A historical thriller enriched by characters who sparkle and refuse to be forgotten.

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BUZZKILL

A college student’s work as a confidential informant puts her dangerously close to a radical group with sinister plans in this novel.

Mary Jane Bailey’s freshman year at Cal State Long Beach in 1968 doesn’t involve the typical campus activities one might expect. Not long after her registration, a federal agency asks her to be an informant in order to infiltrate a group known as Burn It Down. Shortly thereafter, she witnesses masked individuals attack one of her handlers, Terry Griswald, a local detective. Jane furthermore encounters enigmatic Thaddeus Blank, who indirectly threatens her by brandishing a straight razor in plain sight and demands details on any BID reports she gives to the cops. Jane has a way into BID with classmate Maggie Molyneaux, who soon introduces her to Junior Higgins, the apparent leader. Including other female members, the BID “family” appears to be a batch of harmless, peace-loving hippies. But it’s evident that Junior is concocting something devious which involves Jane, whether she’s a willing participant or not. With help from Terry and fellow student Rider, Jane tries to decipher what exactly Junior’s ultimate objective is while dodging—or outright confronting—the occasional assailant. Preston’s (Crashpad, 2017, etc.) story is a fairly straightforward mystery; villains are generally pronounced, and even Junior’s scheme isn’t surprising. But the characters are a lively, extraordinary assortment. Jane, for starters, is a remarkable protagonist, unfazed by facing multiple baddies with a two-by-four or just her purse. Others stand out via their discernible shortcomings: Blank is shaken by Jane’s lack of intimidation when he sports his straight razor, and unassertive Terry wonders whether she set him up for the attack. The story thoroughly embodies the ’60s era, both its anti-war sentiments and pop culture. The decade is also humorously portrayed through Blank’s largely failed attempts at using slang; at one point, he confuses Jane by referencing already-outmoded “sock hops.”

A historical thriller enriched by characters who sparkle and refuse to be forgotten.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9911516-6-0

Page Count: 171

Publisher: Rendrag Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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