A romance with a hint of mystery, a well-developed protagonist, and excellent dialogue.

THE ACADEMY

In Daly’s debut YA novel, a teenage girl engages in a battle of wills with a handsome cadet who’s trying to recruit her younger brother into an enigmatic academy.

Since losing her mother to cancer a couple of years ago, New Mexico high schooler Katie Connelly has taken care of her younger siblings, Andrew and Mikey. Their largely indifferent father, who used to be in the military, is more interested in assigning his kids chores than learning about their lives. So it’s shocking when he decides to send 8-year-old Andrew, who’s academically and athletically gifted, to the International Elite Academy in California. Katie is wary of this plan, as not much is known about the mysterious Academy. In addition, Andrew’s “mentor,” Cadet Pete Davenport, recently acted like an insolent jerk at the diner where Katie waitresses. She doesn’t trust him and sees him as a con artist using deceit to finalize Andrew’s recruitment. But it turns out that Pete can also be undeniably charming, and Katie soon fears that she’s “falling for the enemy.” She also thinks that her skepticism may be mere paranoia—a condition that some people attributed to her mother, who didn’t want her kids attending public school. In any case, Katie vows to learn more about Pete, the Academy, and its mission. There are indeed mysteries surrounding the Academy, but Daly’s story pays closer attention to the potential romance between Katie and Pete. There are numerous, prolonged scenes with the two after their initial encounter in the diner. However, these moments also deftly showcase how Katie intuitively questions nearly everything, such as the fact the Pete knows particular details about her. Moreover, Daly crafts superb dialogue in a steady but not excessive Southern dialect, with characters dropping “dadgum” and “y’all” into conversations. The supporting players also shine, from Katie’s self-centered frenemy, Ashley-Leigh Montgomery, to 4-year-old Mikey, whose childish speech is endearing: “I get to wide up fwunt…and without a boostuh!” The ending, while predictable, perfectly sets up a planned sequel.

A romance with a hint of mystery, a well-developed protagonist, and excellent dialogue.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2019

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

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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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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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