An engaging, if uneven, novel about personal upheaval during a time of monumental social change.

RIDE A BRIGHT AND SHINING PONY

In Stevens’ (Sirens’ Songs, 2011, etc.) intelligent novel, the civil-rights March on Washington ignites one woman’s journey to heartbreak and self-awareness.

It’s August 27, 1963, and Cynthia, a white, divorced researcher for a New York history-book publisher, gets off the bus in Washington, D.C., eager to spend her two-week vacation with her boyfriend, Lester. But Cynthia is surrounded by people arriving for another reason: the March on Washington, scheduled for the following day, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and others would speak to hundreds of thousands. The city is restless; when Cynthia arrives at Lester’s house, the moment is disrupted by a neighbor calling in a false fire alarm. Lester, a white journalist originally from Texas, is focused on the March; all Cynthia wants to talk about is getting married. Soon after Cynthia arrives, Lester’s college roommate calls to announce that he’s in town and demands to see Lester. Throw in the general tumult of Lester’s African-American neighborhood on the eve of the March, and Cynthia’s fantasies of a romantic vacation don’t stand a chance. Before Lester leaves to work on a story, he and Cynthia schedule a late-night drink with Lester’s roommate. Over the next 24 hours, Cynthia participates in the March on Washington, witnesses life-changing events, and confronts her own painful memories. Stevens’ tightly structured tale is filled with compelling observations: For example, when Cynthia gets off the bus, the driver’s eyes slide down her body, “exploring the folds of [her] skirt like a sticky finger.” The novel confines the story to two days, which allows the characters to move quickly through the narrative, but it includes too many subplots for such a short time span. Although Cynthia tells her story in the first person, we learn more about Lester, and Cynthia’s first husband, Frank, than we do about Cynthia herself. This choice highlights Cynthia’s willingness to sacrifice everything for love, but readers may wish that the protagonist were more clearly drawn.

An engaging, if uneven, novel about personal upheaval during a time of monumental social change.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2013

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: BrickHouse Books, Inc.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2013

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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