A good, solid read that bubbles over into exciting at times, but readers who haven’t read her first volume (Wide Open, 2012)...

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DEEP DOWN

The second entry of Coates’ promising paranormal thriller series, which centers on the homecoming of a former soldier who managed to beat death while serving in Afghanistan, will score high with readers who like tales that don’t follow the mainstream.

Hallie has returned from war not quite the same person who left; after an explosion that killed her for seven minutes, she was brought back from the dead. Ever since then, the daughter of a South Dakota rancher has been able to see ghosts and other things that go bump in the night. In this second installment of a planned trilogy, family friend Pabby, who owns a nearby ranch, has asked Hallie to help her stave off the forces of death that have come to claim her. Pabby says it’s not her time, and she knows that because her mother, who had second sight, was able to tell her she’d live for many more years. Now, a pack of black dogs, the harbingers of death, are camped out on Pabby’s doorstep, and she’s barricaded herself in the ranch house. Hallie, her deputy sheriff boyfriend, Boyd, and one of the harbingers soon find themselves caught up in a dance with Death, a dead man named Hollowell, who is tied to Boyd’s past, and a bunch of missing people who’ve slipped between worlds. In Hallie, Coates has created a strong and believable female protagonist who, while she doesn’t exactly embrace her ability to see spooky things others cannot, possess a weary acceptance of her fate. Coates’ writing is clean and solid, her plotting believable, even though the events are often otherworldly, and her voice strong and consistent. What makes her books more interesting than most is that she avoids the usual paranormal subjects and finds, instead of zombies and vampires, more fascinating and esoteric creatures upon which to balance the action.   

A good, solid read that bubbles over into exciting at times, but readers who haven’t read her first volume (Wide Open, 2012) will be lost from the very first page.

Pub Date: March 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7653-2900-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Dec. 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be...

LOVECRAFT COUNTRY

Some very nice, very smart African-Americans are plunged into netherworlds of malevolent sorcery in the waning days of Jim Crow—as if Jim Crow alone wasn’t enough of a curse to begin with.

In the northern U.S. of the mid-1950s, as depicted in this merrily macabre pastiche by Ruff (The Mirage, 2012, etc.), Driving While Black is an even more perilous proposition than it is now. Ask Atticus Turner, an African-American Korean War veteran and science-fiction buff, who is compelled to face an all-too-customary gauntlet of racist highway patrolmen and hostile white roadside hamlets en route from his South Side Chicago home to a remote Massachusetts village in search of his curmudgeonly father, Montrose, who was lured away by a young white “sharp dresser” driving a silver Cadillac with tinted windows. At least Atticus isn’t alone; his uncle George, who puts out annual editions of The Safe Negro Travel Guide, is splitting driving duties in his Packard station wagon “with inlaid birch trim and side paneling.” Also along for the ride is Atticus’ childhood friend Letitia Dandridge, another sci-fi fan, whose family lived in the same neighborhood as the Turners. It turns out this road trip is merely the beginning of a series of bizarre chimerical adventures ensnaring both the Turner and Dandridge clans in ancient rituals, arcane magical texts, alternate universes, and transmogrifying potions, all of which bears some resemblance to the supernatural visions of H.P. Lovecraft and other gothic dream makers of the past. Ruff’s ripping yarns often pile on contrivances and overextend the narratives in the grand manner of pulp storytelling, but the reinvented mythos here seems to have aroused in him a newfound empathy and engagement with his characters.

If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be doing triple axels in his grave at the way his imagination has been so impudently shaken and stirred.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-229206-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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A spellbinding portrait of what it means to be human in an inhuman world.

THE WORLD THAT WE KNEW

In this tale of a young German Jewish girl under the protection of a golem—a magical creature of Jewish myth created from mud and water—Hoffman (The Rules of Magic, 2017, etc.) employs her signature lyricism to express the agony of the Holocaust with a depth seldom equaled in more seemingly realistic accounts.

The golem, named Ava, comes into being in 1941 Berlin. Recently made a widow by the Gestapo and desperate to get her 12-year-old daughter, Lea, out of Germany, Hanni Kohn hires Ettie, a rabbi’s adolescent daughter who has witnessed her father creating a golem, to make a female creature who must obey Hanni by protecting Lea at all costs. Ettie uses Hanni’s payment to escape on the same train toward France as Lea and Ava, but the two human girls’ lives take different paths. Ettie, who has always chafed at the limits placed on her gender, becomes a Resistance fighter set on avenging her younger sister’s killing by Nazis. Lea, under Ava’s supernatural care, escapes the worst ravages of the war, staying first with distant cousins in Paris (already under Gestapo rule), where she falls in love with her hosts' 14-year-old son, Julien; then in a convent school hiding Jewish girls in the Rhone Valley; then in a forest village not far from where Ettie has partnered in her Resistance activities with Julien’s older brother. While Lea’s experiences toughen and mature her, Ettie never stops mourning her sister but finds something like love with a gentle gentile doctor who has his own heartbreaking backstory. In fact, everyone in the large cast of supporting human characters—as well as the talking heron that is Ava’s love interest and Azriel, the Angel of Death—becomes vividly real, but Ava the golem is the heart of the book. Representing both fierce maternal love and the will to survive, she forces Lea and Ettie to examine their capacities to make ethical choices and to love despite impossible circumstances.

A spellbinding portrait of what it means to be human in an inhuman world.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3757-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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