A pop-savvy fantasy that entertains while it wanders.

READ REVIEW

SPARKLE

A couple arrive in a small town only to learn that an ancient evil resides there in this novel.

Peter and Alyssa Huffy have moved from San Diego to Forest County, Pennsylvania. Specifically, they’ve purchased a house near a cozy town called Sparkle. Exploring Sparkle’s bustling main street, Alyssa begins shopping enthusiastically in Rose Windward’s antique furniture shop. When a precocious 13-year-old named Miranda-Julia Beatrice Cappern stops in, Rose suggests she take Peter, who’s also in the store, on a tour. They visit the nearby Bunyine Woods, where the teen’s cousin, 12-year-old Derek Windward, often sits. Derek, however, has fallen into a stream and is covered in defensive wounds. The boy mentions a cave and running from a noise. He doesn’t say that he possesses The Journal of D.D. Windward, Sparkle’s founder. Inside is written: “You must defeat the Bunyine,” a pantherlike cat the size of a bus, that Douglas Windward failed to hunt and kill in his own lifetime. When Derek backtracks in his account of getting injured, Peter grows suspicious. He then starts meeting Douglas in his dreams, which occur in a treeless, brightly colored version of Sparkle. Is Peter losing his mind, as Alyssa believes, or is something deeply strange afoot? In his latest fantasy, Kambitsis (Days of Yore: Jack the Giant Killer, 2010) crafts a tale of small-town weirdness that would tickle Stephen King. Peter’s and Derek’s odysseys come to include ghostly English children named Dickon and Tibb (who has teeth “pointed like a picket fence”). The prose is crunchy with pop-culture references, from Alyssa’s Pink Floyd obsession to Derek’s preference for films on VHS tape. Focused creepiness frequently rises up, as when Peter encounters something “hanging there in the dark, something turning and twisting above the floor, as if the darkness were boiling.” The Bunyine’s connection to Adam and Eve adds narrative weight, but quirky asides often give the piece an amorphous flow. Though the story remains fun, readers will spend too many chapters awaiting substantial events.

A pop-savvy fantasy that entertains while it wanders.

Pub Date: June 25, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 466

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more