The complexity deepens in this kaleidoscopic adventure series.

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FOURTH CHRONICLES OF ILLUMINATION

This latest installment of a YA saga places teen Librarians in the ultimate battle against sinister forces.

Eighteen-year-old Johanna Charette and 17-year-old Jackson Roth are co-curators of the Library of Illumination, where characters from books come to life. Their workplace is part of an interdimensional system of 13 Libraries, currently under siege by the militant Nero 51 of the realm Terroria. The tentacled dictator has invaded the realms of Mysteriose, Romantica, and Juvenilia (among others) to bring every Library under his bland control. His plan includes forcing the citizenry of these worlds into work camps and kidnapping the curators. But when he captures Johanna, he also grabs Cameron Thorne, dean of English at Cranford University, and Ophelia, a white kitten. On Earth (Fantasia), Jackson hopes to contact Johanna by writing to her in her magical diary. He’s consumed with worry for her and skips out on the Exeter High senior prom, which darkens the fates of his girlfriend, Emily Brent, and his friends Logan Elliott and Cassie Turner. Meanwhile, the hu*bots of Adventura must prevent solar storms from destroying their planet. Later, Master Ryden Simmdry and Pru Tellerence, both deans of the Prime Realm, reveal a startling secret that may help Johanna survive the final battle with the time-hopping Nero 51. In this epic excursion across the Illuminated worlds, Pack (Third Chronicles of Illumination, 2017, etc.) chops her story into fine bits—sometimes a single paragraph long—to cover the action on all fronts. Even her sharpest fans may need to reference the character index in the novel’s rear—though Thor, God of Thunder and Buffalo Bill Cody should need no reintroduction. Amid this detailed, often hectic sci-fi narrative, the plot threads of Pack’s high schoolers remain the most compelling. The Terrorians’ fear of cats is hilarious, but the drama wrought by Logan’s obsession with becoming a successful news intern—and reporting the Library to the world—is exceptional. Longtime readers may miss the intimacy of earlier volumes but should brace themselves for the darkest, most rewarding installment yet.

The complexity deepens in this kaleidoscopic adventure series.

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9979084-6-6

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Artiqua Press

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

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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