Despite some drawbacks, an insightful story that will appeal to readers nostalgic for the 1970s.

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DAISY JONES & THE SIX

What ever happened to Daisy Jones and The Six, the iconic 1970s rock band that topped the charts and sold out stadiums? It’s always been a mystery why the musicians suddenly disbanded.

Reid (The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, 2017, etc.) takes an unusual approach to dissecting the breakup of the fictional rock band by offering a narrative composed solely of transcribed interviews. At the center of the documentary-style novel is the relationship between lead singer Billy Dunne, recovering addict and aspiring family man, and sexy bad girl Daisy Jones, whose soulful voice and complex lyrics turn out to have been the missing ingredient The Six needed. When Daisy joins the band, the group catapults to fame, but not without cost. She refuses to simply fall in line and let Billy make the artistic decisions. In doing this, not only does she infuriate the band leader, she also sets an example for other members who are only too happy to start voicing their own demands. Over time the tension between Billy and Daisy grows increasingly more complicated, threatening to take its toll on Billy’s home life. He is fiercely loyal to his wife, Camila, while also being fully cognizant of his weaknesses—a torturous combination for Billy. Other band members have their own embroilments, and Daisy’s bestie, disco diva Simone Jackson, enhances the cast, but the crux of the story is about how the addition of Daisy to The Six forever changes the chemistry of the band, for better and worse. There is great buildup around answering the big question of what happened at their final concert together, though the revelation is a letdown. Further, the documentary-style writing detracts from the storytelling; it often feels gimmicky, as though the author is trying too hard for a fresh and clever approach. This is a shame because her past novels, traditionally told, have been far more engaging.

Despite some drawbacks, an insightful story that will appeal to readers nostalgic for the 1970s.

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-9862-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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An exuberant comic opera set to the music of life.

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DEACON KING KONG

The versatile and accomplished McBride (Five Carat Soul, 2017, etc.) returns with a dark urban farce crowded with misjudged signals, crippling sorrows, and unexpected epiphanies.

It's September 1969, just after Apollo 11 and Woodstock. In a season of such events, it’s just as improbable that in front of 16 witnesses occupying the crowded plaza of a Brooklyn housing project one afternoon, a hobbling, dyspeptic, and boozy old church deacon named Cuffy Jasper "Sportcoat" Lambkin should pull out a .45-caliber Luger pistol and shoot off an ear belonging to the neighborhood’s most dangerous drug dealer. The 19-year-old victim’s name is Deems Clemens, and Sportcoat had coached him to be “the best baseball player the projects had ever seen” before he became “a poison-selling murderous meathead.” Everybody in the project presumes that Sportcoat is now destined to violently join his late wife, Hettie, in the great beyond. But all kinds of seemingly disconnected people keep getting in destiny's way, whether it’s Sportcoat’s friend Pork Sausage or Potts, a world-weary but scrupulous white policeman who’s hoping to find Sportcoat fast enough to protect him from not only Deems’ vengeance, but the malevolent designs of neighborhood kingpin Butch Moon. All their destines are somehow intertwined with those of Thomas “The Elephant” Elefante, a powerful but lonely Mafia don who’s got one eye trained on the chaos set off by the shooting and another on a mysterious quest set in motion by a stranger from his crime-boss father’s past. There are also an assortment of salsa musicians, a gentle Nation of Islam convert named Soup, and even a tribe of voracious red ants that somehow immigrated to the neighborhood from Colombia and hung around for generations, all of which seems like too much stuff for any one book to handle. But as he's already shown in The Good Lord Bird (2013), McBride has a flair for fashioning comedy whose buoyant outrageousness barely conceals both a steely command of big and small narrative elements and a river-deep supply of humane intelligence.

An exuberant comic opera set to the music of life.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1672-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her...

BEFORE WE WERE YOURS

Avery Stafford, a lawyer, descendant of two prominent Southern families and daughter of a distinguished senator, discovers a family secret that alters her perspective on heritage.

Wingate (Sisters, 2016, etc.) shifts the story in her latest novel between present and past as Avery uncovers evidence that her Grandma Judy was a victim of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and is related to a woman Avery and her father meet when he visits a nursing home. Although Avery is living at home to help her parents through her father’s cancer treatment, she is also being groomed for her own political career. Readers learn that investigating her family’s past is not part of Avery's scripted existence, but Wingate's attempts to make her seem torn about this are never fully developed, and descriptions of her chemistry with a man she meets as she's searching are also unconvincing. Sections describing the real-life orphanage director Georgia Tann, who stole poor children, mistreated them, and placed them for adoption with wealthy clients—including Joan Crawford and June Allyson—are more vivid, as are passages about Grandma Judy and her siblings. Wingate’s fans and readers who enjoy family dramas will find enough to entertain them, and book clubs may enjoy dissecting the relationship and historical issues in the book.

Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her fictional characters' lives.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-425-28468-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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