A highly readable and occasionally nostalgia-inducing novel about moving on from high school—or not.

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THE ROME OF FALL

An ex–rock star returns to teach English at his Alabama high school in this YA novel from Gibbs (Two Like Me And You, 2019).

After his father runs off with his secretary, Marcus Brinks moves with his mother from Texas back to her hometown in Alabama, forcing him to complete his senior year at Rome High School. There, in homeroom, he meets fellow Weezer-enthusiast Jackson Crowder. Marcus thinks he’s found a friend—and maybe even a band mate—in a high school that really cares only about football. Cut to 23 years later. It’s Marcus’ first day again at Rome High School, but now he’s an English teacher. In the intervening years he was the singer/songwriter of the indie rock band Dear Brutus, whose first record sold a half million copies (though, as he’s quick to tell his students, he never made any money off of them). His old homeroom teacher is still at Rome High, as is his former friend Jackson Crowder—though Jackson is now the celebrated coach of the school’s football team. Just what happened in the decades between Marcus’ first day at RHS and his return to the school? And will Marcus make the same mistakes as the last time he walked these halls? As his story unfolds over two separate timelines, Marcus learns that some things about high school really are forever. Gibbs’ prose is smooth with just a bit of 1990s bite. He makes excellent use of his premise, which allows Marcus to opine on the things he hated—and still hates—about school. “This stuff, this is the stuff that matters,” he tells his football-obsessed students. “Algebra matters. Chemistry matters. Drop the winning touchdown pass tonight, and ten years from now, no one will care, and if they do still care, they’re losers, so why do you care what they think anyway? But drop the ball in here and you’re screwed.” There are some odd touches—the teachers all have literal Roman names like Nero and Trajan—but the novel is decidedly engrossing due to its quirky characters and its deft portrayal of two different eras of teen culture.

A highly readable and occasionally nostalgia-inducing novel about moving on from high school—or not.

Pub Date: March 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-9857165-6-1

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Borne Back Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

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A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

GHOSTED

In Walsh’s American debut, a woman desperately tries to find out why the man she spent a whirlwind week with never called.

Sarah has just separated from her American husband and is visiting her hometown in England when she meets Eddie. He’s kind and charming, and although they only spend one week together, she falls in love. When he has to leave for a trip, she knows they’ll keep in touch—they’re already making plans for the rest of their lives. But then Eddie never calls, and Sarah’s increasingly frantic efforts to contact him are fruitless. Is he hurt? Is he dead? As her friends tell her, there’s a far greater likelihood that he’s just blowing her off—she’s been ghosted. After trying to track Eddie down at a football game, Sarah starts to become ashamed of herself—after all, she’s almost 40 years old and she’s essentially stalking a man who never called her. But as Sarah slowly learns, she and Eddie didn’t actually meet randomly—they both have a connection to an accident that happened years ago, and it may have something to do with why he disappeared. The tension quickly amps up as the secrets of Eddie’s and Sarah’s pasts are revealed, and the truth behind their connection is genuinely surprising and heartbreaking. The barriers between Sarah and Eddie seem insurmountable at times, and although their issues are resolved in a tidy manner, the emotions behind their actions are always believable. Walsh has created a deeply moving romance with an intriguing mystery and a touching portrait of grief at its heart.

A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52277-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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THE STARLESS SEA

A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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