A romantic thriller that would have benefited from more characters’ perspectives.

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STOLEN OBSESSION

In the first installment of Bell’s thriller series, an antiquities appraiser and a wealthy womanizer try to escape the curse of an ancient necklace.

Twenty-eight-year-old Annalisse Drury wants to leave the launch of New York City’s Zavos Art gallery. The owner, Generosa “Gen” Zavos, is her favorite client, but today is the birthday of Samantha Freeman, Annalisse’s recently murdered best friend, so she’d rather not listen to partygoers’ gossip. Gen’s handsome son, Alec, tries to woo Annalisse, but she’s wary of his lothario reputation. Then she notices a gold bib necklace with “a neat row of horses hanging from the collar” on display—one that’s similar to a bracelet that Sam’s killer stole. Annalisse believes that the murderer will come after the necklace, too, which makes the gallery a possible target. Although Gen initially disregards her concern, Annalisse explains that the ancient Persian jewelry is cursed. Later that night, Harry Carradine, Annalisse’s boss, falls unconscious, and he’s revealed to have been poisoned. When Russian-speaking men break into Annalisse’s house, demanding the necklace and threatening to kill her and Alec, the pair flee with the jewelry to the Catskills and then to Greece. Before long, they’re face to face with their true enemy. Debut author Bell delivers a great, slow-building romance, gently examining her characters’ painful pasts: Annalisse blames herself for her parents’ deaths 15 years ago, and Alec was married to a woman who suffered a mental breakdown after a late-term miscarriage. However, it will be hard for readers to become invested in other elements; it’s sometimes unclear why the two main players are willing to put themselves (and their loved ones) in jeopardy for a necklace rather than involving police detectives early on. Annalisse says that “giving it to authorities may put us in more danger,” but it’s hard to believe that holding onto the necklace is worth all the violence and loss that befalls them. Also, the conflict would bear more weight if Bell included the evildoers’ motivations and points of view. Fortunately, it’s easy to let much of this slide and simply watch the romance unfold.

A romantic thriller that would have benefited from more characters’ perspectives.

Pub Date: March 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9995394-0-8

Page Count: 294

Publisher: Ewephoric

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2018

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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