At its best as a drama, with a protagonist whose distressing professional and personal lives in and out of the hospital...



From the Dr. Annabel Tilson Novels series , Vol. 2

The patients in a medical student’s psychiatry rotation have a variety of diagnoses, some more dangerous than others, in this thriller.

Having completed one third-year medical school clinical rotation in surgery, Dr. Annabel Tilson will next be seeing patients in the psych ward. There are certainly more risks involved, as attending physician, Dr. Selina Keeton, quickly points out. The students, for one, should avoid the common practice of shaking the patient’s hand when entering the room. Annabel’s first patient is Victor Blake, a 23-year-old man cops picked up after he scared people at a movie theater, screaming about nonexistent snakes on the screen. Fortunately, not everyone is as intimidating as Victor, a paranoid schizophrenic. Annabel and her fellow student/pal Bob Palmer see people with all sorts of afflictions, from depressed, suicidal Eugene Wells to precariously thin, anorexic teenager Lillie Carter. Meanwhile, Annabel, still hung up on a man who didn’t reciprocate her romantic feelings, opts for “sexual flings” courtesy of dating app Findar. Though typically cautious when meeting her dates (a public place is ideal), Annabel may get herself in trouble by being a little less prudent. Back at the hospital, a recently discharged patient, once off prescribed meds, could very well turn into an unmitigated menace. Physician and author Ebel’s (Dead Still, 2016, etc.) expertise in the medical field is unmistakable: the story’s many patient cases are diverse and enthralling. Haley Morris, for example, another teen girl like Lillie, has an entirely different problem: she may be contemplating suicide from merciless cyberbullying. At the same time, the relationship between Annabel and Bob is surprisingly multilayered. The two have been close friends since they were on the surgery rotation together. But though it’s clear Annabel wants nothing more than friendship, she’s annoyed by and perhaps jealous of Bob spending time with med student Karla Weaver. There are a few jolts, like patients taking sudden turns for the worse. The final act, however, in which one individual could potentially become violent, happens so late in the story that there’s no room for suspense to generate before the novel ends.

At its best as a drama, with a protagonist whose distressing professional and personal lives in and out of the hospital produce a gripping tale.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9977225-1-2

Page Count: 264

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2017

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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