High-speed espionage thriller with sci-fi touches that’ll have readers impatiently waiting for the next installment.

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EVERLAST

BOOK ONE OF THE EVERLAST DUOLOGY

From the A Brainrush Thriller series

The first volume of a two-part thriller series brings back Jake Bronson, who’s determined to find out why an unknown group has been abducting his family and friends, in Bard’s (Beyond Judgment, 2013, etc.) latest.

Jake has already saved the world using his superior mental abilities, like transmitting thoughts. But he’d rather sidestep any publicity drawn to him or his similarly gifted 7-year-old son, Alex. Someone, however, has targeted him: A text from his wife, Francesca—“NOW!”—means that danger has necessitated a contingency plan. When Francesca and their kids go missing, Jake realizes that none of the 13 people, including friends all around the world, have checked in at a website per their emergency-response plan. Spearheading the attack may be the Everlast Institute, whose most recent venture is the preservation of a human consciousness on a computer chip. Jake makes his way to Everlast in Holland, hoping the company’s founder, Frederik de Vries, can explain what the company wants from him—and where his family is. Readers unfamiliar with Bard’s previous trilogy featuring Jake need not fret: While the book heavily references the protagonist’s earlier adventures, it provides clear elaboration without saturating the story in plot details. For example, the origins of the “mini”—a miniature, magical pyramid—aren’t important, but it’s unmistakable that Jake’s mental powers are slowly waning without it. Once readers have caught up with returning characters, such as couple Marshall and actress Lacey, as well as the main villain, who has retribution on the mind, the story ignites pages with scenes of action and suspense. There are shootouts, car chases and even a pursuit on foot; meanwhile, Ahmed and Sarafina (Jake and Francesca’s other kids) are aboard a plane headed for an unwelcome crash landing. The baddies are just as diverse as Jake’s group—they have to be since they’re stationed globally, from Hong Kong and Rome to the U.S.—but standouts are Lin, Min and Zhin, triplet sisters known for their beauty yet in possession of much more. Zhin has an exceptional intellect, and Min is a skilled fighter, while all three have their own reasons for vengeance against Jake and company. Bard doesn’t give readers time to breathe, and while it’s unfortunate that not every good guy makes it to the end, there’s a solid cliffhanger.

High-speed espionage thriller with sci-fi touches that’ll have readers impatiently waiting for the next installment.

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-0692321362

Page Count: 300

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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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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