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THE HOPEFUL

For fans of figure skating, this book is edgy and serious enough to not feel like a guilty pleasure.

O’Neill’s debut novel tracks an aspiring figure skater’s journey of obsession, triumph, failure, and addiction.

In a psych ward in New Hampshire, 17-year-old Alivopro “Ali” Doyle tells her doctor, “In the beginning was skating, and skating was everything….” At one time, Ali was an Olympic hopeful training for the regional championships, until a fall on the ice caused neck trauma and ended her amateur career. As the narrative weaves through sessions with her psychiatrist and a recounting of her training as a figure skater, what emerges is not a predictable story of loss and hope but a complex family drama. While Ali’s father, Alvin, embraces her ambition as a distraction from his own depression, her mother, Lou, is more disturbed by Ali’s single-minded desire to be a champion at any cost. Further complicating this dynamic is that Ali is adopted, born to a Native American mother. For Ali, her ethnicity and unknown heritage bring up insecurities about her body as she tries to keep herself in “Olympic condition,” and her adoption often becomes a sticking point in arguments between Ali and Lou. After her accident, the family that was tentatively held together by a common goal begins to fall apart. Ali becomes addicted to amphetamines, determined to lose weight and start skating again, with predictably disastrous results. The entry into this novel can be difficult. The chronology is often unclear; many chapters are almost exclusively unmarked dialogue between Ali and her therapist; and sometimes the reader is not given enough context to fully understand a scene. But the book soars in its descriptions of figure skating, capturing its strange and brutal beauty and achieving a beauty of its own in the process.

For fans of figure skating, this book is edgy and serious enough to not feel like a guilty pleasure.

Pub Date: June 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63246-002-8

Page Count: 258

Publisher: Ig Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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THEN SHE WAS GONE

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

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. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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THE PERFECT COUPLE

Sink into this book like a hot, scented bath...a delicious, relaxing pleasure. And a clever whodunit at the same time.

A wedding on Nantucket is canceled when the bride finds her maid of honor floating facedown in the Atlantic on the morning of the big day.

One of the supporting characters in Hilderbrand's (Winter Solstice, 2017, etc.) 21st Nantucket novel is Greer Garrison, the mother of the groom and a well-known novelist. Unfortunately, in addition to all the other hell about to break loose in Greer's life, she's gone off her game. Early in the book, a disappointed reader wonders if "the esteemed mystery writer, who is always named in the same breath as Sue Grafton and Louise Penny, is coasting now, in her middle age." In fact, Greer's latest manuscript is about to be rejected and sent back for a complete rewrite, with a deadline of two weeks. But wanna know who's most definitely not coasting? Elin Hilderbrand. Readers can open her latest with complete confidence that it will deliver everything we expect: terrific clothes and food, smart humor, fun plot, Nantucket atmosphere, connections to the characters of preceding novels, and warmth in relationships evoked so beautifully it gets you right there. Example: a tiny moment between the chief of police and his wife. It's very late in the book, and he still hasn't figured out what the hell happened to poor Merritt Monaco, the Instagram influencer and publicist for the Wildlife Conservation Society. Even though it's dinner time, he has to leave the "cold blue cans of Cisco beer in his fridge” and get back to work. " ‘I hate murder investigations,’ [his wife] says, lifting her face for a kiss. ‘But I love you.’ " You will feel that just as powerfully as you believe that Celeste Otis, the bride-to-be, would rather be anywhere on Earth than on the beautiful isle of Nantucket, marrying the handsome, kind, and utterly smitten Benji Winbury. In fact, she had a fully packed bag with her at the crack of dawn when she found her best friend's body.

Sink into this book like a hot, scented bath...a delicious, relaxing pleasure. And a clever whodunit at the same time.

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-37526-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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