A kaleidoscopic escapade with a resilient and uniquely addictive pair of characters.

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PROSE AND CONS

A stimulating spectacle of crime and interpersonal melodrama in which two very different writers’ paths cross with unexpected results.

Brooklynite co-authors Katz and Starr conjure the thrills and machinations of the writing life in a story of two characters who collaborate and commingle their talents and aspirations. The story opens in 2010—a time of war, soaring unemployment, and a crumbling housing market. Young writer and former Californian Kia Kuniya navigates Manhattan’s unforgiving job market, hunting for gainful employment, while also taking care of a pet bunny named Monsieur Floppy. With the determination of a true city slicker (“My unlimited MetroCard is the closest thing I have to a superpower”), she manages to land a job in a coffee shop, but she’s assaulted by a diminutive, gap-toothed attacker on her way to her first shift. Kia’s knight in shining armor materializes in the form of Dylan Miller, who swoops in and rescues her from being beaten up on the sidewalk. Dylan is a writer, as well, and he and Kia quickly hit it off despite the unconventional circumstances of their meeting—and the fact that he might have killed her attacker after fending him off. Dylan proves to be a marijuana-smoking egocentric whose love-hate rants about the city are as epic and unbelievable as his history as a multiple widower. Still, he and Kia share a jovial attraction, particularly after Kia returns to Dylan’s basement apartment, after recuperating, to show him the illustrated story that she wrote about the shocking ordeal. Katz and Starr show how each character recognizes the drive, creativity, and true talent in the other. Kia and Dylan soon become “partner[s] in prose” and begin penning new stories as romantic sparks fly between them. Kia eventually moves into Dylan’s subterranean abode, and their cohabitation inspires an exchange of personal histories, including Dylan’s admittance of residual psychological trauma from the events of 9/11. Over the course of the novel, both characters play off each other well, and their personalities amiably suit the narrative tone; also, both become engrossed in the many pleasures and pains of the creative writing process, which will delight readers who are also authors. Throughout the book’s second half, as Kia and Dylan’s quirky story matures, Dylan’s past cruel shenanigans and untruths are exposed, which leads to unpleasant consequences for the hopeful scribe. Katz and Starr’s collaborative prose is fast-paced throughout the novel—wonderfully character-driven and consistently clever. They also offer memorable descriptions, such as of eager baristas approaching with “double espresso enthusiasm” or of someone ranting with the “lung capacity of a scuba diver.” The authors know New York well, and they describe its percolating energy, rushing street traffic, and weathered population with gritty realness. In the novel’s conclusion, the law catches up to Dylan, leading to a confession of intent to pen a multivolume series of sequels, which should please readers who aren’t quite ready to say goodbye to this dynamic duo.  

A kaleidoscopic escapade with a resilient and uniquely addictive pair of characters.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 337

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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