A promising debut that provides an honest and raw examination of the destructive nature of unrealized dreams.

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TRYING

A young British woman struggling to conceive faces numerous disappointments in this emotional and surprisingly humorous debut.

Olivia and Felix have recently moved to the suburbs of London in anticipation of beginning a family. In their early 30s, they expect that conceiving a baby should be fairly straightforward. When many months pass without a positive pregnancy test, they both feel the strain of their unrealized dreams. As sex becomes more of a chore than an expression of devotion, the couple’s marriage suffers. Olivia dives more deeply into her position at the Swedish lifestyle company where she works despite the fact that she feels consistently underappreciated there. Meanwhile, it seems her every friend is popping out multiple babies with ease. As she and Felix suffer the barrage of Instagram baby brags and the indignity of fertility apps directing them to fornicate at a moment’s notice, they grow increasingly frustrated. Even so, both characters seem to get in the way of their own baby-making goals. Felix continues to disappear on long business trips, precluding the possibility of coupling on certain optimal days, and Olivia refuses to give up drinking or even visit a doctor to discuss fertility until deep into the novel. As baby-making, or the lack thereof, sends Olivia’s life on a downward spiral, she wonders whether procreating is worth such distress. Told from Olivia’s perspective, the story contains many slapstick moments that provide much-needed relief from the more difficult topic of infertility. Olivia struggles to fit in at the office as well as in her social circle, a group that is becoming increasingly baby-dominated. The author also pokes fun at the uber-trendy nature of the Scandinavian company where Olivia works, from the futuristic furniture to her frighteningly handsome supervisor. Told in an accessible and fast-paced prose full of British humor, the novel feels almost like a collection of blog posts about the difficulties of TTC. Despite the lighthearted nature of the language, there is a depth of emotion to the story that will leave readers deeply moved.

A promising debut that provides an honest and raw examination of the destructive nature of unrealized dreams.

Pub Date: Dec. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4736-6380-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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Another success for the publishing phenom.

UNDER CURRENTS

An abused boy fights back, escapes, then returns as an attorney to his beloved hometown, but just as he’s falling in love with a transplanted landscaper, a series of attacks from shadowy enemies jeopardizes their happiness.

“From the outside, the house in Lakeview Terrace looked perfect.” Which of course means that it wasn't. We're introduced to the horrifying Dr. Graham Bigelow, who beats his wife and, increasingly as the boy gets older, his son, Zane. On the night of Zane’s prom, a particularly savage attack puts him and his sister in the hospital, and his father blames Zane, landing him in jail. Then his sister stands up for him, enlisting the aid of their aunt, and everything changes, mainly due to Zane’s secret diaries. Nearly 20 years later, Zane leaves a successful career as a lawyer to return to Lakeview, where his aunt and sister live with their families, deciding to hang a shingle as a small-town lawyer. Then he meets Darby McCray, the landscaper who’s recently relocated and taken the town by storm, starting with the transformation of his family’s rental bungalows. The two are instantly intrigued by each other, but they move slowly into a relationship neither is looking for. Darby has a violent past of her own, so she is more than willing to take on the risk of antagonizing a boorish local family when she and Zane help an abused wife. Suddenly Zane and Darby face one attack after another, and even as they grow ever closer under the pressure, the dangers become more insidious. Roberts’ latest title feels a little long and the story is slightly cumbersome, but her greatest strength is in making the reader feel connected to her characters, so “unnecessary details” can also charm and engage.

Another success for the publishing phenom.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20709-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

OUTFOX

An FBI agent is determined to catch a man who bilks and murders wealthy women, but the chase goes slowly.

Brown (Tailspin, 2018, etc.) has published 70 bestsellers, and this one employs her usual template of thriller spiked with romance. Its main character, Drex Easton, is an FBI agent in pursuit of a serial killer, but for him it’s personal. When he was a boy, his mother left him and his father for another man, Weston Graham. Drex believes Graham murdered her and that he has killed at least seven more women after emptying their bank accounts. Now he thinks he has the clever Graham—current alias Jasper Ford—in his sights, and he’s willing to put his career at risk to catch him. The women Ford targets are wealthy, and his new prey is no exception—except that, uncharacteristically, he has married her. Talia Ford proves to be a complication for Drex, who instantly falls in lust with her even though he’s not at all sure she isn’t her husband's accomplice. Posing as a would-be novelist, Drex moves into an apartment next door to the Fords’ posh home and tries to ingratiate himself, but tensions rise immediately—Jasper is suspicious, and Talia has mixed feelings about Drex's flirtatious behavior. When Talia’s fun-loving friend Elaine Conner turns up dead after a cruise on her yacht and Jasper disappears, Drex and Talia become allies. There are a few action sequences and fewer sex scenes, but the novel’s pace bogs down repeatedly in long, mundane conversations. Drex's two FBI agent sidekicks are more interesting characters than he is; Drex himself is such a caricature of a macho man, so heedless of ethics, and so aggressive toward women that it’s tough to see him as a good guy. Brown adds a couple of implausible twists at the very end that make him seem almost as untrustworthy as Graham.

This thriller about the pursuit of a serial killer suffers from an unpleasant hero and a glacial pace.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4555-7219-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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