MAD HONEY

A well-paced story that highlights several timely issues, with a stimulating courtroom trial that makes it worth reading.

The shocking murder of a teenager thrusts a small town into the headlines and destabilizes the lives of everyone who knew her.

Olivia McAfee, a professional beekeeper and single mother, fled Boston and an abusive husband to try to give her son, Asher, a better life in small-town New Hampshire. Things go well for their first 12 years in Adams. Asher is a well-liked senior and captain of the high school hockey team; he barely remembers his abusive father; he and his mother have a great relationship; and he's preparing to go off to college. Then he meets Lily Campanello, a new girl who, like his mother, has fled a troubled past. Things get very serious quickly; then, one afternoon after they've had a fight, Asher finds Lily dead at the bottom of her basement stairs. Before he even has time to grieve, he's arrested and charged with her murder. What follows is a long and public courtroom trial in which everyone's secrets are exposed and even his own mother begins to question his innocence. Told in two storylines—one Olivia's, in the present, and one Lily's, going backward from the day of her murder—the novel is well plotted but sometimes feels long-winded, including characters who don't have much significance and details that don't seem relevant. It takes a while for the book to get moving, but once the trial begins, it becomes more compelling, and the courtroom scenes are where the writing shines brightest. The characters aren't as well developed as they should be, though, often feeling wooden or monochromatic—some always say the right thing while others always say or do the wrong thing—and the ending is predictable.

A well-paced story that highlights several timely issues, with a stimulating courtroom trial that makes it worth reading.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-9848-1838-6

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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IT STARTS WITH US

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

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The sequel to It Ends With Us (2016) shows the aftermath of domestic violence through the eyes of a single mother.

Lily Bloom is still running a flower shop; her abusive ex-husband, Ryle Kincaid, is still a surgeon. But now they’re co-parenting a daughter, Emerson, who's almost a year old. Lily won’t send Emerson to her father’s house overnight until she’s old enough to talk—“So she can tell me if something happens”—but she doesn’t want to fight for full custody lest it become an expensive legal drama or, worse, a physical fight. When Lily runs into Atlas Corrigan, a childhood friend who also came from an abusive family, she hopes their friendship can blossom into love. (For new readers, their history unfolds in heartfelt diary entries that Lily addresses to Finding Nemo star Ellen DeGeneres as she considers how Atlas was a calming presence during her turbulent childhood.) Atlas, who is single and running a restaurant, feels the same way. But even though she’s divorced, Lily isn’t exactly free. Behind Ryle’s veneer of civility are his jealousy and resentment. Lily has to plan her dates carefully to avoid a confrontation. Meanwhile, Atlas’ mother returns with shocking news. In between, Lily and Atlas steal away for romantic moments that are even sweeter for their authenticity as Lily struggles with child care, breastfeeding, and running a business while trying to find time for herself.

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-668-00122-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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