An engaging, heartwarming, humorous morality tale for our digital, consumerist age.


On Top Of The World


An updated version of A Christmas Carol filled with rap moguls, pop-culture references, and plenty of heartwarming romance.

Lamb’s (Do Platanos Go Wit’ Collard Greens, 2013, etc.) novel tells the story of Scrooje Ebonyzer, a power-hungry, money-loving music producer with a rags-to-riches back story. Scrooje was a nerdy, introverted product of the foster-care system until he met and started dating the beautiful, sophisticated Belle in college; she transformed him into a handsome, charismatic young man with confidence. After graduation, Belle decided to attend law school and Scrooje wanted to be a teacher—until he realized that he could make much more money making music with his friends. All was well until Scrooje became a money-obsessed egomaniac, releasing songs with negative messages and betraying his friends in the process. At the start of the book, Scrooje is wildly rich, overtly greedy, and somewhat hated by the people in his circle. He’s also extremely lonely, having lost his wife to divorce and his best friend, Marley, in an accidental drowning. One night, Scrooje is visited by several ghosts—including Marley’s—who make him revisit the generous people in his past and take a look at what his future could be, in order to show him that his greed isn’t worth the repercussions. The plot and characters of Lamb’s book cleverly parallel those in the classic Charles Dickens tale, with Belle, Scrooje’s true love; Cratchit, his goofy former friend whom he cheats out of hard-earned money; and Marley, who warns him of the perils of selfishness, all playing similar roles. But although the story and characters are similar to Dickens’, Lamb includes plenty of current allusions to make the story feel more relevant and its message pertinent to modern life. The author even manages to work in a timely political reference to Donald Trump: “How was I supposed to know that after ‘Money Like Trump’ hit number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 that the man was gonna start talking about rounding up Mexicans and banning Muslims?”

An engaging, heartwarming, humorous morality tale for our digital, consumerist age.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2016


Page Count: 240

Publisher: Woolly Mammoth Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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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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