An intriguing narrative concept weighed down by the excesses of its flawed characters.

AMERICAN RIVER

TRIBUTARIES

In O’Connor’s (Florida’s American Heritage River, 2009, etc.) novel, the descendants of three families that settled along California’s American River in the mid-1800s intersect a century later.

The story begins with an extensive ancestral introduction to the McPhalan, Morales, and Ashida families, whose successes and misfortunes set the stage for future deep-seated resentments. Then the narrative jumps ahead to 1959, and O’Connor proceeds to spin a dizzying web of interrelationships and betrayals among all three clans. This first volume of a projected trilogy focuses primarily on the wealthy McPhalan family: Owen, Marian, and their three children—high school senior Julian, 15-year-old Kate, and their younger sibling, Alex. The discontent at their Mockingbird Valley Ranch, where members of the Ashida family work, is apparent from the first pages. Marian departs for Boston with Alex so that she may participate in a summer music program. After they arrive, 40-year-old Marian encamps in a cottage near Tanglewood to pursue her own artistic aspirations. There, she meets another very gifted musician in his early 20s, Carl Fitzgerald Morales, and they engage in a summer fling, filled with music and art. But Marian isn’t the only McPhalan woman who’ll capture Carl’s heart. In California, Kate, the most stable and likable of this book’s characters, helps on the ranch, functioning as a liaison between the fractious clan members. After leaving Mockingbird for San Francisco, Julian begins a downward spiral that continues until the story’s tragic close in 1963. The novel is engaging throughout, providing some interesting details of California history. That said, nearly all the characters are driven by internal demons, and their overwrought selfishness eventually becomes tiresome. So does the extensive detailing of classical pieces that provide the background for much of the action in the Tanglewood scenes. O’Connor’s prose is generally proficient, but it would have benefited from a stronger copy edit to remove some errors, such as “Kate’s sister younger, Alex, insisted it was time to go.”

An intriguing narrative concept weighed down by the excesses of its flawed characters.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2017

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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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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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