A vivid and often compelling adventure with a sweeping, cinematic feel.

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Feign’s novel, based on a true story, follows a former sex worker who’s forced into a new life on the high seas.

The story opens on the South China coast in 1801 with a 26-year-old woman named Yang looking over at the “customer in [her] bed.” She narrates her dramatic story as it unfolds. She was sold to the floating “flower boat” brothel as a young girl by her father, but she manages to buy her freedom. But tragically, after painstakingly reclaiming her life, she’s kidnapped by a pirate gang and forced into marriage with their leader, Cheng Yat. However, she eventually pursues a new ambition—to become the most powerful pirate in the world, in her own right. Over the course of the story, her memories offer insight into her family’s dynamic, although as she remembers stories that her mother told her, the tale also keeps readers anchored in the present. The author shows how Yang’s relationships with men are informed by her early childhood trauma and, later, by the fact that the man she’s forced to marry is a captor, not a true husband. However, she grows close to Cheung Po Tsai, Cheng Yat’s young male concubine, whose mischievous aspect adds welcome levity to the fraught dynamic. Overall, this is an epic tale of a woman in 19th-century China daring to live life on her own terms: “Did it make me any less of a woman that marriage and weddings and family carried no such meaning?” Yang asks herself at one point. The pace is steady and suspenseful, and Feign’s prose style is descriptive but simple, rarely getting in the way of the narrative’s forward momentum. That said, the constant weather updates, while perhaps necessary for a seafaring tale, can feel a bit excessive; they offer some nice lines, though, such as “the sky turned the color of weak red tea.”

A vivid and often compelling adventure with a sweeping, cinematic feel.

Pub Date: June 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-9627866541

Page Count: 436

Publisher: Top Floor Books

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2021


A captivating allegory about evil, lies, and forgiveness.

Truth and deception clash in this tale of the Holocaust.

Udo Graf is proud that the Wolf has assigned him the task of expelling all 50,000 Jews from Salonika, Greece. In that city, Nico Krispis is an 11-year-old Jewish boy whose blue eyes and blond hair deceive, but whose words do not. Those who know him know he has never told a lie in his life—“Never be the one to tell lies, Nico,” his grandfather teaches him. “God is always watching.” Udo and Nico meet, and Udo decides to exploit the child’s innocence. At the train station where Jews are being jammed into cattle cars bound for Auschwitz, Udo gives Nico a yellow star to wear and persuades him to whisper among the crowd, “I heard it from a German officer. They are sending us to Poland. We will have new homes. And jobs.” The lad doesn’t know any better, so he helps persuade reluctant Jews to board the train to hell. “You were a good little liar,” Udo later tells Nico, and delights in the prospect of breaking the boy’s spirit, which is more fun and a greater challenge than killing him outright. When Nico realizes the horrific nature of what he's done, his truth-telling days are over. He becomes an inveterate liar about everything. Narrating the story is the Angel of Truth, whom according to a parable God had cast out of heaven and onto earth, where Truth shattered into billions of pieces, each to lodge in a human heart. (Obviously, many hearts have been missed.) Truth skillfully weaves together the characters, including Nico; his brother, Sebastian; Sebastian’s wife, Fannie; and the “heartless deceiver” Udo. Events extend for decades beyond World War II, until everyone’s lives finally collide in dramatic fashion. As Truth readily acknowledges, his account is loaded with twists and turns, some fortuitous and others not. Will Nico Krispis ever seek redemption? And will he find it? Author Albom’s passion shows through on every page in this well-crafted novel.

A captivating allegory about evil, lies, and forgiveness.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2023

ISBN: 9780062406651

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023


A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Three woman who join together to rent a large space along the beach in Los Angeles for their stores—a gift shop, a bakery, and a bookstore—become fast friends as they each experience the highs, and lows, of love.

Bree is a friendly but standoffish bookstore owner who keeps everyone she knows at arm’s length, from guys she meets in bars to her friends. Mikki is a settled-in-her-routines divorced mother of two, happily a mom, gift-shop owner, and co-parent with her ex-husband, Perry. And Ashley is a young, very-much-in-love bakery owner specializing in muffins who devotes herself to giving back to the community through a nonprofit that helps community members develop skills and find jobs. When the women meet drooling over a boardwalk storefront that none of them can afford on her own, a plan is hatched to divide the space in three, and a friendship—and business partnership—is born. An impromptu celebration on the beach at sunset with champagne becomes a weekly touchpoint to their lives as they learn more about each other and themselves. Their friendship blossoms as they help each other, offering support, hard truths, and loving backup. Author Mallery has created a delightful story of friendship between three women that also offers a variety of love stories as they fall in love, make mistakes, and figure out how to be the best—albeit still flawed—versions of themselves. The men are similarly flawed and human. While the story comes down clearly on the side of all-encompassing love, Mallery has struck a careful balance: There is just enough sex to be spicy, just enough swearing to be naughty, and just enough heartbreak to avoid being cloying.

A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-778-38608-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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