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
 

 

Sunday, 9 April 2017

‘SOMETHING VIOLENT’ BY KRISTOPHER RUFTY


 
I recently read PILLOWFACE and BIGFOOT BEACH by Kristopher Rufty and enjoyed them so  much that when NetGalley offered SOMETHING VIOLENT (DarkFuse) in exchange for an honest review, I just couldn’t pass it up. It is fair to say that Rufty has entered the realms of the new breed of horror writers who prefer the in-your-face tactic over the slow-burning approach. When the result of that makes for an impossible to put down shocker like any of those first mentioned two titles, the reader has no choice but to ask for more of the same. SOMETHING VIOLENT is that kind of a book. The plot may be a tad different but the execution is cut and paste.    

Indeed, taking a cue from Bryan Smith’s work mostly, Rufty delivers a tale that is high-strung on violence but surprisingly very light on characterization. The duo work of his protagonists—or should we say antagonists since they are famed serial killers after all—may be despicable for all the obvious reasons but their union sure is far from that. Like any couple who just happens to love slaying people, there is a bump in their relationship. It’s up to a kidnapped therapist to save their fading romance—if he doesn’t get killed first. 

Told in alternative points of view, SOMETHING VIOLENT is overall fun if you don’t wallow too much in its cold serving. Despite having a fast-paced tag and a lively narrative the book suffers from a lack of sympathy for its fearsome twosome. Obviously they are meant not to be taken too seriously but the overall effect of their sordid ways can become irksome after a while if little else is going on. Still SOMETHING VIOLENT is certainly worth checking-out just for the wild ride if offers and of course for the thrill of finding out if this romantic pair is indeed saved. Just enter with caution, that’s all.

 

SOMETHING VIOLENT is available wherever digital books are sold.

  

Until next post—Martin

 

Sunday, 2 April 2017

‘THE MASTER STROKE’ BY ELIZABETH GAGE


 
Why not focus yet again on an Elizabeth Gage novel, sweet readers, like her third outing THE MASTER STROKE (Pocket Books, 1992) which, by the way, has nothing to do with Picasso or the likes (that would be INTIMATE, her latter work). Indeed, this time it’s the birth of the computer that dominates this energic tale of passion and revenge which starts in the mid-50s and ends up around the early ‘60s. Computers, really?! But don’t be fooled. If anyone could make an unsexy and bland topic riveting it certainly is Elizabeth Gage. The way her story unfolds—with her rich narrative, well-defined characterization and her astute chapter hooks—can only put THE MASTER STROKE in a class of its own. 

Of course the novel has its faults. Her provocative heroine may be an electronics genius but what an idiot she is at romance. In fact, all of Gage's characters stink at love. And boy does she make them suffer for it. From incest to rape to murder, THE MASTER STROKE screams of clichés, yet with her skillful ways Gage succeeds in making this a powerful experience. Yes, good prevails over evil in the end, but the path to there is one heck of a ride, I’m telling you. 

Or am I just biased because it’s a Gage? The truth of the matter is I doubt it. I’ve been around this block too much to be clueless about that simple fact. So does THE MASTER STROKE make it Gage’s strongest book?  Not by a long shot. That would be her debut classic A GLIMPSE OF STOCKING. But compared to many novels of the same era it is certainly a strong one. I doubt you’ll be bored by it— again even with a topic as mundane as this one. It just proves to you that Elizabeth Gage could make anything fun, even her grocery list. 

 

Until next post—Martin
UK edition

 

 

Thursday, 30 March 2017

‘THE DEVIL CREPT IN’ BY ANIA AHLBORN

 

The first half of Ania Ahlborn’s THE DEVIL CREPT IN (Gallery Books) kicks major ass: the disappearance of a child, the family and closed ones hovering over the tragedy, the tears, the pain, the hope—then something big happens, a dramatic turn of event that makes you smile as a horror reader but also makes you say, WTF!? The kind of unexpected twist that gives you one more reason to drop everything and persevere in your reading. Did I hook you already?  Good. 

I wish I could say that the second half is as strong if not stronger but alas it is not. What I will say however is that Ania Ahlborn is one heck of a storyteller. She has a way of luring her readers into submission with her sense of style but more importantly with her wicked, wicked pen. What happens to her protagonist—a 1o year-old loner with a speech impediment, a few missing fingers (don’t ask) but a will of ten men when he decides to find his missing cousin and best friend—will hook you from the get-go. Her strongest ally is the way she creates fleshed out characters which drive this whole story. Whether they turn out to be good or bad they are worth following. 

Unfortunately, despite or because of that, the plot takes a step back to become somewhat predictable. Indeed, what starts out as original suddenly feels less so as we persevere. I’ll even go as far and say that most of the plot twists can be guessed ahead of time. Which is a shame since everything else is so perfect, especially the creation of her antagonist which is rather original, especially for the way he got there (I don’t want to say too much). Still, THE DEVIL CREPT IN is worth the read if only for the great narrative and characterization. As a bonus, you’ll probably feel like you’ve just entered The Twilight Zone. I know I did.

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

 

Until next post—Martin

 

 

 

Sunday, 26 March 2017

‘BAD GIRLS’ BY REBECCA CHANCE


 
Picking up a Rebecca Chance novel is always a treat for me. Rain or shine she always delivers. So it comes as no surprise that her 2010 BAD GIRLS  (Simon & Schuster UK) is just what the doctor ordered.  Set mostly in a rehab to the stars, the novel introduces three main sufferers who, different as night and day, all have one thing in common: they are the addictive kind. Whether it’s to pills, to blow or even to sex they all need help. Or so it seems. Because, you see, one of them is admitted under false pretenses. The reason? Simple: to catch a celebrated star under compromising positions (wink wink). Not as easy a task as it seems, however, especially when the heart interferes.  

Be forewarned: once you pick up this book you won’t be able to let it go. It is that addictive. Rebecca Chance delivers a one-sitting read worthy of any Jackie Collins offering. Yes, I keep referring outstanding novels to the work of the late author. How can I not when the bar’s aimed that high? BAD GIRLS reaches that plateau quite easily. The author keeps the ball rolling with effective plot and characterization, and a sense of style that can only be envious. Color me enchanted but I predict even better and bigger things from her, whether it’s under her own name or the one she uses to pen those fabulous reads. The world is her oyster.  

OK, OK, I’ll calm down. But promise me this: you’ll check out BAD GIRLS ASAP. If you ever wondered how to write a glam-fiction novel that has wit and heart and possesses a smooth narrative that still packs a punch then look no further. This is the one to get, folks. I promise, it’ll be just as fun studying it as witnessing just how bad this fictitious other half lives.

 
BAD GIRLS is still available wherever digital or conventional books are sold.
 
 

Until next post—Martin
 
 

 

 

Sunday, 19 March 2017

‘THE SILENT FOUNTAIN’ BY VICTORIA FOX




I could sum up this blog entry with one phrase: grab this book now, and move on to the next topic but that would be unethical of me. Besides, I’m sure the publishers and NetGalley expected more than just four little words when they agreed to let me read this gem in exchange for an honest opinion. So without further ado: Victoria Fox’s latest THE SILENT FOUNTAIN (HQ) is all about secrets, secrets from the past mainly. We have Lucy who is running away from a London affair. Without giving away too much let’s just say that her reasons for doing so are more than valid. Then we have Vivien, the Hollywood actress who shies away from the spotlight for a chance at love, but with all the mystery surrounding her dashing beau, is it really worth it?  

Trust me on this, the less I say about the plot the more you’ll savour this novel. Fair warning though: the author’s usual glam fiction approach is a bit toned down, replaced mostly by a gothic-like approach that reminds those captivating but quickly made mass-market paperbacks from the late ‘60s and ‘70s. You know the kind, those that usually highlight on their covers a beautiful heroine on the run from an intimidating castle. Except that in this one everything is top notch, from the rich narrative switching from first to third person to the end of chapter hooks that make it impossible to put the novel down, not to mention the well-thought-of setting that goes back and forth in time. 

But first and foremost THE SILENT FOUNTAIN is a love story. A different kind of a love story, perhaps (again I don’t want to say too much but be ready to reach for some tissues), but one that still packs a wallop. If Miss Fox’s main aim is to give more sense of realness to her characters and plot by going full gloom, well, I’m happy to say that the mission has indeed been accomplished.  So much so that it may even elevates her already celebrated career to a whole new level: that of a dark fiction writer. 

 

Until next post—Martin

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

‘ONE LAST WISH’ BY ELLA HARPER


 
When I saw that the latest novel from Ella Harper (formerly Sasha Wagstaff) was available in exchange for a review on NetGalley my spirit just soared. Here was the chance for me to finally do this author justice. Not that I have ever done her wrong. I mean how could I when all she had ever shown is a knack for grabbing readers by the balls with her sheer talent. She certainly does it again with ONE LAST WISH (Canelo Books), the story of a cancer-stricken ten year old who yearns to solidify her parents’ love for one another before she passes on.                                      

Having a sick child has taken a toll on Rosie and Nate. Their once-perfect marriage is now filled with bitterness, resentment, jealousy—all but unexpressed—but most importantly sorrow, sorrow over eventually losing their daughter to an incurable brain tumor. But Emmie has not said her last word. Her situation may be a ticking time bomb but with the help of her nerdy but devoted therapist, her cool family and friends, she will do her best to bring her parents back together. And in doing so, get rid of some personal issues regarding her terminal illness.   

I admit that the main theme of ONE LAST WISH is far from being considered light, but the way Harper goes at it makes it all feel like a breeze while never omitting the seriousness of the topic. This important lesson of never losing oneself no matter how cruel the world gets will make any reader of emotional novels reach out for a tissue. Yes, even I, a cold-hearted S.O.B., got my heartstrings pulled. In between funny bits, heartfelt moments and cringe-worthy situations (like the one involving one of the spouses going for a kiss by a third party) lies a novel that may own some predictable plot twists but has definitely managed to be quite endearing in its overall delivery. I can’t wait for the author’s next offering.

  

Until next post—Martin

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, 13 March 2017

‘FUNGOID’ BY WILLIAM MEIKLE





FUNGOID (DarkFuse) is one of those rare books that may reach mass appeal if you can overlook its crowded cast of characters. Everything else is just peachy—from the non-stop action sequences to the slew of gruesome moments, not to mention the in-your-face approach. Set in this apocalyptic world where a mushroom trip isn’t what it used to be, this tale of survival of the fittest during a fungi invasion is far from being mundane.  
 
Indeed, FUNGOID shines best when the focus is on the action sequences. Clearly the author has that magic touch whenever trouble appears. When the spotlight is on his people, however, that’s where the novel stumbles quite a bit. Not that they are not well-drawn. Most of them make a good impression. The trouble is that there are just too many for a 177 page novel, and confusion can set in after a while. For this type of a story you need much more room to make everyone pop just right.  
 
However, I will admit that a couple of days later after finishing up the novel I did find myself reminiscing over some decisions made by those same jam-packed people I’m bitching about. So I guess in hindsight the novel worked its magic anyways. I still believe the author should have taken a longer time to set it all up, though. Maybe he will one day when he decides to release a longer version. In the meantime enjoy this FUNGOID—flawed and all.


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

  

Until next post—Martin 

 
 

 

Friday, 24 February 2017

‘SILK LADY’ BY GWEN DAVIS

 

Gwen Davis’ SILK LADY  (1986, Warner Books) isn’t your typical trashy read. A trail of smarts follows this sexually-charged tale. It isn’t obvious at first, but when it gets a hold of you, you either welcome it with open arms or recoil from it like the plague. I chose the latter—at first. No way was I getting into this. I like my trash much simpler. You know, a bit silly but with a heart of gold. Then, forcing myself to read along, I realized that this glittering high-society offering may be just what the doctor ordered after all. Here was something that could be quite an experience if I let myself ride the wave. It ended up being exactly that, and here’s why.   

Protagonist Miranda Jay is one unlucky lady. Used, abused (physically and emotionally), she heads off into the right circles where money is key and sex is the price (yes, I made that up all by myself). She hooks up with various successful men, one of whom having close ties with the White House. When a big scandal is just around the corner, many key players end up on the chopping block (the demise kind), including this silk lady whose life story is entirely told in flashbacks. Prolific Gwen Davis is indeed one smart cookie. Her insightful roman-à-clef (think Vicky Dale, murdered mistress of department store owner Alfred Bloomingdale) takes you into all kind of places where colorful characters are as strong as the narrative. She is best at mixing trash with literature. SILK LADY is much more than fluff; it is a satirical piece that dissects life, death and the S&M in all of us. Yes, the novel reeks of sex, but underneath the scent lies a heck of a unique point of view. If you're ready to venture out into different fictional areas, this is the novel to pick. 

No doubt about it SILK LADY is a must-read. However, I have yet to venture deeper into Gwen Davis’ world and I sometimes wonder why. Perhaps tackling this type of a novel requires too much concentration on my part, which I’m unready to provide on a regular basis. I read for pleasure and if her backlist is anything like SILK LADY witty dialogue and socially-based commentaries await me. But if I ever do try another one of her titles you’ll be the first to know.

  

Until next post—Martin

The Digital Edition
 

 

Sunday, 19 February 2017

‘DARKENED’ BY BRYAN SMITH


 
Ever since I discovered the work of Bryan Smith with DEPRAVED in 2009 I always find myself on the lookout for his next title. I may have fallen behind on his impressive backlist but I’m always eager to start a new novel of his. This week’s DARKENED (aka DEADWORLD) is that novel. A rather short one (249 pages on my Kindle), it tells the tale of remaining survivors amidst a post-apocalyptic world where the sky suddenly fills with flying creatures, and holes in the fabric of reality bring forth creepy devilish things with sharp teeth. There’s also a malevolent force around called The Dark One that slips into people’s minds and abuses them or makes them abuse each other.  

As expected, sex and violence reign in DARKENED but this one is a little lighter on its atrocities to make room for some character development; which isn’t to say that the author has changed his ways. He still goes splatter-punk but adds a little more depth to his people. Moreover, the story is related in a way that the identity of the narrator (of a journal told in the third person) is left unknown until the very last page. Rather ingenious, I must say. 

The second half of DARKENED where it involves The Dark One and his mind-reading prowess is rather interesting but I got to say that its quieter edge threw me off a little. I was expecting more gruesome crazy moments before heading off to the climactic battle of good versus evil. Still, DARKENED is an impressive effort. It even gives a foretaste of  what would become SLOWLY WE ROT, Bryan’s strongest novel to date which has a similar setting. If you’re into this man’s work I can assure you’ll find it quite enjoyable despite some unexpected turn of events midway through. 

 

Until next post—Martin

 

 

Sunday, 12 February 2017

‘REVENGE’ BY NIGEL MAY


 
Full disclosure: I know Nigel May—well, sort of. We’ve been cyber friends way before the man ever became a best-selling author. But—and there’s a big but here—that scarcely omits the fact that he’s one kick-ass writer. Of all the current authors on the market focusing on escapist fiction I’d say he’s probably the closest thing to a Jackie Collins-type of a read. His latest REVENGE (Bookouture) is no different. Set mostly in the haute-cuisine society of St Tropez the novel goes back and forth in time to highlight the many scruples of its lead characters. 

From the renowned hunky chef with a secret agenda behind the opening of his latest exclusive restaurant, to the rival ex-girl group stars who are still at each other’s throats despite fame and misfortune, not to mention the noted if highly severe food critic who has more than a chip on his shoulder… All have something to hide and will do anything to keep it that way. Add a dose of an in-the-closet lesbian publisher who has a crush on one of her celebrated client, and a bad boy who likes nothing better than sharing girlfriends with his chef sibling then you get a pretty good idea what’s in store. 

Even after five well-received novels May has not lost his touch. His narrative still crackles with dedication, and his plot twists are as fun if not better than before (like that shocking ending, for instance—totally unexpected). Moreover, the man is such a finely-tuned craftsman that many characters from his previous novels pop in to spice things up (that is, if you are attentive enough). This is addictive reading with a capital A. You’ll either come out of REVENGE satiated or completely flushed for having had such a wonderful time despite yourself. Either way it is a win-win situation.
 

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


 

Until next post—Martin
 

 

 

 

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

‘MY NOT SO PERFECT LIFE’ BY SOPHIE KINSELLA


 
Full disclosure: it’s been a long while since I picked up a Sophie Kinsella novel, the last one being her classic CONFESSION OF A SHOPAHOLIC in 2010. In fact, it’s the only title of hers that I have read so far. BUT I had a ball with it, so much so that I fail to comprehend the reason why I didn’t pursue with the series. Too many books too little time, I guess. I still have them all lined up on my shelf as I still plan to go through with them come hell or high water, and I mean that. I did jump ahead, however, to review her newest MY NOT SO PERFECT LIFE (Dial Press/Random House). You have to understand that when I saw that title on NetGalley I simply couldn’t resist. The publisher graciously granted my request and, without further ado, here’s my two cents. 

MY NOT SO PERFECT LIFE is in the same league as CONFESSION OF A SHOPAHOLIC, and that certainly is a good thing. The author had drawn another wacky but sensitive character that always manages somehow to get caught in uncompromising positions. Her name is Katie, country girl Katie, but for her London stay she prefers to be called Cat. Cat works in advertisement and comes up with wonderful ideas, some that she’d like to share with her ambitious but mean-spirited boss (sort of like Miriam Shor’s character in TV’s YOUNGER). But being stuck making boring surveys all day definitely fails to help the situation—until she decides to assert herself and squeeze herself into a meeting. What comes next is a roller coaster ride for self-entitlement as our heroine jumps from one job to another, one that clearly reminds her that home is where the ambition is.  

I could talk and talk about the plot, like the all lies she tells online to show that she has this fab life, or the attraction she has for this sexy fellow who turns out to be her boss’ partner, but that would spoil the fun of reading this gem. MY NOT SO PERFECT LIFE is funny, well-written, touching and overall very endearing. Perhaps not so original per se but at the hands of Kinsella anything is possible.  She has definitely not lost her touch. I will definitely pick up another one of her novels, and this time the gap between titles will be that much shorter. I swear on my so perfect life—not.
 

 

Until next post—Martin

 
UK Hardcover

 

 

 

Monday, 6 February 2017

‘CINDY ON FIRE’ BY BURT HIRSCHFELD


 
I’ve been meaning to focus on Burt Hirschfeld’s work for quite some time. But since life sometimes takes you on a different path, one you least expect (don’t ask), well, here we are, it’s 2017 and still no Hirschfeld blog entry. That is, until now. The novel I chose to discuss is his 1972 CINDY ON FIRE. It’s an unofficial sequel to his mega-hit FIRE ISLAND focusing primarily on a secondary character from the original novel. Those hoping to rekindle with the rest of the well-drawn bunch will just have to look elsewhere since they are scarcely mentioned in this one.

Like the first book, CINDY ON FIRE is a lengthy offering: a 500 plus page romp of sordid lives of the flower power era, or should we say "life" since Cindy, the promiscuous teen from FIRE ISLAND, who is now all grown up and still promiscuous, is the sole sufferer this time around. And suffer she does. Used and abused in every way, not to mention on every continent, Hirschfeld spares no expenses in degrading her in all sorts of uncompromising situations only found in sleazy novels. And make no mistake this is sleaze with a capital S. But great sleaze, the kind that beckons despite your good judgement. Just as in his previous novels, the author has more than a knack for grabbing his readers beyond the explicit sex scenes. His strong narrative, plus his fun attempts at pseudo-analyzing his protagonist always makes for a breezy read.  

The one thing missing, however, is the sometimes heartfelt moment needed to make Cindy a more fleshed out character. Nevertheless, CINDY ON FIRE is still one heck of a time waster and should be appreciated for exactly what it is. So go on, grab a copy and follow this young woman's journey of hardship and self-discovery. You'll definitely come back for more. That, this reviewer promises you. 

  

Until next post—Martin

 
UK pb edition

 

 

Monday, 30 January 2017

‘COVENANT’ BY ALLAN LAVERONE


 
The first few pages from Allan Laverone’s new novel COVENANT (DarkFuse) are certainly a grabber. The whole scenario about an escapee from a chamber of torture who desperately wants to make it out alive—in total darkness, I might add—before the bad guy catches up with her makes for an edge-of-your-seat moment. It definitely sets the tone for what’s to come. I wish I could say that what follows, of a young couple purchasing their dream house that eventually has a bad rep, is as high-speed but that would be an unfair statement. Although the author tries really hard to keep it all flowing pretty nicely.   

 
I think the main problem with COVENANT is that the author seems unable to settle on a theme. Is it a haunted house tale? Is it a criminal investigation story? Is it a serial killer piece? The plot goes in every direction while never reaching its intend purpose of scaring the bejesus out of us or at least keeping us glued to the pages. By contrast, Lavernone’s narrative is quite solid and the pace well-handled enough; and those gruesome moments, cringe-worthy of course but also restraint in spots when the author prefers to leave them to one’s imagination. His characterization may be a tad limited for my taste but the central heroine is a lovable one, the kind you enjoy rooting for. 

What it all comes down is this: CONVENANT is far from being a bad book. It may have failed to wow me as a horror novel but it definitely has its moments. Just make sure to leave your preconceive notions at the door if you do end up picking it up. 
 

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

  

Until next post—Martin

 

 

Thursday, 26 January 2017

‘THE NIGHTLY DISEASE’ BY MAX BOOTH III


 
Of all the many books that come my way, I got to admit that horror holds a special place in my heart. I’ve been delving into many genres in the last couple of decades, convincing myself and others that there’s more to life than scary reads. There is, no doubt about it. But the truth of the matter is, there’s nothing better than the feel of holding and getting into a paperback novel with a gruesome image on its front. There I said it. I’m a horror geek. Whether it is print or digital, I am and will forever be devoted to this genre (and others, don’t worry); which brings me to this week’s review, THE NIGHTLY DISEASE by Max Booth III, courtesy of DarkFuse.  

 
This is my first time reading this guy and I got to say that I was pleasantly surprise. THE NIGHTLY DISEASE is a first-person account of an overweight undereducated fellow whose quiet time of reading, writing, drinking or pleasuring himself on the roof of the hotel where he works as a night auditor is suddenly disturbed by the arrival of a bulimic girl. Add the constant demands of ungrateful guests, the discovered body of a co-worker, the sudden appearance of a face-eating owl and you get a pretty good idea what’s really in store. 

If you had the chance to experience and enjoy the Dell/Abyss horror line of the early to mid-‘90s you’ll find common grounds with THE NIGHTLY DISEASE. Not a horror piece per se—verging more on crime drama/dark comedy/bizarro fiction—this novel works aplenty, thanks to a skillful writer and an against the grain approach. The presence of the mean-spirited owls may remind the fine-feathered antagonist in Charles Grant’s THE NESTLING (homage?) but clearly this is one psychedelic ride worth taking, especially if you’re not stuck too deep in the meat-and-potatoes of horror reading.   

 

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

 

 

Until next post—Martin




 

Monday, 23 January 2017

‘GOODBYE, JANETTE’ BY HAROLD ROBBINS


 
I wish I could say that Harold Robbins had a glorious career. But the truth of the matter is, by the late ‘70s, the author had become a shadow of himself. Partying took a toll on his writing and his work suffered. So it came as no surprise that by the time GOODBYE JANETTE (1981) was released my appreciation of him had started to dwindle. However I got to admit that this novel was some sort of a turnabout for him. Gone are those male-dominated central characters filling his pages. Just like in 1976 THE LONELY LADY (Robbins at his sleazy best) the focus this time is on a heroine; well, four of them since it’s a multi-generational piece. The setting: the haute couture world—not very macho for a Robbins book. His unfavorable view of women, however, is still an ongoing thing.  
Indeed, every female in this book is the scapegoat of his wicked pen.  Including the title character who, still a pre-teen, gets used and abused and loves it (!). The culprit is a closeted homosexual (of course he is) who has the biggest peen (of course he does) and has misogynistic tendencies (gasp, double gasp—not). The apparels chosen for her (and his other conquests) could easily rival those of Christian Grey but not his technique. He’s more the sadistic kind. Just like its author, it seems, who clearly gets off making his readership his bitch. 
Another thing that is technically omitted from GOODBYE JANETTE is the author’s first-person POV, which is more than fine with me since I’ve never been too keen on this trademark of his. The novel is cut into four parts, spawning over many years and continents. When the story diverges from smut and focuses solely on the business side of fashion GOODBYE JANETTE is a fine read. You can even tell that Robbins has some knowledge on the subject. But these feel-good moments are pretty scarce. Of course, everyone is one-dimensional, and though you feel as if you should at least connect with some character, however big or small, you don’t. Instead you just go with the flow of bad writing and silly situations while shaking your head in dismay.
GOODBYE JANETTE was Robbins’ last hit before being stricken with a heart attack and confined to a wheelchair. He did manage to write other novels until he passed away in 1997.  Junius Podrog took over posthumously in the early 2000s. Though his books are supposedly well-tailored I doubt I will get to them. My reading choices have evolved somewhat since then. But if in doing so he has succeeded in putting Robbins name back in lights, more power to him I say. Robbins certainly deserves at least that.

  

Until next post—Martin

 


 

 

Monday, 16 January 2017

LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER (1981)

 


 
Like every teenage boy across the globe my sexual peak showed itself when I was around 15. It was a time where every schoolmate, every movie, every magazine or billboard ad screamed of sexual desire (mostly from Calvin Klein). So much so that I was ready to hump anything that moved. Thank heaven I also had films like this 1981 movie adaptation of the D. H. Lawrence classic—starring the recently-departed Sylvia Kristel and the late Nicholas Clay from EXCALIBUR fame—to temporarily cure that imposing itch.  

 
 
Indeed, this enjoyable B-ride called LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER did more than the trick besides showing a panoramic view of foggy London. The sexually-charged performance of its two stars is what made the movie tick and still does today. Both bring nothing but skin to their performances of an unlikely duo engaging in a torrid affair and it is more than fine with me. Over an ultra-syrupy score (by Richard Harvey and Stanley Myers) and a fine use of camera work by Robert Fraisse, the two go at it like you wouldn’t believe, leaving nothing to the imagination except to wonder if the movie would have been better had a more talented cast been involved. Since this isn't the case here yet the film still manages to remain impressive despite its many flaws, I would gladly say that LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER is superficial enough to be considered camp classic material. 

I’ve been thinking of spotlighting this film for quite a while. However, I wanted to catch it again before taking the plunge and write this fantastic review. You never know, it may have turned out to be an awful film over the years. But I’m happy to report that it has aged graciously. In fact, I found myself enjoying it even more this time around, especially now that my teen days are over and done with.  
 
Oh yes, give this LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER a chance. It does not try to be artsy-fartsy nor does it pretend to be better than the dozen of adaptations. It’s just a little erotica from the director of EMMANUELLE which features the star of EMMANUELLE. Beautifully shot and always a class-act when it comes to any sex scene, this sleazier version of the all-time classic is for me one of the best sexploitation films out there.

 
 

Until next post—Martin