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BLUE LABEL

Packs a punch on many levels: personal, political, and even mythic.

The story of a quest of sorts, as a high school student in Chávez's Venezuela tries to make sense of love and life—and also tries desperately to leave a country for which she has no affection.

In this deftly and idiomatically translated novel, Eugenia Blanc has enrolled in a special course to complete her high school education, but she finds it boring and irrelevant, especially because her one desire is to locate Laurent Blanc, her paternal grandfather, who's “retreat[ed] to the Andes”; she thinks his French origin might give her the possibility of moving to France and thus away from her estranged parents, her brother’s suicide, and Venezuela’s social and political problems. Luis Tévez, a charismatic (and gorgeous) fellow student, plans to visit a friend and offers to take her on this quest, and along the way they wind up stealing 24 bottles of Johnny Walker Blue Label, a drink that pervades the narrative, serving as a social lubricant, an excuse to get drunk or have sex, a sacrament for a wedding, and even a liquid to refill an empty radiator. They inadvertently take along another passenger, Vadier Hernández, whose drugged and drunken irreverence both expresses and disguises his joie de vivre. Eugenia becomes somewhat obsessed with Luis, and she finds herself extremely attracted to him despite his severe mood swings. Eugenia’s quest for her grandfather eventually becomes less important to her when she recovers a long letter from her estranged father that helps her make some sense of her life. Several days after her return from her journey, she as well as the reader receives a shock regarding Luis. Eventually, in an epilogue, we learn of the importance of the intoxicating memories of that indelible journey she took as a teenager.

Packs a punch on many levels: personal, political, and even mythic.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-885983-57-2

Page Count: 239

Publisher: Turtle Point

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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IT ENDS WITH US

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

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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 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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ABSOLUTE POWER

The mother of all presidential cover-ups is the centerpiece gimmick in this far-fetched thriller from first-novelist Baldacci, a Washington-based attorney. In the dead of night, while burgling an exurban Virginia mansion, career criminal Luther Whitney is forced to conceal himself in a walk-in closet when Christine Sullivan, the lady of the house, arrives in the bedroom he's ransacking with none other than Alan Richmond, President of the US. Through the one-way mirror, Luther watches the drunken couple engage in a bout of rough sex that gets out of hand, ending only when two Secret Service men respond to the Chief Executive's cries of distress and gun down the letter-opener-wielding Christy. Gloria Russell, Richmond's vaultingly ambitious chief of staff, orders the scene rigged to look like a break-in and departs with the still befuddled President, leaving Christy's corpse to be discovered at another time. Luther makes tracks as well, though not before being spotted on the run by agents from the bodyguard detail. Aware that he's shortened his life expectancy, Luther retains trusted friend Jack Graham, a former public defender, but doesn't tell him the whole story. When Luther's slain before he can be arraigned for Christy's murder, Jack concludes he's the designated fall guy in a major scandal. Meanwhile, little Gloria (together with two Secret Service shooters) hopes to erase all tracks that might lead to the White House. But the late Luther seems to have outsmarted her in advance with recurrent demands for hush money. The body count rises as Gloria's attack dogs and Jack search for the evidence cunning Luther's left to incriminate not only a venal Alan Richmond but his homicidal deputies. The not-with-a-bang-but-a-whimper climax provides an unsurprising answer to the question of whether a US president can get away with murder. For all its arresting premise, an overblown and tedious tale of capital sins. (Film rights to Castle Rock; Book-of-the-Month selection)

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 1996

ISBN: 0-446-51996-0

Page Count: 480

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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