An exhilarating and emotionally astute mystery.

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THE WINNER MAKER

When a popular high school teacher suddenly vanishes, a pack of his most devoted former students starts looking for him in this debut novel. 

Bob Fiske is a legendary high school English teacher and football coach at Evanston Township High in Michigan who’s known for his undying dedication to his students. He regularly compiles an unofficial list of “Winners,” a roster meant both to recognize students for their talents and inspire underachievers to fulfill their unrealized promise. Then Fiske mysteriously disappears, raising suspicions of foul play. Some admiring past Winners are so distraught they organize their own search party, prepared to put their lives on hold until they track him down, their loyalty to Fiske affectingly depicted by Bond. The group doesn’t have much time. Principal Mancini and Fiske have long been bitter rivals—the teacher is infamous for his confrontational demeanor. Mancini gives the band 24 hours to find Fiske before he’s terminated from his job for dereliction of duty. The team of faithful former students is led by Stephanie “Steph” Reece, who was one of Fiske’s brightest pupils. She is haunted by guilt that she squandered his support by falling short of her extraordinary potential. She’s especially attached to Fiske since he became something of a substitute for her own father, who died of cancer when she was only 3 years old. There’s a break in the case when another past Winner—Eric Pinkersby, an astonishingly successful tech entrepreneur—discovers that Fiske has been exchanging texts regularly with Autumn Brockert, a 16-year-old student of his. And when she too goes missing, the police suspect he abducted her, though Steph simply can’t accept that her idol is a craven predator.  Bond collapses two distinct literary genres into one seamless novelistic whole: a mystery and an emotional drama. While the past Winners hunt down clues in order to find Fiske, they’re forced to confront the memories of their high school selves and the extent to which their adult lives are either a consummation or betrayal of their youthful talents. And Fiske is deliciously enigmatic—though almost heroically supportive of his students, he seems to harbor a dark past, filled with rueful remorse. The author subtly captures Fiske’s complexity as well as his penchant for profoundly stirring inspiration: “Stephanie, time is our mortal enemy. Time leeches ambition. Never forget that greatness lives inside you. No matter how far off course you stray—no matter what you’ve done or have to atone for in the past—greatness remains. Greatness is never beyond salvage.” But the plot becomes increasingly convoluted and implausible and exchanges the dramatic nuance that typified the beginning for operatic melodrama. Yet Bond is so ingeniously inventive—he consistently moves the story in wholly unpredictable directions—that it’s likely readers will forgive these real but minor fictional vices. The novel’s central mystery is thrilling, but the true spine of the tale is the fragile connections between the past Winners, who must not only investigate Fiske’s disappearance, but also the authenticity of their lives and friendships. 

An exhilarating and emotionally astute mystery. 

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-73225-520-3

Page Count: 330

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 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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