Despite an overstuffed finale, the Mida gang’s latest proves a tighter, more emotionally involving installment than its...

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THE MIDA, BOOK TWO

FINDING GENNY

Ernst and Sigafus’ (The Mida, 2014) supernaturally gifted carnies return to help one of their own free his wife from vengeful gangsters.

In August 1934, mob doctor Carter decides he wants out. With the help of their friend Walter, Carter and his wife, Genevieve, make a run for it. After the mob discovers their plan, however, Genevieve is captured, Walter goes into hiding, and Carter finds himself rescued by a mysterious carnival called the Mida. Led by the Ojibwa healer Mesa, the Mida travels throughout time, returning to the places from which its members fled so that they can confront their pasts. Its tents have now gone up in St. Paul, Minnesota, two weeks after Carter’s botched escape. Believing his wife to be dead, Carter tracks down Walter, who reveals that Genevieve is alive but in the clutches of the mob. Carter calls upon his fellow carnies—including “creature-whisperer” Frank and seer Connor—to help rescue his wife, even though their reunion means Carter must leave the carnival behind forever. Genevieve, meanwhile, murders her gangster captor Charles Watson, prompting Watson’s underling Joseph Morgan—a hardened mobster in love with Genevieve—to hide her from Leon Gleckman, the “Al Capone of St. Paul.” Compared to their previous book, which took on narratives by the boatload, this time around, Ernst and Sigafus wisely zero in on the dramatic twists and turns of Carter’s quest. The story’s emotional core—whether to embrace or shun intimacy when life requires you to be constantly on the move—reverberates throughout, particularly in the romantic subplot between Walter and smitten, reluctant Carlotta, the Mida’s resident “cooch dancer.” Though this newfound focus is a welcome improvement, it does have a drawback: the prominent storylines from the Mida’s earlier adventure—the tense reunion of Mesa and her son Tony; the constant threat of the evil spirit Jiibay, who dreams of controlling the carnival for nefarious purposes—either appear fleetingly or show up abruptly in the third act.

Despite an overstuffed finale, the Mida gang’s latest proves a tighter, more emotionally involving installment than its predecessor.

Pub Date: April 25, 2015

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 254

Publisher: McIver Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2015

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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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