An ambitious and topical effort about a young activist, but it’s melodramatic and erratically structured.

All People's Lives Matter

An idealist wrestles with the austere realities of life beyond the safe confines of her college campus.

Holly Lundgren, a junior biology major at the University of Minnesota, hails from a long-standing family tradition of activism in the pursuit of social justice. She’s inspired to volunteer for an increasingly powerful organization, All People’s Lives Matter, but is disillusioned by the questionable character of one of the movement’s leaders. Holly intends to marry her boyfriend, despite her general lack of enthusiasm and his infidelity, but then abandons those plans when she meet’s a similarly idealistic law student, Brandon Olsen, whom she marries quickly in the face of her mother’s vociferous objections. Brandon is badly injured in a car accident and turns to booze as a salve for his chronic pain because he can’t afford prescription medication. Holly becomes pregnant and is compelled to take a job cleaning a hotel, work both backbreaking and demoralizing for a former academic star. Holly is able to briefly pull them out of financial dire straits by selling her design for a more supportive flip-flop, but that venture eventually flounders, and she’s forced to leave Brandon and move back in with her mother, Vera. Then Vera reveals some startling family secrets and tells her about a decades-old mystery. McCoy (Plums for the Flawed Soul: A Guide to Peace, Serenity, and Forgiveness, 2016, etc.) seems intent on unpacking the psychological dynamic that fuels youthful idealism, but both the plot and the characters are so messily drawn it’s never entirely clear what point is ultimately being made. Holly, shrill and emotionally unstable, appears utterly incapable of even the simplest long-term decision-making, driven by whim rather than ideology. Her character is 20 years old but seems considerably younger given her ostentatiously arrested development. And the plot is a pastiche of dramatic crescendos largely disconnected from each other, a series of narrative spikes without any intermittent valleys. The author has a flair for soap-operatic twists and turns, but there doesn’t seem to be a main story for such twists to diverge from. This is a short book—more a novella than a novel—but it’s still unlikely to keep most reads engaged to the end.

An ambitious and topical effort about a young activist, but it’s melodramatic and erratically structured. 

Pub Date: April 21, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 267

Publisher: Janus Media

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2016

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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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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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