Frank does an admirable job of painting a slave narrative, though there may be a bit too much of a shiny gloss painted on...

ANNA OF COROTOMAN (PRINCESS BOOK I)

When Anakata is kidnapped from her remote African village and brought to colonial America as a slave, she must figure out how to survive while holding on to her ancient matriarchal religion in this debut novel.

Thirteen-year-old Anakata is an exalted figure in her African village; she has been chosen since birth to be her people’s queen. But when she falls prey to slave traders, she ends up on a ship bound for the New World. After an arduous voyage, which saw sickness, death and rebellion, the ship arrives in Virginia. There, she is sold to the Carter family and told this is a good thing, as they treat their slaves well (excusing the maiming of a slave who tried to escape too often, of course). Young Anakata is renamed Anna and becomes a housemaid, eventually developing a special connection to the plantation’s mistress and children. As she acclimates to life in the colonies, Anna tries to keep as much of her old life alive as possible: sneaking off to visit her secret shrine by the water, performing rituals from her past and harboring dreams of finding a way back to Africa. All the while, she is told things will be easier if she assimilates, including becoming a good Christian. In this first book in a trilogy, Frank does a smart job introducing an intelligent, likable and compassionate protagonist in Anna. While most of the secondary characters help make the world in which they live three dimensional—particularly Anna’s love interest, Gabriel, and her main mentors, Esther and Sukey—at times they fall short. This is especially evident with the relatively benign rendering of the slave-holding Carters. While there are individual scenes of brutality (notably in the voyage) and villainy (a house guest attempts to kidnap Anna away from the Carters), the absolute drudgery of life as a slave seems diminished.

Frank does an admirable job of painting a slave narrative, though there may be a bit too much of a shiny gloss painted on plantation life.

Pub Date: July 14, 2011

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 304

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2013

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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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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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