An overly rich treacle tart, sweet and flavorful but hard to get through.

THE BOOK OF MAGIC

In the conclusion to Hoffman’s Practical Magic series, a present-day family of witches and healers wages a final battle against the curse that has plagued them since 1680.

Thanks to an ancestor’s bitter curse, anyone who's been in love with and/or been loved by an Owens family member for the last 300 years has met death and tragedy (with rare exceptions involving risks and personal sacrifice). Hoffman’s prequel, Magic Lessons (2020), detailed the origin of the curse. In this series finale, Hoffman brings the three most recent generations together: sisters Sally and Gillian, whose youthful adventures introduced the series in Practical Magic (1995); their beloved elderly aunts, Jet and Franny, and long-lost uncle Vincent, children themselves in 1960s Manhattan in Rules of Magic (2017); and Sally’s daughters, Kylie and Antonia, whom she’s shielded from knowledge of their unusual heritage and its curse. The novel opens with Jet about to die, aware she has no time to use the knowledge she’s recently gained to end the curse herself. Instead, she leaves clues that send her survivors on a circuitous path involving a mysterious book filled with magic that could be dangerous in the wrong hands. Then an accident makes the need to break the curse acute. What follows is a novel overripe with plot twists, lofty romances, and some ugly violence along with detailed magic recipes, enjoyably sly literary references, and somewhat repetitive memories of key moments from the previous volumes. While centered in the Massachusetts town where the Owens family moved in the 17th century, the novel travels to current-day England (briefly detouring to France) and becomes a battle of good versus evil. The Owens women’s greatest challenge is knowing whom to trust—or love. Hoffman strongly hints that the danger arising when someone chooses incorrectly is less a matter of magic than psychology and morality. Ultimately, for better or worse, each Owens woman must face her fear of love. For all the talk of magic, the message here is that personal courage and the capacity to love are the deepest sources of an individual’s power.

An overly rich treacle tart, sweet and flavorful but hard to get through.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982151-48-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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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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A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

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PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION

A travel writer has one last shot at reconnecting with the best friend she just might be in love with.

Poppy and Alex couldn't be more different. She loves wearing bright colors while he prefers khakis and a T-shirt. She likes just about everything while he’s a bit more discerning. And yet, their opposites-attract friendship works because they love each other…in a totally platonic way. Probably. Even though they have their own separate lives (Poppy lives in New York City and is a travel writer with a popular Instagram account; Alex is a high school teacher in their tiny Ohio hometown), they still manage to get together each summer for one fabulous vacation. They grow closer every year, but Poppy doesn’t let herself linger on her feelings for Alex—she doesn’t want to ruin their friendship or the way she can be fully herself with him. They continue to date other people, even bringing their serious partners on their summer vacations…but then, after a falling-out, they stop speaking. When Poppy finds herself facing a serious bout of ennui, unhappy with her glamorous job and the life she’s been dreaming of forever, she thinks back to the last time she was truly happy: her last vacation with Alex. And so, though they haven’t spoken in two years, she asks him to take another vacation with her. She’s determined to bridge the gap that’s formed between them and become best friends again, but to do that, she’ll have to be honest with Alex—and herself—about her true feelings. In chapters that jump around in time, Henry shows readers the progression (and dissolution) of Poppy and Alex’s friendship. Their slow-burn love story hits on beloved romance tropes (such as there unexpectedly being only one bed on the reconciliation trip Poppy plans) while still feeling entirely fresh. Henry’s biggest strength is in the sparkling, often laugh-out-loud-funny dialogue, particularly the banter-filled conversations between Poppy and Alex. But there’s depth to the story, too—Poppy’s feeling of dissatisfaction with a life that should be making her happy as well as her unresolved feelings toward the difficult parts of her childhood make her a sympathetic and relatable character. The end result is a story that pays homage to classic romantic comedies while having a point of view all its own.

A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0675-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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