A memorable tale with direct, sincere characters, though readers may want to brace themselves for a cheerless experience.

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A NATIVE'S TONGUE

Dennis’ debut is a dark drama about a Los Angeles man’s apparent indecision between a rich older woman and a young girl, which leads to a tragic event and someone in prison.

Charlie, a hapless short-order cook, doesn’t do much beyond drinking and showing up at work. This changes when he meets Violet at a party. The 40-something woman, who’s had success in real estate, is 12 years his senior, but the two spend all of their time together. Though Violet showers Charlie with gifts, he soon grows weary of her demanding all of his attention. His eyes wander to a 20-year-old woman, and though their encounter is brief (and he doesn’t even get her name), Charlie eventually sets out to find his “dream girl.” The younger woman, Jennifer, is depressed and has low self-esteem. She seems a perfect fit for Charlie, whose mother was recently hospitalized and who still mourns for Wendy, the baby sister he lost to an accident four years ago. But an incident affects all three in the love triangle with unpleasant consequences. This bleak, often somber, surprisingly effective mystery opens with Jennifer visiting inmate Violet, who claims that she was the only one of the two women “he” loved. It flashes back to Charlie’s perspective before he’s met either woman. The lives of the main cast are nothing short of dreary: They’ve each had or are having problems with drugs (Jennifer takes enough Xanax that she passes out in the jail’s parking lot), and the prison shrink diagnoses Violet as bipolar. Despite Violet’s desire to control Charlie and the probability that she’s committed a serious crime, Charlie is the least sympathetic of the trio; he’s cynical about everything, from medical care to people shopping at the mall, and he has a penchant for defining others by their body weight, including his mom’s “pudgy” neighbor and various characters, like a doorman or nurse. The revelations in the final third of the book are predictable, but watching characters like Charlie, Violet and Jennifer—lost souls hoping to find themselves through someone else’s affection—is excellent, blistering drama.

A memorable tale with direct, sincere characters, though readers may want to brace themselves for a cheerless experience.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2014

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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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