A fun-size adventure tale that may not fill readers up but will taste just fine going down.

READ REVIEW

AZTEC MIDNIGHT

In this first novella from short story writer Tuggle, an intrepid archaeologist races to find an ancient emperor’s prized knife before it falls into the hands of an odious drug-cartel leader.

Deep inside El Tepozteco, an Aztec temple dedicated to the god of pulque (“the precursor of tequila”), Emperor Ahuitzotl long ago hid his beloved obsidian knife, which was rumored to have “sent 20,000 souls to the Aztec sun god.” At least, that’s what Dr. Jonathan Barrett deduces after poring over an ancient codex inside Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia. Barrett, a University of Texas at Austin archaeology professor specializing in pre-Columbian weapons, arrived in Mexico promising his wife a relaxing vacation in the city of Cuernavaca. They’re just another “middle-aged gringo couple on vacation,” Barrett muses—which provides him with the perfect cover to secretly track down the artifact for the U.S. State Department. But he soon realizes the American government is only one among several powerful organizations who’ve set their sights on Ahuitzoltl’s knife, including the Mexican government, a Mexican drug cartel and even some vigilantes waging war against the cartel. When the drug dealers suspect that Barrett has the blade, they kidnap his wife and tell him that she won’t be harmed, so long as the knife is theirs by midnight. Thus begins an odyssey that finds Barrett interrogated by mysterious masked men and later stuck inside a Mexican prison. Tuggle ably captures the spirit of Dan Brown novels and Indiana Jones–style adventure stories in this tale, as he surrounds his Aztec-treasure MacGuffin with just enough intrigue to keep readers engaged. The book’s brief length doesn’t hurt; it zips right along from twist to twist, eventually arriving at a bloody finale reminiscent of the film Taken (2008). At times, however, that same brevity works against the story—the final plot point, for example, feels particularly tacked-on. But, despite this, Tuggle manages to squeeze in enough character and plot developments that the occasional missteps don’t bring the proceedings to a halt.

A fun-size adventure tale that may not fill readers up but will taste just fine going down.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: The Novel Fox, LLC

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more