Some portions of this tale drag, yet the likable protagonist’s final destination will surprise readers.

THE FRIENDS OF ALLAN RENNER

A debut novel focuses on the coming-of-age of a cinephile.

If Allan Paul Renner is anything, it’s affable. Renner was born near the end of the 1970s in Ohio, though he later moved with his parents to Florida. He enjoys films, music, and being kind to delivery drivers. The narrative takes place largely around 2016. Both Donald Trump and Hurricane Irma loom large in the present and near future. On a more personal level, Renner is in store for a few pivotal life changes. The book, though, as the title suggests, provides extensive details about Renner’s acquaintances. There is Akhil Das, an amateur astrophysicist who battles alcoholism and enjoys heavy discussions. Sadie Guildwood was once a singer in a semipopular band in Los Angeles and is now in her 40s and resides in Minnesota. Despite their geographic separation, she and Renner still talk. Fred Seelenfreund is a filmmaker and Renner’s former teacher. He helps Renner discover movies the younger cinephile has never heard of. Philip and Alice are Renner’s kindly parents while Ruby the havapoo (a Havanese-poodle mix) rounds out the family as the lovable dog. Carmen Villela is a beauty who exposes Renner to music he has never heard before while her son, Anxo, shows the protagonist a video game he has never previously played. Readers will follow along as such people move in and out of Renner’s personal orbit. It all winds up leading to a place that will throw even this eclectic group a curveball.

In Andrae’s novel, Renner’s relationships take him to some disparate places. After all, his friends are not just a diverse mix, they also have their own complex, engaging background stories. Whether Renner is having a crossbow pointed at him after talking about films or waiting for a potentially dangerous convict to audition for a part in a movie, the sympathetic hero, no matter how kind and good-natured he may be, has the potential to land in some sticky situations. But there are parts of the tale that lack much in the way of conflict. Renner spends a good deal of the book living at his parents’ home in Florida and enjoying the company of Ruby. He goes so far as to purchase a trailer for his bicycle, which also transports the canine. The purchase and subsequent use of a “medium-sized Pet Safe Solvit HoundAbout” could have been played for laughs or at least some turmoil. But it is not. Man and dog going for a bike ride is simply as much a part of Renner’s life as other activities, such as watching movies. In other words, there are times when there is not a whole lot happening to Renner. Nor is he having much of an impact on the world. But things take a decidedly odd turn in the final pages. Renner’s seemingly tranquil existence ultimately becomes upended in a way that neither he nor his friends could have ever imagined. For the audience, this is the intriguing part. Renner can’t simply enjoy an easy life in Florida forever. What shall disrupt it? The big reveal comes only at the end.

Some portions of this tale drag, yet the likable protagonist’s final destination will surprise readers.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64970-128-2

Page Count: 306

Publisher: Kaji-Pup Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2020

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Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

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IT STARTS WITH US

The sequel to It Ends With Us (2016) shows the aftermath of domestic violence through the eyes of a single mother.

Lily Bloom is still running a flower shop; her abusive ex-husband, Ryle Kincaid, is still a surgeon. But now they’re co-parenting a daughter, Emerson, who's almost a year old. Lily won’t send Emerson to her father’s house overnight until she’s old enough to talk—“So she can tell me if something happens”—but she doesn’t want to fight for full custody lest it become an expensive legal drama or, worse, a physical fight. When Lily runs into Atlas Corrigan, a childhood friend who also came from an abusive family, she hopes their friendship can blossom into love. (For new readers, their history unfolds in heartfelt diary entries that Lily addresses to Finding Nemo star Ellen DeGeneres as she considers how Atlas was a calming presence during her turbulent childhood.) Atlas, who is single and running a restaurant, feels the same way. But even though she’s divorced, Lily isn’t exactly free. Behind Ryle’s veneer of civility are his jealousy and resentment. Lily has to plan her dates carefully to avoid a confrontation. Meanwhile, Atlas’ mother returns with shocking news. In between, Lily and Atlas steal away for romantic moments that are even sweeter for their authenticity as Lily struggles with child care, breastfeeding, and running a business while trying to find time for herself.

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-668-00122-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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