A fresh, engrossing tale of a misfit kid pitting his dreams against an unforgiving society.

85A

A sensitive, gay teen confronts the hostility of almost everyone he meets in Chicago in this coming-of-age novel.

Fifteen-year-old Seamus O’Grady just wants to be himself: slightly effeminate but stridently profane; obsessed with punk rock; immersed in edgy writers, from William Blake to Henry Miller; and desperate to escape from Chicago to London to become a celebrated playwright. Unfortunately, his White, Irish Catholic neighborhood and Jesuit high school—St. Xavier’s, to which he travels on the 85A bus—still persecute those traits in 1989. Gay-baiting and bullying by classmates and his parents make him attempt suicide by car exhaust. He’s even rejected by other outcasts: Punk scenesters deride his Johnny Rotten impression as hopelessly passé, and he’s savagely beaten by skinheads who steal his hat. On the meager upside, he’s a born actor, his drama teacher says; his psychiatrist is supportive; and he has a friend in Tressa, a Black, bald actress, artist, dancer, and physics whiz who intimidates the skinheads with her imperturbable moxie. Unable to return Tressa’s advances, Seamus fantasizes about going to Britain with Colby, a charismatic punk with whom he had a single, riveting encounter months ago. Smith’s yarn feels like an updated The Catcher in the Rye, with Seamus matching Holden Caulfield’s alienation and angst. Seamus is also, like many teens, callow, grandiose, snobbish, and overwrought. (“Its eyes are so startled, you’d think it’d actually been alive long enough to see what a fuckin’ horrible world this is,” he observes of a fetal pig in biology class.) The melodramatic novel somewhat uncritically endorses Seamus’ immature dudgeon, given the over-the-top hate he gets from other characters. Still, the author is a gifted writer who skillfully deploys energetic, evocative prose. His panorama of Chicago is grungily atmospheric—“Two large Latinas shrieked and ear-pierce-belly-laughed over Schlitz cans as they sat on stools, talking Spanglish on the front fire escape”—and Seamus’ arresting voice indelibly conveys the wounding loneliness of adolescence. (“I was going to do my usual thing of shuttling my ass, all alone, up and down the stairs between the main floor and video room” at a club, “wishing I had someone to talk to, wishing I knew people.”) Seamus isn’t the wisest of heroes, but many readers will see themselves in him.

A fresh, engrossing tale of a misfit kid pitting his dreams against an unforgiving society.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-935098-26-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Bascom Hill Publishing Group

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

THE BOARDWALK BOOKSHOP

Three woman who join together to rent a large space along the beach in Los Angeles for their stores—a gift shop, a bakery, and a bookstore—become fast friends as they each experience the highs, and lows, of love.

Bree is a friendly but standoffish bookstore owner who keeps everyone she knows at arm’s length, from guys she meets in bars to her friends. Mikki is a settled-in-her-routines divorced mother of two, happily a mom, gift-shop owner, and co-parent with her ex-husband, Perry. And Ashley is a young, very-much-in-love bakery owner specializing in muffins who devotes herself to giving back to the community through a nonprofit that helps community members develop skills and find jobs. When the women meet drooling over a boardwalk storefront that none of them can afford on her own, a plan is hatched to divide the space in three, and a friendship—and business partnership—is born. An impromptu celebration on the beach at sunset with champagne becomes a weekly touchpoint to their lives as they learn more about each other and themselves. Their friendship blossoms as they help each other, offering support, hard truths, and loving backup. Author Mallery has created a delightful story of friendship between three women that also offers a variety of love stories as they fall in love, make mistakes, and figure out how to be the best—albeit still flawed—versions of themselves. The men are similarly flawed and human. While the story comes down clearly on the side of all-encompassing love, Mallery has struck a careful balance: There is just enough sex to be spicy, just enough swearing to be naughty, and just enough heartbreak to avoid being cloying.

A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-778-38608-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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A thoughtful exploration of one thief’s motivations and relationships, featuring a healthy dose of romance and suspense.

NIGHTWORK

A lifelong thief needs to pull off one last job—while getting revenge and keeping the woman he loves safe.

When Harry Booth was only 9 years old, he became a thief. With a cancer-stricken mother and bills piling up, it was his only option. But as he gets older and keeps breaking into homes—what he calls his “nightwork”—he realizes he possesses an unusual skill for it. Harry can pick any lock, slip into any home, and navigate even the highest tech security system. The nature of his work makes it hard for him to settle down anywhere, so after his mother’s death, he travels around the country, never staying in one city long enough to become suspicious. In New Orleans, though, he makes connections and finds a familylike bond with fellow thief Sebastien. But when he joins Sebastien on a job for a dangerous client named Carter LaPorte, Harry’s life changes forever. Harry moves on and tries to start a low-key life as a college student in Chapel Hill, where he falls for an aspiring writer named Miranda Emerson. But LaPorte isn’t ready to let go of Harry, and he uses threats to Harry’s aunt—and Miranda—to force Harry into working for him again. Harry abandons Miranda and spends years on the run. That is, until he finally gets the chance to take LaPorte down—with Miranda’s help. Roberts takes her time setting up Harry’s character and his motivations, making it easy for the reader to sympathize with a thief who has a code of honor and a deep love for his family. But since the first half of the book is largely an exploration of Harry’s character, the story drags a bit. Once Harry and Miranda’s love story starts in earnest and LaPorte reappears, the plot picks up. The story’s strength, however, lies less in the thrill of Harry’s break-ins and more in the complexities of his touching relationships with his mother, his quirky phone-psychic aunt, Sebastien, and Miranda.

A thoughtful exploration of one thief’s motivations and relationships, featuring a healthy dose of romance and suspense.

Pub Date: May 24, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-2502-7819-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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