Somewhat underdeveloped, but a nice break from reality for readers who want sexy, easy-to-digest fare.

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METRO

This tale of urban erotica goes from zero to 60 in no time flat when a man sets his sights on a neighborhood bus driver.

Ladies love a man in uniform—but this steamy novella flips that convention on its head. Chance Alexander is a regular on Tameka LeBlanc’s bus route, and today’s the day he makes his move, wowing her (and his fellow commuters) with a sexy poem he’s written for her. But make no mistake, this sensitive man is domineering in bed—and unwilling to compromise on what he wants. In this case, he wants the Princeton University-educated Tameka, who’s working for the Metro Transit department until she figures out her next move; little does she know that her life is about to change for the better. After a steamy first date rocks both of their worlds—and the bus where it takes place—the two quickly slip into coupledom. Tameka even accompanies Chance to a showing of the condominium that he plans to buy, which leads to a bit more naughty business. But it soon turns out that there could be trouble in paradise. Kudos to Smith (In Love’s Time, 2014), who manages to cram the plot of an entire romance novel into 30-something pages. The seduction is fast-paced and fun, with a natural progression of raunchy scenes that even include a few handy tips from the male perspective. Unfortunately, the couple’s falling out is a weak plot point and, frankly, so cursory that it’s easy to miss. Although there’s some flirtatious, spunky banter, the dialogue is mostly perfunctory, and character development takes a back seat. Indeed, Tameka’s subservience to Chance overshadows her other personality traits, and even her dirty talk gets repetitive. Still, its action-packed final few pages and sweet ending are rewarding, and the novella would work well as part of a larger collection.

Somewhat underdeveloped, but a nice break from reality for readers who want sexy, easy-to-digest fare.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 39

Publisher: Buff-Boy Publications

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2017

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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