An engaging tale about single fatherhood and a new love hampered by an underdeveloped plot.

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SOFIA

A successful Hollywood screenwriter’s attempt at dating becomes complicated by his profoundly spoiled daughter in this novel.

Eighteen long years have passed since Joe has had a date. The single father has been raising his daughter, Sofia, while nurturing a career as a top-dollar screenwriter. He has settled into a life of writing movie scripts, enjoying pizza and beer, and doting on his skittish, overindulged child. But success leaves a lot to be desired. Sofia was an awful teenager who was so disrespectful to her Bronx grandparents that they became estranged from her. She has moved out, and Joe is giving her money to support herself and take acting classes. Worryingly, Joe has some swollen lymph nodes, so he visits his doctor, fearing the worst. But there is a positive side to the incident, as Joe meets a striking nurse named Jennifer, a bright and charming transplant from Kentucky (“I couldn’t believe that this goddess, whose figure could re-energize a corpse, would be escorting me to radiology”). As the two go out for half-price margaritas, the ice age that is Joe’s love life begins to thaw. He is impressed with her career specializing in pediatric oncology, her thrift, and her authenticity. The two quickly fall in love, but there are soon problems with Sofia, who does not react well to Jennifer. Undaunted, Jennifer assures Joe that she can get his daughter back to her old self. As Joe suspects Sofia may be struggling with something more serious than just being self-centered, he asks her to move back home. At the same time, Jennifer moves in. The three quickly develop a new pattern, which could leave Joe sitting on the sidelines. Sciuto’s (Per Verse Vengeance, 2018, etc.) entertaining novel has a perfectly sympathetic protagonist whose relatively small Studio City world revolves around secure, familiar patterns that give Joe a comfortable but incomplete life. It’s a lighthearted tale in some ways, with playfulness and wit in good supply, but the addition of a pediatric oncology nurse gives the story added depth. While the narrative moves quickly, the lack of a clear central conflict becomes problematic. The characters’ lifestyle changes happen fairly early on, and the almost flat story arc makes the ending point seem randomly chosen.

An engaging tale about single fatherhood and a new love hampered by an underdeveloped plot.

Pub Date: June 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77180-352-6

Page Count: 254

Publisher: Iguana Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2019

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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