A slim novel packed with plenty of wonder and genuine moments of awe.

SPELL ON ME

In this debut novel, a lonely man, dissatisfied with his comfortable but ultimately shallow lifestyle, starts an intensely introspective diary after experiencing a life-altering shock to his consciousness.

It isn’t often that the doors of perception swing open widely enough for the average Joe to saunter through and confront the ultimate nature of reality. But when the protagonist of this finely crafted meditation on the profound is allowed a glimpse of the other side, he knows that his life will never be the same again. Much of this protracted soliloquy is concerned with how he attempts to bridge the divide between his humdrum existence and the truly extraordinary world he’s spied beyond the veil. He writes, “I have at least two viewpoints now: One is my old life and everything connected with it—a life in which everything was clearly defined, if not preordained—and there is this other life that dawned on me next to the ocean that day.” The solo nature of his exploration remains intact throughout, except for three conversations with his sensitive but practical mother; an antagonistic co-worker; and a sort of gentleman guru. The author uses the novel’s diary construction as a literary device to discuss Eastern/New Age notions about reality. There’s little in the way of a conventional plot, other than that the narrator encounters a mysterious woman early on and anticipates meeting her once again. Some of the most intriguing concepts the author examines are that eternity is real, time is a construction, and that the normal function of the human brain intermittently interrupts the ongoing flow. As the narrator contemplates these truths, he has alternating feelings of horror and happiness. Smith’s highly descriptive language (“I see people crowding in front of the glittering shop windows….I move from one shop window to the next, and everywhere I see the same moving bodies and their inaudibly murmuring lips”) manages to convey both emotional states with equal alacrity and weight.

A slim novel packed with plenty of wonder and genuine moments of awe. 

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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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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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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