A boy-meets-girl tale that veers into strange avenues and offers a maelstrom of love-struck possibilities.


Love and Other Pranks

Vigorito (Just a Couple of Days, 2015, etc.) details a modern-day love story and its links to the past.

When Merlin Otherwise and Lila Louise first kiss, it is on top of a float in an illegal parade in San Francisco. It is Halloween, and both are dressed as pirates. “We’ve met before, I’m certain,” Merlin tells Lila as their romance instantly blossoms. And while it initially seems merely a cheeky pickup line, it may very well hold some truth. Flashing back to the 18th century, the reader is introduced to two real pirates. Flaming Jane and Crow are swashbucklers of the high seas who, though lawless in their own ways, are not “toothless and swill-sipping” scoundrels. Flaming Jane is an educated woman who “defied her proper place as the property of her admiral husband,” while Crow is an autodidact who relishes the “relative quietude and isolation” of the ship’s crow’s nest. As a plot develops around a search for the “treasure of all treasures,” connections are increasingly made between the past and the present. But can Merlin and Lila’s relationship endure the ongoing existential crisis that is life in the 21st century? What about Jane and Crow’s ability to master the life of outlaws on the high seas? While the protagonists and their goals are essentially clear, the novel is at its best when exploring supporting characters. Whether it is Lila’s pooch, Dogface, a “Tanzanian zebra shepherd” capable of licking herself into “auto-cunnilingual leg spasms,” or an ex-boyfriend, the dubiously named guru Ivan Humble (of whom much can be, and is, explained), the true peculiarities of interest tend to arise in the background. Readers eager to hear young, antihero, Tom Robbins–esque lovers declare their adoration for each other will certainly find contentment within these pages. For those less intrigued by spunky love birds who insist “life is performance art” (as Merlin and Lila concur), all is not lost. What helps to set the story apart from similar fare are the nuanced, often unexpected villains, animals, and biblical allusions along the way.

A boy-meets-girl tale that veers into strange avenues and offers a maelstrom of love-struck possibilities.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2016

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.


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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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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