A spiritual tale with an engaging plot, although some extraneous material occasionally slows its progress.

THE STRANGER IN CENTRAL PARK

Debut author Dillon delivers a novel about the appearance of a miraculous figure in New York City’s Central Park.

When President of the United States R.J. Jacaruso calls New York mayor Jack Molinaro, the news isn’t good. After a U.S. strike on nuclear facilities in Iran, a retaliatory attack on Israel has killed the vice president and countless others, and the president says that “an attack on New York may be imminent.” As if that weren’t enough, Jack then learns that his political nemesis, the unpleasant Lt. Gov. Denny “The Dog” Brandt, will soon become governor of New York state. To top it all off, Jack’s sister, Katie, with whom he isn’t very close, has gone missing during her morning run through Central Park. Jack doesn’t know what to do, but Katie’s disappearance soon takes center stage when it intersects with a strange occurrence near Central Park’s Bethesda Terrace. Katie, it turns out, was attacked by sinister characters during her run, but she was aided by a “self-luminous” figure who can walk on water—and who brings a message of peace and forgiveness to the world. The being, who will come to be known as “the Stranger,” will soon generate an immense following of people who see him as nothing short of the second coming of Jesus Christ himself. Unfortunately, his message of peace comes at a time when the world is right in the middle of a particularly deadly conflict. Would it be treasonous, if not crazy, to lay down one’s arms at the command of such a mysterious source when one’s very country is in danger? This is only one of the many intriguing conundrums that Dillon explores in this novel. For example, readers are also asked to consider what it would take for the world to accept a Christ-like figure as the actual Christ. Would those who call themselves Christians actually serve God’s will, whatever the cost? Certain aspects of the book, however, take away from such pressing issues. Indeed, whenever such questions are pushed to the background, the narrative tends to lag. The back story of Jack’s failed marriage, for example, adds little to the narrative other than extra pages. Specifically, it’s used to explain why Jack didn’t rise higher in politics, but this turns out to be largely inconsequential to the greater conflict at hand. After all, politicians who cheat on their spouses are nothing new, but the potential return of Jesus certainly is, and readers will be much more engaged in figuring out whether or not “the Stranger” is the real Messiah. Some holy men in the novel go so far as to suggest that the Stranger is evil; as one priest argues, “We believe he is, at the least, an agent of the devil.” Who, after all, can be trusted in an age of so much misinformation? The book is truly at its best when it explores such difficult ideas.

A spiritual tale with an engaging plot, although some extraneous material occasionally slows its progress.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 359

Publisher: Enlightened Little Souls, Inc.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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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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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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