A novel at its most engaging when it shows the protagonist’s struggle to recover from trauma.



A Virginia woman contemplates revenge against her new boss—the very same man who raped her years ago—in Mikalsen’s (The House by the Cypress Trees, 2019, etc.) thriller.

Emma and Aidan Shephard are both worried about their jobs. The owner of Davis & Parsons, the pharmaceutical company where the couple works, is planning to sell. But the unexpected buyer is Avias Global, which is set to merge with D&P. The more startling news for Emma is that the Avias president is Richard Stolar. She quickly confirms he’s the man who beat and raped her at her college, Westview, more than two decades earlier. People at Westview, including the dean, dismissed Emma’s assault claims back then, and she’s never told Aidan about what happened to her. With revenge in mind, Emma ultimately concentrates on Parozex, an antipsychotic drug Richard wants fast-tracked to FDA approval despite potentially fatal side effects. Emma looks for dirt on the new boss and uncovers a surprising link to her former college roomie, Shannon, and Emma’s boyfriend at Westview, Jeff. Richard’s scheme to get Parozex onto the market is unquestionably unethical, but with employees scared of losing jobs and Aidan getting chummy with Richard, convincing others won’t be easy for Emma. Though Mikalsen’s tale has the hallmarks of a thriller, it’s most riveting as a drama. Emma’s story is at times heartbreaking; she often blames herself for Richard’s vicious assault and is psychologically incapable of using stairs, as the attack took place in a stairwell. But it’s gratifying to watch her persevere even as she stumbles, as when she enlists her teen daughter, Sophie, for her hacking skills to dredge up info on Richard. There’s suspense, particularly near the end, and a few memorable plot turns, while the author’s taut prose dramatizes the protagonist’s inner conflict. Her building anger, for example, results in fists so tightly clenched her fingers ache. Still, the book shines brightest with Emma’s triumphs, such as the support she receives from and provides for another rape survivor.

A novel at its most engaging when it shows the protagonist’s struggle to recover from trauma. 

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5092-2889-8

Page Count: 334

Publisher: Wild Rose Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2019

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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