RED RAIN

YA fearmonger Stine tries his hand at adult horror, with decidedly jejune results.

When travel blogger Lea Sutter (ignoring urgent forecasts) visits a Carolina coastal island just before a hurricane, that is only the first of the foolhardy decisions that Stine’s plot demands. (What if horror characters went on strike and refused to throw caution to the wind?) After the hurricane levels the island, Lea witnesses carnage, lovingly described. While walking in an ominous post-hurricane red rain, she’s approached by two angelic-looking twin boys, Daniel and Samuel, who utter anachronisms in brogue. Instead of calling Child Protective Services, Lea takes the 12-year-old twins home to Sag Harbor over the objections of husband Mark, a child psychologist and the author of a controversial parenting book. The Sutter offspring, Ira, who is also 12, and teenager Elena, resent the interlopers, as does Mark’s sister, Roz, particularly when Daniel, the obvious sociopath of the duo, keeps comparing her young son to a monkey. The book occasionally switches point of view to the twins, so right away readers know they are scamming the well-meaning Long Islanders, but to what end? At the same time, they seem to have a plan for world domination, starting with ruling their new middle school. In fact, the child characters take up so much space that, but for the sex and profanity in the adult sections, this could easily be another Fear Street or Goosebumps chapter book. Aside from wondering when the police (who also share narrative duties) and the Sutters are going to catch on to who is responsible for some bizarre and garishly depicted mayhem, readers will be puzzling over exactly which horror stereotype fits the twins. Are they zombies from the past, as a bit of foreshadowing hinted? Are they demons or just your garden variety bad seeds? Bottom line, they cannot wreak havoc without the witless collusion of the adult characters, who are definitely not on strike. 

More icky than scary.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-3612-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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Real events like the Vietnam draft and Stonewall uprising enter the characters' family history as well as a stunning plot...

THE RULES OF MAGIC

The Owens sisters are back—not in their previous guise as elderly aunties casting spells in Hoffman’s occult romance Practical Magic (1995), but as fledgling witches in the New York City captured in Patti Smith's memoir Just Kids.

In that magical, mystical milieu, Franny and Bridget are joined by a new character: their foxy younger brother, Vincent, whose “unearthly” charm sends grown women in search of love potions. Heading into the summer of 1960, the three Owens siblings are ever more conscious of their family's quirkiness—and not just the incidents of levitation and gift for reading each other's thoughts while traipsing home to their parents' funky Manhattan town house. The instant Franny turns 17, they are all shipped off to spend the summer with their mother's aunt in Massachusetts. Isabelle Owens might enlist them for esoteric projects like making black soap or picking herbs to cure a neighbor's jealousy, but she at least offers respite from their fretful mother's strict rules against going shoeless, bringing home stray birds, wandering into Greenwich Village, or falling in love. In short order, the siblings meet a know-it-all Boston cousin, April, who brings them up to speed on the curse set in motion by their Salem-witch ancestor, Maria Owens. It spells certain death for males who attempt to woo an Owens woman. Naturally this knowledge does not deter the current generation from circumventing the rule—Bridget most passionately, Franny most rationally, and Vincent most recklessly (believing his gender may protect him). In time, the sisters ignore their mother's plea and move to Greenwich Village, setting up an apothecary, while their rock-star brother, who glimpsed his future in Isabelle’s nifty three-way mirror, breaks hearts like there's no tomorrow. No one's more confident or entertaining than Hoffman at putting across characters willing to tempt fate for true love.

Real events like the Vietnam draft and Stonewall uprising enter the characters' family history as well as a stunning plot twist—delivering everything fans of a much-loved book could hope for in a prequel.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3747-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

A BLIGHT OF BLACKWINGS

Book 2 of Hearne's latest fantasy trilogy, The Seven Kennings (A Plague of Giants, 2017), set in a multiracial world thrust into turmoil by an invasion of peculiar giants.

In this world, most races have their own particular magical endowment, or “kenning,” though there are downsides to trying to gain the magic (an excellent chance of being killed instead) and using it (rapid aging and death). Most recently discovered is the sixth kenning, whose beneficiaries can talk to and command animals. The story canters along, although with multiple first-person narrators, it's confusing at times. Some characters are familiar, others are new, most of them with their own problems to solve, all somehow caught up in the grand design. To escape her overbearing father and the unreasoning violence his kind represents, fire-giant Olet Kanek leads her followers into the far north, hoping to found a new city where the races and kennings can peacefully coexist. Joining Olet are young Abhinava Khose, discoverer of the sixth kenning, and, later, Koesha Gansu (kenning: air), captain of an all-female crew shipwrecked by deep-sea monsters. Elsewhere, Hanima, who commands hive insects, struggles to free her city from the iron grip of wealthy, callous merchant monarchists. Other threads focus on the Bone Giants, relentless invaders seeking the still-unknown seventh kenning, whose confidence that this can defeat the other six is deeply disturbing. Under Hearne's light touch, these elements mesh perfectly, presenting an inventive, eye-filling panorama; satisfying (and, where appropriate, well-resolved) plotlines; and tensions between the races and their kennings to supply much of the drama.

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54857-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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