BLOOD OF THE VIRGIN

A finely crafted look at the complexities and grotesqueries of Hollywood and the human heart.

The monsters aren’t just on screen in this lurid graphic novel from Harkham about a horror-film editor with dreams of directing, his dissatisfied wife, his manipulative boss, and his alcoholic and occasionally violent colleagues.

Seymour loves horror movies and came to Hollywood to make them. In 1971, he mostly works as an editor at a small studio, but one day his boss wants to buy a script that Seymour has been shopping around. Despite his initial hesitation that the script isn’t right for the film his boss wants to make to satisfy an investor, Seymour seizes the opportunity. His commitment to his work causes tension with his wife, Ida, who regularly berates him for neglecting household responsibilities but tolerates the all-night, drug-fueled debaucheries Seymour attends at his boss’s mansion. Though Ida repeatedly rebuffs Seymour’s amorous advances, while he’s away she pleasures herself on the couch while their baby wails from another room. When the shoot of Seymour’s script faces logistical pressures, the studio gives Seymour an even bigger opportunity (enough rope to hang himself with?), and Ida takes their son on an open-ended visit to her family in New Zealand, where she spends time with childhood friends, including an old flame. Harkham weaves a psychologically complex tale, balancing the bad behavior of Hollywood with an intriguingly pragmatic look at the moviemaking process. Seymour’s passion for film and his conflicted conscience keep us reasonably sympathetic to him as he self-destructs, perhaps mostly because of his desire for Ida even as his stresses and urges don’t exactly keep him committed to her. Harkham’s text delivers punchy banter and sly sound effects, while his exceptionally expressive art is equal parts comic strip and cinema.

A finely crafted look at the complexities and grotesqueries of Hollywood and the human heart.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9780593316696

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2023

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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