An intriguing novel that looks at the ways that people cope with the pain in their lives.

LEAVING THE BEACH

A NOVEL OF OBSESSION AND MUSIC

Rowen’s (Living by Ear, 2013) novel about an obsessive music fan examines how people use their fantasies as a method of coping with reality.

Erin Reardon is a self-conscious woman who struggles with bulimia who’s also a fanatical rock music devotee. The novel alternates between two time periods in her life, starting with her upbringing, during which she loses her father, develops an eating disorder, heads off to college, and learns to love rock stars such as David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello. In the second time period, during her adulthood, she gets a job selling T-shirts, begins an inappropriate sexual affair with her boss, and develops an obsession with Lenny Weir, a former music superstar currently suffering from heroin addiction. The story chronicles Erin’s struggle to recover from her eating disorder while simultaneously attempting to develop real, meaningful relationships in her life. Rowen’s juxtaposition of the two timelines is often useful; seeing where Erin came from helps readers to understand her later neuroses as an adult. The book gracefully grapples with several important issues, including alcohol and drug addiction, loss, grief and sexuality. It also offers a unique look at an eating disorder from the sufferer’s perspective, describing bulimia frankly and graphically (“When it was over, tears would pour from my eyes, and my face would be spattered with puke and toilet water….I’d feel disgusting, and used, and dirty”). However, there are also many entertaining pop-culture references to offset the weighty themes. Music lovers, in particular, will appreciate the very specific rock trivia that the author cleverly provides throughout the story.

An intriguing novel that looks at the ways that people cope with the pain in their lives.

Pub Date: March 27, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 282

Publisher: Booktrope

Review Posted Online: April 9, 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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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...

SPLIT SECOND

Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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