An appealing series opener that promises more romance and fae intrigue to come.

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BETWEEN WORLDS

In this YA fantasy, a dedicated heroine visits a faery realm in search of a missing friend.

Junior year of high school has just ended for Michigan teens Alexis Dearborn and Molly Connolly. One night, they sneak from Alexis’ house to a party in a wealthy neighborhood. Alexis isn’t the partying type, so at the home of rich girl Cassi, she hops in the pool for some alone time. But a spiky-haired boy begins asking her strange questions, like whether or not Molly has any siblings or cousins. After a few days attached at the hip, Alexis and Molly end up at the latter’s home, where the teen has a fight with her mother over borrowing the car. Alexis knows her parents won’t mind if her best friend stays with them until things cool down, so Molly packs a bag. The next morning, Molly is nowhere to be found. Without a note or text to go on, Alexis believes that her friend has been taken. After the police imply that Molly ran away, Alexis hunts for her in the nearby woods. She meets two shape-shifters, a female fox named Jynx and a male wolf named Jaxith, who agree to escort her to Tír na nÓg—the Faery Realm—to search for Molly. Opening a new series, Ridge (The Other Side of the Story, 2018, etc.) uses faery folklore to explore ideas of friendship, loyalty, and self-confidence. When Jaxith agrees to guide and protect Alexis, he also asks that her vibrant red curls be his reward. She readily trades what some might call her finest feature for a chance to find Molly, even if her friend is in the fae world by choice. The ways in which male characters—including Sirius the elf and Keir, prince of the Dark Court—might claim Alexis as a prized consort are by turns foul and alluring. Throughout, the author shows a flair for celebrating fae oddities, as when Alexis sees someone apparently wearing peacock feathers only to realize that they’re growing from the person. Readers should find the narrative well-balanced, with characters and concepts never inundating the plot.

An appealing series opener that promises more romance and fae intrigue to come.

Pub Date: March 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-365-83907-8

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: March 27, 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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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

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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