A thoroughly enjoyable fantasy sequel that should make readers crave yet another visit to Nanosia.

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FIRE MASTER

From the Nanosia series , Vol. 2

A journeyman, ill-equipped to be the new fire mage, will need strength and skills to save an increasingly unstable world in this second installment of a YA series.

Now that his master is dead, apprentice Loby is the likely candidate to take the role of fire mage. But as he’s never learned the secret of fire, he doesn’t want the responsibility of being one of the five elemental mages. Meanwhile, citizens of the kingdom of Romatica are understandably on edge, as the land is burdened by recurrent earthquakes and unseasonably icy weather. In order for earth mage Myrlo to calm the “distressed” planet, he’ll need to make a volcano—but that would require a fire mage at full power. Loby may find the secret of fire in the atom-sized world of Nanosia, which is populated by the universe’s elementary particles. He’ll also be able to stop Romatica’s despicable King Cestor, who’s in Nanosia to collect the invincible powers an oracle has promised him. Luckily, Loby has help from Prenda, a girl who may share his hankering for romance, as well as Pyck, his half brother, who, after leaving six years ago, has inexplicably returned to Romatica. As in the fantasy series’ first installment, Johnson (Queen of the Quantum Realm, 2017, etc.) aptly incorporates science into her fictional tale. For example, Nanosia resident Higgy (as in the Higgs field), who plans to abandon his duty of providing mass to particles, could destroy the entire universe. But the author is a skilled storyteller in multiple aspects: Pyck is especially mysterious, as readers know he’s in Romatica on some sort of “mission.” Furthermore, some scenes play out twice, with alternating points of view. It masterfully adds character dimension: While Loby is indisputably sympathetic, Pyck’s perspective makes the protagonist’s plea for help almost sound like babbling (“The earthquake, the cold….See there’s this girl”). The narrative’s speedy pace, from the beginning to the satisfying conclusion, never falters.

A thoroughly enjoyable fantasy sequel that should make readers crave yet another visit to Nanosia.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-72288-862-6

Page Count: 306

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 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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