A tour de force of anguish made bearable by glimmers of redemption.

BRIGHT BURNING THINGS

A downtrodden single mother in Dublin shares her inner torment as alcoholism puts her at risk of losing the 4-year-old son she adores.

Sonya is a former actress who lost her career and lover when she decided to have her baby. Her narration is imbued with theatrical histrionics both mesmerizing and horrifying—mostly horrifying. The manic affection and pride with which Sonya describes her isolated life with son Tommy and dog Herbie, whom Sonya calls her other “boy,” are belied by the filth and squalor they clearly inhabit. Sonya is a mother who leaves a 4-year-old alone on the beach while she swims in her underwear with her imaginary, “lethal and irresistible…sidekick”; who drinks three bottles of wine and passes out while Tommy sits hungry in front of the television; who, in a burst of obsessive love, presses Tommy against her stomach as if to stuff him back into her womb, almost literally smothering him until he escapes her hold; who slaps him in a pizzeria, where a stranger named David Smythe steps in to pay for their food out of concern and suggests she get help. The sense of impending disaster looms until Sonya’s supposedly estranged father shows up and forces her into rehab, where she interacts with three key characters: Sister Anne, whose spirituality is hard for Sonya to accept but who sees her as redeemable; fellow addict Jimmy, who can't cure himself but offers Sonya practical support; and David Smythe, who (too) coincidentally turns out to be a former addict–turned-counselor and who may or may not offer the safe haven Sonya needs. Harding eschews sentimentality while making it clear that her characters, however warped, are complex human beings. But even after Sonya returns home and regains custody of Tommy, the reader cannot relax and trust that Tommy will be safe in her care.

A tour de force of anguish made bearable by glimmers of redemption.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-309714-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HarperVia

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

BOOK OF NIGHT

A former thief who specialized in stealing magical documents is forced back into her old habits in Black's adult debut.

Charlie Hall used to work as a thief, stealing for and from magicians—or rather, “gloamists.” In this world, gloamists are people with magical shadows that are alive, gaining strength from the gloamists' own blood. A gloamist can learn to manipulate the magic of their shadow, doing everything from changing how it looks to using it to steal, possess a person, or even murder. Gloamists hire nonmagical people like Charlie to steal precious and rare magical documents written by their kind throughout history and detailing their research and experiments in shadow magic. Gloamists can use onyx to keep each other from sending shadows to steal these treasures, but onyx won't stop regular humans from old-fashioned breaking and entering. After Charlie’s talent for crime gets her into too much trouble, she swears off her old career and tries to settle down with her sensible boyfriend, Vince—but when she finds a dead man in an alley and notices that even his shadow has been ripped to pieces, she can’t help trying to figure out who he was and why he met such a gruesome end. Before she knows it, Charlie is forced back into a life of lies and danger, using her skills as a thief to find a book that could unleash the full and terrifying power of the shadow world. Black is a veteran fantasy writer, which shows in the opening pages as she neatly and easily guides the reader through the engrossing world of gloamists, magical shadows, and Charlie’s brand of criminality. There's a lot of flipping back and forth between the past and the present, and though both timelines are well plotted and suspenseful, the story leans a touch too hard on the flashbacks. Still, the mystery elements are well executed, as is Charlie’s characterization, and the big twist at the end packs a satisfying punch.

Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81219-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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