This family drama is steeped in suspense, but its likable cast of characters is its main draw.

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A family deals with grief after losing one of its members, but questions arise: Who did it, and why?

The Mackie clan is no stranger to loss. After the accidental, tragic death of their young son Griff, Summer and Matt try to move on for the sake of their living children, preteen Willa and 7-year-old Gabe. The family plans a relaxing trip to Zoar Valley Gorge near their hometown of Buffalo, New York. But when Matt, Willa, and Summer fall from a cliff, resulting in Summer’s death, it only leads to another terrible round of grieving. Summer’s sister, Starla, rushes in to help the family. The sheriff’s office suspects foul play. Witnesses noted a stranger yelling at the family before the fall, and young Gabe remembers hearing a clicking noise and seeing a man run past him. Deputy Sheriff Conner Boyle makes it his mission to find out the truth. Summer’s first marriage and her work as a sexual-assault forensics examiner lead to a number of possible suspects, including pedophile Victor Kurtz, who’s been stalking Willa. Victor begins a game of cat and mouse with the police, while the Mackie family takes a much-needed journey to Texas, where Matt’s parents live. There, the Mackies attempt to start over—but Victor keeps outwitting the authorities. Over the course of this book, Neathery immerses the reader in her world with lush metaphors and vivid descriptions of both the New York and Texas settings. The author ably helps the reader navigate the complexity of his characters’ interactions; there are fraught relationships, relationships rekindled, and new relationships formed. She’s particularly deft at capturing the conflicting, layered emotions of grief and heartache while simultaneously weaving a fast-paced mystery into this narrative fabric. At times, the language feels a bit heavy-handed (“Just after midnight, when the air was thick and cloaked in a murky brume…”), but readers will always find themselves rooting for the Mackie family members as they seek happiness.

This family drama is steeped in suspense, but its likable cast of characters is its main draw.

Pub Date: July 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73739-202-6

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Imagery Lit

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2021


A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Three woman who join together to rent a large space along the beach in Los Angeles for their stores—a gift shop, a bakery, and a bookstore—become fast friends as they each experience the highs, and lows, of love.

Bree is a friendly but standoffish bookstore owner who keeps everyone she knows at arm’s length, from guys she meets in bars to her friends. Mikki is a settled-in-her-routines divorced mother of two, happily a mom, gift-shop owner, and co-parent with her ex-husband, Perry. And Ashley is a young, very-much-in-love bakery owner specializing in muffins who devotes herself to giving back to the community through a nonprofit that helps community members develop skills and find jobs. When the women meet drooling over a boardwalk storefront that none of them can afford on her own, a plan is hatched to divide the space in three, and a friendship—and business partnership—is born. An impromptu celebration on the beach at sunset with champagne becomes a weekly touchpoint to their lives as they learn more about each other and themselves. Their friendship blossoms as they help each other, offering support, hard truths, and loving backup. Author Mallery has created a delightful story of friendship between three women that also offers a variety of love stories as they fall in love, make mistakes, and figure out how to be the best—albeit still flawed—versions of themselves. The men are similarly flawed and human. While the story comes down clearly on the side of all-encompassing love, Mallery has struck a careful balance: There is just enough sex to be spicy, just enough swearing to be naughty, and just enough heartbreak to avoid being cloying.

A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-778-38608-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022


The writing is inspired, the imaginative power near mystic, but some will wish for more plot.

This historical fever dream of a novel follows the flight of a servant girl through the Colonial American wilderness, red in tooth and claw.

As in her last novel, Matrix (2021), Groff’s imaginative journey into a distant time and place is powered by a thrumming engine of language and rhythm. “She had chosen to flee, and in so choosing, she had left behind her everything she had, her roof, her home, her country, her language, the only family she had ever known, the child Bess, who had been born into her care when she was herself a small child of four years or so, her innocence, her understanding of who she was, her dreams of who she might one day be if only she could survive this starving time." Those onrushing sentences will follow the girl, “sixteen or seventeen or perhaps eighteen years of age,” through the wilderness surrounding the desperate colony, driven by famine and plague into barbarism, through the territory of “the powhatan and pamunkey” to what she hopes will be “the settlements of frenchmen, canada,” a place she once saw pointed out on a map. The focus is on the terrors of survival, the exigencies of starvation, the challenges of locomotion, the miseries of a body wounded, infected, and pushed beyond its limit. What plot there is centers on learning the reason for her flight and how it will end, but the book must be read primarily for its sentences and the light it shines on the place of humans in the order of the world. Whether she is eating baby birds and stealing the fluff from the mother’s nest to line her boots, having a little tea party with her meager trove of possessions, temporarily living inside a tree trunk that comes with a pantry full of grubs (spiders prove less tasty), or finally coming to rest in a way neither she nor we can foresee, immersion in the girl’s experience provides a virtual vacation from civilization that readers may find deeply satisfying.

The writing is inspired, the imaginative power near mystic, but some will wish for more plot.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9780593418390

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023

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