A feel-good romantic comedy with a resilient heroine.

SYLVIE WRITES A ROMANCE

If she’s ever going to write her romance novel, Sylvie Jacobsen concludes that she will need to get in touch with her wild side.

Would-be romance author Sylvie has just come to a disheartening realization: “Oh my god, I’m a prude.” In the spirit of research, the accountant by day and writer by night signs up for an online dating site, seeking a few steamy rendezvous to chip away at her writer’s block. The profiles that the heroine sifts through are painfully familiar, from AceLover, a gym rat who “was almost handsome but wore a soul patch, which made him look like a douchebag,” to Giz.Allday, whose opening line reads “Those shoes are HAWT lets hang out.” With options like these, Sylvie’s dates are nothing short of disastrous, ranging from the lackluster to the outrageous. Despite her efforts to become a better catch—she invests in new beauty products, totters around in high heels, and even pages through a few naughty magazines—she has no luck. From an awkward sunset picnic fraught with small talk to a promising workout date that ends in embarrassment, each one is a zero. Sylvie starts to lose hope. Her last resort is the hot construction worker whom she has spotted at a local bank—the tellers have promised to pass along her business card. Though the plot relies on a familiar conceit, Burovac’s (Wandering, 2014) strength is in executing physical comedy. Sylvie frequently slips into sexy daydreams, coming to with a literal bang, crash, or spill. Several chapters end on a slapstick note, as when one potential suitor flees a restaurant after Sylvie gets her ring stuck while twirling her hair and smears handwritten notes about her date across her face. While she tends to be self-critical and insecure, it’s lovely to watch her bloom. The novel is set in Hawaii, and Sylvie comes alive during ocean swims and a cruise along the mountainous coast. There’s also a particularly sweet moment when she embraces her sexuality (“she relaxed more as she looked at herself in the mirror, her eyes roving over every part of her body as if she had never seen herself before”). While readers looking for hot and heavy love scenes may be disappointed, as this story falls safely in PG-13 territory, hopeless romantics should be satisfied by the fairy-tale ending.

A feel-good romantic comedy with a resilient heroine. 

Pub Date: July 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9903820-2-7

Page Count: 182

Publisher: Wanderers Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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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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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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