This fast-paced spy novel has just the right amount of international intrigue and danger; a touch of romance is a sweet...

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OXBLOOD

Victoria Asher, 20, leads an uneventful life in Miami, working at a diner and celebrating her birthday eating pie and ice cream with her best friend—but when she receives an ominous package from her brother, Gil, her entire world shifts.

The young white woman immediately flies to Italy, where Gil was supposed to be on a research trip. In her search for him, Vic becomes embroiled in a mission with Rogue-14, a secret branch of INTERPOL led by the charming Ian Hale, a white Brit. Vic adapts to gunfights and espionage too quickly for credibility, and, for a group of elite secret agents, the team embraces her surprisingly quickly, welcoming her to the fold without many questions. Still, the characters’ skills and personalities play well against each other. Vic’s incredible talent for observation is invaluable as she helps R-14 catch the criminals her brother was investigating. The dialogue becomes quite expository when characters uncover clues or reveal back stories, but otherwise the pacing will pull readers along. An ill-conceived joke about gender reassignment mars the otherwise genial and quick-witted tone of the book.

This fast-paced spy novel has just the right amount of international intrigue and danger; a touch of romance is a sweet bonus. (Thriller. 16 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5040-1874-6

Page Count: 302

Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing.

THE STARS WE STEAL

For the second time in her life, Leo must choose between her family and true love.

Nineteen-year-old Princess Leonie Kolburg’s royal family is bankrupt. In order to salvage the fortune they accrued before humans fled the frozen Earth 170 years ago, Leonie’s father is forcing her to participate in the Valg Season, an elaborate set of matchmaking events held to facilitate the marriages of rich and royal teens. Leo grudgingly joins in even though she has other ideas: She’s invented a water filtration system that, if patented, could provide a steady income—that is if Leo’s calculating Aunt Freja, the Captain of the ship hosting the festivities, stops blocking her at every turn. Just as Leo is about to give up hope, her long-lost love, Elliot, suddenly appears onboard three years after Leo’s family forced her to break off their engagement. Donne (Brightly Burning, 2018) returns to space, this time examining the fascinatingly twisted world of the rich and famous. Leo and her peers are nuanced, deeply felt, and diverse in terms of sexuality but not race, which may be a function of the realities of wealth and power. The plot is fast paced although somewhat uneven: Most of the action resolves in the last quarter of the book, which makes the resolutions to drawn-out conflicts feel rushed.

A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing. (Science fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-94894-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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An atmospheric and creepy page-turner.

I KILLED ZOE SPANOS

Seventeen-year-old Anna Cicconi finds herself in the middle of a mystery when she takes a summer nanny job in the swanky Hamptons enclave of Herron Hills.

Frick begins her story at the end. Well, sort of. August in the Hamptons signals the turning of the leaves and sees the grisly discovery of 19-year-old Zoe Spanos’ body. Zoe disappeared on New Year’s Eve, and Anna, who happens to strongly resemble her, has confessed to her murder. However, Martina Green, who runs the podcast Missing Zoe, doesn’t believe Anna did it and attempts to find out what really happened. Flash back to June: Hard-partying recent high school grad Anna sees her new job caring for Tom and Emilia Bellamy’s 8-year-old daughter as a fresh start. As one sun-drenched day melts into the next, Anna is drawn to Windemere, the neighboring Talbots’ looming, Gothic-style home, and to the brooding, mysterious Caden Talbot. But Anna can’t shake a feeling of déjà vu, and she’s having impossible memories that intertwine her life with Zoe’s. Frick easily juggles multiple narratives, and readers will enjoy connecting the dots of her cleverly plotted thriller inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca. Anna and Zoe are white; the supporting cast includes biracial characters Martina (Latinx/white) and Caden (black/white). Caden discusses grappling with being raised by white adoptive parents, facing racialized suspicion as Zoe’s boyfriend, and feeling marginalized at Yale.

An atmospheric and creepy page-turner. (map) (Thriller. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4970-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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