A deftly crafted tale of an absorbing character in dire straits; readers will be pulling for Rebecca Plotnik.

NEON DREAMS

The grinding tribulations of a promising young woman breaking from the bad habits sewn by her upbringing.

Mufson introduces readers to Rebecca Plotnik, home after college, in the early 1960s, living with her parents in Las Vegas. Her dreams of an acting career in New York City are busily thwarted by her discouraging mother, her gambling-addicted father and her insecurities. Neon may be blinking in the streets, but Rebecca’s world is pure noir, a shadow land of enfeeblement, asymmetry and an identity in vertigo, freighted with the banality of her everyday woes and the desperation of finding the right somebody to lift her from her emotional flux and head eastward. A biting, chromatic portrait of Las Vegas in the ’60s alternates with Mufson’s sure hand that allows Rebecca to make one bad choice after another, falling for men who are too good to be true—one with charm enough to coax a hungry dog off a meat wagon, another not “merely handsome. He was Art.”—but just this side of believable to make us fall for them as well. She is also artful with the quality of the book’s creepiness—when her father introduces Rebecca to his gang, she says, “I pictured convicts breaking up rocks…I felt like a stripper in a graveyard”; her drop-dead-gorgeous boyfriend Alex’s relationship with his mother is a mix of Oedipus, sunglasses and a vodka martini or three (winningly, Alex’s siblings have figured out his degenerate ways—“So bohemian,” says Rebecca. “Gets pretty boring after a while,” says Alex’s step-brother.) Rebecca may be enslaved to fattening foods and her mother’s admonitions, but she is also a smart cookie, with a worldly eye that knows the difference between Middlemarch and Marjorie Morningstar, and Mufson lets Rebecca’s English professor nail her to the cross—“You may have done your best to turn in a shitty paper, as you called it, but your writing still showed promise—a series of brilliant starts that went nowhere.”

A deftly crafted tale of an absorbing character in dire straits; readers will be pulling for Rebecca Plotnik.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2011

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2011

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.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 70

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

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?

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

more