Some promising elements, bogged down by slow exposition and a failure to launch.

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CONNECTED MINDS

In this YA paranormal urban fantasy, a teenage girl discovers that she has a special destiny involving the world of her dreams.

Vanessa Riggs is more grown-up than most 16-year-olds. She’s spent most of her life in trouble spots around the world, helping out after disasters with her adoptive father, Sam, who raised her after her biological mother’s death. But a lifetime of disaster work isn’t the most unusual thing about Vanessa: she also has an “imaginary friend,” Matthias, her dearest companion and trusted advice-giver, whom she’s always known. She sees him and other figures in her dreams, where she seems to be living different lives in a series of historical fantasies; in them, she’s “the child of the two most powerful Gods in this realm” and faces unwelcome betrothal to someone called “the Son of Am-heh.” Back in her waking life, when Vanessa and Sam return home to McCall, Idaho, she keeps bumping (literally) into “a massive young man” named Tanner Jamison. She shares an instant connection with him, and she also discovers that they have the ability to hear each other’s thoughts. As she has experiences with him, Matthias, and others, Vanessa comes to an emotional crossroads: should she try to live an ordinary life and settle down in McCall, or should she learn the truth about herself, her dreams, her gifts, and her role in a larger world of “magic and monsters”? A vision of coming evil finally gives Vanessa her quest. In her debut novel, Long uses the common, popular trope of a young person with a secret, crucial fate, as well as a special guardian. Vanessa’s disaster work is an intriguing and unusual element, giving her toughness and skills that could prove useful later on. Her romance with Tanner, though, is a very conventional high school love story, aside from its paranormal elements, and her often heralded allure is more stated than shown. Also, her dreams have little context until relatively late in the novel; the story’s hints don’t give readers very much to go on. Nearly the entire volume is taken up with complex back story and stage-setting, which will be unsatisfying for readers hoping for more than a mere overture to adventure.

Some promising elements, bogged down by slow exposition and a failure to launch.

Pub Date: Nov. 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5043-6970-1

Page Count: 242

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2017

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King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

THE INSTITUTE

The master of modern horror returns with a loose-knit parapsychological thriller that touches on territory previously explored in Firestarter and Carrie.

Tim Jamieson is a man emphatically not in a hurry. As King’s (The Outsider, 2018, etc.) latest opens, he’s bargaining with a flight attendant to sell his seat on an overbooked run from Tampa to New York. His pockets full, he sticks out his thumb and winds up in the backwater South Carolina town of DuPray (should we hear echoes of “pray”? Or “depraved”?). Turns out he’s a decorated cop, good at his job and at reading others (“You ought to go see Doc Roper,” he tells a local. “There are pills that will brighten your attitude”). Shift the scene to Minneapolis, where young Luke Ellis, precociously brilliant, has been kidnapped by a crack extraction team, his parents brutally murdered so that it looks as if he did it. Luke is spirited off to Maine—this is King, so it’s got to be Maine—and a secret shadow-government lab where similarly conscripted paranormally blessed kids, psychokinetic and telepathic, are made to endure the Skinnerian pain-and-reward methods of the evil Mrs. Sigsby. How to bring the stories of Tim and Luke together? King has never minded detours into the unlikely, but for this one, disbelief must be extra-willingly suspended. In the end, their forces joined, the two and their redneck allies battle the sophisticated secret agents of The Institute in a bloodbath of flying bullets and beams of mental energy (“You’re in the south now, Annie had told these gunned-up interlopers. She had an idea they were about to find out just how true that was"). It’s not King at his best, but he plays on current themes of conspiracy theory, child abuse, the occult, and Deep State malevolence while getting in digs at the current occupant of the White House, to say nothing of shadowy evil masterminds with lisps.

King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9821-1056-7

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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This riveting Gothic thriller explores the limits of love, guilt, and punishment.

THE SHAPE OF NIGHT

Running away from the memory of a New Year’s Eve party gone terribly wrong, food writer Ava Collette escapes Boston for a remote Maine village only to face a haunted house and a murder investigation.

Bestselling author of the Rizzoli & Isles series, Gerritsen (I Know a Secret, 2017, etc.) returns with a spellbinding thriller. The focus stays tightly on the experience of the potential victim, Ava, which enables Gerritsen to spin a tight web. Entangled in her own guilt, Ava isolates herself further and further, avoiding calls from her sister and living alone in the ominous Brodie’s Watch mansion, named for its builder, a shipping master lost to sea more than a hundred years ago. Although Brodie’s Watch initially frightens Ava, the moment she steps over the threshold, she feels inexplicably welcomed. Indeed, she is most welcome, as the shadows in her bedroom coalesce into the shape of a man, a man who may well be the ghost of Capt. Brodie. He stalks the house most nights, seducing Ava into not only the passions of love, but also atonement through punishment meted out for her sins. And so Gerritsen shifts a murder mystery into a Gothic thriller, replete with an unsteady widow’s walk, secret alcove, strange smells, ominous sensations, and the ghost. Even the prologue echoes the dream of Manderley from Du Maurier’s Rebecca. But then a dead body washes ashore, and the police investigation suggests the dead woman was killed before she hit the water. Fearful that her spectral lover may be a real-life murderer, Ava inquires about Charlotte Nielson, the young woman who rented Brodie’s Watch before her and left in an inexplicable hurry. But Ava’s investigation uncovers a disturbing list of dead women, which the townspeople seem to have spackled over. Who are they protecting?

This riveting Gothic thriller explores the limits of love, guilt, and punishment.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2095-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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