A lighthearted, endearing sci-fi romp in need of some grammatical polish.

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THE CHILDREN OF TIME

Santos’ sci-fi adventure stars a college student who learns that his dream girl is on a secret mission.

Nicholas attends the University of California in Los Angeles. Classmates call him Moon Boy because he loves all things cosmic (and because he’s so pale). He learns that a class on cosmology will be offered, and he eagerly attends. Making his life even more perfect is the arrival of Zara, a redheaded freshman who recently moved from the East Coast. Zara tells him, “You should not focus on space to fulfill your dreams....Sometimes the things we wish for can be right before our eyes.” While bike riding, Nicholas finds an abandoned countryside shack. It starts pouring, and he runs inside. Lucky for Nicholas, Zara shows up on her own bike. The girl’s beauty and scent of jasmine overwhelm Nicholas, and the two kiss. After they start dating, Zara reveals that she comes from the planet Life in the Andromeda Galaxy. He thinks she’s joking until he wakes up on her spaceship, the Science II. In this optimistic sci-fi journey, Santos (O Outro Lado, 2017, etc.) raises issues of eco-awareness while also exploring the idea of alien abduction. Zara and the crew of the Science II are actually time-traveling Earth descendants from the 641st century on a mission to save King Zador II’s 7-year-old daughter, Princess Isadora, whose rare viral disease may be cured with the help of Nicholas’ indomitable immune system (containing the rare Lymphocyte N sequence). While Santos’ aliens are determined and manipulative, they gain heart while dealing with Nicholas, a soulful Everyman who craves only love and knowledge. The author’s warning—that humanity may shed many failings except its penchant for politics—is valuable indeed. Despite some grammar hiccups (“Nicholas thought that Monday would be a tedious one...with nothing different to happen”), the narrative’s spirited pace ferries readers toward a satisfying ending while setting up a sequel.

A lighthearted, endearing sci-fi romp in need of some grammatical polish.

Pub Date: July 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-5214-3653-0

Page Count: 281

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 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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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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