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SO MUCH PRETTY

Hoffman wanders into the cow pasture a little too often, but the intersection of the lives of two smart young women with a...

Hoffman’s debut novel takes readers to the unsexy world of rural New York and a farming community with more than one secret.

Stacy Flynn is a reporter covering the tiny town of Haeden. Flynn is on the prowl for the story that will make her name in the field of investigative journalism, and she’s decided that Haeden and its acres of dairy farms are just the ticket to an award. Flynn writes and edits the local paper, but she’s not a Haeden native. Instead, she moved from Cleveland to take over the town rag, covering football games and pancake breakfasts under the occasional eye of the former editor. But when the body of a waitress and local favorite, Wendy White, turns up, Flynn bites into the story like a starving dog. Something is very wrong with the way the police and the town are treating White’s murder, and she’s not the only one who thinks that way. But there’s another case, a more recent one, and that one really weighs on Flynn’s mind. It centers on the most unlikely family imaginable: a pair of disaffected doctors turned hippies and their brilliant little girl, Alice. Unhappy with the way their lives were going in New York City, the Piper family moved to Haeden when Claire and Gene left medicine. Gene, Alice’s father, also believes, as does Flynn, that the dairy business is poisoning the water and land for miles around. Told from Gene’s, Alice’s and Flynn’s perspectives, along with those of many others, including the dead girl’s, Hoffman’s book rotates points of view every couple of pages. Although mostly well written, the story devolves into some snooze-worthy prose, particularly sections detailing agricultural practices and Alice’s essays. The author tells the reader over and over that the women in this story are strong and, in the end, she proves it.

Hoffman wanders into the cow pasture a little too often, but the intersection of the lives of two smart young women with a shared consciousness turns what could have been a boring tale into something worth reading. 

Pub Date: March 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-14516-1675-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2010

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DEVOLUTION

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

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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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THE SILENT PATIENT

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

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A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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