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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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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