A fantasy adventure that builds thrillingly on its predecessor.

THE CHRONICLES OF THE VIRAGO

BOOK II

In this middle-grade fantasy sequel, Bialys’ (The Chronicles of the Virago: The Novus, 2018) heroic teens continue protecting twin infants who are destined to usher in a golden age.

Thirteen-year-old Makenna Gold is the Virago, “tasked by the forces of good” to protect her twin 14-month-old siblings, Emilyne and Noah. She’s aided by an enchanted lowrider skateboard called “the Redeemer” and three fairy mentors: Marigold Frith and Bree and Dee Delphine. One night, in the Pasadena, California, home that she shares with her parents and siblings, Makenna receives a visit from the Grim Reaper. He warns her, “You are dangerously close to being one of my clients.” The next day, she learns that her school has won the Roosevelt Meir Award, which allows the school administration to send her; her best friend, Stephen Levine; and their classmates Heather Stern, Elise Green, and Sam Taylor on a three-week educational trip to China. Parents will chaperone them, and the London-based Natasi Foundation will pay all expenses. However, it turns out that this foundation is run by the foul Sir Malvado Seaton, who will do anything to kidnap the twins. Numerous “Efflusyum decoys” throughout the world prevent Seaton from tracking Makenna and the twins’ exact location, so he plans to lure them to a place where his operative, the sinister and effective Mr. Xshun, can dispatch the Virago. Also gunning for her is Ms. Creante, a disguised Alghanii demon who’s already failed to defeat Makenna once. Thankfully, help awaits the teen at Nanjing University in the form of Tai-Pan, an Air Elemental who will train her to use the Redeemer in more advanced ways. For this series’ second installment, Bialys deploys more bombastic wit and skillful plot twists. He provides heaping portions of weirdness—such as a talking worm named “Fluffy”—while also guiding characters through incredible transformations. Tai-Pan, a sly transplant from classic literature, is a pleasant surprise, and Mr. Xshun harbors a centuries-old secret that enables a gripping action sequence. Young genius Sam is a fun font of knowledge; for instance, he lets the other kids know that the name “Natasi” is “I Satan” backward. Stephen pitches in with his powers of clairvoyance, but the best help that Makenna receives is Tai-Pan’s advice to never “take a life in anger.” Bialys trusts his young audience to handle some graphic moments, including Ms. Creante’s demonic transformation with “her skin falling away like paper, blood seeping in pools onto the dirty pavement.” There are some religious themes; for example, “blood metal,” derived from the nails used to crucify Jesus Christ, is employed to create an “anti-weapon” to counter the Redeemer. Heather, though frequently off-page, is a memorable character when she does appear; at one point, for instance, she’s determined to go on a shopping spree, “crisis or not.” Bialys’ joy in bringing this world to life is clear and remains his greatest strength. The epic closing events lead organically to a planned third volume.

A fantasy adventure that builds thrillingly on its predecessor.

Pub Date: Dec. 12, 2018

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 255

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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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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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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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