A rollicking adventure that sends up and pays homage.

NOBBY'S DIARY

In this short novel set in 1980s London, a boy becomes involved with an underground newspaper operation run by a group of homeless people.

Walker’s tale begins with an unusual premise. It’s 1985, and the city’s major newspapers are relocating their presses from Fleet Street to locations outside the city limits; the cost-cutting measure has dire consequences for the area’s homeless people, who rely on the warmth from the presses in winter. Speaking fondly of the warm air piped up to street level, the titular Nobby, an elder of the community, says, “It’s like having our own central heating system, only it’s outside. Lovely! Snug as a bug in a rug, even on the coldest nights.” However, Spencer Sweetnum, the 10-year-old son of a newspaperman, is the novel’s central character.When he discovers Nobby living in his parents’ shed, the two strike up an immediate friendship, and the elder man lets him in on a grand secret: the forsaken people of the city have come together to create their own paper to get heat flowing through the grates again. They’ve been stealing hardware from other papers’ presses and reassembling it in an abandoned tube station. To help his new comrades, Spencer must sneak around his father, who works in the circulation department at The Scribe. Meanwhile, the shadowy media baron who runs that newspaper, known only as the Proprietor, makes ready to crush his unlikely opposition. In one of several villainous speeches, he exclaims, “We seem to have been victimized by—indeed, have been outsmarted by—no less than four bums and a boy!”

Walker builds a colorful cast of characters in this novel. Like many child protagonists, Spencer doesn’t offer much beyond a sunny, energetic disposition, but Nobby and his friends’ characterizations more than make up for it. There’s Caractacus, who has an eye patch with “an eye crudely drawn on it,” and the enigmatic Kipper, who strikes quite a figure—although the author pays closer attention to his odor, which brings to mind “a touch of something recently deceased.” Mavis, the newspaper’s fashion editor, stylishly dresses in clipped-together plastic bags. And there’s the charismatic Nobby, a talkative old schemer with a big heart. Walker brings this crew to life as well as their unlikely iconoclastic newspaper, The Daily Bread, ostensibly founded just to keep them all warm. However, implausibilities abound: Kipper, for instance, happens to be an engineering genius who’s able to reassemble an entire press from purloined parts, and Spencer’s parents conveniently forget about him for long periods of time as he hangs out underground. But this is a heightened world of slapstick antics, and a few gaps of logic don’t stop the author from having fun, which makes for an enjoyable read. In one memorable scene, for example, a group is cornered by heavies working for the Proprietor. Kipper, like a malodorous superhero, flaps his lapels to waft a “greenish fog” at their pursuers.

A rollicking adventure that sends up and pays homage.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-69229-516-5

Page Count: 147

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2020

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

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PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION

A travel writer has one last shot at reconnecting with the best friend she just might be in love with.

Poppy and Alex couldn't be more different. She loves wearing bright colors while he prefers khakis and a T-shirt. She likes just about everything while he’s a bit more discerning. And yet, their opposites-attract friendship works because they love each other…in a totally platonic way. Probably. Even though they have their own separate lives (Poppy lives in New York City and is a travel writer with a popular Instagram account; Alex is a high school teacher in their tiny Ohio hometown), they still manage to get together each summer for one fabulous vacation. They grow closer every year, but Poppy doesn’t let herself linger on her feelings for Alex—she doesn’t want to ruin their friendship or the way she can be fully herself with him. They continue to date other people, even bringing their serious partners on their summer vacations…but then, after a falling-out, they stop speaking. When Poppy finds herself facing a serious bout of ennui, unhappy with her glamorous job and the life she’s been dreaming of forever, she thinks back to the last time she was truly happy: her last vacation with Alex. And so, though they haven’t spoken in two years, she asks him to take another vacation with her. She’s determined to bridge the gap that’s formed between them and become best friends again, but to do that, she’ll have to be honest with Alex—and herself—about her true feelings. In chapters that jump around in time, Henry shows readers the progression (and dissolution) of Poppy and Alex’s friendship. Their slow-burn love story hits on beloved romance tropes (such as there unexpectedly being only one bed on the reconciliation trip Poppy plans) while still feeling entirely fresh. Henry’s biggest strength is in the sparkling, often laugh-out-loud-funny dialogue, particularly the banter-filled conversations between Poppy and Alex. But there’s depth to the story, too—Poppy’s feeling of dissatisfaction with a life that should be making her happy as well as her unresolved feelings toward the difficult parts of her childhood make her a sympathetic and relatable character. The end result is a story that pays homage to classic romantic comedies while having a point of view all its own.

A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0675-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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