A historically astute and powerful account of a world fractured by war.

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AS EAGLES SWARM

From the Bears and Eagles series , Vol. 4

In this thriller, a Canadian regiment joins the fight in the thick of World War II.

Nicolas Bekenbaum, a descendent from a long line of German Hussars who deserted and were absorbed into a Cossack community in Russia, is sent to Libya in 1938 to block any access Italian forces have to oil pipelines, a major blow to their operations. He heads an elite regiment of his own, some of it comprising his family, though he nominally answers to a Canadian command. After earning a sterling reputation for battlefield success, he’s trained by British paratroopers to attack a German communications and intelligence base, and scores another resounding and impactful victory. But when a reconnaissance mission in Sicily produces casualties—the result of a surprise attack from an armored car—Nicolas holds himself personally responsible, and requests that he be demoted, relieved of his command, and sent back to Canada for retraining. A review of the mission finds that, in general, the casualty rate his regiment has suffered is laudably low, but Nicolas is depleted from years of perpetual combat, and sent to Montana to train three battalions. There he meets a woman—Katherine Engelmann—and the two are immediately smitten with each other and attempt to conduct a romance by epistle after Nicolas returns to war, this time in northern England. He’s then deployed deep into German-controlled territory in France, and his regiment provides valuable support for the invasion of Normandy. Nicolas is wounded while fighting in Bastogne, and again sent back home, but his respite from combat is a temporary one once the Korean War commences. This is the fourth installment in a series from Wollbaum (Eagle’s Talon, 2016, etc.); while the reader would surely benefit from tackling the first three volumes, the author provides enough summary background for the latest to be read on its own. Wollbaum’s command of military history is astounding, and the action proceeds briskly and cinematically. The deep bond between Nicolas and Katherine blossoms so quickly it seems more contrived than romantic. But the author’s discussion of women in combat is refreshing and skillfully rendered. Wollbaum blends artful fiction and rigorous scholarship with unusual aplomb. 

A historically astute and powerful account of a world fractured by war. 

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9940249-8-5

Page Count: 316

Publisher: Midar and Associates Ltd.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 31, 2016

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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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