A sometimes-thrilling, if occasionally odd, look at the convergence of the old, the new, and the fantastically high-tech.


Soul Integrity


The third novel in Batchelder’s (Soul Intent, 2009, etc.) series concerning the commercial side of the everlasting soul.

The basis of the company Soul Identity was originally fairly simple: its customers could plan their future lives by tracking their souls as they progressed through cycles of reincarnation. More practically, it allowed them to sock away their assets for their own future use instead of resigning them to other people upon their own deaths. The company tracks human souls with an eye scanner, but it eventually finds other uses for their incredible technology. For example, if a soul can be tracked through time, why not use it to see whom you loved in a past life? Although Rain Ekko and Val Nikolskaya inhabit different bodies in present-day Seattle, the two souls were once united in matrimony in revolutionary Cuba. Their reunion in the present day makes for a good commercial for Soul Identity, but the reality of their marriage proves to be most unpleasant. As their union disintegrates, the attractive, yoga-fit Val goes in search of her former lover, Scott Waverly, a security consultant who served as the hero of the first two books in this series. This installment begins with Scott missing in action, although he tried before the start of this book to give Val a warning regarding a threat to her own safety. After she teams up with Scott’s parents (who also work at his consulting company) and Rain’s feisty grandfather Mikk, the search is on—and danger is near. The plot incorporates flashbacks to former lives, and the immediacy of its technological advancements is reminiscent of later-period William Gibson. The fact that Scott’s doting parents are present, however, gives the tale a somewhat bizarre twist: how many heroines have said, “I’ll grill his parents about it later,” as Val does when wondering about a peculiarity in Scott’s behavior? The other supporting characters sometimes prove to be a bit silly, such as a man with a British accent who mutters “Bollocks” and “Bloody hell” in quick succession. Fans of the series who have followed Scott this far, though, will still likely be eager to discover his fate and take note of new developments as the story closes the gap between past and present.

A sometimes-thrilling, if occasionally odd, look at the convergence of the old, the new, and the fantastically high-tech.

Pub Date: April 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9798056-4-6

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Netleaves

Review Posted Online: July 2, 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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