Takes its time getting started, but once the story’s finally underway, readers will need a deep breath before taking this...

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PHOENIX PROJECT

In Blanchard’s debut action novel, a U.S. Naval test pilot travels to Europe and, among his father’s inheritance, uncovers evidence of a Nazi device that the Nazis still desperately want.

Lt. Cmdr. Max DuMonde learns that his father, Thomas, who Max believed was killed in action years ago in Vietnam, died just recently in 2010. Thomas left his son a wealth of items, including classic, restored aircraft, but it’s German documents that bring Nazis to Max’s door. Apparently, near the end of World War II, the Nazis had developed a machine capable of generating a “dark gate,” which reputedly could create a fourth dimension. The SS in the 21st century hopes to complete the project, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes. Blanchard’s book utilizes its historical setting to great effect; though the bulk of it takes place in 2010, it opens with Marines—led by Maj. Dean DuMonde, Max’s grandfather—battling German soldiers in 1945 and even spends some time in the Colombian jungle with Thomas in ’66, where he stumbles upon the much-desired Nazi paperwork. Blanchard reverently details the planes that Thomas restored, such as the Storch, a German WWII plane, as well as the weaponry used in action sequences. Nevertheless, scenes such as Max testing the aircraft and trekking to the French Alps to spread his father’s ashes (and where he encounters a German family, most significantly his eventual love interest, Solange) seem to put the plot on hold; it’s nearly the halfway point when Nazis finally show up, demand at least part of Max’s inheritance and kidnap Solange. But once Max and his allies, including his Navy SEAL pal Val Vittoria, track down the villains to a castle near the Swiss border, the story becomes a nonstop, exhilarating barrage of gunfights and explosions. The particulars of what the Nazi device does aren’t fully revealed until near the end, and it’s quite a surprise. Blanchard rounds out his novel by adding suspense—there’s a traitor in the States who’s helping spearhead an operation to bring Max and company back home—and a smashing ending that sets the stage for a sequel.

Takes its time getting started, but once the story’s finally underway, readers will need a deep breath before taking this exciting ride of bullet-laden action.

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2013

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 316

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 25, 2014

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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

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

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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

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