An engaging, tightly written love story with a dash of suspense.

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THE SAFE LIST

A debut novel delivers a romance set in the rarefied world of pop-music superstardom.

Kalynn Stearne is a newly minted superstar on the verge of her first big solo tour. She has two platinum albums, industry awards, and a huge fan base. But she also has serious problems. An experience with abuse in her past keeps her from sleeping. She feels smothered by her fame, having to be accompanied by bodyguards wherever she goes. She doesn’t get to do the normal things a 19-year-old does, and everybody wants something from her. It’s hard for her to trust men when every guy she meets, including other pop stars and even her tour director, treats her like a sexual trophy. That’s why her immediate attraction to Layne Kennett, her new tour photographer, is so unusual. Layne has his own troubles—he is on probation and has been given this assignment from his father’s media company as a last chance to go straight. Just to stir the pot, Kalynn has a stalker named Alexa/Alex sending her threatening notes. When Kalynn’s longtime manager, Mae, is found dead, the stalker takes credit for it. Now Kalynn has to work through her trust issues, worry about a creep getting to her and her adopted family, and mount the most important tour of her life. Layne has to keep Kalynn’s trust and still reveal his past as a felon. That’s a lot of stuff working against a happy ending, but this is a romance novel, after all, and a briskly moving one at that. Fairbairn doesn’t break any new ground with this tale, but it does have plenty to offer. The characters, especially Kalynn and Layne, are well-drawn and believable. Their development feels natural, even in extraordinary circumstances. There are plot points, for example, a party in Malibu when Layne sees a pop star hitting on Kalynn, in which the author avoids obvious choices and allows his characters to be more human than caricatures. And his prose is sparkling clean, with never a muddled moment.

An engaging, tightly written love story with a dash of suspense.

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-79049-531-3

Page Count: 428

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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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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