A fast-paced tale of being young in Europe that is frenetic, detailed, and enjoyable.

A DAY IN THE WOODS

A South African man embarks on a backpacking trip across Europe with a French companion, working various menial jobs, in this debut novel.

Brian is in his early 20s and has been dazzled by friends’ stories of adventures while traveling in Europe and wants to give it a try himself. After saving up for a year, he leaves his native Durban and heads to Germany. There, he gets a job schlepping customers to an overpriced clothing store on an American military base. He meets a group of guys and has some fun, but it is not long before the police falsely suspect him and a friend of drug dealing. Unfortunately, Brian’s visa expired and he forgot to renew it. Ordered to leave Germany immediately, he ends up at the home of his father’s business associate in Austria and spends time at the family’s beautiful farmhouse. Traveling again, Brian is short on cash and can only hitchhike, but at a grape-picking job in France, he meets a gorgeous young woman named Monick. There is an instant attraction, and they decide to trek across Europe together. They need to work, but the jobs are always undesirable and difficult. They pass through Portugal, the Netherlands, Italy, and Greece, very much in lust but often struggling through setbacks, grateful for the generous souls who help them along the way. Walsh’s engaging story of a dream trip to Europe is very smoothly written and full of wonder and upheaval. The locations range from the obvious to the obscure and are described with colorful details that show a great knowledge of the places and their oftentimes kindhearted inhabitants. Brian transforms into a spontaneous and industrious character, but the novel never gives up its frantic pace. The lack of an overall plot apart from the traveling makes the ending seem a bit arbitrary.

A fast-paced tale of being young in Europe that is frenetic, detailed, and enjoyable.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4808-9348-1

Page Count: 308

Publisher: ArchwayPublishing

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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