Though it treads familiar terrain, this action-laden futuristic tale offers a captivating world and protagonist.

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THE CLICK

In the 23rd century, a former CIA operative looks for a way to save his terminally ill grandson in this sci-fi novel.

Oliver Hitchcock, a 78-year-old retired CIA agent, is a Beater. This means he’s beaten the Click, an audible, supposedly God-willed indication that a person will soon die. There are unfortunately Preemies as well, children who prematurely hear the Click, such as Hitch’s dead 11-year-old grandson, Oliver Jr. When OJ’s younger brother, Christopher, is apparently near death, Hitch believes he can somehow save him. An internet search returns website links alluding to the idea that the Click is a fraud, but the actual sites are all down. Believing there’s validity to these claims, Hitch, with help from a CIA contact, digs deeper. Information remains scarce, but Hitch does find allies, most notably U.S. President Andrea Wainwright, who has her hands on sensitive documents from the Church. These connect to the Click as well as a lethal virus the world ultimately overcame more than a century earlier. Hitch is clearly onto something, as certain agents, including his ex-lover Janine Rousseau, are aggressively pursuing him. With little time left to save Christopher, Hitch is determined to prevent his grandson’s imminent demise. Shear (The Fountain of Youth, 2017, etc.) quickly establishes a rapid pace, beginning with someone stealing the documents and racing to hide them. While technology in the story’s future world is nothing new (Scuds are handheld devices comparable to smartphones), provocative concepts abound. For one, the largely theocratic world has outlawed abortion and birth control, resulting in overpopulation, while gay sexuality and even in vitro fertilization are also illegal. Like most great heroes, Hitch is not without his faults: His goal is admirable, but he was also with Janine while married to Edna, an affectionate mother and grandmother. Meanwhile, though the documents’ revealed content isn’t surprising, there is a shocking double cross and a kidnapping or two.

Though it treads familiar terrain, this action-laden futuristic tale offers a captivating world and protagonist.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5092-2276-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Wild Rose Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 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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