Star Island (CBR4 #34)

Let’s get the hard part over with first. This is not my favorite Hiaasen, and generally it falls below most of the contemporary fiction I’ve read this cannonball. In many ways Star Island is an entirely typical Hiaasen novel: its set in South Florida, it features a storyline about real estate developers and politicians trampling pristine environments, is a morality tale about the excesses of Hollywood and South Beach, and features everyone’s favorite former governor turned hermit – Skink.

Everything is better with Skink, which is how I know that I didn’t really enjoy this book because I didn’t like half of Skink’s storyline.  And the half I didn’t enjoy was the half that featured the novel’s main protagonists – Cherry Pye and Ann DeLusia.  Cherry Pye (née Cheryl Bunterman) is a pop star since the tender age of fourteen—and about to attempt a comeback from her latest drug-and-alcohol disaster in the vein of every lurid tabloid story you’ve ever heard. Then there’s Ann DeLusia her undercover stunt double.  Ann portrays Cherry whenever the singer is too ‘indisposed’ to go out in public, but Cherry has no idea she exists.

The plot revolves around Ann’s job of doubling Cherry and a photographer determined to get the ultimate shots of Cherry before what everyone, including her manager, is sure is going to happen. Her untimely death. But before this storyline can get underway Ann gets caught up with Skink. Skink ends up ‘rescuing’ Ann from a car crash along Card Sound Road in the Keys and becomes invested in the young actress after he uses her as part of his scheme to get back at an unscrupulous real estate developer. This ends up being good for Ann and bad for Cherry.

Hiaasen has created a character in Cherry who is by all definitions awful, and he writes about her with contempt in his authorial voice. Which is a problem; this is an antagonist to Ann but a protagonist in her own right so making her a punching bag does not in any way help the reader become more involved in the stories of her parents, management, publicists, security, or boyfriends. There is also a lot of lazy descriptions of Cherry whom he refers to constantly as the former Cheryl Bunterman. I would’ve preferred an acronym (TFCB).

I’d say to steer clear of this one. It’s too long, too convoluted and not even the comic send-ups of the characters futures in the epilogue were satisfying.

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Black Hills (CBR4 #33)

I was prepared to give Black Hills a relatively glowing review as I was working my way through the 472 page book. And then I came to the last 15 pages and I had some big problems with the handling of the narrative. So here I am, questioning things which I had previously been quite happy with. But let’s start at the beginning.

 

Nora Robert’s Black Hills is the story of Cooper Sullivan and Lillian Chance. The book begins when they are 11 and 9 years of age respectively. Lil is a native of the titular Black Hills and Coop has been sent to his grandparents’ South Dakota ranch by his battling parents for the summer. Over time Coop and Lil form a deep and lasting friendship. As chapters progress we jump ahead with the characters as they grow up and Coop returns to the Black Hills from his turbulent home in New York for summer vacations.

 

Relationships change as Lil gets ready to head off to college. She knows two things for sure – what she wants for her future, a wildlife refuge on her family’s land, and Coop. The conflict is Coop knows that he cannot stay with Lil as their relationship progresses in the next 18 months because he will hold her back from her goals and he must make a way for himself. Fast forward 12 years and our leads have a new set of problems to deal with, including each other.

 

This is all pretty standard fare, especially for a Roberts novel. Where I began to have some unease was with the story’s big bad. Roberts has a set way of introducing the type of big bad which appears in this one, The Search, and Montana Sky. The reader is given a chance to see the world through their point of view before they are introduced to the protagonists, and then their nefarious deeds and plans are told to the reader through the character’s own first person planning. Other than the familiarity of the type of big bad (someone out to hunt our female protagonist) I had no real problems. Until it was time to resolve the conflicts.

 

There are two major conflicts in the book: first, the standard ‘will they or won’t they?’ and the second ‘will the big bad be able to enact his plan?’ The novel is well paced throughout, the reader has time to invest in who Lil and Coop were as children, how their relationship evolved, her parents, his grandparents, their friends, the preserve, and the looming danger. And then it seems Roberts looked down and realized she had written over 400 pages and hadn’t resolved either major conflict. There is a major sea change with at page 427 and then it’s a downhill run to the conclusion some 45 pages later. This reader was left wanting for more, since so many storylines had been given a quick, glossed over ending as the protagonists dealt with the big bad.

 

As for the conclusion, big bad is dispatched and two pages later the book was over. Roberts doesn’t tend to write epilogues for her novels, but isn’t unheard of. This one was in definite need of an epilogue that firmly wrapped up some storylines after the final conflict resolution to give at least this reader a sense of completion. Am I saying don’t read it? No, but I am saying that you should know what you’re getting in to with this one.

Shockaholic (CBR4 #32)

*Comedians Summer Tour Book #4*

 

I don’t know what I was thinking. Here’s review #32 –

 

If you’re memory was escaping you, and you were making conscious choices to let it go, what would you record for yourself? What would you choose to remember? This dilemma is what frames the beginning of Carrie Fisher’s Shockaholic. For those unaware Ms. Fisher suffers from severe depression linked to a substance abuse problem. In order to deal with both of those issues she has taken what has become the last stop on the therapeutic path – electroconvulsive therapy (that would be the new and improved shock therapy to those in the know). The upside of this therapy for Ms. Fisher is a brain which finally feels that it is working; the downside of the therapy – gaps in memory which can be months long.

 

I decided to pick this one up based on my love of her stage version of Wishful Drinking in which Ms. Fisher takes the audience through her personal history – the story of how she went from being the baby of stars to a star in her own right to Princess Leia forever. Shockaholic is where Ms. Fisher delves into the events in her life which lead her to ECT, what the after effects of ECT have been for her, and how it all culminated in a relationship with her father at the end of his life.

 

The good parts of this one include Ms. Fisher’s delicious way with words. If you’ve ever seen her on an interview chat show or one of her stage performances the book reads the way she speaks. There is also the delicious voyeuristic part of any Hollywood memoir where you feel as though you have been told things that perhaps you shouldn’t really know. The bad parts? Mostly that’s the choppy, uneven nature of the writing and the constant reminders that the ECT has robbed Ms. Fisher of some of her memories. However the memories which survive make for a fun ride.