An exhilarating tale with an engaging protagonist that will have readers eagerly anticipating sequels.

THE DEMON SEEKERS

BOOK ONE

Survivors on a post-apocalyptic Earth engage in a never-ending war with space aliens in the start of Shors’ (Unbound, 2017, etc.) SF trilogy.

By 2171, humans have been fighting aliens, known as “demons,” for a century. When they first arrived, they killed billions of people, and the only survivors were those who were underground at the time. The aliens made Earth into a prison for alien criminals; the inmates ultimately escaped their confinement and began attacking humans. Inexplicably, the demons also left 11 Orbs of Light scattered around the world and 33 silver staffs. Humans are able to teleport, or “drop,” from Orb to Orb, and the staffs are astonishingly potent weapons against the winged, fanged, and clawed demons. Seventeen-year-old Tasia is a Seeker whose life’s purpose is to kill aliens. She’s skilled with a rifle, but only higher-ranking Guardians are allowed to wield staffs. She blames herself for losing members of her family and other loved ones to demons as well as for her younger brother’s illness from an infection, which happened while he was under her care. To secure necessary medicine for her brother, she journeys to the Arctic Stronghold (one of 11 such structures, each located near an Orb). Drops, however, are unpredictable, and getting from New York City to the Arctic and back could take numerous trips. Her traveling companions include another Seeker named Aki and Draven, a Guardian who writes off Tasia as a coward. Tasia later falls for kindhearted Jerico, a Carrier who collects and transports supplies. Their journey is harrowing thanks to the demons’ swooping assaults. Shors offers a rousing, sharply written series starter. The demons’ attacks are brutal throughout, and it’s difficult for humans to fight against them; in order to kill demons, Seekers must accurately shoot them in the eyes. The Orb drops allow the author to showcase various parts of the future world while maintaining the urgency of Tasia’s search for medicine. Each new destination is a surprise, from the deserts of Risen (formerly the Australian Outback) to the rainforests of Tasia’s home, Angkor (formerly Cambodia). The trips give readers unnerving views of the devastated Earth; even some Strongholds are in ruins or no longer functional. The strongest scenes entail Tasia’s drop experiences; the teleportation disorients her more than other people, and she carries a laminated note as a post-drop reminder of demons’ existence—words of warning that don’t always register immediately. Tasia is a splendid protagonist who makes mistakes and constantly doubts herself but deeply cares for others and, contrary to Draven’s belief, is truly courageous. Other distinctive characters include Aki, who brandishes a samurai sword, and Jerico, whose romance with Tasia is nicely understated. The scenes from a demon’s perspective are surprisingly effective, as when it states a preference for “the flavor of human meat.” Some moments introduce elements of mystery; the demons, for unknown reasons, want the staffs, and Tasia begins hearing a strange voice in her head.

An exhilarating tale with an engaging protagonist that will have readers eagerly anticipating sequels.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9991744-2-5

Page Count: 382

Publisher: John Shors Inc.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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