Chick-lit fantasy at its most textbook, with a predictable but fun Hollywood plot.

Drop-Dead Gorgeous

A woman raised to believe that she’s an ugly duckling gets a life-changing makeover in this tale of beauty, both inside and out.

In this debut novel, Celeste McCawley is less than average. With her best friend, Trish, she’s bullied at school, teased mercilessly about her weight, and deeply unhappy. Even when Celeste enters the adult world, her woes only lessen somewhat. Her boyfriend, Matt, is moving away but hasn’t proposed, nor even said that he loves her. When Trish tricks Celeste into going to a live taping of a talk show, she winds up being one of the makeover contestants, and not just any contestant. Her transformation attracts the interest of producers, talent managers, and, of course, Matt. Buoyant with her new looks, she breaks up with Matt and tries to confront her father, who left her family long ago. A trip to Hollywood brings about more “Cinderella” fortunes: she meets Andy, a handsome helicopter operator. Andy woos Celeste while she’s swept up in a training program that’s part charm school, part talent agency. She aces every task and job she’s given while falling in love with Andy. But when an encounter with the paparazzi brings out Andy’s temper, his troubled past is revealed. Celeste will have to decide how to use her beauty, and her new power, to do what’s best for her and for those she loves. There’s terrific fantasy in Celeste’s story, from expensive perfume and fancy clothes to spa treatments, luxury hotels, and famous restaurants with breathtaking ocean views. The immediate flurry of characters is hard to keep up with, but the plot finds its way once Celeste undergoes her metamorphosis and embraces her new life in Hollywood (“She truly feels like royalty” in the midst of “lavish luxury, the world at her feet”). Description is not the novel’s strong suit: a passionate night with Andy includes the line “She feels a great satisfaction.” Topaz introduces a spiritual component toward the end of the tale, which tries to show personal growth beyond glamour, with mixed results.

Chick-lit fantasy at its most textbook, with a predictable but fun Hollywood plot.

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-919719-11-8

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Cube Tech

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2016

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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