Sparkling (and suspenseful) novels set on the stage or the screen

From the publisher: "New York Times bestselling author Mira Grant, author of the renowned Newsflesh series, returns with a novel that takes us to a new world of ancient mysteries and mythological dangers come to life. The ocean is home to many myths, but some are deadly. . . Seven years ago the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a mockumentary bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a tragedy. Now a new crew has been assembled. But this time they're not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life's work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost. Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves. But the secrets of the deep come with a price."
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I love a mystery that starts at the end. We know that Oliver Marks has just been released from jail after serving a ten year sentence, and he's finally ready to tell the truth. Ten years ago, Oliver was part of a close-knit group of Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, where rivalries and romance affect the troupe off stage with just as much drama as their performances. Their final year reads more like one of Shakespeare's tragedies. When violence erupts, the group tries to find out what happened while covering the truth to protect each other. A campus mystery full of Shakespeare references, perfect for fans of Donna Tartt.
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From the publisher: "The enchanting story of a midwestern girl who escapes a family tragedy and is remade as a movie star during Hollywood’s golden age. In 1920, Elsa Emerson, the youngest and blondest of three sisters, is born in idyllic Door County, Wisconsin. Her family owns the Cherry County Playhouse, and more than anything, Elsa relishes appearing onstage, where she soaks up the approval of her father and the embrace of the audience. But when tragedy strikes her family, her acting becomes more than a child¹s game of pretend. While still in her teens, Elsa marries and flees to Los Angeles. There she is discovered by Irving Green, one of the most powerful executives in Hollywood, who refashions her as a serious, exotic brunette and renames her Laura Lamont. Irving becomes Laura’s great love; she becomes an Academy Award­-winning actress—and a genuine movie star. Written with warmth and verve, it confirms Emma Straub’s reputation as one of the most exciting new talents in fiction."
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I'm always excited for a new Joshilyn Jackson title: she's one of my must read authors, especially on audio. The inciting incident of her latest suspense novel unfolds in the balcony at a school rehearsal for Grease, Jr: The Musical. While Bree catches up with an old friend and fellow parent, someone kidnaps her baby while he naps in his carseat nearby. Bree soon discovers the kidnapper wants to use her to exact revenge for something that transpired long ago, but is far from forgotten. Bree decides that to get her baby back, she can't interact with the kidnapper as herself. Instead, she must step into a role—one that will win the kidnapper's sympathies—and must rely on every bit of skill honed in her acting days to do it. Readers, take note: you'll want to talk about the ending with a friend, so plan accordingly. And while it's obvious this plot includes children in peril, other content warnings apply; please do your research.
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In April 1962, an American actress mysteriously arrives by boat to fictional Porto Vorgogna, a tiny pin prick of a town. Dee is gorgeous, alone, and dying. She's been exiled here from the set of Cleopatra, the Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton film that remains one of the most expensive and scandal-ridden movies ever made. As the story bounces back and forth between present-day Hollywood and the golden era of film, we discover why a Hollywood power player sent her away—and what happens next. Containing scenes from plays both real and not, the first chapter of a novel, a movie pitch, and someone else’s memoir. It's going to be breathtaking on the big screen. Release date TBD.
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A wistful novel about memory and the stories we tell ourselves, set in the world of the theater. When Flora finds her husband’s old wedding ring in the bottom of a file cabinet—the ring her husband told her he’d lost at the bottom of a lake—she knows something is horribly wrong. On the eve of her daughter’s high school graduation, Flora questions everything she thought she knew about her past. Interspersed with vivid flashbacks and reflective moments, Sweeney’s sophomore novel isn’t quite as plot-driven as her first, but I inhaled it. I love a reflective family drama, and this one set in the world of theater hooked me from the opening scene. Marin Ireland is now one of my go-to narrators; her voice struck just the right contemplative tone.
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When I got together with a bunch of writers recently we all talked about how much we loved Susan Meissner. Her most recent novel, published November 2015, begins in modern-day times when a distinctive green velvet hat is mistakenly dropped off for resale at a vintage clothing shop. The hat is instantly recognizable as one that Scarlett O'Hara wore in Gone with the Wind; it disappeared during filming and hasn't been seen since. Of course the hat has a long, strange history, and Meissner takes us back in time to 1938 Hollywood, where two young friends are trying to make it in Tinseltown, each in their own way. This isn't my favorite Meissner novel, but it's a solid one, and Gone with the Wind fans won't want to miss it.
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Heart, humor, and a key In-N-Out moment make this Hollywood romance a fun summer escape. Ben (Theo’s brother from The Wedding Date) and Anna meet in a conference room, of all places. He’s presenting his marketing agency’s next big ad campaign; she’s the talent appearing in the ads. The connection is instant: he’s starstruck, and she’s smitten. As they get to know each other better during filming, they develop a real connection, and people can’t help but notice how good they look together. So when Anna’s trusted manager encourages her to embark on a fake romance because the publicity will help her land a coveted role in the Vigilantes movie, she says yes—and when they start playing the part of committed boyfriend and girlfriend for the public eye, things get complicated. (Heads up for a few open door scenes.)
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Many readers love this novel because it’s set in the world of theater and the arts. Even though each chapter is of a different character, they all are intertwined so they all are connected in one way or another.
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From the publisher: "A family's move to New York City brings surprises and humor as their lives merge with the captivating world of Broadway. Allison Brinkley - wife, mother, and former unflappable optimist - learns that New York is unruly and bewildering. After a humiliating call from the principal's office and the loss of the job she was counting on, Allison begins to accept that New York may not suit her after all. It doesn't take long to recognize Carter Reid - a famous pop star who has been cast in a new Broadway musical. Through this brush with stardom, Allison embraces a unique and unexpected opportunity that helps her find her way in the heart of Manhattan." In an audiobook that delivers laughs, warmth, and delightful wish fulfillment, Poeppel dives into celebrity culture and modern motherhood with her trademark "quick-witted and razor-sharp" (Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of Maybe in Another Life) style."
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From the publisher: "After being entrusted with her brother's Los Angeles apartment for the summer as a graduation gift, Emi Price isn't sure how to fulfill his one condition: that something great take place there while he's gone. Emi may be a talented young production designer, already beginning to thrive in the competitive film industry, but she still feels like an average teen, floundering when it comes to romance. But when she and her best friend, Charlotte, discover a mysterious letter at the estate sale of a Hollywood film legend, Emi must move beyond the walls of her carefully crafted world to chase down the loose ends of a movie icon's hidden life, leading her to uncover a decades' old secret and the potential for something truly epic: love."
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Elizabeth Gilbert delivers a love story set in the 1940s New York City theater scene. Vivian Morris is shipped off to her Aunt Peg after she's kicked out of college. Her aunt's theater introduces her to a dazzling array of people and life experiences. But when Vivian is embroiled in a professional scandal, it will not only turn her new life upside down, it will put her on the path to the great love of her life. Exploring female sexuality and human desire, City Of Girls will have you questioning what it means to be "good."
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From the publisher: "Contrary to popular belief, best friends Kate Garfield and Anderson Walker are not codependent. Carpooling to and from theater rehearsals? Environmentally sound and efficient. Consulting each other on every single life decision? Basic good judgment. Pining for the same guys from afar? Shared crushes are more fun anyway. But when Kate and Andy’s latest long-distance crush shows up at their school, everything goes off-script. Matt Olsson is talented and sweet, and Kate likes him. She really likes him. The only problem? So does Anderson. Turns out, communal crushes aren't so fun when real feelings are involved. This one might even bring the curtains down on Kate and Anderson’s friendship."
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From the publisher: "Katherine O’Dell is an Irish theater legend. As her daughter, Norah, retraces her mother's celebrated career and bohemian life, she delves into long-kept secrets, both her mother’s and her own. Katherine began her career on Ireland's bus-and-truck circuit before making it to London's West End, Broadway, and finally Hollywood. Every moment of her life is a performance, with young Norah standing in the wings. But with age, alcohol, and dimming stardom, Katherine's grip on reality grows fitful. Fueled by a proud and long-simmering rage, she commits a bizarre crime. As Norah's role gradually changes to Katherine's protector, caregiver, and finally legacy-keeper, she revisits her mother's life of fiercely kept secrets; and Norah reveals in turn the secrets of her own sexual and emotional coming-of-age story. With virtuosic storytelling and in prose at turns lyrical and knife-sharp, Enright takes readers to the heart of the maddening yet tender love that binds a mother and daughter."
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One reviewer called this a pitch-perfect, utterly charming rom-com. From the publisher: "Following in the footsteps of her überfamous grandma, 18-year-old Evie Jones is poised to be Hollywood's next big star. That is until a close friend's betrayal leads to her being blacklisted. Fortunately, Evie knows just the thing to save her floundering career: a public appearance with America's most beloved actress - her grandma Gigi, aka the Evelyn Conaway. The only problem? Days before Evie plans to present her grandma with an honorary award in front of Hollywood’s elite, Gigi does the unthinkable: She disappears. With time running out and her comeback on the line, Evie reluctantly enlists the help of the last person to see Gigi before she vanished: Milo Williams, a cute musician Evie isn't sure she can trust. As Evie and Milo conduct a wild manhunt across New York City, romance and adventure abound while Evie makes some surprising discoveries about her grandma - and herself."
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