While it delivers some hard-hitting action, this thriller is more successful as a melodrama.

A LESSON TO DIE FOR

From the Lily series , Vol. 2

This 1990s-set sequel follows Manhattan teachers who become entangled with a menacing figure: the son of a Peruvian terrorist leader.

Lily Napolitano is a fourth-degree judo black belt and her sensei’s star pupil. But even with her prowess, she can’t fend off multiple assailants one late evening and flees to safety in the midst of gunfire. Because she can’t identify anyone for authorities to make an arrest, Lily settles back into teaching at P.S. 20, a Lower East Side school. The school receives new teachers Luke Natani and Mario DeMaio as well as a new principal, Dr. Seymour Lomsky, who quickly promotes Lily to a job as his assistant. Meanwhile, Paco Ñahui, who spearheaded the attack against Lily, is a criminal establishing a crew in New York. He seems determined to win the approval of his father, who leads a terrorist organization in Peru. As Lomsky’s increasing gambling debts ultimately connect him to the culprit, it’s only a matter of time before Paco finds the woman who escaped the assault. But when Lily proves a formidable and, if necessary, lethal opponent, Paco’s ensuing retribution involves people close to Lily, including her husband, Bobby, and fellow teachers. The early scene of Lily’s attack aptly establishes the protagonist as physically capable and Paco as a vicious baddie. But Rose’s (Lily’s Payback, 2012) urban thriller offers predominantly character development and melodrama. For example, Paco’s crew takes out a rival gang while he recalls—or dreams of—recurrent childhood beatings at his father’s hands. The captivating characters at P.S. 20 include Luke, a Navajo who has a romantic interest in teacher Mimi Purnell and a shocking family secret, and Mario, a former boxer. But when Paco isn’t actively looking for Lily, the pages are free of tension and suspense. It’s only much later, when Lily and her pals band together to try to thwart Paco, that the action picks up, though the inevitable finale is anticlimactic. Rose’s rather plain prose surprisingly tones down the short but periodic sex scenes and instances of violence.

While it delivers some hard-hitting action, this thriller is more successful as a melodrama.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5439-6585-8

Page Count: 342

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2019

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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THE VANISHING HALF

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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