An upbeat and thoughtful blend of romance and politics.

LOVE, ACROSS THE DIVIDE

In Ford’s debut novel, an unwed woman has her sights set on political office and searches for a powerful partner to help get her there. 

Soon after U.S. Rep. White (R-Florida) secures another term, he taps his campaign manager, Megan Thompson, to be his 2018 successor, and he offers her a job as his aide in Washington, D.C., in charge of energy and environmental legislation. However, the fact that she’s a single woman—she recently called off a wedding when she discovered that her fiance cheated on her with her best friend—could be off-putting to voters, especially social conservatives. So White arranges for Megan to go on a dating tour to find a “strategic power match,” though she largely finds disappointment instead. Eventually, though, she meets Brock Tolbert, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association who’s charming, well-connected, and handsome—politically perfect. Meanwhile, she sees her new roommate, Andrew Croswell, as the bane of her existence; she thinks that he’s a smug, opinionated, “liberal libido killer.” He works for a group that’s lobbying for a more robust approach to climate change. Although his and Megan’s relationship begins in mutual acrimony, their enmity soon eases into friendly détente and then sweetly flirts with something deeper—and less platonic. Author Ford pulls off an impressive trick, artfully combining two seemingly incongruent genres in a companionably lighthearted romance and an astute political commentary on transcending partisanship. The author has a refreshing talent for humanizing ideological conflict, and both Megan and Andrew turn out to be far more complex than their political leanings would suggest. The plot occasionally loses its steam and slows to a meandering stroll, and the novel as whole would benefit from a shorter page count. Also, Andrew is initially presented as so insufferably shrill, that it isn’t easy for Ford, or the reader, to get rid of that first impression. However, this is a subtly ambitious work that doesn’t shy away from contentious subjects, such as same-sex marriage and climate change, and it squarely confronts the most controversial topic of the day—the presidency of Donald Trump. 

An upbeat and thoughtful blend of romance and politics. 

Pub Date: July 15, 2018

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 448

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2018

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

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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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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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