A loving, if uneven, tribute to an era that may resonate with readers who wish to return to its heady, idealistic days.



Gould (Let's Play Ball, 2010, etc.) tells the story of three young women caught up in the turbulent rock-music scene of the late 1960s.

Candy Collins, Hope Witmer, and Theda Brooks are high school students in suburban Maryland who witness the beginnings of a student rock band called Homegrown. Preston Andrews, the brash leader, plays guitar; the more reserved Neal McNab plays electric piano; and football player Brad Callahan plays drums before he’s replaced by Clive O’Dell. After the band receives an invitation from Apple Studios to audition, the girls accompany them to London. Shy, bookish Candy sees the trip as a chance to get closer to Preston, while Hope and Theda see it as an adventure with their boyfriends, Neal and Clive. Apple Studios is in disarray, but the band plays backup there for a famous folk singer, Ty Leahy, morphing his acoustic sound into something more electric; the girls also finally get a chance to help with the songs. The band renames itself AMO and opens a show for the darker, edgier band JPJ. After disaster ensues, they flee to Clive’s cousin’s commune in northern Scotland. The cousin, Father Flanagan, is a radical, pacifist priest who engages their spiritual sides. He officiates the couples’ marriages before the band tries to make it big in Los Angeles, where they connect with “Pretty Boy” Floyd Worth, a radical UCLA professor who’s also the promoter of a big music festival. Gould mostly does a fine job of keeping the plot fast-paced and engaging, with plenty of plot twists along the way. However, the characters could have been more fully developed and given more complex motivations. The prose is very dialogue-heavy, which sometimes bogs down the story. Era-specific details provide nice touches, but Gould’s descriptions often don’t give readers a clear sense of place, despite the diversity of locales. The reverence that the characters all have for music, however, is infectious, and it will likely be enough to keep most readers engaged with this novel until its end.

A loving, if uneven, tribute to an era that may resonate with readers who wish to return to its heady, idealistic days.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4917-4543-4

Page Count: 290

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2017

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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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