At last, the De Kuyper family saga mercifully comes to a close and my OCD completist gene can rest easy. I hope you're happy, you little bastard.
At last, the De Kuyper family saga mercifully comes to a close and my OCD completist gene can rest easy. I hope you're happy, you little bastard.
What started out as an engaging mix of fiction and history of New York in the first book (despite some dry and clunky writing) ended up turning into a repetitious formula of plots and characters with interesting New York trivia sprinkled throughout. As I stated in my review of the previous book, Nicolaysen should have gone the extra mile and written a narrative biography of New York City rather than going the fictional route that requires plots, story arcs, characterization, and whatnot. Without a doubt, the city itself is the only character he is truly interested in and it shows because the passages describing the city were the only interesting parts.
Until now. This book was just... boring. It was all a leadup to the grand finale of Black Tuesday, 1929 so we got lots and lots (and LOTS!) of "plot" revolving around Wall Street, stock prices, buying on margin and so on. Woohoo.... Seriously, I now know how much White Sewing Machine stock cost on the day after Black Tuesday (and several other companies), because it definitely felt like he was quoting from the financial page of the NY Times.
The characters were the same flat cardboard cutouts as in the previous 2 books, and they followed the same formula. The old patriarch who dies near the end of the book, the dreamer son who is passed over in preference of the practical grandson who inherits the family business. The harping sister, the feminist independent daughter, the 2 cousins who fall in love (after being told by an aunt or uncle that they're so distantly related it doesn't matter, and oh-you-two-crazy-kids-tie-the-knot-already) and the appearance of a descendent of the black family from the first novel who always ends up being involved with the De Kuyper clan somehow. Coincidences abound.
I would have said that this book wasn't so bad and it would be worth rounding out the series with it, but near the end when (view spoiler)[an older DeKuyper has a stroke and his doctor daughter says that Britain has some kind of experimental serum that can help, the pilot in the clan takes off on a round-the-clock roundtrip trans-Atlantic flight and comes back with the serum and the stroke guy is stable and the serum is never used. FFS, why spend all those pages of "tension" on this plot point when it didn't go anywhere???? (hide spoiler)] All this episode did was serve as an excuse to use the nighttime radio flight navigation system that Scientist De Kuyper had invented because they needed to land in London at night. It almost hit the wall at that point, but with only 60 pages left to go, and a couple characters left to kick the bucket (according to the family tree in the front of the book) I had to keep skimming reading.
Despite the faults of these books, what had saved them in the past from total suckage was some really good passages detailing historical events. The NYC 1863 draft riots in The Pirate of Gramercy Park was rather excitingly written, but all the historical events in this book (other than Black F*cking Tuesday) happened so quickly I don't know why they were even there. The sinking of the Lusitania (with soon to be flyboy De Kuyper) occurred in less than 2 pages, the horrors of WWI were restricted to same flyboy over the course of a dozen pages. Other historical events were covered in long paragraphs that read like one of those spinning-headline montage sequences from 1930s Hollywood movies.
This book was all about the stock market, baby... so if that kind of short-selling action makes you all hot and bothered, have at it, my friend. That's when everything slowed down into Barry White territory of lingering, loving detail.
Oh, and the 15-page blow-by-blow description of the yacht race at the end. Hotness.
1.5 stars, actually - but I'm not giving it an extra 1/2 star that it doesn't deserve.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
It's been quite the bumpy and downright disappointing journey to find a good romance set in New Mexico. This bookWARNING: Spoilers (and a couple GIFs)
It's been quite the bumpy and downright disappointing journey to find a good romance set in New Mexico. This book was no different, but at least this time around the setting of New Mexico was vivid and rang true.
I suppose I could give this book 5 stars for that alone. I mean, if people regularly give a shitastic book the highest rating just because they want to schtup the hero, I can base my ratings on a similiarly shallow basis, right?
I'll go over the high points first. It wasn't only the descriptions of the landscape (yes, there is more than dust and cacti out here), but the author did an excellent job of portraying the cultural tensionsrelationships among the main ethnic groups, the Hispanics (old Spanish and newer Mexican), Anglos, and Indians. There was no sugar-coating of the "drunk Indian" (the scene with the drunk Navajo touched this cold bitch's heart). Also addressed was the patronizing attitude of the rich Anglos toward them (we want to help, but their lifestyle is so quaint!), Indians vs. Spanish (land grants), and the tensions within the Indian community (old ways vs. modernization). Any scene that involved these issues was very deftly written and held my attention. It's obvious that the author knows New Mexico, and it's not just research.
But the general plotline is a relentless soap opera avalanche:
Franklin Pierce wants to build an equestrian training center in memory of his daughter. This venture runs into all sorts of issues from the get-go. He wants to lease Pueblo land for the center, and he has support from Benny Aragon, a forward-thinking Indian who wants to pull his people out of government dependency. Another Pueblo faction is afraid of losing the old ways, and is highly cognizant of the fact that all those jobs for the Indians will consist of mucking out stalls and similar shitwork. Next door to the Pueblo is the hoity-toity Santa Fe millionaire development of Rancho de Palabra whose residents are immediately up in arms over the prospect of having icky horse poo within range of their fragile noses. The Queen BitchBee of the social scene is Rhea Sheridan, who leads the charge against the center.
Into the middle of this battle stumbles Mona Gallagher, who has been hired by Pierce as head trainer of the center that hasn't even been built yet (little does she know). Along for the ride is her leech of a husband, Terry, who is writing the Great American Novel and is content to live off Mona until he gets that jackpot offer from a publishing house. Silvestre C. deBaca, son of one of the oldest Spanish families in Santa Fe, will manage the center because his glory days on the riding circuit are long gone, squelched by the fear of a horrible riding accident brought on by heavy cocaine use.
Nigel (Rhea's brother) is an old Army buddy of Silvestre's. He's battling his own demons and pathetically trapped in the wiles of Rhea who is holding their one incestuous encounter over his head. He can't confide in his wife, Lexa, museum director and never-at-home archaeologist, because he fears her repulsion and disgust.
It doesn't take long before (view spoiler)[Terry leaves Mona for Rhea since she can do more for his career, Silvestre consoles Mona, Lexa leaves Nigel, Mona consoles Nigel, Mona gets Silvestre off the angel dust, Terry manwhores with a French soprano and leaves Rhea, Mona and Nigel get married, Rhea tries to get Nigel back (who tells her to get lost), Benny (remember him?) wants to follow Lexa to her dig in Guatamala, and Pierce gets knifed in a bar fight and dies 2 pages from the end. (hide spoiler)]
The dwama got overwhelming in spots. Just a tad.
I didn't think the characters were very deep, nor very likeable. Even the main protagonist/heroine, Mona, was a shrinking violet who always paled, cried or otherwise crumbled under the slightest bit of pressure (but got tough when the plot called for it). I was totally blindsided by the plot turn that put her and Nigel together, leaving Silvestre as the third wheel. (view spoiler)[But since both those characters wanted a baby more than anything - and their respective spouses didn't - there was really no choice for the plot to go any other way, I guess. It just wasn't set up very well. (hide spoiler)]
The writing started out very solid in the beginning and began to break down about halfway through - and by that, I mean scenes were a little herky-jerky, written more for a screenplay than a novel. (For those who care, this author wrote the screenplay for the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Measure of a Man".)
So, despite the obvious faults, they weren't egregious enough to keep me from finishing it. In a way, I relished the cheesy soapy goings-on and the penultimate scene in the bar had one big LOLarious moment. I'm glad I read it. So there!
There were a few things about this book that cheesed me off, and not in a sharp, pungent asagio cheese way. No, the prose of this book only provoBlah.
There were a few things about this book that cheesed me off, and not in a sharp, pungent asagio cheese way. No, the prose of this book only provoked the most bland, generic label "processed cheese food" sort of reaction.
The writing. Boring. And sentences started with "And" a lot. A little peeve of mine. Some boring dialogue filler. And no real descriptions. Other than the mention of Villa, I'd have no idea when this was taking place. No description of clothes or cars, or other world events. Swap out Villa with another name and it could be in Beirut in the 70s for all I'd notice.
The characters. Sarah is 18 when the book starts, and acts like a pampered, spoiled child. She dreads meeting Andres at a ball after a hiatus of 2 years because he made fun of her gawky 16-ness. But of course in those 2 years she's bloomed into a ravishing rose. She sees Andres' friend Luis and falls into Insta-Love. So does he. On page 9. Luis leaves to fight with Villa so Sarah immediately says "Fuck him!" and turns on the Ice Queen routine. She ignores the 2 letters he sends and then hates him when she doesn't hear from him again (yet can't stop mooning over him). Yet she decides to marry Andres, who is in Huerta's army against Villa, and resigns herself to the role of a proper upper-class Mexican wife (she's American) having teas and making babies, making that college education she just got for herself moot. (Wait, this sounds like another story she wrote!)
Fast forward 3 years and Luis shows up during a massacre in the plaza by Huerta and they conveniently seek refuge in a small apartment nearby where there's a joining of burgeoning loins and a bit of Hate!Sex when she says Andres' name once (not in that way) and he whips her butt with his belt. But not even that was interesting. Of course this "sealing of the deal" leads her to think
I'll never get enough of him, she thought. I want to live to be very very old, and I want him to live to be very very old. I want to love him and care for him until the day I die.
What is this, high school? Does she have a notebook to scribble Mrs. Luis Vega on surrounded by hearts? It was her constant immaturity (and the Insta-Love/We'll Love Each Other Forever of the H/h) that put the nail in the coffin for me on pg. 76.
Cuz, who knows, Luis Vega might end up being Zorro's cousin or something and it could get interesting, but I'm not going to yawn my way through more of it to find out....more
Despite all appearances, this book was a real page-turner whenever I managed to carve out some time. Several details simply deman*looks at start date*
Despite all appearances, this book was a real page-turner whenever I managed to carve out some time. Several details simply demanded that I read it: the Vermont setting, a house called Tamarack that hearkened back to my hometown, and that luscious Tom Hall cover art that I could fondle to my heart's content.
This is a huge, lush goffick with all the usual goffick elements writ large, with time to revel in the broodiness and malevolent dwama and twagedy that we come to expect. This story takes its time to unravel the events of 1820 and the unhappy young wife Emelie Carson (through her journal, no less!) and the modern-day woes of her descendant Emelie Milne.
The cold, cruel, puritanical Israel Carson is the villain you love to hate, and his seeming modern counterpart, Justin St. John, was no cuddly teddy bear either. I never cottoned to him, even in the finale when it turns into somewhat less dim sunshine and rainbows for our couple. Somehow when a guy calls his lady an idiot, even when it's described as "tenderly," it doesn't really warm the cockles of this girl's heart. :D
Throughout the book I was trying to figure out just where the fictional town of Welkin was located, because being a Vermonter, I must know. There was internal squee at mentions of real towns that I know quite well, and my best guess is
Just in case you're curious. :P
So, highly recommended for any gothic lovers out there who want their historical and modern yarns at once. And teeming with tragic love, murder, and madness.
ETA: What this book really needs is a family tree in order to keep straight how all the modern day family members are related to each other. There are so many generations involved. But... one of the big reveals would have been given away, so maybe that's why it is omitted. Dang it....more
Oh, the inevitable aggravation of reading a novel set in an era that you know backwards and forwards... every little inaccuracy jumps out like a spastOh, the inevitable aggravation of reading a novel set in an era that you know backwards and forwards... every little inaccuracy jumps out like a spastic squirrel on a backcountry road, sending your concentration swerving and skidding out of control as your pre-ABS mind slams on its brakes. I've been so disappointed in the past, and yet I never learn... Not many novels are set in Hollywood during the days of silent film, so I take what I can get.
This is the 2nd book in the series The Shackleford Legacy, but it easily stands on its own. It's 1918 and teenager Julia Shackleford leaves for Los Angeles to get out from under the domineering thumb of her wealthy businessman grandfather. She stays with a friend and inevitably gets noticed by the director while being an innocent onlooker during the filming of a street scene. A screen test is made, and of course she has a natural talent for acting despite having no experience. She starts in 2-reel comedies and branches into drama. She meets handsome Wesley Stanton, a young man trying to make it in Hollywood but with minimal success. He has the looks, but not the talent. As with all Hollywood romances with this setup, it immediately becomes a re-tread of A Star is Born and everything falls apart because Hubby refuses to be Mr. Famous Actress. The marriage becomes history, but the Hollywood life has become too much for her and she leaves it all behind. But it's not over - the final 50 pages or so of the book is Mr. Washed-Up Who Has Turned A New Leaf trying to get back custody of their daughter.
It was all rather predictable, except for some really improbable revelations and plot turns at the end that seemed like a desperate way to wrap it all up rather tidily. For a book covering only 4 years I felt that a lot was glossed over with some very quick recapping and rather unimaginative writing. There were a few scenes that stood out for me that I thought were done very well, but the rest of it felt very workmanlike.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about this book was the inaccuracies and what they were. Things that were very easy to look up (even before the on-demand answers of the Internet) were wrong and some of the more esoteric names and dates matched up. For instance, Erich von Stroheim is referred to by a character in 1918 as an innovative director, but he didn't even direct his first feature film until 1919. Ivor Novello is mentioned as co-starring with Marguerite Clark in 1918 - although Clark was in Hollywood at that time, Novello was not and actually being quite famous on the British stage. Valentino is mentioned as always losing the Latin lover roles to John Gilbert and Ramon Novarro in 1919, and both of those guys hadn't even hit their stride in Hollywood yet, let alone being seen as romantic leads. Then the author throws out the name of lesser-known Hollywood figures like Charles Brabin and Thomas Meighan, and it's all accurate. She did a pretty good job presenting Mabel Normand, Mary Miles Minter, and William Desmond Taylor and thankfully we don't delve into that scandal too much.
Which comes to the reason why I did like this book so much. Many of the Old Hollywood books I've read use the famous celebrities as background, getting perhaps one line of dialogue directed toward our main character before moving on. These celluloid gods and goddesses became honest-to-goodness real characters with more than a superficial relationship with our main protagonist. Rudolph Valentino wasn't the steamy Latin lover but a gregarious young Italian man who befriends our heroine and is absolutely frigging adorable and carefree. Mabel Normand also claims a fair share of "screen time" as a person in her own right.
I was very surprised that Julia didn't follow the typical trajectory of these Hollywood stories - she didn't become Gloria Swanson or Greta Garbo famous. Her career seemed somewhat lackluster, only in 6-8 films, and playing the American girl next door. Maybe more of a Barbara Kent famous. (I hear you say, Barbara Kent who?)
And finally, I give major props to Riefe for not having Charlie Chaplin appear once. Huge icon of the silent days, would have been a perfect opportunity for a lech episode with sweet Julia, but nary a glimpse of him. Yay!
Final rating of 3.5 stars, but knocking it down to 3 for GR because I can't ignore shit like the Stroheim or Novello errors. And the creepy likeness of Skeletor Nicole Kidman on the cover. (And why did the cover artist think a Packard popping out the guy's stomach looked good?)...more