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THE 23RD HERO

Fans of time-travel romance are likely to find this story deeply satisfying.

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Nguyen’s debut novel follows a woman as she goes back to 16th-century France to try to avert ecological destruction in the future.

Initially set in near-future Vancouver, British Columbia, the story revolves around 29-year-old Sloane Burrows, whose life has been largely unhappy and unfulfilling. Her beloved mother died in childbirth, and her emotionally closed-off and manipulative father seemingly disapproved of everything she did; she also feels like an indentured servant to her father because of her unpaid student loan debt, and she just got fired from her job. Complicating matters further is what her father calls her “freak memory”—her ability to recall every life experience with crystal clarity. Sloane’s dream was to become a “Hero”—a courageous person picked for the prestigious “Program” to travel back in time on specific missions aimed at saving the planet from environmental collapse; for example, one Hero prevented the discovery of DDT. When Sloane applies to the Program, she’s chosen as the next time-traveler, but before she embarks on her mission—which will take her to 1521 to attempt to thwart the first French expedition to the Americas—she falls in love with the mysterious man who started the Program, who’s also inexplicably been in her dreams for years. The consistently high emotional intensity throughout Nguyen’s novel is the fuel that powers its narrative engine, as is the complex dynamism between the two lead characters. The passion is incendiary in places: “She wanted to touch him, taste him, worship him—but her body responded to his swift, assured movements like a flower unfolding to the sun; it yielded to him, softening, opening, blossoming beneath his touch, and she was powerless to resist.” The backstory involving the discovery and use of time travel is muddled and an inarguable weakness. However, the love-conquers-all ending and not-so-subtle environmental stewardship themes in this Outlander-esque adventure more than make up for it.

Fans of time-travel romance are likely to find this story deeply satisfying.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2024

ISBN: 9798989593415

Page Count: 404

Publisher: Castle Bridge Media

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2024

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DEVOLUTION

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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THE MINISTRY OF TIME

This rip-roaring romp pivots between past and present and posits the future-altering power of love, hope, and forgiveness.

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A time-toying spy romance that’s truly a thriller.

In the author’s note following the moving conclusion of her gripping, gleefully delicious debut novel, Bradley explains how she gathered historical facts about Lt. Graham Gore, a real-life Victorian naval officer and polar explorer, then “extrapolated a great deal” about him to come up with one of her main characters, a curly-haired, chain-smoking, devastatingly charming dreamboat who has been transported through time. Having also found inspiration in the sole extant daguerreotype of Gore, showing him to have been “a very attractive man,” Bradley wrote the earliest draft of the book for a cluster of friends who were similarly passionate about polar explorers. Her finished novel—taut, artfully unspooled, and vividly written—retains the kind of insouciant joy and intimacy you might expect from a book with those origins. It’s also breathtakingly sexy. The time-toggling plot focuses on the plight of a British civil servant who takes a high-paying job on a secret mission, working as a “bridge” to help time-traveling “expats” resettle in 21st-century London—and who falls hard for her charge, the aforementioned Commander Gore. Drama, intrigue, and romance ensue. And while this quasi-futuristic tale of time and tenderness never seems to take itself too seriously, it also offers a meaningful, nuanced perspective on the challenges we face, the choices we make, and the way we live and love today.

This rip-roaring romp pivots between past and present and posits the future-altering power of love, hope, and forgiveness.

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9781668045145

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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