Monday, 26 September 2016

‘DIVAS’ BY REBECCA CHANCE


 
Of all the current bestselling novelists specializing in glam fiction I would say Rebecca Chance (Lauren Henderson) is hard to beat. Her novels are always fun and compelling. Take her first offering DIVAS (Simon & Schuster UK) for instance—the story of two beauties from opposite sides of the tracks who team up to destroy a third party who has made their lives a living hell—at first glance it all sounds a bit mundane (haven’t we seen it all before?), but at the hands of Rebecca Chance, however, it is pure gold. What can I say? the woman has the magic touch. Whether it’s in her strong narrative or in her sympathetic characters, or simply in her way of moving the plot along, one thing’s for sure, this delivery of hers is one enjoyable treat. 

I’ve been meaning to talk about this author for ages, ever since I got a hold of DIVAS in 2010. I was in Geneva on my way to visit Chamonix (where parts of miniseries LACE were filmed) and brought the book along with me. The best decision I could have made. I remember reading it in bed, incapable of letting it go, as my hubby snored heavily next to me. But the truth of the matter was I scarcely heard him since I was so enthralled in the novel.  

DIVAS is primarily the tale of a spoiled socialite who has revenge on her mind when she suddenly gets cut off from dad’s fortune. Now, you’d think that being dead broke would make her learn a meaningful lesson about life and about living on the streets. Well, think again. Though she does get a wake-up call she still manages to survive by leaning on her rich friends, like her ex-fiancé turned gay, for instance, who, contrary to the gay folks in Judith Krantz’s SCRUPLES, is kind and caring. In fact all of the homosexual characters in DIVAS are non-threatening. The same could not be said about the ex-fiancé’s brute of a brother who, as straight as they come, has an eye for the heroine and serves as a plaything when the two finally hookup—more than once I might add. The private plane sex scene between the two is one of the hottest passages that I’ve read in a long time. It will make you reach for either a ciggie or a vibrator or both. Add a knockout of a pole dancing mermaid who ends up an accomplice to the heroine’s scheme, a hunk of a private trainer who’s also an ace in bed; and a rich stepmom who has a thing for her employees and you’ve got yourself one exciting read you’ll want to consume in no time.   

True to form, the major plot points are effective, some more than others (the solving of a computer password to obtain access to some hidden footage… not so much) but all are interesting overall. I’ll even say that DIVAS is one of the better sub-genre books to come around in the last decade or so. So pick it up. It’s still available wherever digital or trade paperbacks are sold. 
 

 

Until next post—Martin   
 
 
 

 

 

 

 





Tuesday, 20 September 2016

JUDITH KRANTZ’S ‘SCRUPLES’ VS THE GAY MAFIA

 

I’ve been comparing many novels to SCRUPLES and yet still no post featuring that title. I think it’s time to remedy the situation, so here it goes. The first time I came across SCRUPLES was in the mid-‘80s, not long after my involvement with HOLLYWOOD WIVES. I wanted to read another gem about Tinseltown and critics raved about Judith Krantz’s first novel. I had high hopes it was going to be as gripping as the Jackie Collins classic and it was but on a different level.  SCRUPLES introduced me to clash trash. Before Krantz, we had authors like Susann, Robbins, Sheldon, even Collins, whose main goal was to shock rather than entice. But it took Krantz’s talent to raise the bar and what followed was a bunch of well-written oeuvres that may not have existed had Krantz not paved the way. Anyway, to make a long story short, I recently re-read the thing just so I could acclimate myself to her world before embarking on her many sequels. At first it was all lovey dovey between the novel and I.  I was so happy being reunited with boutique owner Wilhelmina ‘Billie’ Winthrop, photographer and ladies’ man Spider, and spunky fashion designer Valentine. But as I got further into their storylines something unexpected happened, something that completely passed me by the first time around: underneath all that glam existed a kind of a homophobic novel.  

First and foremost let me say this: I don’t mind when a gay character turns out to be unsympathetic in print because it’s true, some of us do tend to be bitchy; as any other person can be. What I don’t enjoy, however, is when an author takes the opportunity to downgrade homosexuals in his or her own work, like choosing derogatory words to describe them for instance. And Ms. Krantz uses them quite often in SCRUPLES, when she’s not busy putting a negative spin on their lifestyles. Indeed, many chapters are devoted to their wicked ways which, I admit, can be fun if taken with a grain of salt. But the problem I have with this is that she makes it seem like we’re all one and the same, that we are all cheaters, manipulators, distrustful... 

Oh don’t get me wrong, I realize that the novel is from a different era and that her lack of fondness for a certain type was far from being uncommon, but this fixation of hers is a bit cray cray, if you ask me; the clichés are everywhere, from a queenie fashion designer who gets off on verbal abuse and sexual stimulation in rest rooms, to a closeted lesbian agent who hates the very thought of a masculine presence. Not to mention the many cracks regarding one’s position in the fashion industry. Krantz never stops. So much so that I had to take an urgent breather and read something else just to get my mind out of her gutter.  I did manage to finish the novel and I did enjoy it… to a certain degree. But I would be lying if I said all these unnecessary jibes didn’t bother me.  

Now for the big question: would I still recommend SCRUPLES knowing what I know now? Probably, but it would come with a warning, like this written piece, for instance. That being said, I hope I did not turn some of you too much away from this novel, for it does sparkle underneath that nastiness. But it would have been unfair of me to sweep those remarks under the carpet and declare the novel just cookie and cakes. Besides, forewarned is forearmed, right?

  

Until next post—Martin

 

 

Thursday, 15 September 2016

‘DARK MATTER’ BY BLAKE CROUCH


 
I was a latecomer to Blake Crouch’s world, having just caught glimpse of the first season of WAYWARD PINES on TV last summer. It pricked up my ears enough to set about reading his trilogy on which the series is based. Suffice to say, I have been a fan ever since. His latest reminds me of PINES, the story of a man caught in a different world where nothing is like it seems. You could say the author did a copy and paste job for this particular novel, except that DARK MATTER is more than a recycle of his greatest success. It is also a better defined exposition of a man trapped in his own nightmare, what Crouch calls quantum superposition where one has many parallel lives going on. In other words, the hero can pick and choose the life that suits him best. If he can forget his previous one, that is. Not an easy task when love and family interfere.   
 
In DARK MATTER (Crown Publishing), however, the protagonist barely has time to make a decision as he is pulled off from his secure but imperfect life and pushed into one that feels completely new to him. When he ends up in a lab—one his parallel-self has built from the ground up, he learns later on—that’s when hell really breaks loose. How does he go about returning to his previous life? Is it even possible? And if it is, is it the right choice for him? These are just a dab of the many questions orbiting around this compelling piece of Sci-fi slash thriller. Blake Crouch weaves his tale like a pro giving enough leeway to hook the reader for the ride. His Dean Koontz-like approach (from the man’s earlier work, mostly) gives us a pretty good idea what he’s capable of achieving. Though the novel first half is captivating (when the main character is clueless to what’s going on, just like in PINES), it is the second half that really shows his savoir-faire as a writer. His hero’s many encounters from his alternative lives give a gloomy if sometimes oppressive atmosphere that ends up being utterly unsettling. Moreover, Crouch’s characterization really shines up from there on as the reader finds himself rooting for the good guy.
 
Topped by a clear narrative and a blockbuster-like approach DARK MATTER is one of the coolest rides this summer. It may not always re-invent the wheel, but has enough spunk to keep the fun going for a very long time.
 
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.


 
  
Until next post—Martin


 
 
 
 

 

Sunday, 11 September 2016

‘THE HOUSE ON SUNSET LAKE’ BY TASMINA PERRY




Ever since the publication of DADDY’S GIRLS back in 2006 Tasmina Perry has been churning out bestseller after bestseller, and with good reasons. The lady definitely knows how to deliver class trash fiction. Try any novel of hers and I guarantee that you’ll be having seconds and thirds. So it comes as no surprise that her latest is just as impressive. Called THE HOUSE ON SUNSET LAKE (Headline), the story in a  gist revolves around thirtysomething hotel developer Jim Johnston who still holds a torch for the woman that got away many years ago. When their paths cross once again via a business transaction, Jim will stop at nothing to rekindle their romance, however damageable it may turn out to be.  
 

Those yearning for the old Tasmina Perry, the one who fills her books with sins and scandals among the very rich, will once again have to settle for less, since THE HOUSE ON SUNSET LAKE is a tamed down version of what the author used to write. Just like in her last two novels, everything is simpler and more traditional (less characters, less high-jinks, more feelings).  Oh, the opulent setting is still present but contrary to her first few titles it has become secondary to the story itself, a story filled with romance and past mistakes and second chances at love. Perry’s narrative is as strong, if not better than before, and the way the plot boils down to a one on one confrontation between the two leads should please romance junkies everywhere.  


The only flaw I can attribute to THE HOUSE ON SUNSET LAKE is this unnecessary big bombshell regarding Jim’s family the author uses to build up the climax. A revelation that seems a bit overblown since the plot is already strong as it is. But this should not hinder too much any enjoyment regarding this sweet and touching tale of two people rediscovering one another.

 

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

 

 

Until next post—Martin


PB from Headline