An engrossing war story that shows how small miscalculations can lead to large consequences.



In this detailed, fictionalized account, debut author Hagan captures the events leading up to Operation Tidal Wave, one of the costliest air defeats for the Americans during World War II.

Hagan starts the novel in the midst of the attempted American low-level bombing of the key Axis oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. He focuses on the flight crew of the B-24 bomber Amazing Grace, piloted by Donnie Hammonds, coming up against unanticipated opposition. Hagan then smoothly goes big-picture, describing what was happening in Europe, in Russia, even on the homefront. All contributed to what would become known as “Black Sunday”—53 American aircraft and 660 crewmen were lost. The idea for the operation came from necessity. Col. Jacob Smart is tasked with shortening the war by a year. He reads about an earlier, accidental mission to bomb the refineries, and an idea flickers: “Jake was positive that as long as they didn’t draw attention to themselves, the air corps could put 200 heavy bombers on target with complete surprise.” But Smart’s German counterpart, Gen. Maj. Alfred Gerstenberg, realizes the importance of the refineries to the Axis war effort and builds sophisticated defenses to protect them: “He wasn’t sure how much time he had, but he had a lot to do and he had a plan to get it done.” Hagan explains how the Americans chose to forgo gathering intel around Ploesti in order to maintain the element of surprise for this bombing mission. But in the end, the Americans lost because of this lack of reconnaissance, having no knowledge of the region’s defenses. Hagan also does an admirable job creating portraits of the many American airmen involved in the mission and the obstacles they faced while training in Benghazi, Libya, as well as of the world leaders that moved these living chess pieces. Readers are given enough historical context to assess why the operation was doomed long before it was undertaken, at the cost of many young lives.

An engrossing war story that shows how small miscalculations can lead to large consequences.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-45755-196-3

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Dog Ear

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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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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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.


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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