A remarkable family tale that fully embraces its weirdness and ambiguity.


After encountering others with similar secrets, two siblings make a drastic, grim decision in this novel.

Yoshi lives with his sister, Saachi, and their mother, Henrietta. It’s not an easy existence, as Henrietta often has paper bags of “roogs” (drugs) and stays inside her room, dazed, for prolonged intervals. She also has a local reputation as a murderer due to her lethally shooting an aggressive gardener and his dog. It was unquestionably self-defense, but that hasn’t prevented a stigma shadowing the mother and her children. When Yoshi finds cryptic notes hidden in a library book, the messages direct him to a small group of individuals. They claim that Yoshi is one of them, as everyone in this gathering they call The Colony has parents who use and/or deal drugs. Regular meetings with The Colony and further concealed notes only seem to elevate Yoshi’s distrust, including of the vagrant Sikes, whom the boy is intent on helping. But even more telling is his new friends’ insistence on taking care of his “problem.” It soon becomes apparent to Yoshi and Saachi that getting rid of Henrietta may be their only option. Avery’s offbeat story is intentionally vague. For example, there’s no specific time period or setting, and the siblings sometimes converse in their own dialect. Nevertheless, the brother-sister relationship grounds the narrative; they may argue but their mutual compassion is unmistakable, even if it stems from an emotionally absent mother. Likewise, there’s a general unease, as motivations, including The Colony’s and Sikes’, aren’t immediately clear. But while the siblings’ language generates memorable slang that readers will enjoy, some inconsistent spellings make it unnecessarily confusing. (“Cabbu,” which seems to mean cash, is later “caboo”; “ledling,” which essentially means sleeping, is also “ladling.”) The events all lead to a twist ending that the author subtly hints at throughout the darkly bizarre novel.

A remarkable family tale that fully embraces its weirdness and ambiguity.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5439-9191-8

Page Count: 150

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2020

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A unique story of transcendent love.


An aimless young musician meets the girl of his dreams only to have his newfound happiness threatened by several inexplicable—and possibly supernatural—events.

The story opens as Leeds Gabriel meets with a detective while his girlfriend, Layla, is restrained in a room one flight above them. Through the interview, readers learn that Leeds was wasting both his time and his musical talent playing backup for a small-town wedding troupe called Garrett’s Band when he spied Layla dancing her heart out to their mediocre music at a wedding. When Leeds approaches Layla, their connection is both instant and intense. A blissful courtship follows, but then Leeds makes the mistake of posting a picture of himself with Layla on social media. A former girlfriend–turned-stalker wastes no time in finding and attacking Layla. Layla spends months recovering in a hospital, and it seems the girl Leeds fell for might be forever changed. Gone is her special spark, her quirkiness, and the connection that had entranced Leeds months before. In a last-ditch effort to save their relationship, he brings Layla back to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. When they get there, though, Leeds meets Willow, another guest, and finds himself drawn to her in spite of himself. As events unfold, it becomes clear that Willow will either be the key to saving Leeds’ relationship with Layla or the catalyst that finally extinguishes the last shreds of their epic romance. Told entirely from Leeds’ point of view, the author’s first foray into paranormal romance does not disappoint. Peppered with elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and contemporary romance, the novel explores questions about how quickly true love can develop, as well as the conflicts that can imperil even the strongest connections. Despite a limited cast of characters and very few setting changes, the narrative manages to remain both fast-paced and engaging. The conclusion leaves a few too many loose ends, but the chemistry between the characters and unexpected twists throughout make for a satisfying read.

A unique story of transcendent love.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-0017-8

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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Delightfully readable fiction, but the mystery disappoints.


Ten years after having discovered her Oxford roommate’s dead body in front of the fireplace in their room, a young woman struggles with the realization that she may have helped send the wrong man to prison.

Hannah Jones arrives at Oxford hardly believing that she’s been accepted into this haven of learning and wealth. Sharing a picturesque set of rooms with the flamboyant and beautiful April Clarke-Cliveden, she divides her time between rigorous studying and energetic socializing with Emily Lippmana, Ryan Coates, Hugh Bland, and Will de Chastaigne, with whom she shares an attraction even though he's April’s boyfriend. It’s a good life except for the increasingly creepy interactions she has with John Neville, one of the porters. When Hannah finds April dead one night just after she’s seen Neville coming down the stairs from their rooms, it’s her testimony that puts him in jail. Ware divides the novel into alternating “before” and “after” chapters, with the narrative of Hannah’s college experience unfolding parallel to the events of her life nearly a decade later, when she’s married to Will and pregnant with their first child. Then Neville dies in prison and Hannah hears from a reporter who thinks he might actually have been innocent. Hannah begins to wonder herself, and she plunges back into the past to see if she can figure out what really happened that night. As usual with Ware, the novel is well crafted—the setting, characters, and dialogue are all engaging—but it lacks the author's signature sense of urgent and imminent threat. The novel unfolds smoothly, providing a few twists and turns, as the reader might expect, but not really delivering any true suspense. It also lacks the contrast between a luxurious background and the characters’ fears that Ware has often played to great effect. She does offer a deeper dive into the trauma of the survivors than she usually does, but this isn't the breathless page-turner one has come to expect from Ware.

Delightfully readable fiction, but the mystery disappoints.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-9821-5526-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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