Kiss Me Like a Stranger by Gene Wilder

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Kiss Me Like a Stranger by Gene Wilder
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Contemporary, Biography
Length: Full Length (261 pages)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Gene Wilder was one of the great comic actors who defined the 1970’s and 1980’s in movies. From his early work with Woody Allen to the rich group of movies he made with Mel Brooks to his partnership on screen with Richard Pryor, Wilder’s performances are still discussed and celebrated today. Kiss Me Like A Stranger is an intimate glimpse of the man behind the image on the screen.

In this book, Wilder talks about everything from his experiences in psychoanalysis to why he got into acting (and later comedy-his first goal was to be a Shakespearean actor) to how a Midwestern childhood with a sick mother changed him. He writes about the creative process on stage and on screen, and divulges moments from life on the sets of the some of the most iconic movies of our time. He also opens up about his love affairs and marriages, including his marriage to comedian Gilda Radner. But the core of Kiss Me Like A Stranger is an actor’s search for truth and a thoughtful analysis of why the choices he made-some of them so serendipitous they were practically accidental-changed the course of his life.

There’s so much I didn’t know, but I do now… since I’ve read the rest of the story.

Gene Wilder is more than just a mildly eccentric comic with fantastic timing. There’s the cynical side and the manic side, but he’s more dimensional. This book showed the good, the bad and the human side of him.

I’d loved the work of Gene Wilder since I watched Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory as a child. For the longest time, I thought of him as Willy Wonka and the man who helped Gilda Radner while she battled cancer. Trust me, there is so much more to him.

I loved how he told the stories of his childhood. It wasn’t all roses and comedy. He spent time in a military school and worked hard to make his parents proud. He dealt with the death of his mother and trying to find his way as an actor. Talk about taking the long road…he certainly did.

He shows his human side as well in this book. Some actors don’t want their past revealed. He talks about his struggles with women, his adopted daughter, balancing his acting life with his inner demons and finding real love in his life. Wilder holds nothing back. I could relate to some of his experiences and respected him more as an actor.

The stories about his movies injected a human quality to them, as well. He’s not just an image on the silver screen but a person. I gained a lot of respect for him.

If you want a book that will make you laugh, cry, think and love…then this might be the book for you.

One Evening in Paris by Nicolas Barreau

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One Evening in Paris by Nicolas Barreau
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (278 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Alain Bonnard, the owner of a small art cinema in Paris, is a dyed-in-the-wool nostalgic. In his Cinéma Paradis there are no buckets of popcorn, no XXL coca-colas, no Hollywood blockbusters. Not a good business plan if you want to survive, but Alain holds firm to his principles of quality. He wants to show films that create dreams, and he likes most of the people that come to his cinema. Particularly the enchanting, shy woman in the red coat who turns up every Wednesday in row 17. What could her story be? One evening, Alain plucks up courage and invites the unknown beauty to dinner. The most tender of love stories is just getting under way when something incredible happens: The Cinéma Paradis is going to be the location of Allan Woods’ new film Tender Memories of Paris. Solène Avril, the famous American director’s favourite actress, has known the cinema since childhood and has got it into her head that she wants the film to be shot there. Alain is totally overwhelmed when he meets her in person. Suddenly, the little cinema and its owner are the focus of public attention, and the red-plush seats are sold out every evening.

But the mystery woman Alain has just fallen in love with seems suddenly to have vanished. Is this just coincidence? Alain sets off in search of her and becomes part of a story more delightful than anything the cinema has to offer

Alain has inherited a small art cinema in Paris. It’s an old fashioned nostalgic cinema and so are the films he shows. The great romance films of the past bring him peace and complete his life. He knows most of his patrons, but when he notices the girl in the red coat who always sits in the same seat each Wednesday night, he decides he’d like to know her better…

Mr. Barreau writes a delicate romance with Paris as a backdrop. He names old classic films, creates irascible characters and makes his main character a lonely man who doesn’t realize he is. It’s a smooth story I’d love to hear him read out loud. The story flows, the characters follow his direction and misdirection, and everyone is happier by the end of the story.

Alain is finally brave enough to invite her out to dinner. He’s amazed when the shy young woman says yes. He’s more amazed when he doesn’t get home until the wee hours of the morn. When they started talking, they couldn’t stop!

When Alain is approached by a director and his beautiful star and they ask to use the theater as the “set” for a new movie, Alain says yes. There will be some improvements to his cinema and it’ll be good advertising. But as soon as he says yes, his mystery girl doesn’t return. Why?

There are a few too many coincidences here to make me find it realistic, but it does make a good story. There is more than one Melanie missing. Finding his is challenging and almost impossible, but he doesn’t give up. They may have had only night of talking but he knows he loves her. How can you not like a book that believes in true love?

This is an easy read, an excellent story, and has lots of subplots to go with his girlfriend search. I’m glad I was given the opportunity to read it. Why not grab a cup of tea and a couple of cookies and go to the cinema yourself? Alain is waiting for you.

Lead by Kylie Scott

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Lead by Kylie Scott
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (238 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Hawthorn

As the lead singer of Stage Dive, Jimmy is used to getting whatever he wants, whenever he wants it, whether it’s booze, drugs, or women. However, when a PR disaster serves as a wake-up call about his life and lands him in rehab, he finds himself with Lena, a new assistant to keep him out of trouble.

Lena’s not willing to take any crap from the sexy rocker and is determined to keep their relationship completely professional, despite their sizzling chemistry. But when Jimmy pushes her too far and Lena leaves, he realizes that he may just have lost the best thing that ever happened to him.

Jimmy Ferris may seem arrogant and rude at first glance, but he is far more complex and intriguing, as Lena soon finds out.

The third novel in the Stage Dive series features the lead singer, former alcoholic and drug addict and all around jerk, Jimmy Ferris. Lena Morrisey has the task of keeping him clean and sober. If Jimmy seems like the sort of a guy who lets no one tell him what to do, Lena is certainly the sort of a woman who can change that. It shows pretty fast into their ‘business arrangement’ that he can’t help but accept her help with her smartass comments, her pugnacity and gentle intelligence. They are an unlikely pair, but turn out to be surprisingly similar and compatible.

Lead is not as laugh-out-loud funny as Play since Jimmy is a far darker character than Mal, but this infuses the story with a delicious sort of tension. It’s not just the conflicts between Jimmy and Lena and her growing feelings for him that draw the reader, it’s also that as a spectator you’ll root for Jimmy to find his peace and to cope with all the pain and self-loathing. Lena, of course, is just the feisty girl that can help him with it.

Due to the complex situation between Jimmy and Lena, the first love scenes appear only well into the second half of the novel, but they are that much more in character and fantastic. Despite the way they come to happen, they don’t feel forced. Besides, they lead to the major conflict at the end, leaving the protagonists heartbroken, and the reader hungry for a happy resolution.

What made this novel less good than Play was the ending. Seeing what a dark, troubled character Jimmy is, I had difficulty envisioning an ecstatically happy ending for him and Lena, so the conclusion felt a bit rushed. Maybe with a slower finish, a longer build-up to it, it would have felt more believable. I was also bothered by the number of typos that appeared throughout the novel; they were quite distracting.

With Lead offering another sinfully delicious insight into the world of Stage Dive, I now eagerly await big boy Ben’s story, Deep.

Play by Kylie Scott

PLAY
Play by Kylie Scott
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (304 Pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Hawthorn

Mal Ericson, drummer for the world famous rock band Stage Dive, needs to clean up his image fast—at least for a little while. Having a good girl on his arm should do the job just fine. Mal doesn’t plan on this temporary fix becoming permanent, but he didn’t count on finding the one right girl. Anne Rollins never thought she’d ever meet the rock god who plastered her teenage bedroom walls—especially not under these circumstances. Anne has money problems. Big ones. But being paid to play the pretend girlfriend to a wild life-of-the-party drummer couldn’t end well. No matter how hot he is. Or could it?

What Kylie Scott excels at is creating compelling characters that own their stories. Play is no different.

When Anne meets her teenage crush, rock band drummer Mal, she makes crazy eyes. I think I did pretty much the same thing as soon as I delved into this story. Mal is thoroughly convincing as a slightly crazy, fan-spoiled, irresponsible flirt of a man. Scott would be risking making her leading man a conceited, unpleasant hero if she hadn’t given him a soft (not in a cliché way) core and a wild sense of humor.

A propos of humor, the novel is chock-full of laugh-out-loud scenes that make the atmosphere around Anne and Mal electric with sexual tension and palpable lust. Mal’s comical side also accentuates the darker issues that Mal faces, making the novel all the more attractive because of how compelling and intricate a character Mal turns out to be despite the initial impression of him being shallow.

The dialogue is witty and truly engages the reader because every line spoken between the characters adds to their personalities or forwards the plot. The pacing is relentless, also on account of the clever rejoinders flying to and from between Mal and Anne. The fast pace also mimics Mal’s hyperactive personality and the rushed lifestyle of a rock band. It seems like Ms Scott doesn’t leave anything to coincidences; every word in this novel has a specific purpose. This makes the narrative fast-paced, compelling and utterly enjoyable.

Although Mal is so over-the-top that one would expect the shy heroine to be completely overlooked next to him, Anne is still a character that manages to hold her own. She grows throughout the story, and we follow her journey as she begins to get to know herself. Towards the end of the story, she proves she is a woman with a backbone when she makes a choice that is painful, but right. Anne becoming the strong character who learns to fight for what’s hers makes the relationship between her and Mal so much more realistic and consequently more fascinating.

Scott’s Play is far from just another hot romance. It’s a novel with a strong plot, compelling characters and a very real attraction between them. What happens to Anne is bound to happen to every reader – you will fall for Mal.

Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter: A Novel of Elizabeth I by Anne Clinard Barnhill

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Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter: A Novel of Elizabeth I by Anne Clinard Barnhill
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (365 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Peppermint

From the author of At the Mercy of the Queen comes the gripping tale of Mary Shelton, Elizabeth I’s young cousin and ward, set against the glittering backdrop of the Elizabethan court.

Mistress Mary Shelton is Queen Elizabeth’s favorite ward, enjoying every privilege the position affords. The queen loves Mary like a daughter, and, like any good mother, she wants her to make a powerful match. The most likely prospect: Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. But while Oxford seems to be everything the queen admires: clever, polished and wealthy, Mary knows him to be lecherous, cruel, and full of treachery. No matter how hard the queen tries to push her into his arms, Mary refuses.

Instead, Mary falls in love with a man who is completely unsuitable. Sir John Skydemore is a minor knight with little money, a widower with five children. Worst of all, he’s a Catholic at a time when Catholic plots against Elizabeth are rampant. The queen forbids Mary to wed the man she loves. When the young woman, who is the queen’s own flesh and blood, defies her, the couple finds their very lives in danger as Elizabeth’s wrath knows no bounds.

The author weaved fact and fiction, blending it seamlessly to create one truly entertaining story. The fact that the story was based around Queen Elizabeth I was what initially intrigued me, and I must say I was not disappointed.

Mary is the queen’s ward from a young age, and as such the Queen has raised her as if she was her own child. From the very beginning I was interested and entertained by Mary. She clearly lived a life of privilege, and had no real idea of what commoners were experiencing during this period, yet she never seemed to forget how lucky she was to be viewed as one of the Queen’s favored. Though she may not always agree with the Queen, it is clear her love for her never truly waivers.

Sir John, on the other hand, had lived the life of a commoner. While he was not poor he knew what life struggles are about, especially when left a widower with five children. Yet, he still sees what even the Queen can recognize: Mary is someone special who should be cherished. When she starts to show him favor it is clear he does not take that attention lightly and will do whatever it takes to win her heart and keep her safe above all others.

The love story is entertaining in this, but it more of a coming of age story than a romance. Mary and her relationships, including the ones with the Queen, Sir John and other suitors is a key in the plot. While this only follows a few short years in Mary’s life, it is clear these are the most influential years in her life. It also gave me a glimpse of the time in which Mary lived.

This story has some historically accurate portrayals including people and events. Religion during this period is a driving force behind many in the story, and plays a key role in everyone including Mary’s life. I really enjoyed that the author really tried to keep the story as accurate as possible while still entertaining. I could tell from the very beginning that some of the events took place, even if the timeframes may have changed a bit to make it more entertaining. I has truly impressed by the amount of knowledge the author was able to incorporate, and it left me wanting more. While I have not read the author’s previous story about this time period I most certainly plan on picking it up. This is a story I believe anyone would enjoy no matter if they enjoy history or just want an entertaining story.

Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H Balson

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Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H Balson
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Contemporary, Historical
Length: Full Length (389 pgs)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephantois

The gripping tale about two boys, once as close as brothers, who find themselves on opposite sides of the Holocaust.

Elliot Rosenzweig, a respected civic leader and wealthy philanthropist, is attending a fundraiser when he is suddenly accosted and accused of being a former Nazi SS officer named Otto Piatek, the Butcher of Zamosc. Although the charges are denounced as preposterous, his accuser is convinced he is right and engages attorney Catherine Lockhart to bring Rosenzweig to justice. Solomon persuades attorney Catherine Lockhart to take his case, revealing that the true Piatek was abandoned as a child and raised by Solomon’s own family only to betray them during the Nazi occupation. But has Solomon accused the right man?

Once We Were Brothers is a story that stayed with me after I’d read the last word. Although it is the work of fiction, Mr. Balson did such a wonderful job portraying the main character, Ben, that when he begins to tell his story about what happened in Poland leading up to and during World War II, it comes across as real. You get easily caught up in his fight for survival, and like one of the characters, Catherine says, you’re emotionally invested in Ben’s story. In the book, that’s what motivated Catherine to take on Ben’s case against Rosenzweig and for me, the reader, I wanted to see if justice would be served.

There’s also a love story that threads through the tale, that of Ben and Hannah. The dialogue and depth of characterization was spot on for ideal pacing. In fact, I found myself sitting reading for longer stretches of time than I’d intended.

Once We Were Brothers serves to remind us of the heartbreaking horrors of the Holocaust, the human cost of war, and all while telling a fictional story of one man’s experience of the two, and many years later, his determination to seek justice.