An original tale about selfish love and selfless work.

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BECK & CAUL

SPRING 1919

An epistolary fantasy novel tells the story of a budding romance quickly placed under supernatural pressures.

Sailor Zebediah Beck meets fighter pilot Tom Caul on the USS Fanning, which is heading home now that World War I has ended. After Zeb assists the seasick Tom, the two share a bunk—though, unlike other men that Zeb has palled around with, his new friend merely sleeps in his arms. The two assume they will part ways when the ship docks, but the aristocratic Tom decides he enjoys farm boy Zeb’s company, even if they make an unlikely pair. After a disastrous stay with Zeb’s family in rural southwest Pennsylvania, and despite Tom’s inclinations, the two go to Tom’s stately home outside Pittsburgh: Prouwder House. Tom’s extended family has gathered for a convocation—incomprehensible to Zeb—to select new members to take up “the Work,” a mysterious duty that preserves the clan’s fortune even as it seems to kill or maim those who perform it. Tom and Zeb finally act on their impulses only to discover the next morning that it is they who have been chosen to do the Work, which entails responding to ethereal screams by leaping through passages in Prouwder House that transport them across the world. These rescue missions take them to a burning building in Chicago, a man hanging from the side of a dirigible in Italy, and imprisoned Jews in Poland. Will Zeb forgive Tom for pressing him into this dangerous service? Will they even make it out alive? The story is presented as alternating entries in the diaries of both men, whose distinct voices Baysinger (Brother-Out-Law, 2018, etc.) admirably renders. The blue-blooded Tom is precise and literary even when complaining of seasickness: “Poseidon take me and this whole damned destroyer, only end my suffering!” Zeb writes in his own rough-hewn vernacular: “He was worse off for a while, but I taught him to keep his eye on the horizon and that helped. We’ve been tradin’ war stories.” Fantasy fans should appreciate the depth the author gives the characters. In truth, the speculative element is far less intriguing than the simple fact of two men from different worlds documenting an illicit relationship in dueling diaries.

An original tale about selfish love and selfless work.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 91

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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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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