A colorful, complex saga of civilizations inching toward conflict.

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FALLING STAR

From the Rain of Stars series , Vol. 2

In Lawrence’s (Rising Star, 2014) fantasy sequel, humans, elves, and celestials continue preparing for total war with demonic hordes.

Asmod, Lord of the Hells, and his demons were defeated two millennia ago by the residents of the land of Elyshaeza. Elf soldier Na’lan Keldrin placed a Seal, gifted by the Seraphim and created by unknown means, over Asmod’s Breach, trapping him and keeping him from spreading his power. Now, attacks by demonic kureida have been ramping up, bolstering rumors that Asmod’s daughter, Helcol, is ready for a second War of the Races. Thankfully, several heroic factions are preparing for this challenge. The elf Ellina Alshavisin is about to leave the safety of Näenamarü Calaynin for the ancient Mithorin forest, hoping to find the Catharin, a reclusive elf tribe whose strength will be needed in the coming clash. Then there’s Artemis, a golden-skinned Glarent (a nonbinary celestial) who travels with human warriors Ishon-Zhrin and Taliyen. They aid the town of Ardall against nightly demon attacks. Elsewhere, in a tower called the Solver, celestial diplomat Gildas weighs the danger of allying against the demons with Yisrael, the leader of a violent celestial cult called the szazarsol, who may know more about Asmod’s banishment than he lets on. Meanwhile, the star Alovalianevansrae, which was “created from sealing Asmod in the Hells,” grows ever dimmer. For readers who love emotional turmoil as much as epic swordplay, author Lawrence’s second series installment provides both in abundance. He also presents foul creatures, such as gurgats, chitzriks, and flame devils, which cause havoc for secondary heroes such as Collie, a 15-year-old human girl whom the celestial Shri has chosen as his scribe, and Neil, a virtuous demon protecting the city of Notton. The author’s primary theme is the connectedness of all beings, regardless of origin, and Artemis illustrates this wonderfully when standing in awe of gigantic ghostly nature spirits. The author ends this installment by answering a central question, revealing a traitor, and teasing a new enemy for a future entry.

A colorful, complex saga of civilizations inching toward conflict.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72509-042-2

Page Count: 342

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 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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