A series installment that further develops its sturdy characters, but still leaves a bounty of curious subplots unresolved.


White Sapphire

From the The Sita Chronicles series , Vol. 3

In the third entry in Mayers’ (Violet Sapphire, 2016, etc.) fantasy series, a woman who belongs to a line of shape-shifting Hindu demons tells a story to her half-human offspring.

In a letter to her daughter Supriya, Shanti Patel hopes to reveal her child’s rather unorthodox beginnings. Supriya already knows that her mother is a Rakshasa—a demon—but she knows little about her human father, who left the family before she was born. Shanti’s tale, continued from the previous novel, begins in 1961, when her first daughter, Neha, was born. Shanti, afraid that she couldn’t control her fire-generating ability, left Neha and Neha’s 5,000-year-old, immortal father, Vibhishana, in India. She went to live in San Francisco with her mom, Sabrina, and worked as a doctor. Neha, meanwhile, traveled the world pursuing various studies, including anthropology, and ultimately came to the conclusion that a visit to Venus could explain the genesis of the Rakshasas to her. Later, Shanti reunited with her family but soon endured a great tragedy. She went on to meet a human, Raghav Ramachandran, whom she thought could help her escape her years of despair. She had a love for Raghav, especially for his pure soul—something that’s atypical in humans and contrasted with Shanti’s perpetual battle against a “dark voice” that stoked her fiery anger (and fiery powers). But Raghav refused to accept what she truly was, leading to a decision that had potentially lethal consequences. Although Mayers dives right into this third installment, her meticulous prose will slowly ease readers into the series, whether they’re new or returning. Shanti is a complex protagonist who uses her demon skills for good (her ability to understand all languages, for example, allows her to communicate with all her patients), but she’s also burdened with human struggles, such as sexual harassment at work. The lengthy section on Shanti and Raghav’s relationship slows the pace considerably, but it does effectively explain the bizarre circumstances surrounding Supriya’s birth. However, Mayers’ mostly solid prose occasionally slips in redundant descriptions (“incredibly epic”). As this novel is inspired by the Indian narrative poem, the Ramayana, the author graciously closes it, like the preceding two, with a glossary of Hindu references.

A series installment that further develops its sturdy characters, but still leaves a bounty of curious subplots unresolved.

Pub Date: June 3, 2016


Page Count: 336

Publisher: Grass Roof Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2016

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


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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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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