A manifesto about the need to change, which may leave readers wishing it were as reflective as it is revealing.

DIRTBALL

THE DIARIES OF A WORTHLESS SOMEBODY

Olsen dishes up lukewarm shock-and-awe stories in a memoir of self-discovery.

These loosely connected stories, told by a disillusioned software engineer whose outlook is informed by his outrageous past, begin with a resolution: Olsen is going to turn his life around. His career is stagnant; Anna, the object of his affection, consistently rebuffs his advances; and he’s choked by the fallout of numerous poor life choices. He chronicles an itinerant lifestyle, from San Diego to Milwaukee and back again, while digressing into sometimes lewd, sometimes unbelievable tales of youth steeped in enough liquor and hard drugs to give a contact-high. A grab bag of random episodes includes his being blackout drunk, a dysfunctional relationship with an unfaithful heroin addict, a fistfight with his mother’s abusive boyfriend and unfortunate liaisons with chat room strangers. Any of these could be jumping-off points for the changes Olsen claims to want to make, but instead of hinting at contemplativeness or regret, they come across mostly as boasts. At times, the details suffer from a lack of imagination; early on, a description of Anna reads, “Her long straight brown hair hanged around an adoring gorgeous smile; blissfully covering those blue piercing eyes of hers that could heat an entire ocean.” The parts that might be intriguing on their own—such as Olsen’s misadventures as a 21-year-old in Tijuana or a trip aboard the supposedly haunted Queen Mary—are offset by a passive voice (“An awkward laugh with a very short lifespan from him was then made”) and straining syntax. Though most stories are crass enough to be off-putting, there are moments of tenderness woven in. Olsen’s recollection of his grandfather’s death, and the impact it had on him, is refreshingly vulnerable, a welcome beacon of humanity by the late hour of its arrival.

A manifesto about the need to change, which may leave readers wishing it were as reflective as it is revealing.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2013

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2014

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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