An oddly quotidian tale built around a fantastic premise.

A NEW CHANCE

A man dies and becomes reborn as a troubled teenage girl in this literary novel.

In an attempt to avoid arrest for possession, 18-year-old Naomi Donnelly swallowed an entire bag of drugs. Now she’s been in a coma for months with no sign of improvement. Army veteran Mark Kelleher is rushing to a Tinder date when he’s involved in a terrible accident on the highway. Before he can escape the wrecked vehicle, he is engulfed in the resulting flames. He wakes up in a hospital bed screaming about a fire—but he’s no longer in his own body. Instead, he has somehow inhabited the body of Naomi Donnelly: “It was Naomi’s slim hands that lifted up to feel her face and grab a strand of hair to inspect. Yes, long blonde hair, kind of dirty and oily, it seems to have some gooey stuff in it. What has happened to me? Am I still Mark? Or, have I become someone else? Am I crazy?” He decides that, because Mark died in the fire, he must live as Naomi. The new Naomi discusses the issue with her psychotherapist, Dr. Partridge, who believes her story and helps her get released from the mental health facility in which she’s being kept. Partridge also finds her a place to live in the home of the Morrisons, a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints couple who recently lost their daughter in a drunken driving accident. Naomi decides to enroll in a local college and become a nurse. While working as a nursing intern, she meets Jesse Manzanares, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and a SWAT member who was shot in the line of duty. The two fall for each other, but their relationship is strained when Naomi decides to enlist as a nurse in the Army Reserve. Like Mark and Jesse before her, Naomi is called to serve in Afghanistan. Throughout her experiences, Naomi runs into strange coincidences that have to do with Mark—but what will she do with this second chance at life?

Ready’s prose is lucid and straightforward, as here where he describes Naomi’s new outfit: “Part of her first paycheck from Kentfield Farms had gone downtown to the big western wear emporium. The jeans were standard skinny-leg, boot-cut women’s jeans, but they had plenty of decorative shiny rivets and rhinestones down the leg seams and on the pockets.” While the premise may sound familiar, this novel is no body-switching comedy. In fact, Mark largely disappears from the story after the first act, subsumed into the much more powerful (if memoryless) Naomi. Nor does the book deal with the issue of switched gender. Rather, the tale—which seems long at over 350 pages—is primarily about Naomi’s development from patient to nursing student to Army nurse. The plot moves slowly, and the characters, for all the time readers spend with them, are disappointingly flat except for Naomi. What’s more, the narrative’s themes—life cycles, growth, learning from mistakes—are somewhat vague and confused. It ends up being a rather sentimental story, though not one that will stir many deep feelings in readers.

An oddly quotidian tale built around a fantastic premise.

Pub Date: June 1, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 370

Publisher: Saint Gardens Press

Review Posted Online: April 2, 2020

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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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A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

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PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION

A travel writer has one last shot at reconnecting with the best friend she just might be in love with.

Poppy and Alex couldn't be more different. She loves wearing bright colors while he prefers khakis and a T-shirt. She likes just about everything while he’s a bit more discerning. And yet, their opposites-attract friendship works because they love each other…in a totally platonic way. Probably. Even though they have their own separate lives (Poppy lives in New York City and is a travel writer with a popular Instagram account; Alex is a high school teacher in their tiny Ohio hometown), they still manage to get together each summer for one fabulous vacation. They grow closer every year, but Poppy doesn’t let herself linger on her feelings for Alex—she doesn’t want to ruin their friendship or the way she can be fully herself with him. They continue to date other people, even bringing their serious partners on their summer vacations…but then, after a falling-out, they stop speaking. When Poppy finds herself facing a serious bout of ennui, unhappy with her glamorous job and the life she’s been dreaming of forever, she thinks back to the last time she was truly happy: her last vacation with Alex. And so, though they haven’t spoken in two years, she asks him to take another vacation with her. She’s determined to bridge the gap that’s formed between them and become best friends again, but to do that, she’ll have to be honest with Alex—and herself—about her true feelings. In chapters that jump around in time, Henry shows readers the progression (and dissolution) of Poppy and Alex’s friendship. Their slow-burn love story hits on beloved romance tropes (such as there unexpectedly being only one bed on the reconciliation trip Poppy plans) while still feeling entirely fresh. Henry’s biggest strength is in the sparkling, often laugh-out-loud-funny dialogue, particularly the banter-filled conversations between Poppy and Alex. But there’s depth to the story, too—Poppy’s feeling of dissatisfaction with a life that should be making her happy as well as her unresolved feelings toward the difficult parts of her childhood make her a sympathetic and relatable character. The end result is a story that pays homage to classic romantic comedies while having a point of view all its own.

A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0675-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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