A heartfelt—but somewhat predictable—coming-of-age story and romance featuring well-crafted characters.



In this debut novel, a small town shuns an unwed mother as her son struggles with his future and the way the world sees their family.

In the small, conservative, and rural town of Alton, Pennsylvania, young mother Lou Metcalf stands out, unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. Raising three children from three different fathers all on her own, Lou often has to avoid the glances of other women, who judge her harshly as immoral and a bad influence. She also must distance herself from the husbands around town, who inevitably start stumbling over themselves like high schoolers in the presence of her beauty. Lou’s son Derek has also paid the price for her romantic entanglements. Targeted by town rich kid and bully Carl Cross and often a source of gossip, Derek has been shunned by his peers. His social world revolves around a gang of fellow smart and sensitive misfits who call themselves the ZONCs. He also lunches with the soulful school janitor, Cal. Every day, Cal reveals a little more of his own life story, one in which he could not read until he was age 15, to try to convince Derek to not give up on his studies and to pursue college. But a serious challenge is on the horizon for all of them as a new romance blooms in Lou’s life when one of the husbands she has avoided opens up to her in unexpected ways. Ace’s narrative moves easily from coming-of-age story to forbidden romance to an anthology of small-town life. While many of the familiar tropes and clichés found in these genres surface in her work—like the wise old janitor or the band of nerdy but good-hearted kids—Ace delivers something special in the strong character of Lou. The author provides succinct, memorable descriptions like “She didn’t ‘make’ conversation. When Lou spoke, her words were real. She offered herself with her words.” While the tales of Ace’s cast don’t hold many surprises, these evocative moments help create fully developed players who keep her novel intriguing.

A heartfelt—but somewhat predictable—coming-of-age story and romance featuring well-crafted characters.  

Pub Date: Dec. 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5127-2194-2

Page Count: 330

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2017

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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These letters from some important executive Down Below, to one of the junior devils here on earth, whose job is to corrupt mortals, are witty and written in a breezy style seldom found in religious literature. The author quotes Luther, who said: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." This the author does most successfully, for by presenting some of our modern and not-so-modern beliefs as emanating from the devil's headquarters, he succeeds in making his reader feel like an ass for ever having believed in such ideas. This kind of presentation gives the author a tremendous advantage over the reader, however, for the more timid reader may feel a sense of guilt after putting down this book. It is a clever book, and for the clever reader, rather than the too-earnest soul.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1942

ISBN: 0060652934

Page Count: 53

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1943

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