A rather peculiar but engrossing journey for two extraordinary siblings.




A young woman prone to violence tracks down her genius sister—who’s been abducted for unknown reasons—in this debut novel.

When police officers pull 13-year-old Gabby Morningstar out of class, she suspects bad news. Indeed, she learns her father is dead, but the detective who escorts her from the school isn’t taking her home or anywhere she wants to go. He instead drops her off with strangers, who pay the detective. A man named Mr. Chad tells Gabby he’s sending her to the Alpha-Bravo Training Camp, a prescreening for H-17—“A different sort of place,” he cryptically explains. Gabby’s older sister, Nikki, meanwhile, hears of her sibling’s kidnapping. While Gabby’s superior intelligence has made their parents proud, Nikki, a recurrent runaway, was the problem child. Showing signs of mental instability, the now homeless, feral Nikki often lashes out at the slightest provocation. But her physical strength is without question, which men much larger than she is sometimes learn the hard way. Searching for her sister entails Nikki extracting information in particularly brutal fashion and leads her to a list of H-17 recruits. These “candidates” come with price tags, with Gabby marked as a tier-four recruit, one who’s evidently in high demand. As Gabby becomes a standout trainee and later a platoon leader, Nikki assumes someone else’s identity to get herself into Alpha-Bravo. She likewise excels at training and hopes to be a worthy commando on her way to reuniting with Gabby. While there are occasional indications of peril throughout, much of Vickers’ tale revolves around the development of the two curious sisters. Gabby, for example, despite her young age, is charismatic. She is generally modest regarding her remarkable intelligence and gains confidence as the story progresses, even facing off against bullies at the camp. Nikki, in contrast, is unlikable; she’s unfazed by violence and, in some instances, she unmistakably revels in it. She’s nevertheless quite intriguing, sometimes displaying a childlike quality; her ultimate goal in becoming a “kickass soldier or whatever” is to impress her younger sister, whom she affectionately calls Gabs. The author’s gloomy prose is perfectly suited to a story of abduction, ferocity, and unnatural death. Barons, a music club Nikki frequents, is graphically described: “Black netting covered the black walls. Holes and cigarette burns covered a corduroy love seat that appeared to have soaked up every flavor of alcohol and vomit and other excretions.” Specifics on H-17 are typically vague, and the most revealing moments actually involve the sisters’ back story, which somewhat expounds on Gabby’s brains and Nikki’s brawn. Moreover, the ending hints at a possible continuation, so further elucidations conceivably await in a sequel. The book unfortunately suffers from some repetition, primarily in dialogue. Nikki’s coarse language is lacking in variety; she repeatedly hurls the same insults or expletive-laden complaints at others. Similarly, multiple characters refer to Nikki as a gremlin.

A rather peculiar but engrossing journey for two extraordinary siblings.

Pub Date: July 27, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9571038-8-7

Page Count: 604

Publisher: Wellard Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2018

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.


A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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