An imaginative fantasy stuffed with too many characters and details.



A debut YA novel focuses on a magical land of positive thinking.

Rousing presents Levi Levy: a 15-year old who has received a strange message from something called the Interdimensional Council of Cognition. Levi is invited to attend the Selective Thought Studies Program in Dimension 11. It certainly sounds like a wild idea. Yet Levi doesn’t have a whole lot going for him in Earth’s regular dimension. Perhaps he can become something greater in a new place. Levi is soon transported, thanks to a purple funnel cloud, to a land of magic where he will be in training to become a “thought sifter.” The key throughout his training will be the ability to harness the power of his thoughts. He will even be able to fly in this world if he can train his mind to keep him in the air. Under the gentle watch of a wizardlike man named Hemp, kids like Levi keep thought journals, engage in an aerial sport called Solarshay, and eat veggie burgers at the local diner. But all is not mere fun and games. A figure named Orable has his own set of dastardly plans for up-and-coming thought sifters. Will Orable be successful or can his schemes be halted with the power of positive thinking? Positive thinking is, of course, the whole point here, and it is a theme that is driven home time and again. As Hemp asserts, “Directing your thoughts is the key to, well—everything.” While the message may be obvious, that does not mean the events surrounding it always are. A lot happens in just over 300 pages and it all progresses quickly. Nevertheless, the story can be jumbled at times with additional aspects like enchanted cupcakes, a creature called a “think bug,” and supporting characters of varying interest (take, for instance, Levi’s Yorkshire terrier, who has managed to follow him to Dimension 11 without a whole lot to contribute). But ultimately, the tale is open to any number of tantalizing outcomes. The burning question is: Will Levi be able to direct his mind to choose the right one?

An imaginative fantasy stuffed with too many characters and details.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-615-71924-5

Page Count: 334

Publisher: Thoughts To Die For Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2019

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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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