An engaging tale about two music lovers trying to set the historical record straight.

SINS IN BLUE

A precocious Pennsylvania blues fan attempts to resurrect the career of one of his idols in this novel.

Pittsburgh, 1969. Eighteen-year-old Kennedy Barnes loves the blues. The prize item in his record collection is a tape procured from the Library of Congress recorded back in 1934 by an obscure bluesman named Willie Johnson. In fact, Kennedy believes that the song on the tape is proof Willie actually invented rock ’n’ roll: “The guitarist punctured the chug-chug rhythm with bursts of high-speed blues runs, like Clapton on amphetamines. He listened to the two-minute song again and again while the sun played a light requiem on his bedroom wall.” After a fight with his father leaves Kennedy’s record collection shattered, he leaves home with a duffel bag, the Willie tape reel, and $300. His destination is Fort Collins, Colorado, where the elderly Willie now works in a motel laundry. Kennedy tracks him down only to discover that Willie is white—not exactly the image of the bluesman that the teenager had in his head. Bound by the shared love of the blues and a desire to improve their standing, Willie agrees to let Kennedy represent him as his manager. Their plan is to land a record contract at the famous Newport Folk Festival. But does either the teen huckster or the washed-up guitarist have what it takes to make it there? Kaufman’s prose is textured and full of personality: “There were no streetlights, and Kennedy was a little nervous about the traffic. Dark as it was, and fast as cars were going, no one would be able to spot them before knocking them fifty yards into a ditch.” Kennedy and Willie make for an appealing odd couple, with personalities as divergent as their ages. The book displays a deep affection and knowledge of early rock ’n’ roll (though the author’s decision to make the genre’s inventor a white man is a bit strange and perhaps heretical). Music fans will enjoy this short novel despite its revisionism.

An engaging tale about two music lovers trying to set the historical record straight.

Pub Date: May 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-944715-59-5

Page Count: 154

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2020

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If novelists are auditioning to play God, Hilderbrand gets the part.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

GOLDEN GIRL

From the greenroom of the afterlife—make that Benjamin Moore "Parsley Snips" green—a newly dead Nantucket novelist watches life unfold without her.

In her 27th novel, Hilderbrand gives herself an alter ego—beloved beach-novel author Vivian Howe—sends her out for a morning jog, and immediately kills her off. A hit-and-run driver leaves Vivi dead by the side of the road, where her son's best friend discovers her body—or was he responsible for the accident? Vivi doesn't know, nor does she know yet that her daughter Willa is pregnant, or that her daughter Carson is having a terribly ill-advised affair, or that her son, Leo, has a gnawing secret, or that her ex is getting tired of the girl he dumped her for. She will discover all this and more as she watches one last summer on Nantucket play out under the tutelage of Martha, her "Person," who receives her in the boho-chic waiting room of the Beyond. Hermès-scarved Martha explains that Vivi will have three nudges—three chances to change the course of events on Earth and prevent her bereaved loved ones from making life-altering mistakes. She will also get to watch the publication of what will be her last novel, titled Golden Girl, natch, and learn the answers to two questions: Will the secret about her own life she buried in this novel come to light (who cares, really—she's dead now), and will it hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list (now there's an interesting question). She'll also get to see that one of her biggest wrongs is posthumously righted and that her kids have learned her most important lesson. As Willa says to Carson, "You know how she treats the characters in her books? She gives them flaws, she portrays them doing horrible things—but the reader loves them anyway. Because Mom loves them. Because they’re human.”

If novelists are auditioning to play God, Hilderbrand gets the part.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-31642008-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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