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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?