Fresh Voices in Fiction: Anderson, Carr, Freeman, Jackman, Lester, van den Berg, Yoerg, & Others | Debut Fiction, January 2015

Allure, Kate. Playing Doctor. Sourcebooks Casablanca. (Meeting Men, Bk. 1). Jan. 2015. 272p. ISBN 9781492602323. pap. $13; ebk. ISBN 9781492602330. EROTICA

playingdoctor123114Allure’s “Meeting Men” series and her writing career debut with a compilation of three “dirty doctor” stories. “The Intern” is a simmering tale of a lovelorn doctor and the sexy intern who shakes things up. Dr. Lauren Marks is finally recovering from the shocking collapse of her ten-year marriage. Back in her small hometown of Plum Banks, Lauren’s practice is finally getting off the ground, and she is adjusting to the single life (though she misses the comfort a man in her bed can bring). When intern Court turns out to be not a woman but a very attractive, very available young man, Lauren can’t help but give in to temptation. “My Doctor, My Husband, and Me” follows a similar trajectory, with middle-aged housewife Valerie finding the latest object of her affection donning a white lab coat. Dr. Luka Czerny is tall, dark, and unconventionally handsome, with an incredible bedside manner. Though happily married to husband Elliott for 19 years, Valerie finds herself fantasizing first about her surgeon, then about both men lavishing her with attention. Lucky for her, Luka and Elliott are extremely onboard with the idea, and the trio embark on a ménage à trois that changes all of them for the better. The compilation ends on a younger note with “Seize the Doctor,” a spicy tale of twentysomethings in New York City looking for fun. Twenty-six-year-old Nikki isn’t seeking anything serious; she just broke up with her boyfriend of a year after finding out about his infidelity. Her friends take her out for a pick-me-up at Club X, where she meets “Adonis,” also known as Hunter. Things end badly when the girls realize Hunter and his friends are making the rounds, scoring as many numbers as they can, but, still, Nikki feels like she missed a connection. To her shock and horror, she bumps into her club hottie again—at the OB/GYN, where he is meant to be conducting her exam. Even with their rocky start, Nikki decides this is one fish she won’t let get away, and the two find out that they’re extremely compatible, both in and out of the sheets. ­Verdict Though the language is a bit dated, these quick, easy reads will appeal to anyone looking for a sexy book that they can put down and pick back up with no trouble. Fun, flirty characters abound, and there’s plenty of kinky action.—Ashleigh Williams, School Library Journal

Anderson, James. The Never-Open Desert Diner. Caravel. Feb. 2015. 288p. ISBN 9780912887104. $25. F

neveropendesertdiner123114The arid beauty of Utah’s desert is the backdrop for this debut novel that follows truck driver Ben Jones as he travels Route 117 making deliveries to a host of colorful characters. Walt Butterfield, owner of the titular diner, collects motorcycles and lives with dark memories of a horrific crime committed against his wife at the restaurant; itinerant preacher John carries a wooden cross along the highway and ministers to the spiritual needs of the locals; Fergus and Duncan Lacey live in makeshift boxcars with a putting green; musician Claire inhabits a model home in an unfinished housing development; and pregnant teenager Ginny knows Ben from years gone by when he dated her mother. With patience, a keen inner strength, and wisdom, Ben discovers that some of his customers are hiding secrets; the stories of other folks also connect in a startling fashion. Like a flash flood cascading down an arroyo, once the action begins it’s nonstop. VERDICT Anderson, the founder and former publisher of Breitenbush Books, writes with a lyrical style and allows the plot to unfold in a manner as seductive as the desert itself. Readers who revel in fiction set in the Southwest will want to join his protagonist for the ride.—Patricia Ann Owens, formerly with Illinois Eastern Community Colls., Mt. Carmel

Bara, Dave. Impulse. DAW. (Lightship Chronicles, Bk. 1). Feb. 2015. 400p. ISBN 9780756409968. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698161689. SF

Peter Cochrane is disappointed when an emergency pulls him off what was supposed to be his first lightship posting to a new job on the HMS Impulse. The role comes with a promotion, but a hostile new captain from a rival culture and an attractive but prickly executive officer are just two early obstacles Peter must face. When they try to investigate the site where the Impulse was attacked by a strange hyperdimensional pulse wave, Peter and the crew are dragged into a diplomatic quagmire and a military mystery. VERDICT Debut author Bara sets a few too many pieces on his space opera chessboard with opposing military powers, quasi-­religious historical orders, and remnants of imperial civilizations and ancient founders left offstage. The characters are shallow (especially inexplicable babe-magnet Peter), the plot is both overly complicated in places and suddenly paper thin, and Bara appears to believe that if he keeps the action fast enough readers won’t notice that his story doesn’t make any sense.—Megan M. McArdle, San Diego

Carr, Viola. The Diabolical Miss Hyde. Harper Voyager. (Electric Empire, Bk. 1). Feb. 2015. 464p. ISBN 9780062363084. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062363091. FANTASY

diabolicalmisshyde123114Eliza Jekyll works as a physician in Victorian London, concealing her secret dual nature and her shadow self, Lizzie Hyde. Dr. Henry Jekyll, her father, was similarly afflicted. Eliza uses a tonic to control her wild and violent shadow and an elixir when she wants to let Lizzie out. She has been working with the London police to help catch killers, but when a man Eliza testifies against is acquitted by a corrupt judge, she fears Lizzie might have sought her own brand of justice. The case brings Eliza into contact with Remy ­Lafayette, adventurer and agent of the Royal Society, which patrols anything that smacks of the supernatural. If he discovers Eliza’s secret, both she and Lizzie are doomed. VERDICT This debut steampunk, gender-swapped take on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic story of the uncontrolled id loses some of the subtlety of the novel’s psychological insights but more than compensates with its energy and over-the-top adventure. Don’t think about it too hard, just enjoy the ride.—Megan M. McArdle, San Diego

Chapin, Andrea. The Tutor. Riverhead. Feb. 2015. 368p. ISBN 9781594632549. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698145061. F

It is the late 16th century and Queen Elizabeth I reigns strong. Far from London is Katherine de L’Isle, a young widow living with her uncle’s family. An intelligent woman with a passion for reading and learning, Katherine has come to enjoy her mundane life among her cousins and their families, with its daily opportunities for quiet study and reflection. That is, until a new tutor arrives for her nephews: one William Shakespeare, a sometime theatrical player with literary poetic ambitions. Though at first taken aback by Will’s worldly brazenness, Katherine soon finds herself enchanted by both his charm and his words. What begins as mere collaboration on Will’s poetry quickly blossoms into a passionate affair. With all the fire and spark of the best romance novels but the detail and weight of finely rendered historical fiction, debut novelist Chapin has crafted a fascinating and masterly background to Shakespeare’s first published work, the narrative poem Venus and Adonis. VERDICT Fans of historical fiction writers such as Philippa Gregory, Rosalind Miles, and Anne Easter Smith won’t want to miss this one.—Leigh Wright, Bridgewater, NJ

redstarCharish, Kristi. Owl and the Japanese Circus. Pocket Star. Jan. 2015. 320p. ebk. ISBN 9781476778679. $1.99. FANTASY

owlandthejapanesecircus123114After being discredited in the archaeology field, former grad student Alix Hiboux became the Owl, a notorious antiquities thief. Her only rule? No working for supernaturals. It turns out that you can’t really say no to a dragon, and Owl finds herself traveling to Las Vegas, Tokyo, and Bali in search of an ancient scroll while dodging a vampire who wants her dead. VERDICT The exotic settings and rollicking adventure make this a great new urban fantasy series for fans of Indiana Jones and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Owl is a bit of a train wreck; by her own admission she is extremely bad with people. But she has a loyal friend in old college roommate Nadya and a companion who might want to be more in the mysterious Rynn. She also has a fantastic cat named Captain who can sense vampires. Gamers will love how Owl tries to balance her online dungeon raiding with real-life tomb raiding. Here’s to hoping this will be the first of many outings for Owl (and Captain).—Megan M. McArdle, San Diego

Ellison, Jan. A Small Indiscretion. Random. Jan. 2015. 318p. ISBN 9780812995442. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780812995459. F

Lighting designer Annie Black was 19 when she took leave from her studies at community college to embark on a work-study program in London. She quickly landed an office job working for a married structural designer and was soon in over her head with reckless romantic entanglements and alcohol consumption. Two decades later, ­Annie is settled into a comfortable life with her husband and their three children when a photo from her London sojourn arrives in her mailbox. Long-buried but unresolved feelings rise to the surface, causing our protagonist to jeopardize her happiness and that of her family, and ­Annie’s “small indiscretion” is anything but. This debut novel by award-winning short story writer ­Ellison takes readers on an eloquently detailed roller-coaster ride that is both exhilarating and stomach flipping. The author’s prose repeatedly catapults readers from the present to the past by employing a second-person point of view that is often difficult to follow. Hence, the novel is essentially a 300-­plus-page letter from Annie to her college-age son, Robbie, which is a bit icky considering she writes about her various sexual encounters. ­VERDICT Part romance novel, part coming-of-age story, and part family drama, this somber book about a perpetually flawed woman is a challenging and ­thought-provoking read. [See Prepub Alert, 7/14/14.]—Samantha Gust, Niagara Univ. Lib., NY

redstarFreeman, Anna. The Fair Fight. Riverhead. Apr. 2015. 480p. ISBN 9781594633294. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698167971. F

fairfight123114Born and raised in a brothel in Bristol, the lumpish and unattractive Ruth is considered unsuitable to become a lady of the house, so it is fortunate that her early signs of talent for scrappiness leads to some success as a professional pugilist. In this sweeping 18th-­century saga, her story is intertwined with two others: that of George Bowden, the well-born youngest son of a family from whom he will inherit neither title nor fortune and who comes to depend on the largess of his schoolboy friend and lover, Perry Sinclair, and of Perry’s sister, Charlotte. Charlotte is a smallpox survivor whose fortunes are considerably diminished by her facial scarring and who is kept firmly under the thumb of her irascible brother until he marries her off to a mean and neglectful husband. These three characters find their lives converging in the boxing arena—Ruth, as a fighter and later as the supportive wife of an aspiring champion; Charlotte, with a developing fascination for the sport, both as a spectator and a would-be participant; and George, as a gambler hoping that a big win will secure his future. VERDICT This debut, a ripping fine yarn, will have particular appeal to fans of recent Austen-era hits such as Jo Baker’s Longbourn and P.D. James’s Death Comes to Pemberley. Thoroughly entertaining and highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 10/27/14.]—Barbara Love, formerly with Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont.

Galassi, Jonathan. Muse. Knopf. Jun. 2015. 272p. ISBN 9780385353342. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385353359. F

Although the plot of this first novel focuses on the fraught relationship between two powerful men at the helm of independent publishing houses during the decades after World War II, it’s essentially a “love story” celebrating the glory days of New York publishing written by one of its own. Galassi, the president and publisher of Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, is the author of three collections of poetry, an acclaimed translator of poetry, and a former Guggenheim Fellow. Clearly, he is writing about what he knows best—the politics and colorful personalities of the publishing community, competition among powerful independent book houses, and fiction and poetry. The author’s affection for this world, for the people in it, and for great writers of literature is evident throughout this volume, as is his nostalgia for those intoxicating years in publishing (before the rise of the Internet) when, as Galassi’s protagonist Paul says, “everything seemed possible.” VERDICT Although engagingly written, the novel is rather long on retrospection and nostalgia and reads in many places more like a memoir than a novel. Nonetheless, readers who love books and have an interest in publishing will find much to enjoy here.—Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT

Gobbell, Phyllis. Pursuit in Provence. Five Star: Gale Cengage. Mar. 2015. 368p. ISBN 9781432830267. $25.95. M

Having just turned 50, architect Jordan Mayfair takes her uncle up on his invitation to travel with him to Provence. Hoping the Provençal food, wines, and Frenchmen will take her mind off things, she loses her suitcase on the train (or was it stolen?), survives a hit-and-run that seems too close, arrives in a village thrown into upheaval by missing van Gogh sketches, and senses that she is being followed across the French countryside. As the holiday takes an even darker turn, Jordan realizes that she may have been thrown into the middle of a hunt for a missing Elvis Presley master tape—a chase that may have been started by her own family. VERDICT Gobbell’s debut shows the deadly side of the pursuit of art and how family and friends may not always have your best interests at heart. The slower pace may appeal to those who prefer to absorb the setting instead of looking for the next bit of action.—Kristi Chadwick, Massachusetts Lib. Syst., South Deerfield

Hepworth, Sally. The Secrets of Midwives. St. Martin’s. Feb. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9781250051899. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466852631. F

Secrets new and old create drama for a family with three generations of midwives. Grace, a second-generation midwife, can’t stand secrets—perhaps because unbeknownst to her, one has been haunting her for her entire life. The woman guarding that information is her mother, Floss, also a midwife and now retired. And then there’s Grace’s daughter, Neva, who has secrets of her own. She is pregnant and although she’s getting past the point of being able to hide it, she’s determined not to disclose the father’s identity. The mystery surrounding Neva’s pregnancy prompts Floss to revisit the past and start to consider coming clean. Meanwhile, unforeseen circumstances cause Grace to try her hand at deception. In a family with a talent for concealment as well as midwifery, could it turn out that the truth is as welcome as a newborn? ­VERDICT Australian Hepworth’s debut is deftly told with some historical elements mixed in. This thoughtful intergenerational story will delight readers—especially those who enjoy works exploring the topic of midwifery as in Chris Bohjalian’s Midwives and the BBC series Call the Midwife. [See Prepub Alert, 8/18/14.]—Karen Core, ­Detroit P.L.

Israel, Steve. The Global War on Morris. S. & S. Jan. 2015. 290p. ISBN 9781476772233. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781476772257. F

globalwaronmorris123114Meet Morris and Rona Feldstein, a perfectly matched couple of schlemiels from Great Neck, Long Island, in this cartoonish take on terrorism and federal surveillance. It’s 2004, and Morris is a pharmaceutical sales rep with a devotion to the Mets, among other failings. When he stumbles into a 22-minute tryst with a doctor’s receptionist, it turns out that she has recently had a blind date with a drug trafficker. Red flag No. 1. Meanwhile, his wife takes an interest in the towel boy at their Florida time-share. The towel boy is part of a terrorist cell blissed-out on the prospect of martyrdom and 72 virgins. All of which is enough to earn the Feldsteins a place high up on NICK, the surveillance system beloved by Vice President Dick Cheney. Hilarity and broad satire of the bureaucracy ensues. VERDICT Debut novelist Israel is a U.S. Congressman from New York and, until quite recently, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Committee; that alone insures publicity and interest. Why read this when one can see Washington insiders acting like buffoons in farcical situations on CNN? This is funnier than Wolf Blitzer, that’s why. [See Prepub Alert, 7/21/14.]—Bob Lunn, Kansas City, MO

Jackman, Clifford. The Winter Family. Doubleday. Apr. 2015. 352p. ISBN 9780385539487. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385539494. F

The son of a hard and violent preacher, Augustus Winter is a remorseless, scripture-quoting gun-for-hire. During the Civil War, a group of like-minded men coalesce around his oddly charismatic presence. Working at the outskirts of civil society, the Winter Family, as the gang is known, perpetrate violence for the highest bidder. Dark and unsentimental, the story moves quickly from the gang’s inception to a betrayal by one of their own and the bloody retribution that follows. VERDICT Told in sections from Georgia in 1864, through Chicago, Phoenix, Oklahoma, and finally to California in 1900, this noir Western is a violent rampage through the American West. Canadian author Jackman (Oklahoma 1891) is a deft hand when describing the world, both physical and social, that the gang moves through, although the dialog can be oddly stilted. Sympathetic characters come and go, but the focus is on Augustus as he moves through the shifting frontier landscape, shedding companions as he goes, adapting for survival with surprising ease. While it doesn’t break new ground, fans of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and James Carlos Blake’s In the Rogue Blood will appreciate this latest entry in the gritty Western genre. [Prepub Alert, 10/27/14.]—Sarah Cohn, Manhattan Coll. Lib., Bronx, NY

Lester, Alison Jean. Lillian on Life. Putnam. Jan. 2015. 256p. ISBN 9780399168895. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698152656. F

lillianonlife123114Women have, for generations, heard talk of the concept of having it all; sexagenarian Lillian can speak knowledgeably on the topic. In a series of vignettes she recounts the decisions she’s made that have brought her here, to present-day New York City, along with the importance of self-actualization. From her early years in the Midwest, where she enjoyed a special bond with her father to career and love-life decisions that led to living as an expat in Europe to finding and losing the love of her life in New York, this lively and insightful debut novel (after the author’s collection Locked Out: Stories Far from Home) holds up the decisions women make every day to analysis and introspection. It is startlingly frank and sometimes funny or shocking or heartbreaking. There’s a raw and intimate quality to the first-person narrative that counterbalances the vignette structure, which is a little hard to get into. VERDICT While this book is more demanding than typical women’s fiction, the rewards are worth the time. It’s a strong choice for book groups and readers seeking “something different.”—Amy ­Brozio-Andrews, Albany P.L., NY

Pimentel, Melissa. Love by the Book. Penguin. Feb. 2015. 400p. ISBN 9780143127284. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780698187542. F

Pimentel’s debut takes a light and original but rather juvenile look at the land of dating for women or relationships overall. At age 28, Lauren Cunningham, after scaring off her latest beau, decides to tap into all of the “expert” literature and use various methods, loosely referred to as advice, to guide her in her dating practices. Though one might think there should be an end goal or accomplishment to this, Lauren is really just curious to know if any one of these methods has more success than another and does not seem to be interested in the men at all as individuals with whom to have any type of relationship. VERDICT This novel is a little flawed and not a modern piece that empowers women in their pursuits of success, however that may be defined. It starts off strong with a compelling concept, but there is no growth of the main character and the reader never understands, empathizes with, or identifies with her or has any connection to tangential characters.—Anne M. Miskewitch, Chicago P.L.

Rider, Z. Suckers. Dark Ride. Feb. 2015. 296p. ISBN 9781942234005. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781942234012. HORROR

Life on the road for rock musician Dan Ferry can be exhausting. His band, Two Tons of Dirt, is nearing the end of a long tour when Dan walks back to his hotel with bandmate Ray and is attacked in an alley by a flying creature that latches onto Dan’s neck. After fighting off the batlike animal, Dan feels light-headed and hears a buzzing in his ears. He suffers terrible headaches and accidentally discovers that the only thing that makes them go away is human blood. At first he cuts himself and tries to keep his condition a secret, yet soon he will need Ray’s help to get the blood he needs. ­VERDICT First-time novelist Rider brings us convincingly into the life of a band on the road, and Dan and Ray’s bond helps ground this effective horror novel. Losing a little punch when the story moves into a larger contagion situation, it works best when the focus stays on Dan and his struggles.—Megan M. McArdle, San Diego

Souhami, Diana. Gwendolen. Holt. Mar. 2015. 336p. ISBN 9781627793407. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781627793414. F

In noted biographer Souhami’s (Mrs. Kepel and Her Daughter) fiction debut, the author reimagines George Eliot’s final novel, Daniel Deronda, through the viewpoint of Gwendolen Harleth, who addresses Eliot’s eponymous hero in an unsent letter that offers her version of the events of Eliot’s classic work—many scenes and conversations are lifted from the original. Choosing to wed rich Henleigh Grandcourt despite her promise to his mistress not to do so, Gwendolen endures psychological and sexual abuse in her marriage. Thoughts of murder cause her to hesitate when she might prevent Henleigh’s drowning. Gwendolen repeatedly addresses Deronda as her moral compass and potential savior, only to have her hopes dashed when he discovers his Jewish identity. Continuing our protagonist’s story after Eliot’s ending, Souhami establishes her heroine creating a liberated life among free thinkers. But unlike Eliot’s Gwendolyn, who is transformed by her suffering, Souhami’s character remains most devoted to her favorite subject: her beautiful, clever self. VERDICT Readers whose interest in Eliot was rekindled by Rebecca Mead’s My Life in Middlemarch may want to try Souhami’s interpretation, but general readers probably won’t find this alternative worth the bother. [See Prepub Alert, 9/22/14.]—Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State Univ. Lib., Mankato

redstarSykes, S.D. Plague Land. Pegasus Crime. Feb. 2015. 352p. ISBN 9781605986739. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781605987385. M

After ten years at the monastery ­17-year-old Oswald de Lacy is back home and in no way prepared to be Lord of ­Somershill. The plague responsible for decimating the countryside has also killed Oswald’s father and two older brothers, leaving him with a neglected estate, an overbearing mother, an unmarried sister, and fearful peasants. Then further tragedy strikes in the form of the shocking death of Alison ­Starvecrow, which the village priest blames on a demonic dog-headed man. Oswald attempts to take charge and discover the truth behind Alison’s death, but all around him lie secrets. Then another body is found. VERDICT With political intrigue and the social barriers of the Middle Ages in play, Sykes adds an intricate and intriguing debut to the ever-widening pool of medieval-era mysteries. Thrilling plot twists and layered characters abound in this rich tale of murder and mystery in 14th-century Kent.—Kristi Chadwick, Massachusetts Lib. Syst., South Deerfield

Trichtor, Judd. Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Feb. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9781250036025. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250036018. SF

Human beings aren’t supposed to love bots in the Los Angeles of the future. Eliot ­Lazar doesn’t care if his love for bot Iris Matsuo could get them both killed and plans to run away with her, promising even to kick his drip habit. But before they can run, Iris is killed and sold for parts, and Eliot will brave thugs, criminals, and even the queen of the underground bot rights movement to retrieve Iris’s parts and reassemble the woman he loves. VERDICT The premise of a man trying to rebuild his lover might have been romantic if drug-addicted Eliot was not such an unlikable character and if all the women (human and bot alike) in the book weren’t depicted as unfeeling assemblages of parts. Those expecting a sf of robots and humans in uneasy coexistence like something Isaac Asimov did so well will have to look elsewhere. This first novel is more of a sad story of one man’s dissipation with sf trappings.—Megan M. McArdle, San Diego

redstarvan den Berg, Laura. Find Me. Farrar. Feb. 2015. 288p. ISBN 9780374154714. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374710606. F

findme123114A deadly virus has swept across America, killing hundreds of thousands. Joy, who was abandoned as an infant and grew up in a series of both foster and group homes, is one of a select few survivors chosen for a specialized course of treatment in a hospital in Kansas. As she follows the mind-numbing routines and regulations of the hospital, Joy begins to suspect that something is being hidden from the patients. By chance she discovers the identity of her birth mother and dreams of finding her, as well as Marcus, a former foster brother. VERDICT Like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale or Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, van den Berg’s debut novel (after two successful story collections) presents a frighteningly plausible near-future dystopia grounded in human elements. Not everything is explained, and things take an increasingly surreal turn in the novel’s second half, but Joy’s quest, and her need to feel cared for, is heartbreakingly real and compellingly wrought. The book’s ambiguous conclusion may lead to rereading as the possibility of multiple interpretations is opened. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 8/4/14.]—Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis

Whiting, Frances. Walking on Trampolines. Gallery: S. & S. Feb. 2015. 368p. ISBN 9781476780016. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781476780023. F

Best friends Lulu and Annabelle’s close, sisterly bond is shattered when they get romantically involved with the same boy. Josh and Annabelle leave Lulu picking up the pieces of her broken heart—she’s lost the two most important people in her life. As the years pass, reuniting with Annabelle and Josh seems possible for Lulu, until a betrayal at Josh and Annabelle’s wedding. Meanwhile, Lulu finds a true friend in her boss, radio personality ­Duncan, but he also is lost to Lulu when he succumbs to cancer. With beautiful nostalgic turns of phrase, Whiting, a popular Australian columnist, explores ­Lulu’s feelings of defeat but also shows her growth in learning to forgive and embrace the strong bonds of friendship and love. This broken/restored theme is also present in the stories of the flawed mothers of Lulu and Annabelle, both of whom are at times absent from their daughters’ lives. VERDICT Although the character of Josh is minimal and not developed, readers who enjoy coming-of-age tales centered on women’s lives will enjoy Whiting’s first novel.—Sonia Reppe, Stickney–Forest View P.L., IL

redstarYoerg, Sonja. House Broken. NAL: Penguin. Jan. 2015. 336p. ISBN 9780451472137. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780698177925. F

housebroken123114Geneva Novak is a skilled veterinarian and animal behaviorist, but being an expert in those areas doesn’t translate into a knack for human interactions. When Helen, her alcoholic mother, gets injured in an accident, it is Geneva, one of four siblings, who is called upon to care for her. Hesitant to take her in because of their strained relationship, as well as her own issues with parenting two teens, Geneva acquiesces to husband Tom’s wishes. Tom comes from a very close-knit family and is certain that Helen’s visit will help mother and daughter heal. Throughout Helen’s stay, however, various family secrets come to light, throwing ­Geneva’s relationship with both mother and siblings simultaneously into turmoil. In alternating chapters narrated by Helen, Geneva, and Ella, Geneva’s daughter, Yoerg nails various voices and keeps the reader guessing as she delicately weaves an intricate web of deception, denial, heartache, and healing. VERDICT A stunning debut that will leave readers wanting more! Yoerg is on par with established women’s fiction authors such as Jennifer Weiner and Sarah Pekkanen.—Erin Holt, Williamson Cty. P.L., Franklin, TN

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