An entertaining and appealing pirate story.




From the Plantations and Pirates series , Vol. 4

With her brother and a black cat, a young slave escapes her plantation for a seafaring life in this fictional diary.

In this fourth installment of a series, Jackleen—called Jack because of her tomboyishness—begins keeping a diary in June 1718. She lives in the slave quarters on the “Rose Hall Tobacky Plantation” near Bath Town, North Carolina, with her older brother, Samson, and a raggedy, fat black cat called Missus Fluffers. Jack’s parents, Minnie and Sam, were sold long ago. When the children’s grandmother Crazy Ole Gert dies, Jack decides to escape the plantation with Samson (who helps disguise her as a boy for greater safety) and Fluffers, kept snug in a basket. Dodging what seem to be slave catchers, the three wind up aboard Blackbeard’s ship. The famous pirate assigns Jack, Samson, and Fluffers to work as, respectively, cook, cleaner/log boy, and mouse catcher for Capt. Stede Bonnet. But the two men become enemies when Bonnet goes to Bath to sign the king’s pardon. Blackbeard leaves the captain his ship but maroons the crew and sails away. Bent on revenge, Bonnet regains his crew and heads out to sea. As he navigates the Caribbean, Jack and Samson have adventures and meet new people, including historical characters such as Anne Bonny, the female pirate. A happy surprise awaits Jack and Samson before they and their friends settle in St. Croix. McWilliams (Diary of a Black Seminole Girl, Ebony Noel, 2016, etc.) provides additional historical background in a final section. The voice and tone of this enjoyable novel “for ages 8 to adult” are identical to those in the author’s very similar Diary of a Slave Girl, Ruby Jo (2015): bright, happy, and dramatic, emphasized by capitalized words, exclamation points, and colorful language. Although the tragedy of slavery underlies this story—Gert went insane when Minnie and Sam were sold down the river, for example—Jack retains her joie de vivre. And the engaging characters are never in real jeopardy. (Cat lovers will be glad to know that includes Fluffers.) While well-researched, the tale offers a few anachronisms (“cut a rug”) and perhaps minimizes the likely hardships faced by young runaway slaves.

An entertaining and appealing pirate story.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2015


Page Count: 201

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2018

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

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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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