Another strong dose of supernatural drama, with a pleasantly diverse cast.

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DIVIDED WORLDS

In this second volume of a YA fantasy series, two heroines return to the Faery Realm to confront both personal and Court-threatening demons.

High school seniors Alexis Dearborn and Molly Connolly have recently returned from the Faery Realm. Alexis is now dating Keir, prince of the Dark Court, while Molly has broken up with Dax, an obsessive incubus. As Halloween rolls around, the girls attend a party at their friend Cassi’s house. Molly hopes to move past her previous abusive relationship by joining her biology classmate Dave at the party. But Dax won’t be forgotten. He starts leaving presents for Molly in intrusive ways, like pastries on her doorstep and a musical figurine in her room. He even accosts her in her dreams. Meanwhile, in the Faery Realm, the Solitaries—rogue fae who have renounced their Court affiliations and become feral—are a growing menace. The Courts plan to convene and decide how to handle the Solitaries, and Queen Tynan, Keir’s mother, has summoned Alexis to a private audience. Later, when Dax magically robs Dave of his personality, Molly is determined to face her emotionally manipulative ex-boyfriend and restore her classmate. Yet the girls may not be prepared for all the secrets they’re still to uncover in the Faery Realm. In this expansive sequel, Ridge (Between Worlds, 2017, etc.) delivers broader dangers and a more inclusive cast. She depicts the Solitaries as a horde of furred, scaled mutations. A more refined fright comes from those of the Unseelie Court, who dress in gothic flair and pierce themselves with iron jewelry. Most noteworthy is Ridge’s introduction of Lark, a nonbinary elf who uses them/their/they pronouns. Lark proves integral to the plot, which contrasts the elf with another character, who comes out of the closet only to stand on the sidelines. Ridge injects humor whenever possible, like Alexis’ Tinker Bell Halloween costume, balancing the severity of Molly and Dax’s storyline. His role as the controlling boyfriend is exceptionally rendered, effectively popping out of the fantasy backdrop. This second volume also successfully establishes a major villain to battle in the third installment.

Another strong dose of supernatural drama, with a pleasantly diverse cast.

Pub Date: Dec. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-387-40321-9

Page Count: 356

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: March 29, 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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