A touching, absorbing story of a vulnerable person confronting obstacles on her journey toward pride and self-reliance.

MENDED WINGS

A FLICKER'S TALE

A young woman with a traumatic brain injury moves forward with the help of a diverse collection of friends in Imhoff’s (Painted Wings, 2015, etc.) latest novel.

Kim “Flicker” Frechette was only a teenager when a drunk driver smashed into her car and derailed her life. Now she’s in her early 20s and chafing at the confines of the group home that she shares with two other girls, Lori and Beth. She’s still slowly recovering from brain damage from the accident, and she processes information more slowly than most other people do. However, she resists when people put her in the same category as her developmentally disabled housemates: “I wasn’t born like this,” she thinks. “I used to be smart.” As she explores the thrills and trepidations of her increasing independence, she begins to understand that making adult decisions isn’t easy. Fortunately, she has a group of concerned friends to help her negotiate the transition: Katie Martin, who runs the local bookstore, and her partner, Annie Curtis (whose story is told in Imhoff’s previous novel); and short-order cook Jesse Davis, an ex-schoolteacher with his own traumatic past. Together, these mentors watch out for Flicker, particularly when her choices lead her into potential danger. Imhoff ties his protagonist’s somewhat delayed coming-of-age story to more serious issues of date rape, domestic abuse, sex trafficking, and the long-term effects of brain trauma, and the resulting narrative is both educational and suspenseful. Flicker is an engaging character as she gradually learns which people to trust and which to avoid and as she grows to appreciate the innocent kindness of Lori and Beth rather than distancing herself from them. That said, the narration sometimes feels like a didactic educational pamphlet about traumatic brain injury, and the characterizations are sometimes simplistic. For example, Flicker’s boyfriend is so one-dimensional that it’s hard to understand what draws her to him, and her friends seem almost too good to be true. Still, readers won’t be able to help cheering Flicker’s triumph over those who seek to take advantage of her.

A touching, absorbing story of a vulnerable person confronting obstacles on her journey toward pride and self-reliance.

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 246

Publisher: Cedar Lake Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 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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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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