Business schemes and on-again, off-again romances will keep readers going as long as they can overlook a few unpleasant...

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The Arrangement

In Kennedy’s debut novel, a shipping magnate and his daughter grapple with an age-old question—what’s more important: wealth or love?

John Wolcott grew up as an orphan in the dockyards of England in the early 19th century, but now he’s the rich, confident head of Wolcott Shipping. Jilted on his wedding day 25 years ago, he’s also a bachelor who doesn’t dare give a woman power over his heart again. Nonetheless, when he meets the beautiful Mary Melbourne, he feels that he must have her. Although she senses that something is off, Mary agrees to marriage in the hope that her passion will grow. It doesn’t, but the two still manage to have a daughter, Louisa. Later, at the age of 16, she’s an intelligent girl who’s grown up in the lap of luxury, but all she really wants is to please her distant father. So when Wolcott, hoping to grow his company, sets her up with a young businessman, she agrees. Louisa doesn’t love James Elliot, though, and he’s in love with someone else, a kindhearted woman below his station. However, both have ulterior motives that push them to see the union through. Meanwhile, Louisa meets an ambitious man climbing the ranks of the Royal Navy with whom she feels an odd connection. Finally, Elliot’s soft-spoken, mysterious older brother enters the picture, and his presence threatens to unravel Wolcott’s well-laid plans. Kennedy’s debut novel is, on the surface, part romance, part historical fiction, but it’s also a story of self-discovery. Overall, it’s a quick-paced, action-packed read. That said, it takes a long time to develop reader sympathy for its main characters. Wolcott, for example, is deeply unlikable, Louisa is a rather spoiled girl not above using “a well-placed tantrum” to get what she wants, and Elliot is a ruthless factory boss. It’s Wolcott’s wife, Mary, stuck in a loveless marriage but committed to making sure her daughter doesn’t make the same mistakes, whom readers will root for. A series of fortuitous events eventually sets everyone on the right tracks, but this result may come too late for some readers.

Business schemes and on-again, off-again romances will keep readers going as long as they can overlook a few unpleasant characters. 

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2017

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

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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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

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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