Best for hopeless romantics.

HE SAID, SHE SAID

In this debut novel, a college professor and his former student conduct a slow romance fueled by his poetry.

After a present-day prefatory first chapter, the novel—told in alternating first-person narrations—turns back 10 years to the fateful meeting in Flagstaff, Arizona, of Peter DuBois, 30, and his English 201 student, Elaine Emerson, 20. He’s immediately drawn to her vibrancy and blue eyes and they begin talking after class. Both appreciate Jane Austen’s refined sensibility; both adore the movie Shakespeare in Love. Though they find each other alluring, she intends to stay a virgin until marriage, and Peter wants her to be “unencumbered.” They settle into a tender but platonic relationship, “a magnetic confluence of two souls now merged to one,” sometimes so deep that they can hear each other’s thoughts. They share snuggles and kisses on romantic get-togethers; Peter writes her love poetry; he asks her to marry him. Elaine agrees, but not yet: “I so want to enjoy us now while we’re as free and wild as summer’s soft rambling winds.” But the strains of school and work, and the imagined difficulties of marriage (“Two children? Good-bye medical career”), separate them. At 30, Elaine is ready to date—but no man compares to Peter. Can the stars align for them at last? In his debut novel, Mazur presents two people so given to high-flown rhapsody that they, and their relationship, rarely seem convincing. A six-month separation, for example, is described as “losing each other for eons in another dimension.” Dialogue is often lecture-y: “To love the beautiful within, Elaine, is to seek love of soul, that which cannot be seen and is immortal.” At the same time, attitudes about the body are often giggly and unsophisticated, with frequent mentions of going “commando.” The book is given to risibly overpraising Peter, whether for his poetry (“absolutely astonishing”) or his bratwurst: “That he was a master sausage maker was quite surprising….Where did one get the time for all this accomplishment?”

Best for hopeless romantics.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

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

THEN SHE WAS GONE

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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