A moody, hard-edged coming-of-age story that keeps the horrors coming until the very end.

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A teenage girl moves to her dad’s Pennsylvania hometown and confronts tragedies old and new in Symons’ debut novel.

Frances “Frank” Coolidge is almost 16 and still scarred by the fact that her mother left the family years earlier. Her single dad, Chuck, tells her and her little sister, Boots, that they’re all moving from Troy, New York, to live with their grandmother in the old steel town of Slippery Elm, Pennsylvania. Grandma Ruth has cancer and Chuck is afraid she might fall and hurt herself if left on her own. Frank also has an unshakeable sense of dread: “I sensed doom like a dog senses an impending earthquake.” Ruth is a cantankerous woman, Frank is bullied by kids at her new school, and Chuck staggers home drunk every night. But there’s something more serious hanging over everyone’s heads: It turns out that over 20 years before, Chuck’s brother, Danny, was killed when a poisonous cloud of smog hung over the town for four days, suffocating town residents, and there are rumors that Chuck was somehow involved with his sibling’s death. Sadly, other Slippery Elm locals come from troubled homes, and a little girl named Bernie starts regularly visiting the Coolidges. As Frank continues to worry, more secrets from the town’s past are revealed. Over the course of this novel, Symons shows that she’s unafraid to confront some of the gritty realities of old industrial towns in America. Her story starkly highlights Slippery Elm’s frightening characters, its rampant economic despair, and its tragic history, and it contrasts these sharply with the sweet kids at the heart of the narrative. Although it reads like a literary novel, the compelling plot features elements of a detective story, and the investigation is exciting to read. It’s skillfully written throughout, and the novel’s overall sense of sadness isn’t mitigated by its numerous strengths.

A moody, hard-edged coming-of-age story that keeps the horrors coming until the very end.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63337-509-3

Page Count: -

Publisher: Boyle & Dalton

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021


A captivating allegory about evil, lies, and forgiveness.

Truth and deception clash in this tale of the Holocaust.

Udo Graf is proud that the Wolf has assigned him the task of expelling all 50,000 Jews from Salonika, Greece. In that city, Nico Krispis is an 11-year-old Jewish boy whose blue eyes and blond hair deceive, but whose words do not. Those who know him know he has never told a lie in his life—“Never be the one to tell lies, Nico,” his grandfather teaches him. “God is always watching.” Udo and Nico meet, and Udo decides to exploit the child’s innocence. At the train station where Jews are being jammed into cattle cars bound for Auschwitz, Udo gives Nico a yellow star to wear and persuades him to whisper among the crowd, “I heard it from a German officer. They are sending us to Poland. We will have new homes. And jobs.” The lad doesn’t know any better, so he helps persuade reluctant Jews to board the train to hell. “You were a good little liar,” Udo later tells Nico, and delights in the prospect of breaking the boy’s spirit, which is more fun and a greater challenge than killing him outright. When Nico realizes the horrific nature of what he's done, his truth-telling days are over. He becomes an inveterate liar about everything. Narrating the story is the Angel of Truth, whom according to a parable God had cast out of heaven and onto earth, where Truth shattered into billions of pieces, each to lodge in a human heart. (Obviously, many hearts have been missed.) Truth skillfully weaves together the characters, including Nico; his brother, Sebastian; Sebastian’s wife, Fannie; and the “heartless deceiver” Udo. Events extend for decades beyond World War II, until everyone’s lives finally collide in dramatic fashion. As Truth readily acknowledges, his account is loaded with twists and turns, some fortuitous and others not. Will Nico Krispis ever seek redemption? And will he find it? Author Albom’s passion shows through on every page in this well-crafted novel.

A captivating allegory about evil, lies, and forgiveness.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2023

ISBN: 9780062406651

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023


A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Three woman who join together to rent a large space along the beach in Los Angeles for their stores—a gift shop, a bakery, and a bookstore—become fast friends as they each experience the highs, and lows, of love.

Bree is a friendly but standoffish bookstore owner who keeps everyone she knows at arm’s length, from guys she meets in bars to her friends. Mikki is a settled-in-her-routines divorced mother of two, happily a mom, gift-shop owner, and co-parent with her ex-husband, Perry. And Ashley is a young, very-much-in-love bakery owner specializing in muffins who devotes herself to giving back to the community through a nonprofit that helps community members develop skills and find jobs. When the women meet drooling over a boardwalk storefront that none of them can afford on her own, a plan is hatched to divide the space in three, and a friendship—and business partnership—is born. An impromptu celebration on the beach at sunset with champagne becomes a weekly touchpoint to their lives as they learn more about each other and themselves. Their friendship blossoms as they help each other, offering support, hard truths, and loving backup. Author Mallery has created a delightful story of friendship between three women that also offers a variety of love stories as they fall in love, make mistakes, and figure out how to be the best—albeit still flawed—versions of themselves. The men are similarly flawed and human. While the story comes down clearly on the side of all-encompassing love, Mallery has struck a careful balance: There is just enough sex to be spicy, just enough swearing to be naughty, and just enough heartbreak to avoid being cloying.

A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-778-38608-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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