Potent stories and strong-willed characters converge to form a well-rounded collection.

3 Tales of Vengeance

This debut thriller, a trio of novellas, features characters who crave some type of retribution and go about achieving it in diverse ways.

Insaf smartly opens his book with a traditional revenge story. In “Vengeance for a Friend,” a narrator called “Man” awakens to three strangers, who’ve apparently gassed him before shooting and beating to death his best friend, Mike. The narrator, a former homeless street fighter whom Mike had taken in, narrowly escapes when the three men set the house afire. He tracks down one of the killers whom he’s dubbed The Smoker (a cigarette perpetually dangling from his lips) and enacts swift and bloody vengeance. The same fate will surely befall the other two, provided he can find them. Revenge isn’t so clearly defined in the remaining two stories. The somewhat reserved “Vengeance for a Life” follows Sam Chance, whose daughter Lucy’s death from leukemia led to his mental collapse. The plot largely consists of Sam’s sessions with psychiatrist Dr. Garrett, who tries to help the suicidal father overcome his guilt, having left his family when he could no longer bear seeing his sickly daughter. The titular vengeance—whose or why—isn’t revealed until later, with a conclusion that, though somber, is surprisingly bittersweet. The final story, “Vengeance for Love,” is both the best and most exhilarating. In it, poker player Striker’s just walked away from a tournament win with a cool $1.6 million. A raspy-voiced anonymous caller, however, wants the cash for himself. He’s kidnapped Dave, Striker’s pal and benefactor, who provided him with seed money for the tourney. The caller likewise knows about Striker’s family, and soon his wife and daughter are in peril as well. Insaf’s prose is straightforward, befitting characters like the narrator in “Friend,” whose single-minded goal is the sole driving force. There’s little humor, but when it does pop up, it’s certainly hard to miss, particularly when Striker calls the violent, menacing kidnapper a “fat turd.” All three stories have laudable endings, but “Love” is a slam-dunk and sure to make most readers peruse the tale again—or possibly the entire book.

Potent stories and strong-willed characters converge to form a well-rounded collection.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 297

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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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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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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