Book Review: Waiting For Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey

Between The Covers is a regular feature of Pop! Goes The Reader in which I review and feature novels in the adult romance genre.

Title Waiting For Tom Hanks
Author Kerry Winfrey
Publication Date June 11th 2019 by Berkley
Pages 288 Pages
Intended Target Audience Adult
Genre Contemporary Romance
Part of a Series? No
Source & Format Purchased, Paperback
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

A rom-com-obsessed romantic waiting for her perfect leading man learns that life doesn’t always go according to a script in this delightfully charming and funny novel.

Annie Cassidy dreams of being the next Nora Ephron. She spends her days writing screenplays, rewatching Sleepless In Seattle, and waiting for her movie-perfect meet-cute. If she could just find her own Tom Hanks — a man who’s sweet, sensitive, and possibly owns a houseboat — her problems would disappear and her life would be perfect. But Tom Hanks is nowhere in sight.

When a movie starts filming in her neighborhood and Annie gets a job on set, it seems like a sign. Then Annie meets the lead actor, Drew Danforth, a cocky prankster who couldn’t be less like Tom Hanks if he tried. Their meet-cute is more of a meet-fail, but soon Annie finds herself sharing some classic rom-com moments with Drew. Her Tom Hanks can’t be an actor who’s leaving town in a matter of days…can he?

“I’m starting to think that the movies I’ve dedicated my life to may have lied to me. Nora Ephron herself may have indirectly lied to me. Tom Hanks, as much as I’ve trusted him, may have lied to me.

Because I have it all: The sympathetic backstory, the montage of humiliations minor and major, unrealized career aspirations, the untamed pre-makeover hair. But still I wait. Single, lonely, Hanks-less.”

Twenty-seven-year-old Annie Cassidy has spent her life waiting to meet her Tom Hanks. Not the real man, of course, though he seems perfectly lovely, if a little too old for her. No, Annie is searching for the Tom Hanks she fell in love with in the movies – The man who promised Meg Ryan bouquets of sharpened pencils in You’ve Got Mail and spoke lovingly of his deceased wife as the world listened on in Sleepless In Seattle. Having been raised watching When Harry Met Sally, While You Were Sleeping, Pillow Talk and more, for Annie, Tom Hanks is a less of a person, and more of an ideal; the eventual promise of a quirky, unconventional love story complete with a meet-cute and a happily ever after with the charming, non-threatening boy next door who loves her unconditionally (and who preferably owns a houseboat). Unfortunately, while she notes that she does have the ‘sympathetic backstory’ of a typical heroine, having lost both her parents at a relatively young age, Annie’s life is anything but what dreams – or romantic comedies – are made of. Annie is a freelance writer who supports herself penning articles on subjects like at-home hemmorrhoid relief and how best to freshen up one’s diaper pail, but dreams of one day writing and working on the movies that have fundamentally shaped her life. When a big-budget romantic comedy arrives to film in her neighbourhood in Ohio, and Annie secures a position as the director’s assistant, Annie and her best friend, Chloe, become convinced that this is the opportunity Annie’s romance-loving heart has been waiting for to make her dreams come true, even if it means dealing with the teasing attentions of the movie’s star, Hollywood hearththrob Drew Danforth. Waiting For Tom Hanks is a sweet, candy-coated love story that fans of the romantic comedy will be sure to appreciate.

Romantic comedies are an integral part of Annie’s life, having been both a source of hope and comfort when she needed it most, and one of the few ways she’s able to remain connected to her mother, who shared Annie’s love of the genre. Despite this, however, Annie is eventually forced to question whether her quest for a Nora Ephron-worthy love story has been as harmful as it has been helpful. While her mom taught her that a deep and abiding love was possible and even attainable, Annie seems to have difficulty truly believing she is worthy of this, despite her protestations to the contrary. For example, Annie’s insecurities cause her to initially distrust Drew’s true intentions; After all, as an actor, isn’t he paid to be charismatic and make people fall in love with him? Annie’s obsession with and reliance on romantic comedies also causes her to act as a bystander in her own life, never challenging herself to take a risk or step outside of her comfort zone if something or someone do not adhere to the romantic comedy structure around which she has shaped her life. It is this journey of self-discovery that Annie undertakes over the course of the novel, as she reconciles what she believed she always wanted with what she truly needs. After all, the course of true love never did run smooth…

Kerry Winfrey once tweeted that she doesn’t write stories with villains, but rather stories where every character is simply trying to do their best. While Winfrey was likely kidding, there is some element of truth to this statement, and it’s one of things I love most about this author’s writing. In Waiting For Tom Hanks, Winfrey creates a world filled with warm, gentle, genuinely funny people who all want the best for one another. It’s a world where even the most offbeat character, who doesn’t drink hot liquids and enjoys the occasional half-eaten bagel from the dumpster, is shown to be deserving of his own happily ever after, even if it isn’t with our heroine. There is an earnest sincerity to everything that this author creates that is completely devoid of cynicism or unnecessary cruelty. At a time when genuine kindness seems in woefully short supply, Waiting For Tom Hanks is a charming reminder that sometimes there’s nothing better than a grand gesture complete with an airport, a group of dear friends, and the staunch belief that in the end, everything will be okay. Because in Kerry Winfrey’s world, it truly always is.

New Kids On The Block 2019 with Chris Baron

New Kids On The Block is a year-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader meant to welcome and celebrate new voices and debut authors in the literary community.

Are you a debut author whose book is being published in 2019? It’s not too late to sign-up! If you want to participate in New Kids On The Block this year, please don’t hesitate to get in touch! You can send a tweet or DM on Twitter to @Pop_Reader or email me at [email protected]. I would love to collaborate with you!

About Chris Baron

Chris Baron’s Middle Grade debut, All Of Me, a novel in verse from Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, is coming June 2019. He is a Professor of English at San Diego City College and the director of the Writing Center. Baron has published numerous poems and articles in magazines and journals around the country, performed on radio programs, and participated in many readings, lectures, and panels. He grew up in New York City, but he completed his MFA in Poetry in 1998 at SDSU. Baron’s first book of poetry, Under the Broom Tree, was released in 2012 on CityWorks Press as part of Lantern Tree: Four Books of Poems (which won the San Diego Book Award for best poetry anthology). He is represented by the amazing Rena Rossner from the Deborah Harris Literary Agency.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramGoodreads

All Of Me
Set in San Francisco, it is the story of Ari Rosensweig, an overweight, seventh grade boy who loves cryptozoology and role-playing games. But he’s the new kid, and it’s a difficult adjustment moving all the way from New York. Ari is tired of being bullied and letting his weight define him. His parents’ marriage is struggling. They are too busy to focus on his life, much less help him with his already late bar mitzvah. Ari’s mother, a painter and sculptor, decides to open a gallery at the beach that summer. She puts him on a diet, and with the help of some faithful friends, he tries to make a change physically, but the diet is not the answer-it’s just beginning of the real change that comes.

Is it a True Story?
One of the first questions people ask me about All Of Me is whether t is a true story. It’s hard to answer this. It is absolutely true – I lived in NYC and San Francisco. I did spend a summer at the beach trying to change my body – but it is also fiction. It’s a fictional retelling of my story. Stories saved my life. I hope All Of Me and whatever books I have the privilege of writing will be stories that heal. I know that kids lives change through stories.

How Did it Start?
Also, here is one little anecdote I consider a “launch pad “story. When my book of (adult) poetry came out a few years ago, at the release, I was reading to a theatre full of people, and some of the poems were extremely serious. I decided to read some of lighter poems about growing up, and about my own children. I will never forget what happened after that. I read this poem “First Kiss.” Here are just a few lines…

“Fat kids don’t have girlfriends.
Friends yes, but not kissing,
not even in third grade.
So imagine my surprise…”

The audience laughed with relief, but I remember looking out and seeing a good friend of mine, a pretty amazing YA writer who would later become one of my greatest supporters, looked at me wide-eyed from the crowd. After the reading, he ran up to me, grabbed me by the shoulders and said, “Dude, you have got to write a Middle Grade Book! That’s where it all started.

Why Verse?
I will say that so many kid lit authors have incredibly poetic, lyrical lines in their prose, so the gap isn’t always that wide. I think that poetry speaks to the heart. We see with more than just our eyes, and the music of poetry helps to make words sing directly to us.

Poetry relates to all kinds of readers. There is space on the page, measured breaks, pacing, music, and movement of lines that a reader of almost any level can find their way into. The structure of verse creates an intimacy with a reader that allows them to hear the tone and cadence of a character’s voice. This can create even stronger connections for readers.

Body Image is also in the Mind
I grew up in Manhattan, and I remember the first time I noticed that my weight mattered. After temple one Saturday, with my grandmother in Brooklyn, some of her friends walked up to little kid me, and started kvelling. My grandmother, so sweet, well-meaning, looked at me, and then she told them that I was getting skinnier all the time. Skinner? I wasn’t skinny. I knew that already, but what I didn’t know is how much that mattered to her. She meant no harm, none. But this is the first voice that stayed with me. The first voice telling me that somehow the body I was in wasn’t the right body yet. That was the first of many voices, some well meaning, some cruel, that shaped so much of how I still struggle to see myself at times. I know what it feels like to be helpless against bullies, and to feel like the only thing you can do is change yourself.

Even later in life, as a college athlete, a basketball gym rat, surfing all the time, healthy by societal standards, I still felt like my weight was a work in progress. I struggled with self acceptance.

Overweight kids are often left out of the story. Sometimes they are comic relief. I love comedy relief as much as anyone, but there is no reason why overweight kids can’t also be heroes of the story. In All Of Me, I want kids to see some part of themselves. I hope readers will learn about empathy and kindness for others, Jewish culture and tradition, but also faith in general, overcoming struggles with body image, friendship, taking risks, and learning more about being brave and being themselves no matter what. I hope readers, especially the young ones, will know that if they are going through difficult things like this, that they are not alone!

Title All of Me
Author Chris Baron
Pages 316 Pages
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Novel-In-Verse
Publication Date June 11 2019 by Feiwel & Friends
Find It On GoodreadsAmazonChaptersThe Book Depository

Ari has body-image issues. After a move across the country, his parents work selling and promoting his mother’s paintings and sculptures. Ari’s bohemian mother needs space to create, and his father is gone for long stretches of time on “sales” trips.

Meanwhile, Ari makes new friends: Pick, the gamer; the artsy Jorge, and the troubled Lisa. He is also relentlessly bullied because he’s overweight, but he can’t tell his parents—they’re simply not around enough to listen.

After an upsetting incident, Ari’s mom suggests he go on a diet, and she gives him a book to help. But the book — and the diet — can’t fix everything. As Ari faces the demise of his parents’ marriage, he also feels himself changing, both emotionally and physically. Here is a much-needed story about accepting the imperfect in oneself and in life.

Cover Reveal: Beginners Welcome by Cindy Baldwin

Happy Monday everyone! It’s the start of a new week and I can think of no better way to kick things off than a super exciting cover reveal! Today on Pop! Goes The Reader I’ll thrilled to welcome Cindy Baldwin back to the blog as we host the exclusive cover reveal for Cindy’s sophomore novel, Beginners Welcome! Cindy is no stranger to Pop! Goes The Reader, having shared beautiful, heartfelt posts for both the New Kids On The Block and Her Story: Ladies In Literature events in the past, so I’m really touched that I was able to help her with today’s reveal. Beginners Welcome will be coming to a book store and library near you February 11, 2020 by HarperCollins and the charming cover below was designed by Erin Fitzsimmons with accompany artwork by Harriett Russell.

About Cindy Baldwin

Cindy Baldwin is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Where The Watermelons Grow and the forthcoming Beginners Welcome. She grew up in North Carolina and still misses the sweet watermelons and warm accents on a daily basis. As a middle schooler, she kept a book under her bathroom sink to read over and over while fixing her hair or brushing her teeth, and she dreams of writing the kind of books readers can’t bear to be without. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and daughter.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramGoodreads

My second novel, Beginners Welcome, was the most difficult thing I’ve ever written. At one point, I felt so insecure about the book that I secretly hoped my editor would pass on it, because I was sure it was just irredeemably bad. Writing that book felt enormously vulnerable, because I knew it was going to go out into a world where people had already read and formed opinions about my first novel, Where The Watermelons Grow. Because my debut had had really positive reviews and been named to some important lists, I worried that Beginners Welcome — the book I’d struggled with at every point of the writing process — would be a major letdown, the kind of sophomore novel that people read and set aside because it just couldn’t live up to its predecessor.

Choosing to press forward into that vulnerability, to keep working on the book even when I was certain it would be a colossal failure, was — in a strange way – not unlike the journey that Annie Lee, the protagonist of Beginners Welcome, takes. After her beloved daddy dies unexpectedly and her two best friends drift away from her, Annie Lee is determined to make herself invisible, close herself off from love and friendship so that nobody can ever hurt her that way again.

It’s not until she meets Ray Owens, an elderly pianist who’s fallen on hard times but manages to make magic through his music anyway, that Annie Lee starts to wonder if staying invisible might mean cheating herself of potential happiness. With Ray’s encouragement, Annie Lee tentatively starts to open up again — taking piano lessons, befriending the tough skater girl at her school, getting to know Ray and others who work at the local mall where Ray plays piano. When Ray goes missing, it’s the ultimate test for Annie Lee: will she stay visible and vulnerable and fight for the people she loves, even if it might cost her everything? Or will she pull her invisibility cloak back on and let go of the people who have enriched her life?

When I first opened the file with the cover that Harriet Russell and Erin Fitzsimmons had created for Beginners Welcome, I was amazed. It was so unique and colorful, incorporating so many of my favorite details from the story — the bright umbrellas, the scooter Annie Lee uses to explore her hometown of Durham, NC, the beanie that Annie Lee’s skater friend Mitch wears regardless of the season.

My very favorite part was the musical staff that both girls travel along. It felt like the perfect metaphor for the story, because in a very real way, music is the path Annie Lee rides out of her unhappiness, the thing that carries her from the darkest day of her life toward a brighter, more hopeful future. It’s music that teaches Annie Lee the power that exists in vulnerability, in allowing herself to be seen and known. Through music, Annie Lee comes to learn that brokenness can be as beautiful as perfection, that opening your heart and letting others hear your truth can create literal magic.

Beginners Welcome is a deeply personal book — and not only because it incorporates so many details from my own childhood, like my hometown of Durham, or the fact that I spent many years as a serious violinist and pianist and even played several Christmas concerts at Brightleaf Square, the mall where Ray volunteers. It’s personal, because the central question Annie Lee wrestles with — whether or not to open herself up to relationships even when each connection means a potential loss — is one I’ve spent my own life pondering.

In the end, after more than half a dozen intensive revisions, I’m proud of Beginners Welcome. Although I loved my debut, Where The Watermelons Grow, I think I feel more pride in this second book, because it was a much harder writing process and required so much more courage. Just like music is the thing that teaches Annie Lee the power of vulnerability and brokenness, writing and revising Beginners Welcome did the same for me. There is power in continuing to show up for something that requires you to be brave and optimistic, even when you’re sure you won’t succeed.

I hope that readers love Annie Lee and her story as much as I do, and that it can encourage the kids who find it to be the brave, wise versions of themselves!

Cover design by Erin Fitzsimmons, Cover art by Harriett Russell

Title Beginners Welcome
Author Cindy Baldwin
Pages 320 Pages
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Publication Date February 11, 2020 by HarperCollins
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.caAmazon.comChaptersThe Book DepositoryIndieBoundBarnes & NobleAnnie Bloom’s

(If you pre-order from Annie Bloom’s, Cindy’s local independent bookstore, you can order a signed and personalized edition!)

Annie Lee’s daddy won’t stop leaving his record player on. His whiskers are in the sink every morning. And he always keeps the TV turned to Duke basketball. Except Annie Lee’s daddy died eighty-three days ago. 

Annie Lee doesn’t like the word “ghost,” but whatever is going on isn’t making things easier for her and Mama. It doesn’t help that Mama works around the clock, barely making ends meet, and Annie Lee’s best friends ditched her over the summer. She’s starting middle school without a soul to sit by at lunch — until she meets tough skater girl Mitch. Mitch might need a friend as badly as she does, but after losing so much, Annie Lee can’t handle the possibility that another person might leave her.

When Annie Lee sneaks out one afternoon while Mama’s at work and rides her scooter downtown, she meets Ray, an elderly pianist whose music is pure magic. Ray sees right through her imaginary invisibility cloak, and when Annie Lee begs for piano lessons, he agrees to teach her — and convinces her it’s worth letting people into her heart.

But after Ray goes missing, finding him means breaking a promise to Mitch. Faced with once again losing the people that mean the most to her, Annie Lee will have to make a choice: hide under the invisibility cloak that’s been keeping her safe, or risk admitting how much she needs Mitch and Ray, even if it means she might get hurt.

The Writing’s On The Wall: Hello Summer

The Writing’s On The Wall is a regular feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which I create desktop wallpapers inspired by some of my favourite novels, authors, and literary quotes.

1280×800 » 1440×900 » 1680×1050 » 1920×1200 » 2560×1400 » iPhone

1280×800 » 1440×900 » 1680×1050 » 1920×1200 » 2560×1400 » iPhone

I would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to Connary Fagen Type Design and Amber & Ink whose clipart and/or fonts I purchased, edited and used in the creation of this wallpaper!

New Kids On The Block 2019 with Kristina Forest

New Kids On The Block is a year-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader meant to welcome and celebrate new voices and debut authors in the literary community.

Are you a debut author whose book is being published in 2019? It’s not too late to sign-up! If you want to participate in New Kids On The Block this year, please don’t hesitate to get in touch! You can send a tweet or DM on Twitter to @Pop_Reader or email me at [email protected]. I would love to collaborate with you!

About Kristina Forest

Kristina Forest loves to dance and thought one day she’d be a choreographer. But then she decided she loved writing more. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing with a concentration in Writing for Children at The New School and works in children’s books publishing. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with two huge bookshelves. I Wanna Be Where You Are is her first novel.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterGoodreads

In my earliest childhood memories, I’m sitting on my mom’s bed, watching her curl her hair as she sings along to Whitney Houston, Toni Braxton and/or Mariah Carey. My mom had, and still has, a beautiful singing voice. Unfortunately, she didn’t pass that skill to me. I’m a terrible singer, and I’m not a musician. In the first grade, I tried and failed to play the piano and that’s pretty much where my musician career started and ended. But as a former dancer, music has always played a very important role in my life.

When I moved to New York City for grad school five years ago, I was lonely and broke. The few friends I made all lived in Brooklyn while I stayed in the grad dorms on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I lacked a social connection, and I filled that empty space with music. I listened to Beyoncé’s self titled album and Drake’s mixtape, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, more times than I can count. Music became a lifeline for me.

Oddly enough, I can’t listen to music while writing. For the most part, I need complete silence. Sometimes if I’m writing with friends at a coffee shop, I will play the same song on a loop over and over, mostly to drown out the noise. However, I do make playlists for each character and for the overall aesthetic of whatever story I’m writing. I listen to these playlists while riding the subway or going for walks. That way I can be thinking about the story even when I’m not writing.

Music plays a big part in I Wanna Be Where You Are. Chloe is a ballerina, so she already has a relationship with music through dance. But she also makes playlists for everything, particularly for the drive she plans to take all the way to Washington D.C. to audition for the dance conservatory of her dreams. There’s even a special playlist included at the end of the book (but you’ll have to read it in order to see what those songs are).

Here is a short list of songs that I listened to while drafting and revising this story.

It’s no secret that I Wanna Be Where You Are features a hate-to-love romance between my protagonist Chloe and her neighbor, Eli. The two grew up together, and while they never became the best of friends (they bickered too much), they respected each other. As teenagers, Chloe begins to develop a crush on Eli, and then he does something that causes Chloe to hold the world’s most intense grudge. When the song begins, Jorja sings, “I’ve been hurt so many times/ It got to a point when I decided/ I can’t do this anymore/ I need someone to hold me/ I need someone that needs me/ I need someone that loves me.” I think this song really captures how these two are at odds with each other when the story starts. Chloe wants Eli to apologize, and Eli doesn’t think he needs to.

This song is on my IWBWYA playlist specifically because the lyrics on the bridge remind me so much of Chloe:

“Stars in her eyes/she fights for the power, keeping time/she grinds day and night/she grinds from Monday to Friday/works from Friday to Sunday”

And later:

“Stars in her eyes/she fights and she sweet those sleepless nights/but she don’t mind/she loves the grind/she grinds from Monday to Friday/ works from Friday to Sunday”

Chloe has her eye on the prize. She wants to be a ballerina, and she’ll do anything to achieve that goal (including lying to her mom!). She’s sacrificed so much for ballet, and I think these lyrics really reflect how she feels.

Prince is one of my favorite artists of all time. I started writing this story a few months after he passed away, so a lot of Prince songs were being played on a loop. In an early draft, there’s even a scene when Chloe encounters a Prince covers band in Virginia. Without giving too much away, school dances play an important role in this story, and when I play this song, I always imagine Chloe and Eli slow dancing to this song in their high school gym.

All Night is a song about forgiveness. While on this trip with Eli, Chloe learns a lot about why Eli has such a chip on his shoulder, and more importantly why he inadvertently hurt her in the past. As her feeling for him return, she has to make a decision as to whether or not she is willing to forgive his past transgressions and start over again.

All Night is also a love song, and this is a love story. A love story between a boy and a girl, a love story between a girl and ballet, and a love story between a girl and her dream.

“Happiness hit her like a train on a track,” is the perfect way to describe how happiness comes to Chloe in this story. She takes this road trip expecting and anticipating one thing, and it turns into so much more. It’s no surprise that this story has a happily ever after of sorts. It is a rom-com after all!

Title I Wanna Be Where You Are
Author Kristina Forest
Pages 269 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Publication Date June 4th 2019 by Roaring Brook Press
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

When Chloe Pierce’s mom forbids her to apply for a spot at the dance conservatory of her dreams, she devises a secret plan to drive two hundred miles to the nearest audition. But Chloe hits her first speed bump when her annoying neighbor Eli insists upon hitching a ride, threatening to tell Chloe’s mom if she leaves him and his smelly dog, Geezer, behind. So now Chloe’s chasing her ballet dreams down the east coast — two unwanted (but kinda cute) passengers in her car, butterflies in her stomach, and a really dope playlist on repeat.

Filled with roadside hijinks, heart-stirring romance, and a few broken rules, I Wanna Be Where You Are is a YA debut perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Sandhya Menon.