An action-packed, if sometimes over-the-top, story about a young gay man’s desire to join a community that accepts him.

The Scheme of Things

A debut coming-of-age novel about the lengths to which people will go in order to discover their true selves.

Parks’ novel chronicles the story of narrator Henry Dodge, a preteen living in suburban Southern California. The book begins in 1985 with him living at his parents’ home, constantly afraid of his sweet mother, athletic brother, and abusive, alcoholic father discovering his biggest secret—he’s gay. Henry spends much of his free time alone, drawing nude male figures, skimming through Playgirl, and obsessing about his all-consuming crush on his new, older neighbor, Danny Woodson. He regularly grapples with his secret and his constant feeling of being an outsider. He finally awakens to his sexuality at age 16 when he begins a physical relationship with an older male colleague at Lavar’s BBQ restaurant, which inspires a series of events that ultimately leads him to come out at school—and also to his parents. Afraid of the backlash, Henry runs away to Los Angeles, eager to find Danny Woodson. On the way, he decides to shed his identity as Henry Dodge and become a new person: Billy Collins. What “Billy” finds when he arrives in Los Angeles, however, isn’t the stuff of fairy tales; he quickly gets mixed up with a rough crowd of drug dealers, pimps, and porn producers. He must then navigate through the drama of his new life. Parks’ story is an often touching tale of a young man’s self-discovery. It’s long and rambling at times and packed with gratuitous sex and violence. However, the author’s prose is also full of funny quips and puns: “Sooner than I knew it, the summer had flown by, the greenhouse was erected, and so was I on a nightly basis.” Henry, as the narrator of the story, is also likable and tender, which makes it easy for readers to root for him.

An action-packed, if sometimes over-the-top, story about a young gay man’s desire to join a community that accepts him.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Page Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2016

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

THEN SHE WAS GONE

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

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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