An intriguing but brooding coming-of-age tale.

SEARCHING FOR JIMMY PAGE

In this debut novel, a young woman’s search for details about her dead mother leads her to a guitar hero.

February 1988. As the winter wind blows through the pines of Eastern North Carolina, 18-year-old Luna Kane sits with her dying great-grandfather. The man has not spoken for nine years, not since Luna’s mother died by suicide, but he now delivers his final words—cryptic sentences about owls and music. The words spark a long-buried memory in Luna: an image of her hippie mother, Claudia, and a black-and-white photograph of a rock star. “The two of them were intertwined in my mind’s eye,” narrates Luna, “like ashes wafting in a summer wind, waiting for water to receive them. I was born of water and moonlight, and of her and of him.” The rock star is Jimmy Page, the legendary Led Zeppelin guitarist. As a high school graduation present, Luna’s uncle gives her a copy of Jimmy’s first solo record, which prompts a fainting spell and another vision. It seems Jimmy’s music is a means to unlock the secrets of Claudia’s life, granting Luna access to the mother she barely knew. To find out the whole truth about Claudia and her own origins, Luna will have to go to England and meet the man himself. Despite the pop culture premise, Hallberg treats the story with absolute seriousness, delving into the complex psychologies of Luna and her mother. The prose is sometimes overwrought, but always moody and surprising, as here when Luna examines the residence where the Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham died: “I stared at the main house. There were others on the estate, by the banks of the Thames, the river’s edge, swans floating in the freezing water. Swan song for a drummer. What about the owls? Had there been owls crying in the night when Bonzo died, hovering at the window, watching him, waiting? Where had Jimmy been?” The novel is strangely gripping, and fans of Led Zeppelin, in particular, will enjoy how the author has woven the band’s mythology through Luna’s odyssey. Unfortunately, it treads too often into melodrama. Readers just want to have fun, but Hallberg and Luna aren’t interested in levity.

An intriguing but brooding coming-of-age tale.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-60489-292-5

Page Count: -

Publisher: Livingston Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2021

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Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

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BILLY SUMMERS

The ever prolific King moves from his trademark horror into the realm of the hard-boiled noir thriller.

“He’s not a normal person. He’s a hired assassin, and if he doesn’t think like who and what he is, he’ll never get clear.” So writes King of his title character, whom the Las Vegas mob has brought in to rub out another hired gun who’s been caught and is likely to talk. Billy, who goes by several names, is a complex man, a Marine veteran of the Iraq War who’s seen friends blown to pieces; he’s perhaps numbed by PTSD, but he’s goal-oriented. He’s also a reader—Zola’s novel Thérèse Raquin figures as a MacGuffin—which sets his employer’s wheels spinning: If a reader, then why not have him pretend he’s a writer while he’s waiting for the perfect moment to make his hit? It wouldn’t be the first writer, real or imagined, King has pressed into service, and if Billy is no Jack Torrance, there’s a lovely, subtle hint of the Overlook Hotel and its spectral occupants at the end of the yarn. It’s no spoiler to say that whereas Billy carries out the hit with grim precision, things go squirrelly, complicated by his rescue of a young woman—Alice—after she’s been roofied and raped. Billy’s revenge on her behalf is less than sweet. As a memoir grows in his laptop, Billy becomes more confident as a writer: “He doesn’t know what anyone else might think, but Billy thinks it’s good,” King writes of one day’s output. “And good that it’s awful, because awful is sometimes the truth. He guesses he really is a writer now, because that’s a writer’s thought.” Billy’s art becomes life as Alice begins to take an increasingly important part in it, crisscrossing the country with him to carry out a final hit on an errant bad guy: “He flopped back on the sofa, kicked once, and fell on the floor. His days of raping children and murdering sons and God knew what else were over.” That story within a story has a nice twist, and Billy’s battered copy of Zola’s book plays a part, too.

Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982173-61-6

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

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CLOUD CUCKOO LAND

An ancient Greek manuscript connects humanity's past, present, and future.

Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you” wrote Antonius Diogenes at the end of the first century C.E.—and millennia later, Pulitzer Prize winner Doerr is his fitting heir. Around Diogenes' manuscript, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"—the author did exist, but the text is invented—Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space. The protagonist of the original story is Aethon, a shepherd whose dream of escaping to a paradise in the sky leads to a wild series of adventures in the bodies of beast, fish, and fowl. Aethon's story is first found by Anna in 15th-century Constantinople; though a failure as an apprentice seamstress, she's learned ancient Greek from an elderly scholar. Omeir, a country boy of the same period, is rejected by the world for his cleft lip—but forms the deepest of connections with his beautiful oxen, Moonlight and Tree. In the 1950s, Zeno Ninis, a troubled ex–GI in Lakeport, Idaho, finds peace in working on a translation of Diogenes' recently recovered manuscript. In 2020, 86-year-old Zeno helps a group of youngsters put the story on as a play at the Lakeport Public Library—unaware that an eco-terrorist is planting a bomb in the building during dress rehearsal. (This happens in the first pages of the book and continues ticking away throughout.) On a spaceship called the Argos bound for Beta Oph2 in Mission Year 65, a teenage girl named Konstance is sequestered in a sealed room with a computer named Sybil. How could she possibly encounter Zeno's translation? This is just one of the many narrative miracles worked by the author as he brings a first-century story to its conclusion in 2146.

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982168-43-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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