A sometimes-haphazard tale but one with insightful moments.




Plaster (News, 2016, etc.) presents a comical novel concerning a lost film of Marilyn Monroe.

Henrietta is a struggling entertainment reporter in Oklahoma City, or “OKC,” as it’s often referred to in the text. The city may not seem like a hotbed of show-business activity, but a peculiar set of circumstances is destined to turn it into one. A down-on-his-luck producer/director named Deano DeBoffo happens to be stranded in town, where he was trying find backers for his own film, when the opportunity arises to make a movie about screen legend Monroe. A Hollywood agent/screenwriter in OKC named Marty Lowry claims to be in possession of a reel of 16-millimeter film, a little over three minutes long, that shows Monroe engaging in a sex act. Lowry’s idea is a simple one: he wants Deano to create a short docudrama around the footage and shoot scenes on the cheap in OKC using nothing but local talent. As luck would have it, the city happens to be home to a phenomenal Monroe impersonator—recently laid-off high school drama teacher Jim Bob Sherill. Jim Bob has dreams of becoming an actor; indeed, he’s so skilled at portraying Monroe that those who hire him seem to be unaware that he isn’t a woman. Meanwhile, other teachers are marching on the Oklahoma state capitol in protest of low wages and cuts to school arts program funding. As the teachers protest, the legislature considers incentives to lure other filmmakers to Oklahoma—and soon, the worlds of LA entertainment and OKC politics collide. The setup is indeed absurd, but as the novel goes on, it delves into some surprising subjects, including conspiracies surrounding Monroe’s death, the merits of the films of Edward D. Wood Jr., and details of method acting. Along the way, the reader learns, for instance, that Jacqueline Kennedy, of all people, said in 1962 that Monroe “will go on eternally.” Insights such as these give an unexpected weight to the fantastical characters and situations throughout. By contrast, when the book tackles more mundane subjects, it’s not quite as illuminating. The inclusion of angry teachers into the mix, for instance, doesn’t add very much to the drama, outside of a great deal of singing (Don McLean’s 1971 song “American Pie” makes more than one appearance) and the belabored idea that politicians aren’t very smart. At one point, for instance, the latter realize that that they can’t cut down too much on school funding—after all, having kids in the classroom is better than “having kids on the streets five days a week,” which “would sure enough spell trouble.” Indeed, the political aspects of the novel will likely test the reader’s patience, as the much more pressing issue is the creation of the docudrama and all the insanity that arises from it. The focus on Monroe’s life—and why she’s remembered so fondly, even today—proves to be much more intriguing than a fight for public school dance and theater productions.

A sometimes-haphazard tale but one with insightful moments.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9994185-0-5

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Mossik Press

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2018

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.


A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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