An idiosyncratic, bittersweet coming-of-age tale that certainly justifies its title.

REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL

Quirky, British, and on the cusp of adulthood, Lizzie Vogel is starting a new chapter of her life, which will include guerrilla dentistry, her first dinner party, and possibly a romance with Andy Nicolello, whose mother may be even more eccentric than her own (“Mine: drunk, divorcee, nudist, amphetamine addict, nymphomaniac, shoplifter, would-be novelist, poet, playwright”).

In two earlier volumes, Stibbe (Paradise Lodge, 2016, etc.) has traced the chaotic but disarming history of the Vogels as experienced by middle child Lizzie. Now 18, Lizzie no longer works part time at the Paradise Lodge old people’s home, having accepted a proper job as assistant to hateful, racist dentist JP Wintergreen. The position comes with an apartment over the practice, and Lizzie encounters the mixed blessings of freedom and loneliness there; she finds solace reading women’s magazines, which inspire dreams of a future, in London, writing columns of her own like “Eleven Warning Signs that Your Husband Is Bored with His Food.” Deadpan yet droll, and no kind of rebel, Lizzie is taking her first unsteady steps into adulthood—learning to drive, buying a clingy dress (to be worn without panties), and exploring the possibility of intimacy with handsome yet diffident Andy. Andy works for the Mercurial Dental Laboratory, so is always dropping in, but the couple bonds over the use of Lizzie's Hoover Aristocrat washer/dryer and a spot of illegal dental work to help out a friend of her mother’s. Stibbe, a master of low-key observation and throwaway punchlines, captures Lizzie’s romantic uncertainty and open, sometimes-wounded heart while also pointing up the intermittent absurdity and restrictions of life for women in provincial England in the early 1980s.

An idiosyncratic, bittersweet coming-of-age tale that certainly justifies its title.

Pub Date: July 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-30937-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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HONEST ILLUSIONS

Suspenseful, glamorous story of love, blackmail, and magic, set in New Orleans and Washington, D.C., about a family of high-class magicians practicing the time-honored profession of thievery. When magician Maxmillian Nouvelle adopts the 12-year-old runaway Luke Callahan, he gives him more than a family: He teaches him the secrets of blending what's real and what's not...giving people what they want—and also taking what they value. For the Great Nouvelle is a master jewel-thief; stealing from the undeserving rich warms his blood like the anticipation of good sex, a passion that both Luke and Max's bratty daughter Raxanne eventually share. Thirteen years pass: As Luke practices the fine arts of larceny and escapology, Roxanne grows into a flame-haired witch who turns bell, book, and candle into smoke onstage. Offstage, she trades in her David Cassidy poster for Luke; together, they set off sparks that could make an innocent bystander..go up in flames. But Luke's invincibility, like the Great Houdini's, is deceptive: Slimy Sam Wyatt—a former grifter now running for the Senate—slithers in from Luke's past, his frigid heart full of contempt for the family he once tried to seam. He threatens to frame Luke for murder and expose the Nouvelles' after-hours show unless he disappears. Five years later, a homesick Luke reappears, determined to show the disillusioned Roxanne that he's more than smoke and mirrors. Together, they set out to plot vengeance, staking everything on their most daring sting to date. True to the magician's oath, Roberts reveals no secrets, but the illusion works—in a compelling and detail-rich first hardcover. Good escape reading.

Pub Date: July 17, 1992

ISBN: 0-399-13761-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1992

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The overly complicated mystery plays second fiddle to the sexual tango between two psychic partners.

CLOSE UP

Quick returns to 1930s California (Tightrope, 2019, etc.) with another sexy but derivative thriller.

After refusing to marry the man her wealthy parents favored, fiercely independent Vivian Brazier moved from San Francisco to Adelina Beach to pursue her career as an art photographer. Her mother and sister, Lyra, who becomes engaged to Vivian’s reject, send her gifts, but her father has cut off support, so she does studio portraits and freelance photojournalism to support herself. Studying her own photos surrounding the murder of Hollywood star Clara Carstairs by the Dagger Killer leads her to believe the perp is a photographer, and her tip to the police puts them on the right path. But a chance to sell her work at Fenella Penfield’s gallery falls through, and Vivian is stunned when she uses her sixth sense to learn that Fenella is furious over Vivian’s photos of nude men. Meantime, Nick Sundridge, who works with his dog, Rex, as a private eye, is striving to harness his strange fever dreams to help his investigations. After Vivian’s narrow escape from the Dagger Killer, Nick arrives to warn her that she’s marked for death by a hired killer. He’s an emissary for Luther Pell, who is an old wartime friend of his uncle's and who runs a nightclub in Burning Cove and has connections to the FBI and other government agencies. Nick convinces Vivian that he can protect her by posing as her assistant while trying to find the killer whose coded journal of poems contains the names of his victims and the methods he’s used to kill them. Escaping when the killer tries to burn them alive, Nick and Vivian (and Rex) move to the Burning Cove Hotel, where they set a trap for their quarry while the flame of their attraction burns brighter.

The overly complicated mystery plays second fiddle to the sexual tango between two psychic partners.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0684-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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