A formulaic tale about the dangers of temptation.

RESTLESS IN L.A.

A mother beleaguered by stress—and frustrated aspirations—risks it all for an illicit affair in this debut novel.

Alexandra Hoffman’s life is a hectic one. She has three rambunctious kids, one of whom, Ryan, struggles with severe anxiety and attention deficit disorder, and likely falls somewhere on the autism spectrum. Her husband, Jason, is consumed by his corporate job, and his absenteeism has taken a toll on their marriage. Alex’s 40th birthday is fast approaching, and she’s dispirited by unrealized ambitions—she planned to become a novelist and now keeps an anonymous blog detailing her travails as a full-time mom (“Yesterday, I stopped by the Back-to-School Parent Breakfast and made myself a tall cup of Starbucks and shoved a pre-made egg sandwich on seven-grain bread into the pocket of my jacket and left. I didn’t stay for sign-in or icebreakers or speeches”). She looks up an old flame, Matt Daniels, with whom she had an intense romantic affair—they lived together for a year in London. She accidentally friends him on Facebook and, against her better judgment, meets him for dinner. Against anyone’s better judgment, she returns to his hotel room for a glass of water, and they are both overcome by the magnetic draw of their attraction to each other. A torrid affair begins. Finn jumps among the first-person narrative, snippets from Alex’s blog, and flashbacks to her youthful romance with Matt. The author realistically sketches a portrait of a haggard mother, pummeled by relentless obligations and unceremoniously jettisoned dreams. In addition, her account of Ryan’s tribulations as a teen addled with cognitive dysfunction is expertly produced. But the story is at best a familiar one, and maybe shopworn, a problem worsened by the weight of clichés. Consider Alex’s description of her life coach, Lark: “Her dark purple top, purple yoga pants, and tattooed arm lent her the aura of some kind of modern-day shaman.” The pace of the tale is lumbering, and one of its driving premises—that Alex could be a great writer if only she’d believe in herself—is never evidenced by any of the samples shared with the reader, which are unspectacular even by the standards of the blogosphere. While Alex’s frustration is expressively detailed by Finn, the plot is too stale to grip the reader’s attention for long, and the characters too threadbare.

A formulaic tale about the dangers of temptation. 

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 263

Publisher: Inkspell Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2017

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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