A harrowing character study of a dissolute young man destroyed by obsession, the underlying nihilism of which might be...

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OCEAN BEACH

A forbidden love affair threatens to destroy an aimless college student and his precocious sister.

Peter Niletti and his younger sister, Severine, are students at a respected liberal arts university, where their father is a philosophy professor. As children, Peter was in awe of Severine’s talent and beauty and jealous of her name, which he believed she embodied “as though having emerged from the womb with a preternaturally precocious awareness of who she was.” The siblings forged a close bond, but as teenagers, the bond takes a darker turn as they begin a passionate, sexually charged affair. For Severine, the shift in the relationship is a mistake; however, the affair triggers for Peter an all-consuming obsession that fills his every waking hour with thoughts of Severine. When she begins dating a fellow student named Spencer, Peter’s jealously leads him on a downward spiral of unpredictable behavior and drug use with his friend Don. Overwhelmed by Peter’s obsession, Severine embarks on a desperate course of action. Cassese’s novel is an ambitious and challenging effort that struggles to deliver on its disturbing premise. Cassese expertly renders the permissive, free-thinking milieu that shapes Peter’s and Severine’s intellectual developments. Although their father is a relatively minor character, his influence as a philosophy professor can be seen in their interests and, especially, their speech. Cassese’s development of the two lead characters yields more mixed results. Peter is a fairly static character whose primary interest is maintaining the relationship he has with Severine, an interest that ultimately comes at the expense of continuing his education or developing relationships with anyone other than Severine or Don. The lack of character development actually helps the novel by reinforcing Peter’s single-minded focus on Severine. Despite being the object of Peter’s, and later Spencer’s, desire, Severine remains a bit of a mystery. Cassese offers occasional glimpses into Severine’s motivations, but her reasons for beginning a relationship with Peter remain elusive.

A harrowing character study of a dissolute young man destroyed by obsession, the underlying nihilism of which might be off-putting to some readers.  

Pub Date: June 1, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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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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