A gangbusters beginning, but the ending doesn’t satisfy.

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CROSSING IN TIME

From the Between Two Evils series , Vol. 1

To save the world, a woman must go back in time to guarantee a relationship’s success in this first sci-fi novel in a series.

Perhaps because she’s leaving the “bloodbath” of her fresh divorce settlement, Isabel “Iz” Sanborn, an award-winning geneticist, doesn’t recognize Diego Nadales at first when she runs into him in downtown Denver. The former co-workers and one-time couple haven’t seen each other for some 15 years, since their bad breakup. Diego, a software writer, has particular reason to feel betrayed; he wasn’t cheating on Iz, as she suspected, when he kept a promise to visit a female friend, but Iz retaliated by actually cheating on him—and then telling his boss, falsely, that Diego had harassed her. But their chemistry sparks again, nonetheless. Soon they plan to marry and move into a mountain cabin. Tragedies personal and worldwide unfold, including a rash of fires, after a mysterious metal sphere appears in Denver, emblazoned with Einstein’s relativity equation. Soon, Iz and Diego are separated during the chaos as scientists in a secret underground city study the sphere’s contents, which include instructions for a time machine. Investigation shows that there’s only one way to prevent an end to all mammalian life: Iz must sacrifice her own life in this timeline to go back in time to 19-year-old Diego and teach him how to make their relationship work—so that they’re happily married for 20 years. In early chapters, Orton (Dead Time, 2017, etc.) draws readers in with strong writing including moments of humor, compelling themes, and even a heartwarming romantic gesture that depends on the kindness of a band of looters. Iz shows admirable resourcefulness, and an irreverent physics professor, Matt Hudson, also provides an entertaining first-person point of view. However, the couples counseling that ends the book is irritating more than romantic. Iz is demanding and critical, Diego doesn’t want to be molded, and above all, Orton isn’t persuasive about why everything depends on their romance being successful, out of all the couples in the universe. Perhaps that, and some other loose ends, will become clearer in later installments.

A gangbusters beginning, but the ending doesn’t satisfy.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-941368-02-2

Page Count: 374

Publisher: Rocky Mountain Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 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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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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