A scattershot story, but one that manages to deliver a historically edifying depiction of the 1960s.

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Rude Boy USA

A debut tale of organized crime, political unrest, and love in New York City during the 1960s.

A sophisticated, four-man criminal fraternity, the Chimera Group, also known as “the Rude Boys,” has risen to prominence in Manhattan. One night, a man brutally assaults one of group’s members, John, and Celia Jones, who works at a local nightclub, saves his life. John soon falls in love with her, and she initially responds to his romantic overtures. However, their prospects seem doomed by the fact that he’s already in a loveless marriage. Celia eventually comes to work for the Rude Boys as their bookkeeper and begins a relationship with Ben, the group’s “number three man,” further complicating her relationship with John. She soon learns that the Chimera Group is hemorrhaging cash, due to another partner’s ungovernable drug habit. Meanwhile, the group contends with the unwanted attention of the Italian mob, which views the diverse group with racist disdain. Bolton aptly captures the tempestuous spirit of the time—a volatile brew of political radicalism, crime, racial tension, and sexual libertinism—and her painstaking historical research is evident on virtually every page. However, the prose is consistently plodding and the dialogue leaden, as when Celia aggressively flirts with John: “ ‘If you do dream of me, remember, I like it rough,’ she said as she sashayed to the door….John stood there and stared at her, feeling an intoxicating tactile euphoria in his whole body.” Other than the atmosphere of the decade, there’s little that binds together the meandering plot, which reads more like a successive series of random happenings than a coherent whole. One can’t help but wonder whether Bolton’s formidable command of the setting would have been better employed in a nonfiction work.

A scattershot story, but one that manages to deliver a historically edifying depiction of the 1960s.

Pub Date: Dec. 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5187-5433-3

Page Count: 282

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2016

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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