A well-crafted mash-up of romance and prison life.

Song of the Blackbird

In this first installment of a planned, prison-set series, a new doctor takes a job where her half brother is incarcerated, but she hides their relationship from the attractive warden.

Emma Edwards arrives for her first day as a doctor at California’s Albatross Prison, outside of LA, to witness warden Maxim Chambers giving a disciplinary beating to an inmate. She’s particularly appalled at this, due to her sympathy for prisoners. Her younger half brother, Sam Morris, is doing time for having drugs on him when he was interviewed by police, after killing his abusive father to protect Emma’s now-deceased mother. Emma took this job to find and reconnect with Sam, and she soon discovers that he works as one of the prison doctors’ porters. He warns her to leave, because if authorities find out that she’s hiding their kinship, it would hurt her career. He’s also traumatized by his own past and troubled by new prison pressures. As Emma tries to get Sam and other prisoners better medical assistance, she and Maxim spar over their different attitudes toward inmates as well as their growing attraction to each other. Emma soon learns the sad reason for Maxim’s tough attitude, which drove the wealthy man to take a job as a warden. Maxim, meanwhile, feels new emotions in Emma’s presence, including an urge to protect her and jealousy over her dealings with Sam and a handsome prison psychiatrist. By novel’s end, after several deaths and scary physical attacks, Emma and Maxim eventually arrive at a clearer understanding of each other, their love, and past tragedies. Debut novelist Michaels, a doctor herself, brings verve and veracity to this smooth-flowing hybrid romance/suspense tale. Emma’s clinic scenes, which showcase both prisoners’ manipulations and their mitigating circumstances, are particularly realistic and resonant. Michaels also weaves in lovely, literary through-lines, such as the half siblings’ mutual love of birds and comets, which becomes a linchpin in the overall plot. Although the romance has some over-the-top, fairy-tale elements, such as the convenient fact that the brawny warden is also wealthy, Michaels has produced a captivating story overall.

A well-crafted mash-up of romance and prison life.

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Dream Tower Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2016

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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