A well-crafted tale with a retro style.



Curl’s (Indigenous Peoples Day, 2017, etc.) novel tells of two young friends founding a club in McCarthy-era New York City.

In the Washington Heights section of Manhattan in 1951, fourth graders Gabe and Henry don’t like school, where some of the older boys pick on them and their teachers seem to have it out for them. They spend every afternoon playing in the Little Woods area of a nearby park and waiting for summer, when they’ll get to go to Gabe’s family farm in New Jersey for two weeks—a farm called “Maroon”: “like when your boat hits a rock in the middle of the ocean and you’re marooned on an island.” Goofing around in class lands them menial jobs in the principal’s office during recess, where they must work as “Vigilance Pad” monitors—part of a new program that encourages students to report “suspicious” activities to school authorities, such as “wearing a coat when it is warm, or taking pictures in an unusual way.” When Grampa’s farm is seized by the government to make way for a mall, Gabe and Henry are at a loss for what to do—until they discover a hidden room in a neighborhood apartment building. There, they set up a club with some other outcast kids from their class. Their covert activities and interactions with a rival group bring them unexpectedly into the adult world of anti-communist hysteria—and it could mean danger for Gabe and his family. Curl’s story is a throwback to an earlier era of children’s literature, composed of scenes of kids’ friendship and discovery that are connected by a loose and slow-moving plot. The prose is simple but well textured, effectively portraying the youth of the characters and their everyday activities: “With five of them in the group now, the shortcut down the wall was too risky, so they only used the long roundabout way through Fort Tryon Park under the fence.” Younger readers may find the political aspect a bit dull, but the author does effectively weave it into the narrative. Overall, many readers will find this story relatable.

A well-crafted tale with a retro style.

Pub Date: May 1, 2019


Page Count: 242

Publisher: Homeward Press

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2019

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


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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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