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THE 35¢ DOWRY

From the Mango Blood series , Vol. 1

An entertaining coming-of-age tale that explores family ties as well as colorful locales.

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In Fent’s debut novel set in the 1950s, a French teenage girl gets the chance of a lifetime when an unexpected journey to India helps her reconnect with true love.

Minouche has a strong bond with her mother, a single, working-class woman who’s escaped an abusive marriage, and it only becomes stronger when they must start a new life together on their own. In 1958, the 18-year-old girl is still very impressionable when she meets and falls in love with Stefan, a charming young Polish student. Minouche quickly finds herself enraptured by Stefan’s idealistic point of view, and soon his dreams become hers; after Stefan leaves to pursue his education in India, Minouche wastes no time in following him despite her lack of funds. But will he welcome her with open arms when she arrives there, or will their chance at happiness be lost forever? Fent offers vivid descriptions of Minouche’s culture shock in a strange land: “I was assaulted by scents of spices, sweat and unknown perfumes floating over the acrid odor of the machine oil polluting the harbor.” The protagonist’s sweet naiveté presents an intriguing contrast with Stefan’s worldliness, and this dynamic leads to realistic character development as the young woman discovers her own strength and resilience. Rather than live in Stefan’s shadow, she becomes a confident and intelligent woman in her own right. This is the first of two books in the author’s series, and its ending successfully provides intrigue by carefully hinting at what lies ahead for the main players. There are also some dark undertones throughout the book that keep the story from feeling overly romanticized.

An entertaining coming-of-age tale that explores family ties as well as colorful locales.

Pub Date: Dec. 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5439-8717-1

Page Count: 386

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2020

THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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IT STARTS WITH US

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

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The sequel to It Ends With Us (2016) shows the aftermath of domestic violence through the eyes of a single mother.

Lily Bloom is still running a flower shop; her abusive ex-husband, Ryle Kincaid, is still a surgeon. But now they’re co-parenting a daughter, Emerson, who's almost a year old. Lily won’t send Emerson to her father’s house overnight until she’s old enough to talk—“So she can tell me if something happens”—but she doesn’t want to fight for full custody lest it become an expensive legal drama or, worse, a physical fight. When Lily runs into Atlas Corrigan, a childhood friend who also came from an abusive family, she hopes their friendship can blossom into love. (For new readers, their history unfolds in heartfelt diary entries that Lily addresses to Finding Nemo star Ellen DeGeneres as she considers how Atlas was a calming presence during her turbulent childhood.) Atlas, who is single and running a restaurant, feels the same way. But even though she’s divorced, Lily isn’t exactly free. Behind Ryle’s veneer of civility are his jealousy and resentment. Lily has to plan her dates carefully to avoid a confrontation. Meanwhile, Atlas’ mother returns with shocking news. In between, Lily and Atlas steal away for romantic moments that are even sweeter for their authenticity as Lily struggles with child care, breastfeeding, and running a business while trying to find time for herself.

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-668-00122-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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