A subdued urban narrative that neither minces words nor pulls punches.

Five Blocks Down

In Sidanius’ debut novel, a Los Angeles drug dealer tries to avoid serious conflict on his turf while a younger teen gets pulled into the same criminal world.

Paco Moreno, a few months shy of his 20th birthday, is one of the better earners for Nicaraguan distributor Henry. Taking the place of his currently incarcerated mentor, Jimmy Carrette, Paco manages a truce with a local black gang. He, for one, sells Lamar the right to deal weed near where the high schooler lives—a corner in Paco’s territory. Trouble starts, unfortunately, when Lamar racially insults Pedro, cousin to Paco’s friend and partner Julio. Paco demanding an apology (with an armed Julio present) incites Lamar, who later wants back the money he paid for the corner. Fourteen-year-old Luis Bustamante, meanwhile, needs cash to buy older sister Rosa shoes that she can’t afford. Since his brother Miguel sells marijuana for Paco, Luis works out a one-time arrangement with the dealer. But Luis gets a reputation at school as a marijuana provider, and he likes the attention, first from Jasmine and then Lilly. He starts buying the occasional joint from Paco, who takes a liking to the boy, affectionately calling him Little Tiger. Paco, however, anticipates a gang war, and Luis may get caught in the crossfire of a drive-by or possibly something much worse. Despite a plot that includes illicit deeds and murder, the story is relatively tension-free thanks to alternating first-person perspectives from Paco and Luis. The latter, for example, is a naïve teen who doesn’t seem to care that girls are using him as a dope source. There’s definitely anxiety on Paco’s side of things; even Jimmy’s impending release could prove a detriment if he refuses to support his protégé regarding the gangs’ unrest. At the same time, Paco’s self-assurance remains infectious; his only fear about a lethal double-cross is a meaningless death (“There’d be no glory in it”). The two characters are unquestionably sympathetic and deliver a strong message: they’re ultimately defined by the decisions they make, not by their environment. An uncompromising ending adds a dash of serenity.

A subdued urban narrative that neither minces words nor pulls punches.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Boston Authors Cooperative

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2016

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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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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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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.


Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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