A somewhat predictable yet compulsively readable story of a woman in way over her head.

WITH YOU ALWAYS

In Olsen’s (The Girl Before, 2016) second novel, a woman learns that her handsome new husband isn’t quite what he seems, and then some.

When career-minded Julia Hawthorne meets lawyer Bryce Covington by chance while on a work break one day, she’s immediately struck by how handsome he is and how gentlemanly he seems to be. To her delight, he asks her out, and after a few blissful dates, Julia is smitten, and evidently, so is Bryce. Everything would be perfect if it weren’t for the fact that Julia's sister, Kate, with whom she’s very close, is suspicious of Bryce. Kate claims that Bryce seems contrived and too perfect and points out that he never talks about himself. Julia chalks it up to the fact that her ex (and only other serious boyfriend), Jake, was charming too at first, and that ended in disaster. Julia is thrilled when Bryce invites her to meet his parents, the enigmatic Reverend and his wife, Nancy. They mostly raised him, but they aren’t his biological parents, and they run the Church of the Life. When Bryce invites her to attend, she’s open to the experience, though she’s not overly religious, and the experience is a revelation. The congregation makes her feel welcome, and she instantly feels like part of the family. In a creepy turn, she’s later invited to participate in the Gathering, where the congregants eat strange-tasting wafers, drink bitter wine, and then, in euphoria, speak in tongues and attempt to achieve Oneness with God. As she becomes entwined with the church, she quits her job and becomes isolated from her friends and family, especially after she and Bryce get married. As Bryce becomes more controlling, Julia blames herself for nearly all of his bad behavior. Even when he starts hitting her. When Julia begins to dig into Bryce’s past, all hell breaks loose. Readers will cringe as they turn the pages in hopes that Julia gets out before it’s too late to reclaim herself and her life.

A somewhat predictable yet compulsively readable story of a woman in way over her head.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-101-98239-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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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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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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