A thought-provoking prediction of where constant misinformation can eventually lead.

AS SEEN IN A MIRROR

BEGINNING OF THE END

Rocke’s (A Twilight in the Morning, 2014) speculative series starter takes a dark look at a world of “fake news.”

In this volume set in the near future, Josh Cunningham is an investigator for the truth-verification division of an organization known as SEH. His job: to determine the origins of major news stories. As the novel opens, he’s assigned to look into the murder-suicide of a Canadian man who was supposedly infected with “The Disease,” the latest rumored global pandemic. However, try as he might, Josh can’t explain away the outbreak as a mere fabrication. While following up on another Disease-related suicide in Savannah, Georgia, he meets Jim Burillo, who offers his own conspiracy theories on the brewing epidemic. Josh then contacts his old classmate, research chemist Luke Baer, who won’t admit to what he knows about a suspicious group known only as CDV. Along the way, Josh’s division gets shut down, and some people whom he knows either die or disappear. Then Josh himself is abducted, and his kidnappers get him hooked on a new drug. As the Disease spreads, global panic sets in. Events come to a head as the book ends, but the conclusion offers little resolution. Some readers may wish that the author had wrapped up a few more plotlines in such a dense novel, and the fact that it takes nearly 400 pages to reveal the conspiracy behind the Disease is disappointing. Still, Rocke’s vigorous pace makes the volume seem shorter than it is, and it offers an important examination of what happens to the truth in a world full of fakery. When the average citizen believes in nothing, the book warns, it allows people in power to drive narratives as they see fit. Rocke also presents fully developed characters in Josh, Luke, and Jim, although the villains’ motivations are less clear—as they should be.

A thought-provoking prediction of where constant misinformation can eventually lead.

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68433-420-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2020

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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