Impressive worldbuilding, but to what end?

HAME

An idiosyncratic and ambitious novel from the author of The Spoiler (2012).

“Hame” is Scots for “home.” This is a novel shot through with Scots poetry (invented by the author), interwoven with passages from the diary of a Scots poet (invented by the author), broken up by excerpts from a scholarly work on said poet (invented by the author, obviously), and studded with footnotes (referencing works invented by the author). There’s a glossary here and a bibliography. There are recipes. All of this is to say that, while the words “a novel” on a book cover can usually be read as a simple description, that phrase, in this case, is instead a rather provocative assertion. Certainly, McAfee is not the first novelist to use invented texts and scholarly apparatuses in service to contemporary fiction. Possession by A.S. Byatt is an obvious comparison. Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and the fiction of Umberto Eco also come to mind. But Eco combines erudition with a healthy appreciation of juicy Gothic tropes. Clarke has magic. And there’s a fateful connection between the figures Byatt invents and the scholars who study them. What McAfee presents here will, perhaps, be most familiar to readers of J.R.R. Tolkien—who gives readers orcs and elves, sure, but in service to exhaustive worldbuilding. The island of Fascaray is Scotland in miniature in both landscape and history. Mary, Queen of Scots; Bonnie Prince Charlie; and Charles Rennie Mackintosh have all visited this remote place. And Grigor McWatt spent his life cataloging the place in both prose and poetry. McAfee's protagonist, Mhairi McPhail, moves from Manhattan to an island in the Hebrides because she’s writing a book about the “Bard of Fascaray” and because her marriage is over. The verse is convincing enough, and Mhairi’s study of McWatt certainly reads like an academic text. But ask an academic: how many people read their books? The sections presented from Mhairi’s point of view are more accessible, but the snarky tone is a bad fit here. While it’s easy to envision diverse readers attracted to this book, it’s difficult to imagine any reader who isn’t skimming over vast swathes of the very, very, very long text.

Impressive worldbuilding, but to what end?

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5247-3172-4

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.

LOVE AND OTHER WORDS

Eleven years ago, he broke her heart. But he doesn’t know why she never forgave him.

Toggling between past and present, two love stories unfold simultaneously. In the first, Macy Sorensen meets and falls in love with the boy next door, Elliot Petropoulos, in the closet of her dad’s vacation home, where they hide out to discuss their favorite books. In the second, Macy is working as a doctor and engaged to a single father, and she hasn’t spoken to Elliot since their breakup. But a chance encounter forces her to confront the truth: what happened to make Macy stop speaking to Elliot? Ultimately, they’re separated not by time or physical remoteness but by emotional distance—Elliot and Macy always kept their relationship casual because they went to different schools. And as a teen, Macy has more to worry about than which girl Elliot is taking to the prom. After losing her mother at a young age, Macy is navigating her teenage years without a female role model, relying on the time-stamped notes her mother left in her father’s care for guidance. In the present day, Macy’s father is dead as well. She throws herself into her work and rarely comes up for air, not even to plan her upcoming wedding. Since Macy is still living with her fiance while grappling with her feelings for Elliot, the flashbacks offer steamy moments, tender revelations, and sweetly awkward confessions while Macy makes peace with her past and decides her future.

With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2801-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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

MAYBE SOMEDAY

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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