THE LESSER GODS

Man was thrown from paradise to suffer and die, but he took a book with him; now modern-day terrorists and the Vatican are willing to kill to possess it.

Opening with a failed suicide bombing attempt in Jerusalem, the book plunges readers into the fevered mind of the bomber and the social consequences he faces following his failure. The dark underbelly of the antiquities market and the desperate search for a mythological Templar treasure build up the story’s pace. However, Azariah-Kribbs unexpectedly switches gears midway and focuses on the thought processes and relationships of several of the main characters, including two Indian women—one of whom is traditional while the other isn’t—and the man for whom they both have feelings. The book loses momentum as it becomes bogged down by unrequited relationships. The pace picks up again as the puzzle of the mythological book is solved and the solution is posted on the Internet for all to see. As a result, there is no more hunger or thirst, and spells can be spoken to provide for every need. As people unlock the secrets of paradise, they nearly become gods themselves; in fact, they pay to have themselves killed and brought back to life so that they can see where they will spend eternity. No one ever encounters paradise however, just the waiting depths of hell. Despite people’s best efforts to serve each other, their outcome never changes. Only the granddaughter of one of the terrorists learns the deepest secrets of the book, bringing the story full circle. Azariah-Kribbs writes in a clear, unadorned prose that keeps the world he had created accessible, even as it deals in the supernatural. Shifting perspective among several main characters keeps the action fast-paced and the pages turning. Azariah-Kribbs is at his most innovative when focusing on the Kryptografik, the mythical book from paradise; he treats the Kryptografik as a character, and this decision feels fresh and enhances the book’s mystical tone. Readers drawn to religious myth and action/adventure will find much to enjoy here. A rollicking, provocative read that hits a few speed bumps.

 

Pub Date: July 24, 2011

ISBN: 978-0983401933

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Keith Azariah-Kribbs

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

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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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