A creative tale which makes its fantasy science fun.

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QUEEN OF THE QUANTUM REALM

From the The Nanosia Series series , Vol. 1

In Johnson’s (Two Women Two Roads One Future, 2015, etc.) YA fantasy, an apprentice mage, searching for a possible cure to an epidemic, stumbles upon a nefarious plan at the atomic level.

It seems that a notoriously deadly purple plague has started to appear in Hadley Town. But the news is even worse for 14-year-old resident Jawan, the apprentice to the earth-mage Myrlo for the past eight years, as he learns that his parents’ house has been specifically quarantined. Determined to find a cure, he peruses his master’s research under a nanoscope and finds himself literally drawn in—that is, he mysteriously shrinks and winds up inside the cryptically labeled culture. It turns out that a fermion named Pym has summoned him to Nanosia, believing he’s the prophesied Big One from the Big World who’ll defeat Antipan, the ruler of the Realm of Chaos. Meanwhile, back in the larger world, fire-mage Elveston has a device that he claims will cure the plague. But he may have another scheme in mind involving the creation of pure energy with the help of his “accidental creation,” Gelic, a positron in Nanosia. The fact that positrons are unstable, though, could mean devastation for both worlds. To keep Nanosia from falling into disarray, Jawan may have to turn to something even more powerful and dangerous. The educational value of Johnson’s story is hard to miss: numerous characters are subatomic particles, which will pique the interest of younger readers who may be unfamiliar with bosons or gamma rays. But the author also stays true to the fantasy genre with her plot complications and characterizations: Jawan finds that getting back to the Big World is far from a simple task, and the villain Elveston is shown to be cruel to his journeyman (Jawan’s pal Loby) and distrusted by other elemental mages. The breezy prose is often humorous, especially when describing Jawan’s conspicuousness—he doesn’t spin or orbit like other Nanosians. There are also a few surprises, including the reason why Jawan feels that some of the subatomic folks that he meets (including the titular Queen Quanta) look familiar. Unfortunately, not everything gets resolved by the end—although this may indicate a potential sequel.

A creative tale which makes its fantasy science fun.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 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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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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