A lean and engaging tale about love, war, and family.


A teenager and her family attempt to escape war-torn Laos in this debut YA novel.

Laos, 1974. Thirteen-year-old Nou has two books she desperately wants to read. Unfortunately, she doesn’t yet know how. Nou needs the Vietnam War—which has spilled into her homeland of Laos—to end before she can finally attend school and learn to decipher the characters that line the volumes’ pages. Until then, she is stuck weeding the family’s rice field and feeding the livestock, daydreaming about the princes and princesses she hopes to one day read about. Then the unimaginable happens. The Communists attack Nou’s Hmong village, burning down houses and slaughtering civilians: “Our hut began to burn, and my heart stopped a second time. My books! Oh Heaven….Our dog, my books, and everything we had worked for, gone in the blink of an eye.” Nou’s wounded father, who fought beside the Americans, leads the family members into the jungle, knowing that if the Communists catch them, he will be killed. As Nou and her family brave the deadly mountain paths that will provide an escape into Thailand, hounded all the way by Communist soldiers, the only way for the girl to keep the clan together may be for her to become one of the heroes she’s long daydreamed about. In this series opener, Vang’s prose is precise and urgent, capturing the moment-to-moment anxieties of Nou on her journey: “We marched cautiously and quietly on the steep, craggy mountain path. Birds sang cheerfully from the tree canopy as if no danger existed and helped distract me from my fear. Still, with every rustle of leaves and grunts or shuffling of wild animals, my heart fluttered.” The novel moves swiftly and nimbly, introducing its appealing characters and quickly sending them crashing into the undergrowth. In addition to telling the under-reported history of American-Hmong involvement in the Laotian civil war, the tale offers a timely story of the difficulties faced by war refugees. The trials faced by Nou and her family will linger with readers long after the book’s finale. The audience will be thankful that a sequel is in the works.

A lean and engaging tale about love, war, and family.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-953100-32-0

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Scarsdale Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.


Three woman who join together to rent a large space along the beach in Los Angeles for their stores—a gift shop, a bakery, and a bookstore—become fast friends as they each experience the highs, and lows, of love.

Bree is a friendly but standoffish bookstore owner who keeps everyone she knows at arm’s length, from guys she meets in bars to her friends. Mikki is a settled-in-her-routines divorced mother of two, happily a mom, gift-shop owner, and co-parent with her ex-husband, Perry. And Ashley is a young, very-much-in-love bakery owner specializing in muffins who devotes herself to giving back to the community through a nonprofit that helps community members develop skills and find jobs. When the women meet drooling over a boardwalk storefront that none of them can afford on her own, a plan is hatched to divide the space in three, and a friendship—and business partnership—is born. An impromptu celebration on the beach at sunset with champagne becomes a weekly touchpoint to their lives as they learn more about each other and themselves. Their friendship blossoms as they help each other, offering support, hard truths, and loving backup. Author Mallery has created a delightful story of friendship between three women that also offers a variety of love stories as they fall in love, make mistakes, and figure out how to be the best—albeit still flawed—versions of themselves. The men are similarly flawed and human. While the story comes down clearly on the side of all-encompassing love, Mallery has struck a careful balance: There is just enough sex to be spicy, just enough swearing to be naughty, and just enough heartbreak to avoid being cloying.

A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-778-38608-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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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. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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