A meandering but evocative fishing story with a surprising catch.

COLORS OF THE MORNING SKY

A NOVELLA FROM SOUTHEAST ALASKA

A crusty boat captain becomes energized when some damsels in distress need rescuing in this debut romance.

Heading into his 70s, the Captain, as he is known on Juneau’s waterfront, looks back on a decadeslong career fishing the treacherous currents that roil southeast Alaska’s craggy coast. His reminiscences stretch back to a bucolic, river-village boyhood spent frolicking in the shaggy forest and toasting salmon parts pilfered from the local cannery over a fire. He moves on to an atmospheric portrait of old Juneau centered on the town’s red-light district, where the bookish Captain would sit in whorehouse parlors reading aloud from Lady Chatterley’s Lover. The outlawing of these establishments, so important to an unmarried fisherman, sends him into an alcoholic funk and forms a central charge in his brief against churchgoing moralizers. Nearing retirement, the Captain heads out for halibut on his boat, Raven Walks, accompanied by the half-Norwegian, half-Tlingit giant Babe and the sharp-eyed George, nicknamed Gloria after coming out to his crewmates. Here the narrative snaps into focus as the fishermen rescue three women from a tour ship after their rowboat capsizes. This section of the novella, featuring dangerous maneuvers in heavy seas and a delicate Coast Guard chopper medevac, grips the reader with tense action and absorbing maritime procedures. The denouement then subsides into a waterlogged love story. The Captain forms an attachment with one of the women, a fetching redhead called Little Eva, who is lead singer in a band. She invites him to open her show with the story of the rescue then rewards him with a backstage deep kiss in dishabille; alas, a 40-year age difference leaves the smitten Captain with little hope for their future together. Forrer’s loose-limbed prose abounds in land- and seascapes—“There was a frosting of silvery light on the moss on the old pole and it stood there all lit up with the dark green trees behind it”—that are well-observed and poetic. (The many illustrations by Isaac superbly evoke the mood of the scenes.) The wispy story amounts to a shambolic fisherman-mermaid romance, but the richly textured setting makes it resonate.

A meandering but evocative fishing story with a surprising catch.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 67

Publisher: McRoy & Blackburn

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2017

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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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