Harsh, gritty, and realistically character-driven, this detailed look at project life should gratify anyone who loves a...

READ REVIEW

BOSS

In Paige’s intense debut novel, the loves, ambitions, and treacheries of assorted characters play out against the backdrop of life in New York’s projects.

The author’s tale opens on the historic night that Barack Obama is elected president. Various people gather around a television discussing what his victory means. But project life goes on the same as before. The novel’s first part follows Miah, who lives with her mother, Barbara. Paige toys with readers’ sympathies through Miah’s first-person narration, establishing empathy for an unsympathetic character. Barbara, a crack-addicted prostitute who refers to her daughter as “that bitch,” is beloved in the neighborhood for her fried chicken. Miah goes to college, lands a job as a prison guard, gets fired, and begins a hustling life, teaming up with various alpha males such as Hoffa and the drug-dealing Mello. Paige describes Hoffa walking into Mello’s prison homecoming party alone and a group of blacks standing up at his presence (“He never needed an entourage. They were at attention like soldiers. Almost as if they were waiting on line to salute him”). After various machinations involving powerful men, cheating women, pregnancies, and births, the main story begins. Jasmine, an aspiring writer, turns out to be the author of this novel. A valedictorian, sincere and loving, she is the mirror image of Miah. Jasmine hooks up with J.R., who is a major player and Miah’s latest lover. This triggers a backlash of jealousy and scheming. Paige brilliantly embeds this tale of two women in the gangster milieu of sex, drugs, rivalry, and murder. She deftly sets the tone by opening with Miah’s vernacular speech. Though a well-worn technique, Paige is a master at wielding dialect, never overdoing it and never turning her characters into caricatures. Even those unfamiliar with the colloquialisms can appreciate the lilt and cadence without getting lost in jargon. For example, Mello tells Miah that if his underling Larry catches “you out there slipping, I’m giving him permission to get at you.”

Harsh, gritty, and realistically character-driven, this detailed look at project life should gratify anyone who loves a well-told, convincing urban tale.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Hard Grind Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more