Dewa’s simplicity of style, reminiscent of James’ The Turn of the Screw, makes for a commendable debut effort.

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THE GHOST OF ALOHA TOWER

The ghost of a classical musician haunts a young virtuoso in an unconventional literary romance that raises questions about family, unrequited love, and passion.

Dewa’s debut, a brief and brooding tale of love beyond the grave, is at once a story of family secrets, loss, and classical music in a state—Hawaii—not typically known for its fine arts. Mina, a ghost with an indeterminate history, has a stunning view of the island below from her perch atop Oahu’s Aloha Tower, but she mostly wanders, seeking out Hawaii’s finest classical musicians. Once a promising piano sensation, Mina now leads a mysterious existence in a state of earthbound limbo: “I am just trying to find my way and to be honest, I am not sure what keeps me here.” Part of what keeps her there is Daniel Cooke, a boy with a natural ear for music, whom Mina follows day and night to satisfy her unfulfilled passion for performing. Orphaned after his parents died in a car accident, Daniel lives with his aunt Bernice, a respected musician and philanthropist. Daniel is the only person able to see and communicate with Mina, who advises and encourages him until he develops an unprecedented skill and relies on her presence at his recitals. But Mina isn’t the only specter interested in Daniel: Two shadowy figures stalk him for reasons unknown to Mina, and they disappear every time she’s close to understanding their intentions. As the novel zips along in concise, episodic chapters, Daniel grows up and moves to the mainland for college, leaving Mina behind to desperately question her semiexistence. Mina’s hauntingly quiet, metered narration underscores her isolation and longing, which sometimes errs on the side of exposition. Her periodic discourses on the history of classical music in Hawaii, for instance, have an academic quality that adds layers to her passion; but the discourse also undermines the plot at times, particularly in the book’s hasty ending. For all the admirable qualities brevity offers here—such as the author’s seamless, lyrical prose—the novel’s emotional impact feels stunted.

Dewa’s simplicity of style, reminiscent of James’ The Turn of the Screw, makes for a commendable debut effort.

Pub Date: March 15, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2012

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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

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

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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

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