A strongly told, well-paced, inspirational story for Christians and nonbelievers alike.

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THROUGH THE FURY TO THE DAWN

A band of Christian warriors struggles to defeat an evil warlord in a post-apocalyptic America.

In the middle of the night in April 2012, the world ended. Attacked with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, the eastern United States was destroyed instantly, and those unlucky enough to survive the assault were turned into zombies as a result of the poison in the air. In Knoxville, Tenn., a middle-aged man and a silent woman wander the streets. This unlikely twosome was brought together not only by the destruction around them, but by God himself. For Molly, belief in God was never an issue. Her faith was a large part of her pre-catastrophe life, and during this difficult time—even after a pipe crushed her throat and took away her ability to speak—she still believes. Kane, however, was an atheist when hell broke loose. With his family believed dead and all he ever knew now lost, he has no reason to believe, and barely any reason to live. God, however, has spoken to him directly, and now Kane is on a mission. Unfortunately, that mission involves taking on the sadistic, polymorphic Malak and his group of psychotic warriors called the Coyotes. Kane, Molly, an almost mythic 8-foot-6-inch, 500-pound ex-athlete named Courtland and various other crusaders for good must navigate this new world and escape the changing forms of Malak in order to establish a just society. These scenes of flight and conflict are perfectly, tautly rendered and aptly convey the fear and desolation of the ruined world. However, the reader must wade through periodic, barely concealed religious and political rants against hot-button issues such as public health care, welfare recipients and Islamic radicalism that distract from the story. In the opening pages in particular, it seems as if the book will give way to a series of authorial rants. With a dose of editing aimed at removing such passages, this book could become the first in an exciting series.

A strongly told, well-paced, inspirational story for Christians and nonbelievers alike.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1463724023

Page Count: 279

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2011

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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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