A satisfying—if meandering—wrap-up to a memorable series of adventures with an appealing pair of protagonists.

The Last Ma-Loo

From the The Warrensberg Trilogy series , Vol. 3

An inimitable teenage hero and his short-tempered accomplice must once again save humanity in this final installment of a trilogy.

Warrensberg, Minnesota, might seem like Plainsville, USA, to the untrained eye, but it is the “Octipoint,” the center of the universe, according to the intergalactic travelers Ceek and Wergo. What’s more, the small town’s unwitting resident Alice Jane Zelinski and her long-suffering housemate, Wilkin Delgado, aka Dodobrain, are the only ones who can set things right. The problem this time is that the Ma-Loos are missing. And this is not just another run-of-the-mill endangered species that has suddenly become extinct. The trusty intergalactic plumber Cardamon Webb has news for the improbable duo: the Ma-Loos power the universe; they keep everything ticking. No Ma-Loos means a depressing End of Everything. The good news: there is a way to reverse this madness. All that Wilkin and Alice Jane need to do is to find a Ma-Loo, but that involves traveling to another Reality. Complicating the pair’s expedition are additional members—Alice Jane’s dreamy boyfriend, Carl; Loretta, the Certified Tracking Puffin; and newlyweds Ceek and Wergo. Problems and digressions abound: Carl gets pregnant, mysterious creatures constantly surface, and Alice Jane and Wilkin face severe tests as they attempt to make desperate contact with a Ma-Loo—Greater or Lesser, any kind will do. In Ammerman’s (Escape from Dorkville, 2015, etc.) final novel in his Warrensberg Trilogy, the prose is as sparkling and witty as ever, and Wilkin and Alice Jane, a year older since readers last met them, make for entertaining and engaging lead characters. The plot occasionally teeters under the weight of all the zaniness, and after a while a numbing sameness threatens to fog the narrative’s initial cleareyed focus. Colorful players are fun for a while, but after encountering a few too many Seussian characters (including Magnominious Jaymes Hiranacus III), the novelty starts to wear off, leading to a mild case of are-we-there-yet blues. The novel should nevertheless please fans of the clever and goofy, aka most middle-grade readers.

A satisfying—if meandering—wrap-up to a memorable series of adventures with an appealing pair of protagonists.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9846822-5-6

Page Count: 202

Publisher: Kabloona

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2016

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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