A bleak, engrossing tale of the seemingly endless damage that brutality causes.

CHILDREN OF VIOLENCE

In this debut novella, a group of Americans can’t escape the inevitability of violence.

Gracie is the daughter of a hardened criminal. Her father is a known murderer who always carries a gun and gets drunk every night. Gracie can’t help but witness some of his ferocity, as when a carjacker tries stealing her dad’s beloved car. Elsewhere, young Robbie regularly fishes with his adult friend Paw Paw. The two, as people of color, habitually deal with bigots. But Paw Paw is an “old school” gangster who uses his giant hands to fight to the death. This book contains an assortment of narrators, each with a tie to someone else. There’s a man who retires after winning the lottery. Now he has everything he wants, but when he sets his sights on a young girl, he’s practically welcoming trouble. One boy grows up in a household with devout Christian parents. This entails summers at a camp that teaches outdoor survival. There, he trains with guns and learns combat skills, which he uses during savage confrontations with other “followers.” Gherardi’s brisk but grim story cycles through a plethora of irredeemable characters. The innocent titular youngsters are surrounded by killers, racists, and child abusers. The author deftly shifts among clearly defined characters with discernible narrative voices. Likewise, the nonlinear tale’s varying time periods, though unspecified, are never confusing. For example, some characters note another’s death only for the deceased to narrate a later chapter. In this absorbing story, Gherardi’s relaxed prose reads like people relaying their tales to others. Robbie, describing his mother’s unfortunate state, says: “Mom was on the bad path. No fairy tale ending to her story. Close to the end, I hate to admit. Looking skinnier and weaker every time I saw her. Looked like she was losing hair, too.”

A bleak, engrossing tale of the seemingly endless damage that brutality causes.

Pub Date: Nov. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-09-832119-2

Page Count: 138

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2021

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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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