Jackie Collins – Queen of Hollywood Glamour

I was very sad to hear of the death of Jackie Collins yesterday. As a teenager of the eighties Jackie’s books were a revelation to me. They took me, a totally un-glamorous girl growing up in Nottingham just that bit closer to the bright lights of Hollywood. In her novels there were strong ladies that got what they wanted, both in business and in bed. I may not have been in the same league as Lucky Santangelo but I could learn a few things from her!

Here are a selection of her fabulous novels that are available to read from Leeds Libraries, including her latest book, the Santangelos. We also have a number of her novels available to read as ebooks.

The StudThe Stud

At a club like Hobo, there’s no such thing as an impossible fantasy. It’s the nightspot where the beautiful people hang out: people like Tony Blake, our host and guide, people like Fontaine Khaled, jet-setting beauty with a weakness for men, and people like Alexandra, Fontaine’s nubile stepdaughter.

The BitchThe Bitch

She’s a woman who’s never short of a man. They call her the bitch. Fontaine Khaled has an Arab millionaire among her yesterdays and hard-gambling Nico for all her tomorrows. Which only leaves the problem of choosing a man for today. From London to Las Vegas, Hollywood to Athens, Fontaine is the one who calls the shots.

The SantangelosThe Santangelos

A vicious hit, a vengeful enemy, a drug addled Colombian club owner and a sex crazed Italian family – the ever powerful Lucky Santangelo has to deal with them all. Meanwhile Max – her teenage daughter – is becoming the ‘It’ girl in Europe’s modelling world. And her Kennedyesque son, Bobby, is being set up for a murder he didn’t commit. But Lucky can deal. Always strong and unpredictable, with her husband Lennie by her side, she lives up to the family motto – never mess with a Santangelo. Lucky rules – the Santangelos always come out on top.

LuckyLucky

Moving in the fast lane from Las Vegas to New York, Beverly Hills to a Greek island paradise, ‘Lucky’ takes up where ‘Chances’ left off. Winning is all that matters – and luck has nothing to do with it.

The Love KillersThe Love Killers

Beth, Lara and Rio, three women with a common cause and vengeance in their hearts. They’re out to avenge a murder and they’ll got to any lengths. Their targets are the heirs of the Bassalino crime family.

Hollywood WivesHollywood Wives

They lunch at Ma Maison and the Bistro on salads and hot gossip. Dressed by St. Laurent and Galanos, they dine at the latest restaurants on the rise and fall of one another’s fortunes. They are the Hollywood wives, a privileged breed of women whose ticket to ride is a famous husband

Missing Mad Men?

Mad MenWith the final series of Mad Men now sadly finished, here are nine books available to loan from Leeds Libraries; nine books that will allow you to re-live – at least part – of the Don Draper chronicles:

Revolutionary Road (Richard Yates) 

While Matthew Weiner – the show’s creator – says that he’d never heard of Richard Yates when writing his pilot episode, this 1961 novel about a frustrated suburban couple shares many of the themes later explored in Mad Men.

 

John Cheever

Weiner, however, openly acknowledges the influence of Cheever – the ‘Bard of Suburbia’ – and especially his highly-regarded short stories. The library has the complete collection, as well as Cheever’s journal, where the torturous – indeed, Draper-esque – contradictions of the author’s life quickly become apparent to the reader.

Mad Men: Dream Come True TV (ed., Gary R. Edgerton)

The relationship between literature and Mad Men is apparent in this fascinating collection of essays by academics exploring the explicit and implicit themes of the show. While the book only covers the first three seasons it does include an interview with series producer Scott Hornbacher, which illuminates some of the story behind the show’s genesis during a golden era for American TV drama.

Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution (Brett Martin); The Revolution was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers who changed TV drama forever (Alan Sepinwell) 

Two books that further explore that creative explosion in American TV over the last 15-years. Difficult Men provides a narrative account of the background events to the shows in question – from The Sopranos through The Wire and onto Breaking Bad – while Revolution is a more thematic, analytical, look at what each one of those shows brought to viewers.

Mad Women: The Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the ‘60s and Beyond (Jane Maas) 

Noticeably, both the two books above focus almost entirely on those shows telling stories of men; ignoring, for instance, programming like Sex and the City and, more recently, Girls. And, while Mad Men, is ostensibly about the journey of Don Draper, it is as much about the story of Peggy Olsen and the changing nature of female consciousness through the 1960s. This book tells the same story – but as fact, not fiction.

The King of Madison Avenue: David Ogilvy and the Making of Modern Advertising (Kenneth Roman) 

Jane Maas worked under legendary advertising creative David Ogilvy. This biography of Ogilvy details the extraordinary life of one of the – many – models for the fictional Don Draper.

From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbour: Front-Line Dispatches From the Advertising War (Jerry Della Femina) 

Ogilvy famously spoke of the “lunatics taking over the asylum” during the 1960s – referring to the new generation of publicity-hungry ad-men like Della Femina, who were almost as famous as their creations. Della Femina’s 1970 memoir was an inspiration for Mad Men and he served as a series consultant during the show’s first season.

The Golden Age of Advertising: The 1960s (ed., Jim Heimann) 

As brash as the personalities were on Madison Avenue, in the final analysis the advertisements are what truly mattered. This Taschen book contains some of the most memorable adverts from the 1960s; artefacts that hold a mirror to the tumultuous America of the 1960s.

America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s (Maurice Isserman and Michael Kazin)

 

Mad Men has “done” the 1960s better than any other comparable cultural work. Eschewing the Forrest Gump approach – in which the central character exists outside history, adapting smoothly to their changing times and being directly affected by the major events of the era – Mad Men is more subtle; showing its characters dealing with that change one day at a time, with the familiar mixture of everyday adaptation, resistance, apathy and passion that defines lives lived in history. America Divided provides the reader with all they need to better understand the life and times of Mad Men’s richly-drawn characters.

Don’t judge a book by its cover – Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Several people have told me in the past that this is a good book. I considered it, but then always put it off as it is classed as a Sci-fi novel. I know that shouldn’t influence me but I am not naturally drawn to Sci-fi novels.

However Flowers for Algernon was chosen as our book group book of the month so home it went with me. The copy we were reading was one of the specially produced yellow covers for Gollancz Publishing 50 year anniversary. I am sure that if you are a Gollancz fan, then the cover is iconic, but it really didn’t float my boat. But I got past it and I am so glad that I did.

Flowers for Algernon was first published in the 1960s and is classed as Sci-fi due to the nature of the technology in it. Other than that it is set in a very real world and written about a very real character called Charlie. Charlie is an adult with learning difficulties, although as the book was written in the 60s he is referred to as retarded. This caused me to gulp a bit as I read it, but I persevered.

Charlie is relatively happy with his life, he has friends at the bakery where he works, he attends a literacy class with other adults like him in the evenings where he gets on well with his teacher. He likes his class but never seems to remember anything he is taught. Charlie wants to be clever and is offered a chance to change and he accepts it. He enters an experimental programme to alter his brain function. This programme has been previously tested on animals and has a success story with Algernon the mouse.

As the book continues Charlie’s and Algernon’s fates become intertwined and Charlie’s world completely changes as his IQ rises. I won’t give any spoilers to the end, but the clue is in the title of the book. Be prepared – you may need tissues.

I am really looking forward to the book group discussion about this book as the book raises so many questions. Should Charlie have taken part in the experiment? Would he ultimately have been happier if he had stayed ‘dumb’. Does being very intelligent cause its own problems? Is it better to not remember when people are unkind to us?

I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone that hasn’t read it. Don’t be put off by the cover!

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd – Oprah pick

image-medium (6)Oprah Winfrey announced in early December that her third pick for her Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 would be The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd. The author has a huge fan base from her first book The Secret Life of Bees, which spent 175 weeks on the New York Times trade paperback best-seller list selling more than 6 million copies in the US. Her second book, The Mermaid Chair, and the memoir Traveling With Pomegranates were also big hits

The new book traces 35 years in the lives of two early 19thC women,  readers first meet them as young girls. Sarah Grimké is based on real-life Sarah Moore Grimké, a South Carolina abolitionist, suffragist and writer who leads a privileged, wealthy life but is  rebellious and kind. On her 11th birthday, her biggest wish is to become the country’s first woman lawyerand as a gift, she’s given ownership of her own maid, Hetty “Handful” Grimké, 10. Handful is a slave along with her mother at the family’s Charleston home. Sarah refuses ‘the gift’ then writes a note attempting to give Handful her freedom. She’s overridden by her parents and so begins a long relationship between the two women both fighting for their own types of freedom.The story is told in the alternating first-person voices of Sarah and Handful, which the author makes distinctive.

Happy New Year

Fireworks%202013Happy New Year to all our readers! What books are you all planning on reading in 2013? I have a number of books on my list and would love to hear what you have on yours. Currently my list for January is

Have a great 2013.

Book review – The Personal History of Rachel DuPree by Ann Weisgarber

A brilliant first novel, which brings to life how people survived nearly a hundred years ago in the extreme cold weather and isolation of a part of the USA about which I knew nothing. Even more remarkable is that the family involved are black and actually owned their own primitive homestead – something unheard of at that time.

Rachel, until her marriage a city girl, tells the story, which means the reader becomes involved in the family’s hard, sometimes unbearable, lives, battling the elements, at times near starvation.

I was hoping for a happy ending, but Isaac, the husband, is a hard proud man, and it appears his land means more to him than the happiness of his wife and numerous children. Rachel has other ideas – for better or worse? Who knows? Perhaps there might be a sequel in the future.

Halton readers’ group member.

Reserve a copy of The Personal History of Rachel DuPree online, and collect from your nearest library.

World Book Night USA – titles announced

The list of books for World Book Night USA has been revealed.

The event is taking place for the first time in the US on 23rd April 2012, alongside the UK’s second World Book Night. As in the UK, a million free books will be given away, but in the US it will be by 50,000 givers, with the number of titles increased from 25 to 30.

The 30 titles are:

  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  • Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger
  • Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Blood Work by Michael Connelly
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
  • Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
  • Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
  • Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
  • A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
  • Q is for Quarry by Sue Grafton
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
  • The Stand by Stephen King
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
  • The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
  • My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
  • Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
  • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • Just Kids by Patti Smith
  • The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak