An entertaining but sluggish saga.



Old Hollywood liberates a transgender woman in this historical adventure.

Short of stature, slight of frame, delicate of face, and lilting of voice, Joey Elliot, a 22-year-old man living in Glendale, California in 1935, often gets bullied, even by his own father. Seduced by a gay lothario, he moves to Los Angeles where he works at a flower shop and becomes a fixture at gay orgies. He escapes this rut when he delivers flowers one day to the head of Crown Pictures, where he startles everyone with his uncanny resemblance to Lana Montague, a starlet who became pregnant and quit the industry without finishing her debut film. Joey saves the production by redoing some of Lana’s scenes. Indeed, he does this so convincingly that he’s signed to a contract as actress “Claire Rambeau” and fed into the studio’s star-making machinery, complete with glamorous makeup, hair weaves, and lessons in womanly deportment. Reveling in “dresses swishing and heels clicking” and the appreciative attentions of straight men, Claire realizes that she’s really a woman and proceeds with hormone treatments. Overshadowing her transformation, however, is her fear that her secret will be exposed to the public—and to Jeffrey Alexander, the man with whom she’s fallen in love. As Bishop’s (Friends, 2018, etc.) giddy novel celebrates Hollywood’s power to turn dreams into reality, it often feels like a transgender version of Singin’ in the Rain, with piquant scenes of moviemaking procedure from costume-fitting to the staging of fake dates for publicity photos, all played out in screwball repartee (Jeffrey: “We have a connection of some kind and I want to explore it….Like Stanley and Livingstone!” Claire: “So I’m Africa, now?”). Unfortunately, Claire is a domineering but bland heroine who’s effortlessly good at everything, and the overstuffed, overcomplicated narrative fixates on talky scenes of her getting makeovers, shopping, and discussing contract minutiae. The supporting cast exists mostly to marvel at Claire’s beauty and talent, and to dry her tears. There are a few intriguing characters, though, including a hard-boiled studio fixer, and also scenes of real drama and pathos, as when Claire’s mother confronts the changes in her child’s life.

An entertaining but sluggish saga.

Pub Date: July 25, 2017


Page Count: 758

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.


Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?