A technically challenging and narratively undisciplined novel but a philosophically astute look at the foibles of modern...


Confessions of a Day Trader

A financial thriller that chronicles the exuberance of quick stock market success and the devastation of greed.

In 1992, Jay Jackson needed a respite from the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley, so he moved to Kauai, Hawaii, bought a bed-and-breakfast, and got a beautiful Hawaiian girlfriend. After eight years, he’s content with his decision, but he’s suffering some financial distress: his savings are depleted, and the slagging tourism industry is pinching his B&B profits. Stevy Stanford, an old friend known for his razor-sharp mind and dogged pursuit of financial windfalls, calls to let Jay in on his latest venture: a technology company, Galaxy, has concocted a way to revolutionize digital advertising and has acquired 14 patents to corner the market. Stevy has inside information that the company’s soon to go public, so he buys the rights to another investor’s future stock holdings, anticipating a massive score in the near future. Jay enthusiastically jumps onboard despite his lack of investment savvy, eager to ride Stevy’s wave to financial freedom. However, the market gets hit by a major correction, and then the tragedy of 9/11 brings it to a crashing halt. Galaxy’s initial public offering is continually postponed, and when it merges with another company, it significantly dilutes the value of Jay’s and Stevy’s holdings. Jay is so beleaguered that he starts playing craps at casinos to supplement his income, and Stevy seems poised for financial ruin. Debut author Free intelligently weaves a tale about the elusiveness of luck and the magnetic draw of greed. Jay, his narrator, frantically chases the ultimate win, sacrificing the contentment of his former, island-bound life: “I believed good fortune came in waves. I believed that there was an ever-present dialectic: winning, then losing, then flat lining.” The microscopic focus on the minutiae of financial deals will intimidate many readers; as a result, the book will primarily appeal to those with an interest in and some knowledge of investment. Also, the plot tends to digressively wander too far afield; for example, a subplot involving Jay’s tutelage of a 17-year-old girl seems out of place. However, the book offers a thoughtful take on the psychological stakes of gambling.

A technically challenging and narratively undisciplined novel but a philosophically astute look at the foibles of modern capitalism.

Pub Date: July 21, 2016


Page Count: 260

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 5, 2016

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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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