One of the best paranormal fantasy releases of this year—a self-publishing benchmark.

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Masters' Mysterium

WISCONSIN DELLS

This extraordinary work of paranormal fantasy—a debut, no less—revolves largely around the morally bankrupt owner of a museum of oddities who attempts to reinvigorate his flagging business by capturing the Hodag, a legendary creature believed to inhabit the woodlands of northern Wisconsin.

The Rev. Jay Masters is a scumbag. A former faith healer, he currently owns Masters’ Mysterium—“a collection of every oddity, rumor, hearsay, improbable event, and conundrum created by nature or man”—a failing business in Wisconsin Dells that’s being overshadowed by nearby amusement and water parks. With few options left, he hires three hillbilly hunters to go into northern Wisconsin and trap a mysterious beast that has been rumored to be killing unwary travelers. But when two of the hunters end up ripped apart, the sole survivor ranting about aliens and monsters, Masters decides to visit the remote town of Creekside himself. There, he meets the town’s strange residents, including his 21-year-old daughter, Trudy, a waitress at the unfortunately named Cluck and Grunt restaurant; she’s not exactly happy to meet him for the first time. The mythical beast turns out to be a demon, and Masters and his daughter soon become entangled in a supernatural war between seraphic beings and the forces of evil. But this isn’t run-of-the-mill paranormal fantasy with angels. The characters are extremely well-developed, the narrative is intelligent and at times highly humorous, the storyline is original and engaging, and the religious aspects are decidedly understated. The first installment of a series, this is paranormal fantasy done right: a unique, relentlessly entertaining page-turner that will appeal to a wide range of readers. Fortunately, there’s more to come.

One of the best paranormal fantasy releases of this year—a self-publishing benchmark.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2013

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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  • 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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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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