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these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.”

Friday, 24 September 2010

Danielle Steelathon XI - A Good Woman pub. 2008

I made this: BookElf at 9:07 am 0 comments Links to this post
I chose this one to read next especially because it was a historical one. Set after the sinking of the Titanic, the blurb promised 'from the glitter of Manhatten ballrooms to the fires of the First World War'. ooooo, I though, this'll be good...

And it would have been. This is the latest Danielle Steel my Grandma donated and I don't know if she's just been more in a hurry recently but the writing was so bland, co cliched and repetative, there were passages which I was convinced with copied and pasted. It was like reading a romantic Lauril K Hamilton, without the imagination.

The story was great; beautiful, clever New York heiress Annabelle is left greiving for her father and her brother after they are lost on the Great Ship, but this does not stop her from continuing her voluteer work on Ellis Island working with the recent immigrants to America. Her snobbish mother desperatly wants to marry her off (she's 19 at the start of the book, so clearly its a desperate situation) and is over the moon when she agree to marry her best friend, Josiah, a very successful, much older ex-collegue of her father's. Her life seems to be complete, until it turns out Josiah is gay, has been sleeping with his old college roomate on the sly, have sypallis and no longer wants to be married to Annabelle.

Now to be honest I saw this coming from the first, but it was handled sensitively and well, and if the writing hadn't been so dross I would have been very impressed. Annabelle is disgraced by her divorce, but by this time the First World War (do you have to capitalise that? Not sure) has started and so she packs herself off to France to voluteer in a hospital there. Whilst working in the surgery she is talent spotted and some how ends up at med school. She then returns to the hospital this time as a doctor. She is then raped by an English officer, who impregnates her, has the child on the sly, returns to med school, is happy for a bit, moved to Paris after the war, starts her own medical practice, gets engadged, is dumped by her fiancee when she confesses all to him, finds the Evil Rapist's mother and meets her and finds out he is dead, returns to New York, decides all her friends who dropped her after the divorce aren't worth the effort and returns to Paris with her daughter, meeting a Suitable nice Man on the way.

And then I breathe out.

All of the last paragraph happens in about 100 pages, of a 350 page novel. Its ridiculous, you can't skim read because you never know whats going to happen to her next. Its like watching an episode of Neighbours after missing it for a couple of weeks when your on holiday; all the characters are different, Harold Bishop is back, and Sky is pregnant.

Its such a shame this book is so shite, as it could have been a contender. Think I'll stick to her late eighties/ early ninties classics for the last three...

Last Three!

  Steelathon

Book 11 - A Good Woman

Book 10 - Lightning

Book 09 - Vanished

Book 08 - Fine Things

Book 07 - Five Days in Paris

Book 06 - No Greater Love
Book 05 - The Klone and I

Book 04 - Star

Book 03 - Heartbeat

Book 02 - Leap of Faith

Book 01 - Daddy

Monday, 20 September 2010

Danielle Steelathon X - Lightning pub. 1996

I made this: BookElf at 4:10 pm 1 comments Links to this post
Again, with this challenge I seem to be veering from unspeakable blinding rage to mild mannered simpering 'ahhhh'ness. This brought out the former, predictably enough, and by the end of the book I was almost stomping on it.
You might have noticed I have failed miserably in my 'book a day' ethos, but that is because I snobbishly predicted Steel's books to all be about 200 pages long in a fat type. No so. This book covered almost 500 pages at what I am guessing was a point 12, and took me a shameful three days to read, mostly because I was attempting to *have a life* at the same time, but there you go.

Alexs is a highly "successful" (by Steel's standards of success ie money/man/Immigrant Housekeeper at any rate) lawyer in her early forties, living with her financial whizzkid husband Sam and their sweet as pie daughter in New Yoik. Everything is going well for her, apart from not being able to get pregnant again, though not for enthusiastic want of trying.

Then 'lightning' (shameless insertion of slightly inappropriate title phrase- check) strikes. At a regular mamogram screening, a lump is found. Alex is diagnosed with breast cancer and has a mastectomy. This is followed by six months of chemotherapy where she looses her hair, gains weight and is incredibly ill, and yet continues to work throughout.

Now I know (touch wood) very very little about cancer, braest cancer or its treatments. Yes I've lost family members to it, but I don't *know* about it. So I have no way of sayign how Steel portrays the disease and how Alex copes with it is accurate or truthful but it is so unbeliveable affecting, and reads well researched and correct. I was in bits. Utter utter bits. First Steel to make me cry. Alex is the sort of woman that Diane Keaton used to play, and her trying to stay strong and be there for her daughter whilst she is almost loosing her mind as well as her body just made me weep small tears. If you have loved ones you have lost to this disease, don't read this book.

My sobbing was not helped by the other side of this book. Her husband, Sam, behaves like a complete and utter shit throughout. His mother apparently died of cancer when he was a boy, leaving him in the care of his alcoholic father. In his head then, when Alex becomes ill she is doing it 'on purpose' to make things more difficult for him. He does not come with her to any of her doctors, dissappears half way through her surgery, and when she shows him her scars for the first time, runs to the arms of his young sexually promiscuous mistress, the cousin of his dodgy business partner. The things he says to Alex during her illness, such as how she should cope with it and why should he be exspected to look after her (because you are her partner you fuck) made me so so so angry I kind of forgot he was a fictional character and started hating men again. I've stopped that now, as they can be lovely, but still *rage, unstoppable blinding rage*.

Alex however gets together with her lovely sweet kind generous caring protecting compassinoate colleague Brock. He is lovely. We like him. They are off holidaying together, he loves her daughter, all is well. I was getting ready for a big white wedding and then...

...SHE GOES BACK TO HER HUSBAND

And this is when I stopped having respect for anyone, really. I mean, wtf? He leaves you crying on the bathroom floor after berrating you for removing your wig so you can puke your guts up in more comfort, just in case you offend his sensibilities with your cancer, and you take him back? What is wrong with the world!

And thats when I discovered the main flaw with Steel's books; none of the protagonists have friends. They have lovers, and families, and collegues and Immigrant Housekeepers, but they never just have friends. If one of my friends was sick like this and her partner treated her the way Sam does I would smack him, pack her stuff up for her and lend her money for the dipposit on her new flat, because no one deserves to be treated with that little respect. If my partner did this to me I would expect my frieds to do the same. And then if I were to take them back, well I'd fully understand why we were no longer friends any more. I don't care how special or rare or perfect your love is *he was an utter utter shit to you once, which means he will be again and you don't stay with that* Period.

This book is also the one that made me crack. On Thursday last week I read the three opening chapeters of Pursuasion. Its one of my favourite books and just so beautifully written, and was looking at me so forcefully, I couldn't help myself.

So yes, I have failed. But I'm going to continue, because there is only four to go. And quite frankly I'm glad, because I could not take another book like this one.

  Steelathon

Book 11 - A Good Woman

Book 10 - Lightning

Book 09 - Vanished

Book 08 - Fine Things

Book 07 - Five Days in Paris

Book 06 - No Greater Love
Book 05 - The Klone and I

Book 04 - Star

Book 03 - Heartbeat

Book 02 - Leap of Faith

Book 01 - Daddy

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Danielle Steelathon IX - Vanished pub. 1994

I made this: BookElf at 5:52 pm 0 comments Links to this post
ooooooooo this ones a chiller..

This has been a great year for court room dramas for me. Setting a book in a court room can be a great writing tool (we did an exericise on it at uni) because its a structure most readers can relate to (not that you're all hardened criminals, but most have watched an episode of Kavanah QC at least once in their life), the drama is alreday in place and the characterisations are a dream- you can lpay good lawyer/bad lawyer, throw in shocks or red herrings left, right and centre, and the suspense and build up are already a given.

The best 'court room' scene I've read has to be the last third of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Steig Larsson, which if you haven't read yet then clearly you've just got in from MARS or something because it is excellent. I've also read one of the Anne Perry's lent my N, which was alright.

Steel Does Courtroom very well here; after a youthful marriage to Charles Delauney, Marielle is still grieving from the tragic death of their son together, and the fall out from this event. Now married to the Evil Malcolm (oooo, he's evil, great villain, we like this) her life collapses once again around her when their son Teddy is kidnapped. Malcolm blames Charles, and as the evidence piles up against him, its up to dashign prosecutor and inflamatory-haired reporter Eva to seek the truth...


Dum dum DUUUUUUUUUUMMMMMMM

It's actually a very good, gripping drama this, and as a beach/quick read I can't fault it. Not a romance novel in the slightest, really; the plot is fairly predicatble but still incredibly satisfying, and the character of Marielle is quite convincing-though I don't really buy the whole portrayal of her depression. She reminds me a lot of Irene Forsyth, but that might be because I've watched that this week, ooo its good. Slightly sidetracked, but how good the Forsyth saga be set in the modern East End? Kepep it in the fahmly etc etc.

What reading this, and a couple of the otheres, has taught me is that Steel can be very varied as an author. Its not all dark as midnight on a moonless night/ rainbows and joyclouds and mwah mwah love you forever, it can be just a good, easy read. And there is nothing wrong with that. I'd recommend this book to fans of, say, Anne Perry, or even John Galsworthy, enjoyed. Next!

  Steelathon

Book 11 - A Good Woman

Book 10 - Lightning

Book 09 - Vanished

Book 08 - Fine Things

Book 07 - Five Days in Paris

Book 06 - No Greater Love
Book 05 - The Klone and I

Book 04 - Star

Book 03 - Heartbeat

Book 02 - Leap of Faith

Book 01 - Daddy

Good Reads

I made this: Avid Reader at 1:37 pm 0 comments Links to this post
Just a very quick word to say 'hi' and 'thanks' to all those I'm linked with on GoodReads - while I've been a bit useless with the reviews, I'm really enjoying reading all of your thoughts!

So 'Hi!'

and

'Thanks for the bookie love!'

And I will be starting to do some reviews this weekend...after I fix the blog...and catch up on emails...and tidy up my twitter...

So yeah, first thing this weekend *ahem*

p.s. Happy Roald Dahl day (yesterday) and Agatha Christie's 120th (today) !!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Danielle Steelathon VIII - Fine Things pub. 1987

I made this: BookElf at 2:02 pm 0 comments Links to this post
This is more like it. I liked this one, which was a bit of a weepy. Its the first 'modern' one I've really enjoyed as well, which is nice.

Bernie Fine is the manager of a large departmnet store in New York. He is sent to San Francisco to open a new store there. Although to him moving to San Fran is purgery, things look up for Bernie when he meets Liz and her daughter Jane, and falls hopelessly in love with both of them. And you know what, it was believeable! Complely saw them as a couple, and a family, and was chuffed. When Liz is diagnosed with cancer after the birth of their son, I was in bits about it. You care about Bernie and his family, and are there with them every step of the way. Yes, the meeting of a new love at the end of the book is slightly predicatable, but it was just so nice. And this book was also, in parts, funny.

One of the main 'comedy' characters is Bernie's mother. Bernie is Reformed Jewish, and like most of Steel's non-WASP characters it apparently doesn't count as racism if you attribute to characters only the stereotypes that you're "aloud" to take the piss out of. So Irish Catholics have loads of children, red hair, and are really warm hearted with a story to tell, and Jewish mothers worry, moan and nag their sons to marry good Jewish girls. This botherd me a little bit, but this was written in 1987, and the book is made better for the inclusion of some light-heartedness amongst the seemingly endless tragedy from about 200 pages in, no matter how distatesful to my PC-lovin' eyes.

So yeah, not bad, not half as good as her historical romances, but again, I could see the attraction in reading another of hers,

  Steelathon

Book 11 - A Good Woman

Book 10 - Lightning

Book 09 - Vanished

Book 08 - Fine Things

Book 07 - Five Days in Paris

Book 06 - No Greater Love
Book 05 - The Klone and I

Book 04 - Star

Book 03 - Heartbeat

Book 02 - Leap of Faith

Book 01 - Daddy

Monday, 13 September 2010

Danielle Steel VII - Five Days in Paris pub. 1995

I made this: BookElf at 7:49 pm 0 comments Links to this post
ARRRG ALMOST UNSTOPPABLE BLINDING RAGE!!!!!!!!

Sorry for shouting, but this book made me soooo mad. I wouldn't mind if Steel was consistent in her hatred of anyone who wants to live their own life, but why is it perfectly acceptable for the hero of this book to leave his wife, dying father in law and three teenage sons when he realizes he is not living the life he wants, but for Sarah to do so in 'Daddy' is completely unacceptable, and she must be punished with the early death of her lover and the emotional abandonment by her children.

Peter is white/rich/middle class. He lives with her beautiful charming socialite wife and teenage sons, and works running his father-in-law's pharmaceutical company. The story opens with him taking a business trip to Paris to oversee the final tests of a cancer-therapy his company is producing before he takes it to the FDA, whatever that is. Like all her science based story lines, the drug is based on something that could make sense, but I don't really understand it, so it matters not to me that it doesn't.

Peter is a "good" person, he cares about his family, works hard and doesn't want to kill anyone for profit (like you're supposed to do), and so when he finds that the drug in development is "a killer" (why? we don't know, do we care? no!) it makes him re-evaluate his entire life. He cannot bring himself to tell his over bearing father-in-law, who also happens to be his boss. This leads to him thinking about how he found himself in this position. He married his wife after university, even though his small town dairy farmer family don't approve because she is rich and her father will treat him like a 'hired hand'. The amazing lifestyle and opportunities that marrying the only daughter of a pharmaceutical giant provides prove too tempting for him in the end. Fifteen years later finds him in Paris, where he realities he actually doesn't want this life, and doesn't want his wife and doesn't want his job and all he wants, all he really wants, is to be with this woman *who he has just met*.

Yes, once again, eyes cross across a crowded Ritz Hotel foyer and love blossoms *for not reason at all*. Except this time, there is a slight reason. The lucky beautiful fragile heroine is Olivia, the wife of senator Andy Thatcher. Her life is awful, married to a man she doesn't love, but trapped because of obligations to him and her political dynasty family. She also lost a son to cancer two years ago.

Olivia and Peter meet when a bomb threat to their hotel forces everyone outside, and they go for a coffee. They have one of 'those nights' where they learn everything about each other etc etc. She then decides to leave her husband and runs away to a village in the south of France. He follows her there, and they have a passionate three days together. This is "all they are aloud" because, you know they're married !!!!!!!!

This really really pissed me off. It doesn't matter how shitty your life is, or how little you love the person you re with, you don't shag about. No matter how big and beautiful her eyes are or how much she makes you want to throw your arms around her and protect her from all the bad things in the worlds, you do not shag about.. I know that sounds really evangelical Christian of me and everything, but would have really really belittled him to go back to America, dump his wife, sort out his affairs, explain the situation to his three teenage sons, and then shag about? No! It bloody wouldn't! This book condones adultery and for that reason I really really didn't enjoy it. The second half is predictable and they both "try to return to their lives", but their love for each other is so strong they cannot bare to be apart, and end up finding each other again anyway. Peter keeps the moral high ground throughout the book even though he was shagging someone else whilst still married by refusing to sell the "killer" drug on the market or defend its release to the FDA, and this someone makes him a god person, I suppose, but still he left his three teenage sons for a woman he fell in love with in one night, who just happened to have a slightly more tragic history than his, and listened to what he had to say and hit. This, to my mind, is not love, this is lust, combined with loneliness and a mid life crises.

Once again, this book made me feel cynical, unromantic and out of touch with my feelings, which I don't really like being, but thats why I don't read romantic fiction like this normally anymore. Never mind. ON to the next one.

  Steelathon

Book 11 - A Good Woman

Book 10 - Lightning

Book 09 - Vanished

Book 08 - Fine Things

Book 07 - Five Days in Paris

Book 06 - No Greater Love
Book 05 - The Klone and I

Book 04 - Star

Book 03 - Heartbeat

Book 02 - Leap of Faith

Book 01 - Daddy

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Danielle Steelathon VI - No Greater Love pub. 1992

I made this: BookElf at 2:57 pm 0 comments Links to this post
This is more like it! Much like 'Star', this historical drama/romance was a pleasure to read. Again, because I liked the characters, and the plot was full of twists and turns that kept me guessing and my nose firmly attatched to the spine.

I don't know if its that the books being set 'in the past' somehow makes the typical aspirational romance more acceptable to my cynical modern feminist lefty "you don't just love for no reason, if you just fancy someone, that's lust" eyes, but I again really really enjoyed this book, even though it transcribes to the same ideals as the others (being single is awful and makes you some sort of freak etc etc).

The book opens with the introduction of the Winfield family: mum, dad, grown up daughter Edwina, her fiancee Charles and five randomly assorted children. The family from San Francisco (of course, no one comes from anywhere bur San Fran, NY or Hollywood in SteelWorld), where Daddy Winfield owns a newspaper, are travelling back from England on the Titanic. I don't want to ruin the book for you, but let's just say things don't work out that well in the end.

This book, apart from brilliantly exploring the sinking of the Titanic and the affect this had on teh people on board, and their families, also covers America's involevement in the First World War and the beginning of Hollywood expansion in the 1920s. Edwina, the heroine, 'sacrifices' her whole life (ie. doesn't marry or breed) to raise her brother's and sisters after loosing both her parents and her fiancee on the Titanic. The relationship between her siblings is lovely to read, again Stell does children very well, though I instantly wanted to kill her middle sister Alexis, the 'golden child' who later becomes a Hollywood starlette.

Issues I had with the book mainly are the ending, of course Edwina ends up riding off into the sunset with requisit Older Man (resulting in me suddenly looking at men in their 40s in a whole new light, I think she might be on to something her you know). Edwina was happy single, and it would have been really cool of Steel to make a break from the norm and show an Independent Woman who is happy, and doesn't have her lovers die on her or her family hate her. I also wish that we had seen a little more of the family newspaper, but then again the rest of the book appeared so well researched I didn't mind so much. The Titanic is such an iconic event in history, and as a Child Of the Nineties will always be an incredibly romantic setting (still sob at the though of Kate and Leo, even 13 years later. Was an even sadder child than am grown up)and I personally think with this book, Steel did justice to it. Either that or I was so bloody greatful to enjoy the book after the utter nonsense of the last one and was therefore blind to all its failings. Recommened, to the same who would enjoy 'Star'.

Only eight to go! Nearly half way there!

  Steelathon

Book 11 - A Good Woman

Book 10 - Lightning

Book 09 - Vanished

Book 08 - Fine Things

Book 07 - Five Days in Paris

Book 06 - No Greater Love
Book 05 - The Klone and I

Book 04 - Star

Book 03 - Heartbeat

Book 02 - Leap of Faith

Book 01 - Daddy

"Never a lender, nor a borrower be..."

I made this: Avid Reader at 1:17 pm 0 comments Links to this post
Well no disrespect to Lord Polonius, or to Shakespeare, but some of the best books I've ever read were loaners!

Soooo, I just lent a dude I work with my copy of Northern Lights, the first in the 'His Dark Materials' series, by Philip Pullman.

And I'm stressing.

I really, really, really want him to enjoy it. More importantly, I want him to 'get' it.

I love lending books, but the majority of the time, it doesn't really bother me if a person hates it, likes it but less than I do, or make it their latest obsession. In passing the book on, I've done my duty. I've shared the love, paid it forward and all that.

Don't get me wrong, it's a fantastic feeling when you 'match' a book to a person and start off a whole new area of interest in them (it's happened to me like 4 times this year already, all thanks to @BookElfLeeds - Shardlake - CJ Sansom ; also the Daisy Dalrymple series - Carola Dunn, the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness - Michelle Paver and...dammit, I've forgotten the last set, but I'm sure you get the gist!). You have the satisfaction of having a new convert to chat with, and immense feel-good-i-ness (yes, I may have just made up that last word), and of course, having started the ball rolling,  more book lending can commence!

But I also recognise that we've all different, we all have different preferences, and what works for me might not for you, so, usually, I leave books as a subjective experience, and try not to take it too personally, whether positive or negative.

Except, very rarely, once in a blue moon, and when the clock strikes 13; you read one of THOSE books.
You know, the one that you can't put down, that makes you think, that you'll forever have a copy on your bookselves.
THOSE books are a lot harder for me to lend out. Because it really does matter to me that you get them, that you appreciate the wonder, language or world created.
And, in the case of Northern Lights - a book that was written as a direct contrast to Narnia, and the established literary world with reagrds to children and religion (though there was no need for the author to have a pop at CS Lewis, whose books still bring me joy and delight) - I feel that anything less than complete and utter adoration...well appreciation anyway, will not be sufficient!

Are you seeing where the stress comes into play?!?!

Right, I'm resolved. No matter what my work mates response, I'm going to stay cool. I will not use the word WRONG, or UNINFORMED, or TASTELESS (all have been thrown at me in the past and it hurts man...)I will not pluck the book out of his hands to show him what he missed, and I will NOT force the remaining books in the series on him.
I'm going to be a grown up about the whole thing.


Yup, I'm doomed

Almost Alice

I made this: Avid Reader at 9:57 am 0 comments Links to this post
A few years ago, a friend from home pushed a book at me and said 'Read this'. I took one look at the cover and mentally groaned.
I don't like it when people play with MY books.
And Alice (of the Wonderland Alice Clan), she's one of mine!!

The blurb on the back proudly declared that in my hands I now held the actual history of Wonderland, not the children's fantasy weaved so eloquently by Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson).
That Princess Alyss (you see, nothing as mundane as Alice) was not in fact a human girl, fallen into a strange and magical land; she was, in point of fact a native of Wonderland, exiled to England - desperate to return to the land of her birth, to avenge her parents, save her people, and regain her crown from her pernicious and evil Aunt Redd (probably best to just visualise Helena Bonham-Carter from the recent film, but imagine her a little more comic book super villain-y). She told her tale to Dodgson, and instead of representing her truth, aiding her journey home; he sanitised it, turned it into a child's tale, betraying her utterly.

My cynicism grew.
But my mate was adamant, and got this look in her eye that I both recognise and fear, so I took it and smiled a 'I'll give it a go', lying through my teeth.
And then I got stuck on the bus with nothing else on me but that book. The rest is a positive, albeit predictable fairytale.

I LOVED the series, though, without a doubt, the first book (and comic - Hatter M) were the most successful for me. First and foremost, for a reboot, there is a delicious respect towards the original. I really got the impression that Frank Beddor had tried to visualise his own version of everything, purely to en capture the rich essence of the book I grew up loving. The storyline is, perhaps not as unique as the author might imagine, but definitely a new perspective, and I particularly liked the idea of white and black imagination as the basis for our own world's inventions, and the inventive ways that these were described.

For the most part, the key players from the original Alice are included, albeit in a slightly counter to expectation portrayal. This works best, IMHO, in the cases of the Generals DoppleGanger, the assassin Cat, and the resourceful protector, Hatter M. (In a great case of embracing the zeitgeist, he has his own parallel series as a 'graphic novel', with 2 collections released so far. To be honest, I think this might be better than the second book in the series!!)


The books were clearly put together with a lot of thought, and contain a few gimmicks that really work. (For example, when Alyss is in the looking glass, each page is framed several times, white text on a black page for another particularly scary challenge). It is a gimmick, but I love these sort of things - the literary equivalent of breaking the forth wall.

Okay, so, like my own blogging efforts, there are a few wobbily moments in the writing, pacing and timing, and there are repetitive fight scenes (especially when the series is looked at as a whole), but come on, it's Wonderland! At it's worst, this book gets a bit bogged down and silly, at it's best, it's yet another excuse to return to Wonderland...and as you may know, I do like me my excuses back there!

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Danielle Steelathon V - The Klone and I pub. 1999

I made this: BookElf at 12:28 pm 0 comments Links to this post
What an utterly utterly ridiculous book this is. This is, I suppose, Sci-Fi-omance, where Steel was either being exceptionally experimental or just odd.

I dug in eagerly to this after enjoying 'Star' so much, and my senses were instantly put on alert by Steel's revolutionary use of the first person. That's right, I was genuinely exited by a tense. This just shows how much Steel's 'formulaic' and 'cliched' writing style works, in grabbing and holding readers; when she makes even the smallest of changes you feel either betrayed in an almost Job-like way, or privileged you have been chosen, through your selection of this reading matter, to join her on this "journey".

This journey begins in a similar fashion to all the others. Steph is left by her philandering husband, who she married young, after he has met a younger woman with a bigger trust fund to mollycoddle him. The first thing that made me angry was how Steph then 're-invents' herself. She doesn't look at the situation and think, 'that man was a shit and I could do better', oh no, she decides with the help of a therapist that Rat-Man left because she had become slovenly, not shaving her legs, wearing make up or sexy underwear, and not generally conforming to his heteronormative expectations as passed down from a patriarchal, consumerist culture. Instead of fighting the power, Steph proceeds to cut her hair every six weeks, invest in a ladyshave and spend all the remains of the trust fund on silky pants, you know like you're supposed to.

Rat-Man takes the kids to France for the summer and Steph decides later to join them in Paris. If there is one thing I will say about the book, the relationship between Steph and her children is incredibly well done. You see the angsty 'normal' side of mother/teenage daughter relationships brilliantly in the interactions between Charlotte and Steph, and her son Sam is clearly a Treasure. In fact, in all Steel's books, the children have been well done, well rounded characters, in fact often she writes them better than their parents. I would love to read a kids book by her, as I think she'd be quite good at it.

Anyway, whilst relaxing in her silky drawers by the Seine, Steph meets Peter, an American biotechnics engineer also holidaying in Paris. This is the beginning of a lovely romance, that carries on to their summer in Lake Tahoe (of course!) and develops into something more serious. Although the children are hesitant at first, they gradually warm to Peter and become a happy little 'family' unit.

And that could be it. Right there, you've got a lovely little Quick Read waiting to happen. But Steel had taken one to many happy pills that morning (either that or her publisher can't do runs of only 140 pages) because, from completely out of the blew, Steel goes all Sci-Fi on yo ass.

Introduced to the family is the Klone, Paul Klone, a weird robot/clone/biobot thing that isn't fully explained, to the point where I'm not sure it is supposed to make sense. Basically, Klone is a clone-robot in the shape of Peter that he has been developing as part of some top secret programme. For reasons best known to himself, Peter invites Klone to stay with the family, without telling anyone first, whilst he is away on business. Because that already makes so much sense, Steel complicates this even more by deciding Klone but have the personality of MC Hammer crossed with Sam from Sex and/on/in The City. He turns up wearing Versace bling, wanders around like Lady GaGa's stunt double and spends all his (Peter's, I think, from this point I was so befuddled I couldn't really keep a grasp on the actual plot, and was doing the opening and closing of the mouth whilst making 'but where's the Titled Older Man who is going to whisk you away? why have you changed things? what happening?' noises in the way of a toddler on the first day of nursery who has just seen mummy drive away in the Jag and has been left in the car of a sixteen year old wearing sovereigns and polyester) money on champagne and handbags.

For some reason, Steph takes all this in, decides he is not a nutter and in fact should definitely be aloud to stay in her house with her children. She then decides the best ting to do would be to sleep with him. His sexual adventures include something called 'the triple flip', basically doing somersaults whilst actually shagging, which made me either want to start making diagrams in the style of More magazines 'positions of the week' (the most laughably vanilla sex-education in print, missionary style, anyone?) or just be a bit sick. This turns into the most unfunny charade I've ever read, and to be honest with you, I couldn't finish the book. By the time the 'love-triangle' is really kicking off between Steph, Peter and the Klone, I was a) not bothered and b) bored stupid by Steel's attempts firstly at humour (think Wendy Holden on a really really off day) and then at introducing an element of science that made less sense that Manikin (you know, the one where Sam from SI/O/ATC goes forwards in time etc).

I know, its really bad of my not to finish the book, but it's awful! And its not just me that thinks so! This book got trashed by even her most ardent fans. Look at goodreads if you don't believe me, loads and loads and loads of people agree with me, its crap. Everything went well in the end though, because I started 'No Greater Love', which is much better. Lesson learnt from this one: stick to what you know!

  Steelathon

Book 11 - A Good Woman

Book 10 - Lightning

Book 09 - Vanished

Book 08 - Fine Things

Book 07 - Five Days in Paris

Book 06 - No Greater Love
Book 05 - The Klone and I

Book 04 - Star

Book 03 - Heartbeat

Book 02 - Leap of Faith

Book 01 - Daddy

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Danielle Steelathon IV - Star pub. 1989

I made this: BookElf at 12:13 pm 0 comments Links to this post
What can I say, this book was a pleasure...exciting, gripping, well structured stuff that in parts was just so well written I felt like I was in the 1950s, on the ranch, watching my world collapse along with Crystal's- the 'Star' of the title.

Opening just after the end of World War II, this is the story of Crystal and Spencer, two very different people who meet at Crystal's sister's wedding on the beautiful Californian ranch where Crystal grew up. Her life is one of simple pleasures, swimming naked in the stream, messing with her brother or avoiding the lustful glances of the ranch hands. She is stunningly beautiful (obviously)and pure and innocent at the same time (why would she be anything else?).

Spencer is ten years older that her. (This is the first rule of the Steel; the hero must be at least ten years older than the heroine. I have no idea why, maybe Steel subscribes to the view that men mature at a much slower rate than women, and therefore 19 year olds marrying 30 year olds makes perfect sense.)He is from a rich family from New York, the son of a judge, and is a guest of the groom, having been his commanding officer in the Pacific. Living a charmed life for much of his youth, this has changed dramatically since the death of his older brother and the subsequent transferal of family responsibilities. Suddenly he must be the Golden Child, train for the law and make the family name.

They meet and fall in love instantly, without exchanging a word. Now, as you know, this pisses me off royally, but I didn't mind so much this time because I genuinely liked the characters. Crystal is a bit of a simpering tit, and Spencer a whining brat, but the general descriptions of the innocence of the period was so well put in place, and Crystal's whole outlook on life made me feel a little bit fuzzy inside. Unlike, say, Sarah in Daddy, who seemed far too sensible to end up with such a knobend as Oliver, Crystal and Spencer seem genuinely made for each other.

Of course, their's is a love that can never be, and they spend the next few years having totally different lives. Spencer gets a job on Wall Street, and is slowly seduced by Elizabeth Barkley, the attractive, clever, and cold daughter of a Supreme Court Justice. Crystal has less of a time, she is tormented by her sister and mother after the death of her loving and generous father. When she is 18 she is raped by her brother-in-law and the follow on from this had me wide eyed. One thing Steel knows how to do is shock, and shock well, and there are shocks a plenty throughout this book.

I really don't want to tell you more, because, honestly, I'd recommend this. Not to everyone, certainly not to those who genuinely hate romantic fiction, but if it is your thing, or you're willing to give it a go, then yeah, read it! The writing is cliche ridden and the ending is a little rushed, but its an interesting story that would make a great It's Sunday, I'm Hungover, The Telly Is Too Far Away book.

Four down, ten to go...



  Steelathon

Book 11 - A Good Woman

Book 10 - Lightning

Book 09 - Vanished

Book 08 - Fine Things

Book 07 - Five Days in Paris

Book 06 - No Greater Love
Book 05 - The Klone and I

Book 04 - Star

Book 03 - Heartbeat

Book 02 - Leap of Faith

Book 01 - Daddy

Monday, 6 September 2010

Danielle Steelathon III - Heartbeat pub. 1991

I made this: BookElf at 9:04 am 0 comments Links to this post
OK, so this book, genuinely gripped by. Hero-Man-In-Forties this time is celebrated script writer Bill, creator of a daytime TV soap that wins Emmy's as well as hearts (I'm getting good at this cliche thing, aren't I?). Hero(ine)-Woman-In-Late-Twenties-Early-Thirties is Adrian (yes that is a girl's name) who lives her her husband Steven in a beautiful consumerist paradise in LA, where she produces the news. They meet late one night in a supermarket and its one of those classic eyes meet across as crowded room scenarios, but nothing comes of it. Nothing comes off it in fact until Adrian finds she is pregnant and her husband makes her choose, him or the baby.

Yes, that's right, her husband makes her choose. Once again, you have a character marrying another character young with whom they have nothing in common, and do not share common goals or morals, because they are in love with them. Steven says from the beginning that he never wants children, he believes that they will ruin his life, and he theirs. Yet she marries him, thinking, oh, he'll change his mind, oh, I might not even want children later, everything will be fine. Which is of course nonsense.

Now Steven dumping her when pregnant makes him a bit of a shit, but he then makes her sell her house, takes every stick of furniture from her, refuses to pay her any money, forgoes his parental rights before the baby has even started kicking and starts dicking about with much much younger women. Which makes him a lot of a shit, in my opinion. Fortunately, Adrian re-meets Bill, eyes cross once again in a crowded room and everything turns out OK. Except she doesn't tell him she's pregnant.

And from this point I was genuinely gripped. There is a bit of about four chapters where Adrian meets Bill's kids from his first marriage, and they all go camping together where you know full well he has to find out about the pregnancy and yet he doesn't, and the part where he does is just really well written and heart moving, I missed my stop on the bus because I was nose-to-spine in drama. And that's why I started this challenge; to see why Danielle Steel is such a popular writer you have to read her books. You can't just judge her as fluff if you've never read her, and I could not dismiss this book. Yes, its predictable and its cliched and in parts its a silly as the other two, but I really really enjoyed it! First one I would genuinely recommend. Looking forward to the next one!

  Steelathon

Book 11 - A Good Woman

Book 10 - Lightning

Book 09 - Vanished

Book 08 - Fine Things

Book 07 - Five Days in Paris

Book 06 - No Greater Love
Book 05 - The Klone and I

Book 04 - Star

Book 03 - Heartbeat

Book 02 - Leap of Faith

Book 01 - Daddy

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Danielle Steelathon II - Leap of Faith pub. 2002

I made this: BookElf at 6:33 pm 0 comments Links to this post
A shorter, but by no means a lesser book, this is the story of Marie -Ange, daughter of an American man and French woman, who grows up in an idyllic chateu in the 1950s. The book is in two parts. The first describes how, at the age of 11, Marie-Ange's world falls apart when her parents and older brother are killed in a car accident and she goes to with in the Iowa plains with her cold-hearted bitter Aunt Carole, who owns a farm there. Carole is a very interesting character; she contracted polio as a child and is a wheelchair user. Although this could lead to an interesting plot revolving cantakerous old lady learing to love through adopting a beautiful and charming French niece a la Pollyanna, it doesn't, because it's Danielle Steel.

In Iowa, Marie-Ange lives the life of a servant, recieving no warmth or affection from her aunt or neighbours, expception Billy, the boy-next-door. Although Billy is desperatly in love with her, Marie-Ange cannot return his affections as he is like a brother to her (*coughs* pricktease *coughs*). He helps Marie-Ange get into college by buying her a car, and she in return teaches him to speak French. Then when she is 21, she discovers that her parents (sorry, sorry, father) left her tne million smackers in a trust fund and she is literally free to do whatever the fuck she wants. She promtly buys Billy a Porsche (that'll go down well in Iowa, on a farm), fucks college off and moves back to France.

And thus begins Part 2, whereupon this book changes from gentle coming-of-age fluff to gripping-thriller. Re-visiting the chateau she grew up in, Marie-Ange meets The Count (cannot remember his name, thats how much I was gripped. I can only remember her's cos it amused me for a while trying to figure out how to pronounce it. Have sneaking suspicion it should have been Marie-Angst, from how the rest of the book pans out). The Count has a Suitably Tragic Past, his wife and baby son died in a fire ten years ago. Of course, she falls in love with him. marries and pops out a couple of sprogs, all the while with Billy in the background telling her how unwise it all is. The Count proceeds to spend literally all her money on his flashy lifestyle, which she blindlu ignores for four year, "trusting him". She then gets a message from the not-so dead wife. It turns out that The Count set the fire that killed the baby and scarred her in order to get his filthy hands on her money. It could never be proved that it wasn't an accident. Marie-Ange is shocked at this, but continues to stay with him *because she loves him*.

Then, of course, it all goes horribley wrong. Marie-Ange being unable to access any more of her millions from the trust, The Count commits arson in the chateau and attempts to her kill both her and her babies. Marie-Ange manages to flee to the topmost tower and throw the children out the window. Although she is afriad to jump herself, she hear's the ex-wife's voice in her head and takes the 'leap of faith' in the title (in future books I'm gonna play Spot The Reference To The Title because it is just so much fun).

And of course, The Count gets done, and Billy flies over the France to visit, and she realises she should have been with him all along...

Now I'm not going to lie and say I didn't enjoy this book, because I did. It was incredibly silly, and would have been better if it hadn't been so rushed, but that's not the style of the book. The bit with the fire and the jumping out the window made me howl with laughter, and throughout I couldn't understand how Steel's heroine could be so bloody rubbish, but it was fun. I look forward to the next one...

  Steelathon

Book 11 - A Good Woman

Book 10 - Lightning

Book 09 - Vanished

Book 08 - Fine Things

Book 07 - Five Days in Paris

Book 06 - No Greater Love
Book 05 - The Klone and I

Book 04 - Star

Book 03 - Heartbeat

Book 02 - Leap of Faith

Book 01 - Daddy

Friday, 3 September 2010

Danielle Steelathon I - Daddy pub. 1991

I made this: BookElf at 12:48 pm 2 comments Links to this post
Reading this book was, for me, a little like reading Marilyn French's The Woman's Room, only backwards, from the other side, and with (slightly) more foaming at the mouth.

The basic premise is this (and I apologise in advance if I go off on one); Oliver (think David Cameron meets Charlotte's first husband played by Kyle McCocklin on Sex in/on/and The City) is rich/white/middleaged. He lives with his three beautiful children, wife and immigrant housekeeper somewhere posh near New York, where he has An Important Job.

His wife, Sarah, is a callous, evil 'independent woman' type. As the book opens we see her struggling to write her precious novel, being distracted by thoughts of her family and home life. We learn that she was a bit of a hippy back in the day when her and Oliver first got together, but some some weird reason, *even though they have nothing in common, do not share the same values or hopes/dreams* they marry. Why? Oh that's right, you guessed it, she loves him. She quickly becomes pregnant (this is the world of Danielle Steel where no other form of contraception can exist except the curious phrase 'getting your tubes tide', which makes me feel a little bit sick every time I read it). Even though she doesn't want babies in her early twenties, wants to stay in New York and write and have her own life/career etc and is quite comfortable with the idea of having an abortion, he talks her out of it. And again two years later, and again. So now she has had three children she doesn't want, having sacrificed her entire life for her husband's career, thrown twenty years of her life away living The American Dream (just like Mira Ward) yet, when she gets into Harvard aged 41 and decides to, you know, have a life, she is the heartless, child abandoning home wrecker. Even though she, you know, isn't. Oliver and Sarah's breakup could be incredibly long an d drawn out with her leaving the family in stages in order to pursue a life of her own that she actual wants, but it isn't, she just leaves them. She does not take any of her husband's money (or present him for a bill for the last twenty years of cleaning, babysitting and cooking minus expenses the way Mira so amazingly does in TWR, but then again they do have the Immigrant Housekeeper). At no point does it cross Oliver's mind to maybe move to Harvard with her, with the family, or maybe just trust her. Oh no, she is a home wrecker, plain and simple. How dare a mother (a mother) not consider making her ten year old sons pack up to be the most important time of her day? How righteously angry poor poor rich careerist Oliver is, having to "cope" with being a parent. Along with, you know, the Immigrant Housekeeper.

As you can probably tell this book made me incredibly angry. There were times I threw it across the room and wanted to stamp on it for the blatant apologist nature of the writing. Oliver forced a woman to have three children she does not want by guilting her into believing she is in love with him, then when he meets another (much younger, not that there is anything wrong with that, but you know, there lies the rub) woman who is prepared to stay with him, sacrificing her entire life and career she has spent literally years building up, so that he doesn't feel uprooted (after moving the entire family, along with the Immigrant Housekeeper, who never really gets much of a say, across an entire continent in order to progress his career), he realises he has finally found the love of his life. This egotistical knob-end of a hero is not the only issue I had with the book, which from the blurb I was kind of looking forward to, oh no. The frankly ridiculous, snobbish and predictable subplots revolving his father re-marrying after the death of his mother (but that's OK, cos she's 'respectable') and his son becoming a teenage father to the town dropout (her parents were divorced because the mother took to drink, rather than because her mother discovered that cleaning a man's piss off a bathroom floor everyday for twenty years for no payment whatsoever besides shelter, food and the occasional dicking resulting in yet another pregnancy you don't want sucks ass) are both contradictory to the rest of the plot in the way the protagonists' values chop and change throughout (so it's not alright for you wife to get an abortion at 21, but it is for your son's girlfriend at 18, because 'it will ruin his life'? Oh come on!).

This book for me showed how misinterpreted the Women's Liberation movement can be by some. It isn't about women abandoning their children in order to be hippy bra burning feminazis, its about women (and men) having choices in the first place and being respected enough to make those choices without fear of failure, guilt, or social stigma. This book also made me angry because of the way it treats love, but this is nothing new these days. I am so incredibly fed up of seeing characters in films and books (and yes that's right, I'm looking at you Scott Pilgrim) falling in love *for absolutely no reason whatsoever*. Sarah sounds great, she's thinking, liberal and clever, and yet ends up with a boring, careerist, conservative, pro-Nam husband *because she loves him*. Just like Eva from We Need To Talk About Kevin, and Alice from American Wife, this books reinforced to me that it is in no way worth sacrificing everything you believe in because of a cold mixture of lust and self-doubt. Make a list and stick to it, and if you don't meet anyone who matches the list, who wants you back, then what is the point? You'll end up miserable, frustrated and lonely anyway!

Cheerful soul aren't I? Anyway, on to the next one...

  Steelathon

Book 11 - A Good Woman

Book 10 - Lightning

Book 09 - Vanished

Book 08 - Fine Things

Book 07 - Five Days in Paris

Book 06 - No Greater Love
Book 05 - The Klone and I

Book 04 - Star

Book 03 - Heartbeat

Book 02 - Leap of Faith

Book 01 - Daddy
 

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