The book's portrayal of Pandy feels both self-congratulatory and unintentionally unpleasant, the hostility toward male...

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KILLING MONICA

Bushnell (One Fifth Avenue, 2008, etc.) is still playing her Sex and the City riffs in this self-referential sort-of satire about an author whose insanely popular fictional creation has taken over her life.

PJ “Pandy” Wallis created her fictional alter ego, Monica—think Carrie Bradshaw on steroids—in four bestselling novels and the movies that followed. The problem is that her newest book is not about Monica. It’s about Pandy’s ancestor Lady Wallis Wallis, who arrived in America in 1775—and, according to Pandy’s agent and suspiciously intimate confidant, Henry, historical fiction is a hard sell, so her editor has turned it down. As Pandy ponders whether to give in and write another Monica book, she relives her career. Along the way she became best friends with the actress who played Monica on screen, SondraBeth Schnowzer. During their days of wild, often drunken gal-pal escapades, they called themselves PandaBeth. Their friendship, which has an unexplored homoerotic undertone, ended when hot actor Doug Stone slept with both of them. Despite the gaggle of indistinguishable friends surrounding her now, Pandy still misses SondraBeth. The last time they spoke, SondraBeth warned Pandy that her husband-to-be, celebrity chef/restaurateur Jonny Balaga, was not a nice man. SondraBeth was right. Jonny went through Pandy’s money and cheated on her. What’s worse, he couldn’t swim, liked contemporary furniture, and didn’t properly appreciate the pedigree of Pandy’s Connecticut family estate. She’s now divorcing him, but the settlement requires her to fork over the $1 million advance on her newest book. Without a book contract there won’t be an advance, and Pandy worries what Jonny will go after instead—possibly the rights to Monica herself. But how separate is Monica’s identity from jet-setting Pandy’s? Or Bushnell's, readers may wonder?

The book's portrayal of Pandy feels both self-congratulatory and unintentionally unpleasant, the hostility toward male characters is virulent—the only good male in the book may not be one—and the sense of humor is nil.

Pub Date: June 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-446-55790-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

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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THE GIVER OF STARS

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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