An entertaining tale that blends high-stakes drama with a rom-com sensibility.

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WHAT WE DO FOR LOVE

A NOVEL

A woman must deal with the dangerous parents of her son’s girlfriend in this thriller.

Nicole Adams is a single mother making it work. She runs a moderately successful pottery company, and her teenage son, Justin, is an honor roll student. Maybe she hasn’t dated in eight years and her artistic dreams were put on hold after a messy divorce, but her luck is just about to change. After she’s asked to replace a last-minute dropout from a museum show, Nicole finally gets the chance to prove her artistic chops. With only six weeks to create her masterpiece, though, Justin throws a wrench in things when he announces that he and the sweet but secretive Daniela Harris are having a baby and that she needs a place to stay until her parents come around to the idea. On top of everything else, Nicole’s older sister, Caroline, has moved in after separating from her high school sweetheart husband. Independent Nicole clashes with her sister about the lack of romance in the artist’s life. Nicole believes love and sex aren’t “good for my system.” She tries to focus on her company to accommodate her growing bills but has less time to execute her piece for the art show. Despite Nicole’s multiple attempts to contact them, Daniela’s parents refuse to get in touch with her, so she decides to confront them. But the teen’s hot-and-cold mother and hostile father might be more than Nicole bargained for, as they draw her into a world of peril and deceit. If Lorelai Gilmore of Gilmore Girls was dropped into a thriller, it might resemble this appealing novel. Nicole is a scrappy, charming character for readers to get behind. Pfeffer (Just Pru, 2015, etc.) has a knack for picking up on subtle moments that make the protagonist flawed and believable. “They hadn’t told her parents first, or even at all,” Nicole thinks triumphantly after interrogating Justin about the pregnancy. “I was the one they’d come to for help.” In just a few lines, the many shades of Nicole’s connection to Justin are rendered vividly. But while this mother-son bond is central to the story, it’s sometimes overshadowed by Nicole’s relationship with the beguiling Daniela.

An entertaining tale that blends high-stakes drama with a rom-com sensibility.

Pub Date: May 21, 2019

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 269

Publisher: Bold Print Press

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2019

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

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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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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