THEENA’S LANDING

Seemingly alone after the death of her father, Theena bravely faces a frightening world that is often unfriendly to young women just trying to survive in Craig’s historical novel.

The youngest of three girls, Theena (short for Athena) is suddenly adrift when her father passes away. Before his death, he makes Theena promise to marry rich suitor Randolph Chase if asked. Her father knows, even if Theena doesn’t, that 19th-century Florida is not a nurturing place for a woman. Her mother abandoned the family a while ago, and Theena’s father knew his other two daughters (Hera and Dite—the latter short for Aphrodite) wouldn’t wait long to take their leave of the family homestead. Theena does as her father asked, but her heart isn’t in it. She allows herself to believe she’s in love with Randolph because she knows it’s the smart thing to do, but having grown up in South Florida between the Everglades and Atlantic Ocean, she would much rather take her dog fishing than spend the day inside embroidering with a mother-in-law who thinks she’s nothing more than gold-digging trash. The author has a strong, smart heroine in Theena, though she’s not perfect; she doesn’t always make the “right” decision, but her actions make sense for her in the moment, and it’s those decisions that push the story forward. In grief, she shares a night with her best friend, Billy. Against her better judgment, she can’t help being in love with her sister’s husband, Jack. Craig infuses her tale with rich emotion and, by naming the three main characters after Greek goddesses, she’s able to take a shortcut in describing who these women are; Theena is wise and courageous, Hera is jealous by nature and Dite is a cold beauty. This allows the reader to jump right into the plot, and a dizzying plot it is. Some things seem to happen too quickly with the tipping points occurring off the page. For instance, Theena falls into Jack’s bed, even after she swore that she would be faithful to her husband, as well as swearing that she would never hurt her sister that way, leaving the reader confused as to her motivations. However, it’s such a quick, rip-roaring read that these small holes don’t deflate the overall tale. It’s a fun novel filled with rich characters. The backwaters of post-Civil War South Florida could hardly be further apart from ancient Greece, yet Craig infuses her coming-of-age tale with the pathos and heroism one might find in myths, but on an all-too-human scale.

 

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Gretchen Craig

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2012

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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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