A memorable, gratifying glimpse into the life of a romantic restaurateur.

The Broken Heart Diet

With paranormal elements, Formaro’s (co-author Alfonso, the Christmas Pumpkin, 2009) debut romance is told from the unusual point of view of the spurned male.

Dante Palermo is on top of the world. Vacationing in Las Vegas, he’s about to propose to his girlfriend, Abby, in the town where they met. When they return to San Francisco, he’ll sign the papers to open his first restaurant in North Beach. But things don’t go as planned. First, Abby breaks up with him before he can pop the question. Then, after returning brokenhearted to San Francisco, he learns that his prospective business partner has fled the country ahead of investigations by the FBI. With the help of friends Bird, Charly, business partner John Sierra and whiskey, Dante stays afloat—just barely. His new restaurant, Pane Rubato, hovers on the brink of success, seemingly sabotaged by John’s now-widow and his own ennui. For every step forward, Dante takes two back. His true savior turns out to be his beloved grandmother Nonna Isabella. She may have died years ago, but her ghost still pays him late night visits when his despair overwhelms him. Her counsel, cooking and assurances that he can now cure broken hearts not only bring him success but help him discover his true love. Dante’s vulnerability will make readers ache for him, although there are instances when his boneheaded behavior incites a different response. The unique point of view elevates this novel; many readers of romance will be accustomed to cursing the male character, not sympathizing with him. However, the novel is far more than a romance, as it chronicles Dante’s business struggles and the meteoric rise that feels empty to him. Formaro emphasizes the value of family and true friendship (as well as the devotion of a good dog) in healing a broken heart. The only times the novel falters are in its moments of slapstick; the climactic scene in Rome also suffers from the ridiculous scheming of Dante and his relatives to arrange a meeting with what could be true love.

A memorable, gratifying glimpse into the life of a romantic restaurateur.

Pub Date: June 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0984259311

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Tramonto Press

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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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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