A timely, uplifting read about finding joy in the midst of tragedy, filled with quirky characters and comforting warmth.

WHAT YOU WISH FOR

A spirited librarian attempts to save her school from a dour new principal, opening herself up to love in the process.

Samantha Casey adores being a librarian at the artsy, progressive Kempner School, which is run by her mentor and substitute father, Max Kempner. Together with his wife, Babette, he’s created an educational environment full of love, creativity, and warmth. But when Max dies suddenly, a new principal is appointed, and to Samantha's horror, she realizes she knows him—he's Duncan Carpenter, who taught at her last school. He was a charming, fun-loving goofball, and she had such an unrequited crush on him that she had to move away to start a new life. She’s no longer the mousy girl she was then—now she wears bright colors and flowered hats and has no problem standing out. But Duncan isn’t what he used to be, either. Instead of wearing Hawaiian shirts, he wears gray suits. He redecorates his new office in gray. He wants to paint the school’s walls (that’s right) gray. But most important, he wants to completely revamp the school’s quirky, loving atmosphere and turn it into a secure, high-tech fortress that’s focused on keeping students safe. As Samantha and Duncan spend more time together, she starts to see bits of the Duncan she used to know. But why is he hiding, and what can she do to bring the old Duncan back…and save her beloved school? Making things even more complicated is Samantha’s epilepsy, which gives her seizures and makes her feel like she’s too much work for any potential relationship partner. Center uses familiar rom-com tropes but never in a way that feels forced or clichéd. Instead, she fills even the lightest moments with a real, human sadness. Even when dealing with traumatic events, Center manages to evoke a sense of comfort that is a pure pleasure. The story’s message, that people should choose joy even (and especially) in difficult and painful times, seems tailor-made for this moment.

A timely, uplifting read about finding joy in the midst of tragedy, filled with quirky characters and comforting warmth.

Pub Date: July 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21936-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A poignant and lyrical novel that asks what is worth sacrificing for peace—and provides some answers.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

NORTHERN SPY

Berry delivers a taut and compassionate thriller as young mother Tessa is drawn into working as a double agent in the Irish Republican Army to protect her sister.

It's been years since the Good Friday Agreement was signed, but tensions in Northern Ireland remain at a constant simmer. Tessa moves through the simple motions of her life: taking care of her infant son, working at the BBC News Belfast bureau, spending time with her mother and sister. The physical isolation and beauty of her home village hint at the possibility of a world in which one doesn’t always have to be alert for terrorists; Tessa is old enough, however, to remember the Troubles, and she fears that the IRA will never truly surrender. Still, it comes as a shock at work one day when she sees a video of her sister participating in an IRA robbery. But even more shocking is the revelation that comes from Marian herself once she is able to reach out to Tessa: She's been a member of the IRA for seven years, drawn in by their talk about economic inequality, and has recently begun feeding information to MI5 in order to create space for peace talks. After a bomb she created for the IRA failed to blow up, though, she's under constant surveillance and can no longer meet with her British handler. And so Tessa joins her sister as a double agent: She's accepted by Marian’s crew and asked to do increasingly dangerous tasks for the IRA, which she then reports to her handler. Days of espionage are balanced by quiet moments with her son as Tessa comes to realize that putting herself in danger is justified, even necessary, if she wants him to grow up in a safer Ireland. Berry's use of short chapters, often divided into several smaller episodes, is particularly effective in reflecting Tessa's fragmented sense of loyalty and safety. This is not a book of action, though there is plenty, but instead a greater reflection on personal choice and consequence.

A poignant and lyrical novel that asks what is worth sacrificing for peace—and provides some answers.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-73-522499-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

more