An adept offering of diverse characters engaged in a suspenseful sci-fi storyline that’s far from common; might even appeal...



In the third book in Smiles’ (Choices, 2013, etc.) sci-fi Rothston series, a young and in love college couple deals with family issues, special powers and a secret international organization that may have a sinister agenda.

At the beginning of Smiles’ new Rothston entry, trust-fund kid Greg Langston and his girlfriend, an “adept named Kinzie Nicolosi,” are back at school, though they’re hardly carefree college students. As Kinzie reminds her beau (and catches up new readers), they just “spent months escaping from a mad scientist who was using [them] for genetic experiments.” Their dangerous, adventurous past was centered on The Rothston Institute, a sort of Hogwarts for “adepts”—individuals with powers that include translocating, “reading into the past” and the ability to “guide” others in their decision-making. Adepts feel both protective of and superior to regular folk, aka “commons.” In spite of Greg’s insistence that “nothing good ever happened” in Rothston, the pair returns to the institute to witness the execution of Bradley Jamison, the man at the heart of Kinzie’s nightmares. Jamison, who had experimented on Kinzie in his lab, has been sentenced to die for his role in the killing of a common newborn during an experiment to create enhanced adepts. After the execution, Jamison’s ghost haunts Kinzie as she searches to understand the origin and location of the mysterious Pierre Rouge, a red stone said to increase the power of adepts. Kinzie, who was raised by her solo dad, also seeks to discover her own origins as she tries to find out the identity of her mother. Meanwhile, Greg, who loves Kinzie more than anything, worries that she expects the answers to have “some fairytale ending.” But, he wonders, what if she finds out otherwise? His concern is justified. Author Smiles easily creates tension, and many chapters have cliffhanger endings that pull readers forward into the story. Having Kinzie take turns with Greg as the narrator in alternating chapters gives the narrative a nice female/male balance while letting the reader understand the story from different points of view. Dialogue is strong, and minor characters prove to be as intriguing as the leads. This is new adult fiction done right.

An adept offering of diverse characters engaged in a suspenseful sci-fi storyline that’s far from common; might even appeal to an audience outside the sci-fi realm.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2014

ISBN: 978-1937979126

Page Count: 386

Publisher: PlotForge, Limited

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...


Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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