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The Reminders

Val Emmich. Little, Brown, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-0-316-31699-6

Emmich's quirky first novel tracks the developing friendship between 10-year-old Joan and 30-something Gavin as they unite to try to win a songwriting contest. Joan, who lives with her musician dad and teacher mom in urban New Jersey, is one of a few dozen people in the world with a condition called highly superior autobiographical memory, which means that she remembers everything that has ever happened to her and on what day. TV actor Gavin has just lost his partner, Sydney, to a heart attack. He flees California to grieve at the home of his college friends, Joan's parents, who are facing their own issues about finances and career choices. When Gavin learns that Joan has met Syd, they agree that he will help her write a song, and she will recall every meeting she had with Syd in detail. As Gavin listens, he must face a mystery about Syd's last few months. Told in the alternating voices of Joan and Gavin, and illustrated with doodled line drawings from Joan's journal, the breezy novel raises intriguing questions about the nature of memory. (May)

Reviewed on 05/19/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Maybe This Love

Jennifer Snow. Forever, $7.99 mass market (304p) ISBN 978-1455594870

Snow's third Colorado Ice contemporary (after Maybe This Time) is a wonderfully tender and soulful story of two individuals pondering taking an emotional risk against their better judgement. At 34 years old, NHL star Ben Westmore knows everyone expects him to retire soon. He needs to stay focused to lead his team to winning the NHL championship, especially since he choked in his prior two NHL playoff appearances. Then he's hit with a double distraction: a woman he does not remember marrying demands a divorce, and he feels a powerful attraction to her lawyer. Divorce attorney Olivia Davis also feels the attraction, but she dismisses it her hormones being out of whack, as she's just started in vitro fertilization treatments so she can have the family she always wanted. As Ben and Olivia keep running into each other, their minds battle with their hearts. Sincerity and trust push fears aside and they become confidants and lovers, but a paparazzi photo could destroy it all. Entertaining secondary characters add enjoyment as the story pulls readers' heartstrings. Agent: Stephany Evans, FinePrint Literary Management. (June)

Reviewed on 05/19/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Windfall

Diksha Basu.. Crown, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-0-451-49891-5

Culture and capital clash in Basu's charming, funny debut, which finds middle-aged Anil and Bindu Jha flush with new money after Anil sells his phone directory website for a small fortune. The couple moves from their modest, cramped, noisy home in an East Delhi apartment complex to the gated community of Gurgaon, where keeping up appearances means hiring security guards and making extravagant purchases. As they try to adjust to their new lifestyle, their son, Rupak, struggles with his M.B.A. program and his own needs from halfway around the world in upstate New York, oscillating between white Florida native Elizabeth and Serena, also from Delhi, with whom he feels pressured by tradition to pursue companionship. Add to the mix Reema, Mrs. Jha's old friend from East Delhi who finds herself wooed by the brother of the Jhas' new neighbor, and Basu sets the table for a modern and heartfelt comedy of haves and have-nots. Shuttling between characters, the novel addresses a rapidly changing India from a plethora of perspectives, and the result leaves readers laughing and engrossed. (June)

Reviewed on 05/19/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Fallen: A Quinn Colson Novel

Ace Atkins. Putnam, $27 (384p) ISBN 978-0-399-57671-3

One of President Trump’s most notorious off-color remarks appears in the first chapter of Edgar-finalist Atkins’s outstanding seventh crime novel featuring Army Ranger turned lawman Quinn Colson (after 2016’s The Innocents). Robber Rick Wilcox fires a gun in the air and threatens to grab women’s privates when he and the other members of his gang walk into a small-town bank wearing Trump masks. Quinn, who has recently been returned to the position of sheriff of Mississippi’s Tibbehah County, gets the news of the Trump bandits’ latest strike after a visit to Vienna’s Place, “a low-rent highway titty bar,” where the proprietress, Fannie Hatchcock, assaulted an overzealous customer with a hammer. The robberies reunite Quinn with Jon Holliday, a fed he first encountered when Holliday was infiltrating the corrupt political organization headed by local power broker Johnny Stagg. Atkins tosses in a missing persons case—Quinn’s sister Caddy, who runs an outreach program for abused women, asks him to look for two teenage girls—but the multiple plotlines don’t make the story too busy. As in recent books, Atkins lightens the mood with some humor, presenting a warts-and-all portrayal of a Southern community. Author tour. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM. (July)

Reviewed on 05/19/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook

Christina Henry. Berkley, $15 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-399-58402-2

Bestseller Henry (Red Queen) will delight readers with this thrilling origin story, which reveals the true Peter Pan and the long road that led Jamie the lost boy to become pirate captain James Hook. Jamie was taken by Peter from the Other Place and has been in Neverland for longer than he can remember. He’s spent years at Peter’s side, going along with the other lost boys as they conduct raids, disrupt pirates, and fight each other for fun. Jamie, like all the lost boys, endlessly craves Peter’s attention; he believes himself to be special in Peter’s eyes, but a series of betrayals leads him to realize that his best friend is actually his worst enemy. Multiple twists keep the reader guessing, and the fluid writing is enthralling. Henry perfectly captures what it’s like to live on Peter’s island, and Jamie is a powerful character. Through his perspective, Henry immerses the reader in Neverland and genuinely shocks with the meanings behind Peter’s secrets and the intentions of his adventures. This is a fine addition to the shelves of any fan of children’s classics and their modern subversions. (July)

Reviewed on 05/19/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Hook’s Tale

John Leonard Pielmeier. Scribner, $25 (288p) ISBN 978-1-5011-6105-6

In Pielmeier’s rollicking version of a familiar story, Peter Pan is a far cry from J.M. Barrie’s charming hero. The hero in this iteration is Hook, otherwise known as James Cook, descendant of the famous captain of the same name. Pielmeier claims to have found Hook’s memoirs, in which he recounts losing his beloved mother, getting kicked out of Eton, and being press-ganged at age 14 onto a ship heading to the Caribbean. In possession of a treasure map that has something to do with his absent father, also a ship’s captain, Cook and his crew mutiny and go in search of fortune, ending up in the vicinity of the time-bent realm of Never-Isle. Here Cook encounters Peter, a lonely, self-absorbed boy who has ceased to age. Cook, too, stops growing older for a time. In his adventures on Never-Isle, he saves the life of the princess Tiger Lily, who then chooses him to be her husband, much to the chagrin of Tinkerbell, who also loves him. In this version, Cook doesn’t fear the crocodile who ticks; rather he has raised and cared for the creature who swallowed his father’s pocket watch, naming it after his mother, Daisy. When Peter betrays Cook and Tiger Lily, Cook sets out to discover his own identity back in the land of the living. What he finds, including who the Darlings (from the canonical story) really are, and how he ends up with a hook for a hand, satisfyingly upend all the familiar elements of Barrie’s children’s story. A splendid yarn. (July)

Reviewed on 05/19/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Just Look Up

Courtney Walsh. Tyndale, $14.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-1-4964-2148-7

Chicago designer Lane Kelley’s life gets flipped upside down when her brother is in a serious motorcycle accident. Forced to leave work to be at his side, she plans to work remotely via her laptop and phone like any good executive. But her family back home mocks her devotion to her job and its constant electronic notifications. Nor do they respect the adult she has become—slimmed-down, professional, and accomplished. They’d rather revisit how she used to be—pudgy and shy—though they are careful to avoid addressing the painful events that drove Lane away years before. But Ryan Brooks, her brother’s longtime friend, has always accepted and pined for the girl he grew up with. He steadily attempts to work past Lane’s emotional walls, even as secrets from his past rush up to jeopardize their future. Both lean on their faith to give them courage as drastic decisions are forced upon them. Walsh (Paper Hearts)competently addresses issues of self-worth, shame, and redemption in this sweet, well-paced story. She lapses into preachiness at times, particularly when lamenting the ubiquity of mobile electronics, but likable characters and the strong message of discovering what truly matters carry the story to a satisfying conclusion. (July)

Reviewed on 05/19/2017 | Details & Permalink

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A Name Unknown

Roseanna White. Bethany House, $15.99 trade paper (432p) ISBN 978-0-7642-1926-9

White (the Ladies of the Manor series) opens her Shadows Over England series with a rollicking tale of thieves on the eve of World War I. Rosemary Gresham, a London thief, is hired to find evidence that Peter Holstein, who is close to the king, has German sympathies. She poses as a librarian to organize his messy library at Kensey Manor, planning to find the evidence and collect a hefty payment that will feed her “family” of thieves and homeless children back in London. Holstein has secrets, but Rosemary finds his stuttering speech hides a deeply spiritual and caring heart. Love slowly blossoms, but will enemies from all sides ruin it as each reveals secrets about who they really are? The book has many moments of charm, but the plot is overburdened with frivolous asides. Regardless, White’s fans will no doubt enjoy this beginning of a new historical adventure. Agent: Karen Ball, the Steve Laube Agency (July)

Reviewed on 05/19/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Life on the Edge

Jennifer Comeaux. Jennifer Comeaux, $3.99 e-book (342p) ASIN B01LHVM1AW

Comeaux (Gold Rush), kicking off the new Edge series, demonstrates clear passion for the sport of pairs figure skating, though her writing skill doesn’t quite match her eagerness. At 19, Emily, a Massachussetts figure skater, is considered at her peak. After she succumbs to nerves on the singles circuit, she pairs with another young skater, Chris, to tackle a new division. They’re coached by an up-and-coming Russian, Sergei, whose own skating past is shrouded in mystery. Emily’s intense training and competition schedule is made even more complicated by her baffled realization that she’s attracted to the off-limits Sergei. It’s certainly a mixed blessing when she determines that he returns her regard. The friends-to-lovers romance comes in a distant second to the technical, delightful behind-the-scenes look at a popular sport. Unfortunately, the book is less of a romance and more a love letter to skating and the picturesque Cape Cod area. Subtle religious overtones add to an already crowded plot, occasionally injecting a rather idealistic note. Fans of Yuri!!! on Ice who observe some familiar story notes may be surprised to learn that this book was published before the show aired. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 05/19/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Cross Check

Kelly Jamieson. Loveswept, $4.99 e-book (276p) ISBN 978-1-101-96895-6

Jamieson’s clumsy tale of love and hockey involves Bayard College Bears hockey superstar Ben Buckingham and sophomore Ella Verran, who’s on academic probation. Their respective best friends are a couple, so Ben and Ella see each other often—much more often than they’d like. Despite having no legitimate reason to antagonize each other, they just rub each other the wrong way. But all it takes is a single brief pause in the judgmental verbal swipes for lips to touch and passion to melt the ice between them. As they both share their dysfunctional, complicated family histories, their connection grows. Jamieson fills out a slender plot with a cast of generally benign characters, scenes from Bayard’s hockey games, and a dialogue-laden narrative that boomerangs from one topic to another. Unfortunately, many of those topics—including mental illness, suicide, and rape culture—deserve more than the superficial treatment they get here. Emily Sylvan Kim, Prospect Agency. (July)

Reviewed on 05/19/2017 | Details & Permalink

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