Part character study, part drug-induced nightmare—take a hit.

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DESERT NIGHTS

Set in the American Southwest, Stackhouse’snovel follows a recovering addict escaping the grasp of her vicious ex-lover, but once she begins settling into a new, comfortable life, she discovers her ugly past has been on her tail since the moment she left.

Tiny, now an aging desert punker nearing her 30s, went in and out of broken homes and foster care as a child, making her vulnerable with a tough-as-nails exterior—a recipe, in this case, for drawing in the wrong kind of people. She spends years going on tour as a drummer in the band Nowhoresville and, after a show, meets Kyle, a good-looking hospital attendant capable of turning her on in ways she could never imagine. Kyle and Tiny begin an odd, secluded relationship, moving in together, taking drugs, roping a handful of naïve and horny men into twisted threesomes, and generally living a pitiful, gluttonous lifestyle. Shaded by the walls of their apartment, their perverse life together doesn’t exist on the outside. There comes a point, though, when Tiny can’t bear it any longer; she slips through Kyle’s manipulative clutches and runs—fast. In her absence, Kyle is consumed with his desire for revenge, and he gets creative in his madness and sadism, plucking away, seemingly at random, at anyone who has entered or exited Tiny’s life as a means to get to her and make her pay. Some of his most favored captives are the bandmates of Second Gunner,who are held for the entirety of his tumultuous rampage. They fight tooth-and-nail during their imprisonment, buying some time for the final showdown between Kyle and his beloved. The interwoven storylines skip around, reveal and omit in a skillfully crafted narrative that builds on its suspense. Rough and crude to varying degrees, the characters are mostly from the underbelly of the modern Southwest, and Stackhouse marvelously sets up their interactions, giving a taste of the redneck, hard-rock lifestyle. Tiny’s character, in particular, is notably complex and unknowingly manipulative in her passivity. Throughout the novel, her drug-addled memory loss syncs with the bizarre way her story unfolds as if in a clouded dream.

Part character study, part drug-induced nightmare—take a hit.

Pub Date: June 28, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Courtney Stackhouse

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2014

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

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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

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