An imperfect lead admirably and entertainingly searches for love.

STRIPPERS, ROBOTS AND OLD MEN

Single’s debut collection of four short stories follows a 40-year-old Portland, Oregon, man looking to trade his bachelorhood for a serious relationship.

This book features recurring and perpetually single narrator Rob, who amusingly details his life. In the opening title story, he and his pal Chris meet in a bar with Chris’ friends Joe and Stacy. Rob, fascinated by the fact that Stacy is a stripper, vividly recalls when he “nearly got involved with a stripper.” At a strip club six months earlier, he’d felt a connection to a dancer onstage, and though they barely spoke, he’d fallen in love and fantasized holding her in his arms. In the short but sweet “A Short Walk with Erica,” middle-aged Rob is in college, regularly walking to the school cafeteria with the younger Erica. On the last day of the term, Rob, knowing he may never see Erica again, tries to make the most out of what’s likely their final walk together. Rob is love-struck once again in “Aphrodite’s Grill,” in which he sits in a bar and slowly works up the nerve to ask out the bartender. The book’s final tale, “All the Things I Shouldn’t Say,” is also its longest. The entire story is Rob’s extended, blatantly honest online dating profile. He openly discusses his failed 9-year marriage and his subsequent single life. After risking unprotected sex with a woman who admits to having an STD, Rob constantly fears spotting signs of disease on his body. While he acknowledges his frankness may turn away potential dates, he’s merely trying to present the truest version of himself that he possibly can. Single employs a conversational writing style in all the stories. Rob, for example, ends his sentences with “you know?” or seemingly works out descriptions as he goes along: “She’s standing next to one of those three-candles-in-one, candlestick holder, things. A candelabrum, right?” This approach gives Rob some much-needed personality in the first three stories because readers learn very little about the man himself. But the final tale delves into his background, which includes an abusive father. The narrator sometimes comes across as sexist, like when he implies women are manipulative, expecting men “to do all the approaching” while keeping mace handy for any of the scary ones. But he counters these notions with even less complimentary ones for men. In one instance, he says a woman interested in great sex, a meaningful relationship, and a family doesn’t even need a man. Moreover, Rob is progressively more likable, especially as a divorcé in “All the Things I Shouldn’t Say.” This is the collection’s funniest, most insightful entry, even as Rob is worried about a potential STD. Nevertheless, his narration throughout the book is humorously dry. When trying to uncomplicate his love life, he muses, “I think going to Europe was my way to remove love from the sex equation. I’d give you a formula with square roots and division signs, but I haven’t got it all figured out.” One can only hope that someone will respond to his dating profile.

An imperfect lead admirably and entertainingly searches for love.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2019

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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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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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