I've read Crystal's books for years, romances under both of her names, and she knows how to create an atmosphere that draws you into the story. I wasI've read Crystal's books for years, romances under both of her names, and she knows how to create an atmosphere that draws you into the story. I was drawn to The Look of Love for its setting (Virginia, where I live) and the premise of a "macho" man who hasn't forgotten his roots. In this first of a trilogy, MMA fighter Gunnar has come home to help his mother run her hair salon. Sounds easy, but there's baggage - namely the girl he left behind in order to achieve stardom.
Gunnar and Eboni are a great couple, fighting romantic tension and sparring over his mother's well-being. I look forward to the other two books and hope to see more of the supporting players who add to the setting.
Jin-mei has grown up in a magistrate's home in 9th century China, and is expected to marry well and be a proper bride. She's known of Bao Yang since sJin-mei has grown up in a magistrate's home in 9th century China, and is expected to marry well and be a proper bride. She's known of Bao Yang since she was young, admired him from afar, and anticipates their wedding. She doesn't realize she's been deceived until she see the "ghost" of her husband days after being told he was murdered.
A Dance With Danger takes Bao Yang and his determined wife across China as they hide from the people who want him dead, while he seeks revenge for his wronged family. It's a beautifully written story with strong characters, unlike any historical romance I've read. I'd always heard good things about Jeannie Lin and am glad to have started with this book.
Is it possible to like a book and not really like the characters? I picked this up because it's the "it" book of the moment and the comparison talk toIs it possible to like a book and not really like the characters? I picked this up because it's the "it" book of the moment and the comparison talk to Gone Girl intrigued me. It's not the same story, but employs similar elements - a multi-person 1st POV, a suspenseful layer peel to the last few pages.
For the tl;dr: Rachel is an unemployed alcoholic, obsessed with her ex-husband and her former neighbors. She passes both houses every day on the train and soaks up as much as a voyeur can. When the neighbor-wife disappears, she inserts herself into the ensuing investigation.
Megan is the neighbor-wife, emotionally bruised and bored. You probably don't like her immediately, but the gradual reveal of her secrets may inspire sympathy.
Anna is the current wife of Rachel's ex, entitled and spoiled but not entirely deserving of her fate.
I can see this as a movie. I'm sure it's been optioned. Worth a read if you can get through the characters....more
Does Ringo Starr get enough credit as a musician? Other professionals have cited his influence on them, mainly by virtue of The Beatles' reach and anDoes Ringo Starr get enough credit as a musician? Other professionals have cited his influence on them, mainly by virtue of The Beatles' reach and an equal focus on all four members. Think of how many kids watched the band on Ed Sullivan and went to pursue music - not all of them became guitarists.
Others may argue that Ringo is no Buddy Rich or Neil Peart - then again you can reverse that argument. How well would Neil and Buddy have paraded through A Hard Day's Night or mugged through Help! and The Magic Christian without Ringo's effusive charm? Legend has it Buddy once told a young fan, "fuck off, kid," so it's safe to say we wouldn't have heard him narrating any Thomas the Tank Engine stories.
Ringo was/is a drummer, memorable enough to make Best Of lists, and more so an entertainer. Think of each of the Beatles movies: Ringo has a significant side story in AHDN, is practically the focus of Help!, and opens Yellow Submarine and Magical Mystery Tour. Sometimes people debate over rock groups and the possibility of expendable members. Ringo isn't one of them.
Ringo the musician is not without his critics, but it's not enough to dismiss his skills entirely. He can claim a fair number of fans in the industry. While he didn't enjoy lasting solo success on the music charts compared to the other ex-Beatles, he never had a problem lining up capable sidemen for his albums. Check the liner notes of any of his records - each is a who's who in classic rock. I can't say if these music makers expected high sales, but it's clear they believe enough in Starr's talent to give their time to him.
Despite five decades in the public eye, you don't find much in the way of detailed biographies on the man. Look on Goodreads, and you'll see his photography collections, and a few bios with negative reviews - claims of poor writing and research. Michael Starr's Ringo: With a Little Help may very well set a precedent. Like other Beatle biographies, this is an unauthorized work - author Starr (no relation, of course) even notes a Facebook post from Starr's official page denying any participation in the book's creation. It's possible Starr isn't interested in having his whole life story told, which makes sense considering the professional and personal nadirs revealed here.
The tone of Ringo, however, is kind. Ringo reads quite the opposite of Howard Sounes's Fab:An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney. Where Sounes's biography teeters between disappointment of and scorn for its subject, Ringo is almost apologetic in recounting post-Beatle struggles, as though the author doesn't want to put the star in a bad light. Even so, consider the content to work with: a string of low-charting solo albums (when they did chart), low-grossing movies and failed TV pilots, and a decade's worth of drunken debauchery. Hey, it happened, but Ringo survived. His All Starr Band is on it's thirteenth tour, and he's about to be inducted solo into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Granted, it's being done not as a performer but under the title of Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence or whatnot, but the Rock Hall could simply have let the Beatles induction suffice for him.
On top of all this, he's 75 and looks 40. Eat your broccoli, kids.
As a biographer, author Starr appears to have done his homework. Ringo comes with an extensive bibliography and list of cited sources, though it looks as though he relied heavily on certain ones - specifically Beatles books I've read for the first third of the history. You won't find many new revelations in the Beatles era, beyond the hints of reunion in the following years. One nit pick: the book states the claim of a near crime-free evening in New York during the Sullivan show, which the people at Snopes have debunked.
Ringo's post-Beatle debauchery well matched, if not surpassed, the decadence of Lennon's fabled Lost Weekend, only in his case it's a Lost Decade or two. You would expect a more rounded portrayal of Ringo here, and experience his frustration of wanting to move on from the past. I get the impression, though, author Starr is more interested in protecting Ringo and downplaying some of the uglier public moments.
With the new tour and Rock Hall honors, and every year until 2020 will be the 50th anniversary of something Beatle-related, Ringo is a timely release, one for fans interested in more about the man who inspired so many to pick up sticks.
ARC received from the publisher via NetGalley...more
I have enjoyed O'Brien's Sisters of Belle River Ranch series. When she ran out of sisters I expected that was the end, but The Rancher's Dr3 1/2 stars
I have enjoyed O'Brien's Sisters of Belle River Ranch series. When she ran out of sisters I expected that was the end, but The Rancher's Dream is also set in the same town. You don't see much of Belle River Ranch here, as the story focuses on a minor character from a previous book, Crimson, and her predicament with a casual boyfriend and his very handsome friend.
Like other women coming to town, Crimson has dark shadows in her past. She's basically a good person suffering bad luck, and she becomes a temporary mother when her boyfriend winds up in a post-accident coma. Of course, he wasn't a serious boyfriend, and his friend Grant becomes attracted to her. He has his own baggage, and both also deal with an acquaintance in a bad romance - a subplot that might segue into another story?
I liked the story, it read easily and Crimson turned out likable and nuturing. I admit the shift from the dynamic of the previous books jarred me a bit, but if you're coming into the series here first you may enjoy this story and want to read the others.
ARC received from the publisher via NetGalley...more
Redemption Bay is the second in a series, but it stands well enough alone with the gradual romance of Mackenzie and Ben. It is lovely small-town settiRedemption Bay is the second in a series, but it stands well enough alone with the gradual romance of Mackenzie and Ben. It is lovely small-town setting with hero reluctantly coming home while the heroine resists his charms at the same time she's selling the town so he can help save it. It's the kind of story I expect and enjoy from the HQN line.
Lately I'll finish a book that won an award or made a Top 100 Best Ever list and wonder how it got there. That's the case with A Thousand Acres. I kneLately I'll finish a book that won an award or made a Top 100 Best Ever list and wonder how it got there. That's the case with A Thousand Acres. I knew going in to expect parallels to King Lear. Aging despot (here a successful farmer) decided to divide his land (kingdom) among his three daughters. The youngest one waffles and therefore gets nothing, leaving the other two and their husbands to their ambitions.
Gradually the story descends into tension and sniping and an overall emotional hot mess. One major difference between this story and King Lear is that we see everything from the POV of the oldest daughter, Ginny. She comes across as a bland, biased narrator, calling shots and showing us memories only as she knows them. When dramatic things happen in the story, they're filtered through her until it looks like it's no big deal - farm drama happens all the time. It could be because Ginny is numbed from too many personal tragedies (miscarriages) to give a damn, but as the story progresses she comes across as an uncaring bitch.
Maybe that's the point. Lear's daughters were calculating and cold, but ultimately more interesting....more
The more I read rock and roll memoirs, the more I'm convinced it's required for at least two chief members of a successful group to butt heads and falThe more I read rock and roll memoirs, the more I'm convinced it's required for at least two chief members of a successful group to butt heads and fall out with spectacular hand gestures and bitter, four-letter words. Lennon sniped with McCartney, Stanley rolls his eyes at Simmons's every PR stunt, and Perry seems to barely tolerate Tyler (you get that impression from his book). Everybody has a frenemy in the business, the person with whom you work while you look at your watch to check for quitting time, and for Steve Katz that man would be Al Kooper.
Or Lou Reed.
Or David Clayton-Thomas.
Or his brother Dennis.
The difference between the aforementioned rock duos and Katz and company, though, is you get the impression at the end of the day John and Paul, etc. can bury the hatchet. After reading Blood, I envision Katz using the hatchet to hack the bridge into firewood before tossing back a lit match as he walks away.
I picked up this book because I wanted to read about a musician and a group about whom I know next to nothing. Katz helped form two popular bands of the 1960s: first The Blues Project and later Blood, Sweat & Tears. I know exactly three BS&T songs. I thought I knew four, but the last one turned out to be a Guess Who hit. Soon as I'm done here I'm firing up Google Play to listen to both groups. Anyway, if die-hard BS&T fans exist who live to takes sides with Team Katz or Team Kooper, I'd recommend this book to all of you because now you have a counterpart to Al's book.
If you're not a die-hard and want to read an insider's story of the industry as a musician and executive, you'll find here a rough blend of memories - blunt, happy and bitter. There are early heartbreaks that make you want to give the guy a hug (read: Mimi Baez), and fun brushes with celebrity like Bob Dylan and not-yet-Hutch David Soul. Katz doesn't suffer fools as he relates his tenure with fame, multi-million record sales and Grammy Awards, all the while dealing with an ego he had to humble to improve the band (Kooper) and the replacement singer he wanted to throttle (Thomas).
BS&T, however, only accounts for a fraction of Katz's story, given that he left the band in 1973 (by '77, the last founding member cycled out and a bazillion other people have performed in this group since). I found the second part of the book more interesting as Katz transitioned from musician to producer, namely with Reed, to A&R during the musically volatile 70s and 80s. How does the co-founder of a jam band and a jazz-rock band head hunt disco acts for a record label? With the knowledge he's getting a much-needed paycheck.
Blood, Sweat, and My Rock 'n' Roll Years opens with a great hook and scatters through several decades of headaches and musical triumphs and disappointments. One might call it a cautionary tale, though I have to wonder how much Katz would do all over again given the choice.
ARC received from the publisher via NetGalley....more
If you enjoy old Hollywood stories and suspense, the premise of Movie Star Dress may be enough to get youARC received from the publisher via NetGalley
If you enjoy old Hollywood stories and suspense, the premise of Movie Star Dress may be enough to get you to read. After a family tragedy, young Daisy reinvents herself as Genevieve and takes a job in a shop specializing in sales of movie apparel. You can buy the dress Elizabeth Taylor wore in this movie, Natalie Wood in that one, etc. Genevieve finds escape in old films and fantasy while her family crumbles emotionally.
Genevieve comes to believe that these dresses hold the personalities of those who originally wore them. Throughout the story she chooses attire to correspond with how she wants to act when on dates. The arrival of red dress similar to one Marilyn Monroe wore in a film arouses her interest but is quickly sold, and afterward she learns its true history.
The idea of transference/chi in film wardrobe was an intriguing concept, and the author progressed the story well for the most part. There are a number of factual and spelling errors that are hopefully cleaned up in the final version. The only reason I knocked this down a star was for the side plot - the story of the beleaguered wife who bought the Marilyn dress. Her story just seemed to end without a firm conclusion. Aside from that, a very interesting suspense. ...more
You know, I'm really not sure how many stars to give this, or what to say other than this book has some really f*cked up people in it. I stayed up tilYou know, I'm really not sure how many stars to give this, or what to say other than this book has some really f*cked up people in it. I stayed up til 12:30 AM to finish and I don't think I'll get to sleep....more
I'll give this four stars because it is an informative history of Mrs. Parker's later years and afterlife adventures (not spoiling that, you'll have tI'll give this four stars because it is an informative history of Mrs. Parker's later years and afterlife adventures (not spoiling that, you'll have to read it). As noted elsewhere here, the title may mislead you because this short work tends to focus more on Lillian Hellman than Dorothy. Likely it's because Hellman outlived her "frenemy" by twenty years and kept her nose in Mrs. Parker's estate even when she was longer executor. Sour grapes sparked a long, bitter revenge through catty memoirs and purposeful quashing of literary projects, all because Hellman didn't get her way. If you've long admired Hellman as a writer and a person be warned, she doesn't come out well in this.
Nonetheless, I've found this a very helpful resource on Mrs. Parker....more
Enough Rope was first published in 1926. Marion Meade notes in her biography of Mrs. Parker, Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?, of the book's pEnough Rope was first published in 1926. Marion Meade notes in her biography of Mrs. Parker, Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?, of the book's popularity and appeal. It became a bestseller and enjoyed several reprints (remarkable for a volume of poetry at the time) and earned praise from readers and reviewers. This is ostensibly her breakthrough work, one that extended her reach from the Algonquin Round Table into the American lexicon. Perhaps then people mimicked her quips with the same regularity as we quote movie dialogue today.
When you open the book, you realize first thing Mrs. Parker isn't going to let you slide through the book without feeling her anguish. Enough Rope opens with "Threnody," which means "lament." Her heart is "shattered," and she wants you to know that she's still alive and "every likely lad in town / gathers up the pieces." As Mrs. Parker writes it, though, it doesn't sound like a message of hope, of finding love after a disappointment, but the inevitable setup for another round of misery.
Moving along, one is hard-pressed to find silver linings. Here's what you'll find in the first few pages:
"The Small Hours" - The listless speaker bemoans the nights and finds no comfort of the coming sun.
"The False Friends" - Resentment of well-meaning friends who attempt to bring cheer.
"The Trifler" - Heavy flirting with Death, perhaps a reference to a failed suicide attempt in which Death is blamed for its failure.
"A Very Short Song" - Another lament of heartache, also an acknowledgement that she's as capable of creating it.
"A Well Worn Story" - Love with the wrong person, and the eventual fallout. More than once Mrs. Parker refers to April in her poetry - a month significant as the beginning of spring and renewal and hope, yet she rarely finds it.
"Convalescent" - A resolution to get over lost Love ends with the resignation that she'd willingly take him back regardless of how badly she feels.
"Epitaph" - She speaks of two deaths: the first emotional and the second physical. The "gleaming pain" between my ribs could suggest a broken heart, and the image of lying warm in the earth implies relief and comfort in death.
Within Enough Rope you'll also find two of Mrs. Parker's better known epigrams, both indicative of her curt, cynical humor:
Razors pain you; Rivers are damp; Acids stain you; And drugs cause cramp. Guns aren't lawful; Nooses give; Gas smells awful; You might as well live.
Men seldom make passes At girls who wear glasses.
All together in this one book, you could form the story of a woman weary from worldly experience, pessimistic about true love and wishing for an early end, only to find it so much of a chore that maybe it's better to let nature take its course and resign yourself to harmful vices while you wait....more
I like interpretations of mythology and mythological characters, and Kally Jo's story is poignant and romantic. If you like this type of fantasy romanI like interpretations of mythology and mythological characters, and Kally Jo's story is poignant and romantic. If you like this type of fantasy romance, it's worth the read....more
The Virgin's Daughter follows Andersen's excellent Boleyn Trilogy, which is now styled as The Tudor Legacy seARC received from publisher via Edelweiss
The Virgin's Daughter follows Andersen's excellent Boleyn Trilogy, which is now styled as The Tudor Legacy series to accommodate more stories. You really should read the first three books before this one, though as it stands by itself you won't be too lost. It's best, though, to start from the beginning to get a better sense of the alternate history Andersen writes.
The title is sort of a misnomer, because you get the impression Elizabeth's daughter, Annabel, is the focus of the story. She has a significant role, but the heart of the story centers more on Lucette Courtenay, the daughter of Elizabeth's old friend Minuette, and her family's involvement in uncovering plots connected to the Queen and Mary, Queen of Scots.
If you love Tudor fiction, this series offers an intriguing "what if" scenario to the history. I look forward to the next one....more