Uneven but spottily entertaining.

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32 CANDLES

A debut tragicomic romance about a woman’s dark past catching up to her.

Glamorous Los Angeles lounge singer Davie Jones grew up Davidia Jones in a poor, abusive, fatherless family in small-town Mississippi. Beaten into literal silence by her prostitute mother, Davie becomes the invisible girl. When the rich Farell family comes to town, Davie falls in love with the Farell heir, James. When his sister, the cartoonishly evil Veronica, finds out, she pulls a prank that proves to be the last straw for Davie, who packs up and runs away. Years later, James and the now successful, charming and vocal Davie cross paths again, and this time, James falls madly in love with her, though the author seems better at describing their steamy sex life than their emotional connection. Veronica reappears and threatens the careful, delicate façade Davie has built for herself since high school. The more frivolous scenes are offset by some surprisingly sober moments. The verbal and physical abuse from Davie’s mother and the school bullying Davie is subjected to are potent and well rendered. Equally touching are the meaningful relationships she forms in L.A. with a truck driver-turned-savior Mama Jones and the gruff nightclub owner, Nicky—easily the most enjoyable member of the cast of characters. Davie and the story take their inspiration from the classic ’80s hit Sixteen Candles, but sometimes the parallels go too far. The narrative would have more impact if it didn’t dismiss every disturbing moment with a scene straight out of a romantic comedy. The love object, James, is as thick as cardboard and twice as boring. Davie is by turns heroic and psychotic, but the simple fact that she is a survivor is enough to keep readers rooting for her, though sometimes only barely. The pacing is steady and having the narrative jump back in time once or twice keeps the plot moving and the fairly shocking revelations coming.

Uneven but spottily entertaining.

Pub Date: July 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-195784-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2010

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A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

GHOSTED

In Walsh’s American debut, a woman desperately tries to find out why the man she spent a whirlwind week with never called.

Sarah has just separated from her American husband and is visiting her hometown in England when she meets Eddie. He’s kind and charming, and although they only spend one week together, she falls in love. When he has to leave for a trip, she knows they’ll keep in touch—they’re already making plans for the rest of their lives. But then Eddie never calls, and Sarah’s increasingly frantic efforts to contact him are fruitless. Is he hurt? Is he dead? As her friends tell her, there’s a far greater likelihood that he’s just blowing her off—she’s been ghosted. After trying to track Eddie down at a football game, Sarah starts to become ashamed of herself—after all, she’s almost 40 years old and she’s essentially stalking a man who never called her. But as Sarah slowly learns, she and Eddie didn’t actually meet randomly—they both have a connection to an accident that happened years ago, and it may have something to do with why he disappeared. The tension quickly amps up as the secrets of Eddie’s and Sarah’s pasts are revealed, and the truth behind their connection is genuinely surprising and heartbreaking. The barriers between Sarah and Eddie seem insurmountable at times, and although their issues are resolved in a tidy manner, the emotions behind their actions are always believable. Walsh has created a deeply moving romance with an intriguing mystery and a touching portrait of grief at its heart.

A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52277-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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THE STARLESS SEA

A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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