Review: “Citizen Hollywood” by Martin Turnbull

Book Reviews

Have you ever wanted to climb into a time machine and visit Hollywood during its heyday?

Hollywood, 1939: When Tinseltown begins to woo wunderkind Orson Welles, he stashes himself at the Chateau Marmont until he’s ready to make his splashy entrance. But gossip columnist Kathryn Massey knows he’s there.

Kathryn has been on the outs with Hollywood since her ill-fated move to Life magazine, but now that she’s back at the Hollywood Reporter, she’s desperate to find the Next Big Thing. Scooping Welles’ secret retreat would put her back on the map, but by the time she hears rumors about his dangerous new movie, she’s fallen prey to his charms. She needs to repair her reputation, find out if Welles will take on the tycoon, and extricate herself from an affair with a man whose kisses make her melt like milk chocolate.

Hollywood writers are only as good as their last screen credit, but Marcus Adler is still scrambling for his first. His Strange Cargo will star Clark Gable after Gone with the Wind wraps, but Machiavellian studio politics mean Marcus’ name might not make it to the screen. It’s time to play No More Mr. Nice Guy. Opportunity knocks when his boss challenges the writing department to outdo The Adventures of Robin Hood, and Marcus is confident–until the love of his life bursts back onto the scene. How can he write another word until he knows for once and for all whether he and Ramon Navarro will be together? And to make matters worse, it seems like someone in town is trying to sabotage him.

Everyone knows if you haven’t made it in Hollywood by the time you’re thirty, it’s curtains . . . and Gwendolyn Brick is starting to panic. She’s considering moving to a naval base in the Philippines with her baby brother, but she wants to give Hollywood one last go before she gives up. When she saves Twentieth Century Fox honcho Daryl F. Zanuck from an appalling fate at a poker game that goes awry, he rewards her with a chance at a role in a major movie. Gwendolyn needs to win before her ship sets sail.

When William Randolph Hearst realizes Citizen Kane is based on him, he won’t be happy–and when Hearst isn’t happy, nobody’s safe. Marcus, Kathryn, and Gwendolyn need to go for broke, and the clock is ticking.

Citizen Hollywood is the third in Martin Turnbull’s series of historical novels set during Hollywood’s golden age.

Martin Turnbull’s Garden of Allah novels have been optioned for the screen by film & television producer, Tabrez Noorani.


Review
Citizen Hollywood by Martin Turnbull

Martin Turnbull’s third installment of the Garden of Allah series has truly raised the stakes. From the broad spectrum of characters to the close camaraderie of the three main protagonists, Citizen Hollywood has all of the glamour and intrigue we’ve come to expect.

While the past few books in the series have focused on the steamy and sometimes darker side of old Hollywood, with Citizen Hollywood the story arc seemed to focus more on character development rather than furthering the plot involving Citizen Kane, and Orson Welles, and William Randolph Hearst.

Martin Turnbull is a master at historical fiction. He isn’t afraid to name names, air the dirty laundry, or reveal the (literal) skeletons in the closet. Citizen Hollywood is sexy, gritty, and cheeky, yet still retains its moments of tenderness without sentimentality bogging down the text. Well done, Martin!


Want to read Book One?

Download the The Garden on Sunset for FREE across all e-reader platforms here!

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In accordance with FTC guidelines, the writers and editors of Shylock and Shakespeare and its affiliates receive no material or monetary compensation for reviews posted on this website or any social media platforms. All reviews are posted as personal reflections on said titles, and as such do not necessarily reflect the individual views and opinions of the original authors. 

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Book Review: “I Was Here” by Gayle Forman

Book Reviews

Cody and Meg were inseparable…
Until they weren’t.

When her best friend, Meg, drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, and some secrets of his own. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

—Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.com

I generally don’t read what is “popular” or “well-received by the critics” when it comes to my novels of choice. It took me quite a long time to get up the nerve to read “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green. So it was with Gayle Forman’s novels. Known by her novel duets like, “If I Stay” and “Where She Went,” and “Just One Day” and “Just One Year,” Gayle Forman is a master of bitter and sweet. The “Just One Day” duet novels were easily some of my favorite reads of 2014.

She has dealt with a lot of hard issues about growing up in her prior books, and “I Was Here” dealt with one of the hardest issues a person can deal with: suicide. And being the one left behind.

Suicide has touched so many lives, and broken so many families. It certainly is one of the hardest things to experience, and leaves the brightest scar.

Like so many others, I’ve been one of those people left behind when someone has decided to end their life. Going through the journey of “I Was Here,” for me as a reader it was cathartic and left me with so many questions—and answers— about the suicide that affected my life several years ago.

This novel is classified as a mystery, but that is only a small portion of the overall story arc. Poignant and bittersweet, this is probably Gayle Forman’s grittiest book yet. She is an excellent wordsmith, and one of the finest young adult writers of this generation.

"I can keep picking small fights, or brave the big one."-Gayle Forman, #IWasHere

For more information about Gayle Forman, visit:

http://gayleforman.tumblr.com/

Review: “The Trouble with Scarlett” by Martin Turnbull

Book Reviews

Summer, 1936: Gone with the Wind is released by first-time author Margaret Mitchell and becomes an international sensation. Everyone in Hollywood knows that Civil War pictures don’t make a dime, but renegade movie producer David O. Selznick snaps up the movie rights and suddenly the talk around dinner tables and cocktail parties across the country is fixated on just one question: Who will win the role of Scarlett O’Hara?
When aspiring actress Gwendolyn Brick finally gets her hands on the book, it’s like the clouds have parted and the angels are singing the Hallelujah Chorus. Only a genuine southern belle can play Scarlett and didn’t she spend her childhood listening to Mama’s stories of Sherman’s march and all those damned Yankees? After years of slinging cigarettes at the Cocoanut Grove nightclub, Gwendolyn finds a new purpose in life: to become the silver screen’s Scarlett O’Hara. But isn’t that the ambition of every other pretty Hollywood gal with a deep-fried accent? She knows she’s going to have to stand out bigger than a hoop skirt at a Twelve Oaks barbecue.
Marcus Adler finds himself the golden boy of Cosmopolitan Pictures, the vanity production company set up by William Randolph Hearst for his movie star mistress, Marion Davies. He’s written Return to Sender, Davies’ first-ever genuine smash hit and wins a coveted invitation to spend the weekend at Hearst Castle. The kid who got kicked out of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, is now the guest of the richest man in America, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Myrna Loy, Winston Churchill, and Katharine Hepburn. But the trouble with flying high is that you have such a very long way to fall. When Marcus’ Hearst weekend turns into an unmitigated fiasco, Marcus finds himself sinking fast. He realizes he needs a new idea to impress the studios—real big and real soon—when the Garden of Allah hotel gains a new resident. F. Scott Fitzgerald arrives in Hollywood with a $1000-a-week contract at MGM but no idea how to write a screenplay. “Pleased to meetcha,” Marcus tells him. “We need to talk.”
When Selznick gives the nod to MGM’s George Cukor to direct Gone with the Wind, it’s the scoop of the year and falls into the lap of Kathryn Massey, the Hollywood Reporter’s newest columnist. But dare she publish it? All scoops are the exclusive domain of the Hearst papers’ all-powerful, all-knowing, all-bitchy Louella Parsons. Nobody in Hollywood has dared to outscoop Louella before, but isn’t it about time someone did? When Kathryn plunges ahead with her story, Louella retaliates low and dirty. Kathryn’s boss loses his nerve and leaves her dangling like a limp scarecrow in a summer storm. Then the telephone rings. It’s Ida Koverman, Louis B. Mayer’s personal secretary, and she has a proposition she’d like to make.

—Synopsis courtesy of author’s website.


Gone with the Wind, poster from 1939 - featuring the femme fatale red dress.

Review:

“The Trouble with Scarlett” by Martin Turnbull

Decadent. Delicious. Divine.

That sums up my thoughts my thoughts on Martin Turnbull’s scintillating sequel to The Garden on Sunset. Full of wit, drama, humor and heart, readers fall in love with the characters in a dance through the Golden Age of Hollywood, specifically in the months and years leading up to the biggest film of the decade, Gone with the Wind.

"Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day." - Margaret Mitchell, "Gone With the Wind"

Turnbull’s three main characters easily tell the story of this dramatic moment in motion picture history, gracefully dealing with issues like humiliation, rejection, and unrequited love that strike a chord with modern audiences.

Is that a #BaylorProud dress Scarlett O'Hara is wearing in "Gone With The Wind"? #SicEm

The characters are funny and endearing, particularly Marcus himself. I personally enjoyed the screen test of Gwendolyn Brick the best, along with the antics that ensued during her pursuit of the role of Scarlett O’Hara herself.

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara getting fitted into her corset in "Gone with the Wind" (1939)

What has won me over with this series is the insight into the film industry’s glory days, and the reimagining of famous legends (i.e. Vivien Leigh’s unexpected on-set appearance during the burning of Atlanta, the termination of George Cukor as director, etc.)

the burning of Atlanta See Behind the Scenes of Gone With the Wind on its 75th Anniversary - LightBox

The novel daringly names names, and delves deeply into the private lives of our favorite stars on the silver screen.

Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard, and Olivia de Havilland look over a script for Gone With the Wind

The sexual content of The Trouble with Scarlett was toned down considerably compared to its predecessor, and lets the reader focus more on individual character development instead.

Oh I love this quote and Gone with the Wind. @jeniferpessina We were just talking about this! LOL

The dramatic jumps that occur from the end of one chapter to the beginning of the next one can be a bit confusing when a cliffhanger scene is sometimes ended too soon, and it takes a while to find out what happened after the end of a particular scene. This is sometimes the case when dealing with multiple narrators in alternating chapters, but like in my review of The Garden on Sunset, I still believe a chapter preface of the month/year (i.e. June 1939) would help the reader with following the timeline.

Victor Fleming and Vivien Leigh on the set of Gone with the Wind (1939)

Martin Turnbull is a delightful author to read, and I feel his voice is genuinely captured in the prose of his Garden of Allah novels. His writing contains a precious commodity: in the commercial publishing market where an author’s individual voice is lost in the muddle of multi-million-dollar book deals, (Ahem, I’m talking to you, James Patterson!) Turnbull’s voice rings clear and true. 

Clark Gable as Rhett Butler "Gone With the Wind"

The Trouble with Scarlett is a gem, and a wonderful, rich tale of the bygone days of Tinseltown. Readers will certainly have no “trouble” reaching for the next book in the series, Citizen Hollywood.


Want to read Book One?

Download the The Garden on Sunset for FREE across all e-reader platforms here!

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In accordance with FTC guidelines, the writers and editors of Shylock and Shakespeare and its affiliates receive no material or monetary compensation for reviews posted on this website or any social media platforms. All reviews are posted as personal reflections on said titles, and as such do not necessarily reflect the individual views and opinions of the original authors. 

Review: The Garden on Sunset by Martin Turnbull

Book Reviews, Book Reviews

Review: The Garden on Sunset by Martin Turnbull

Synopsis:

In 1927, violet-eyed Alla Nazimova, the highest paid and most famous actress in the world, converted her Sunset Boulevard movie-star mansion into a hotel and dubbed it ‘The Garden of Allah.’ Before you could say Prohibition-Schmohibition it became a fabled residence-of-choice for hopeful and ambitious arrivals in Hollywood. The likes of Tallulah Bankhead, Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, Bogart & Bacall, Gary Cooper, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Errol Flynn, Harpo Marx, Orson Welles, and others walked, wobbled, wandered, and wafted through its doors and sometimes into its pool. Drunk. Or naked. Or both. And rarely alone.

Drawn to this hallowed haven is Marcus Adler whose own father has run him out of Pennsylvania. There is only one address he knows: 8152 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood–the home of the luminous Nazimova, a vision in diaphanous lavender tulle who once visited him when he was a child sick with diphtheria. “Come visit me any time,” she whispered into his ear. He takes her at her word but finds her home is now a hotel. With nowhere else to go, he checks in and thinks, Now what? There he meets Kathryn Massey who has run away from her overbearing stage mother to pursue a career as a journalist–God forbid a girl in Hollywood would actually want to use her brains–and Gwendolyn Brick, a hopeful actress from ‘The Other Hollywood’–Hollywood, Florida–who has come to try her luck in Glitter City. The girl is blessed/cursed with a pair of lips that the men in this town are going to be lining up to have a go at. She won’t be able to fight them off on her own.

They band together: three naïve hopefuls madly dog-paddling against a tidal wave of threadbare casting couches, nervous bootleggers, human billboards, round-world Zeppelins, sinking gambling boats, waiters in black face, William Randolph Hearst, the Long Beach earthquake, starlets, harlots, Harlows and Garbos.

THE GARDEN ON SUNSET is the first in Martin Turnbull’s series of historical novels set during Hollywood’s golden age.

Synopsis Courtesy of the Author’s Website.

After coming off a recent reading high after finishing “Love Me” by Rachel Shukert, (review coming soon) I found the perfect solution in “The Garden on Sunset” by Martin Turnbull, book 1 in the Garden of Allah series. This self-published novel was pretty hard to track down, but eventually my library found just one copy in a library in Illinois and sent it my way.

Needless to say, I eagerly devoured this unknown gem in a few short days. It had everything I wanted in a novel about the Golden Age of Hollywood: exotic film stars, intrigue, and excellent descriptions of locales that were familiar to me via other books and movies like Schwabb’s, the Brown Derby, and the Paramount lot. Although some of the content was surprising, it fit very naturally in this plot, and I’m left wondering why this book hasn’t found a home with a traditional publishing house.

My only criticism would be about the timeline and pacing. As a reader, I was not sure if the plot had jumped forward a day, two days, a month or six months with each chapter. A  little more time could have been taken for character development and I believe a little subscript at the top of the new chapters like “Six weeks later” or “Christmas, 1934” might have helped to keep readers a bit more oriented with the timeline.

For fans of the Starstruck series by Rachel Shukert, although definitely intended for an older reader, this series surely has the ability to go further in the publishing industry with some well-placed publicity.

Book 2: The Trouble With Scarlett

About the Author:

Martin Turnbull

Martin Turnbull has worked as a private tour guide showing both locals and out-of-towners the movie studios, Beverly Hills mansions, Hollywood hills vistas and where all the bodies are buried. For nine years, he has also volunteered as an historical walking tour docent with the Los Angeles Conservancy. He worked for a summer as a guide at the Warner Bros. movie studios in Burbank showing movie fans through the sound stages where Bogie and Bacall, Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, and James Cagney created some of Hollywood’s classic motion pictures.

From an early age, Martin was enchanted with old movies from Hollywood’s golden era–from the dawn of the talkies in the late 1920s to the dusk of the studio system in the late 1950s–and has spent many, many a happy hour watching the likes of Garland, Gable, Crawford, Garbo, Grant, Miller, Kelly, Astaire, Rogers, Turner, Welles go through their paces.

When he discovered the wonderful world of biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs, his love of reading merged with his love of movies and his love of history to produce a three-headed hydra gobbling up everything in his path. Ever since then, he’s been on a mission to learn and share as much as he can about this unique time.

Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Martin moved to Los Angeles in the mid-90s.

Author Website: http://martinturnbull.wordpress.com/

Twitter: @TurnbullMartin

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Uncategorized

 

The fault in our stars / John Green.

 

Title: The Fault in Our Stars

By: John Green

Publisher: Dutton Books

Release Date: 1st edition (January 10, 2012)

Format: Library copy/audiobook

Rating: 9 out of 10

Synopsis:

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

 

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning-author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

—Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.com

 

The Fault In Our Star 

 

Review:

I was a little late jumping on the bandwagon of The Fault in Our Stars. I’m usually not one to read what is popular, but rather what appeals to me content-wise. There was about a 10% chance that I would read a book about cancer, and less so one about kids with cancer. As many people have been touched by the hands of cancer, it still is a difficult subject to think about and talk about, let alone read about.

 

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green ♡|| Agustus Waters is such a perfect character

This was my second venture into listening to audiobooks, as I felt a greater sense of story while listening to Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater than the first time I read it. So I felt that I should try The Fault in Our Stars in audio book format, as I could multi-task while listening.

However, John Green’s words had other plans for me.

The Fault in Our Stars

 

The Fault in Our Stars was engaging and witty, sharp-tongued and unique. I adored the way Augustus called her “Hazel Grace” instead of just “Hazel.” I was surprised with the sincerity that John Green wrote Hazel’s character, and the honesty of Augustus’s life and metaphors. There was a true appreciation of young adults in this novel that is hard to find, and John Green does it perfectly. He wrote two extremely smart teenagers that were realistic and three-dimensional. Young adults are the intellectuals of our generation. They feel everything and say what they mean with earnestness. This book tore at my emotions, something books are rare to do for me, and I do think that this was enhanced by the wonderful performance given by narrator Kate Rudd.

 

Okay? Okay

 

 

This was the very first book I’ve read/listened to by John Green, and I can’t be more excited for the movie version of The Fault in Our Stars to be released in June 2014.

 

 This poster! :D

 

 

Author Website: http://johngreenbooks.com/

 

 

 

Epic Reads #ARCParty: December 2013 Edition

Book Reviews

If you haven’t checked out Epic Reads, do so now! They have an amazing team over at Harper Collins and Epic Reads is just another reason to love this publishing company. Here is a sneak peek at all of the fantastic titles coming from them in January, featured in their #ARCParty: December 2013 Edition

http://www.epicreads.com/
 

Ain’t no party like an Epic Reads ARC Party! It’s time for our bi-annual, live streaming party where we open our mystery boxes filled with spring and summer books and geek out over them with our fellow book nerds on Twitter.

Watch the replay here!

Dance break!

Complete list of ARCs debuted:

(Clicking on each book will bring you to their Goodreads’ page!)

Strange and Ever After by Susan Dennard

Sleep No More by Aprilynne Pike

Exile by Kevin Emerson

Uninvited by Sophie Jordan

After the End by Amy Plum

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

Sweet Reckoning by Wendy Higgins

The Taking by Kimberly Derting

Free to Fall by Lauren Miller

Don’t You Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn

Vivian Divine is Dead by Lauren Sabel

Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong

In the End by Demitria Lunetta

Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson

The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings

Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff

Rebel by Amy Tintera

Wicked Games by Sean Olin

Talker 25 by Joshua McCune

Tease by Amanda Maciel

Review: Unsinkable by Debbie Reynolds and Dorian Hannaway

Book Reviews

Unsinkable: A memoir

Debbie Reynolds

and Dorian Hannaway

Library Copy

Grade: ***

Unsinkable: A Memoir

“Unsinkable is the definitive memoir by film legend and Hollywood icon Debbie Reynolds.

Actress, comedienne, singer, and dancer Debbie Reynolds shares the highs and lows of her life as an actress during Hollywood’s Golden Age, anecdotes about her lifelong friendship with Elizabeth Taylor and her experiences as the foremost collector of Hollywood memorabilia, and intimate details of her marriages and family life with her children, Carrie and Todd Fisher.

A story of heartbreak, hope, and survival, “America’s Sweetheart” Debbie Reynolds picks up where she left off in her first memoir, Debbie: My Life.

Unsinkable is illustrated with previously unpublished photos from Reynolds’s personal collection.”

—Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.com

This memoir was highly anticipated for me. Having read Debbie Reynolds’s earlier memoir from the 1980s, I didn’t believe she could write much more on her life—having had quite a full life already!

From her earliest days at the Metro-Goldwyn Mayer Studios, she was that “cute” kid with the really high voice that could do impersonations of famous actors. She had been through several divorces, multiple scandals, earned and lost millions, and worked with some of the most legendary stars of the silver screen. My first encounter with her acting work was in “Singin’ in the Rain” starring Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor.

This memoir was a bit jumbled in its presentation, beginning with what happened since her last memoir, then working from her beginnings at MGM to her most recent movie. I loved the little anecdotes that were missing since the first memoir, but all in all it seemed like a very long-winded rant on how she has been wronged by all her ex-husbands, and is a bit boastful on how “she came out on top” but everyone should still feel sorry for her because she lost all of her money. I get it. Her marriages were not the best. But using that as the only fuel you have to write another memoir doesn’t make for an excellent tome of your life.

Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Book Reviews

The Raven Boys

by Maggie Stiefvater

Library Copy

(****)

cover, young adult, series, fantasy books

Blue Sargent, the daughter of the town psychic in Henrietta, Virginia, has been told for as long as she can remember that if she ever kisses her true love, he will die. But she is too practical to believe in things like true love. Her policy is to stay away from the rich boys at the prestigious Aglionby Academy. The boys there — known as Raven Boys — can only mean trouble.

—Synopsis courtesy of the author’s website.

The Raven Boys, like every other Maggie Stiefvater novel, was highly anticipated by librarians, readers, and booksellers alike. I knew next to nothing about it, but requested it at my library nonetheless. I hadn’t liked her last book, The Scorpio Races, very much even though the premise was wonderful. With The Raven Boys I enjoyed it far better, as the pace wasn’t muddled and the plot lines were much clearer.

As with all of Maggie Stiefvater’s writings, again with this one I felt “something” was missing from the prose. I have yet to pin down exactly what that “something” is, but I had noticed that it was missing when I read the Shiver series, and again with the Scorpio Races. The closest that I could possibly say that “something” would be is a fullness of character, and character settings. Like there are only four or five characters in the entire world throughout each book, and no other life exists outside of this little world inside the book. Where in their world there are no grocers or bankers, or families or other friends in school, or secondary characters that might add a fuller sense of place.

The one book of hers that I noticed had a bit more fullness than the others was Linger, and mainly that had to do with Cole St. Clair’s storyline adding to the Grace and Sam storyline.

The premise of The Raven Boys was unique, and not something you usually see in today’s Young Adult Fiction market. With that being said, I cannot wait for my copy of The Dream Thieves, the second book in the Raven Cycle.

Review: Phantom by Laura DeLuca

Book Reviews, Writer Wednesday

Phantom

Laura DeLuca

Advance Review Copy

Grade: *

Grading Scale: 1 (*) – 5 Stars (*****)

The “Phantom” was a musical phenomenon that Rebecca had always found enchanting. She had no idea that her life was about to mirror the play that was her obsession. When her high school drama club chooses “Phantom” as their annual production, Rebecca finds herself in the middle of an unlikely love triangle and the target of a sadistic stalker who uses the lines from the play as their calling card.
 
Rebecca lands the lead role of Christine, the opera diva, and like her character, she is torn between her two co-stars—Tom the surfer and basketball star who plays the lovable hero, and Justyn, the strangely appealing Goth who is more than realistic in the role of the tortured artist.
Almost immediately after casting, strange things start to happen both on and off the stage. Curtains fall. Mirrors are shattered. People are hurt in true phantom style. They all seem like accidents until Rebecca receives notes and phone calls that hint at something more sinister. Is Justyn bringing to life the twisted character of the phantom? Or in real life are the roles of the hero and the villain reversed? Rebecca doesn’t know who to trust, but she knows she’s running out of time as she gets closer and closer to opening night. Only when the mask is stripped away, will the twenty first century phantom finally be revealed.
—Synopsis courtesy of the author’s website.

This book had a lot of potential. There was a potential for a great interpretation of the Phantom of the Opera, but the way it was carried out was a bit clumsy, and a little too reverent to the Andrew Lloyd Webber version of the story. When they referenced the musical, or were singing from the musical, none of the song lyrics were from the show at all. I’m guessing they were excerpts from the original story by Gaston Leroux, but it felt…off. I can understand from a business standpoint why an independent press might not want to take on the financial aspect of using lyrics from the copyrighted show. I felt that should have been taken into consideration when referencing the show almost exclusively in the text. Using made-up lyrics when Becca and Justyn are singing for example, Point of No Return, was something that should not have happened.

“Lord Justyn” only had one or two good lines in his dialogue, and the rest seemed pretentious and overbearing, like he knew he was trying too hard to be a Byronic-style hero. He was a brooding, stereotypical Goth high school student, who practiced Paganism and wore only black. I wanted a little bit of a variation from this stereotype, and truly wanted to like Justyn. But he was too flat and one-dimensional to be relatable, and his lifestyle as a Pagan was one-dimensional as well. Instead of showing the reader that Paganism wasn’t all black cats and pentagrams, it seemed to do the opposite in my opinion, by seeming a bit comical.

Becca, the heroine of this novel, reminded me a bit of Bella Swan from Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga. She had her good moments, but those didn’t outweigh the terribly cliched areas of her character.

The plot had an interesting twist near the end, and that justified some of the moments that dragged, but I really wanted to like this interpretation more than I had. I felt that the publishing company could have presented this novel in a better way and might have possibly hindered any sort of positive reception to the book by their choice of cover and cover artist in the edition I received. I had to use a black book cover over the design because it was so distracting. A reader’s first impression of a book is always the cover, and this one wouldn’t have made me pick it up off the shelf if I saw it in a library or in a bookstore.

Even if this interpretation of the Phantom of the Opera wasn’t what I expected, I think I would give this author another try anyway.

Visit Author Laura DeLuca’s Website

http://authorlauradeluca.blogspot.com/

Review: “Beautiful Days” by Anna Godberson

Book Reviews

Beautiful Days: A Bright Young Things Novel by Anna Godberson

  • Reading level: Ages 14 and up
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (September 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • Source: Library Copy

For the bright young things of 1929, the beautiful days seem endless, filled with romance and heartbreak, adventure and intrigue, friendship and rivalry.

After a month in New York, Cordelia Grey and Letty Larkspur are small-town girls no longer. They spend their afternoons with Astrid Donal at the Greys’ lush Long Island estate and their nights in Manhattan’s bustling metropolis. But Letty’s not content to be a mere socialite. She is ready at last to chase her Broadway dreams—no matter the cost.

Cordelia is still reeling from the death of her father at the hands of Thom Hale, the man she thought she loved. Now she is set to honor Darius Grey’s legacy . . . and take her revenge.

Promised to Cordelia’s half brother, Astrid is caught up in a world of dazzling jewels and glittering nights—and the sparkle is blinding. Charlie Grey is a gangster playing a dangerous game; and for Astrid, Cordelia, and Letty, the stakes could be deadly.

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Luxe comes the second book in an epic series set in the dizzying last summer of the Jazz Age.

—Summary Courtesy of Amazon.com

I love the premise of this series: the roaring twenties, booze, jazz, and flappers in New York City. It’s a refreshing view of a time gone by and one that isn’t addressed to often in Young Adult fiction. What I didn’t like, however, was something that could have been avoided:

I get the story lines of the Bright Young Things series mixed up with The Flappers series by Jillian Larkin. Why? The story lines are so similar, I don’t know which character was disgraced and humiliated at which party or who was the daughter of a bootlegger or which one is an aspiring night club singer. Because the story lines from the two series are so similar, I don’t feel each one will get the due that they deserve.

Beautiful Days could have used more of a climactic ending than the one that was written, but the characters are interesting in all of their 1920s glory. The character voices would be more realistic if they evolved into individual voices, because the alternating chapters all sound and read exactly the same. I would love to see how Anna Godberson pursues this series and if so, how differently it will turn out from The Flappers series.