Vivid human and feline protagonists in an engaging juxtaposition of fantasy and often grim reality.

TREE OF CATS

The lives of a teenager, a cat, and a disturbed killer fatefully intersect in this novel.

When 13-year-old Ava Reed’s best friends go away to summer camp, she finds solace in Minna, her new rescue cat. But Minna is mourning the unborn kittens she lost when she was spayed (or “janed,” as felines call it here), and she is desperate to find her son Shoo, who disappeared before she was trapped and taken to a shelter. Shoo isn’t the only missing cat in Ava’s New York City neighborhood. Over the course of the story, driven by a fantastical imagining of the real and spiritual lives of felines, Minna—and Ava—will discover the terrifying reason why. This unusual mix of reality, fantasy, and horror interweaves the growing pains of a young biracial girl (Ava’s divorced mother is Black; her absentee father is White) with Minna’s painful estrangement from her adult offspring, her desperate attempt to reunite with Shoo, and her fraught odyssey through the spiritual plane of feline existence known as the “Catalogue,” a vast tree of collective knowledge that “grew from the memories of Bastet, the First Cat.” This is not a children’s book despite its deceptively simple illustrations by cartoonist Bechdel, whose graphic memoir Fun Home (2006) inspired the 2015 Tony Award–winning musical. Perspectives shift among Minna, Shoo, Ava, and the twisted scientist attempting to ascend to the Catalogue after experiencing it in a vision. Cats call cars “Borrowed Bodies.” Their mothers name them with “a look in the eye, a thrum in the throat, and a droplet of code from a scent gland,” and feline souls reside in their hyoid “purring-bones” that fly to join Bastet after death. Ava’s daily life encompasses her encounters with casual racism, a Black Lives Matter protest, and disabled and gay characters (her mother’s bisexuality is suggested). Sensitively observed, often gritty and dark, with a poignant conclusion that lingers, this book is Avery’s final work. (The author died in 2019.) Avery’s previous novels, The Teahouse Fire (2006) and The Last Nude (2012), earned the American Library Association Stonewall Awards for excellence in LGBTQ+ English-language literature.

Vivid human and feline protagonists in an engaging juxtaposition of fantasy and often grim reality.

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2020

ISBN: 979-8-57-450256-3

Page Count: 371

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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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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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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