Not a strong stand-alone novel, but compelling enough to keep the series’ readers hooked.

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LOST TIME

From the Between Two Evils series , Vol. 2

In this second sci-fi novel in a series, a time machine accident puts a man in a precarious future, where he struggles to find his place.

After arriving in a strange new world with nothing but a towel, Diego Nadales barely survives a fall from a treetop, where his time-travel capsule delivered him. He was supposed to be sent back in time from 2025 to 2005, on a mission critical to the Earth’s survival. But instead, he arrived in an alternate version of Earth in 2048, near Kirk Biodome in Colorado. Amazingly, Diego can survive the “Outside” without a protective suit, despite the fact that the Doomsday Virus nearly destroyed all mammalian life years ago. Survivors shelter in domes designed by David Kirk, whom Diego remembers as Dave Kirkland, his fiancee Isabel “Iz” Sanborn’s manipulative ex-husband. As Diego heals from his broken bones, he mourns Iz and his wasted effort to save his world, but he forges new friendships. Slowly, Diego becomes close to his doctor, Lani Kai, who’s scarred physically and emotionally. He also finds new purpose by exploring how his immunity to the virus can aid the community—and he gets new hope when a mysterious note advises him that Isabel is alive, back in his home universe. A trip to a biodome on Chesapeake Bay may provide answers, but then things go horribly wrong. Orton (The Last Star & Other Stories, 2017, etc.) does a good job of providing exposition and backstory to link this outing with the first installment, Crossing In Time, and it will be pleasing for readers to finally learn Diego’s fate. The romance between Diego and Lani is much less compelling, though—largely because the author presents Lani’s issues so melodramatically. Luckily, Orton handles the science and worldbuilding well, and her characterization of other players is more successful. Lani’s daughter Shannon—a brilliant, curious teenager with a genius for tinkering and somewhat naïve enthusiasm—nicely illustrates how the younger generation grows up in biodomes. The book introduces new mysteries and ends on a cliffhanger, which will whet readers’ appetites for the next installment.

Not a strong stand-alone novel, but compelling enough to keep the series’ readers hooked.

Pub Date: July 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-941368-10-7

Page Count: 202

Publisher: Rocky Mountain Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 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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