An outrageously weird yet delightfully charming wine-country tale that unravels into pure silliness by the end.

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Reptile Wines

In this romp through the world of Napa Valley, a winery tour guide sets out to prove that his cousin faked his death—and not for the first time.

When Miles Trout, a driver for Napa Ramblers Winery Tours, learns that his best friend and cousin, Lucky Stephan Tarpitz, has suddenly died, he’s not very shocked. After all, this isn’t the first time Lucky has mysteriously perished; he previously faked his demise to escape the wrath of the elderly trailer park residents he targeted in an investment scam. When Miles finds out that Lucky’s body rolled out of the SUV speeding it to the hospital and disappeared without a trace, he is determined to uncover what really happened to his cousin. Along the way, he is waylaid by the various colorful characters who inhabit the close-knit Napa Valley wine community, including Emelina Hawkins, Lucky’s hotblooded evangelical stepsister, who is determined to revenge herself on Miles after he abandoned her at a taco restaurant on a date; Lexi Winterhaven, an elegant older woman who co-owned a racehorse named Love Blisters with Lucky; and Angelina DellaContorni, Lucky’s loose cannon of a mother, a former Las Vegas showgirl who holds “kinky wild all-night debaucheries at her modest Napa home where she lives with a tattooed woman witch named China Rose.” In his zany novel, Hewitt (One Shoe: When a Gold Rush is Not Enough, 2015, etc.) has created a hapless yet lovable loser protagonist in Miles, who despite his unfortunate life choices seems to be the sanest person in Napa—though that’s not saying much. Hewitt’s prose, littered with deliciously bizarre dialogue and other vivid details, makes his larger-than-life world feel fit for the big screen. These include his hilarious descriptions of the various wines that are the lifeblood of Napa, such as “Women’s Desires Vin Gris with a nose of tarragon, and hints of pickle relish and muscle balm,” and “Desperado Rosé wine with hints of hibiscus and saddle leather.” Unfortunately, when a subplot concerning alien visitors to Napa kicks in, the already insane story goes completely off the rails.

An outrageously weird yet delightfully charming wine-country tale that unravels into pure silliness by the end.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2016

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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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