Book Review ~ Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

SLEEP

On highways across America, a tribe of people called the True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, the True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the steam that children with the shining produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel, where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant shining power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, glorious story that will thrill the millions of devoted readers of The Shining and satisfy anyone new to this icon in the Stephen King canon.

I’ve devoured all of Stephen King’s books, save for the Dark Tower series. I knew this one would be a follow-up to The Shining. I’d loved that book and yeah, it creeped me out. I hoped this one would do the same thing.

The spook factor was there, but not the traditional jump out at you kind of one. This creep factor was in the scariness of real things. Like the caravans of RVs going down the road. If you let your imagination go and look at them as the True Knot, then that’s kind of creepy. I can’t listen to “Not a Second Time” by the Beatles without thinking of the little girl singing the song in the middle of the night.

The writing was great, as per his books, and I raced right through it. I wanted to know what would happen next for Abra and Dan.

I know this book won’t be for everyone. Those wanting the big screams may not get what they want. Those expecting old King, might not be thrilled, but I was. I enjoyed the story and how the tale ended. Try it. You might like it, too.

 

 

 

Wednesday Book Review ~ The Films of Tyrone Power by Dennis Belafonte, Alvin H. Marill, Henry King (Introduction)

POWER

Tyrone Power – dashing, ingratiating, urbane – became 20th Century-Fox’s foremost leading man

 

almost from the first days that Darryl F. Zanuck became head of the company. The Tyron

 

e Power image was that of the clean-cut, honest and aspiring young American. In the light comedies in which he starred during the early years of his career he generally “got the girl.” As Power matured, however, he became an actor of force and strength. His performances in Nightmare Alley, Witness for the Prosecution and Abandon Ship met with enthusiastic approval from critics and audiences alike. In the summer of 1958 Tyrone Power was appearing in what proved to be his final role, the character of King Solomon, playing opposite Gina Lollobrigida in Solomon and Sheba. Power collapsed after swordplay with George Sanders. He was rushed to a Madrid hospital, but

 

died within an hour. His death, at forty-four, made headline news around the world. The Films of Tyrone Power represents five years of research by the authors and presents many aspects of the actor’s life. Every film in which he acted is recaptured meticulously, along with casts, credits, reviews and production notes. The warm and detailed biographical portrait of the star, his three wives and his many loves, bring him alive, helped by more than four hundred photographs which illustrate the text. The introduction is by Henry King, who directed many of Tyrone Power’s greatest hits.

 

If you’re a fan of Tyrone Power, then this book is a must. The authors list each of Power’s films, including shorts and war time films. Anything you want to know about the movies, it’s there. There are film stills and promotional photos from many of the films as well. It’s thorough and informative.

I’ve always loved Power and this book puts a new spin on the actor. I never realized how well lit he was during his films–meaning the directors tended to work with the lighting for him that’s up to par, if not better than with his leading ladies. The guy wasn’t just an actor, he was an icon, but he was also seen as a pretty boy.  I never looked at him that way, but I’ve come to since reading this book. I don’t discount Power as an actor, though. He still did his job and it shows in this collection of writings about his films.

If you’ve ever wanted to know a little more about Tyrone Power’s body of work, then this book is for you.

Wednesday Book Review ~ Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

LILYTed—a gay, single, struggling writer is stuck: unable to open himself up to intimacy except through the steadfast companionship of Lily, his elderly dachshund. When Lily’s health is compromised, Ted vows to save her by any means necessary. By turns hilarious and poignant, an adventure with spins into magic realism and beautifully evoked truths of loss and longing, Lily and the Octopus reminds us how it feels to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go, and how the fight for those we love is the greatest fight of all.

I have to be honest. I’m supposed to read this book for my book club. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. The premise snagged me. I won’t lie. A guy and his dog. Yep. I’m a dog person. Okay, I’m a critter person. I’m the one who swears at the movie when the people live but the dog/cat/ferret/etc dies. I knew what would happen. Spoiler alert…yeah, there’s a very tissue-worthy moment at the end. Like super tissue-worthy.

But to tell you how I feel about the book…it’s complicated. I liked it. Okay, I liked parts of it. The connection between Ted and Lily was a riot. How she talked… In! All! Exclamation! Points! is very much how Dachshunds bark, so effectively how they talk. I loved that part. How she was his support was good, too. If you’ve ever had a connection with a dog, you know they aren’t just pets. They’re family. So I got and loved that part.

But there were points I kinda wasn’t impressed. The whole portion with the octopus was a little hard to handle. Once I understood, then I understood, but it took a bit. Then there was his tendency to drown his sorrows in pills and booze. Hey. We’ve all been there. Done things we wouldn’t normally do. That made Ted real, but I guess I expected something different. Maybe more….arguing. More fighting. Maybe I lost it in the metaphor of the octopus.

Either way, the book was good, but I’m not sure I can read it again. The bit at the end where I mentioned the tissues was a tad too real for me. Having put an animal down not long ago, this made those memories rawer. So if that’s a trigger for you, then read the book, but be warned. If you’re looking for a sweet, sappy ending, you might be surprised.

I’d buy this one and keep it, but I’m not sure I can handle reading it again right now. See what you think. You might be pleasantly surprised…after tissues.

Wednesday Book Review ~ Dorothy Dandridge by Donald Bogle

DOROTHYDorothy Dandridge — like Marilyn and Liz–was a dream goddess of the fifties. All audiences ever had to do was take one look at her — in a nightclub, on television, or in the movies — and they were hooked. She was unforgettable, Hollywood’s first full-fledged African American movie star.

This definitive biography — exhaustively researched — presents the panoramic dimensions of this extraordinary and ultimately tragic life. Talented from the start, Dorothy Dandridge began her career as a little girt in Cleveland in an act that her mother Ruby, an actress and comedienne, created for her and her sister Vivian. By the time she reached her teens, she was working in such Hollywood movies as Going Places with Louis Armstrong and A Day at the Races with the Marx Brothers. She also appeared at New York’s Cotton Club in a trio called The Dandridge Sisters, but soon went solo, determined to make a name for herself. She became one of the most dazzling and sensational nightclub performers around, all the white breaking down racial barriers by integrating some of America’s hottest venues.

But she wanted more. Movie stardom was her dream. And she got it. Dandridge broke through the glass ceiling of Tinseltown to win an Academy Award nomination as Best Actress for her lead role in Otto Preminger’s Carmen Jones. Other films such as Porgy and Bess, Island in the Sun, and Tamango would follow and the media would take notice. In an industry that was content to use Black women as comic mammy figures, Dorothy Dandridge emerged as a leading lady, a cultural icon, and a sizzling sex symbol.

She seemed to have everything: glamour, wealth, romance and success. But the reality was fraught with contradiction and illusion. She became a dramatic actress unable to secure dramatic roles. While she had many gifts to offer, Hollywood would not be the taker.

As her professional frustrations grew, so did her personal demons. After two unhappy marriages — her first to the great dancer Harold Nicholas — a string of unfulfilling, love affairs, and the haunting tragedy of her daughter Lynn, she found herself emotionally and financially — bankrupt. She ultimately lost all hope and was found dead from an overdose of antidepressant pills at the age of 42.

Drawing on extensive research and unique interviews with Dorothy Dandridge’s friends and associates, her directors and confidantes, film historian Donald Bogle captures the real-life drama of Dandridge’s turbulent life; but he does so much more.This biography documents the story of a troubled but strong family of women and vividly recreates Dandridge’s relationships with an array of personalities such as Otto Preminger, Sammy Davis Jr., Pearl Bailey, Harry Belafonte, Diahann Carroll, Peter Lawford, Ava Gardner, and many more. Always at the center though is Dorothy Dandridge, magnetic and compelling.

Donald Bogle — better than anyone else — goes beyond the surface of one woman’s seemingly charmed life to reveal the many textured layers of her strength and vulnerability, her joy and her pain, her trials and her triumphs.

I’ve heard the name Dorothy Dandridge many times. I’m from northern Ohio and she’s a cult figure there because she, like Halle Berry, made it big. But I didn’t know much about Dandridge. I’d seen pictures of her and knew she was a star, but who was this woman?

That’s where this book comes into play. I’d watched the documentary, Jazz, by Ken Burns and in the course of the episodes, Dandridge’s name was mentioned. I’m the kind of person that when I hear the name, I want to know more. But not just a simple internet search. I love my library and went there.

Bogle covers all of her life. There aren’t any glossed over portions and he’s candid about who this woman was. She wanted a happy life. She wanted to be happy and to have the love of her life. Bogle touches on her marriages, her struggle with her daughter–who was special needs before special needs was a thing–and her problems with drugs.

Dandridge is fascinating in her drive. She let very few things hold her back. When she wanted something, she went for it. Of course she dealt with racial discrimination, but the way she did, with grace and aplomb, was interesting. She held her head high when others might have cowered.

This isn’t a short read. It’s long and detailed, but it’s so fascinating. I didn’t breeze through it, but once I dove in, I had the book devoured in a matter of days. Check it out for yourself.

Book Review ~ The Star Machine by Jeanine Basinger #oldhollywood #review

STARFrom one of our leading film authorities, a rich, penetrating, amusing plum pudding of a book about the golden age of movies, full of Hollywood lore, anecdotes, and analysis.

Jeanine Basinger gives us an immensely entertaining look into the “star machine,” examining how, at the height of the studio system, from the 1930s to the 1950s, the studios worked to manufacture star actors and actresses. With revelatory insights and delightful asides, she shows us how the machine worked when it worked, how it failed when it didn’t, and how irrelevant it could sometimes be. She gives us the “human factor,” case studies focusing on big stars groomed into the system: the “awesomely beautiful” (and disillusioned) Tyrone Power; the seductive, disobedient Lana Turner; and a dazzling cast of others—Loretta Young, Errol Flynn, Irene Dunne, Deanna Durbin. She anatomizes their careers, showing how their fame happened, and what happened to them as a result. (Both Lana Turner and Errol Flynn, for instance, were involved in notorious court cases.) In her trenchantly observed conclusion, she explains what has become of the star machine and why the studios’ practice of “making” stars is no longer relevant.

Deeply engrossing, full of energy, wit, and wisdom, The Star Machine is destined to become an invaluable part of the film canon.

I’ve said before that I love old Hollywood stories. Love them. This one was no different. When I saw the title, The Star Machine, I knew I had to learn more. Why? I’ve always been fascinated with the means by which the studios created the stars. Why did some actresses make it and others withered? Why did some actors only get to play certain parts while others were allowed to branch out? This book answers those questions and more.

I particularly liked the parts on Norma Shearer, Tyrone Power and Jean Arthur. Since these are three of my favorite players in Hollywood, it was fitting. I also enjoyed the portion on Lana Turner.

Shearer was seen as only becoming popular because she played loose women, then because she married the head of the production department. But there was a lot more to her. The production code screwed her over. Irving Thalberg, her head honcho husband, was the love of her life. She did a lot for Hollywood and was willing to fade into private life, rather than to keep making pictures when she knew she was past her prime.

Jean Arthur has always fascinated me. She’s smart and not exactly the usual in Hollywood. From her husky, quirky voice to her no-nonsense attitude, she was an unintended star. She bucked the system often. I loved how the author focused not so much on her being difficult (read: she knew what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to take it), but her desire to do her own thing.

Power, the poor man, was blessed and cursed with beauty. Now, it might seem like that’s a silly thing to look at as a curse. He’s gorgeous and the author points out how he was lit in his pictures more than his female co-stars. More often than not, Power was seen as the star vehicle because the brass knew he could get people in seats at the theater. Make him handsome-r and the women will come. But he wasn’t allowed to branch out of the swashbuckling handsome star until after he came back from World War 2. When he was a tad more weathered, he was allowed to be more than arm candy. Unfortunately, he didn’t live long enough to enjoy his newfound gravitas.

If you want a book that’s got lots of information, but doesn’t seem like you’re just reading facts, then this is a book for you. If you want to learn a little more about old Hollywood and get to know the inside scoop on the stars, then this is the book you want. If you’re interested in how the studios built people up, only to tear them down…then what are you waiting for?

Book Review ~ Paulette: The Adventurous Life of Paulette Goddard by Joe Morella, Edward Z. Epstein

PAULETTEPaulette Goddard was already a legend during her lifetime. At her peak she was considered one of the sexiest, most glamorous, and most personable movie stars of the silver screen. She was known for her marriages to Charlie Chaplin, Burgess Meredith, and Erich Maria Remarque. But few know what an exciting and adventurous life she truly led. From her humble beginnings, Paulette was determined to earn stardom. She quickly reached her goal, starring in films with Bob Hope, Fred Astaire, Gary Cooper, and Jimmy Stewart. For many months she was the top candidate for the part of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, a role that eventually went to Vivien Leigh. Paulette was also a sophisticated patron of the arts, with distinguished friends like John Steinbeck and Aldous Huxley. Through her wit, charm, and intelligence, she always attracted genius. Paulette’s many admirers included Clark Gable and George Gershwin. Most favored her with gifts of magnificent jewelry. Soon she had a fortune in precious gems, because, as she put it, “I never give anything back.” The star also collected great works of art, and often posed for the famous Mexican painter Diego Rivera.Always in the public eye, her controversial lifestyle prompted the FBI to investigate her, even as she dined at Hyde Park with FDR! In this revealing and insightful account, the authors detail the life and loves of this fascinating woman.They recount her Oscar nomination for So Proudly We Hail, and her participation in the first transcontinental flight, piloted by none other than Howard Hughes. Here also is the answer to the mystery of the Chaplin-Goddard relationship (Were they married or not?); a complete account of her feud with famed movie director Cecil B. DeMille; and the scandalous under-the-table incident at Ciro’s. The story of Paulette Goddard’s life is more captivating and provocative than fiction.The rare combination of brains, beauty, glamour, and success made Paulette Goddard a one-in-a-billion star.

I’ve always been fascinated by Paulette Goddard. She managed to swirl right into the circles of wealthy men and with ease. I knew she’d been married to Charlie Chaplin. Yes, I saw the movie, Chaplin. But I didn’t know just how complicated this woman was. She’s a trailblazer. She did pretty much what she wanted the way she wanted. She was a force to reckon with. She understood the art of working her image long before a lot of people figured it out. If she wanted to be taken seriously and thought of as a star, she dressed that way. If she wanted money, she found a way to get it.

She’s much more than a former wife of Charlie Chaplin or the wife of Erich Maria Remarque. She did things her way.

The author tended to get wordy occasionally, but the story flowed well. I read the book in a little more than a day. If you’re looking for insight on this old Hollywood star or want a story that’s so remarkable, it would only be possible in Hollywood, then this is the book for you.  If you can find this book at your local library, a used book sale or used online, then nab a copy.  Worth the read and fascinating.

Book Review ~ Celebrity Feuds!: The Cattiest Rows, Spats, and Tiffs Ever Recorded by Boze Hadleigh

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FEUD

Celebrity Feuds! dishes the dirt with in-depth stories of every word uttered, letter written, or fist swung from the cantankerous stars’ first calamitous encounters to their deathbed declarations. Exposing the shocking tactics of the most bitter rivals in the entertainment industry and the vindictive, unseen ire of our favorite stars, this book reveals Hollywood with all its claws bared.

I love reading books about arguments. Why? Because I’m not the one arguing. Heh, heh. That said, this one was a tad of an eye-opener. I knew about some of the feuds, but not all. I’d heard all about the Bette Davis-Joan Crawford one. Who hasn’t? There’s even a television series about it. But like the TV show, this isn’t the last word on their disagreement. They didn’t hate each other, but didn’t love each other, either. It was still neat to read about it. Then there was the series of disagreements between Shirley MacLaine and Warren Beatty. Hey, siblings fight, too.

This isn’t the most informative book. There are spots that are rather glossed over, but if you want an afternoon read about many people in Old Hollywood, then this is a good bet. If you’re wanting to know more than surface stuff about the players, then keep looking.