Whether she’s fretting about her weight or worrying if she is correctly quoting Kahlil Gibran, this ’60s survivor is a hoot.

ANYBODY ANY MINUTE

In this charming coming-of-middle-age novel from Mars (The Secret Keepers, 2000, etc.), a neurotic New Yorker loses her job and possibly her marriage when she buys a rundown country house.

Ellen Kenny still thinks of herself as a free spirit. But the young woman who skinny dipped on Cape Cod has turned into a nervous 40-something who was fired after speaking her mind. In her quest for “ipsissimus,” the quality of being most herself, she acts on a whim, buying a ramshackle old house in upstate New York on the way to visit her more centered younger sister in Montreal. The house, which she views as a source of adventure, soon flips her life into crisis. Her straight-laced husband Tommy refuses to deal with it, and Ellen takes off alone, afraid that she has pushed him too far. In rural Eagle Beak, she finds bugs, dirt and eccentric locals, including the angry sculptor son of the house’s late owner and an ex-biker neighbor, whose happiness seems permanently threatened by an unusual ailment. They in turn see her as an object of amusement. Gradually she learns to fit in and rediscovers her original, spontaneous self. When a crisis overcomes her sister, however, her newfound balance is tested. As she cares for her sister’s toddler, as well as her quirky new family of choice, Ellen discovers a life that works for her. Mars leavens Ellen’s potentially annoying idiosyncrasies with sly humor, and she revels in her heroine’s ’60s-cum-New Age mentality. “[S]he had raised the anchor and sailed away from her former self. She had left her baggage on the cosmic dock,” Mars writes without irony.

Whether she’s fretting about her weight or worrying if she is correctly quoting Kahlil Gibran, this ’60s survivor is a hoot.

Pub Date: July 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-37869-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2008

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A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.

THE CHASE

From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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