An enjoyable romp brought to life by its lovable, off-kilter protagonist.

JOBS FOR GIRLS WITH ARTISTIC FLAIR

An enterprising 18-year-old oddball seeks to break into the 1980s tattoo scene.

After graduating from high school, Gina Mulley can easily identify the jobs she doesn’t want: bartender; typist; any position that removes her from Blue Claw, the Long Island town where she grew up. She’s reluctant to part from her older brother, Dominic; amid a childhood punctuated by her mother’s breakdowns and her own inability to connect with peers, he’s the only source of stability she’s ever known. Gina spends her time at Dominic’s tattoo shop doing odd jobs, doodling strange, alien fish, and avoiding job applications—till she realizes a tattooist's career perfectly suits what Dominic dubs her innate “artistic flair.” After much persuasion, Gina convinces her brother to take her on as an apprentice, with the knowledge that making it as a tattooist in an almost exclusively male-dominated industry will be nearly impossible. As Gina tattoos sackfuls of oranges and sketches bizarre tattoo “flash”—crosses made of vegetables; hybrid animals—she meets the enigmatic and spellbinding Anna, the apparent protégé of a local clairvoyant; the two develop a long-distance correspondence that eventually becomes a close-knit friendship, and perhaps something more. As Gina fights tooth and nail to be taken seriously as an artist, she must navigate an increasingly fraught relationship with her brother, who resists seeing her as an independent adult—all while helping the struggling tattoo shop survive. From the start, the novel is immersive and wholly alive. Gervais painstakingly renders the fine-grained particularities of the 1980s body-art scene and locates its deeper emotional core: Tattoos are not just ink, but “something invisible made visible. A truth [that] you were finally willing to have out in the open, to be seen.” Gina is a touchingly complex, flawed character; her journey from childhood misfit to adult is gratifying to behold. Though some of the narrative threads feel underbaked—Gina’s relationship to her mother isn’t believably resolved; Dominic’s relationship struggles lie somewhat apart from the story’s center—Gervais’ characters are original and a pleasure to read; their narrative energy will easily carry readers through to the final page.

An enjoyable romp brought to life by its lovable, off-kilter protagonist.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-59-329879-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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