A well-developed baseball novel with a feel-good ending.

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THE HOPPING BIRD

Dossetto’s novel adds a few twists to a familiar plot: a ragtag minor league baseball team with an over-the-hill manager struggles for one last shot at glory.

Harold “Skip” Freeman, a former World Series champion with the Detroit Tigers, now manages the Toledo Mud Hens in the Tigers’ minor league system. He’d been mistreated as a manager in the majors, but he loved the game enough to keep working. That love has since evaporated, however. At the beginning of this story, a pitcher named Rick, who once played for Freeman in the majors, gives the manager a wake-up call, asking him why he’s coasting through the current season. Freeman immediately starts making changes by coaching up a couple of players, including first baseman Andre and an outfielder nicknamed “Latin Lover,” and bringing in a new outfielder prospect named Alex Casillas. During this time, however, Freeman also decides that he wants to retire at the end of the season to spend more time with his wife, Gail. Things start to pick up for the Mud Hens, and the pressure mounts on Freeman to continue his success. Along the way, there are a few amusing subplots: a young woman, Amber, starts out as a kind of baseball groupie, but gains confidence when she finds love with one of the players, and a pitcher, Dirk, gets into some gambling trouble, which leads to a fight scene with a truly hilarious conclusion. Ultimately, Freeman’s success has more to do with how his players end up, especially after they’ve moved on. Although Dossetto tries to avoid a clichéd movie-style ending, the action does follow a tried-and-true trajectory of personal and professional triumphs. However, Amber accomplishes most of her personal growth out of sight, and only comes back into the spotlight near the end, fully formed. The author tells the story from Freeman’s perspective, and he makes outdated pop-culture references that distract from the story more than they add color to his character. At one point, Freeman compares a situation with the ending of the 1996 Kevin Costner film Tin Cup—a reference that most readers may struggle to remember. Also, those who aren’t well-versed in baseball might find the action hard to follow at times. Dossetto makes up for that, though, with a collection of charming characters that are easy to root for, and enough diversions to keep things engaging.

A well-developed baseball novel with a feel-good ending.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 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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