Review: The Swans of Fifth Avenue

TheSwansFifth

RATING: 4 STARS

The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel refer to the uber wealthy women of 1950s New York, who glide with ease through their world of fashion, lunch, and parties. Babe Paley, Slim Keith, Gloria Guinness, and Pamela Harriman dominated the New York society columns and the high-fashion magazine spreads. These gorgeous  women were groomed from birth to achieve their main goal in life: to marry a powerful, wealthy man. Their main role as a wife ensured that their husband’s lives were comfortable and effortless.

In exchange for marrying wealthy men, the Swans had everything materialistically but lacked something money could never buy: a man willing to entertain them and more important, give them his full attention. Enter Truman Capote, a rising literary star, with his animated bitchy wit endeared him to them. They took him under their wing, invited him to their exclusive parties, showered him with expensive gifts and vacations. Their husbands were unintimidated by their wive’s relationship with Capote. A harmless flamboyant gay man couldn’t cause any problems, or could he?

A special connection developed between Babe Paley and Truman Capote. Both of them had emotionally distant mothers and never felt they were good enough. Babe strived to be perfect in every way for her husband Bill, the founder of  CBS.  She imposed unrealistic restrictions on herself over her looks and life. Yet when she spent time with Truman, she could relax and be herself.

After Capote’s achieved literary acclaim with “In Cold Blood”,  he struggled for years to create another book. In desperation, he wrote a short story for Esquire magazine, titled La Cote Basque 1965. The Swans found their personal stories, including their secret affairs and deepest secrets, announced to the entire world. Naturally, Capote’s contact with the Swans were severed. Truman’s repeated phone call attempts were never returned. After continuous calls, the maids finally told him outright to stop calling. Even his closest friend, Babe Paley, who was dying of lung cancer, refused to speak to him. The exciting social life he worked for years to achieve were taken away in a matter of days.

This book was fascinating. The intricate descriptions of the Swans’ beauty routines, homes, lunches, and gossip were described in exquisite detail by Melanie Benjamin. Although Capote’s alcohol and drug abuse are briefly mentioned, his lack of insight while under the influence of drugs contributed to his decision to write the Esquire article, which ruined his friendship with the Swans.

Highly recommend for fans of Capote and especially for those keen on reading all the gossipy bits of famous people.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

The Outsider by Frederick Forsyth

TheOutsider

RATING: 5 STARS

Frederick Forsyth, author of  several successful spy thrillers, such as The Day of The Jackal and The Odessa File had a feeling of authenticity- simply because his real life was as exciting and filled with danger as the characters in his thrillers.

In his autobiography, The Outsider, Forsyth decides against attending college and sets his sights on joining the Royal Air Force (RAF), a career he dreamed of since he was a young boy where he explored a cockpit of a Spitfire warplane at the base in Kent where his father served during World War II. England was in the midst of fighting World War II, and Frederick was in awe of the uniformed men and yearned to be a pilot. As a teenager, he spent summers in France and Germany quickly picking up French and German. His knack for languages worked in his favor when he wrote for a local paper, leading to a position as a foreign correspondent with Reuters.

Forsyth shares his adventures with as much energy as his legendary thrillers. His knowledge of French allowed him to eavesdrop in cafes in Northern Africa and France in the dangerous years when France was on the verge of a coup d’état to overthrow President Charles de Gaulle. This distressing experience gave him the idea for his first novel, The Day of The Jackal. He created a fictional insider assassin -the Jackal – and learned much later he was closer to the truth of his fictional account than he realized.

He believed that the detachment he developed as a journalist carried over into his writing. His success with his first three books and their adaptation into blockbuster movies led to worldwide fame and wealth. After entrusting all of his savings to an investment firm, the firm collapsed and he lost all of his savings. Although it was a tremendous blow, it strengthened his belief that one shouldn’t trust The Establishment and he continued to write several more successful novels.

The Outsider is an in-depth look at Forsyth’s life. I highly recommend this book, especially if you’re a fan of Forsyth or spy novels.

 

Book Review: The Debt and The Doormat

DebtandDoormat

RATING: 5 STARS

If you need a good laugh, check out this book. “The Debt and The Doormat” is British author Laura Barnard’s first book. This light-hearted story of two female roommates book will make you laugh. Poppy and Jazz, the two main characters, are polar opposites.In order for Jazz to pay off her debt, she convinces Poppy to swap houses, since Poppy’s rent is cheaper than Jazz’. Poppy, the typical “doormat” goes along with her unconventional scheme. The typical British humor is very dry and funny and all of the characters are well fleshed out. Poppy’s character is well developed, as the reader sees a change in her at the end of the story. Laura Barnard’s writing is excellent – funny and entertaining. I can’t wait to read the rest of her books. I would highly recommend this book for an entertaining read.

Book Review: The Witch of Lime Street

TheWitchofLimeSt

RATING: 3.5 STARS

In the 1920’s, the public wanted mystics, spiritualists and mediums. Harry Houdini, the world’s best magician fed his fans with his unbelievable feats. and his repertoire of his tricks including his “mentalist” ability, causing people to believe he could converse with the dead. Actually, he didn’t do either one. Like all magicians, he performed his magic and tricked audiences by using misdirection and trickery.

Several of Houdini’s fans included famous people – including Arthur Conan Doyle. Conan Doyle, the master of British crime fiction, was desperate to believe he could communicate with his dead son. Houdini  and Conan Doyle had their own opinions on the subject and each had their own following of fans.

Houdini was very close to his mother. After his mother passed away, he hoped to communicate with her one last time, even though he knew his performances were strictly a show. He was determined to stop people from using their logical emotions and place them under his “spell”, so he could continue to enjoy his success.

The 1920’s were an age when spiritualism became not only a pseudo-religion but was also considered a science. Prominent institutions such as Harvard University set up a Parapsychology Department. Scientific American,  a well-respected scientific publication even offered a reward for anyone proving they were truly a medium.

The Witch of Lime Street,  Margery, claimed she could communicate with the dead, and bring back the spirit of her deceased brother, Howard. Through endless séances , Howard continued to “materialize” and perform the “tricks” the researchers had contrived to prove he was real. One the tricks involved Mary exuding  ectoplasm – a supernatural viscous substance which appears to exude from Mary’s body during a spiritualistic trance, demonstrating the manifestation of spirits.coming out of her vagina.

Mr. Jaher’s book is well researched and gives the reader an in-depth look into the spiritualism craze that swept the world during the early 20th century. In the end, he discusses Margery’s final séances but doesn’t offer any final conclusions, allowing the reader to make his own decision.

The book was interesting,  yet lengthy and repetitive at times. Margery’s “performances” and the research around them went on for years, often several times a week. Mr. Jaher recounted as many of them as he could. I enjoyed the beginning and ending of the book, but the middle part could have been trimmed significantly if Mr. Jaher only included those séances where something new happened.  I recommend this book for Houdini fans and those interested in 1920’s mysticism.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Kiss Me When I’m Dead

KissMeDead

 

RATING: 5 STARS

If you’re a fan of pulp noir fiction, you’ll love this thriller. Set in modern London, Kiss Me When I’m Dead is a detective novel narrated by the main protagonist, Daniel Beckett. He’s a womanizing, witty private detective with an air of mystery and street savvy that hints to a darker, immoral past. The narration is written in a stream of consciousness style, similar to Raymond Chandler’s hard-boiled detective fiction. In between searching for clues, he hooks up with many dangerous women. The continuous action captivated me to read “just one more chapter”…. yet I read it beyond the next chapter, until the end. There are some (non-gratuitous) sex scenes throughout the book, but it was presented in a tasteful manner

This tightly written, suspenseful novel with sharp dialogue and an unexpected ending is highly recommended for lovers of pulp fiction detective stories.

 

Book Review: Fighting For Devlin

FightingForDevlin

RATING: 4 STARS

Fighting for Devlin is Jessica Lemon’s first appearance into the world of New Adult fiction. Thankfully, it’s far from the standard college campus NA love story, it’s much more of a real life scenario. Rena, a waitress who is a good girl with a wild side, falls for her boss, Devlin, a wealthy restaurant owner, who inherited the restaurant from his family, along with inheriting his father’s involvement with illegal activities.

Although there is plenty of physical chemistry, I wanted to see a deeper emotional relationship and more fleshed out character development. Yet, it’s a fun quick read I couldn’t put down. I’d recommend it for those who like the “good girl goes for bad boy” trope. I’m looking forward to her next book. Hopefully, Lemmon will add a bit more depth to her characters, which is why I deducted one star. Overall, Fighting For Devlin is a fun, romantic novel which will entice you to read more. Best of all, Lemmon gives the reader a complete ending but leaves it opened up enough for her next book.