A fun read when the story slows down and allows the characters to engage with one another.

READ REVIEW

NOT FROM THE STARS

A Victorian theater provides a home for outcasts in Conroy’s (But from Thine Eyes, 2017, etc.) historical novel.

Homosexuality is illegal in late-19th-century London, so handsome young actor Jeremy O’Connell must keep his relationship with fellow thespian Tommy Quinn a secret outside of their social circle. Jeremy and Tommy are preparing for a small production of Much Ado About Nothing when ingénue Katherine Stewart arrives to play Hero, fresh from her family’s traveling variety act and heartbroken that her sweetheart, Simon Camden, is leaving London. Simon asks Jeremy to look after Katherine, and Jeremy grudgingly provides the naïve actress with acting lessons and half a bed in his tiny flat. Jeremy’s annoyance with Katherine gradually transforms into platonic love, though, and the two settle into a fake marriage, living as man and wife while each pursues his or her own affairs. Tommy is later imprisoned for sexual misconduct, but Jeremy and Katherine become theatrical celebrities, starting their own prominent acting company and teaching drama classes that attract starry-eyed student Rory Cookingham. These characters, however, only occupy about half of the book. Other chapters focus on Elisa Roundtree, a beautiful, isolated teenage girl desperately trying to escape an impending, forced marriage to a brutal man. Her plight draws the attention of her school’s smitten new art teacher, who tries to help her. The characters’ stories often feel oddly unrelated to one another, and it’s especially unclear, until quite late, how Elisa’s plotline relates to the actors’. The actors’ chapters often present intriguing setups. However, they rush through them; Jeremy’s feelings toward Katherine, for example, mutate from annoyance to adoration, but more through summary than scene work. Their scenes also lack a sustained conflict, as the author seems more focused on setting up Book II than offering compelling plotlines in Book I. The characters tend to be underdeveloped, overall, but they’re still enjoyable when given good plotlines. Elisa’s storyline, for instance, is far more engaging than the thespians’; she becomes increasingly desperate as her wedding day approaches, experimenting with both acquiescence and defiance.

A fun read when the story slows down and allows the characters to engage with one another.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 213

Publisher: Endeavour Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more