ALONE WITH YOU IN THE ETHER

A LOVE STORY

Reasonably involving when appreciated on its own terms.

Two unusual people find intellectual and emotional stimulation with each other, shaking up their stagnant lives.

Regan is a charismatic aspiring artist and failed counterfeiter who struggles to feel or find purpose in anything, a condition she attributes to the pills she takes to moderate her bipolar disorder. Aldo is a doctoral student in theoretical mathematics whose thought processes are so abstruse and relentlessly active that he is a terrible lecturer, lacks any close relationships other than with his father, and requires drugs to quiet his brain. One day, Regan is volunteering as a docent at the Art Institute of Chicago when she encounters Aldo sitting on the floor of a gallery trying to puzzle out the secrets of time travel. Thus begins a peculiar acquaintanceship built on six important conversations that eventually spark an all-encompassing, dangerously obsessive love. Is this relationship something that will bring out the potential best from these two, or their worst? The story is somewhat burdened by the reader's expectations of where it might be going. If an author is currently writing a series of contemporary fantasy novels that incorporate time travel, then breaks off midsequence to publish a new work with a science fictional–sounding title and a main character obsessed with theoretical time travel, then it’s natural to assume that, eventually, actual time travel will feature in the plot. These two people are so far outside the ordinary that it’s difficult to conceive of them existing in this mundane world. The omniscient narrator suggests that the couple’s meeting is an epic moment. All of this is to say that fans of The Atlas Six (2022) and The Atlas Paradox (2022) expecting magic, time travel, or any other speculative elements may be disappointed when these expectations are built up to a certain extent but never fulfilled. If this work and Blake’s other books share something, it’s that characters who are not easy to like are still interesting to read about.

Reasonably involving when appreciated on its own terms.

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-88816-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022

Categories:

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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