The genre of urban fiction is rife with tales of pimps, hustlers, and boss bitches all looking to live the good life. Most of these stories are rote i...moreThe genre of urban fiction is rife with tales of pimps, hustlers, and boss bitches all looking to live the good life. Most of these stories are rote in nature, following the same beats and giving us characters that are all about the dollar dollar bill, y’all. But it was with an open mind that I approached Platinum Dust, author K.C. Blaze’s recent contribution to the genre.
The protagonist of Platinum Dust is Rahiem Starz—and yes, that’s his real last name—and he is a piece of work. He self-describes as a pretty boy due to his light complexion, green eyes, and nice physique. While these attributes make him near irresistible to the ladies, Rahiem is also almost always on guard as he feels these qualities make him appear “soft.” His mettle is tested early on when he’s attacked in a seedy nightclub by a thug jealous of Rahiem’s prowess with the ladies. Little does Rahiem know, this seemingly random, insignificant, violent encounter will have consequences later on.
Furthermore, Rahiem, who fancies himself a manager for a couple of high-end escorts, has grown tired of the revolving door of women who constantly pass through his bedroom. His favorite is the beautiful, compassionate, and intelligent Felicia; and though he’s slow to realize it, Rahiem may actually be in love with her. Needless to say, despite her playing it cool and knowing her role, Felicia’s feelings for Rahiem run deep.
Complicating matters even more is Rahiem’s relationship with his mother, Janet, who’s serving time in prison for the murder of Rahiem’s father, Carlos. It’s not just the murder that has earned Janet the enmity of her son—she also kicked him out of the house and into the streets at a young age. Though he (and eventually his straight-laced, God-fearing brother Amir) is taken in by a loving relative, Rahiem is unable to let go of the anger and hurt his mother caused him.
What sets Platinum Dust apart from the pack is its emotional quotient. All the characters are believable and well-defined, and express a genuine range of feelings. Rahiem is dismissive of women (he refers to them by the day of the week he sleeps with them), but that’s only due to his mother’s treatment of him. Felicia truly loves him, and wants him to love her back, but she won’t risk playing the fool. Janet is slowly losing her sanity in prison, and though she schemes to use Rahiem to get out, she, too, discovers unexpected feelings coming to the surface. We even get a glimpse into the mind of Amir, who is remorseful over the feelings he has for a mysterious young woman he meets at church. “The flesh is weak,” he explains to God. “My lower half always willing to rise to the occasion betrayed me also.”
There is, of course, plenty of sex and action in Platinum Dust. Rahiem’s stable of ladies is plentiful, and he seemingly picks up a new woman at random on a daily basis, paving the way for a number of steamy sex scenes. And when Rahiem discovers he’s the target of a revenge plot, it’s a revelation that could endanger the lives of everyone he loves.
Platinum Dust is a sexy, fast-paced, entertaining read filled with memorable characters and situations. It’s the first in a series of books about Rahiem, and I, for one, am curious to see what happens next.(less)
A blind teenaged outcast begins having visions of his high school crush being murdered by a similarly gifted psychopath and sets out to prevent this f...moreA blind teenaged outcast begins having visions of his high school crush being murdered by a similarly gifted psychopath and sets out to prevent this from actually happening. But in doing so, he discovers that a much bigger fate may very well await him.
That’s the gist of Farsighted, a YA fantasy written by Novel Publicity founder Emlyn Chand. Yes, yes, once again I delved into the fantasy genre, something I normally do not do, as I mentioned in my review of L.R. Giles’ urban contemporary fantasy The Darkness Kept. Yet Farsighted shares the similar sensibilities with Giles’ novel in that it embraces its fantasy elements while keeping one foot firmly rooted in a recognizable reality. It was enough to pique my interest.
Alex Kosmitoras is our protagonist, a blind high school student dreading the start of his sophomore year. Things are bad enough at home—Alex’s unemployed father is distant and cold, leaving his mother to shoulder the burden of supporting the family with the meager income she makes from her florist shop. But at school, life is hell. The one-two punch of being blind and poor renders Alex a social misfit and frequent target of bully Brady and his band of cronies. Things begin looking up, however, with the arrival of a new student, a beautiful girl named Simmi, whose family moved to Alex’s podunk Midwest town from India.
There are other newcomers as well, namely Miss Teak, a psychic who’s set up shop in the empty property next to Mrs. Kosmitoras’s store, and her daughter, the abrasive Shapri. They’ve moved from New Orleans, displaced victims of the disastrous Hurricane Katrina.
Around this time, all sorts of strange things begin happening to Alex. He starts to have visions of someone called Dax, a teenager with telekinetic abilities and psychotic tendencies. Each vision of Dax is increasingly disturbing and violent, finally culminating with the terrifying death of Simmi, of whom Alex has grown quite fond.
Convinced he is the only one who can save Simmi, Alex decides to embrace his newfound powers of prescience so he can find and take down Dax.
Farsighted was, for me, an unusual read because it was told from the point of view of a character who literally cannot see. I’m sure this would have presented quite the challenge for another author, but Chand uses Alex’s disability to her advantage, fleshing out the world of the novel through the use of Alex’s other four senses. The result is nothing short of spectacular as the reader is truly able to “see” things as the protagonist does. (One of my favorite bits involves Alex explaining what his favorite color is—genius!)
Chand’s characters are fully realized, with each one contributing a key component necessary for Alex to meet his goal. You’ll be able to spot some of Alex’s allies from a mile away, and others are more surprising, but each one helps Alex along his journey in ways that are believable. Nothing about their actions seemed contrived. Hell, even Brady, the school bully, serves a purpose—and (I’m not giving anything away here) it was nice to see him get his ass kicked a few times. Bullies never prosper!
That’s another thing: Farsighted is genuinely thrilling. Whether you’re sucked into one of Alex’s visions or engaged in a battle royale of some sort, Chand’s handling of action-oriented scenes is edge-of-your-seat exciting. The final confrontation, which takes place in a highly populated public setting, is as electrifying as anything you’d see in a Hollywood blockbuster, and it’s topped off with an unexpected but satisfying ending.
With its unique hero, great writing, and heart-stopping story, Farsighted had me hooked from the very beginning. It’s a quick, enjoyable read, a consummate page-turner and undeniable crowd-pleaser. Chand gave us one of hell of a sequel hook, too—the second part, Open Heart, is due later this year. As hinted many times in Farsighted, the story can take an unexpected turn at any moment.
Unfortunately, I don’t have Alex’s powers of precognition. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead.(less)
As I imagine most people had, I’d first heard of The Thin Man, and its main characters Nick and Nora Charles, because of a series of films that were r...moreAs I imagine most people had, I’d first heard of The Thin Man, and its main characters Nick and Nora Charles, because of a series of films that were released during Hollywood’s Golden Age. William Powell and Myrna Loy played Nick and Nora, a glamorous married socialite couple that solved crimes in their spare time while swilling martinis and cracking wise. The first film is heralded as a classic, while the follow-ups range in quality but are still regarded as delightfully entertaining.
I’ve always liked the crime-solving couple set-up (shows like Hart to Hart, Remington Steele, and Moonlighting were some of my favorites growing up), and I consider myself a pro-league alcoholic, so naturally The Thin Man intrigued me. I’ve never actually seen the films, so as I got into the book, I was able to do so without making the usual comparisons against the film.
Nick Charles is a former private detective who recently married up. His new wife Nora is filthy stinking rich, and the two live a life of endless luxury, vacationing often and imbibing every drop of alcohol in sight. One hilarious moment features Nick waking up and asking Nora to make him a drink. “Why don’t you have some breakfast first?” Nora suggests. Nick responds, “It’s too early for breakfast.”
The couple is on holiday in New York City during Christmastime when a young woman is found gunned down in her apartment. The woman, Julia Wolf, was in the employ of Clyde Wynant, a wealthy inventor and former client of Nick’s. Of course, Wynant is the prime suspect and Nick, who wants nothing to do with the mystery and simply wishes to drink and hang out with Nora, is essentially forced into working the case. This leads him to encounters with a number of eccentric, bizarre characters, including Wynant’s ex-wife, Mimi, children, Gilbert and Dorothy, and his lawyer Macauley. Nick works with NYPD Liutenant Guild to uncover clues, find Wynant, and solve the riddle behind Wolf’s murder.
The first half of the book is supremely funny. Nick tries his best to remain as far from the crime and all involved as possible. Nora looks on in engrossed amusement, and the droll banter between characters had me laughing out loud. Also, true to lore, Nick and Nora (and damn near everyone else in Hammett’s world) are consummate alcoholics, interrupting meetings, meals, and other serious business for a cocktail (or two).
The libations and witticisms are less prominent in the book’s latter half, which actually begins taking the mystery seriously while remaining light in tone. There are several exposition-heavy passages in which characters talk about what happened. I get that this was the only way Nick could be made privy to some information, but in all honesty, it was a bit much. Paragraphs upon paragraphs of expository dialogue are not my thing.
The Thin Man is written in a sparse, first person voice. It’s done nothing to change my opinion of first person voice. I still very much hate the technique. But the economy of Hammett’s writing keeps the book moving at a quick pace, even during those exposition heavy, dialogue filled scenes. His characters are delightful creations, with Nick and Nora, of course, taking the cake. Though the film spawned five sequels, none of them were written by Hammett or based on his work. I would have loved to see where Hammett would take them.
I found The Thin Man to be a very enjoyable read. Mystery, noir, and detective fiction are not my bag, but I enjoyed Dashiell Hammett’s inventive take on the genre thanks to his genuinely unique and funny characters and clever dialogue. To this enchanting piece of work, I raise my glass in toast. Cheers!(less)
First things first, I am not into fantasy. The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, you can keep all that shit. That’s not a slight to the very talented a...moreFirst things first, I am not into fantasy. The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, you can keep all that shit. That’s not a slight to the very talented authors who write these stories. I mean, they must be doing something right – these tales endure for years and their characters connect with readers in a way that’s nothing short of amazing.
I, however, have never warmed to the genre, unless it was mixed with something else I did like. (Star Wars, for example, has fantastic elements but I would first and foremost consider it sci-fi.) This is despite the fact that some of my favorite movies as a kid were Krull, Legend, and The Dark Crystal.
Anyway, long story short (too late) I never dug fantasy. Even still, when author L.R. Giles promoted his urban contemporary fantasy novel The Darkness Kept, I decided to give it a read. Gotta support my fellow writers, no?
The story revolves around Kendrick Dampier, a mage who finds himself pursued by the evil Cablon Corporation after the murder of three high ranking executives. You see, Cablon is no ordinary company – they are ruled by dark magicians who, as the book’s description states, masquerade as wealthy businessmen in a world where money and science have usurped faith and sorcery. Also on Dampier’s trail is a brother and sister bounty hunter team with their own agenda of vengeance.
Right off the bat I knew this novel was going to be different. Its contemporary setting definitely helped make the tale more palatable to my tastes, and I was very enthralled by the fact the main characters were Black. Even more impressive was how Giles revealed this without being too overt in the descriptions.
Further, the story had quite a few twists I did not see coming. Seemingly random elements introduced early in the story paid off in believable ways and always at the right moment.
The world Giles created was completely fleshed out, with warring factions, evil corporations, and even angelic cinephiles figuring into the mix. Characters are real people, er, being, with their own nuances and quirks. Battle scenes were well-written; thankfully, Giles didn’t succumb to the incoherence most authors suffer from when trying to write fight scenes.
In fact, if there is one thing that I found just a wee bit off-putting, it was the level of violence in The Darkness Kept. True to its title, the novel is quite dark (this ain’t your typical grade school fantasy) and at times the brutality is hard to stomach. It’s a testament to Giles’ talent that the gore and violence didn’t feel gratuitous.
The Darkness Kept is obviously the first in a series of stories about the conflict in which Dampier has found himself. Without giving away the end, I can say that Giles has set up a wonderful concept, similar to what the makers of the Star Trek reboot have done. The possibilities for future adventures of Kendrick Dampier, and his allies and enemies, are endless.
Which also means I may be inclined to continue reading them as soon as they’re released. Who knows? Maybe I’ll become a fan of fantasy yet.
The Darkness Kept is available for Kindle at Amazon.(less)
When I was a kid, one of my favorite television shows was The Dukes of Hazzard. Now, at the time, I was too young to know that the Dukes were moonshin...moreWhen I was a kid, one of my favorite television shows was The Dukes of Hazzard. Now, at the time, I was too young to know that the Dukes were moonshiners. I was blind to the fact that their car, the General Lee, was laden with cringe-inducing Dixie pride. (I was well aware, however, of how fine Barbara Bach was as Daisy Duke--talk about a childhood crush!) Despite all of that, I enjoyed The Dukes of Hazzard because it was a cool-ass show populated with cool-ass characters. Sure, there was a bit of action, but for the most part, we, the audience, got to chill with Bo and Luke, Daisy and Uncle Jesse, Cooter and Enos, and Boss Hogg and Roscoe P. Coltrane. We got to hang out with them.
One of the major contributors to that "hang out" factor was the series' laid-back narrator, Waylon Jennings Jr. He described the proceedings of each episode in a down home twang that almost seemed to say, "C'mon, grab a beer, and look at the mess these kids done got themselves into now."
I got a similar sort of feeling when reading Talkeetna Trouble by George Angus. This edition billed itself as being Raw & Uncut, a markedly unpolished version filled with grammatical hiccups, plot holes, and the like, straight from the mind of the author without any thought given to editing. But even had Talkeetna Trouble been present to us unblemished, it would still retain its folksy vibe--and that's not at all a bad thing.
As with Dukes, Talkeetna gives us a lively cast of characters, most of whom congregate at an Alaskan truck stop/diner known as the Century, and allows us to simply "hang out" with them: There's Randall, the curmudgeonly owner of the Century who also serves as a de facto mayor of the town; Trooper Dan, who's got to be the most chill law enforcement officer ever written; Bett, the Iowan beauty who found herself in Talkeetna and decided to stick around; Jeremy, a nice yet dimwitted kid who has a major crush on Bett; and Sconcy, a lumberjack of a woman who's relatively new to the area. Believe me, that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the colorful characters that populate this novel. And that is where Talkeetna Trouble's brilliance lay. We are given this group of characters to simply follow around, hang out with, have a beer or smoke a joint with.
Now, to be sure, there is a plot. A couple of ne'er-do-well hillbilly brothers, Darrell and Stew, have stolen some powerful lights from the Century; it's not difficult for Randall and Trooper Dan to figure out who committed the crime, and soon enough they're able to deduce why: the brothers are growing a massive crop of marijuana to sell during a very popular, upcoming festival. Randall and Trooper Dan enlist the brothers' neighbor Sconcy to infiltrate their operation, and what follows is a sometimes funny, sometimes tense sting operation that culminates in a rather exciting climax.
But, for most part, the plot is secondary. What makes Talkeetna Trouble a joy to read are the characters, three-dimensional creations who are all pretty funny and endearing. We care what happens to them, even the hillbilly brothers (despite the fact that they can actually be quite dangerous). I very much enjoyed Talkeetna Trouble. It'd be a world I wouldn't mind visiting again, flaws and all.
When it comes to contemporary Black literature not written by the likes of Toni Morrison or Colson Whitehead or Zadie Smith, the expectation is that t...moreWhen it comes to contemporary Black literature not written by the likes of Toni Morrison or Colson Whitehead or Zadie Smith, the expectation is that these tales will be filled with vulgarity, violence, and gratuitously graphic sex. That was certainly what I expected when cracking open Gotham Diaries, a story about “Manhattan’s [African-American] upper crust packed with sex, lies, and backstabbing” written by Tonya Lewis Lee (wife of filmmaker Spike Lee) and Crystal McCrary Anthony.
Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised to find the novel wasn’t as salacious as the back-of-the-book blurbs led me to believe. Instead, I it was a standard issue yet still very engrossing story of New York City’s so-called Black elite, the (fictional) moneyed movers and shakers who populate magazine covers, gossip columns, and many a fantasy.
The novel focuses on three main characters: Manny Marks, a social climbing real estate agent who seeks to be among the city’s privileged and influential; Tandy Brooks, an again socialite struggling to maintain appearances after the untimely death of her millionaire husband; and Lauren Thomas, the trophy wife of one of America’s few Black billionaire businessmen. Through these three characters and their relationships to each other, we get a glimpse of the shenanigans that take place amongst a social set that should really fucking know better.
All the tropes are present: lovers cheat, connivers connive, and the wealthy prove to be certifiably insane. Once the players are introduced, we are given a plot that revolves around an unscrupulous real estate scheme. Will the conspirators get away with their nefarious plan? Will the victims realize they’re being played like fast-food side dishes? You already know the answer to these questions, but the fun is in seeing how it all plays out.
The novel only gives you one character to truly root for, one who, at the outset, seems genuinely nice and innocent. It isn’t until you come to the story’s conclusion that you begin to question this character’s naïveté. And I’ll be very honest, these characters are well off financially. That made it a bit difficult to really sympathize with their various plights.
Still, Lewis and Anthony have concocted a breezy, entertaining read that breaks away from what one would normally expect out of this type of tale. It’s often very funny, especially in its examination of the nouveau riche, celebrity worship, and race and class among Black people.
If you’re looking for sweaty sex scenes and super spicy revelations, I suggest you talk to the bootleg book man in Fulton Mall. Gotham Diaries is not the tome for you. But if you’re looking for a quick, well-written, and satisfying read, go ahead and pick this one up. (less)
The erotic short piece Black Silk Blindfold by Vanessa Wu is a coming-of-age tale in which a young woman plots sexual conquest over her younger collea...moreThe erotic short piece Black Silk Blindfold by Vanessa Wu is a coming-of-age tale in which a young woman plots sexual conquest over her younger colleague over the course of a short holiday.
Our unnamed narrator works for a prominent law firm, and she often finds herself flirting with the new associate Benedict Knowles. Fresh out of law school, and freshly dumped by his girlfriend, Benedict is the very definition of naïve. His innocence arouses our narrator tremendously; despite Benedict later revealing he’s found a new girlfriend, the two end up going to Helsinki, staying in the same hotel room to ostensibly save money. As the sun doesn’t set in Helsinki during the summer, our narrator declares that she will be unable to sleep without the titular silk blindfold. And so the sexual games begin.
I very much enjoyed this short piece by Ms. Wu. The writing is sophisticated without betraying the story’s sense of passion and lust. I felt the characters were real people with fully fleshed out desires and insecurities. Our protagonist is a master manipulator, yet not an evil vixen or femme fatale. And though she’s older than Benedict, she’s not a cougar; she’s simply more experienced in the art of seduction.
I definitely recommend Blind Silk Blindfold, especially for fans of tasteful, well-written erotica. I’m looking forward to reading a longer piece from Ms. Wu in the very near future.(less)
I really like Lauren Weisberger — a lot. I had an opportunity to meet her a few years ago at Barnes and Noble for a reading of her novel Last Night...moreI really like Lauren Weisberger — a lot. I had an opportunity to meet her a few years ago at Barnes and Noble for a reading of her novel Last Night at Chateau Marmont, and we chatted about everything from her non-Devil Wears Prada works to the fact that as children we both wanted to be astronauts. She was a very lovely person, and we even became Facebook friends soon thereafter.
But for as much as I love Ms. Weisberger, I cannot say the same for her main characters. From Last Night’s Brooke to Everyone Worth Knowing’s Bette, Weisberger asks us to follow the misadventures of shrill, privileged white women who tend to whine about the good fortune bestowed upon them. And in her pantheon of characters, there’s no bigger offender than Andrea “Andy” Sachs.
Of course, you already know who Andy is — the heroine of Weisberger’s blockbuster debut The Devil Wears Prada, the story about an awkward young woman who ends up working as personal assistant to the most powerful and influential person in fashion, the godlike editor-in-chief of the fictional Runway magazine, Miranda Priestly. What made the novel a success was the fact that it was a roman a clef, based on Weisberger’s tenure as assistant to Vogue EIC Anna Wintour. The Devil Wears Prada was titillating, salacious, the sort of tome that promised to expose the ice queen who lorded over all of fashion publishing. The novel’s stock rose further with the well-loved (and toned-down) film version starring the amazing Meryl Streep and Bland Anne Hathaway.
But here’s the thing: Andy Sachs, Weisberger’s author avatar, is a, quite simply, whiny brat. She is not at all appreciative of the job she’s landed — a job that a million girls would kill for — nor the opportunities and perks it affords her. Sure, Miranda is a sociopath of the highest order, but Andy’s constant “woe-is-me” rich girl bellyaching did very little to endear me to the character.
She doesn’t fare any better in Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns, a needless sequel that was clearly conceived as a quick money-grab for all parties involved. The story takes places 10 years after the events of the first book: after a stint writing for a wedding blog, Andy and her former-nemesis-turned-BFF Emily Charlton have launched a high-profile, glossy wedding magazine called The Plunge. Despite the decline of print media, The Plunge has done exceptionally well, largely in part to Andy’s editorial skills and Emily’s behind-the-scenes cunning. Further, Andy is engaged to the handsome Max Harrison, scion to a media empire and one of The Plunge’s initial investors.
Everything seems to be going well for Andy, right? Well, guess what? In true Weisberger Heronie fashion, she complains about everything in her life. Everything is such an unmitigated disaster. Her future mother-in-law doesn’t like her. Her ex-boyfriend Alex, who now lives across the country, might have a new girlfriend. Oh, and a decade later Andy is suffering from PTSD after time working under Miranda. Her loving fiancé is always on hand to comfort her, and the non-nonsense Emily constantly tells her to snap out of it. But it’s just so hard for Andy to do so — can’t everyone see how tragic her life is?
The first half of Revenge is a slog, filling us in on the past 10 years of Andy’s life and letting her complain about everything from her fairytale marriage to the birth of her beautiful baby girl Clementine. Then, finally, a nascent plot begins to form: Elias-Clark, the media conglomerate that owns Runway, is interested in acquiring The Plunge. For millions of dollars. Everyone — Emily, Max, every fucking one — seems to be on board for this. Everyone except, of course, Andy. Why? Because Miranda Priestly now oversees editorial over all of Elias-Clark’s publications, and the sale would mean that Andy would, once again, be under her employ.
I will admit, the second half of Revenge is entertaining and contains plot twists (some predictable, others surprising) that eventually help wrap things up in a nice, tidy manner. And many of the characters, aside from Andy, are engaging and memorable. Especially Emily, who is appropriately catty, but that’s only because she sees the endgame. Shit must get done, and she will ensure that it does.
Those hoping to see a true clash between Andy and Miranda will be disappointed, however. Miranda appears maybe three or four times in the entire novel; her brief appearances are really when the story comes to life, and while she really isn’t the story’s villain (no, she really isn’t) one still feels a palpable sense of dread whenever she’s on the page. The dinner at her house is certainly one of the novel’s high points: tense and hilarious, it’s the sort of scenario you wished Revenge had more of.
Weisberger threw in a few lines that hinted at a potential third volume in the series, but I think it’s best to let these characters go at this point. After all, there’s only so much whining about good fortune that readers can stand. The Devil may return again, but then again, only the devil may care.(less)
Every once in a while, I come across a novel that causes me to throw some side-eye the author’s way. The most recent novel to do this is The Dogs of B...moreEvery once in a while, I come across a novel that causes me to throw some side-eye the author’s way. The most recent novel to do this is The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst.
The Dogs of Babel is the story of linguist Paul Iverson, who calls home one day to find out his wife Lexy is dead. The only witness to her death is their dog, Lorelei, and so Paul sets out to teach the dog to speak so he can find out what really happened.
Now I’d first heard of Babel on a screenwriting website. It seems someone adapted the book and the resulting screenplay was so good, it made that year’s Black List. Reportedly, they were looking for an A-list actor for the role of Paul and blah blah bliggity blue. The way the story had been reported, I thought Babel was going to be a comedy of some sort. Anyway, when I’d found the novel at my new favorite book store Book Off, I decided to pick it up. What the hey, the premise was certainly intriguing. Unfortunately, what made for an intriguing premise turned out to be a patience-testing exercise in banality.
First, the novel actually spends precious little time exploring Paul efforts to teach Lorelei to speak. It is, in fact, a meditation on Paul’s relationship with Lexy. How it came to be, how their love progressed, and how it may (or may not) have impacted the events of Lexy’s last day alive. I admit, the meeting between the two characters was cute – it’s the very definition of “meet cute,” if you ask me – but as we move forward, it becomes abundantly clear that Lexy is, excuse the phrase, fucking insane.
Lexy designs custom masks for a living, and is several years younger than Paul. She’s impulsive, spontaneous, and off her rocker. On their first date, she convinces Paul to drive from wherever they live (Virginia, I think) to Disney World. She also states that they cannot eat dinner because dinner always comes at the end of every date. So each meal consists of appetizers, snacks, and the like. I suppose this was an effort to make Lexy seem quirky; instead, she came off as a loon.
Throughout the novel, Lexy has emotional outbursts, and they grow increasingly violent. In one scene, after Paul offers a slight bit of criticism on her latest work, Lexy takes a knife to the mask, completely destroying it before crumpling into a sobbing ball of delirium.
It was hard for me to truly understand why Paul was so in love with her. Sure, love doesn’t always make sense, especially to those on the outside looking in. But that’s just one of the missteps Parkhurst makes here. She doesn’t make us understand why Paul is so devoted to Lexy. He just is. That’s just not enough.
Oh, yeah, we almost forgot about the dog. There’s a tiny bit of subplot thrown in about a secret society of people dedicated to “canine communication,” an unseemly lot who have no qualms about surgically altering butchering dogs in an effort to see their goals come to fruition. Interestingly enough, it’s the only part of the novel that generates any excitement. But it also feels somewhat tacked on, a throwaway bit that Parkhurst included because, hey, this is supposed to be a novel about teaching a dog to talk.
The Dogs of Babel disappoints because Paul gets no closer to understanding his wife – her life or her death – come the end of the novel. And as for Lorelei, well, let’s just say she won’t be much assistance in helping Paul figure things out.
No, we’re not given hard and fast answers, and I recognize that’s how it is sometimes. But we’re also left without any resolution, without any closure. It feels like a huge waste of time. And that’s why, in the end, this novel is simply not satisfying. Though it purports to be a tale of communication and understanding, The Dogs of Babel ultimately has nothing at all to say.(less)
Early into Last Night at Chateau Marmont, I came to the conclusion that I really don’t like author Lauren Weisberger’s main characters. They are often ordinary people (women, rather) suddenly and unexpectedly dropped into extraordinary and ostensibly enviable situations. While most of us would relish the opportunity to experience what these characters experience, I find that Weisberger’s heroines hate their new situations and spend a great deal of time whining, moaning, and crying “Woe is me.”
That’s certainly the case with Brooke Alter, the protagonist and proverbial lottery winner of Weisberger’s latest beach reach. Brooke is a nutritionist who worked two jobs to essentially support herself and hubby Julian, a session musician and aspiring singer-songwriter who suddenly finds himself rocketed to the big time after a performance on Jay Leno makes him a bona fide star. Bring on the paparazzi, red carpet events, and sexy starlets!
But Brooke is clearly not 'bout that life. Despite a support system that includes her divorced parents, brother and sister-in-law, and best friend Lola, Brooke finds herself overwhelmed by the demands of being a celebrity wife. And when both her marriage and career are on the verge of imploding, Brooke finds herself the star of a celeb-reality circus for which she never signed up.
Last Night at Chateau Marmont certainly has an intriguing concept—what would your life be like if your spouse suddenly became an A-lister—but Weisberger curiously keeps the conflict at a distance. We see everything virtually through Brooke’s eyes, but therein lay the problem. Julian is across the country allegedly engaging in bad boy behavior and Brooke only becomes aware, or concerned, when someone else, having read of Julian’s indiscretions in the latest gossip rag, tells her about it. In fact, a couple of chapters deal with some incriminating pictures published in that Brooke simply refuses to look at. I’m not sure if this was a way of drawing out the conflict, but I was ready to scream, “Look at the fuckin’ pictures already, lady!”
Where Last Night does win, though, is in its depiction of celebrity life. This is not the realm of Happily-Ever-After where money makes all problems disappear. It’s a hellish existence, especially when privacy is chucked out the window and one’s life becomes the stuff tabloid headlines are made from.
I’m a fan of Lauren Weisberger, and I enjoyed her earlier works The Devil Wears Prada and Everyone Worth Knowing. (As for Chasing Harry Winston, I didn't dig that one so much, but no one can bat a thousand.) I’d say Last Night at Chateau Marmont falls short of her best work but still offers quite the insider’s point-of-view into a lifestyle a million girls (and more than a few fellas) would kill for. Let’s hope next time her characters can just learn to enjoy their good fortune.(less)
In the weeks leading up to GUESTLIST’s release, whenever most people asked what genre it would fall into, I would say, without hesitation, “chick lit.” That response was usually followed by a look of utter perplexity.
But think about it. GUESTLIST is the story of a young woman who moves to New York City and attempts to adjust to life in her new surroundings. She begins looking for love (or, at least, companionship) and struggles to find a foothold in her career. Isn’t that basically what most chick lit books are about?
Of course, at the time I’d been ingesting a healthy diet of work by writers like Candace Bushnell, Aliya S. King, Lauren Weisberger, Helen Fielding, Amy Sohn, and Erica Kennedy, so that heavily impacted my work. But ultimately I felt compelled to tell this type of story. And truth be told, I’m sure I will tell a similar tale again.
I’m not the first black man to embark on this journey. Look at Omar Tyree. Though I couldn’t really get into Flyy Girl, I can’t deny the man’s success. Sixteen published novels, many of them bestsellers. Further, the man is a pioneer in the urban lit game. Still, I think it may be a bit jarring for people to see a black male writer admitting that penning chick lit is in his wheelhouse.
Well, lemme tell you right now, Dear Readers, I am that Black Male Writer. Not only that but I want to elevate my craft, and that is why I picked up Mrs. Yardley’s book. Like most books I’ve gotten these days, I found Will Write for Shoes at Book Off, and after seeing the title I knew it would make its way into my personal library.
So, on to the review, which pretty much boils down to one question: is the book helpful? In my opinion, yes, it is.
Yardley gives the reader an overview of chick lit history before delving into the conventions and mechanics of the genre. What I liked is that Yardley aims to educate writers about chick lit before encouraging them to play with the genre’s conventions. For example, most chick lit stories take place in glitzy, fast-paced metropolitan areas (such as New York City). But what if your story took place in, say, rural Idaho? See?
The book also talks about finding and refining one’s writing voice, and gives helpful tips on plotting the course of one’s story. It’s all great advice and would help anyone, from novices to seasoned writers, and I can certainly see myself using the book as a resource in the future.
The latter half of Will Write for Shoes focuses on breaking into the world of traditional publishing. How to find and query agents, determining which publishing house would be the best fit for your novel, etc. While very informative and interesting, these later chapters really didn’t have much to offer an independently published author such as myself. Still, the material is very helpful and, while not exhaustive, certainly complete enough.
All in all, I feel that Will Write for Shoes is a great source of information for those who wish to write in the genre of chick lit. It will probably inspire some to pick up some of the notable works in the genre (I know I want to get into Nick Hornby’s work, though he’s categorized at “dick lit” or “lad lit”) and it will certainly help those struggling with to get their WIPs off the ground.
Yardley’s voice is pleasant, personable, and easy-going. As I said, I’ll definitely be picking up this book again and again. Though I’m not writing for shoes, at least I have a guide to help me write about them.(less)
For those unfamiliar, An Object of Beauty tells the story of Lacey Yeager, a social and professional climber in New York City's art scene. Lacey has n...moreFor those unfamiliar, An Object of Beauty tells the story of Lacey Yeager, a social and professional climber in New York City's art scene. Lacey has no real love for art, but she does want the spoils of success in the field, namely owning a gallery that showcases only the hottest, most sought after pieces. Alas, Lacey is struggling in a lowly, thankless position at Sotheby's and recognizes that her charms are not enough to elevate her to the status she desires. And so Lacey does what anyone would do if given the chance—she hits one hell of a lick.
What's that? You don't understand what that means? Oh, I'm sorry. Here. Urban Dictionary defines the phrase "hit a lick" thusly: "To gain a shit load of mony [sic] in a short amount of time." That's precisely what Lacey does.
Now don't worry, I haven't spoiled anything for you. Knowing that Lacey comes into a small fortune isn't ruining any mystery; how she does it, however, is a bit of a puzzle and she doesn't do it in the way most (small-minded) people would assume. In any case, due to her newfound fourtune, Lacey is able to get a new apartment and begin her ascent through the ranks of NYC's prominent art dealers before finally opening her own gallery.
An Object of Beauty is told in first person by Daniel Franks, a freelance journalist who seems to know a hell of a lot of intimate details about Lacey's life. The two characters are old college buddies who, despite having slept together once, maintain a close, platonic relationship. I thought at first that Daniel may have been harboring some deep, romantic feelings for Lacey, but it was refreshing to discover that, no, he actually was not. Daniel finds himself smitten with another young woman; alas, as things tend to do in these sort of tales, things get a little messy.
There are three things I loved about An Object of Beauty. First, it's not your typical tale of love and romance in New York City. Given its characters, their careers, the setting, etc., Beauty has all the ingredients of an archetypical chick-lit novel. Yet Martin doesn't traverse down that well-trodden path. In Lacey, he's created a character whose ultimate love is professional success. Yeah, sure, Lacey sleeps around, has dalliances with several men, but even when making love she's emotionally distant. Sex, fucking, love, they're all afterthoughts. Romance is not on her mind, kids.
Second, I love Martin's writing. His prose style is melancholic, formal, refined. I dig it. It worked well in his novella Shopgirl, and it's perfect for Beauty. He's not only able to capture Lacey's coldness but also that of the art scene in which she is deeply entrenched.
Finally, I love how Lacey's story paralleled mine at the time I was reading it. If you recall, I was on the verge of losing everything—my home, my life, my mind. Lacey finds herself in a similar situation. And though she's able to hit a lick (I used it again, feel free to incorporate it into you dialogue at work tomorrow), Lacey's ultimate fate is one I still fear may happen to me. So, it could be said that An Object of Beauty works, at least for me on a personal level, as an Aesop.
It's the combination of these things that made An Object of Beauty such an enjoyable read for me. It was a relatable story told well, and, really, that's all one can hope for when picking up a new novel.(less)
Over the years, Candace Bushnell lost control, so to speak, of the Carrie Bradshaw character. And so in an effort to reinvent and reclaim Carrie, Bush...moreOver the years, Candace Bushnell lost control, so to speak, of the Carrie Bradshaw character. And so in an effort to reinvent and reclaim Carrie, Bushnell decided to explore the character’s life in a prequel series aimed at teens entitled The Carrie Diaries.
The problem is, I don’t buy it.
I don’t believe that the Carrie Bradshaw in Diaries, a high school senior living in Castlebury, Connecticut, is the same one that would eventually show up in Bushnell’s debut novel. In fact, by the end of Diaries, you see how Bushnell clumsily attempts to connect this Carrie to the version from the show. While that might satisfy (most of) the show’s legions of fans, it simply doesn’t ring true for the character.