Part comedy, part earnest investigation of current issues, this book offers a multifaceted mix of both.

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Summer Days, Summer Nights

A MODERN DAY CRACKER FLORIDA NOVEL

From Beaudoin (Sex Wars 2084 Book Four, 2014, etc.) comes a novel about one man’s experience creating a religion in a backwoods Florida county.

“I am an architect, and I didn’t intend to start a new religion or create a video Bible,” the narrator, Joel Weatherton, tells the reader at the outset of this peculiar tale. This is, however, exactly what happens. After being commissioned to design a Christian church and community in Waccasassa County, Florida, Joel finds himself on the receiving end of threatening phone calls. Having an unbeliever like Joel design something as important as a church is tantamount to sacrilege, or so declare those who seek to intimidate him. As one caller states, “No atheist like you better not take no church design.” Unwilling to reject the commission (“The economy was down” Joel explains), he must risk the safety of himself and his family. Having grown up in Waccasassa County, Joel is more than familiar with the many gun-shooting, God-fearing denizens there. Confiding in his friend Helen and his bouncy 8-year-old daughter, Millie, he confesses that his transition from book-loving architect to prominent religious figure (whose followers wear Hawaiian shirts) is as strange as it sounds. Based largely on imagined miracles and Joel’s quest to help the common man, the story presents the lingering question of how long he can trick the world for the benefit of his fellow citizens. After gaining followers, he tells the reader, “I began to take my role as prophet somewhat more seriously when I saw how much I could help people.” Employing what is inherently a zany premise, the novel nevertheless tackles serious subjects, including the limitations of liberal thinking (“Did I want to join the politically correct crowd who use language to censor any ideas they don’t agree with?” Joel asks himself) and the destruction of Florida’s natural resources. Periods of extended dialogue tend to bog down the narrative, as whenever Joel walks Millie and others through the finer points of the books he likes (“That theme of how much we should trust our friends is important,” he says of Treasure Island). But perhaps even a modern prophet cannot deliver marvels and pizazz all the time.

Part comedy, part earnest investigation of current issues, this book offers a multifaceted mix of both.   

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 637

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2016

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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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