An artful emotional drama undermined by overly familiar self-help tropes.

RACHAEL'S RETURN

A supernatural novel follows the attempt of an unborn soul to find a path to reincarnation. 

Caroline Martin is 45 years old, and in preparation for life after full-time motherhood—her youngest son has just graduated from high school—she plans to have a hysterectomy. But she’s overwhelmed by sadness and doubt, becoming slow to accept that she’ll never have another child. What she doesn’t know is that she’s actually pregnant— Fiona Carlisle, a nurse, inadvertently mixed up her medical records with those of another hospital patient. Meanwhile, Mary Anne Maynard struggles to survive as she brings her own baby to term after she’s savagely beaten and then shot by her chronically abusive boyfriend, Vito Gamboa. Hovering above the earthly drama is a disembodied old soul—rendered spiritually advanced after numerous reincarnations—looking for an opportunity to be reborn. That soul has a long-standing and profound connection to Caroline and pines to be born as her child, risking grave consequences by delaying a commitment to another host. Overseeing this crisis are two spiritual guides—Thor and Aurora—intervening in myriad subtle ways to help the soul safely find a suitable home. Mary Anne manages to give birth to a healthy baby girl and names her Rachael on Caroline’s suggestion—the two briefly share a hospital room. But Vito is still on the loose and can’t bear the thought of “anyone other than himself getting custody of his own daughter.” His implacable rage ultimately forces Mary Anne’s and Caroline’s lives to fatefully collide yet again. Rebhan (Finding Tranquility Base, 2012) skillfully braids several plotlines into a coherent fabric. In addition, her writing is reliably clear, if mottled with shopworn New Age clichés: “She felt an immense presence of love and peace and felt drawn into the light.” There’s no shortage of high drama in this relatively brief novel as well as plenty of climactic violence for a story driven by otherworldly preoccupations. Problematically, the tale seems designed to impart a spiritual lesson of some kind—the plot reads like a self-consciously styled parable. But it’s never clear what the lesson is precisely given the vague talk of “higher selves” and “higher dimensions.”

An artful emotional drama undermined by overly familiar self-help tropes.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63152-868-2

Page Count: 280

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2020

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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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