Category Archives: Uncategorized

JUNO. The Screenplay.

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UnknownHere’s what I’ve been reading lately: Screenplays. I have been lucky enough to be a script analyst here in Los Angeles for years. But I’ve never actually written one until now. So, I’ve been reading the scripts of my favorite movies. Juno is the best of the best. When a script is this good, it’s a thing of beauty. Every single word in a script needs to matter – and by that I mean every single word needs to propel the story forward. Screenplays are deceptive. They look easy to write. They are anything but. Unlike novels, which can go off into tangents of humor or history or even a certain mood, screenplays must adhere to a strict page number (100-120 max). And a great screenwriter like Diablo Cody, who won an Academy Award for Juno, knows how to take these limitations and use them to her advantage. Give it a read. This is a masterpiece.

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Beginner’s Luck by Laura Pederson

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I would never have known about this book had a friend not sent it me in the mail and demanded that I read it. It is a pure delight.

Laura Pederson, like (YA God) John Greene, showers us with crossword puzzle-y facts that you never knew you really ought to know. Culture, cooking, antiques, literature, religion, and poker are just a few topics you will suddenly become strangely articulate in. And (oh yeah) it’s a beautiful coming-of-age story as well.

Hallie is a charming character, endearing in her struggles to be taken seriously in poker, and heroic in her fight to be allowed to live free from her parents who have proved to be increasingly too busy to notice her. This is a daring journey that Hallie takes on, and we are so glad she does. I wish more people knew about this book, this is one that deserves a U-Turn in time and marketing. If you love quirky YA fiction, here it is.

Occupado no more

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Hello! I’ve been gone from this blog for quite some time now. Have you missed me? I’ve missed writing reviews and getting feedback from you. But I have returned to the review world. I had a script to write and a book to rewrite and an indie award to judge and a handful of articles to deliver, and now I have a new publisher for my first novel. So, really, I have been occupado. Here is an article I wrote for the San Francisco Book Review as an alibi.

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I have a few new reviews to post. Great books, one of which will be a film soon. So, as those crazy French people say: Je reviens tout a l’heure. 

Review: My Korean Deli: Risking It All for a Convenience Store by Ben Ryder Howe

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I’ve never thought about what it might be like to own a convenient store in Manhattan. Me? I just want to get in and out of there as quickly as possible. Without getting shot. Or leered at. So this book was an important read. Turns out, owning a convenient store is hard and stressful and risky. Who knew lottery tickets could single-handedly keep a store alive? Or those gruff delivery men could wield so much power?

The most entertaining part of this book is the author’s dealings with his in-laws. Howe’s recounts of living in the basement of his in-law’s house is a perfect mixture of hilarious and pathetic. He is ever respectful, however, regardless of the strain his in-laws place on his marriage – and this makes his readers love him even more. Plus, he works for George Plimpton at The Paris Review and generously offers up the inside skinny on this eclectic and privileged man.

The book might be a little bit longer than it needed to be, but don’t let that deter you. It’s still a great, fun read.

Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality

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Forget The Bible, this is the book that should be in every drawer of ever bedside table in every hotel room. Heads in Beds by Jacob Tomsky is just about the most horrifying (in a good way) book I’ve ever read. I had no idea that doing the “crinkly handshake” could get you a better room.  Or scarfing down the entire mini-bar just before demanding a room change (too smoky, too loud, too pink, whatever) would get you free grub. And more sadly, I was not aware of just how many housekeepers/heads of housekeeping may have had sex in my room just minutes before my initial entry.

And then there’s the dialogue.

“Imma take these five twenties and get myself a bobo.” (Pg. um, well location 2033).

You might not know what “bobo” means, but I do and I’m never calling a hundred dollar bill anything else. I’m also never not using a doorman. You’d be smarter to defriend someone on Facebook. No bag you say? Let him carry your iPhone. Your kid. Anything. But use him. Give him the crinkly handshake and your every wish will be his command. Unless he simply doesn’t like you (you screamed at your kid, cut a little old lady in line – they see it all) and then you’re pretty much doomed and housekeeping might very well do something unsanitary to your toothbrush.

Not only will this book make you laugh, it will make you smarter. Let the other yahoos suffer the consequences of calling the Front by their first name at check-in. And try not to break into chokes of laughter while watching that guy march up to the desk, throw down a Ziploc bag with a small black dot in it (raisin?), and try to swindle a bed bug room rate. Do, however, record it. And put it on YouTube.

Were it merely fiction, this book might not be one of the most entertaining books to grace my kindle. But being a memoir, it is. And the author didn’t even have to slide me a baby brick to say that.

Review: Klonopin Lunch

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From the beginning, this author does a very smart thing. Before the reader has a chance to condemn her for her behavior, she takes care of that herself. Never defensive about her poor choices, Jones instead makes it very clear that her biggest critic is herself, which immediately takes her readers off the hook. We don’t have to decide whether we like her or not, because she’s already told us that we don’t. And this gives us the freedom to read her story without judgment. (Almost.)

The author’s exploits are wild, dangerous, sometimes hilarious, and always expertly told. Jones is a master with words, able to at once use some pretty big language while keeping her writing conversational. Which makes us wonder: How can this well-educated and articulate person keep company with such low-lives? It isn’t drug addiction, because Jones never gets to that point. So what is it? The initial answer is good sex, but the ultimate one is the freedom to fail. Successful, responsible, and miserable, the author’s path to finding herself is to lose herself first and start from there.

This may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and it does seem incredible that her husband allows her this very long leash without once confronting her, but this is a memoir so we have to take it at face value. Cup of tea or not, however, there is no arguing the fact that Jones is a very very good writer. She could probably spin a list of ingredients into a good read.

The Fault In Our Stars

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If you’ve ever read Eckart Tolle’s book, A New Earth, you may better understand why I’m about to compare it to John Green’s magnificent The Fault in Our Stars. The idea behind Tolle’s spiritual self-help book is that who you are, right now, is good enough for the Universe. And if there’s not enough religion in that statement for you, “Universe” can be exchanged for whatever religious figure you choose. The point is: while we may all want a little (or a lot) of fame and fortune, the Universe doesn’t much care. In fact, the only thing the Universe requires of you is to accept the present moment as it is.

Enter Hazel.

Hazel, the protagonist with stage IV thyroid cancer in Green’s latest book, embodies this principal. Brutally aware that she has limited time, the only thing Hazel really wants at this point is not to break her parent’s hearts.

But things change when she meets Augustus.

Augustus, a cancer patient as well, wants more than to accept the present moment as it is. He wants to leave a legacy. And why shouldn’t he want that? The average person would. Hazel, however, is far from average.

Green’s writing is pitch perfect. His lightning quick dialogue is simply fun to read. But the best part of the novel is Hazel, who is not just sweet and down-to-earth and protective, she does what most of us can’t: she dares to be unimportant. Perhaps that’s the definition of a true hero.