An articulate, often entertaining, but chilling portrait of the power of evil.

NASTY GIRL SEEKS HAPPINESS

In this historical novel, a 20-year-old Canadian woman decamps to Paris in 1920, assumes a new identity, and becomes convinced she can achieve the fame and fortune to which her exquisite beauty entitles her.

Ragnhild “Ragny McMutt” McFlaherty, aka Sandrine Thibodeau, arrives in Paris almost penniless. In her tattered carpetbag, she carries the few pricey clothes she was able to steal before departing Montreal. After a day of walking through the city, she winds up on the Left Bank. Eventually she scores a cheap room in the Hôtel Alsace by winning the sympathy of a gentle “patron.” The next day, she enters a cafe on Boulevard Saint-Germain, unaware it is a mecca for the flourishing Dada/avant-garde movement that is taking a still war-weary Paris by storm. With her proclivity for eloquence and snark, Holmström explains the cultural revolution and its consequent abandonment of conventions: “Narcissism and Nihilism stood bride and groom. Their offspring was born on February 8, 1916, getting on…six o’clock in the evening, and was christened Dada, an offspring that never learned to talk properly, and that is now teaching the rest of the world to babble its nonsense.” At the cafe, Sandrine meets a woman who, finding her amusingly intriguing, invites her to a gathering at her “salon.” While repelled by the eccentricities of the guests, Sandrine manages to steal enough cash and jewelry to fund the search for her next mark, this time finding a room on the Right Bank. Several recognizable artistic luminaries make appearances throughout the vivid and scathing narrative, with an emphasis on their personal quirks rather than on their talents. But the author’s biting, albeit often humorous, sarcasm takes a very dark turn when Sandrine (renamed Inga Bagge) moves to Germany. Here, the richly detailed, vicarious tour of Paris in the ’20s ends, and readers are immersed in the insidious and horrific rise of Hitler during the ’30s. While the tale is historically engaging, many readers will find it challenging to spend so much time with its soulless, relentlessly unlikable central character.

An articulate, often entertaining, but chilling portrait of the power of evil.

Pub Date: July 17, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 435

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2020

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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