An earnest and mostly successful attempt to humanize Hollywood.

WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW ABOUT CHARLIE OUTLAW

A newly famous actor is kidnapped and his fading-actress girlfriend re-evaluates their connection in Stewart’s latest novel (The New Neighbor, 2015, etc.).

Charlie Outlaw, ascendant TV star—and yes, that's his real name—has made a fatal romantic gaffe: Asked by reporters if his longtime girlfriend, Josie Lamar, is the love of his life, he gives, from what is perhaps an excess of zeal, the precisely wrong answer: "Yes!...So far." The relationship blows up, and Charlie retreats to an unnamed tropical island far from the artifice of Hollywood. Almost immediately, he is kidnapped by activists protesting overdevelopment—and, surprisingly, not because they know who he is. Meanwhile, a shellshocked Josie, having passed age 40, that dangerous precipice for actresses, phones it in, doing guest spots, a sitcom, and a fan convention. As her career continues its downward spiral from her long-past glory days as TV action heroine Bronwyn Kyle, her increasingly frantic texts to Charlie go unreturned. She has no idea where he is but assumes he’s ghosting her. Such is the setup of Stewart’s thoughtful study of two Hollywood denizens who take their craft as actors seriously; so seriously that exhortations from Stanislavsky (among other acting gurus) not only precede each section, but inform how Charlie and Josie live their lives, even in extremis—while confined to a car trunk, Charlie contemplates the contrast between acted emotional response and real panic. The chapters alternate between Charlie's and Josie's stories, but the narrative voice which swoops into and around the psyches of all the characters, however minor, is old-school omniscient, saying things like “Let’s leave him there, poor Charlie....” Stewart varies the lengths of her sentences to achieve an unstudied lyricism and cadence. As the kidnappers betray their incompetence, which renders them no less dangerous, and Josie considers a flirtation with her former co-star Max, the meditations on acting, while fascinating in their own right, distract more and more from the motivation and behavior of Josie and Charlie as protagonists of this book, not of their latest scripts.

An earnest and mostly successful attempt to humanize Hollywood.

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1434-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 47

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

DEVOLUTION

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?

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 13

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

NORMAL PEOPLE

A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

more