Though dotted with occasional surprises, the book as a whole struggles to keep readers engaged.


4 Note Chronicles of the Celestial Warriors: Aura


A brother and sister find themselves in adventurous combat in MCB’s (4 Note Chronicles of the Celestial Warriors: Legacy, 2013) fantasy sequel.

Cameron, 19, and Jordan, 18, are both looking for revenge. After their parents are killed by shades (“dark spirits that endlessly attack people”), the two join the Paladin Academy of Tear City. Their auras (“the living essence of your energy that surrounds your body”) are read, and it’s determined by the aura reader that there will be trouble down the road. Though Jordan will have to overcome her emotions, the more serious issue is with Cameron: The aura reader predicts that Cameron will eventually have to battle an inner evil—a task that he alone can complete and one that, should he fail, will turn him into a wretched creature known as a Phantom. Fighting shades and phantoms—Jordan with her pistol, Cameron with his katana—the duo eventually encounters the embodiment of Cameron’s inner evil, a pesky figure known as Loon. Though Cameron and Loon are enemies by both nature and destiny, Cameron insists that Loon accompany him on his adventures as a way to keep his adversary close. “You shall not leave my side,” Cameron tells Loon, “and when I’m ready, I promise we will fight each other.” This twist makes for an intriguing development; however, it can’t salvage the story. The convoluted actions scenes can be difficult to follow, as when a character named Clear is surprised by a mummy: “Finally Clear calmly makes his way out of the hallway. Suddenly a tall mummy like creature with dark purple glowing eyes and is wrapped in strange gauze stained in ink charges for Clear and quickly grabs Clear by the neck and slams his body up against a wall.” Elsewhere, dialogue does little but state the obvious, as when Cameron is driving and admits that he doesn’t know where he’s going: “I was just going to drive until I finally reached another town.” Unfortunately, reaching the end of this adventurous road may prove to be too challenging for most readers.

Though dotted with occasional surprises, the book as a whole struggles to keep readers engaged.

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2013

ISBN: 978-1494805319

Page Count: 158

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2014

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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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If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be...


Some very nice, very smart African-Americans are plunged into netherworlds of malevolent sorcery in the waning days of Jim Crow—as if Jim Crow alone wasn’t enough of a curse to begin with.

In the northern U.S. of the mid-1950s, as depicted in this merrily macabre pastiche by Ruff (The Mirage, 2012, etc.), Driving While Black is an even more perilous proposition than it is now. Ask Atticus Turner, an African-American Korean War veteran and science-fiction buff, who is compelled to face an all-too-customary gauntlet of racist highway patrolmen and hostile white roadside hamlets en route from his South Side Chicago home to a remote Massachusetts village in search of his curmudgeonly father, Montrose, who was lured away by a young white “sharp dresser” driving a silver Cadillac with tinted windows. At least Atticus isn’t alone; his uncle George, who puts out annual editions of The Safe Negro Travel Guide, is splitting driving duties in his Packard station wagon “with inlaid birch trim and side paneling.” Also along for the ride is Atticus’ childhood friend Letitia Dandridge, another sci-fi fan, whose family lived in the same neighborhood as the Turners. It turns out this road trip is merely the beginning of a series of bizarre chimerical adventures ensnaring both the Turner and Dandridge clans in ancient rituals, arcane magical texts, alternate universes, and transmogrifying potions, all of which bears some resemblance to the supernatural visions of H.P. Lovecraft and other gothic dream makers of the past. Ruff’s ripping yarns often pile on contrivances and overextend the narratives in the grand manner of pulp storytelling, but the reinvented mythos here seems to have aroused in him a newfound empathy and engagement with his characters.

If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be doing triple axels in his grave at the way his imagination has been so impudently shaken and stirred.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-229206-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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