A wonderful, quick-witted alternative to the typical romance novel.

GIVING GOOD HOLLYWOOD

The Devil Wears Prada meets My Hollywood in this witty Hollywood romance.

Newly divorced, 40-something Natalie Saladay leaves her steady, safe existence in San Francisco and returns to Los Angeles after nearly 20 years, in search of opportunity and a little excitement. Although L.A. is ripe with possibility, it’s also full of ghosts from Natalie’s past—most notably Benny Gallo, a charismatic movie producer and Natalie’s former lover. She hopes to avoid him like the plague, but that becomes extremely difficult as Natalie has taken up her former job as a studio reader, wading through scripts and books in search of that perfect movie, at the very studio where Benny runs a division. Natalie also butts heads with Mona Pearl, her much younger, beautiful, extremely career-driven boss, who is in search of the next multimillion-dollar blockbuster and not the character-driven scripts that Natalie supports. Conflicted about her feelings for Benny—is he the one that got away or the one that she should continue to run away from?—and his motivation for going after her, Natalie can’t put off Benny’s magnetism for long and reignites a relationship with him. She soon convinces Benny to produce American Vintage, a smart, character-focused picture that Mona passes over in order to make a big budget, action-packed movie. As each movie is rushed along in order to be screened for audiences, Mona and Natalie’s rivalry intensifies to the point that it strains Natalie’s relationship with Benny, leading her to question whether or not she is risking too much for the sake of American Vintage and proving Mona wrong. Despite a few instances of heavy-handed prose and some narrative threads that tie together too tidily, Culler has crafted a smart novel that offers an unexpected look into the world of movie story readers and the Hollywood film industry in general. The characters are sharp, playful and entertaining without falling into typical Hollywood caricature; the plot contains just the right amount and variety of conflicts to keep the reader invested; and the overall story moves forward at a nice clip through a series of deceptively short chapters that leave the reader craving just one more bite.

A wonderful, quick-witted alternative to the typical romance novel.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-1456425388

Page Count: 353

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2011

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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