An often engaging action novel, bolstered by its exotic setting and realistic protagonist.

WARM SALT

A grad student investigates the tragic death of a diving partner and stumbles on a crime ring in Eshleman’s debut thriller.

Readers first meet Peter Case as he’s doing work for his doctorate in a science-related field, mid-dive near a Jamaican marine lab, where his attentive and analytic manner is immediately evident. Early chapters show the energetic, likable protagonist bantering with his diving buddy Wayne Emery, trading friendly barbs and insults in an appealing show of camaraderie. A mysterious explosion occurs underwater and Emery dies from apparent radiation poisoning; Case tries to get to the bottom of what happened and finds himself ushered into a broader world of dangerous intrigue and espionage. Eshleman proves to be an adept writer of action scenes, but what makes his work stand out are his hyperrealistic treatments of diving and marine life. His keen eye for detailed scene-setting results in a description of a seedy, smoke-filled bar (“An old jukebox, speakers designed for more melodic tunes, vibrated in the corner of the room with every bass note”) that’s nearly as vivid as more sophisticated scenes set underwater. The frenetic pace of the story also works in the story’s favor as Case becomes embroiled in what turns out to be an international conspiracy with CIA involvement. Some of the characters, including the novel’s villain, fall into fairly standard thriller tropes, but Case himself is an impressively crafted protagonist who stands strongly at the center of the action. At first, he seems like an unlikely hero, but his dogged observational skills and skeptical nature make him a valuable investigator, and the book closes with a way forward for him to headline future novels in Eshleman’s fictional universe.

An often engaging action novel, bolstered by its exotic setting and realistic protagonist.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-03-913114-9

Page Count: 264

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2022

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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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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