Sunday, 31 January 2016

'ADORED' BY TILLY BAGSHAWE


 

I was on a trip abroad the first time I ever caught ADORED  by the ever-talented Tilly Bagshawe.  I took one look at the cover and knew right away that we would end up BFFs.   How can you not when all it promises is a good time.  I didn’t purchase the book right away however.  I already had reading material with me and knew I would throw it aside the first chance I got hold of the book.  So like a good boy I held out.  But I didn’t forget.  Oh how I didn’t.  It took a few weeks before I got my hands on a copy (a birthday gift from my other half, actually), but once I did, it was Xanadu, my darlings; Pure saccharine Xanadu. 

ADORED introduces us to Siena, a young heroine who just can't seem to be happy with her charmed life. She wants to be a movie star no matter what.  So true to form, she says cheerios to her England private school life and embarks on a Hollywood journey where she'll meet all sorts of influential people and, of course, mega problems along the way. The author is definitely at ease with those elements, creating a one sitting read that'll please fans of the genre. Indeed, ADORED works quite aplenty thanks to the many zany but fun-filled situations, torrid sexual scenes and punchy dialogue. Indeed, Bagshawe first offering highly deserves its juicy stamp of approval as its popularity. 

I have read many novels by her since then, none of which had ever dissatisfied me.  She has this thing that I call pizazz.   You know, the knack of always delivering spot-on escapist fiction.  No wonder she has also taken over from Sidney Sheldon after his death, delivering non-stop romantic suspense novels every summer for the last four years. She’s the only one who can maintain the late author’s reputation as “the master of the story-telling game”, as People Magazine so proudly declares. They both have similar style about their work.  Yes, her ADORED is a cool acquisition if you’re into frothy reads.  You will certainly demand more after reading this one, and lucky for you, you have a lot to choose from since its 2005 publication.  
 

 

Until next post—Martin

US paperback edition
 

 

 

Sunday, 24 January 2016

"JACQUELINE SUSANN'S SHADOW OF THE DOLLS" BY RAE LAWRENCE

 
If you’re like me, Jacqueline Susann’s VALLEY OF THE DOLLS — the novel — is to you what Chopin’s Minute Waltz is to many others:  sheer perfectness.  I mean no one can really call themselves a connoisseur of sleaze if he or she has not read and enjoyed this timeless classic.  It’s the rule of the law, period. The glitz and glam subgenre in modern literature has really started with VALLEY OF THE DOLLS.  Without Susann’s impeccable savoir-faire, we probably wouldn’t have had Collins, Krantz, Sheldon, Steel and so on and so forth. So we owe big time to this author.  
 


 
When I heard in the early 2000s that a sequel was in the works my excitement hit a new high.  Mind you, my trash-o-meter was already at its peak but this news, as all news regarding Susann for that matter, couldn’t have come at a better time.  I had just finished re-reading VALLEY OF THE DOLLS for the hundredth time and was yearning for someone to discover an unpublished Susann manuscript of some sort.  Suffice to say, I ran to the bookstore the day JACQUELINE SUSANN’S SHADOW OF THE DOLLS hit the shelves.  As I began reading, I promised myself that I would avoid comparing it to the original.   An impossible task of course, for one cannot go through SHADOW OF THE DOLLS without making some form of thought or connection to the first novel. It is a sequel after all. 
 
In it we find most of the characters (minus the one of Jennifer who took her own life but is still mentioned throughout the book) in the big hair, big shoulder pads era of the late ‘80s which is quite unexpected since the setting of VALLEY OF THE DOLLS starts around the mid ‘40s, or something like that. According to my calculation, Neely would be around 60-70 in the 1980s. But guess what: in this new novel she is still young and vivacious (barely 10 years older) and trying to make another comeback in Hollywood. Anne and Lyon are still married and have a teenage daughter but he still sleeps around, and yes, Anne's still popping pills. Anyway, to make a long story short, everyone is miserable and can barely manage their lives. Yet as in the original oeuvre, their personal struggles make for a fun and engaging read despite the time cheating mishap.   
 
SHADOW OF THE DOLLS would have made a wonderful prime time miniseries but since the frothy kind has fizzled out in the last decade or two, one has to settle for glam in print.   Thank heavens we still have novels like SHADOW OF THE DOLLS here to quench our thirst.  It may not be as engaging as the first one but it still manages to bring forth excitement and originality to a bunch of memorable characters we thought would never see the light of day again. So kudos to Rae Lawrence (really Ruth Liebermann, director of Account Marketing at Penguin/Random House in New-York) for having succeeded in channeling the Susann touch, and let's hope another sequel hits the printers real soon.
 
 
 
 
 
Until next post—Martin
 
US paperback edition
 
 

Friday, 1 January 2016

THANK GOD FOR MAXWELL CAULFIELD IN "GREASE 2"




In 1982 I was a first year student in college, barely out of puberty but ready to face the world.  Life was finally turning out to be real peachy.  I was living in a dorm, studying, partying, and everything was hunky dory except for one thing: I was still in the closet.  My sexual experience resorted mostly to my vivid imagination.  Maxwell Caulfield from GREASE 2 was one that I thought a lot about that year:  his chiseled face, his athletic frame, the way his dark leather pants hugged his tight little rump…  Suffice to say, I couldn’t get enough of him.  I went to see GREASE 2 numerous of times in ‘82.  Alas, the film fizzled out quickly at the box office and it never made Caulfield as star.  But in my mind he certainly was.


I remember the publicity stunt surrounding him and the film.  It was hectic.  You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing his face (and Michelle Pfeiffer’s) on billboards, magazines or on TV (this was all before the birth of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr…)   Anything to get the ball rolling.  Even the soundtrack album was released before the movie opened. And I, the trooper that I am, got a hold of it ASAP, learning the songs and anticipating the best on screen.  Not the best of voice, however.  I mean have you heard Caulfield’s toneless rendition of Charade?  Cringe worthy.  But who cares when you look that hot. 
 
The plot is quite simple:  Nerdy high-school student Caulfied has the hots for Pink Lady member Pfeiffer who barely knows he’s alive.  To win her love and respect he transforms into a mysterious sexy motorcycle rider and sets out to wow her, to the detriment of her entourage, especially the T-Birds gang who want him out of the way. Will the two lovebirds be able to unite after all?  Like duh! 
 

I came out of the movie theater relatively happy.  Despite its many flaws (cardboard characters, silly situations…) GREASE 2 was fun.  Both leads looked great together and lit up the screen in spite of a lack of chemistry… and script. Because rumor has it that the cast was going at it mostly without a screenplay. Imagine what the movie could have been had there been one.  I’m sure the entire film would have been as powerful as the intro BACK TO SCHOOL number.  Fast-forward to 30-odd years, and, wouldn’t you know, GREASE 2 is now recognized as one of the guiltiest of pleasures.  Oh it’s still as clunky as before, but it has earned this je-ne-sais-quoi about it that makes you want to embrace it even more now that time has gone by.   


Some of the old gang are back for this sequel:  Frenchy, principal McGee, coach Calhoun, just to name a few.  Yes, like the next guy, I would have loved to see Danny and Sandy make an appearance too.  Heck, I would have settled for Rizzo or Kenickie, even Putzie for that matter.  But it was not meant to be (for money and career reasons I’m sure).  But in the end, does it really matter?  Just as long as Maxwell Caulfield is around all is fine.  If you have yet to see him in this film, leave your brain at the door and get a DVD copy.  You’ll be mesmerized mostly by his good looks—if not by the impressive biceps and pecs of his other co-star Adrian Zmed who plays T-Birds leader Johnny Nogerelli.  Either way it’s a win win situation. 

  

Until next post—Martin