An often affecting, if slightly uneven, novel of familial adversity.

THE OTHER SIDE OF SANCTUARY

A NOVEL

To prevent their marriage from collapsing, a husband and wife must make peace with their respective pasts in this debut literary novel.

Rob, a former professional paddleboarder, lives with his wife, Laura, and three children in his parents’ house while running a floundering bar. He remains haunted by his role in the accidental death of his best friend’s sister, Sandra. While out walking with Laura, he sees his old friend, Andre, paddleboarding, which revives his guilt over Andre’s arrest for his sister’s death, and his two-and-a-half year imprisonment for manslaughter. Laura, who senses Rob drawing away from her, runs a small bakery stand to help make ends meet; when she finds an injured cardinal on the street, she looks at her son, Nate, who’s still recovering from the effects of a car wreck: “Now, observing him in his wheelchair, she saw a boy broken like the cardinal that crashed into the window….What could she do about the bird, her son, or anything?” As this summary indicates, Crabb achieves a notable level of psychological realism by revealing her characters’ pasts via a series of emotional triggers. She also gives a highly visual sense of place to the characters’ hometown of Sanctuary, Michigan: “Still, there was no avoiding the glare of the midday sun blazing down…so much so that the village antique store appeared to squint.” In some instances, however, the author’s attention to detail works against the story; a chapter depicting Laura taking Nate to physical therapy, for example, starts off with a weather-based simile (“The wind shook the leaves from the trees that lined the cement path to the front door....The cold air was raw as her emotions”), but then delves into recording the characters’ every single word and gesture for several pages, which feels excessive: “Dr. Azzi…extended his hand to her. ‘Nice to see you again.’ Laura shook his hand before he and Nate exchanged knuckles. ‘How are you doing, young man?’ ” A judicious trimming of such passages would have enhanced some of the more meaningful scenes.

An often affecting, if slightly uneven, novel of familial adversity.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-95-121456-2

Page Count: 382

Publisher: Adelaide Books

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2021

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Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

BOOK OF NIGHT

A former thief who specialized in stealing magical documents is forced back into her old habits in Black's adult debut.

Charlie Hall used to work as a thief, stealing for and from magicians—or rather, “gloamists.” In this world, gloamists are people with magical shadows that are alive, gaining strength from the gloamists' own blood. A gloamist can learn to manipulate the magic of their shadow, doing everything from changing how it looks to using it to steal, possess a person, or even murder. Gloamists hire nonmagical people like Charlie to steal precious and rare magical documents written by their kind throughout history and detailing their research and experiments in shadow magic. Gloamists can use onyx to keep each other from sending shadows to steal these treasures, but onyx won't stop regular humans from old-fashioned breaking and entering. After Charlie’s talent for crime gets her into too much trouble, she swears off her old career and tries to settle down with her sensible boyfriend, Vince—but when she finds a dead man in an alley and notices that even his shadow has been ripped to pieces, she can’t help trying to figure out who he was and why he met such a gruesome end. Before she knows it, Charlie is forced back into a life of lies and danger, using her skills as a thief to find a book that could unleash the full and terrifying power of the shadow world. Black is a veteran fantasy writer, which shows in the opening pages as she neatly and easily guides the reader through the engrossing world of gloamists, magical shadows, and Charlie’s brand of criminality. There's a lot of flipping back and forth between the past and the present, and though both timelines are well plotted and suspenseful, the story leans a touch too hard on the flashbacks. Still, the mystery elements are well executed, as is Charlie’s characterization, and the big twist at the end packs a satisfying punch.

Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81219-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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