Art lectures override the stirrings of a young man’s first love in this uneven romance.

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TO DRAW A BROKEN HEART

A college student masters drawing and learns to love in this debut novel.

Ingo Carmel, 17, moves to Rochester, New York, from Madrid to attend college in 1966.  Focused on art, he quickly bonds with fellow student Shelley James, who is auditing the same drawing class. Slightly older at age 22, she embodies the spirit of the era to Ingo: “Shelley was one of those sixties denizens acutely aware of the rumblings under the social fabric of American life.” They quickly become involved, with Ingo often losing himself in romantic reveries that cause him to reflect on a lecture from a class and draw parallels between artistic techniques and navigating new relationship terrain. A free spirit, Shelley drifts off before committing to Ingo and eventually lands in New York City. She invites Ingo, who has lined up a summer position painting scenery for the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, to move in with her. Much of the summer is spent experimenting with all types of drugs, particularly hallucinogens: “For Shelley, nothing mattered more than pumping a maximum out of right now.” Finally, the distraction from his art and Shelley’s noncommittal attitude drive Ingo to return to Madrid. He then redirects his passion and is admitted to the Riverrun Academy of Art outside of Detroit. He flies there through New York, giving him one last chance to cross paths with Shelley and reevaluate whether he made the right choice. Mahdavi’s ambitious narrative offers an imaginative premise and many rich details about artists, their inspirations, and the ’60s. Unfortunately, the story becomes dominated by dry drawing theories, including waxing for two pages about whether an HB or 2B pencil would be the right choice for a sketch. The novel is sometimes more art textbook than romance. Ingo’s thoughts are always consumed by art rather than love, and the prevalence of internal monologues results in little dialogue between the two lovers. Their relationship lacks enough context and emotion to invest readers in their romantic arc and whether it succeeds.

Art lectures override the stirrings of a young man’s first love in this uneven romance.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2019

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

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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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