A deceptively mild tale about a walled city that turns overtly scary before it’s over.

When the Watcher Shakes

A man traveling the country comes across a religious commune that’s easy to enter but decidedly more difficult to leave in this debut thriller.

Feeling trapped in Florida, John leaves his girlfriend behind and hitchhikes north. He meets gas-station owner Jerry in West Virginia and plans to stick around for a bit of fishing. John’s also curious about a nearby walled city. Jerry, who says nothing about being a former resident, recommends the traveler stay away, but John can’t help himself. A gatekeeper answers his knock and lets him into Abestown, which houses an apparent sect. Residents are immediately wary of the Outsider, standing out in his loud, bright clothes and sporting an unruly ponytail and beard. But there’s definitely something strange going on: when John asks about the unmistakable train whistle, everyone tells him there’s no train or even a whistling that he repeatedly hears. Commune leader and Head Historian Rob Kai wants the townsfolk to remain devout, and even questioning the law could spark a trial most likely resulting in a punishment by death. Rob fears that John, as a representative of “the evils of the outside world,” may be infecting the people, who could, for starters, decide that they, too, hear the sound of a train. The methodical Head Historian debates evicting the Outsider—or simply killing him. Suspense in the novel initially feels muted since it’s unclear if John’s in any danger. But an unnerving atmosphere slowly creeps in. The religion, for one, is weirdly ambiguous, a Christian faith that simultaneously idolizes founder Abe and things done or said “as would please Abe.” Similarly, there are the necrolilith, an evil presence in the surrounding woods, as well as the disturbing manner in which the Council of Historians carries out a death penalty. All this menace eventually becomes more chilling as the story progresses, with Huguenin revealing some of Abestown’s inner workings and a hint of Jerry’s back story. A somewhat open ending retains an overall sense of dread, leaving a character or two’s fate in question and not expounding on Rob’s largely hidden—and frankly terrifying—ability.

A deceptively mild tale about a walled city that turns overtly scary before it’s over.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 14, 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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