Sharp characterizations set the groundwork for future books in this series.

TUNING IN

In Roberts’ debut thriller, the first of a planned trilogy, an empath, who’s helping to develop a telepathy app, realizes that the person funding the project may have a sinister agenda.

Jon Gunnarson is at his aikido dojo when he hears a strange, distracting voice in his head that causes him to lose an important fight. He once had a telepathic connection to his late mother; after she died, he started forming telepathic links with others. Now, he only wants to disconnect from other people’s feelings, which incessantly cloud his head. He tells his aikido sparring partner, a Buddhist nun named Chodak Neema, about the voice; she thinks that she can help him, but she’s leaving that night to go to Bhutan. He can’t afford the trip, so he responds to an ad from a company that’s supposedly developing a meditation app in the South Asian country. Financing the development is Jeffrey Venn, who actually plans on peddling a telepathy app; he’s also currently under FBI investigation for internet fraud. British neuroscientist Ella Sandström is part of Venn’s team; she soon recognizes the harm that a functional telepathy app could cause if released to the general public. Venn, however, is already pushing to release his product on the market, disregarding the risks. His ultimate goal involves a nefarious act—and an app could conceivably hurt, or even kill, millions of people. Roberts delivers a commendable series launch that slowly establishes how its version of telepathy works (and gives it the fresh, chic moniker “tuning in”). There’s minimal action, but this short novel still moves briskly as it carefully molds its characters; Ella, for instance, is shown to be estranged from her teenage daughter, Jady, who blames her mom for her parents’ divorce. The story boasts some espionage as well, and Venn gets more menacing as the narrative progresses. But the book’s most impressive trait is its surprising moments of profundity: While trying to dip into happy people’s positive feelings, Jon sadly learns that most happiness is faked.

Sharp characterizations set the groundwork for future books in this series.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 132

Publisher: HighCrest Books

Review Posted Online: March 19, 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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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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