A vividly imagined but dark dystopian fantasy complete with passionate romance and dangerous alliances.

Maya Rising

From the Last Call for Caviar series , Vol. 2

An intrepid pair has survived the apocalypse, but the worst is yet to come in Roen’s sequel to Last Call for Caviar (2013).

Maya Jade and her lover, Julian, have fled their temporary place of refuge on the French Riviera. Fearing for their safety, they head toward Italy in a battered Land Rover full of weapons and provisions; but Maya cannot escape the dangers she encountered during her time mingling among the Riviera’s jet set. She’s being followed by Slava, a Russian who runs a human-trafficking ring. Julian’s skill as a physician secures the couple safe passage into Italy and finally to the Hautes-Alpes, where he treats the locals and refugees. While Julian is out on an emergency call, an earthquake strikes the area, cutting off all lines of communication. Desperate to find him, Maya enlists the help of Stephan and Laurent, two French military paratroopers. They discover that Julian has been kidnapped by a ruthless and bloodthirsty captain named Jacques Richmond, who’s in league with Slava and planning a covert operation in Monaco. Maya soon realizes her only hope for saving Julian lies with her former lover Abdul. As she renews alliances and faces old dangers in her efforts to free Julian, Maya realizes her feelings for Abdul are more complicated than she had thought. Told in a series of journal entries that span the years 2018-2019, this sequel seamlessly picks up where Last Call for Caviar left off, and the narrative moves with the same intensity. The action is gripping, but there is a grimmer edge to the tragedies unfolding around Maya and Julian. The storms and other ecological disasters have continued unabated, and the desperation and lawlessness have resulted in shocking acts of violence, including rape and cannibalism. Once again, erotic romance plays a major role in the story. Although Maya never questions her love for Julian, she remains conflicted about her feelings toward Abdul. This conflict helps form the basis for an erotic and nuanced love triangle as her involvement with Abdul deepens.

A vividly imagined but dark dystopian fantasy complete with passionate romance and dangerous alliances.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5171-5744-9

Page Count: 360

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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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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