A cleverly conceived, character-driven, if overstuffed, anthology sure to delight and enchant.



A debut collection of brief stories reflects on the human condition.

Beginning as a campaign to write one tale a week for 50 weeks, Becker’s book spans many literary genres, moods, and situations, all set in a succession of American states. While many stories create mere cursory circumstances sketched over an economy of pages as the subtitle suggests, others are somewhat lengthier, like the opener, “Broken People,” starring an Idaho farmer and father of four. The man aches for absolution years after a tragedy. The irony and sometimes the cruelty of humankind ground much of this collection, making it both thoughtful and relatable. The ways furniture connects to a family unit constitute the Connecticut-set tale “The Lake House”; next-door strangers finally find common ground in “Good Neighbors” just as one family moves away; and ruthless looters take advantage of Oregon’s wildfire season in “Where There’s Smoke.” The volume’s standout quality lies in its variety. Pain and passion intermingle with history and culture (New Orleans Voodoo, Alaska, the circus) while a mixture of spontaneous adventures and deadly consequences saturates many stories, like “Dead Ends,” in which a couple on a Utah desert highway recklessly take a detour. They end up embroiled in a nightmarish government biohazard contamination setting. The Halloween yarn “Shine on You Crazy Diamonds” features a haunted house bedeviling a group of Detroit friends who gathered there as kids. As impressive as some of the longer tales are, the shorter entries can pack the same punch, as in the single-page drama “The Blue Door.” Here, a California woman who abandons her marriage still feels a scintillating pinch of sorrow, freedom, and terror at relinquishing her husband’s “safety net that would never catch her again.” As an anthology, Becker’s book is ultimately satisfying, if uneven in spots. Some stories lack enough narrative definition or distinguishing characteristics to link them to their locations. Still, the varying states of the characters’ minds form a kaleidoscopic array of reflections, regrets, accomplishments, and the stress of both good and bad relationships. Whether melancholy or blissful, each of Becker’s tales offers an engaging coda and even some food for thought for readers who enjoy vivid short stories grounded in humanity.

A cleverly conceived, character-driven, if overstuffed, anthology sure to delight and enchant.

Pub Date: July 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-00-681115-9

Page Count: 358

Publisher: Blurb

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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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 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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