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

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

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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

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...


Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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