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

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

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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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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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