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SOME NERVE

A breezy, if implausible, love story.

Hollywood celebrity journalist loses her job but finds herself when she returns to her hometown and becomes a hospital volunteer.

After being accused by her editor of lacking the killer instinct necessary to land a story, Famous magazine writer Ann Roth pulls out all the stops to land the ultimate “get”: an interview with talented but surly A-list actor Malcolm Goddard. Her plan backfires when Malcolm, who despises the press, finally agrees to the interview on the condition that phobic Ann conduct it while riding with him in his private plane, which he will pilot. Unable to do the Q&A, she is promptly fired. Returning to Middletown, Mo., Ann intends to lie low while plotting her way back to Hollywood. Then a chance meeting with a high-school classmate reveals that Malcolm is scheduled for heart treatment under an assumed name in, of all places, her local hospital. To get another shot at the actor she blames for wrecking her career, Ann becomes a candy-striper. She gives out magazines, befriends her sick charges and slowly starts to realize that, hey, it feels good to help people! She also gets close to Malcolm, who has no idea who she is. She discovers that the handsome movie star with the Russell Crowe–sized chip on his shoulder is, deep down, a nice guy with a few trust issues. Malcolm, for his part, believes he has met a sweet, unaffected Midwestern girl who will love him for himself. It’s a given that they fall for each other, leaving Ann to decide between her big story and true romance. The far-trickier issue in Heller’s latest Cinderella story (An Ex to Grind, 2005, etc.) is how on earth Ann will reveal her deception to the man she cares about before he finds out on his own. Flawed heroines are a mainstay of this genre, but clueless Ann is often more annoying than endearing.

A breezy, if implausible, love story.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-059927-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2006

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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