Vampirism is simply another obstacle for greedy and often indifferent characters in this irreverent story.

Night Cream

In this supernatural tale, a woman uses her new relationship with a vampire for a business opportunity—selling his blood as a face cream.

Twenty-eight-year-old Jessica Connors is happy to have escaped her Poughkeepsie, New York, roots to work at the Art Fool, a trendy SoHo gallery. She doesn’t care much for Don Meeker, in love with Jessica since high school, but the pendant he gives her is more her style: old but unmistakably valuable. The Gnostic cross also has an unintended consequence, attracting Cortes Del Lago, a vampire for more than a century. A lack of bodily functions—Cortes equates himself with a ghost—renders sex a pointless endeavor. But the vampire willingly shares his blood with Jessica, who reminds Cortes of his long-ago love, Molly O’Hara, and Jessica has no complaints once the regenerative blood hits her skin. She starts collecting it in test tubes and, with financing from gallery owner and Ukrainian billionaire Dimitri Garpov, plans on marketing it as a beauty cream. Detective John Paul Stratton, meanwhile, investigates murders linked by traces of reptile blood at the scenes. He has his theories (a death cult, perhaps?), but with victims tied to Jessica, he certainly thinks she did it—or had someone do it for her. Pollin (Thirty-Two Acres of Paradise: Varian Fry at Air-Bel, 2015, etc.) embraces some vampiric traditions, including blood sucking, stakes, and silver bullets. But a stream-of-consciousness narrative abandons a typical vampire plot. Jessica at a funeral, for example, has an inner debate that moves from various ways of mourning to her changing situation with Cortes, who may be turning human. The author retains this style through shifting perspectives, an accompanying interchangeability that unfortunately doesn’t offer characters much distinction. But Pollin wisely employs a good deal of humor to tackle quite a bit of heavy material, like gay artist Tancredo Zaru, whose genuine expression of spirituality is a potentially blasphemous sculpture, Plop Christ (it’s as gaudy as it sounds). Injecting so much comedy in the wry tale ensures that cynical views of religion and death are never outrightly offensive, and sequences like a tearful Molly correcting her dying love’s grammar are a hoot.

Vampirism is simply another obstacle for greedy and often indifferent characters in this irreverent story.

Pub Date: March 21, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2016

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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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