No blue skies here. Cold-bladed realism that “gets all the little pink muscles moving under [your] skin.” And dialogue to...

CROOKED

A second sizzler about marginalized outcasts follows Luna’s scalding but artful debut Brave New Girl (not reviewed) and falls in line with this publisher’s paperback stable of brilliantly trashy gutter novelists.

Old master James M. Cain would smile to his ear canals at Luna’s opening: “My mother picked me up in Holding and smelled like baby powder and Vaseline lotion when she hugged me.” Hardened but underweight young Melody Booth is paroled from prison after three years. White and seemingly allergic to sunlight, she hasn’t eaten meat in two and a half of those years and tosses her first hamburger in the restroom of a fast-food stop (“My cuticles were white and raw, nails bitten down, skin flaking off my fingertips like paint”). Though she’s a high school graduate, Mel turns down an office job offered by her parole officer and hires on manhandling smelly, sloshy port-a-potties, falls in with bad old buddy Chick Rodriguez, and sucks down six-packs. Living with her mother in Mill Valley, she sorely misses her brother Gary, who’s doing life at San Quentin—but she doesn’t want to see him. Did mother’s heavy abuse lead to her kids’ hard times? Mother’s changed for the better but is still a fake-pearls, lip-gloss airhead with a cleanliness mania. Memories of bad days at Staley pop up and hurt: being held down as a razor cuts the word juera into her arm and later slices fine lines in her vagina. And she gets her rib stove in. Why did she do three and Gary get life? The answer hangs over the novel. A hint: mother’s lover slaps Mel into the garbage; three years later, it’s payback. That crazy Gary. But that’s all, you know, like, cool, right? Sure.

No blue skies here. Cold-bladed realism that “gets all the little pink muscles moving under [your] skin.” And dialogue to die for.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7434-3995-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: MTV/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2002

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

The emotions run high, the conversations run deep, and the relationships ebb and flow with grace.

REGRETTING YOU

When tragedy strikes, a mother and daughter forge a new life.

Morgan felt obligated to marry her high school sweetheart, Chris, when she got pregnant with their daughter, Clara. But she secretly got along much better with Chris’ thoughtful best friend, Jonah, who was dating her sister, Jenny. Now her life as a stay-at-home parent has left her feeling empty but not ungrateful for what she has. Jonah and Jenny eventually broke up, but years later they had a one-night stand and Jenny got pregnant with their son, Elijah. Now Jonah is back in town, engaged to Jenny, and working at the local high school as Clara’s teacher. Clara dreams of being an actress and has a crush on Miller, who plans to go to film school, but her father doesn't approve. It doesn’t help that Miller already has a jealous girlfriend who stalks him via text from college. But Clara and Morgan’s home life changes radically when Chris and Jenny are killed in an accident, revealing long-buried secrets and forcing Morgan to reevaluate the life she chose when early motherhood forced her hand. Feeling betrayed by the adults in her life, Clara marches forward, acting both responsible and rebellious as she navigates her teenage years without her father and her aunt, while Jonah and Morgan's relationship evolves in the wake of the accident. Front-loaded with drama, the story leaves plenty of room for the mother and daughter to unpack their feelings and decide what’s next.

The emotions run high, the conversations run deep, and the relationships ebb and flow with grace.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-1642-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

more