Aside from a somewhat fitful start, the nuanced story of a woman who finally sets out to face her fears and maybe—just...

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THE HONEYLICKER ANGEL

Elkins’ (The Heart Takes Flight, 2012) debut novel explores what happens when an anxious, timid woman decides to travel alone to a foreign country and face her greatest fear in life.

When the narrator, Melissa, first begins telling her story, it’s as fragmented as she is. She darts back and forth between the present—waiting in a Marseille train station to meet her cousin-by-marriage Blaise for the first time—and glimpses into her past: her aunt Tifi’s unreliability; the surprise package that prompted Melissa to leave her comfortable Chicago apartment for France; recollections of a failed relationship with “Mr. Once.” Melissa expected to meet aunt Tifi in France, but instead her cousin Blaise leaves her on the bank of the Canal du Midi, where Melissa’s to spend her visit on a beekeeper’s barge with her aunt Huguette and uncle Gilbert. There’s just one catch: Melissa is deathly afraid of bees. Elkins hits her storytelling stride as Melissa decides to face her fear and make a go of life on the boat. At first, she’s tense, awkward and insecure. But once she settles into the present moment, Melissa discovers her own sense of charm and good humor: “I waved and blew kisses at the table [of people] and pushed open the door into the cool, night air. The table burst into song as I departed.” She also discovers that she’s falling for another cousin-by-marriage—Blaise’s brother Chance. Unfortunately, he’s engaged to another woman. Despite a few misplaced commas and mistaken homophones, Elkins has a gift for painting pictures with few words, as when she describes Blaise’s behavior during that initial car ride: “He rolled his window down in heaving yanks and bolted his torso out of it, hollering at the driver ahead.” But her greatest success is molding Melissa into such an authentic, appealing character that it’s natural to cheer her on as she makes a bid for everything she never knew she wanted in life.

Aside from a somewhat fitful start, the nuanced story of a woman who finally sets out to face her fears and maybe—just maybe—reach for her dreams, too.

Pub Date: April 20, 2013

ISBN: 978-0615781945

Page Count: 266

Publisher: Wordbody

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2014

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.

THE HONEY-DON'T LIST

A toxic workplace nurtures an intoxicating romance in Lauren’s (The Unhoneymooners, 2019, etc.) latest.

Rusty and Melissa Tripp are the married co-hosts of a successful home-makeover show and have even published a book on marriage. After catching Rusty cheating on Melissa, their assistants, James McCann and Carey Duncan, are forced to give up long-scheduled vacations to go along on their employers' book tour to make sure their marriage doesn’t implode. And the awkwardness is just getting started. Stuck in close quarters with no one to complain to but each other, James and Carey find that the life they dreamed of having might be found at work after all. James learns that Carey has worked for the Tripps since they owned a humble home décor shop in Jackson, Wyoming. Now that the couple is successful, Carey has no time for herself, and she doesn’t get nearly enough credit for her creative contribution to their media empire. Carey also has regular doctor’s appointments for dystonia, a movement disorder, which motivates her to keep her job but doesn’t stop her from doing it well. James was hired to work on engineering and design for the show, but Rusty treats him like his personal assistant. He’d quit, too, but it’s the only job he can get since his former employer was shut down in a scandal. Using a framing device similar to that of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, the story flashes forward to interview transcripts with the police that hint at a dramatic ending to come, and the chapters often end with gossip in the form of online comments, adding intrigue. Bonding over bad bosses allows James and Carey to stick up for each other while supplying readers with all the drama and wit of the enemies-to-lovers trope.

When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3864-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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