Silver Kings & Sons of Bitches

A debut historical novel about fortunes made and lost during the silver rush of the 1850s.
McGranahan’s story is set in San Francisco and Virginia City, Nevada, in 1854, covering the first major silver ore discovery in the United States, known as the Comstock Lode. The author retells history from the perspective of William Ralston––one of the most influential financiers of the period. Ralston falls in love with Louisa Thorn, a wealthy debutante, and together, they dream of transforming San Francisco into the most beautiful city in the world. However, Louisa dies suddenly before they can marry. Driven by his love for her, Ralston decides to transform San Francisco as a banker. He marries a woman named Elizabeth (who promises to help him forget about Louisa) and founds the California Bank, where he becomes the financier for the Comstock project. Water in the mines slows production, but Prussian engineer Adolph Sutro offers a solution: build a four-mile tunnel beneath the lode. At first Ralston agrees, but then his partner turns him against the idea, and Sutro spends 10 years seeking support for the tunnel. Betrayals follow, along with political intrigue, fighting between Protestant and Irish-Catholic miners, stock frenzies and bank runs, all while Ralston clings to both his marriage and a street girl named Jessie, who looks just like his deceased fiancee. Will Ralston be able to keep his life together? McGranahan’s character development is superb; readers will truly care about what happens to Ralston and other main figures in the story. However, sometimes the plot loses forward momentum, and at other times, the story advances far too quickly: “Abraham Lincoln was elected president…soon after the Civil War began. The year after that…little Louisa chewed on a matchstick, became ill, and died.” Still, McGranahan’s writing is often evocative, displaying all the hallmarks of fine literature: “Shivering, he nodded to a boy leaning innocently against a lamppost, collar turned up and cap pulled down. The lamplighter nodded back, a little grin creasing his lips.”

An often captivating story about Nevada’s first silver rush, with veins of well-crafted prose, good character development and some solid storytelling.

Pub Date: June 10, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: July 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.

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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...

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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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