teacher in their tiny Ohio hometown), they still manage to get together each summer for one fabulous vacation. They grow closer every year, but Poppy doesn’t let herself linger on her feelings for Alex—she doesn’t want to ruin their friendship or the way she can be fully herself with him. They continue to date other people, even bringing their serious partners on their summer vacations…but then, after a falling-out, they stop speaking. When Poppy finds herself facing a serious bout of ennui, unhappy with her glamorous job and the life she’s been dreaming of forever, she thinks back to the last time she was truly happy: her last vacation with Alex. And so, though they haven’t spoken in two years, she asks him to take another vacation with her. She’s determined to bridge the gap that’s formed between them and become best friends again, but to do that, she’ll have to be honest with Alex—and herself—about her true feelings. In chapters that jump around in time, Henry shows readers the progression (and dissolution) of Poppy and Alex’s friendship. Their slow-burn love story hits on beloved romance tropes (such as there unexpectedly being only one bed on the reconciliation trip Poppy plans) while still feeling entirely fresh. Henry’s biggest strength is in the sparkling, often laugh-out-loud-funny dialogue, particularly the banter-filled conversations between Poppy and Alex. But there’s depth to the story, too—Poppy’s feeling of dissatisfaction with a life that should be making her happy as well as her unresolved feelings toward the difficult parts of her childhood make her a sympathetic and relatable character. The end result is a story that pays homage to classic romantic comedies while having a point of view all its own.

A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0675-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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