An engaging fantasy whose romantic arc will likely divide readers.

READ REVIEW

ENLIGHTENMENT

From the Bathala Series series , Vol. 1

This YA debut sees a teenager discover that a mythic destiny awaits in her parents’ homeland.

Eighteen-year-old Dorothy Dizon, a Filipino-American, lives in Las Vegas. She’s her class valedictorian at Valley High, a star basketball player, and indispensable to her mother, Meredith, who has liver cancer. Though her father seemingly abandoned the family years ago, Dorothy has embraced life to the utmost. Tonight she and her statuesque best friend, fellow Filipina Stella De Guzman, dance at the Tao Nightclub. When a middle-aged man gropes her, Dorothy uses taekwondo to pin him to the wall. She takes note not only of the strange craving in her throat, but also of the man’s exposed neck. The next day at school, Dorothy is dazzled by Adrian Rosario, a new Filipino exchange student. She has no idea that he’s a Danag—a vampire of Filipino lore who protects humans—from the Mandalagan area of Negros Island. As they grow acquainted, Dorothy is impressed by Adrian’s expertise in Filipino history, including his knowledge of the evil vampire Sitan and his duwende (goblin) minions. More shocking to Dorothy is that she has been giving off powerful signals, telling good and evil forces alike that she’s potentially descended from Urduja, the female warrior who saved Danag culture from the Mongols. For his fantasy series opener, Ursal provides a banquet of cultural textures about the Philippines without sacrificing a brisk pace and smooth prose. Adrian seems like the quintessential bad boy, sporting tattoos and driving a Mustang, yet he’s a Muslim who prays five times a day and understands that “we surrender time to Allah in exchange for safety and peace.” The fantasy elements (like Adrian’s glow) remain low key throughout much of the narrative, playfully recalling other series like Twilight. The author also mentions the tragedy of a vanishing culture, for while Adrian discusses Filipino lore, Dorothy thinks: “It would be a miracle if these stories would be remembered a hundred years from now.” Action heats up the finale, as does a love triangle that crudely elbows one protagonist out of the spotlight.

An engaging fantasy whose romantic arc will likely divide readers.

Pub Date: March 14, 2019

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 347

Publisher: Pacific Boulevard Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 10

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

more