A solid, earnest entry with richly developed characters and moral themes.



From the The Soul Mender Trilogy series , Vol. 2

In the second installment of Dabney’s (The Soul Mender, 2016) fantasy series, Riley Dale seems destined to restore stability to increasingly unstable parallel universes.

As the story opens, Riley is relatively safe in her own world after having returned from its parallel version. Each is populated by the other’s moral opposites—good people in one are evil in the other, and vice versa. The history of these universes goes back to the biblical story of Adam and Eve, when a bite of the forbidden fruit split good and evil into separate entities, along with humanity’s soul. Riley is one of the Electa, Eve’s descendants, who’ve been chosen to save the world. She and Gabe, her “Custos” (or protector), cross over again to the other world to liberate her friends—including her opposite, Oz—from the clutches of evil U.S. president Jackson Cain. He’s hoping to destroy Riley’s ring, bequeathed to her by her Electa grandmother, in order to bring about the end of the Electa. Both worlds are on the verge of devastation: Riley’s is threatened by terrorists overtaking America, and the other by an impending world war. In order to save them both, she must hone her mental training and weaponry skills, dodge assassins, and get along with the tougher but less compassionate Oz. Dabney boosts the action in this deftly written second installment, quickly moving the story to Riley’s training with her grandmother’s Custos, Michael Flynn, and swiftly following it with the rescue mission. The tried-and-true good-vs.-evil theme is surprisingly profound here; for example, killing a bad guy in one world means that an innocent person dies in the other, and Riley’s parallel-world ally, Zach Stone, is a serial killer back where she came from. Riley is a resolute protagonist throughout, determined to complete her task despite questioning her own abilities. Her behavior, however, doesn’t always befit her 22 years, such as when she pouts and grumbles when Oz gets more praise than she does. Plenty is left unexplained, but the answers will provide ample material for Dabney’s concluding volume.

A solid, earnest entry with richly developed characters and moral themes.

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9977958-1-3

Page Count: 338

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 14, 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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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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