WOODEN HEARTS

Seeking revenge, restless tree spirits wage war against a small Wisconsin town in Trier’s action-packed fantasy debut.
Not long after losing his wife, Tom Kessler retires from the FBI and takes a job as police chief in Wishbone, Wisconsin. He quickly incurs the wrath of cop Quinn Oetting, who was passed over for chief, and Quinn’s pal Jimmy Mickey, the town bully who doesn’t seem to like anyone. But in the forest, seething with hatred, lies Drak, a tree spirit with a desire to kill humans for their destruction of trees. Drak’s unique ability to control humans is intensified when professor Clifford Rains runs experiments with his cold fusion reactor. Promising to quench Mickey’s thirst for power, Drak enlists him to help Rains complete his reactor and assemble an army so that Drak and the dark spirits can wipe out humanity. Trier’s novel is a consistent blend of thriller and fantasy, building up to an inevitable confrontation between good and evil without dwelling on the supernatural element. Kindred tree spirits warn Kessler of Drak’s plan, but it’s the wicked spirits that leave an impression, especially the rendition of a red-eyed Drak with a knotted, humanlike face. Trier excels at establishing the townspeople, including Mickey as the indisputable villain (he revels in others’ pain) and nuances such as a couple engaged in a marital affair. The book more than earns its climax, a rousing showdown filled with gunfire, exploding bombs and cars in “a deadly game of demolition derby.” Even a family, the Elders, introduced late in the story, will garner reader sympathy and support when Drak’s minions besiege their hardwood home. Trier adds a touch of romance for Kessler with the inclusion of Mora Meyers, Rains’ assistant, but it’s unfortunately underdeveloped; part-time officer, newish
mom and already married Dottie Wilkinson, on the other hand, proves to be an indelible, charming character. The novel does have a few stumbles along the way: Grammatical mishaps rear their ugly heads throughout, and awkward sentences—“Olson also told Kessler about Dottie Wilkinson, he described her as a 40 year old female and Wishbone’s part-time Police Officer”—lessen some of the story’s descriptive prose, particularly in the rapidly paced final act.
Despite minor shortcomings, a cornucopia of action and character interplay for readers to savor.

Pub Date: March 30, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 213

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 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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