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Nerdy Special List September 2015

September 2, 2015 – 10:14 pm | 25 Comments

Happy September! Even though fall in L.A. looks the same as summer, I always welcome it because it’s a good season for books and marks the start of TV and movie awards season. From now until …

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Books & writing »

Book Review: MOVIE STAR BY LIZZIE PEPPER by Hilary Liftin

August 31, 2015 – 8:11 pm | 6 Comments

movie star lizzie pepperMovie Star by Lizzie Pepper is not actually by Lizzie Pepper, who’s a fictional celebrity, but by Hilary Liftin, a ghostwriter who has collaborated on bestselling celebrity memoirs. But Movie Star is a novel. Confused yet?

The concept is that this book is a fake memoir by Lizzie, cowritten by the very real Liftin. Lizzie is a young famous actress swept up in a whirlwind romance with a much more famous actor and in all the ensuing paparazzi hullabaloo.

Life seems perfect, with the private jets and multiple mansions and public declarations of love from her man and the elaborate wedding—until Lizzie realizes everything might be too perfect.

Lizzie and Rob Mars, her superstar husband, never fight, and she can’t seem to penetrate his unflappable surface. And oh, yeah, there’s that mysterious, cultish organization he’s dedicated to.

This is a thinly disguised roman à clef of the Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes story, so most readers probably know how it begins, quickly escalates, and how it ends. But we don’t know what happened in the middle parts of this fairy tale gone wrong, and Liftin provides a fictional account here, a very readable one.

The author humanizes the movie stars, people who often seem too glossy to be real. Lizzie is no dummy and she’s grounded, but Rob’s courtship is very heady, and I could understand how she allows herself to get drawn into his world so fast she doesn’t realize what’s happening until she’s imprisoned by it.

Though Rob remains a cypher, even to Lizzie, Liftin portrays him sympathetically, not as a nut case, as many tend to label Cruise. Rob’s behaviors and beliefs stem from his conviction that he’s doing the best thing for himself and those around him, that he must always be the hero, offscreen as well as on. Sometimes, though, Lizzie just wants him to get angry, fart, be human.

Liftin also doesn’t vilify One Cell Studio, the organization to which Rob belongs and devotes much of his time. While some higher-ups at the studio do behave atrociously and are definitely creepy, not all members are that way, and the practices don’t seem as alien as some Scientology exercises are rumored to be.

In a Twitter culture with the masses instantly slapping unflattering labels on things and people they don’t understand, Liftin offers a different perspective on very public figures, perhaps asking that readers be less hasty to judge, and to appreciate our ordinary, human lives.

Amazon | IndieBound

Shock vs. Sensitivity

August 26, 2015 – 9:30 pm | 7 Comments
Alison-and-Adam

Like most people, I was shocked by the on-air shooting of WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward. As I tried to learn more about what happened after first seeing only a tweet about the …

Book Review: WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER by Carla Norton

August 16, 2015 – 9:43 pm | One Comment
what doesnt kill her

It’s been seven years since Reeve LeClaire, the heroine in Carla Norton’s What Doesn’t Kill Her, was rescued after being held prisoner as a teen by Daryl Wayne Flint, who’s serving time at a psychiatric …

Book Review: HOSTILE TAKEOVER by Shane Kuhn

July 19, 2015 – 5:49 pm | 6 Comments
hostile takeover

Shane Kuhn shot onto the crime fiction scene last year with The Intern’s Handbook (movie rights were snapped up), and now his assassin John Lago is back in Hostile Takeover with more explosive action.
At the …

Nerdy Special List July 2015

July 2, 2015 – 12:08 am | 10 Comments
signal

We have a long weekend ahead! Hope you have fun plans for the Fourth of July, if you celebrate it. After a rough week, I hope to commence Operation Couch Potato.
This month, I’m very excited …

Movie Review: INSIDE OUT

June 21, 2015 – 5:45 pm | 4 Comments
Disney•Pixar's "Inside Out" takes us to the most extraordinary location yet - inside the mind of Riley. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions - Anger (voiced by Lewis Black), Disgust (voiced by Mindy Kaling), Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), Fear (voiced by Bill Hader) and Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith). The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley's mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. Directed by Pete Docter and produced by Jonas Rivera, "Inside Out" is in theaters June 19, 2015.

I’m going to start this review by saying if you haven’t seen Inside Out and have any reservations about seeing it, thinking it’s only for kids or girls or whatever, just throw those doubts out …

Book Review: DISCLAIMER by Renée Knight

June 18, 2015 – 6:14 pm | 4 Comments

Imagine reading a thriller and suddenly realizing the much-hated main character is you. And the disclaimer about resemblances to real people being coincidental has been crossed out. This is the premise of first-time novelist Renée …

Guest Book Review: PARADISE SKY by Joe R. Lansdale

June 14, 2015 – 9:35 pm | One Comment

When a copy of this novel first appeared on my doorstep, Mr. PCN, being a big Joe R. Lansdale fan, immediately snatched it up and claimed it for himself. After he tore through it in about two blinks, …

Nerdy Special List June 2015

June 4, 2015 – 7:59 pm | 4 Comments
little paris bookshop

Summer starts in June, so I’m looking forward to more time for pleasure reading. Oh, who am I kidding? I’m self-employed and make myself work every day.
But for those who do get to take summer vacations, here are …

May 2015 Pop Culture Consumption

June 3, 2015 – 9:08 pm | 5 Comments
schumer

While I didn’t review everything I read and watched last month, I consumed a lot of pop culture. Much of it was unexceptional, but there were a couple of gems. I’ll write more about some of these in …

Big Bear Adventure

May 25, 2015 – 6:11 pm | 7 Comments
IMG_2021

Since we had a long weekend, Mr. PCN and I decided to run away from civilization and the noisy neighbors with their chainsaws and leaf blowers and constantly barking dogs.
We rented a cabin in the mountains near Big …

Guest Book Review: HOLD STILL by Sally Mann

May 17, 2015 – 10:57 pm | 2 Comments
Photo by Liz Liguori

This review is by contributor Thuy Dinh, editor of Da Mau Magazine.
The cover photograph of Sally Mann’s memoir, Hold Still, shows the author as a prepubescent tomboy, airborne against a gray expanse of sky. She …

When Is a Spoiler a Spoiler?

May 14, 2015 – 10:47 pm | 12 Comments
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I had two extremely annoying reading experiences recently and it brought to mind a question I’ve had for a while so I thought I’d seek outside opinions.
Here’s what happened, with two books in a row. I was reading …