A thoughtful and useful work of self-help tips as fiction.




A debut self-help novel tells the story of two traumatized friends attempting to get past the abuses they suffered as children.

Even though she is a financially successful woman of 35, Anne Davis keeps choosing deadbeat guys. She’s a rescuer: trying to save Derek from his own abusive behavior in the hopes that he’ll finally be well enough to love her back. She knows it stems from some abandonment issues from never having met her father, coupled with the grief she still feels over the death of her son. Knowing where it comes from doesn’t really help, unfortunately. Luckily, Anne has Dominic in her life. He's been her friend for years and undergone his own cycles of bad decision-making before finally becoming a respected counselor. Dominic was molested as a child by a pair of older girls (his babysitters), which greatly informs his sex life and his emotional state as an adult. With the help of Dominic and another old friend, Josie, Anne digs deeper into her life and finds trauma that she wasn’t previously aware of. Even better, they help her to work through that pain in order to stop searching for love from impossible sources and find it within herself. Following the conclusion of the tale, Mason and Andrada provide 40 pages of helpful strategies for people who have found themselves in situations similar to those of Anne and Dominic. The authors write in a buoyant prose that keeps the story peppy and easy to read even in its heavier moments. Sprinkled throughout the dialogue are snippets of self-help ideas that relate to the problems of the characters. “I’ve found there are three types of people,” explains Dominic at one point. “Doers, feelers and thinkers. Doers, like myself, are goal oriented. They don’t have time for emotions. Feelers are driven by emotions. All decisions are based on feelings. Thinkers are driven by logic.” That the novel is written primarily as a teaching aid (rather than for the tale itself) saps it of the urgency readers normally expect in fiction. But the book succeeds in terms of demonstrating the issues and the coping mechanisms advocated by the authors.

A thoughtful and useful work of self-help tips as fiction.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9978938-2-3

Page Count: 202

Publisher: Seattle Indie Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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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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