Wednesday, 27 July 2016

‘THE SANTIAGO SISTERS’ BY VICTORIA FOX





Ever since I embarked on this Hollywood-related wagon of hers with the sizzling 2011 HOLLYWOOD SINNERS, which I’ll gladly review one of these days, I make it my mission to read anything from Victoria Fox. It could be a novel, a short story, her grocery list; it scarcely matters; just as long as I get a taste of her wicked, but most importantly always impressive, pen. So imagine the thrill I felt when all of a sudden came this ARC with her name on it from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Heavenly is all I can say. So without further ado: 

Nothing is sweeter than reading about sibling rivalry among the rich, especially when they’re twins, fraternal twins in this case. It hardly matters who’s right or wrong just as long as the author goes the extra mile to deliver the goods. You could say that Victoria Fox does just that with her latest. THE SANTIAGO SISTERS (Mira Books UK) is a crackling tale of two rags to riches beauties from Argentina (one becomes a famous Hollywood actress, the other an internationally famed photographer) who, when younger, are at each other’s throats until they get separated and one spends what seems like an eternity getting revenge on the other. In between you get adultery, a kidnapping as a prologue, a May-December romance, plenty of glitz and glam, and one or two heartfelt moments to spare. 

Get ready to be mesmerized because with THE SANTIAGO SISTERS VICTORIA FOX cements herself as the author to pick when it comes to compelling beach reads. Filled with sultry liaisons, romantic getaways, caviar and champagne and a bunch of beautiful people who look cool, calm and collected the novel is fun with a capital F.  The plot may look hardly inventive but with Fox at the helm the end result is quite addictive.  

With her strong narrative, her sense of timing, not to mention her impressive skills when it comes to one on one combats whether coital or simply verbal it is fair to say that THE SANTIAGO SISTERS is the must-read novel of the season. If you ever wondered what it’s like being surrounded by wealth and yet still be totally miserable then this book is for you. Victoria Fox has delivered a doozy. 


 

Until next post—Martin
 
 

 

 

 

Friday, 22 July 2016

‘THE INHERITANCE’ BY KATIE AGNEW




The first novel I ever got from this author is her 2010 SAINTS v SINNERS which I still have yet to read.  I remember being in Barcelona, caught by its fetching cover and back-cover description and telling myself that this author is right up my alley.  I even got the rest of her work when I flew back to my home front.  But here we are six years later and still no blog entry about any of her efforts—until now. Oh believe me, I’ve been meaning to showcase some of them, but life sometimes take you on a different path, one that eventually got me to this focused novel. 

Formally known as DIVING FOR PEARLS, Katie Agnew’s multi-generational saga THE INHERITANCE (Orion) spawns over 80 years, involving three women on a hunt across the continents to find one precious necklace that has brought wealth, love and peace but also sadness to many individuals. From a down on her luck former TV star on a quest to find redemption, to a Japanese business older woman faced with a troubling past, to a former silver screen star now on her deathbed, all have their own reasons to own these pearls and none will back down until it is finally accomplished.  Add an unhappy wife caught in a loveless marriage and a renowned documentarian left by his jilted bride and you’ve got yourself one well-written, emotionally-charged piece that will leave no romance junkie unfazed.  

THE INHERITANCE is more than fluff however as the author takes time to dwell into the psyche of her interrelated characters, though one male counterpart could have been more omnipresent than the beginning and the last few pages of this fine novel.  The story goes back and forth in time and succeeds in keeping the reader enthralled all the way to the dramatic conclusion which is very well handled but may carry itself a bit too far regarding rose-colored ending.  All in all, THE INHERITANCE is a strong book and should definitely be added to your library.
 

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

  

Until next post—Martin

 


 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Sunday, 17 July 2016

‘VALLEY OF THE DOLLS’ BY JACQUELINE SUSANN




After almost a decade focusing primarily on camp I just couldn’t go on without honing in on this highly-sought title, especially since it’s celebrating its 50th anniversary this month with a brand new edition from Grove Press. Yes, my little dollies, the classic of all classics about three desperate beauties reaching for the top in love, work, and pills is back in print to commemorate its sheer fabulousness. The first time I ever held a paperback copy in my hand I was around 17, working at this pizza place answering phones.  After rush hour, which ended around 9 PM, I was allowed to read my eyes out if I wanted to, as long as I did my chores. That’s how cool my bosses were. I already knew about this novel since I had previously seen the movie adaptation, but what a rush it still was having the chance to get acquainted with it. I had read it many times over since that faithful day but nothing compares to that first connection between the book and reader.

Let’s not mince words here. VALLEY OF THE DOLLS is the grandest, most important piece of work to have ever been published in this genre. Never mind its many carbon copy successors. Nothing surpasses Jackie Susann’s baby. Oh, many have tried, some have even come close but in the end only one novel comes up on top, and we wouldn’t have it in any other way. Why? Simple: VALLEY OF THE DOLLS is as addictive as the pills those three leading ladies gladly take. If you have yet to try this novel I’m warning you it is one effective buzz. Like I, you’ll probably never be the same once consumed. I still have long-term effects as you can probably imagine just by navigating throughout my many reviews on this blog. Before this title came around I was a total horror geek, jumping from one scary read to the next, but once I got my hands on this juicy novel, well, the rest, as they say, is history.  



Never have I felt so in synch following the troubles of these protagonists. All three succeeded in charming their ways into my life as if nothing else mattered. It was the first time that I truly experienced what we call a compelling read. It also made me realize that VALLEY OF THE DOLLS was the start of a new phase in my life, one that would eventually involve my own sexuality. You could say that this celebrated novel was my first dib into this so-called gay lifestyle of mine. I say so-called because I never considered myself a label. To me, loving a guy is just that, love. Gender barely matters. It’s the same with my reading choices. I never think of myself as a lover of women’s fiction. I just follow my instincts to what really appeals to me, and suffice to say VALLEY OF THE DOLLS and the likes do, big-time.  


The novel got scathing reviews when it first hit the shelves in 1966. Yet that scarcely stopped people from investing their good-earned money in it. It stayed number one on the New-York Times best-seller list for an unprecedented 28 weeks. 28. It would be impossible to have that same longevity nowadays with the current market being overflowed with titles (yes, I’m talking mostly about you Amazon self-publishing services). But back then, my god, talk about a ground breaking success…   



Not a week goes by without me hearing something about VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, whether it’s on TV or during a conversation among friends or in some article from the trades. The name and its author are forever imprinted in our minds. Yes, I’ve come to appreciate other genres as the years went on. Heck, I can even say that I’m well-read in my spare time, but nothing will ever come close to my addiction to this type of a novel. It’s in my DNA as I’m sure it is in yours if you’ve reached this part without nodding off. Susann may be already gone (she succumbed to cancer in ’74) but she will forever be remembered from people like us who cherish everything she has ever churned out.  How can we not? She is the queen of trash after all.
 
 


Until next post—Martin  

 

 

 
 

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

‘THE PARIS SECRET’ BY KAREN SWAN


 

I was in a used bookstore one winter day not too long ago when I first set eyes on one of Karen Swan’s earlier work. The book was called PLAYERS and since it was on sale I said to myself what the heck and purchased myself a copy.  I immediately started reading it on the way home and suffice to say we gelled the book and I, to the point of finishing it up in about two days. From then on I was on a quest for anything I could get from this author.  Took me a while but I finally did it—as achieving my mission of reading each and every one of these newly-acquired gems ASAP, thank you very much.   

You could say that her newest, THE PARIS SECRET, is no different.  I immediately got into it the minute I received it from NetGalley and its publishers Pan MacMillan.  Again, the author swooned me over with her tale of hidden artifacts and the people who suffer because of them.   The focus this time is on a female fine-art agent who’s on a mission of tracking down the owner of a long-ago discovered painting, amongst other gems, in a long-ago abandoned Parisian apartment and which could bring big bucks to her aristocratic clients.  Problem is they’d rather keep it all under the rug, which of course does not bode well with our heroine.  For the next few hundred pages you’ll discover what it takes to make these people tick and to what degree our protagonist is ready to go to finally unearth the truth behind this hidden treasure—which, FYI, is as fetching as the many twists and turns and cliff-hangers the novel offers.  You’ll probably even read THE PARIS SECRET in one sitting just to get to the denouement involving WW2 and the secret that could destroy a family. 

Not only is the narrative fresh and exciting, the characters are well-drawn. The plot, which is inspired somewhat by a true account, is inventive in spite of the topic (missing art pieces) having been done excessively.  If I have to find a weak spot I would say that the romance between the two leads, as palpable as it ends up being, is very predictable. But it’s a smidge compared to the enjoyment I felt reading this novel.  The author has never failed to surprise me and of course I will continue to be overjoyed whenever she has a new book out. Hats off, Miss Swan.
 

 

Until next post—Martin
 

 



Wednesday, 6 July 2016

OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE (1987)





Bette Midler was on a roll in the mid-‘80s. Having had two successful films under her belt, DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS and RUTHLESS PEOPLE, it was a no-brainer that she would make another comedy, but this time a female buddy flick called OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE co-starring hot from her stint on TVs CHEERS Shelley Long. Now it’s no secrets that the duo butted heads during filming but what we got onscreen was nonetheless heavenly, one of the great comedies of 1987 in fact.  I remember catching it more than once when it invaded our movie theaters back in the day.  I even bought the Patti Labelle CD just to get the catchy main theme song (aptly named SOMETHING SPECIAL), like many others did at the time, I’m sure.  Almost 30 years later I still own that CD as the film itself which is now on DVD.  Suffice to say I watch it on a regular basis.
 
If you’ve ever been a fan of TVs LAVERNE & SHIRLEY you probably dig OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE  (since it’s got the same vibes), the story of two would-be actresses as different as night and day who end up fast friends after feuding religiously over a man (Peter Coyote).  Turns out the guy is a complete jerk, but before these fine ladies get to that part the moviegoers are treated to a series of high jinks and one-liners worthy of any RUPAUL DRAG RACE episode. In fact, it’s almost like watching two drag queens battling it out for a chance of owning Mr. Wrong (who cannot relate?). It may not be the wisest choice but the end result is quite effective. It’s big, it’s brassy, it’s completely silly but it works aplenty, thanks to our two talented divas who don’t hold any punches, literally and figuratively.  I’ll even say that their involvement in OUTRAGEAOUS FORTUNE paved the way for other women comedy flicks such as ROMY AND MICHELE’S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION  (1997) or BRIDESMAIDS (2011).   
 

I’m sure the people behind Disney knew they had a goldmine when they watched the rushes.  I mean how could they not?  Here are two of the funniest ladies giving all they got and there is no stopping them.  OK, I admit the first half, when the characters are at each other’s throat, is by far the funniest.  So many scenes come to mind like the airport clerk who refuses to give them information on their lover’s whereabouts; or the cab ride that takes them into a seedy neighborhood; or how about the scenes where la Midler is chatting with Howie (or How as she likes to call him) the phone operator.  Once they cross the border to find the bad guy, however, you start feeling the strain.  Almost as if the script runs out of steam, but that first hour, oh my god, comedy gold.
 
And look at that poster sheet.  Talk about perfection.  They don’t make them like that anymore.  Now it’s all computerized or, worse, photoshopped, for all your young minds to see. A damn shame, if you ask me.  Please, Hollywood honchoes, if you ever read this blog, go back to that style of art for your posters.  It’s so much more enticing.
 
Midler made the teary BEACHES after OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE, staying away from comedy for a couple of films. She returned to it big time with THE FIRST WIVES CLUB in ‘96.  She then had many hits and misses, but you’ll all agree that the mid-'80s were her strongest years for laughter.  As for Long, well, the universe wasn’t so nice to her, bombing with TROOP BEVERLY HILLS the year after.  Then she kind of disappeared until she starred in THE BRADY BUNCH MOVIE in 1995.  Her most noticeable work these days is her recurring role in MODERN FAMILY on ABC playing DeDe, Jay’s crazy first wife.  Despite these actresses differences they sure made a great team, and I would have given my good-earned money just to see them in action in another project together.  Maybe someday they will but I doubt it.  In the meantime, do yourself a favor and check out OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE. I dare you to sit through it without laughing.

  

 

Until next post—Martin