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


 
 

 

Sunday, 16 October 2016

‘QUEENIE’ BY MICHAEL KORDA


 

During the heydays of the ‘80s soaps, publishing firms around the globe took advantage of the glitz and glamour faze to publish their own versions of sin and sex among the rich. From first-time authors to established ones, nothing could stop them from delivering glam-related novels such as this reviewed title. Michael Korda was already a big thing in the industry, having worked as an editor/publisher for many years (Jacqueline Susann’s THE LOVE MACHINE is one of his doing). So it came as no surprise when he finally dabbled in commercial fiction writing in 1982. The title was WORDLY GOODS, and though it was a relatively successful book, it took QUEENIE a few years later to finally put him on the map as a top novelist.

 
Indeed, Michael Korda's fictionalized account of Anglo-Indian actress Merle Oberon's claim to fame in Hollywood's golden era is a delight from cover to cover. Naming her Dawn Avalon and putting her at risk when she is wrongfully accused of murder, the character flees India to London where, as Queenie Kelley, she becomes a star of stage and screen, while trying her best to stay incognito. Effectively narrated, Korda's story takes you back to a time when studio kings were enthralled by their star pets, as Queenie Kelly was by many, but especially by writer/director David Konig. Their union during the making of his film is as enchanting and as riveting as the entire novel itself.

Oh yes, I definitely was a happy trooper when it first came my way in 1986. It was around the start of my trashy period phase, and I couldn’t have picked a better title. Secrets, greed, sex, opulence, topped by a strong narrative and likable characters, I mean what more could a trashy bookworm want? Finding out also that the novel is actually based on the author’s relative (she’s his aunt) definitely put the cherry on top. That same year, a miniseries based on the novel was announced. It was to be broadcast on ABC, and I made sure to catch it when it aired. I have watched it many times since then. Of course there will be a further blog entry dedicated to it. In the meantime do as I did, pick up QUEENIE and spend a few hours in the glamorous world generated by Korda, then watch the TV adaptation to get up to speed. We’ll compare notes. 

  

 

Until next post—Martin
1985 Hardcover
 

 

 

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

54: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT




I passed on the chance of seeing 54 when it was first released in theaters in August of ‘98.  Have no idea why. The theme and its star were surely a big attraction but for some strange reason I decided to wait for the DVD. When I did catch the film, however, I became an instant fan.  How could I not be?  The glam, the music, the shirtless guys… Did I say shirtless guys? Kidding aside, I really enjoyed the film. It brought back many memories. No, before you even ask yourself, I never visited the club. I was a bit too young then, and when I was old enough to even go the fad was over and done with. But the memory of the disco era still lingers with me after all these years.   

I was aware that the film was heavily cut due to its explicit gay content, yet this hardly made a dent in my appreciation of it despite the nasty reviews. Mike Myers came out of it unscathed as club owner Steve Rubell, and I quite agree with the critics: he is very good at what he does in this. But what interested me more at the time was the presence of sexy Ryan Phillippe as the newbie who quickly moves up the ladder from busboy to waiter. Suffice to say he was—and still is—quite delectable in his very states of undress. But even more than that, the guy can act, with or without clothes. So do the rest of the cast, especially Breckin Myer who plays down-on-his-luck Greg. His character’s desperate need to make something of himself gives us some fine movie moments. And even though the producers tried their hardest to erase the homoerotic tension between those two boys, it was still there, ready for the pluckin’.  

So imagine the joy I felt finding out that an uncut version of 54 was heading to DVD and Blu-ray. I already knew about the man-on-man action footage that existed between Phillippe and Breckin. I had even seen a rough cut of it on YouTube, and what was there was more than two guys just getting it on. It turned out to be very emotional as well. Of course this made me want to see the film even more. To make a long story short, I finally sat down and saw the finished product and let me tell you, the film is far different from what we’ve come to know. 

First and foremost, the added 44 minute footage focuses furthermore on Philippe’s character’s rise to “fame”. Through him you see a better view of what’s really going on behind closed doors which, of course, ends up being rather explicit (hetero sex, gay-sex, drug-intake…), but also adds a certain reality to what the club and its patrons are all about. To make room for this, director Mark Christopher made some cuts here and there and he also took out all of the reshoots the studio insisted he make at the time, which include the bowling lovey-dovey scene between Ryan Phillippe and Neve Campbell and their climactic exchange in the cold. In return you get an ending that has a complete new twist. Quite abrupt in its handling, I must say, but satisfactory nonetheless. Gone also is the grand finale scene involving the cast as they all gather for one last night of disco dancing. Of course this means that the performance of the song IF YOU COULD READ MY MIND by Stars on 54 is MIA, alas—though we do hear the catchy tune during the end credits.  

If you are a super fan like I am you’ll even enjoy the few minute supplements which explain how this new version came to be. All in all I completely dig this reboot, but I’d be lying if I said that I’ll never need to watch the cut version again. I like that last scene too much. Still, check out this new 54.  It is all what it’s cracked up to be and more.

 

 

Until next post—Martin
 
 

Monday, 3 October 2016

“DIVA” BY CARRIE DUFFY


 
I’m always on the lookout for beautiful covers when I’m purchasing the next read. That’s how shallow I am. Give me a fetching cover art and I’ll probably shell out my good earned money on the spot. It may even evolve into a lifelong relationship if the book in question plays its cards right. I wish it had happened with the one carrying Carrie Duffy’s name. It is called DIVA (HarperColins UK) and it’s her second offering. I was all excited venturing into her world of glam. I had heard many good things about her work and I was more than ready to make room for her books in my library. I even put aside another novel just to get to hers, but like any lousy first dates the novel just didn’t click with me.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. Her story of three beautiful women flourishing in the world of high-fashion has its moments, most noticeably when the protagonists are on their own, but as it happens with a lot of glam fiction with weak backbones, the overall delivery fails to connect with the reader. Blame this mostly on the lack of characterization and run-of-the-mill narrative. Everything is so beige and basic. The most colorful thing to be said about it is that had the novel focused solely on one of the trio characters (Alyson) it probably would have been a stronger read. That’s how interesting this waitress turned supermodel turned business entrepreneur is. But as a whole, with the addition of the two would-be fashion victims who are also BFFs, the novel barely surpasses its disjointed state. 

Some of you would probably think of me a fool to expect feeling something other than basic appreciation for these types of books. They are fluff pieces after all. But let me remind you that many in the sub-genre have indeed reached often enough that impressive plateau: Jackie Collins, Tasmina Perry, Victoria Fox, Rebecca Chance, and the list goes on and on. All have managed to deliver colorful stories and heroines. So why should it be different with DIVA, especially when the author already had a hit in her hands with her first novel?

Am I being too harsh on this title? Perhaps. But you’ve got to admit how impossible it is to praise something that in the end clearly disappoints. If you want a basic plotline without any real fanfare then DIVA might be just what you’re looking for. If, however, you prefer your glam-fiction with more substance then you should probably look elsewhere. The decision is up to you.

  

Until next post—Martin