An engaging, bittersweet saga about finding a place to belong.

The Candy Store

An orphaned 1980s teenager travels through time to the Jazz Age to discover the mystery of her identity in this sweetly confected historical fantasia.

Found as a newborn in a Denver dumpster in 1966, Jett Oxford is a scruffy 16-year-old street kid when she finally finds a haven at the Watson’s Candies store, whose 70-something proprietors, Henry and Jay, take her in, teach her the pastry trade, and give her the loving family life she’s never known. Then a kitchen explosion hurls her back to the year 1927, which is all Model Ts and stiff foundation garments. She feigns amnesia and is deposited at the local orphanage, but she’s soon taken up by the now young and handsome Henry and his blithe flapper fiancee, Josephine Doyle (who might later be called Jay, Jett surmises), the daughter of a rich family. The Roaring ’20s has its pros, such as glamorous retro fashions and swell parties, and its cons, such as anti-Irish bigotry and a tragic lack of antibiotics. Despite having to learn contemporary slang (“That would just be the ant’s ear!”) and scandalizing everyone with her own unladylike outbursts—“THAT BITCH!”—Jett soon fits right in. Alas, her knowledge of things to come causes dilemmas: as a teenage girl, she has trouble persuading the grown-ups that the Great Depression is about to happen and that they need to sell their stock and withdraw their money before the banks collapse; more poignantly, she has to suppress her growing feelings for Henry, since she believes his marriage to Josephine is the key to her own future. Poague’s time-travel conceit makes no more sense than is strictly necessary to serve as a hook for a winsome melodrama. The story unfolds in blossoming friendships, makeovers, light romantic intrigues, and, finally, deeper familial joys and heartache. The author’s yen for intrusive economics lessons—“The system of state arbitration will drive labor costs up, rendering German goods uncompetitive on world markets” is typical dinner-table repartee—sometimes slows things down. Still, Poague’s vibrant characters and piquant period details make for an entertaining voyage into the past.

An engaging, bittersweet saga about finding a place to belong.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Ben Briar Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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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