A sweet and well-paced series of urban vignettes.

NEW YORK

A collection of short stories explores New York City across time.

Clarke (The Notorious Dream of Jesús Lázaro, 2015, etc.) returns with a volume of tales set in the Big Apple. The city is the primary connection between these stories, though many of them share a similar protagonist: middle-aged or perhaps a bit older and from a relatively well-to-do background. These guys have been working in corporate America for years as admen or attorneys. Their families leave them money and invest in their startups. “Everyone in L.A.,” the first tale in the collection, sets the tone well. A struggling novelist named Pat rides the subway and invents elaborate fictions from the scraps of conversation he overhears. Clarke writes convincing and authentic dialogue, capturing the youthful slang readers might hear on the train, but the scenario itself feels somewhat clichéd. The same can be said of the next story, “The High Line,” in which a wealthy corporate lawyer overcomes the death of his wife by helping a homeless man on the subway and seeing how the other half lives. Tales like these feel like new, if not fresh, takes on classic stories of New York by Salinger or Capote—fine company, all in all. “My Beautiful Francisco,” in particular, with its Spence School girls and polo matches in the Hamptons, is a charming homage to Salinger’s Upper East Side. But Clarke is most successful when he tackles more modern New York characters. “Thank You, Pierre-Auguste” is an appealing little love story set in gentrified Williamsburg, in which a successful sculptor falls in love with a divorcée-turned-baker and embraces new artistic media. Though a bit saccharine, it’s a timeless romance set in a fiercely contemporary situation. Similarly, “The Three-Cornered Hat” takes a 21st-century figure as its protagonist—a startup founder—and sends him on an awkward evening of tango dancing in the Meatpacking District. While Clarke may not break new ground in the vast genre of New York literature, his enjoyable collection often captures an authentic charm and should please any avid reader of stories of the city.

A sweet and well-paced series of urban vignettes.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 252

Publisher: Astor & Lenox

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2017

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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...

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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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