A sometimes-gripping, sometimes-discordant tale that crams a blithe love story into a lugubrious doomsday epic.

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A lonely career woman finds Mr. Right during an apocalyptic plague in this debut romantic thriller.

Karis Hylen, a 38-year-old graphic designer who despairs of New York’s commitment-phobic men, escapes the flu that’s going around thanks to her fear of germs—“Every time I heard someone cough, I squirted sanitizer into my hands”—and lack of social engagements. That saves her life when it emerges that the flu is a bioterror weapon that kills everyone infected and prompts the government to quarantine all of America east of Minnesota, thus turning half the country into an anarchic hellscape. Missing the last flight out for uninfected people because the authorities won’t let her dog, Zeke, on the plane, Karis holes up in her Queens apartment while New York becomes a graveyard. She scavenges food, scans the deserted streets, panics at every noise, and fights off murderous looters. But she stays connected thanks to the internet (the utilities stay on) and calls to her parents in California. She also forges a poignant but short-lived bond with two infected little girls in a neighboring apartment before they die. Karis’ funk starts to lift when she saves an injured man named Oliver Wakelin, a wealthy English heir whose “flat, toned stomach and bare chest” overcome her wariness. Flirting and sex ensue, and the two lovers and Zeke set out for the quarantine border in Iowa, braving more homicidal gangs and the Midwestern tornado season. Mabry’s pandemic scenario is only intermittently believable. She pens an absorbing survivalist procedural on everything from making candles to siphoning gasoline, but the government’s quarantine policies make no sense. And although Oliver regularly communicates with his parents in London, they never discuss using their fortune to rescue him. It sometimes feels like New York’s collapse is just a pretext to maneuver Karis into getting her groove back with a new hunk. Still, the author’s tense suspense scenes and haunting prose—watching a suicidal woman, Karis observes that “her eyes were sad and dazed, and I swore I saw the glistening of tears before she smiled….Her face was so pale that the redness around her mouth and nose was glaring against her white skin, stained by the blood”—often succeed in conjuring a world of claustrophobic menace.

A sometimes-gripping, sometimes-discordant tale that crams a blithe love story into a lugubrious doomsday epic.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-948051-33-0

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Red Adept Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2019

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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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