A creature feature that earns its suspense by rigorously developing its characters.

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A vicious beast menaces residents of a Montana town in the 1990s in Smith’s (Silent Source, 2016) thriller.

Veterinarian Dieter Harmon has amassed few clients during his three months in the town of Colter, but his friend Molly Schoonover still calls him when rancher Josh Pendleton loses a llama to a possible wolf attack. Livestock kills in the area have recently spiked, but chief park ranger Jack Corey is hesitant to blame the deaths on wolves; he endorses the National Park Service’s plan, initiated two years ago, to re-establish the wolf population in Yellowstone. Later, Dieter stumbles upon the mutilated body of a hiker, and local cops suspect the vet as a possible murderer. Meanwhile, Molly witnesses something horrific while visiting local Joseph Vincent Loudermilk’s farm that gives her reason to fear for one of the women living there. After that woman runs away, Molly searches for her. At the same time, Dieter, Josh, and Amy Little Bear (the nanny to Dieter’s two kids and a pilot) set out to prove the existence of a killer wolf and, if necessary, track it down. Smith peppers his story with chilling scenes of a quick and tenacious animal on the loose. The human characters, meanwhile, are exhaustively developed as the story alternates between Dieter, Molly, and Jack, among others. There are hints of other mysteries (such as the unsolved murder of Dieter’s wife) as well as bits of comedy, as when Dieter and Josh’s plan to examine a cadaver at the funeral home predictably turns into a fiasco. Smith’s writing is full of evocative language, such as when a deadly assault lasts “a brief eternity” and a geyser’s steam vanishes in “spirit-like wisps.” Readers will easily deduce what exactly is killing people and livestock, but Smith wisely focuses on the urgent need to stop the beast rather than on a prolonged elucidation of it.

A creature feature that earns its suspense by rigorously developing its characters.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64062-020-9

Page Count: 265

Publisher: Braveship Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

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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THE GIVER OF STARS

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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