Saturday, 31 December 2016

‘WALK ON GLASS’ BY LISA ROBINSON


 
By the late 1980s, after having had my filled of Robbins, Collins, Sheldon, I was ready to discover new authors. In came Lisa Robinson’s WALK ON GLASS (1983, Charter Books). I picked that one up during one of my hunts for used bookstores. After having amassed enough trashy paperbacks to fill at least two shelves in my reading room, I went back home and I started the novel right away. I remember how good a time I had with it. Like its many predecessors, it had something of a roman à clef. It would be interesting to see if the fun is still palpable after all these years. But what I do recall most is that WALK ON GLASS was penned by then-syndicated music columnist Lisa Robinson. I had glimpsed at her articles in some New York paper once or twice and thought them to be quite interesting. And since I’ve always been attracted to the glitter or not so glitter aspect of show business it came as no surprise that I found her novel to be just as fascinating. 

Indeed, the music industry is the main focus for this tale of love gone wrong during the rise and fall of a singer/songwriter. Unless I’m very much mistaken it goes something like this: she’s on top of the charts, meets the man of her dreams and—surprise, surprise—ends up being cheated on. Then she breaks—big time, so much so that you wish you could do a MOONSTRUCK on her. Snap out of it! But since we all know that without cupid doing his thing, novels like this one would barely exist, we suffer greatly with her and hope that she rises above. She does eventually, like any good heroine can. What’s even more rewarding, however, is that beyond her fall out, WALK ON GLASS is an insightful encyclopedia of who’s who in the music biz. Expect to be enthralled by this and by those inside scoops which in the end mostly reveal that screwing one another for a few bucks is certainly one’s main priority. I have no doubts that it still is today. 

WALK ON GLASS is sadly Lisa Robinson’s sole novel. I would have loved for her to continue on her path as a novelist. She is currently a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. Her memoir THERE GOES GRAVITY: A LIFE IN ROCK AND ROLL was published in 2014 by Riverhead Books. I may check that one out, as you all should WALK ON GLASS.

 
 

Until next post—Martin 

1982 US hardcover



 

Monday, 19 December 2016

JACKIE COLLINS’ ‘LADY BOSS’ (1992)

 

Two years after the ratings success of LUCKY CHANCES, NBC gave the greenlight to the third chapter in the Santangelo saga called LADY BOSS. Again, the teleplay was going to be written by Collins herself and she was also going to co-executively produce the whole thing. The big difference is that Kim Delaney was going to replace Nicollette Sheridan as Lucky. Just as the character of Lenny was now going to be portrayed by sexy Jack Scalia. In fact, only hunky actor Phil Morris returned. If you recall, he played Lucky’s illegitimate half-brother lawyer. But truth be told, I couldn’t care less who was or who wasn’t going to be in it (this is how interchangeable those actors are). All I wanted is to see the end result which I finally did on that Sunday in October of 1992.

I was in a serious relationship at that time. Turned out the guy was one mean S.O.B. but back then I was in love. Or what I thought to be love. But moving on… I remember sitting my ass down after work and playing part one of the miniseries and I just couldn’t be happier. I had devoured Jackie’s novel the year prior and thought the adaptation was relatively faithful to the book. 25 years later I still find LADY BOSS to be grand.   

Kim Delaney is great as Lucky. She puts some much-needed spunk into the character. Nicollette Sheridan’s take is much too basic. Here we finally get a three-dimensional enough performance that is more relatable. Same goes for her other-half Jack Scalia. His Lenny is much more charismatic, much more at ease in his own skin, therefore more in control of his performance. Or is it just that I still have the hots for him? I mean, who wouldn’t? Look at the guy. Clearly he’s the perfect choice for a leading man.  
 

The whole whacky storyline in which Lucky infiltrates (disguised as a frumpy secretary) a Hollywood studio to expose the shady goings-on before taking it over works with a capital W. Of course this little game of hers does not bode well with her actor hubby, who, despite being unhappy there, is set against the idea of her becoming his boss. But Lucky being Lucky ends up doing what she wants, and of course the marriage suffers. The mini also features a Madonna-like star whose celebrity status brings her all sorts of problems, such as the presence of a low-life brother (!) who gladly sells stories about her to the rags. There’s also the presence of the late Joan Rivers as a Cindy Adams-like columnist who warns screen-legend Yvette Mimieux (in her last role before disappearing from the limelight) that her rich husband is screwing another woman. And yeah that is president-to-be Donald Trump making a cameo appearance. Add to the mix the recently departed Vanity who plays Phil Morris’ client-love interest and you got yourself one heck of a firecracker miniseries.  

Directed by THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT Charles Jarrott, with a catchy opening title theme composed by KNOTS LANDING Dana Kaproff, it is fair to say that JACKIE COLLINS’ LADY BOSS is stronger than its predecessor. Evidently the glam miniseries were fizzling out by then but from the looks of this one, it hardly shows. So I’m glad to report that the trend went out with a bang. We have yet to see this title graduating to the DVD market, however, but let’s not despair. HOLLYWOOD WIVES did eventually get there. So I gather that the rest of Jackie’s adapted work will see the light of day. 

 



 

Until next post—Martin

 

Monday, 12 December 2016

‘PRINCESS DAISY’ BY JUDITH KRANTZ


 
This week’s blog entry is dedicated yet again to the oeuvre of Judith Krantz, most specifically to PRINCESS DAISY, one of my favorite novels of hers. I was supposed to scrap anything regarding this author on account of the many homophobic references inserted in SCRUPLES. But the big trashy junkie that I am just couldn’t stay away. And truth be told, I’m glad I didn’t, for Judith Krantz is more than a bigot writer. She’s also one heck of a trashy storyteller. She knows how to lure her readers just the right way with her tales of the rich and the rotten, and PRINCESS DAISY is the perfect example. 

Indeed, Princess Margaret Alexandrovna Valensky has it all: loving parents, a title preceding her name and money that grows on trees—until tragedy strikes. Before you can say, oh here we go again, Daisy's charmed life is turned upside down when she is forced to face a painful past and an unsure future. And what a future it is, filled with beautiful people, royal settings, designer clothes and plenty of sex.  Suffice to say, PRINCESS DAISY is one hot read. Krantz creates an exciting bunch of characters; unidimensional, perhaps, but fun as they go at it without any filter just to get a piece of the happy pie. Yes, the author may spread it thick on the over-the-top scale, but who cares. The novel works, and that’s what’s important. It is as grand and as sinful as those secrets her heroine so desperately wants to hide. So go on, do as I did, forget about SCRUPLES and indulge in this one, for PRINCESS DAISY sure is classy stuff in escapism fiction. 

As you can see, re-reading this novel wasn’t as strenuous as I thought it would be. Sure, one of the antagonists is a sick and twisted individual who of course has homosexual tendencies, but this offensive depiction didn’t bother me as I thought it would this time around. Maybe the trick is to develop a thicker skin. Or to simply realize that villains in over-the-top novels are just as harmless as their creators if you don’t take them too seriously. Besides, the novel is from another era. I’d like to believe that people, including writers like Judith Krantz, have slackened on some of their beliefs since then. But with the re-enforcing of backlash toward minorities since Trump has been elected the next president, however, I may just end up eating my words.
 

 

Until next post—Martin
 

US Hardcover

 

 

Sunday, 4 December 2016

THE LONELY ‘NASHVILLE GIRL’


 
In the mid-2000s I had access to this TV channel where I could enjoy all types of exploitation films. It was called Drive-in Classics, and every now and then I would get caught up into some ‘70’s grindhouse movies.  Little films I would never have discovered had it not been for that now-defunct channel. So I owe big thanks to the folks behind Drive-in Classics for introducing me to this week’s featured title which since then has become one of my favorite flicks to watch.
 
Filmed in 1976 and picked up by Roger Corman for distribution, NASHVILLE GIRL tells the tale of a beautiful and talented songstress who desperately wants to become the next big thing in country music. So one day she packs up her bags and, with her precious guitar in hand, heads off to Nashville. She soon finds out that reaching for the top has many setbacks. Indeed, hardly a day goes by that she isn’t used by men. At first she recoils from them but soon learns that to make it in show business one has no way but to submit. Fortunately, this leads to a once in a lifetime chance to work with a legendary married country star who takes her under his wing and makes her sing with him to great success. But what starts out as a platonic relationship soon turns to brute force when he becomes obsessed with her to the point of raping her. Fed up with the ways of the world and now a country star herself she vows to make it on her own. As the credits roll we are left with the notion that she will get there.
 
Just like in THE LONELY LADY, SHOWGIRLS or VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, NASHVILLE GIRL uses the same Girl Caught in a Male Dominating World theme and delivers a highly enjoyable exploitation flick that has solid performances and some catchy tunes. Monica Gayle shines as the used, abused aspiring country singer who eventually becomes wiser as the film progresses. She may not have the aggressive spunk of a Neely O’Hara or the slutty way of a Nomi Malone, or even the naïve streak of a Jerilee Randall but boy does she hold her own. So good of an actress is she that she’s able to go beyond the clichés to make her character appear sympathetic. A tough job to do really when one is surrounded by nothing but sleaze. Moreover, what the film achieves in the looks department despite its meager budget is worth the price of admission alone. I’ll repeat it here: they sure don’t make them like that anymore.
 

The film was a solid success at the box office, mostly due to its appeal overseas. It was then re-released in 1980 as COUNTRY MUSIC DAUGHTER to cash in on the success of the Loretta Lynn biopic COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER. It took some 30 years for me to discover NASHVILLE GIRL, and though I had also seen and enjoyed the Sissy Spacek vehicle recently, it’s Monica Gayle’s performance in NASHVILLE GIRL that stuck with me. Which makes me wonder whatever happened to her? Her IMDb bio reports that she stopped acting in the late ‘70s, which is truly a shame, for her talent should have been celebrated in the subsequent years. I hear that she’s also a blast in SWITCHBLADE SISTERS. I need to check this one out ASAP.

  

You can still purchase NASHVILLE GIRL on DVD or Blu-ray wherever digital films are sold.


Original Poster
 

 
Until next post—Martin
 

Monday, 28 November 2016

'BLACKOUT’ BY TIM CURRAN


 
Often enough when a horror novel is described as a page-turner it usually ends up in my dud pile. Color me picky but as much a chance I give it (and believe me I do) it always seems to fail grabbing me. Give me a cool writer like Hunter Shea or Brian Keene, or heck even Bryan Smith whose latter work, last time I checked, is way stronger, and I’ll give you at least a dozen brand names who doesn’t necessarily fit my bill. This next spotlighted fellow, however, does. I’ve been meaning to discuss him (and the others mentioned above) on this popular blog which I’m so proud of, but it took one of his latest to finally make me take the plunge and do this. 
 
I admit, the name Tim Curran might still be unfamiliar to some, but to lovers of dark fiction he is one celebrated talent. He’s been at it since 2000 and already has a dozen novels to his name if not more. My first taste of his well-defined craft came with RESURRECTION, which was all about the zombie invasion. It was a lengthy read (600 + pages) but it was as involving as it can possibly be and moved like a speeding bullet. Plus it had many gruesome moments which are always a welcoming addition.
 
Like many of my fave authors, Curran is less known for his epic characterization and overstuffed narration. He’s what you call the perfect antidote to too much cerebral fiction (which he himself has been known to point out regarding other people’s work). Take BLACKOUT for example, one of his latest projects with DarkFuse. Again, readers of non-stop action will have a field day, especially if they are into alien invasions in small towns. What happens to these ordinary folks in the space of a mere six hours can only be described as cheesily fun. Plus, there are plenty a yucky images to spare, most having to do with what’s coming through the darkened sky. I won’t reveal too much but let’s just say that what the author does with this will probably leave no one unfazed. Moreover, the explanation he provides for the UFO attack winds up being rather interesting if not original. Well at least it is to me, since I’m no expert in the field of science.

What I’m good at, though, is talking about labels regarding minorities. I’m always touchy when it comes to derogatory comments made toward them, especially in novels. While I’m also well aware that some used in texts may not always reflect the authors’ beliefs but more the characters behaviors, I always wonder why these writers would not opt for safer words—like in one scene in this particular novel between two aggravated neighbours. To make a long story short it all comes down to this: hey Curran and his publishers, not all readers are straight; so if I were you, I would lose the bigotry vibe if you want to reach an even wider audience. That being said, BLACKOUT is still worth checking out, if you can overlook that type of unnecessary gibes.

  

Until next post—Martin 
 

Sunday, 20 November 2016

JACKIE COLLINS’ LUCKY/CHANCES (1990)


 
OK, folks, delicate subject here: Jackie Collins. I still have a hard time coping with her passing. In my eyes she was going to live forever.   But moving on: the moment I found out that a three-part TV adaptation of her grandest oeuvre CHANCES was happening I got goosebumps all over. Finally after all these years someone has had the good sense to greenlight this project. The HOLLYWOOD WIVES miniseries was long gone and its proposed sequel HOLLYWOOD HUSBANDS never got made. So it was only natural that the next step should be bringing CHANCES to the small screen. Of course I had already read the novel and its sequel LUCKY on which this proposed miniseries was to be based. In my mind both books should have had separate identities but I was willing to accept whatever Hollywood had to offer.   

When LUCKY/CHANCES finally aired on NBC in October of 1990 it came as no surprise that I was in heaven. Seeing it all materializing right before my eyes proved to me right then and there that indeed there was a God and her name was Jackie Collins. I finally could enjoy something that was right up my, and her, alley. I recently re-watched the miniseries and let me tell you that contrary to the reruns of TV’s SEX IN THE CITY it does age well despite a few noticeable flaws, starting with the overall look of the film. Oh don’t get me wrong, everything is glammed up to the hilt, whether the focus is on the swinging ‘20s, the flower-power era of the ‘60s or the glamourous days of the late ‘70s—early ‘80s. No, what I’m referring to is the prosthetic effects used on the actors to age them. I never realized how foamy and phony they all looked. They almost distracted me from all the drama: drug addictions, sexual situations, Machiavellian manipulations, you name it. And dead bodies, so many dead bodies: in the streets, in swimming pools, in exploding cars...  

Make no mistake, I am all well aware that LUCKY/CHANCES is a direct rip-off of Mario Puzo’s THE GODFATHER with its tale of rival Mafiosos in Vegas that traces 40-some years, but to soap fans everywhere it’s still must-see TV. Nicollette Sheridan, fresh from her KNOTS LANDING days, gives it all she’s got as Lucky Santangelo—the mobster’s daughter who wants to prove her worth as a business woman—and comes out relatively unscathed. She may not be the greatest actress alive but she does have her moments in the lead. So do most of the cast like Grant Show, Michael Nouri, Audrey Landers and Sandra Bullock in one of her first roles. Of course they all look sensational with their chiseled faces and saccharine smiles. You do not venture into a Jackie Collins novel or a TV adaptation expecting any less.

What made me cringe a little, though, is realizing how stale and clichés some of that dialogue appears despite Collins having written the teleplay. Actor Vincent Irizarry barely helps either as kingpin and ladies’ man Gino Santangelo. His performance is as amateurish and stiff as that fake moustache he sports during the mini’s second half. But most of all I blame this on my advanced years which have made me more cynical towards what is supposed to be good or not. As camp appeal goes however LUCKY/CHANCES (as the HOLLYWOOD WIVES mini which has been too harsh a review on this blog) is by far one of the best thing to watch on TV besides THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF BEVERLY HILLS or THE ROYALS on E! It may be far from being artsy fartsy but, boy, does it deliver. Now, the only thing left to say is this: when is JACKIE COLLINS’ LUCKY/CHANCES coming to DVD in North America, Mr. Distributors? When?!!!

 
Click here to read all about its adapted sequel, the LADY BOSS miniseries.
 

 

Until next post—Martin
 

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

‘PEYTON PLACE’ BY GRACE METALIOUS


 

Like many of you I was introduced to PEYTON PLACE during the height of its popularity as a prime-time soap in the late '60s. I was very young then but I remember catching it quite a few times, having no idea that it was based on an international bestseller. Fast-forward to the mid-‘80s and wouldn’t you know, I ended up with a copy of the novel itself. It was right in the middle of my trashy phase and I couldn’t go on without tasting the merits of that infamous title. I made it in a jiffy, so much involved I was in it. The novel seemed barely my cup of tea in regards to the lack of glitz and glamour but it made up big time by delivering one heck of a compelling story. 

Indeed, those looking for a little change in their reading experience may have come to the right place when it comes to this 1956 soaper set in a small town during the 1940's. Protagonists Constance Mackenzie and teenaged daughter Allison lead off a colorful cast of characters whose secrets and sins end up having major consequences. Nearing the end of the novel the story verges to a legal drama, but the involvement factor still reigns as the reader gets caught up deeper into the whole scenario. Grace Metalious' narrative goes from the lyrical (any setting description) to the very real (a character's rape, among others). Some revelations seem rather tame nowadays (Constance's big adultery secret, for example), but, as a whole, PEYTON PLACE still stands the test of time thanks to a talented author and its universal appeal. 

Of course I had to catch the film adaptation after reading it. Took me a while (VHS commercial tapes weren’t as easy a grab in those days unless living near a big video rental store) but when I finally did, it was pure magic. But more on that in an upcoming blog entry, just like I plan to draw attention to PEYTON PLACE's sequel RETURN TO PEYTON PLACE one of these days. In the meantime get yourself a copy of this timeless classic and move it up on top of your reading list. It’s that good.
 

 


Until next post—Martin


The Digital Edition


 

Sunday, 13 November 2016

‘EAT THE NIGHT’ BY TIM WAGGONER


 
Whew! What a roller-coaster ride of a read. Tim Waggoner’s EAT THE NIGHT (DarkFuse) is by far the weirdest novel I have come across this year. Not that it’s a bad thing. Au contraire. It has originality, a strong narrative, a fast-paced execution, and most importantly: a pulpy flavor to it that makes the time spent reading this effort all the more worthwhile. It is a rather short novel, under 200 pages, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

The plot is sort of hard to define. Without saying too much, it involves a crazed long ago famed guru/singer who comes back from the dead to haunt a woman who has a haunting past of her own. When she discovers—after having had a bitch of a nightmare—a hidden basement in her newly-acquired house, her life as she knows it is under assault. It’s only when she pairs up with this antacid chewer agent of a secret organization called Maintenance (think MEN IN BLACK) that she’s able to merge past and present and confront evil head-on.
 
I know, I know. Written this way scarcely does the novel justice but trust me on this. If you dig crazy imageries, like someone being forced-fed skin from peeled-off faces or witnessing a decapitated head talk its head off (yes, I went there), you’ll have plenty to enjoy. My personal fave moment rather involves a mail carrier who turns into a bug and attacks a road vehicle. Always been a sucker for big threatening creatures in books or in films. Speaking of the latter, EAT THE NIGHT reminds me of those cool independent movies that become surprise hits from word-of-mouth advertising. I can easily see this one hitting the big or small screen, depending who gets interested in it. Personally, I would see it in theaters. We need some good-old fashioned B-grade films adapted from succulent novels such as EAT THE NIGHT. It’s a no-brainer, really.
 
This is the second title that I have read from Waggoner, the first one being LIKE-DEATH from the now defunct Leisure line. Having had enjoyed EAT THE NIGHT so much makes me wonder what I have been missing for the last decade or so. Pick this one up and see exactly what I’m talking about.

 

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

 

Until next post—Martin

 

 

 

Sunday, 6 November 2016

BAD GIRLS CLUB: GINA LOLLOBRIGIDA IN ‘GO NAKED IN THE WORLD’



I’m always a sucker for bad girls in cinema. Give me a Neely O’Hara, a Nomi Malone, heck even a Bette Davis in an awful wig (BEYOND THE FOREST) and I’ll be your film buff for life. It’s no wonder that I fell for Gina Lollobrigida’s character in the delectably bad GO NAKED IN THE WORLD distributed by MGM in 1961. In it she plays Guilietta, a high-priced call girl who loves swinging her curvy derrière and hanging out in hippie joints. When she gets stood up by an old coot one evening she meets handsome Anthony Franciosa who has no idea that she’s a lady of the night. Strange, for you take one look at her and you connect the dots quite easily. But I digress.

When the script calls for them to fall madly in love, loud papa Ernest Borgnine hits the roof and with good reasons. He’s had her many times over, so did his friends and associates. To paraphrase Elizabeth Taylor’s character in the award winning (!) but rival BUTTERFIELD 8 (another MGM film), she’s the slut of all time. When he reveals this to Franciosa, sonny-boy cries liar but soon learns the truth and quickly ends the relationship with Lollobrigida. Miserable as any manly man of the ‘60s can be, he drowns his sorrow in cheap booze and hotels until he decides to face his problem head on. So he kills his dad. No, just kidding, but it’s not that farfetched of an idea since their relationship can only be described as very volatile. Son wants to be his own person, dad wants him to be more like him...

Like I said, Franciosa sobers up.  He soon rekindles his relationship with Lollobrigida (he’s in LOVE, people). Before she quits the business she warns him how hard it’ll be for him to get used to the idea of her past life. He acts as if it’s nothing at all but we the spectators know better. Our hunch is quickly confirmed when loud papa shows up in Acapulco where the two have moved to start anew. He bribes Lollobrigida to stay away from his son. She refuses but quickly changes her tune when she realises that, hooking or not, she will always be trouble for Franciosa. So she kills him. Nah, she instead pretends to go back to her old ways. This is the best part of the film. She flirts, she drinks, she dances (she even gets gang-raped off camera) all in the space of a few minutes while Franciosa looks like a kicked dog. Later on, unable to live with herself any longer and all clad in white (wouldn’t you know? repentance), she throws herself into the ocean to forever be with her maker. Anyway, so ends her misery and ours who are this close from running screaming from the room.

GO NAKED IN THE WORLD is based on the Tom T. Chamale’s novel and directed by MILDRED PIERCE screenwriter Ranald McDougall (helped by non-credited Charles Walters). As much as I enjoyed the film, I came away from it with a splitting headache. I blame this mostly on Borgnine’s constant shouting which made me lower the volume on my remote and put on the close captioned. Bombshell Lollobrigida may have top billing for this but it’s Franciosa who carries the film, which is a shame since the whole reason to catch this flick is to see her in action.  In fact, she should have put her foot down and convince the high rollers to use her more, like any good sleazy chicks in high-budget films should. Just ask any other celluloid bad girls, Stanwyck, Davis, Taylor. THEY knew how to make the most of it. Judging by the shaking of her bonbon in that next to last scene of the film, I’m sure Lollobrigida could have succeeded just as well. Nonetheless, give this film a try. It has its moments.

 

 

Until next post—Martin
  
 
 
 
 

Sunday, 30 October 2016

‘LAST TRAIN FROM PERDITION’ BY ROBERT McCAMMON


 
Robert McCammon has always been one of those writers labelled a-must by fans and reviewers alike, and with good reasons. His ‘80s novels and his subsequent ones have all managed to impress for their classic blend of chills and thrills. Even those considered sub-pars by the author himself have been given the seal of approval from around the globe. So it comes as no surprise that his latest is no different. Called LAST TRAIN FROM PERDITION (Subterranean Press), a follow-up to I TRAVEL BY NIGHT published in 2013, we find yet again the vampire gunslinger for hire but on a new mission: to locate and bring back home a wayward son of a wealthy gent. Accompanied by his female human sidekick, he’ll stop at nothing to accomplish his mission while trying his best to contain his vampire urges. His main goal however is to return to life of humanity, and if he plays his cards right, meaning finding the queen bee who has turned him into a vampire, it might certainly happen. In the meantime he puts up a fight, draws his gun whenever he has to (which is often) and tries his best to stay afloat in a universe so filled with baddies and bloodsuckers.

I admit, I never had the chance to read the first novelette, so I had no idea what I was really getting myself into other than the fact that it was to be the second installment in a historical horror western trilogy.  Thankfully McCammon summed up the previous plot before moving on. Declaring that I was totally in love with this effort would be a total lie, since I never had been too fond of western horror. BUT I got to admit that storywise it is pretty involving, and the action is almost nonstop. For some strange reasons I was reminded of 30 DAYS OF NIGHT while reading this, probably because of its vampire theme and the snow-covered Montana setting. While limited on gore but with plenty of dreadful moments to spare—even more so in the second half where a train is at a standstill while things with fangs are on the attack mode—LAST TRAIN FROM PERDITION is worth checking out, especially if you’re into strong narrative and vengeful Cowboys and Indians. I for one will definitely give the last installment a go, most probably when stuck in between sleazy novels, since we all know that a good healthy balance in reading choices does a mind good.

 

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

 
 

Until next post—Martin
 


 

 

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

'AFTERAGE' BY YVONNE NAVARRO


 

 

Yvonne Navarro’s 1993 debut novel AFTERAGE is a well-crafted vampire story with a twist. The twist being that it is barely a vampire novel in the traditional sense. Set in Chicago, where the population has almost dwindled due to a vampire invasion, the story revolves around the ongoing battle between good and evil. In one corner we have the struggling humans trying to survive the plague as they seek refuge and other survivors. On the other corner, we have the rulers, the villains themselves, led by evil queen Anyelet, who yearns to control what’s left of the remaining population. Both want freedom but none are equipped enough to go for it. Fangs and stakes are barely the point in this novel. The focus is more on the interaction between characters. Navarro makes sure her people are equally well-defined and the setting is rich in flavor before moving on to the next stage, the action sequences.
 
 
And that’s where some readers may get miffed. Nothing major really happens before the last 30 pages or so. Oh, you may get a teaser here and there; heck, you may even drool over the novel's sudden turn into dark fantasy territory, but an edge-of-your-seat page-turner this is not. Navarro goes rather for the gloomy atmosphere and in the end it pays off quite well.  Some scenes are rather unsettling if not darkly beautiful. Topped by short chapters divided in many sections, AFTERAGE even adds a celestial apparition to shake things up. This may not always work as it should (this presence is never really explained as it comes and goes as it pleases) but it gives the reader another reason to enjoy this effort. Bottom line: if you dig slower but always intriguing plots à la quiet horror, you’ve come to the right novel.
 
 
AFTERAGE is available wherever digital books are sold.
 
 
 
Until next post—Martin


Digital Edition
 

‘THE MIRROR SISTERS’ BY V. C. ANDREWS


 

It has been a while since I ventured into the world of V.C. Andrews.  The last time I did so was in 2004 with the first in the Gemini series which I enjoyed tremendously. Why then did I fail to check out its sequels? I have no clue, except to say that perhaps I got sidetracked by the many glam novels that have been coming my way. So when THE MIRROR SISTERS (Pocket Books) suddenly became available on NetGalley for an honest review I said what the heck not and dove right into this thing.


THE MIRROR SISTERS tells the tale of two identical twins who are brought up and home-schooled by their cray-cray mom. Dad is around but prefers to make himself scarce—which is clearly understandable considering the family atmosphere. I mean who would want to confront this obsessive-compulsive impossible woman? One day he bows out and the twins, without a fatherly presence in the house, suffer even more greatly at the hands of mommy dearest, especially when their hormones hit the roof and they are tossed into the real world. Add a sibling rivalry, a sisterly switcharoo, a kidnapping of one of the twins and you’ve got yourself one intense VCA read you’ll devour in no time.

Indeed, reading THE MIRROR SISTERS made the impossible happen: my fervent intention of going back to VCA. Yes boys and girls, I’m seriously thinking of visiting or revisiting every series written by the original author or those now ghostwritten by Andrew Neiderman. That’s how much I had fun with his latest. Those expecting a dark tale of family angst may be pleasantly surprised. All the ingredients are there: secrets, lies, sins, jealousy, manipulation… Neiderman even manages to incorporate some of Andrews’s infamous gothic mood. Just have in mind that like any first VCA book in a series this reads like a YA novel—even though the first person narrative is clearly told by an adult—and I’m pretty sure THE MIRROR SISTERS will be a breeze to go through. But who am I kidding here. It’s V.C. Andrews, people. Either you dig her or you don’t.  I do.

 

THE MIRROR SISTERS is now available wherever digital or printed books are sold.

 
 

Until next post—Martin


 

 

 

Saturday, 22 October 2016

‘A MANHATTANITE’S CHRISTMAS’ BY AVERY ASTER




I would love to say that I’m up-to-date with Avery Aster’s impressive backlist but, alas, life has a way of throwing some unexpected curveballs, and before you know it, you find yourself way behind schedule. Nothing would please me more than to spend my free time getting into this author’s oeuvres but let’s face it: there are too many novels, films, miniseries that strike my fancy and so precious little time. A title I did manage to get into, however, is his latest in the Manhattanites series, A MANHATTANITE’S CHRISTMAS, offered by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. So without further ado:


Reality star and songstress Neve Adele is on a downright spiral. The only thing that can save her failing career, not to mention her once-lucrative empire, is taking part in the much-publicised Celebrity Newlywed Boot Camp on TV. Problem is she’s husbandless—until sexy Sheldon Truman enters the picture. He’s a recovered alcoholic fighting for custody of an autistic child and he needs the cash.  When the two hook up, major fireworks—on and off screen, but will their union last? But more importantly, how do they go about winning this thing, especially when Neve’s longtime nemesis and expert schemer Tara Storm is part of the cast?
 
It goes without saying that I had a ball reading A MANHATTANITE’S CHRISTMAS. The author clearly knows how to entice and deliver. His duo-team protagonists are sympathetic ones and their involvement with one another makes for some torrid entertainment. Told in the first person with either character’s point of view in alternate chapters, the plot moves along real nicely to a satisfying if too abrupt of a conclusion. I would have taken another 100 pages of this work in a heartbeat instead of the two very ‘smexy’ excerpts offered at the end of this novel. That’s how good this fifth installment of the Manhattanites really is. Let’s just hope the author has plans later on to deliver a longer version, just like he did with his first two novels in the series.


 
 A MANHATTANITE’S CHRISTMAS is now available digitally on Amazon.





 
Until next post—Martin