Cozy up to a crackling fireplace with your Christmas cookies and eggnog and enjoy this holiday treat.

THE CHRISTMAS PROMISE

A surviving twin falls for a mystery man in this Yuletide love story.

Growing up in Utah, identical twins Michelle and Richelle Bach, or Micki and Ricki, had been virtually indistinguishable in appearance but had different personalities. Micki was the fun one who’d barely squeaked through high school, needing help from Ricki, the class salutatorian and the story’s narrator, to even graduate. Dad gave each a gorgeous black opal worth 15 grand as a graduation present. (Opaleeze, who does that?) Later, the twins had become estranged after Ricki found Micki in bed with Ricki's fiance. Later still, Micki dies (the events are unconnected). Ricki is a dedicated pediatric ICU nurse and an aspiring writer. One day, a handsome stranger named Justin visits her Calliope Writers Group, and he appears to be wholesome as can be. He charms Micki with lines like, “I’ve always believed love should be a little reckless. Sometimes a lot.” And so they fall in love, of course, but the road to bliss is fraught with uncertainty: Why did he come to Salt Lake? What’s his real interest in a writers group, given that he’s not a writer? Why does he keep leaving town and returning? “I guess when something looks delicious, we’re less inclined to check the ingredients,” she muses. That this is a Christmas-themed story suggests sugar rather than spice—Justin seems so gosh darned good—so let’s hope he lives up to his promise. Speaking of which, Ricki says, “I made my father a promise that I never fulfilled.” Love, forgiveness, and downright decency must try to overcome multiple betrayals and personal losses. The book’s best line is Ricki’s: “My question hung in the air like a piñata, just waiting to get smacked.” How much must she endure? The big twist near the end is either an eye-roller or heartwarming as the dickens, depending on one’s worldview, and it all leads up to a Christmas finale.

Cozy up to a crackling fireplace with your Christmas cookies and eggnog and enjoy this holiday treat.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-9821-7742-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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Perhaps A-list screenwriters will be able to spin TV gold from this sketchy treatment.

THE LIONESS

An actress and her entourage are kidnapped by Russians in Bohjalian’s uneven thriller.

In 1964, Hollywood’s gossip rags are agog as movie star Katie Barstow marries gallerist David Hill and takes her inner circle along on her honeymoon. And an adventuresome honeymoon it is—on safari in the Serengeti with aging big-game hunter Charlie Patton, who once helped Hemingway bag trophies. But Katie is not the star of this ensemble piece. The populous cast—a who’s who at the beginning is indispensable—includes Katie’s publicist, Reggie Stout; her agent, Peter Merrick; her best friend, Carmen Tedesco, a supporting actress who plays wisecracking sidekicks; and Terrance Dutton, Katie's recent co-star, a Black actor who's challenging Sidney Poitier's singularity in Hollywood. With obvious nods to Hemingway’s worst fear—masculine cowardice—Bohjalian adds in Felix Demeter, Carmen’s husband, a B-list screenwriter who reminds his wife of Hemingway’s weakling Francis Macomber. Felix seems a superfluous double of David, who feels inadequate because Katie is the breadwinner and his father is CIA. Then there’s Katie’s older brother, Billy Stepanov, whose abuse at the hands of their mother shaped the psychologist he is today; Billy’s pregnant wife, Margie; and Benjamin Kikwete, an apprentice safari guide. Thus, a proliferation of voices whose competing perspectives fragment rather than advance the story. The kidnapping plot seems less designed to test each character’s mettle than to exercise Bohjalian’s predilection for minute descriptions of gore. The most heartfelt portrayal here is of the Serengeti and its flora and fauna, but none of the human characters net enough face time to transcend their typecasting. The motives behind the kidnapping might have lent intrigue to the proceedings, but foreshadowing is so slight that the infodump explainer at the end leaves us shocked, mostly at how haphazard the plot is.

Perhaps A-list screenwriters will be able to spin TV gold from this sketchy treatment.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-385-54482-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

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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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