Imaginative, whimsical, and a fine preamble to a potential sequel.




Phillips and Nissensen’s (The Color of Fear, 2015) YA horror series continues as 14-year-old Caitlin Fletcher returns to a transdimensional fairy-tale realm to rescue her kidnapped sister.

It’s been nearly a year since Caitlin visited the “nonmaterial realm of sheer imagination.” There, she’d befriended famous literary figures, such as Cinderella, and thwarted the evil Enchanter’s curse, which was turning the realm’s inhabitants into zombies. Lately, her psychotherapist has her doubting that the adventure ever happened. But when thousands of peculiar black crows appear in Hyde Park, Caitlin is quick to blame the Enchanter. Soon, a gang of “crowmen” from the other side enters the corporeal world, but its initial target surprisingly isn’t Caitlin—it’s her brainy, 10-year-old sister Natalie, whom they kidnap. It seems that Natalie has a connection to the most powerful realm of all: the “future kingdom” of Eos. Thankfully, Caitlin has help in her rescue mission from her “gruncle” (great-uncle) Derek Blackshaw; Glinda, the Good Witch of the South; and a few other alumni of L. Frank Baum’s Oz series. The new allies aim to prevent an in-person meeting between the Enchanter and Natalie, as the young girl won’t be able to resist the Enchanter’s magical Red Spectrum of light, which is full of negative emotions. As in the authors’ preceding novel, this entertaining story offers zombified, ghoulish versions of literary characters. There’s plenty of other macabre content, as well, including the aforementioned creepy crowmen and ghouls who crave flesh and blood. However, the narrative also has an endearing sense of humor, as when redheaded Caitlin claims that she’s Goldilocks in an attempt to bypass some security. The likable protagonist faces countless obstacles, including her unusual obsessive-compulsive disorder, which sometimes forces her to look at ceiling corners. Despite the darker elements, the authors splash their descriptions with plenty of bright color: a “burning lurid red” sun, the “maroon glow of dusk,” or a portal of a “rich yellow light” swirling “into a golden whirlpool.”

Imaginative, whimsical, and a fine preamble to a potential sequel.

Pub Date: April 1, 2018


Page Count: 382

Publisher: Toon Studio Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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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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