A solid tale that effectively showcases its strong women characters.

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THE GIRL WITH THE GUN

From the Sydney Rye series , Vol. 8

In Kimelman’s (Flame Road, 2017, etc.) latest series thriller, Sydney Rye and her canine sidekick must protect each other in war-torn Iraq as they aid Kurdish female freedom fighters in their fight against Islamic State group terrorists.

Sydney was the inspiration for Joyful Justice, a worldwide vigilante network. Born Joy Humbolt, she became famous for allegedly killing her brother’s infamous murderer. In reality, someone else killed him, and Sydney just took the rap. Now Declan Doyle of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is threatening to reveal her secret and send her to prison for various crimes, but his superior, Mary Leventhal, has another idea. She wants Sydney to help the FKP, a group of Kurdish female fighters, exterminate members of the Islamic State group who abuse and kidnap women. Specifically, Mary believes that Sydney can inspire more women to join the FKP’s revolution. Once Sydney’s in Iraq, though, bombings separate her and her ever present dog, Blue, from the rest of the team. She later joins up with an FKP fighter named Zerzan Khani, aka “The Tigress,” and the small group braves the Iraqi forest and occasional terrorist attacks as they set about rescuing a captured ally. But even if Sydney succeeds in recruiting women to the rebel cause, she may still be at risk of going to prison—or worse. Kimelman’s characters repeatedly cite an IS belief that men won’t go to heaven if women kill them, and this book, unlike some other thrillers, never treats the notion of battle-ready women as a novelty. Taut action sequences describe Sydney and Zerzan as proficient killers with warriors’ mindsets: “I didn’t have enough bullets to make many mistakes,” Sydney muses. The book also explores some potent and sometimes-gloomy notions, such as Sydney’s assertion that violence is the only way to combat men’s violent ways. That said, the idea of Sydney being an inspiration to large groups of women isn’t entirely convincing. Other characters’ stories, in fact, have more impact; for example, Sydney tells of Tanya, a sex slave who fought back and incited a revolution with a viral video of her retribution. The book’s superb, ambiguous ending, however, is sure to stick with readers.

A solid tale that effectively showcases its strong women characters.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 220

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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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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