An entertaining mix of high-tech showdowns with believable adolescent friendships and romance.




When something goes wrong at a secret military base, world survival depends on a group of Laser Wars-playing teenagers in this debut YA sci-fi novel.

Blackwoods, Wyoming, is the top-secret site of Briggs Air Force Base and Blackwoods Military Research Facility, the most advanced institution of its kind on Earth. For kids like Ethan Tate, 13, whose parents work at the facility, this means “toys years ahead of their time” and impressively well-equipped games of Laser Wars with fortresses in the woods. Unfortunately, his Team Bravo leader, Gen. Turnbull’s son, Austin, is a bully who enjoys taunting Ethan with his own father’s low status as a janitor. Ethan, a scout, often wishes he could be on Delta Team with pretty Annika Pepper, “the best Laser Wars sniper in Blackwoods for three years running.” When, soon after seventh-grade graduation, nearly everyone in town disappears overnight, only a few kids are left to discover what’s happened and how to fix it: Ethan; his best friend, Caleb Warren (Team Bravo’s engineer); Annika; Austin; and Glenn Vaden (the leader of Delta Team). It seems that robots being experimented on at the facility have achieved sentience, resent their treatment, and become bent on world domination. Using the clues and equipment at their disposal, the five teenagers must fight a lengthy, desperate battle and make a last-ditch attempt to save humankind. In his novel, Peek writes an engaging, exciting story that nicely balances technical details of weaponry and combat with good character development. Ethan shows growing leadership that parallels his deepening relationship with Annika, and Austin displays a new side of himself in the face of adversity. The book is well structured, setting up ideas and skills in early chapters that pay benefits later on. Some of these developments feel predictable in the classic, scrappy-bunch-of-misfits genre (a teenager subtrope), but the kids have genuine skills and Peek adds an original spin with the Laser Wars background. Unfortunately, the ending throws a last-minute curveball that’s under-explained, leaving a note of unresolved confusion.

An entertaining mix of high-tech showdowns with believable adolescent friendships and romance.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: 331

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 27, 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.


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?

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?