A lengthy but engaging romance boosted by a fun main character and her baseball-playing love interest.

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SALSA WITH THE POPE

In Anderson’s debut novel, an aspiring actress learns to put herself first as she navigates relationships with an egotistical playwright and a New York Yankee.

Thirty-three-year-old Samantha enjoys salsa dancing, lives with a roommate in Hackensack, New Jersey, and pursues an acting career in New York City. Sam believes that “all men fall into one of three categories: taken, gay, or assholes,” so she’s surprised to find that the guy teaching her acting class doesn’t seem to be any of these. Alan is an actor and writer who’s connected in the Broadway scene. He’s under pressure to rewrite his play, so Sam supports him as his confidant, co-writer, and biggest fan. However, when his play is finally produced, he lets another girl get cast in the lead role instead of fighting for Sam. Finally, after Sam spends two years playing second fiddle to Alan’s ego, he dumps her. Instead of letting it derail her, however, she starts writing her own one-woman play, trains to qualify for a marathon, and looks for a new apartment in New York. Just when she thinks she’s done with men, she meets none other than Darren James, the star New York Yankee baseball player, at a salsa club, and they dance the night away. When Sam’s show is produced and her relationship with Darren becomes serious, she finds herself forced to choose between the Yankee and her career. Anderson tells a familiar story of a woman looking for love and satisfaction in the big city, but certain aspects of the story are refreshingly new. Sam is a teetotaling commuter, for example, rather than a Cosmopolitan-drinking Manhattanite. Although she’s juvenile at times and puts up with poor treatment from her boyfriend, Sam has a solid backbone, and she’s a good friend to those in her life. Anderson’s humorous prose fairly accurately describes being young and single in New York (roommates, commuting, bad dates, working a day job). Although the book is long, readers will enjoy its element of escapism. After all, what woman doesn’t dream of dating a Derek Jeter type?

A lengthy but engaging romance boosted by a fun main character and her baseball-playing love interest.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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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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