A tragic and darkly fascinating call girl story that loses some of its edge by trying too hard to get into its main...

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DRIFTING, FALLING—DIARY OF A CALL GIRL SUICIDE

In this novel, the diary of a troubled young girl reveals her life as a prostitute while her therapist lusts after her and tries to learn her secrets.

Ripley Luna dates her college professor, endures nightmares about murdering puppies, and secretly works as a high-class call girl. “A competent courtesan has the ability to converse on a myriad of subjects,” Ripley writes in her diary as she flits from references to the Marquis de Sade to The X-Files, Greek mythology, and her favorite subject, astronauts. While she begins filling pages with her true thoughts, she lies to her new therapist, Dr. Dan Truscott. “Lying is what I do, more so than even laying, lol,” she writes. As Ripley’s journal moves from encounters with her sweetest johns to the ordeals of her childhood, Dan’s obsession with his young patient grows, leading him to follow her after sessions and even to hire a private investigator. He claims to want to protect her, fearing for her safety, but deep down he knows it has more to do with his own disintegrating marriage. Ripley’s own romantic relationship begins to come apart as she and Dan move forward with her psychotherapy. Desperate to understand her, he pushes her more and more toward revisiting the mysterious traumas of her past that have scarred her for life and given her an inclination for suicide. Ullman (Hit or Miss, 2013, etc.) strives for the irreverent, acerbic observations found in Sylvia Plath’s works or Susanna Kaysen’s Girl Interrupted, but Ripley’s first-person narration unfortunately falls short. A glut of lols and unwieldy pop-culture references doesn’t make Ripley feel young or sharp, but instead turns an already unreliable narrator into an unbelievable and uneven character. It’s actually in the cat-and-mouse dialogues with Dan—narrated in the third person—that Ripley really comes to life, and Ullman also seems more comfortable building Dan’s budding obsession. These elements could have been explored more to make the book’s later and more haunting aspects feel less forced.

A tragic and darkly fascinating call girl story that loses some of its edge by trying too hard to get into its main character’s head.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Moonshine Cove Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2017

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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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