From first kiss to major plot twist, this romance novel offers two solid love stories for the price of one.

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Halo

A teenage love affair, a wounded soldier, and the joys of motherhood make for a sweet romance about new beginnings.

When 15-year-old Halo Pearson meets 17-year-old Thomas Wells, a good kid from the wrong side of the tracks, she’s smitten. After her parents are killed in a car accident, her high school sweetheart truly becomes her everything. Fast-forward eight years, and Thomas has redeployed as a Navy SEAL in Iraq and served her with divorce papers. Meanwhile, Halo is in the hospital having their baby, Brandon. It’s not very happily-ever-after. Luckily, she meets Ryder St. John, a veteran who was badly injured in an ambush and has a case of amnesia, to boot. Strapped for cash and for company, Halo suggests that he rent her garage as an apartment, and Ryder easily slips into a role as the man of the house. Soon, the sexual tension ramps up. Still, Halo struggles with her fear of being abandoned again, while Ryder is wary of overstepping his bounds—and he also has no idea what life he’s left behind elsewhere. Plus, there’s always the chance that Thomas will make good on his oft-repeated promise: “You’re my halo, my ray of light. I will always find my way back to you.” Veteran romance novelist Stephens (Dick, 2016, etc.) calls upon a few classic conventions—the good girl who falls for the bad boy, the long-lost lover at war, the man with a blurry past—but this story feels far from contrived. After she front-loads it with racy scenes of teenage lust, the rest of the novel focuses on the gritty realities of a relationship’s ups and downs and the slow burn of a more adult affair, with some nice snippets of maternal affection. It’s a well-structured narrative—fast-paced, with timely flashbacks and changes in first-person perspective; Thomas’ chapters are particularly juicy. Between his PTSD, his fear of turning into his abusive father, and his inability to choose between his brothers-in-arms and his wife, he’s a sympathetic romantic hero. Ryder isn’t quite as well-developed, but readers will find this easy to overlook.

From first kiss to major plot twist, this romance novel offers two solid love stories for the price of one.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2016

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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