A delightfully engaging combination of Lassie and The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin.

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BUCK

HEROIC DOG STORY OF ADVENTURE, STRUGGLE & LOVE

A debut novel chronicles the escapades of an intrepid canine displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

Buck is a 2-year-old, mixed-breed, 55-pound family dog. Despite his dysfunctional human family, the Browns, Buck’s basic needs are met and he is loved. That all changes when he is swept away by Mississippi River floodwaters caused by Katrina. Swimming frantically and then finding a board to climb on, Buck eventually is tossed back onto dry land. Cold, hungry, and scared, he must find a way to survive. The next day, he begins walking—and walking. Finally, he spots a house with a chicken coop. But when he scores a bird, a farmer appears, fires a gun, and hits Buck with a spray of pellets. After a night of rest, the canine follows a road into the small community of Lyman, Mississippi, where he finds a main-street grocery store. He sits down, hoping someone will give him food. Here, he meets the two small pooches, also orphaned by the storm, who will become his temporary travel buddies: Lady, a blond Pekingese, and Teddy, a Jack Russell terrier. Lawrence-Verploegen’s tale is now off to a well-paced start. Buck shares the food he receives from a kindly woman, and he and his new crew head off for several adventures, one of which lands Teddy at the veterinarian. Buck and Lady return to the road, winding up at the home of a wealthy widow, Wilma Witherspoon, where they are welcomed and receive new names: Hoss and Angel. The author uses the pair’s stay with Witherspoon to insert diverse bits and pieces of Mississippi history into the narrative, including a look at Chinese immigration to the state and the region’s battle to combat hookworm. The short stories are intriguing but they divert attention from the primary plot. The linguistic tenor of these tales and the narrative in general seems more appropriate for an adolescent audience than for adults. Still, this heroic dog will evoke fond memories of canine stars of yesteryear. The enjoyable story regains steam when Buck/Hoss unexpectedly finds himself on the move again, his life following a trajectory that will lead him to his true mission.

A delightfully engaging combination of Lassie and The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-72833-552-0

Page Count: 222

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2020

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A heartwarming portrait of a broken heart finding a little healing magic.

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IN FIVE YEARS

After acing a job interview and accepting a marriage proposal, Dannie Kohan has had the perfect day. That is, until she awakens to find herself five years in the future with a completely different man.

Just one hour in that alternate reality shakes Dannie to her core. After all, highly ambitious Dannie and her boyfriend, David, have plotted out their lives in minute detail, and the sexy man in her dream—was it a dream?—is most certainly not in the script. Serle (The Dinner List, 2018) deftly spins these magical threads into Dannie’s perfectly structured life, leaving not only Dannie, but also the reader wondering whether Dannie time traveled or hallucinated. Her best friend, Bella, would delight in the story given that she thinks Dannie is much too straight-laced, and some spicy dreaming might push Dannie to find someone more passionate than David. Unfortunately, glamorous Bella is in Europe with her latest lover. Ever pragmatic, Dannie consults her therapist, who almost concurs that it was likely a dream, and throws herself into her work. Pleased to have landed the job at a prestigious law firm, Dannie easily loses her worries in litigation. Soon four and a half years have passed with no wedding date set, and Bella is back in the U.S. with a new man in her life. A man who turns out to be literally the man of Dannie’s dream. The sheer fact of Aaron Gregory’s existence forces Dannie to reevaluate her trust in the laws of physics as well as her decision to marry David, a decision that seems less believable with each passing day. And as the architecture of Dannie’s overplanned life disintegrates, Serle twists and twines the remnants of her dream into a surprising future.

A heartwarming portrait of a broken heart finding a little healing magic.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3744-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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