A thoughtful look at the small-scale fallout of an international issue.

PLANES

This affecting debut examines the impact of rendition and torture in two different cultures.

In one narrative thread, Amira, nee Maria, is an Italian woman married to Ayoub, a Moroccan who was seized by police two years ago while traveling in Pakistan, flown to a prison in his homeland, and apparently tortured, all without being charged. Amira, who changed her name and religion when she married, copes with loneliness, uncertainty, and feeling like an outsider to both Italians and Muslims. She depends on calls and emails from a U.S. lawyer working on such cases and on heavily redacted letters from Ayoub. When he’s released, he is thin, anxious, barely able to eat or work or spend time close to Amira. Meanwhile, in a town near Raleigh, North Carolina, Melanie is a real estate agent whose college-age son discovers her extramarital affair with a fellow school board official. Around the same time, roughly 2005, a couple Mel and her husband have known since they were all college activists want help mounting a campaign against a small airline in Mel’s town that is being used for rendition flights. Mel hesitates because her lover is the airline’s president. Baker, a Chicago-based writer, alternates chapters mainly between the two women, and the resulting diptych is inescapably unbalanced. Mel’s troubles can seem almost comically petty compared with Amira’s. That may be unavoidable, but it’s compounded by the fact that the North Carolina activists had nothing to do with Ayoub’s release. Don’t read those as flaws. In the real world, too, activism depends on preoccupied, ambivalent people like Mel and sometimes doesn’t seem to make a difference. And sometimes it does. An author’s note says the book was partly inspired by the work of North Carolina Stop Torture Now.

A thoughtful look at the small-scale fallout of an international issue.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-32027-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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