It’s not where the perpetually tipsy (or drunk) heroine ends up, but her journey that’s the most astute—and most...


Once Upon an Apple Martini

Fearing she’s about to lose her secretary job, a woman trails her boss to Hawaii for a blackmailing opportunity—leverage to avoid potential termination—in Taylor’s debut comedy.

Calyssa Pantaleo’s inability to get along with Babette Hooks at Shred Unread in New York may have detrimental repercussions. Babette, secretary to CEO Mr. Grunt (the reputed philanderer’s nickname), spreads rumors that Calyssa’s bedding co-workers, including boss Adam Klutz. This leads to a bathroom scuffle, followed by Calyssa photoshopping Babette’s head onto a gorilla and inadvertently printing hundreds of copies for everyone to see. Mr. Grunt’s email requesting a Monday meeting convinces Calyssa he’s firing her after the weekend. So she redirects the Las Vegas trip with pals Chloe Tenderfoot and Natalia Romanova to Honolulu, where vacationing Adam has been ignoring her calls. If Calyssa can blackmail Adam (with nude pictures, perhaps?), he’ll have no choice but to fight for her job. Bringing along newly homeless Lindsay Goldplenty, the women soon realize that getting evidence of Adam cheating at a masquerade ball is not so easy. Natalia, for one, drunk at their New York departure, is upset they’re not in Vegas because she had a personal reason to be there. Add to that a possibly stolen wallet and Calyssa will need all the help and apple martinis she can get. The author packs a lot into the story, from a theme of women’s unfair treatment in the workplace (exclusively male company bigwigs) to absurdist comedy (Calyssa’s ridiculous plan). But the most intriguing facet is Calyssa herself, a generally unlikable protagonist who manages to garner sympathy, albeit slowly. Her first-person narrative, for example, designates names for people superficially, like Pug for a waitress with a “yippity-yappety” voice. But even if the martini lover doesn’t recognize her own flaws, she listens when someone points them out: Chloe asserts that Calyssa blames others for her problems. Identity metaphors are occasionally too blatant: a lost ID or using someone else’s; wearing masks at the ball with Halloween coming up. Some, however, are sublime, particularly transgendered Natalia, who’s preop but unquestionably “one of the girls.”

It’s not where the perpetually tipsy (or drunk) heroine ends up, but her journey that’s the most astute—and most facetious—aspect of this tale.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5170-9557-4

Page Count: 394

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2016

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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