An often effective blend of offbeat romance and high-stakes action-adventure.

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TENDER NO JUDGMENT

From the The Desperation To Power series , Vol. 1

Love blossoms between unlikely partners in St. John’s (No Boundaries, 2016, etc.) steamy contemporary romance.

Sabrina Turov, the young woman at the center of this sensual new novel, works in a bookshop in Crescent Heights, California, and is quietly pleased with the place, which she considers “a bookstore for real readers, who read to expand their minds and awaken their passions.” She believes that she’s met just such a reader, a “Prince Charming” named Jeffrey Ivanov, who takes her to a glamorous event after they’ve been dating about a month. But then he leaves her at an abandoned gas station in the Desolation Mountain wilderness to fend for herself overnight in a storm, wearing nothing but a flimsy party dress. She’s rescued by military veteran Micah Hudson. He did tours of duty in Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan, but since his return, he’s lived in the mountains, seeking peace and solitude. Despite the apparent mismatch of a quiet young woman in a fine dress and a grizzled, formidable warrior, Sabrina and Micah are instantly attracted to each other. Indeed, St. John devotes a sizable portion of the novel to their exploration of this attraction, in both emotional and explicitly sexual terms. She blends this element fairly seamlessly into the book’s main storyline, which involves the Russian mob, Ivanov’s illicit connections, and FBI operatives who are more than willing to use Sabrina and Micah in the pursuit of their own goals. A great deal of this thriller plot is predictable, though, and the serviceable prose does little to liven things up. But the story does nicely build momentum as it goes along, and the portrait of Micah as a tortured but honorable warrior who feels himself to be “a cripple in his mind, half a man,” is consistently engaging.

An often effective blend of offbeat romance and high-stakes action-adventure.

Pub Date: March 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9978681-3-5

Page Count: 424

Publisher: John Star Shaw

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2017

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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