A crowded, intricate thriller with an appealing, offbeat heroine.

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The Wishing Well

A businesswoman and author goes on the run, due in part to her husband’s murky business dealings, in this work of futuristic conspiracy fiction.

It’s 2023 and James Appleton is in his office at London financial firm Lifespan, contemplating an insider-trading scheme. He returns home to his lovely wife, Laura, who owns a cupcake-making business. After she goes off on a business trip to Scotland, various forces move in on James and also begin to track her. She’s also working on a book about how the government, media, military contractors, and organized crime may have colluded regarding the Iraq War—a plot that includes the murder of a weapons inspector and the possible fabrication of 9/11 events. She ends up meeting two other British dissidents and becomes romantically involved with one of them. Soon, Laura calls on her karate skills to foil continuing physical attacks. Meanwhile, British cabinet minister Alexander Shaw, who’s also being threatened, flees to the Cayman Islands, leaving a policeman to guard his wife. By novel’s end, Shaw and Laura have both returned to England, with the latter embarking on a new chapter in her life. In this sophomore effort, Conlon (The Price of Silence, 2012), who worked in Scotland’s financial services industry for many years, whips up an intriguing, dizzying tale of business and government corruption. Unfortunately, the narrative is overly packed with characters and plot threads, resulting in some awkward story shifts. For example, the narrative strongly introduces James, giving him a striking back story in which he’s bullied as a schoolboy, but then surprisingly recedes from the novel’s events. Shaw shows up later on and takes up a healthy part of the story, even though he’s not a particularly fascinating figure. However, Laura, whose dual life as cupcake entrepreneur and crusading author defies yet captures the imagination, will make readers curious about her future adventures.

A crowded, intricate thriller with an appealing, offbeat heroine.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-50-494599-8

Page Count: 220

Publisher: AuthorHouseUK

Review Posted Online: Oct. 29, 2015

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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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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