Saturday, 15 July 2017

‘PANDORA’S BOX’ BY ELIZABETH GAGE



 
Sure took me a while to read this one. Not that it was boring. I certainly had a ball. It’s just that with all the ARCs coming my way via NetGalley I just had no time for it. I tried my best to get back to it in between books but the truth of the matter is it was just a pain to leave it aside. Now that peace has started to reign again since I have slowed down on my NetGalley requests I can tell you that not only did I finish PANDORA’S BOX (1990, Pocket Books) a happy man but I found myself cursing the gods of trashy books for having read my last of the Elizabeth Gage’s contractual five novels from Simon & Schuster. I’m almost sure nothing will be the same once I start her Mira books which are supposedly tamer than what we’ve gotten so far. 

Anyway, getting back to PANDORA’S BOX, I must point out that it’s a lengthy novel, a door stopper as some of you like to call it. At 864 pages (mass market paperback) the novel has to be pretty darn good for me to invest my time in it. It is, as it turns out. The story revolves around two women who, born on the same date but different as night and day, come to cross paths later in life against a backdrop of political agenda. What happens before is a series of scandals and sins à la Elizabeth Gage. Lies, adultery, business takeovers, all spiced up by a strong narrative and a psyche of its characters that really lets you in on the reasons of their ways. In fact, if I had one negative thing to say about PANDORA’S BOX it’s that the author relies too much on explanation. The show, don’t tell mantra seems completely forgotten at times, which, in the end, irks quite a bit, but since the positive overcompensates the negative I am—and was—willing to let it go.  

Indeed, getting into the nitty-gritty of this frothy read that spans over thirty years was a joy still, most specifically because it took over from the real world. With its fleshed-out characterization and well-thought of plot twists (some expected some not) nothing came to matter except the fate of these fictitious people. I even found myself getting soft on the antagonist who the author managed to render human-like. Just go to show you that even a trashy novel like PANDORA’S BOX can impress on a literary level. But are we really surprised? This second offering (after the riveting A GLIMPSE OF STOCKING) is nothing less than what we’ve come to expect from a writer who, in my humble opinion, should come back from the pseudonymous grave ASAP.
 

 

Until next post—Martin

MMP UK edition
 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

‘FITNESS JUNKIE’ BY LUCY SYKES AND JO PIAZZA



 
Rarely do I give a novel an outstanding review. Yes, many have had my seal of approval over the years but the ones that earn a notch above the rest happen once in a blue moon. Like this featured title, for example, penned by the duo team of Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza (THE KNOCKOFF). It was such a joy to read that a second go at it would have been more than welcomed had I not had to reduce my reading pile. FITNESS JUNKIE (Doubleday, 2017) tells the tale of a career woman who’s on a quest to find the magic solution that will give her back her girly figure. Not a simple task—of course—but at the hands of these two talented writers anything is possible. 

The fun—or should we say the hardship—begins early on when gay bestie and longtime business partner of a couture wedding dress company urges 40 year-old Janey to take a leave of absence to slim down about 30 pounds (bad for business, he claims). Since the weight issue has been contracted (!) when they were in their ‘20s Janey realizes she has no choice. So in come a slew of fitness gimmicks that eventually do more harm than good. Aided by a college chum who’s just as obsessed with health and fitness as she is and a spin-instructor of a niece who has a mouth like a sailor, Janey will stop at nothing to regain her rightful place as CEO.  

First and foremost let me say that the recipe for riveting reads is to always showcase a knockout of a protagonist, and in this novel, Janey is her. She is sympathetic, smart, resilient, kind, funny but most importantly relatable. Women of all sizes will see themselves in her. If not so much, then at least her crazy encounters with the human kind will make them grin from ear to ear and sometimes warm their heart. Because FITNESS JUNKIE is not always all fun and games (which are aplenty, trust me). There are also moments of sensitivity such as the scene where the heroine clearly sees that she’s no longer considered a muse in the eyes of her business partner or the one involving a group therapy session which almost moved me to tears with its message of hope after despair. I say almost, because I’m a mean S.O.B.  

The real star of this novel, however, is the over-the-top fitness regimes that just can’t be real (according to the writers some are). From drinking clay to attending a Free the Nipple Yoga session, not to mention getting high on cactus juice, all are nuttier than the next. But the most important thing in FITNESS JUNKIE, besides giving the heroine not one but two male counterparts to coddle with, is the strong and effective narrative. Like last year’s THE KNOCKOFF the story breezes by like a summer wind and before you know it the end is near and your only wish is to go back in time and enjoy it all over again. Can’t wait to see what’s next in the horizon from these dynamic authors.  

 

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

  

Until next post—Martin


 

Sunday, 2 July 2017

TOO MUCH, TOO SOON (1958)


 
I remember a time when PBS used to showcase vintage movies on weekend afternoons during which I caught TOO MUCH, TOO SOON starring the ever-interesting Dorothy Malone. The aim was to recreate movie house magic with previews, intermissions between double-bills, and it totally worked. I was around 17 (I think) and already had a thing for silver screen cinema. I was so absorbed by this latest showing that I spent years trying to catch it again, to no avail. It took the possession of a VHS player and the magic of eBay for me to finally find a print. Fast-forward to early 2010 and what do you know, a DVD copy finally comes my way, courtesy of Warner Brothers.   

 
Based on the 1957 best-selling  memoirs of Diana Barrymore (Drew Barrymore’s aunt), TOO MUCH, TOO SOON shows the world what it’s really like to have it all and still self-destruct. Malone’s downward spiral from the golden days of Hollywood to the sleazy side of the boulevard involves booze and booze and more booze. Did I say booze? 

The fun starts pretty early when teen Malone—already in her 30s at the time—visits her matinee idol of a dad (an impressive Errol Flynn) whom she hadn’t seen in years on account that he’s a wandering lush (but stuck on a yacht for this scene). She quickly sees his ways when he drunkenly throws himself into the ocean to crash a party on another yacht. This sudden abandonment doesn’t bode well for Malone as the gauzy soft focus equipped camera zooms in on her sadden face. Cut to a few years later and Malone, now a society belle, yearns to see her name in lights but fails at it big time after receiving scathed reviews (sort of like in this film). Married now to fellow actor Efrem Zimbalist Jr (from SCRUPLES fame) and rid of her dad who has finally passed on, she sets out to be a good wife. Not for long, though, since she rather sleeps with tennis pro Ray Danton (who wouldn’t?) while hubby is away. 

Divorced, she and Danton get hitched and live off her domineering mom. The two party like the Lowans before he swirls a tennis ball at her in a fit of rage. Ouch!  She soon divorces him as well and consumes pints of alcohol to forget it all, especially the fact that she is now dead broke (her deceased mom’s has done a MOMMIE DEAREST on her in her will). Then we get to the film pivotal scene where Malone, drunk as a skunk and not much to look at, does an awful burlesque act in a seedy club to earn money and is quickly thrown off the stage. She ends up in rehab, cleans up finally and chance meets sweet old friend Martin Milner (Neely‘s first hubby in VALLEY OF THE DOLLS) who offers a helping hand. She kindly refuses but promises to keep in touch and heads off to her new sober life.  The end. 

In real life Diana Barrymore had a much longer battle with booze (and pills) which lasted until her untimely death (ruled suicide) in 196o. She was 38 years old. In between drinks she had tried to revive her acting career from the success of her novel but failed again. Clearly her life was meant to be shitty. Supposedly Lana Turner’s character in THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL is based on Barrymore. It has been years since I have seen that film. Need to check it out once again.

 

 

Until next post—Martin
 

 

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

‘AMBER GREEN TAKES MANHATTAN’ BY ROSIE NIXON


 


Amber Green is back, this time taking Manhattan by storm. Gone are the hectic days of being an assistant to troubled stylist to the stars Mona Armstrong. Now it’s all about making it on her own. Well not exactly, she does have her dreamboat of a boyfriend—now a documentarian for a famous lingerie brand—on her side with whom she shares a tiny apartment in the Big Apple. Not to mention being aided by a John Galliano-like designer who has been unjustly blackballed for supporting Hitler. When a few innocent pics taken for her fashion blog go viral Amber ends up right back in the spotlight—but is it for good this time?

AMBER GREEN TAKES MANHATTAN (HQ) is enjoyable but not as much as THE STYLIST, the prequel. There I said it. It picks up six months later and focuses (too much) on her love life with Rob, with a few run-ins with the Beautiful People as she tries to make a name for herself. It’s only in the second half that we do get the sense that Amber is back in action. Truth be told, I almost gave up on it at one time. This wasn’t THE STYLIST I came to love. It felt more like a toned down version of it—as if the author was in a desperate need to be taken more seriously as a writer (the narrative is indeed stronger), instead of letting the action speaks for itself. BUT, I persevered, and it did pick up eventually.

I truly hope a third book is on the way. I still have high hopes for this Amber Green character. She could be the next Becky Bloomwood if the author plays her cards right. All it needs to achieve this plateau is a better balanced plot and lots and lots of high fashion high jinks. The romance can even take a back seat if it has to. Isn’t it what made THE STYLIST so much fun to begin with?

 

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

 
 

Until next post—Martin
 

 

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

‘FIRE ISLAND’ BY BURT HIRSCHFELD


 
I should focus more on the work of Burt Hirschfeld. The guy certainly deserves it. His novels are always a treat. Take his first megahit FIRE ISLAND (1970, Avon), for instance, this one is a breeze to go through, mostly because of his devotion to one topic: sex; sex in the bedroom, sex on the beach, consensual sex, non-consensual sex…  What he also has in his corner is the ability to write. He knows how to create memorable characters, whether they are lost individuals (like the character of Mike in this novel), or wild little kittens (mostly Cindy who gets a book of her own in CINDY ON FIRE which is reviewed here). Hirschfeld likes nothing better than to gloat over their problems, and we, the readers, eat them up like it’s the latest episode of any Housewives.  At least I do.   

I took upon myself to take another look at FIRE ISLAND this year, just to make sure it’s still as badass as I thought it to be. It is. With summer just around the corner I couldn’t have picked a better title to celebrate sun, surf and hot bods. But the most exciting part is that it also gave me a new lease on my reading choices. I’ve been focusing too much on current bestsellers lately and I feel like I lost my way. This blog should, first and foremost, celebrate vintage trash. Besides the contractual reviewed novels that I still plan to post, I’m happy to report that Sleaze Factor is back on track, putting the spotlight on forgotten gems in books, films or miniseries. 

Indeed, revisiting a novel like FIRE ISLAND does make the heart grow fonder. The main reason being it judiciously delivers what it sets out to do: present a slew of well-drawn characters in a chronicle-like setting, topped by many sexual situations of the flower power era. Purists beware, however, for FIRE ISLAND is filled with many sexual encounters that, nowadays, are not always considered politically correct. The dominant male, well, dominates. His conquests are mostly of the submissive kind, though some do butt heads with their counterparts, but the results are always great fun and more than meets the eye. Because behind all of the author’s wild and descriptive imagination lies a novel with a message about life in general, especially for those over 35 who have stumbled more than once. Oh mind you, Hirschfeld may not always handle things with kid gloves, and to be quite honest, some of his scenes almost verge on bigotry, but he still does it with bravado and a keen sense of style. His ability to deliver a clean line behind all the sex and drama is reason enough to give the book a try. Plus, following a bunch of people who view the world without rose-tinted glasses always makes for a fun read. 

If I have failed to titillate you with this title then I don’t know what else to say except this: his work reminds me of early Robbins with a dash of Herbert Kastle thrown in the mix. If that gets your motor going, then you’ll probably end up like moi, collecting all of his novels and wondering how many more summers it will take to get through them all.  Thank goodness I got my groove back.

 
 

Until next post—Martin

 

Sunday, 18 June 2017

‘THE STYLIST’ BY ROSIE NIXON


 
When Amber Green (!) becomes an assistant to stylist extraordinaire Mona Armstrong for the approaching and highly-publicized award season she can’t believe her luck. The stars, the glitz, the glamour, what more can a girl working at a trendy boutique in London want? A lot, as it turns out. Before she even has time to breathe, Amber is caught in the middle of her boss’ crazy antics—not to mention putting up with the excessive demands of the Beautiful and not so Beautiful People—and it’s up to her to save the day. Or can she? 

If you think Rosie Nixon’s THE STYLIST (2016, Mira) is a knockoff of THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA by Lauren Weisberger you may have a thing here. Both books have the same vibes (the fashion world, a demanding boss, multitask challenges…) and both books deliver. THE STYLIST even more so since the characters are less one-dimensional, including self-absorbed Mona who contrary to PRADA’s Miranda is just a little pest with a heart deeply buried somewhere. This Amber Green person is one tough cookie, though, as she goes from one pre-award ceremony to the next dressing up A-listers while her celebrity boss is again MIA. Her first person account of the hectic journey is filled with funny tidbits, impossible situations, and ultimately tender moments as cupid dares to show himself in the form of an assistant director who’s filming it all for the purpose of a pilot reality TV show.  Good stuff.

I admit, I went ahead and read this novel because of my soon-to-be involvement with its sequel via NetGalley. Indeed, a review of AMBER GREEN TAKES MANHATTAN is hitting this blog very soon and I just couldn’t do so without getting to know its well-received prequel. Being the escapist fiction guru that I am, however, I had a pretty good hunch that THE STYLIST was going to be exactly my cup of tea. I was right on the money. The author clearly succeeds in making her own a variation on the same theme and I applaud her for that. I look forward to reading her follow-up and post my thoughts on it. Hope you’ll be along for the ride.
 
 
You can still get this title wherever digital or conventional books are sold (mostly in the UK).
 
 
 

Until next post—Martin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, 12 June 2017

‘LOVERS & GAMBLERS’ BY JACKIE COLLINS


 
 
The second book I picked up from the forever-talented Jackie Collins after the glorious HOLLYWOOD WIVES was none other than LOVERS & GAMBLERS.  I wanted another great trashy read and I couldn’t have found a better one. I was in my early 20s, fresh from being out of the closet and having the time of my life. Well, what I thought to be the best time of my life. The truth of the matter is I was lost, lost in booze, sex and dope. It was the ‘80s and everyone around me was on autopilot. As Jerry Blake used to say in TV's STRANGERS WITH CANDY, good times!  Anyway, to make a long story short, I needed a breather from my wild ways, and this latest Jackie Collins was exactly what the doctor ordered.  

LOVERS & GAMBLERS takes you into the glamourous world of Dallas and Al, two gorgeous misfits who suffer greatly in the name of love. Their destined-to-be-together union is a roller coaster ride of secrets and sins only Jackie can concoct, and that means a whole lot of fluff appeal. Sort of like my love life back in the day if you will. Kidding. In reality, underneath the disco ball I felt totally lost. Before going too much After School Special on you, let me just reiterate that thank Heavens I had novels such as LOVERS & GAMBLERS to soften the edge. It literately kept me from going cuckoo. Yes, as odd as it may seem, it took a superficial book like this one to ground me.   

Indeed, LOVERS & GAMBLERS worked like a balm to my angst. It didn’t cure my permanent unhappiness (therapy did) but it sure gave me a break from all the shit thrown my way. Because, yes, life in the fast lane is far from being what’s it’s cracked up to be. Any trashy read can tell you that. I just needed to tell it to myself and take it from there. What I didn’t know then, and that’s the coolest part, was how devoted I would become to the genre in the following years—to the point of starting my own blog and share the love with others. I truly hope my many silly entries, either about books, films or miniseries, give you an ounce of the thrill I feel when I’m writing them. Long live trash.
 

 

Until next post—Martin

 

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Monday, 5 June 2017

THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT (1977)


 

On a scale of one to ten how delectably bad is the screen adaptation of Sidney Sheldon’s mega-bestseller THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT? I’d say an eleven. Nothing can surpass this over-the-top, over produced, over-acted piece of drivel that just keeps getting wackier with every viewing. It’s as if everything’s thrown in but the kitchen sink, but I’m sure that if you look more closely you’d even see that taking place somewhere. I have no idea why it took me so long to blog about this title since it’s one of my favorite films EVER but I can honestly say that I’m just as excited as the time I wrote about another delectably bad film called THE LONELY LADY. 
 
The fun starts just before the outbreak of WWII in France when poor innocent-looking French gal Marie-France Pisier declares “Papa, I do love you” to her eager dad who, unbeknownst to her, has sold her to THE DUKES OF HAZZARD Sorrell Booke for a radio and some other goodies. After surrendering herself to Booke she packs up her bag and heads off to a plush hotel lobby in Paris where she is mistaken for a whore. She is saved from embarrassment by TV’s FLAMINGO ROAD John Beck who she thinks is all that but really isn’t. Before you can say here we go, a long lovey-dovey montage of the two in the City of Light is accompanied by a Michel Legrand score that is just as syrupy as the whole sequence.

When Beck is shipped elsewhere (who cares where) he promises Pisier that he will be back to marry her. But like the bastard that he really is he never returns and Pisier is left with a double P: pregnant and pissed. She aborts with a wire-hanger before sleeping her way to the top to become a renowned European actress (yeah right). Filthy rich and the mistress of a Greek tycoon with connections (in other words a bad rich guy), she then hires a private detective to keep tabs on Beck and sets a course of action to make him pay before rekindling their passionate romance (uh-huh).

Now married to a young and—thank heavens—effective Susan Sarandon (yes, she is in this as well) who we witness passing from a career gal to a lush wife during the course of the film, Beck has no idea what he is about to get into when he becomes Pisier’s private pilot in Greece. When the job also involves getting into her pants for old time’s sake, she wants him all for herself. When he refuses to get a divorce she swears she’ll tell everything to her tycoon of a boyfriend no matter the consequences. What a man or a gal to do? Get rid of Sarandon of course.  

It all comes down to Sarandon overhearing their plan to kill her, hiding away in a docked rowboat during a thunderstorm (wise move) then getting swallowed by the wild sea as if we didn’t anticipate it. Cut to Pisier and Beck getting executed for the death of Sarandon, and the shocker of all shockers, finding out that Sarandon isn’t dead after all, just an amnesia victim found on the shore near a nuns’ convent.
 
Oh yes, my sweet little high-camp gems devotees, THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT is a must for all the wrong reasons. It is the apogee of bad cinema making. This 2 hour and 45 minute fiasco, which BTW ended up being just a modest hit, has it all: sex, money, power, greed... It is directed by the same guy who later on gave us another Sheldon adapted treat: A STRANGER IN THE MIRROR. Sheldon subsequently wrote and produced a sequel to MIDNIGHT which of course will eventually see the light of day on this blog. Oh, and I almost forgot, THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT was a packaged deal upon its theatrical release in ‘77, to help a little film the industry thought was going to bomb: STAR WARS. Imagine that.
 

 

Until next post—Martin
 

 

 

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

‘ACCORDING TO A SOURCE’ BY ABBY STERN


 
Life in the rag business sure is stressful for Ella when her new boss threatens to make cuts if she does not bring home the gossip. That, plus the break-up of her boyfriend, not to mention her mother’s cancer diagnosis, makes burning the candle at both ends impossible, or is it? Of course what goes on in ACCORDING TO A SOURCE (St. Martin's Press/Thomas Dunne Books) is more than what’s already been mentioned but contrary to many reviewers who divulge most of the plot, I’ll let you savour it at your own pace.    

What I will reveal, however, is how good a time I had with ACCORDING TO A SOURCE. I’ll admit, I’m always a little bit wary when it comes to first time novelists but I was pleasantly surprised by the whole thing. The main heroine is a lovable little go-getter who yearns to make it big amidst all of her personal problems. How she does so pushes her in all sorts of sticky situations that ultimately get resolved but not without putting a smile on your face. Moreover, her relationship with her sibling rivalry of a sister and their cancer-stricken mom adds more depth to what is first considered a light character.   

Former gossip columnist Stern handles herself quite nicely in mixing high-jinks with tender moments. Plus, she serves up the romance aplenty between the heroine and the hottie agent who seems too good to be true. Told in the first person, with a roman-à-clef attitude (her whole blind item gimmick of nicknaming real celebrities is always a thrill to guess) ACCORDING TO A SOURCE is fun, well-written, and should please gossipmongers everywhere.

 

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

 
 

Until next post—Martin
 


 

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

‘PERSONAL EFFECTS’ BY REX REED


 
Confession time: I used to have a crush on film critic Rex Reed.  There I said it. It was around the time he was hanging out with superstar Jacqueline Susann, and you know how I feel about her.  I was still very young then but I remember seeing pics of them and I couldn’t help finding him attractive. This was around the early ‘70s, I believe. You could say he was one of the very first people outside my periphery that spoke to me as a future gay man. And growing up I kept up-to-date with his busy career, from his gig on MYRA BECKENRIDGE (another Sleaze Factor contender) to his stint as a movie reviewer on TV, finally to his quick dab in commercial fiction.  

Since he’s always been a devoted fan of glitzy page-turners (just check out his ton of blurbs left on covers) it was only natural that he would end up penning one of his own. PERSONAL EFFECTS (1987, Charter) is its name and it is the riveting tale of four fans who befriend a legendary movie star with a past. When one of them is involved in her cold-blooded murder, it’s up to a Hollywood columnist and narrator to this story to solve the case. Throughout many torrid flashbacks and bitchy goings-on, Reed delivers an eye-popping tale of old Hollywood that could rival any one of Susann’s books. There's never a dull moment. From love to jealously to, of course, murder, the author's uncanny flair for creating addictive escapism shines through and through.  

Ok I admit, perhaps I’m a little bit too soft on this title. It has been a while since I even glanced at that cover. But what I remember most about PERSONAL EFFECTS is how much fun I had with it. The author’s colorful characters plus his clever way of building up an explosive climax sure made and probably still makes PERSONAL EFFECTS a one sitting read. Another Rex Reed novel is way past due, in my opinion.
 
 
This title has yet to go digital.  Check out any used book store for a copy.
 

  

Until next post—Martin


1986 Arbor House Hardcover

 

 

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

THE FACTS OF LIFE (1979-1988)


 
 

How can I go on without discussing one of the guiltiest pleasures to ever have graced our TV screen: THE FACTS OF LIFE. I grew up watching this show, having discovered it one autumn day in 1979. I had been following DIFFEREN’T STROKES on NBC and read somewhere that there was going to be a spinoff focusing on Kimberley’s private school pals and it would star Mrs. Garrett’s Charlotte Rae. I was already a fan of the late Dana Plato and was fervently hoping that she was going to be part of the show too. She wasn’t, but it was OK, for I bonded quite easily with the new girls, starting with Lisa Whelchel’s Blair Warner.
 

That first episode where she confronts Cindy about her possible lesbian tendencies showed a Blair Warner that could be bitchy as well as beautiful. A sort of pre-DYNASTY Alexis, if you will and I liked that. Oh I may not have been out of the closet, but I already new how to spot them, believe me. But before Blair could get too mean, in came Mrs. Garrett with all that warning and good advice.  And thank Heaven for that, for it made Blair all the more likeable.  
 

One that never needed too much of a sermon was Felice Schachter’s Nancy.  How perfect was she, and so pretty, the perfect girl next door type. And I liked that. So much so that I decided to write her a fan letter which she acknowledged by sending me an autograph pic that I still own today. Yes, color me groupie but I don’t care. Then I graduated from Nancy to Mindy Cohn’s Natalie.  Not too much on that first season, mind you. She was a bit lost with all those girls. But the minute she became center stage in season two when the producers cut most of the cast and brought in Jo, she became my favorite. She was funny, smart, sensitive and approachable. She clearly represented the one I could hang out with had she been a real person. And yes, I did write to the actress—twice, and both times she responded. And like Schachter’s, I still have her pics with me, thank-you-very-much.
 

I stuck with the show all the way through, even when it jumped shark in season seven as Edna’s Edible became this awful bric-a-brac gift shop. But by then, I didn’t care. They were part of my TV family. When the series ended after nine years, I was scarcely surprised. The show had run its course. But I got to admit that I kind of miss it today. Comedy on TV isn’t what it used to be. Except for MODERN FAMILY, I find them all pedestrians and unfunny. Sort of like THE FACTS OF LIFE TV movie back in 2001 (now, that one was nasty). I hope the girls still appreciate the fan base, for they will all go to their graves with the “former FACTS OF LIFE star” tag attached to their names, which considering isn’t bad at all.

 

 

 

Until next post—Martin

 


 

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

‘THE ROME AFFAIR’ BY KAREN SWAN


 
If I could quit my day job and spend the rest of my life reading and reviewing I would die a very happy man. So many titles are coming my way that I always wonder how I’m ever going to keep up but I always do—somehow finding the time and energy. This week’s author is no stranger to Sleaze Factor, having been discussed in past entries. Her work has always managed to put a smile on my face as her latest does. THE ROME AFFAIR (PGC Books/Macmillan) is what it’s called and I’m going to review it for you guys, the publishers and NetGalley.   
 
After being released from her job as a tour guide in Rome, former trained barrister and now blogger extraordinaire Francesca Hackett accepts to collaborate on the memoirs of her next door neighbor who happens to be a famed socialite. What starts out as an easy gig soon turns out to be more than she’s bargained for as she uncovers secrets from a past that could easily alternate the present. That’s about all I can say of this scintillating gem. As a rule I just prefer not to give away too much. 

To say that I had fun with this one would be an understatement. The truth of the matter is I had a blast. I devoured the whole thing in about two days. Ms. Swann delivers a riveting tale of secrets and sins in which her well-defined characters go at it with sheer efficiency, and her use of a split-narrative makes for an even bigger treat. I was highly rooting for the main heroine to find her way as I was as much involved with the socialite/princess’ past life, which BTW, is far from being mundane. In fact, I was so intrigued by it that nothing else came to matter. If you’re already a Karen Swan’s devotee you’ll definitely be caught up in the swirl of this character’s charade. If you’re still a newbie then grabbing this fine piece of commercial fiction will make you turn the pages just as fast.

 

THE ROME AFFAIR is now available in Canadian stores. The digital or print edition will be available everywhere else on June 13th.

 
 

Until next post—Martin

 

Monday, 24 April 2017

‘THE IDEA OF YOU’ BY AMANDA PROWSE


 
THE IDEA OF YOU (Lake Union Publishing, an imprint of Amazon Publishing) is a well-written novel that touches a delicate subject: the incapacity to carry a pregnancy to full term. Fortysomething Lucy yearns to have a child with her hubby but after several failed attempts—plus the sudden arrival of her husband’s troubled teen daughter from another marriage—the very thought of giving life starts to put a strain on her relationships. When past secrets resurface and threaten to destroy everything she had worked for it’s up to Lucy to decide what’s really important: a bundle of joy or happiness without?     

This is a surprisingly good find. Had I not received it as a complementary gift from the publisher I would have never known it existed. Just go to show you that sometimes life has a way of throwing some curveballs that in the end are exactly what you need.  Sort of like the goings on of this heroine, come to think of it. 

I’ll admit, the subject matter is far from being my cup of tea. Perhaps it’s due to the simple fact that being childless I never felt the need to procreate, of better yet, adopt. Though I must say that it did come to mind recently while reading this book (in exchange from an honest review for NetGalley); so much so that I’m beginning to wonder if I am not missing something. But moving on. One thing is certain, however, this is not the last time I’m going to pick up an Amanda Prowse novel.  Her talent for plunging the readers right into the nitty gritty of her narratively affairs makes for a sophisticated novel worthy of any heart-wrenching offering. I wouldn’t be surprised if the story has already been optioned for the Lifetime channel or something like it. Yes, THE IDEA OF YOU is a must-read, whether you connect with the topic or not. It will leave you yearn for more, which is just perfect if based on the author’s impressive backlist.  

 

THE IDEA OF YOU is available wherever digital or conventional books are sold.

 
 

Until next post—Martin
 
 

 

Sunday, 16 April 2017

‘THE BEST OF TIMES’ BY PENNY VINCENZI




I was in the middle of Penny Vincenzi’s THE BEST OF TIMES (Headline, 2009) when my hubby phoned to say that he had had a major car accident on the freeway. He had lost control on the icy road and the vehicle rolled over twice. Fortunately and miraculously he was left with only a sprained shoulder besides having had the fright of his life. THE BEST OF TIMES deals with the same topic that unexpectedly hit close to home, the after-effect of a devastating car crash on a bunch of victims and rescuers. From the inspiring actress who yearns to forget she even was in the lorry that started it all to the kind-hearted married doctor who pays dearly for having had his mistress on sight, not to mention the star-crossed lovers who almost lost the chance or reuniting after 60 years—those are only some of the fascinating people highlighted in this doorstopper of a novel. 

Indeed, THE BEST OF TIMES reaches 880 pages and not once does it feel overwritten. It is an easy breezy read from cover to cover. The author is an ace at delivering multi-plotted situations. Her narrative, as well as her characterization, is fresh and oh so well-handled. I could go on and on praising the novel, just as I could go on and on talking about the plot and subplots but as always I prefer saying as little as possible so you can savor it just as I did. One thing I will admit, however, is that throughout my reading journey many a time I found myself smiling, cringing, and shedding a tear or two while hoping resolutions would eventually come for these lovable but flawed people. Many nights I stayed awake just to get to that finish line of a conclusion. I would have read hundreds of pages more, even, had it been the case.  

Those who religiously follow this blog may remember me stating that I intended to read Penny Vincenzi’s novels chronologically. I am of course aware that I skipped many titles to get to this one. The reason might be the parallel it has with the accident my hubby experienced on that faithful day. I believe nothing is left for chance. Color me gullible but THE BEST OF TIMES may have been right there just so I could cope better with the situation. When death is just around the corner, the perspective of mortality becomes a whole new ballgame. I believe that what these fictitious people went through gave me the leeway to a connection far beyond my imagination. Farfetched to some perhaps but to me it’s clear as daylight. And for that, Miss Vincenzi, I will always be grateful. 
 
 
You can still get this title wherever digital or conventional books are sold.
 

 

Until next post—Martin

US edition