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Until It Fades

K.A. Tucker. Atria, $16 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-1-5011-3338-1

Bestseller Tucker’s touching and complex contemporary pairs privacy-loving Catherine Wright, a single mother in Balsam County, Penn., with garrulous Brett Madden, the wealthy, handsome captain of the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team. When Catherine spots a wrecked sports car, the driver dead and the passenger unconscious, she has no clue that the latter is superstar Brett. Catherine manages to free him as the car flames over, only to become the focus of a media circus, a circumstance that brings back terrible memories of when her high school teacher turned her love life into the talk of Balsam County. Catherine attempts to normalize her life by ruthlessly keeping her regular schedule. Brett disguises his fears of career-ending injuries with strained humor and bravado. Each time they meet, ostensibly to deal with the media, the attraction between them grows stronger. Tucker unerringly hits all the high notes of romance—the spark, the emotional depth, the mental and physical struggles—while creating a couple who seem perfectly attuned even when they are in conflict. Agent: Stacey Donaghy, Donaghy Literary. (July)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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City of Miracles

Robert Jackson Bennett. Broadway, $16 trade paper (464p) ISBN 978-0-553-41973-3

Bennett concludes his Divine Cities trilogy (City of Stairs, City of Blades) with a stunning and heartbreaking tale of sacrifice amid magic and spycraft. Sigrud je Harkvaldsson has spent years in the wilderness after the death of his daughter. When Shara Komayd, his mentor and friend, is assassinated, he vows to find out what happened and seek revenge. Instead of discovering a simple plot by one of Shara’s enemies, Sigrud finds hints of magic and divine artifacts that suggest a threat to the entire world; soon he realizes that, although most of the gods are dead, some of their children aren’t. Sigrud has long served as a Conan analogue in Bennett’s novels, and the aging barbarian is hardly a new trope, but Bennett dives deeply into Sigrud’s character, with some well-laid clues from City of Stairs paying substantial dividends as his background is revealed. Intriguing characters such as Shara’s teenage daughter, Tatyana, and former ingenue Invania Restroyka (now “the richest damn woman alive”) keep the story entertaining, and the ghost of Shara hangs over all of them. The bittersweet ending, which elegantly and definitively caps off the novel and the trilogy, will have readers reaching for the tissues. Agent: Cameron McClure, Donald Maass Literary. (May)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Bone Mother

David Demchuk. ChiZine, $17.99 trade paper (300p) ISBN 978-1-77148-421-3

This extraordinary debut novel crosses borders and boundaries, stretching across continents and years in a series of interwoven stories and vignettes. Somewhere in Ukraine, near the Romanian border, there were once three villages. There was a factory that made porcelain the color of bleached bone, a river where drowned women beckoned inattentive passersby, a road where a lonely girl walked and walked, and a church where monsters were kept under an altar. When war comes to the villages, its inhabitants scatter—not just the men, women, and children, but the drevniye, strigoi, and malen’kiy sprut, all the beautiful and terrible creatures of the old world. And chasing after all these “children of monsters and of gods” are the Nichni Politsiyi, the Night Police. Demchuk gracefully pieces together a dark and shining mosaic of a story with unforgettable imagery and elegant, evocative prose. These stories read like beautiful and brutal nightmares, sharply disquieting, and are made all the more terrifying by the history in which they’re grounded. (July)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Matchup

Edited by Lee Child. Simon & Schuster, $27 (464p) ISBN 978-1-5011-4159-1

Each of the 11 collaborative tales in this stellar sequel to the International Thriller Writers’ anthology FaceOff (2014) pairs a top-rank female thriller writer with a male counterpart. Sandra Brown’s Lee Coburn and C.J. Box’s Joe Pickett send testosterone levels soaring in “Honor &...”. British authors Val McDermid (known for Det. Chief Insp. Carol Jordan) and Peter James (Det. Supt. Roy Grace) match witticisms as they seek a foot fetishist criminal in “Footloose.” Child’s Jack Reacher’s past and Kathy Reich’s forensic expert Dr. Temperance Brennan’s present bring the two together in “Faking a Murderer.” In “Midnight Flame,” Lara Adrian’s vampire Lucan Thorne and Christopher Rice’s Lilliane meet in New Orleans in an adventure that threatens both their paranormal tribes. Other notable pairings include Diana Gabaldon (Jamie Fraser) and Steve Berry (Cotton Malone), Lisa Jackson (Regan Pescoli) and John Sandford (Virgil Flowers), and Gayle Lynds (Liz Sansborough) and David Morrell (Rambo). Child provides a brief, cogent intro to each selection. Highly recommended as entertainment, this anthology is a great place to start if you’ve not yet sampled some of these authors. Agent: Dan Conaway, Writers House. (June)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Black Moses

Alain Mabanckou, trans. from the French by Helen Stevenson. New Press (Perseus, dist.), $23.95 (208p) ISBN 978-1-62097-293-9

A small book with a big narrative voice, this wacky new novel by Mabanckou follows the existential misfortunes of an orphan whose “kilometrically extended name” means “Thanks be to God, the black Moses is born on the earth of our ancestors.” Things were always bad for Moses at the orphanage in Loango, a place full of corrupt and unscrupulous administrators who treat children “no better than cattle.” But after the orphanage’s director and his cronies, all relatives, change allegiance as the socialist revolution takes over the Congo, Moses decides to escape to the city of Pointe-Noire with the twins Songi-Songi and Tala-Tala. They agree to let him join them and give him the nickname Little Pepper when he spikes their food with chilis. The sordid streets of the city offer few better opportunities, however, and in colorful, weird prose, Moses recounts his few triumphs and many travails. His fellow escapees form a gang of petty thieves, but at 16, Moses is taken in by a kindly Zairian madam called Maman Fiat 500, who—with her employees, “ten girls, each more beautiful than the last”—provides him with the only family he will ever know. Moses ages quickly, spiraling into madness and forgetting. He wishes to become his own hero, Robin Hood, but he more closely resembles Don Quixote, eventually striking out on a last noble and violent quest worthy of his long name. This mythic, beguiling novel is a journey to discover what is hard-wired in us and what we make up about ourselves. (June)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Shattered: You are More Than Your Fears

Kimberly Rae. Narrow Way, $14.99 ISBN 978-1-5232-9004-8

In Rae’s (Shredded) second installment in the Broken series, Jean has fallen in love with Grant, whom she met in book 1, but her emotional scars run deeper than her love for him. As she learns to let go, her heart begins to heal. Jean relies often on her friend in faith Candy, whose refreshing sense of humor and positive outlook never ceases, to astound as she spiritually challenges the ladies at their church. Although Candy’s plan to start a strip club ministry horrifies them, they soon realize the critical need the strippers’ have for freedom from their protective club owner and themselves. Looking for redemption, Candy’s friend Champagne is released from prison only to be blackmailed into betraying her former friends to protect her sister. Although they don’t believe in her innocence, the church community protects her, risking their lives to help her. The outcome is a chilling chase that results in heartache and hurt. Rae admirably approaches a difficult subject with a nice balance of romance, intrigue, and wit, while proving that no one is too far gone to overcome their past. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories

Celeste Fletcher McHale. Thomas Nelson, $15.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-7180-3984-4

Tracking down a story in southern Louisiana, Jacey gets more than she bargained for when she, along with a young family and an attractive mystery man named Colin, is held captive on a roof by a massive flood for three days. Falling in love during their harrowing time on the roof, Colin scribbles out his phone number and shoves it in Jacey’s pocket before she and the family board the rescue boat, leaving Colin behind. However, a terrible accident on the boat steals Jacey’s memories, as well as the scrap of paper holding Colin’s number. Struggling to keep afloat mentally for the next year, Jacey pushes away the memories of that night, knowing in her heart that the accident took much more than she wants to remember. When Colin unexpectedly reappears in Jacey’s life, they pick up right where they left off, with several bumps along the way. McHale (The Secret to Hummingbird Cake) has a way of creating characters who are believably flawed and human. Her wit and hilarity are perfect matches for the heartfelt romance in this winsome book. Agent: Liza Fleissig, Liza Royce Literary Agency (May)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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True to You

Becky Wade. Bethany House, $13.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-7642-1936-8

Wade begins her new Bradford Sisters series by introducing Nora Bradford, a self-described academic in her less-than-highbrow family. Nora and her sister Britt are participating in a staged emergency situation when she meets John Lawson. She is immediately attracted to John, drawing him into her storybook romantic fantasies, and becomes disappointed after discovering that John is already in a relationship. But the attraction is clearly more than one-sided after John recruits Nora to help him find his birth mother. The journey brings Nora and John together, allowing them the time to learn about one another. While the story is Nora’s, Wade successfully develops each character, especially Nora’s two sisters, Britt and Willow, who have particularly distinct personalities and voices. Though they did not plan on falling in love, Nora and John keep gravitating towards each other. When a connection from their past is revealed, both are forced to face the pain and uncertainty that they had been trying to avoid. Britt and Willow step in as a strong support system to Nora and provide much-needed humor. Wade starts this new series off strong, introducing characters that are easy to invest in. Agent: Linda Kruger, Fogelman Literary Agency (May)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Matrimonial Flirtations of Emma Kaulfield

Anna Fishbeyn. Arcade, $16.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-62872-758-6

It’s difficult to determine whether Fishbeyn’s doorstop debut is intended to be a diverting contemporary romance or a melodramatic polemic against anti-Semitism. The first-person narrative of Russian Jewish émigré Emma reveals a self-indulgent navel-gazer who is both grandiloquent and romantic. The romantic part withers a bit when her interfering grandmother sets her up with the ostensibly perfect match: Alexei Bagdanovich, who’s a Russian Jew, a Princeton man, and determined to remain chaste until marriage. That’s not exactly ideal for this newly minted American feminist who shed her birth name, Lena Kabelmacher, quicker than you could say “Emma Kaulfield.” Liberated as she professes to be, behind Emma’s American face lurk Lena’s roots. As she indulges in a no-strings affair with dashing gentile Eddie Beltrafio, the voices of her ancestors nibble away at her so-called liberated resolve. Occasional laugh-out-loud moments provide respite from the avalanche of angsty, guilt-heavy, conscience-cleansing prose. Agent: Don Fehr, Trident Media Group. (May)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Cheater’s Regret

Rachel Van Dyken. Skyscape, , $9.99 ISBN 978-1-4778-1997-5

Van Dyken delights readers with this clever contemporary about a hapless man who’s his own worst enemy—and his girlfriend’s, too. Austin Rogers is ready to, if not forgive, at least forget that her boyfriend, Thatch Holloway, cheated on her; it was just a one-time transgression. But he literally slams the door on making up. It’s almost as if he wanted to get caught, and now wants to provoke Austin until she breaks up with him. Naturally, this doesn’t go as planned. Austin is totally in love with him—and Thatch is in love with her, but for reasons of his own he feels like it’s best to push her away. When she decides to take revenge on Thatch, the ensuing antics and Thatch’s responses add great entertainment value to their steamy relationship. Van Dyken’s smart characters carry her well-wrought plot to a satisfying happy ending. Agent: Erica Spellman-Silverman, Trident Media Group. (May)

Reviewed on 03/24/2017 | Details & Permalink

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