Cloud at Dawn

A NOVEL BY TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY SURVIVOR

An often moving story of recovery and rebirth, but one that’s weighed down by excessive detail and dialogue.

A survivor of a traumatic brain injury traces the path of a woman’s life before and after an accident in Xiao’s debut novel.

Mary, 39, is idling in the midst of a drawn-out divorce in California’s Silicon Valley. She’s interested in a film career, and she takes it as a sign when a teacher tells her it doesn’t matter what you know in Hollywood but “who you know.” After she’s reminded of a friend who’d dreamed of making a film but never did so, she finds a connection in Los Angeles to help her. After she moves to LA, she’s set up with a man named Mike. The two quickly fall into a romance, but it isn’t long before it sours: the strong-willed, reckless Mike breaks up with her at Disney World but still pursues her, even after stating that he wants to see other people. His actions later cause a life-defining change; he crashes his car while driving them home from the Renaissance Faire, and Mary sustains a traumatic brain injury. Afterward, she’s plagued by double vision, short-term memory loss, and numbness on her left side. Once released from the hospital, Mike takes sexual advantage of her and then kicks her out. Her new life is filled with PTSD-fueled fantasies of vengeance against Mike, dulled only by visions of angels who swoop in to soothe her. It takes her years to recover, but she eventually begins the journey toward making a film about her life. Xiao offers an uplifting and overwhelmingly comprehensive narrative of Mary’s accident and its aftermath, often told in long passages of uninterrupted conversation. Mike and Mary, in particular, read as complex and real. However, the book’s overreliance on dialogue renders other characters flat; a tighter focus on plot would have lended it much-needed tension. As is, the story meanders until the car accident radically shifts the pace halfway through the novel. After that point, though, the author effectively shows how Mary’s resilience and bright spirit allow for an inspiring, battle-born woman to emerge.

An often moving story of recovery and rebirth, but one that’s weighed down by excessive detail and dialogue.

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 222

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2016

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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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IT ENDS WITH US

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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