An often engaging novel with a perceptive protagonist but uneven characterization.

SERPENT LOOP

After witnessing a stabbing at a carnival, a man goes to great lengths to protect his sister, who knew the victim, in this thriller sequel.

Twenty-six-year-old Zane Clearwater isn’t having an easy time raising his 15-year-old sister, Lettie. He works a maintenance job at the zoo as well as a summer job at the carnival to be able to afford the rent for their two-bedroom apartment. A fight breaks out between two inebriated men at the carnival, resulting in one of them getting stabbed; the perpetrator flees, and as the victim lies bleeding, he calls out Lettie’s name. She tries to comfort him, but he dies in an ambulance. Later, when Zane asks his sister about the dead man, it’s clear that she’s hiding something that truly scares her. When the killer pays a visit to their home, Zane understands that his sibling could be the next to die. He pulls her from her class at school and takes her to their grandmother’s place, but before long, the girl goes missing, and Zane must work together with Lettie’s boyfriend, Angel, to find her and bring her home. Lipinski, who wrote Bloodlines(2015), returns with a gripping and well-paced follow-up. The novel offers action from the get-go and then paints a vivid picture of the relationship between Zane and his sister. He’s clearly shown to be traumatized by his past, in which his father killed his mother, but he cares deeply for his similarly scarred sibling and does everything he can to provide for her; he lacks a support system but does his best with what he’s given. But although his perspective is clear, readers may wish that the novel offered more of Lettie’s side of the story and provided more insight into the siblings’ relationship. Indeed, readers only get glimpses of Lettie’s personality, which keeps her from truly coming alive on the page.

An often engaging novel with a perceptive protagonist but uneven characterization.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-9964676-8-1

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Majestic Content Los Angeles

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

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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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A moody tone hangs like a cloud over the alarming but vague danger awaiting the world.

THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE WORLD

A tragedy has sent a young artist into seclusion. A potential apocalypse may be enough to bring her back.

For the past two years, 10 months, and 18 days, Katie’s lived in darkness, on retreat from her former life as a rising artist after a personal tragedy eclipsed any happiness she believed possible. Jacob’s Ladder, a remote island named by a former resident for its potential as a stairway to heaven, offers Katie the chance to hide from the rest of the world, merely existing, not healing. She lives each day trying to fulfill what she’s called “the Promise” to those in the life she once knew, though a promise of what is not clear. The closest neighboring islands, Oak Haven and Ringrock, are equally cloistered. Though Katie’s realtor has suggested that Ringrock is some sort of Environmental Protection Agency research station, Katie’s cynicism makes her suspect something more nefarious. The protagonist's remote world and the author’s moody writing are disrupted one night by the startling appearance of drones and the suspicious behavior of a fox Katie’s dubbed Michael J. The wary canine serves as a harbinger of potential danger, and Katie responds by arming herself to the hilt when unexpected guests descend on Jacob’s Ladder. While the true purpose of these visitors is unclear, Katie senses that the greater world is at the precipice of permanent collapse and that she may be the only one who can prevent the impending apocalypse.

A moody tone hangs like a cloud over the alarming but vague danger awaiting the world.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-6625-0044-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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