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ONE ICY NIGHT

A ROOK THRILLER

An unexpected and unpredictable thriller with vivid settings and a strong lead character.

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Pepper offers a thriller involving dangerous weather, mysteries of the past, and a woman abandoned at a dive bar in a small Mississippi town.

It’s 1994, and 20-year-old bass player Rook Kellum finds herself stranded at the bar after her bandmates leave her. Due to a particularly brutal ice storm, there’s little for Rook to do other than attempt to wait it out. While there, Rook interacts with a distinctly engaging cast of characters including the “middle-aged, burly…Southern Boy” Stalin, who owns the bar that bears his name; the local sheriff; and the erratic, drugged-out Carolton “Carl” Riley. As the night drags on, tensions escalate: The sheriff confiscates Rook’s fake ID, and it’s revealed that she’s not who she says she is—there’s a warrant out for her arrest, and she’s on the run from someone. Secrets and backstories are slowly revealed in flashbacks that effectively move the action beyond the four walls of the bar, allowing the characters to become more fully fleshed out; their motivations and histories are made clear in action that takes place in three distinct timelines over the course of a year. Readers will become invested in Rook’s fate as she navigates her way through tense situations. The more they learn about her past, the more they’ll admire her resilience and resourcefulness; the latter becomes most apparent after she escapes the bar and finds herself in a secluded cabin. There, Rook faces surprising and shocking difficulties as she finds herself fighting for her life. Overall, Pepper keeps the engaging story moving at a quick pace, and the drama of the ice storm ably enhances the physical and emotional danger that Rook finds herself in.

An unexpected and unpredictable thriller with vivid settings and a strong lead character.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2024

ISBN: 9781958011096

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Hustle Valley Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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DEVOLUTION

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

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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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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MIND GAMES

A touching story of love and grief ends in an epic battle of good versus evil.

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Roberts’ latest may move you to tears, or joy, or dread, or all three.

Every summer, John and Cora Fox visit Cora’s mother, Lucy Lannigan, in Redbud Hollow, Kentucky, leaving their children, 12-year-old Thea and 10-year-old Rem, for a two-week taste of heaven. The children love Grammie Lucy far more than John’s snooty family, which looks down on Cora. Lucy, a healer with deep Appalachian roots, loves animals, cooks the best meals, plays musical instruments, and makes soap and candles for her thriving business. Thea—who’s inherited the psychic abilities passed down through the women of Lucy’s family—has vivid magical dreams, one of which becomes a living nightmare when a psychopath robs and murders John and Cora as Thea watches helplessly. Thea’s description of the killer and her ability to see him in real time help the skeptical police catch Ray Riggs, who goes to prison for life. Although Thea and Rem go on to have a wonderful childhood with Grammie, Thea constantly wages a mental battle with Riggs, who tries to use his own psychic abilities to get into her mind. Over the years, Thea uses her imagination to become a game designer while the more business-minded Rem helps manage her career. Thea eventually builds a house near Lucy, where a newly arrived neighbor is her teen crush, singer-songwriter Tyler Brennan. Tyler has his own issues and is protective of his young son but slowly builds a loving relationship with Thea, whose silence about her abilities leads to a devastating misunderstanding. At first Thea tries to keep Riggs locked out of her mind. As her powers grow, she torments him. Finally, she realizes that she must win this battle and destroy him if she’s ever to have peace.

A touching story of love and grief ends in an epic battle of good versus evil.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781250289698

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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