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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 21

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?

A not-very-illuminating updating of Chaucer’s Tales.



Continuing his apparent mission to refract the whole of English culture and history through his personal lens, Ackroyd (Thames: The Biography, 2008, etc.) offers an all-prose rendering of Chaucer’s mixed-media masterpiece.

While Burton Raffel’s modern English version of The Canterbury Tales (2008) was unabridged, Ackroyd omits both “The Tale of Melibee” and “The Parson’s Tale” on the undoubtedly correct assumption that these “standard narratives of pious exposition” hold little interest for contemporary readers. Dialing down the piety, the author dials up the raunch, freely tossing about the F-bomb and Anglo-Saxon words for various body parts that Chaucer prudently described in Latin. Since “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” and “The Miller’s Tale,” for example, are both decidedly earthy in Middle English, the interpolated obscenities seem unnecessary as well as jarringly anachronistic. And it’s anyone’s guess why Ackroyd feels obliged redundantly to include the original titles (“Here bigynneth the Squieres Tales,” etc.) directly underneath the new ones (“The Squires Tale,” etc.); these one-line blasts of antique spelling and diction remind us what we’re missing without adding anything in the way of comprehension. The author’s other peculiar choice is to occasionally interject first-person comments by the narrator where none exist in the original, such as, “He asked me about myself then—where I had come from, where I had been—but I quickly turned the conversation to another course.” There seems to be no reason for these arbitrary elaborations, which muffle the impact of those rare times in the original when Chaucer directly addresses the reader. Such quibbles would perhaps be unfair if Ackroyd were retelling some obscure gem of Old English, but they loom larger with Chaucer because there are many modern versions of The Canterbury Tales. Raffel’s rendering captured a lot more of the poetry, while doing as good a job as Ackroyd with the vigorous prose.

A not-very-illuminating updating of Chaucer’s Tales.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-670-02122-2

Page Count: 436

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet