A delightfully eerie tale led by a likable and steadfast protagonist.




In this debut supernatural novel, a woman’s life in Vancouver turns into a whirlwind of romantic encounters, nightmares of demons, and strange voices inside her home.

Cali Stenson, 24, isn’t exactly fond of her temp job in customer service at Tony’s Furniture Giant. But some promising events happen all at once. She gets a promotion to a permanent gig, makes friends with a few colleagues, and learns that her aloof boss, Sean Stock, may actually be disguising his attraction to her. But while things are looking up at work, her modest house, where she lives with her female cat, Dallas, is a source of agitation. For most of her life, Cali has been plagued by “weird stuff”—unknown voices, recurrent nightmares, and unexplained occurrences, such as lights turning on by themselves. Moving from her childhood home in Toronto to Vancouver hasn’t changed anything, and lately she’s having trouble distinguishing dreams from memories or reality. Soon she is seeing visions, like someone in her backyard, and has reason to believe some dreams are premonitions. There seems to be a threat from the red-eyed demon in her nightmares, but as it turns out, the greatest danger facing Cali may be human and closer than she knows. Cali’s first-person perspective is rife with vivid details, such as lengthy scenes at Tony’s Furniture that center on Cali and Sean’s developing relationship. But this suits Marie’s novel, which is an engrossing hodgepodge of supernatural episodes, from ghostly figures to unnerving dreams with people Cali knows (for example, her sister). Moreover, the highlighted romance is complicated by Deacon Hall, a manufacturer’s rep with an unveiled interest in Cali. Despite her burdens, Cali is a self-assured woman. The story’s only flaw is occasionally trite dialogue or narration (“But I was a grown-ass woman now”). Fortunately, this hardly affects a number of genuinely nail-biting moments, like a dream demon grabbing Cali’s ankles and dragging her off the sofa.

A delightfully eerie tale led by a likable and steadfast protagonist.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-5255-3119-4

Page Count: 193

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 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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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.


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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