An uneven fantasy tale of jealousy and war that would have benefited from a clearer timeline.

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BLOODFEUD

Two California scientists become entangled in an ancient war between supernatural beings in Watson’s (Annie Aimright, 2018, etc.) fantasy thriller.

Vaylin Oshiro, a Stanford University student, calls his crush, Fierra Thames, after their first-semester finals (and a few months of intimacy); he asks her thoughts on love, and she responds that she doesn’t believe in it. However, when he starts seeing artist Arianna, whom he later marries, Fierra is filled with jealousy. Years later, while Vaylin and Fierra are working at Xeradyne Lab, Arianna dies in a car crash, along with their unborn child. Devastated, he eventually tries to take his own life. Shortly after being discharged from the hospital, he stumbles into an art exhibition and finally ends up at the house of the artist, Chrystas Krueger. They engage in interesting conversation and drink chilled vodka, and Chrystas does a sketch of Vaylin. Then she suddenly sinks her fangs into his neck, turning him into a blood-craving vampire. He tells Fierra, who’s fascinated by the research potential in studying a vampire’s genetic markers, so Vaylin agrees to infect her, as well. For Fierra, killing comes easy, and her complex plans to gain power catch the attention of centuries-old vampires, who enlist her help to rule all the covens. Soon, Fierra and Vaylin are on different sides in a war between vampires and a group of shape-shifters. Watson’s fantasy starts strong, recounting both Fierra’s and Vaylin’s relationships with their single parents. As the story goes on, however, the sometimes-abrupt changes in time period and location may cause confusion. Watson’s writing is fluid, and his dream sequences, in particular, flow with precision. In one scene, for example, Fierra dreams of the potential success of her research: “The fluttering dollars merged together and morphed into a great black bat….Fierra beheld its widening eyes as her dream replaced its face with Vaylin’s. Vaylin’s dreamy doppelgänger bit the woman and every church bell throughout Rome tolled.” A cliffhanger ending leaves potential for a sequel.

An uneven fantasy tale of jealousy and war that would have benefited from a clearer timeline.

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-71792-096-6

Page Count: 382

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 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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