29 June 2009

Yay for new books!

I got three new books today (click the covers for more info)! They seem fantastic and I can't wait to read them!

Crooked Pieces by Sarah Glazebrook
"Maggie seems to be going up in the world. Compared to living with her large and impoverished East London family and watching her mother being worn down by life and childbearing, working as a maid is a big improvement. Meeting very different people like the Pankhursts, Maggie is introduced to a completely different world, one in which people talk about women getting the vote and organize impressive rallies and demonstrate at Parliament. Then when she meets and beings ‘walking out' with a handsome police officer, it seems like a whole new horizon has opened up for her.
Drawn into the workings of the suffragette movement, Maggie is soon caught up in a darker side of the increasingly militant cause. The brutal treatment she and her fellows suffer might make them all the more determined to achieve their goal, but how much is Maggie prepared to sacrifice?"

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig
"Nothing ever goes right for Eloise. The day she wears her new suede Jimmy Choos, it rains. When the Tube stops too quickly, she's the one thrown into some stranger's lap. And she's had her share of misfortune in the way of love. So, after deciding that romantic heroes must be a thing of the past, Eloise is ready for a fresh start but first she must finish her history dissertation on those most romantic of spies, the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian. While rummaging through a pile of old letters and diaries, Eloise discovers something amazing, something that historians have missed: the secret history of the Pink Carnation - the most elusive spy of all time. As she reads on, Eloise begins to wonder just who this brave secret agent was, but as she gets tantalizingly close to the answer, she is distracted by the very modern charms of Colin Selwick - is Eloise about to find a dashing hero all of her own?"

Air Kisses by Zoƫ Foster
"Hannah Atkins - the girl most likely to be sporting streaky fake tan and a wobbly trail of liquid eyeliner - has bluffed her way into the position of beauty editor at "Gloss" magazine. Just as she's carving a path into the gorgeous world of guerrilla air kisses, she reads about her boyfriend and another girl in the gossip pages of the local newspaper. Then she gets dumped. By text. Vowing to claw back some dignity and make her ex regret what he's done, Hannah adopts some hardcore rules - look fabulous, act fabulous, steer clear of unsuitable men. But as her resolution starts to slip away, she finds herself having to decide on more important things than the perfect mascara. The sassy and hilarious debut novel from a former Cosmo beauty editor, "Air Kisses" is the ultimate feel-good read about life, love and lipstick." - Click here to watch Ms Foster discuss her novel in a fantastic accent!

28 June 2009

Review: FALLING ANGELS by Tracy Chevalier *****

"This is a sumptuous new look for the bestselling author of "Girl with a Pearl Earring". 1901 was the year of Queen Victoria's death. The two graves stood next to each other, both beautifully decorated. One had a large urn - some might say ridiculously large - and the other, almost leaning over the first, an angel - some might say overly sentimental. The two families visiting the cemetery to view their respective neighbouring graves were divided even more by social class than by taste. They would certainly never have become acquainted had not their two girls, meeting behind the tombstones, become best friends. And furthermore - and even more unsuitably - become involved in the life of the gravedigger's son. As the girls grow up, as the century wears on, as the new era and the new King change social customs, the lives and fortunes of the Colemans and the Waterhouses become more and more closely intertwined - neighbours in life as well as death."

First of all, I wonder why the original plot summary for this book is so terribly vague?! Yes, it's not easy to sum it up properly as it's quite complex, but I truly wonder why there is absolutely no mention of the suffragettes, which play a very important role in this novel? It's like the publishers are afraid mentioning them would scare readers away ... Well, I plan to make it well clear what this novel is about, hehe.


There are so many things that I absolutely loved loved loved about this book! Namely, it is set in a historical period that I find very fascinating, the beginning of the 20th century. Not only that, but it also features suffragetts, whom I also admire. Furthermore, even though this novel is told from a lot of different perspecitves and jumps years ahead, it all works beautifully and makes the story complete.

The characters/narrators were very different (as far as gender, age, class and viewpoint goes) and I love how the author managed to capture that in their narrative. The novel features two very different families: the Waterhouses are very traditional whereas the Colemans are quite progressive (especially Kitty), which I think nicely shows how the times were slowey changing then.

I don't think there is a single bad thing I could say about this book because it is truly fantastic. I thought that the characters were very well developed and they changed quite a lot and accordingly, the relationships between the characters and friendships were well depicted, there was enough action, the subject matter was very interesting, the time period was well researched, the book was well written etc.

Reading this novel also really made me want to visit the Highgate Cemetery in London because most of the novel takes place there (Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger will be set there as well so I'm quite excited about that!). Usually, I tend to stay faaar away from cemeteries, but judging by the book and pictures online, Highgate seems really fascinating and I must visit it asap!!!

The novel takes place between 1901 and 1910, but Tracy Chevalier mentioned that she intended to write it from 1901 to 1918 and that she might write a sequel. That would be fantastic - I'm dying to know what the characters in this book were up to in the next 10 years so fingers crossed!

As I said, this book is quite complexed (easy to read though) and there's a lot that could be discussed and I could talk about it for hours, but in short: it's absolutely brilliant and I cannot recommend it enough!

ps: I admit that this is the first book I've read by Chevalier (I also had the honour and the privilege to translate it into my mother tongue last year - I've read it four times so I can still remember it very well), but definitely not the last! Shortly after that, I also read Virgin Blue, which I enjoyed muchly as well, and bought The Girl with the Pearl Earring, which I have yet to read. I'm also very, very excited about her upcoming novel Remarkable Creatures, which seems rather promising!

24 June 2009

Review: THE WEDDING GIRL by Madeleine Wickham ****

"At the age of eighteen, in that first golden Oxford summer, Milly was up for anything. Rupert and his American lover Allan were all part of her new, exciting life, and when Rupert suggested to her that she and Allan should get married, just so that Allan could stay in the country, Milly didn't hesitate, and to make it seem real she dressed up in cheap wedding finery and posed on the steps of the registry office for photographs. Ten years later, Milly is a very different person. Engaged to Simon - who is wealthy, serious, and believes her to be perfect - she is facing the biggest and most elaborate wedding imaginable. Her mother has it planned to the finest detail, from the massive marquee to the sculpted ice swans filled with oysters. Her dreadful secret is locked away so securely she has almost persuaded herself that it doesn't exist - until, with only four days to go, her past catches up with her. Suddenly, her carefully constructed world is about to crash in ruins around her. How can she tell Simon she's already married? How can she tell her mother? But as the crisis develops, more secrets are revealed than Milly could possibly have realised..."


As I'm sure you all know, Madeleine Wickham is the real name of the much adored novelist Sophie Kinsella. So since I've read all the Kinsella novels and needed another fix, I decided to give Ms Wickham a try to see what her pre-Kinsella writing was like.

Firstly, it must be noted that I wouldn't have guessed that they are both the same person as I found Ms Wickham's work to be far less hilarious than her Kinsella novels. It was cute and lovely, but I did miss those ROTFLOL moments that Ms Kinsella provides in abundance (that's the main reason why I adore her books).

Nonetheless, The Wedding Girl was well written and enjoyable (as expected). The main character Milly was a tad too ditzy and not funny enough, but still likeable, albeit rather silly (she really thought something like *that* could be kept a secret forever?!). I liked how the various subplots were tied together and I think the author dealt with the topic of homosexuality in a very appropriate way. I didn't really have a favourite character, but I thought they were all well developed and contributed to the story, which in itself was not too gripping, but it still kept me reading as I wanted to find out how this improbable mess will be sorted out - and I loved the ending!

I must admit that I expected a rather different storyline from the first couple of pages and I'm so glad the author didn't take that road. On the whole, it was a pretty average read, but not one bit annoying and still quite enjoyable. One huge downside of this book is the cover - what on earth is up with that?! They could've done so much better.

One thing that these "two" authors do have in common are the fabulous leading male characters - surely I'm not the only one who aaaaalways falls in love with the male protagonists in Kinsella's novels? ;) Well, it appears that Ms Wickham has a knack for creating fantastic heros too and I must admit that I developed a small crush on Simon, hehe.

All in all, I wouldn't mind reading more by Ms Wickham, but I don't think I'll be in a hurry. It's a completely different story with Ms Kinsella though as I absolutely positively cannot wait to get my hands on Twenties Girl and I'll probably devour it one day!!! Judging by the first review, I shan't be disappointed!

Has anyone else read any other books by Madeleine Wickham?

Also, how weird must it be that everyone keeps addressing her as Sophie Kinsella when that's not even her real name, lol.

23 June 2009

Just discovered another promising book!

Instead of working on stuff that really needs my attention, I was randomly browsing the net for books (typical!) and I came across this gem below and I'm really excited, it sounds just my cup of tea!

"Who better than a twenty-four-year-old author to satirize the college experience? An uptight Brit and a hard-partying American swap lives in the smartest comedy of the season. Take an administrative snafu, a bad break-up, and what shall heretofore be known as "The Hot-Tub Incident", and you've got two thoroughly unprepared sophomores on a semester abroad. For American party girl Tasha, an escape to tweedy Oxford may be a chance to ditch her recent fame as a tabloid temptress, but wading Uggs-deep in feminist theory is not her idea of a break. Meanwhile, the British half of the exchange, studious control-freak Emily, nurses an aching heart amid the bikinis and beer pong of U.C. Santa Barbara. Soon desperation has the girls texting each other tips - on fitting in, finding love and figuring out who they really are. With an anthropologist's eye for cultural detail and a true ear for teen-speak, exciting new novelist Abigail McDonald crafts a very funny, fast-paced, poignant look at survival, sisterhood, and the surprising ways we discover our true selves. This is a humorous debut novel by young author. It is presented by a sophisticated chick lit."

There are so many things that I already love about this book, namely that the author is my age and that it includes mentions of feminist theory, plus it appears to feature a rather interesting life swap! I wouldn't mind ordering the hardback (titled Sophmore Switch) as the price is the last thing I care about when it comes to books, but the truth is that I much prefer both the paperback title (Life Swap) and the cover so I'm opting for that one. The only downside is that I'll have to wait for 76 (!) days for it to be published, grr. I hate hate hate waiting for books, it just kills me, but oh well, time flies anyway, it'll be September in no time.

19 June 2009

ordered books + exciting summer releases

I told myself (for the 100th time!) that I really must stop ordering more and more books online and I actually stuck to this resolution for a few days (or maybe I was just too busy to shop, heh), but I cracked under pressure today and ordered three more books.
I've never watched The Hills and I barely know what Lauren Conrad is about, but there's been so much coverage of "her" book L. A. Candy in the media lately that I just couldn't resist and bought it. The first reviews on Amazon are positive, plus it sounds like an interesting summer read (but the cover is sooo boring).
Furthemore, I've heard so much praise of If I Stay in the past month or so and after reading Dot's review today, I decided to finally order it - I'm sure I won't regret it (plus the cover is beautiful).
The last one has been on my mind for a while so I just ordered it to get it over with, hehe.
ETA: A couple of days after this post was made, I ordered yet another book - Lucy in the Sky! I saw that both Leah and Chloe like Paige Toon so I looked her up on Amazon and this one seems rather interesting and I just couldn't resist clicking the Checkout button. Don't know when I'll have the time to read it, but I hope it'll be fun!

Below are a few more exciting summer releases I'm looking forward to (in no particular order) - this list will mostly be useful to me so that I don't forget to buy the books when they come out, hehe. Feel free to let me know if I've missed any. :) Click on the covers for more info.

17 June 2009

The Book Lovers' Appreciation Society

A new short story collection (featuring Sophie Kinsella, Cecelia Ahern, Kate Mosse etc.) to look out for in September! Not only is the cover fantastic and the autors promising, but it's also for charity (Breast Cancer Care) so I'll definitely be buying this one! Here's the summary (from Orion Books):

"A terrific collection of short stories from bestselling authors such as Sophie Kinsella, Alexander McCall Smith, Kate Mosse and Cecelia Ahern. Irresistible tales of love, friendship, passion and betrayal from some of the top names in fiction.

A woman planning not just what she wants to wear to a school reunion, but who she wants to be . . .
A couple hoping to start a new life in Spain - and completely misunderstanding what they each want . . . A girl who's brother falls in love with a beautiful male impersonator . . . A woman haunted by ghosts from her past . . . A newly divorced mother taking her teenage daughter to Crete for a holiday, longing to be young again, until she remembers how awful it is to be 17 . . .

From Maeve Binchy to Jane Fallon, Adriana Trigiani to Alexander McCall Smith, this is
the must-have collection of the year."

16 June 2009

Review: WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson **********

"Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit. In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the multiple-award-winning Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia’s descent into the powerful vortex of anorexia, and her painful path toward recovery."


When I learned that Laurie Halse Anderson, the autor of the fantastic novel Speak (which I read it nearly 10 years ago and I can still remember how much I loved it) wrote another similar story, I just knew I had to read it. I expected it to be a great read, but Wintergirls exceeded all my expectations ten fold.

Firstly, it must be stressed that my poor summary does not do the book justice and I don't think any plot description could - if you really want to experience the beauty of this novel, then you just have to read it. After all, it's not the plot that makes this book so extraordinary, it's the outstanding narration. For all I care, this could be a book about farming or whatever and I'd still adore it due to the author's beautiful writing style.
I think this could possibly the most well written novel ever? It certainly is for me compared to the others I've read so far (except perhaps a couple of others). Personally, the prose left me stunned, I hung on every word and certain sentences were so incredible that they made me gasp and I kept re-reading them, which rarely happens to me.

The premise is quite simple (two friends with eating disorders fall apart, one dies, the other is guilt ridden and resorts to anorexia etc), but the author makes the most of it and more. Since the story is narrated by Lia, the reader really gets an incredible insight into the mind of an anorexic person, which I found fascinating (albeit disturbing). Since Lia is a very troubled girl, the novel often gets very dark and even difficult to read, but this just adds to the story and makes it more real. The book is basically a collection of Lia's thoughts and thus the ones supposedly inappropriate are even crossed out, which is a technique that I personally found interesting. Yes, the novel is quite disturbing, but it's still breathtakingly beautiful.

I fell in love with the book right from the start and as I was reading it, I really hoped that the ending wouldn't spoil it - and it didn't! It really was the perfect ending to the perfect book. I'll quote the final few paragraphs below as I think they are beautiful and sum up the whole book quite nicely (beware though, the following few sentences contain SPOILERS:
I am spinning the silk threads of my story, weaving the fabric of my world. The tiny elf dancer became a wooden doll whose strings were jerked by people not paying attention. I spun out of control. Eating was hard. Breathing was hard. Living was hardest.
I wanted to swallow the bitter seeds of forgetfulness.
Cassie did, too. We leaned on each other, lost in the dark and wandering in endless circles. She got too tired and went to sleep. Somehow, I dragged myself out of the dark and asked for help
I spin and weave and knit my words and visions until a life starts to take shape.
There is no magic cure, no making it all go away forever. There are only small steps upward; an easier day, an unexpected laugh, a mirror that doesn't matter anymore.
I am thawing.
Honestly, words cannot express how much I adore this book and how strongly I recommed it to everyone. I'm generally not one for re-reading books, but I can definitely see myself re-reading this one, or at least some passages of it. This novel is quite obviously a result of incredible talent and a lot of hard work - I really don't believe that someone can come up with sentences like *that* just out of the blue; it takes time and I really appreciate the effort that the author put into this novel (unlike some other so-called authors who just spew out simple sentences and descriptions and hope that readers will be fooled by the pretty cover etc. - yes, I'm looking at you, Pop Tart).

All in all, I rate this book 10/5 simply because it's really twice as good as any other novel that I would usually rate 5/5. I'm afraid I can't present the author with the awards this book deserves, but I can certainly award her with a standing ovation for this truly outstanding piece of literature. Bravo!

14 June 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife etc.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger is one of my absolute favourite books ever and now the film is *finally* coming out! The production seemingly took forever, but here is the first result - the trailer:

I'm usually quite apprehensive about movies based on novels (goodness knows the book is always, repeat, always better than the film), but I'm actually rather excited about this one. I really like the trailer and it makes me want to re-read the book, hehe.

Oh and the book was so so so so so amazing, words can't describe how much I loved it. I read it about three years ago, I think, and very few books have managed to come close to the awesomeness of this book. I couldn't possibly choose my all-time favourite novel, but The Time Traveler's Wife, We Need to Talk About Kevin and Wintergirls are really, really high on that list as they are incredibly beautiful, poignant and very well written.

Speaking of Wintergirls, I finished it daaaays ago, but right now I'm busy o
ut of my mind and exhausted and have neither the time nor the energy to do a proper review. I'm looking forward to talking (writing) about it though because it's obviously immediately become one of my favourite books - for a reason!

ps: Audrey Niffenegger's highly anticipated next novel Her Fearful Symmetry comes
out in October, buuuuuut yours truly already has a copy of the manuscript!! *squee & happy dance* I really have high hopes for it, will read it as soon as I have some proper time off, but that won't be until July. I'm so excited about it though! :)

"Julia and Valentina Poole are normal American teenagers - normal, at least, for identical 'mirror' twins who have no interest in college or jobs or possibly anything outside their cozy suburban home. But everything changes when they receive notice that an aunt whom they didn't know existed has died and left them her flat in an apartment block overlooking Highgate Cemetery in London. They feel that at last their own lives can begin ...but have no idea that they've been summoned into a tangle of fraying lives, from the obsessive-compulsive crossword setter who lives above them to their aunt's mysterious and elusive lover who lives below them, and even to their aunt herself, who never got over her estrangement from the twins' mother - and who can't even seem to quite leave her flat. With Highgate Cemetery itself a character and echoes of Henry James and Charles Dickens, "Her Fearful Symmetry" is a delicious and deadly twenty-first-century ghost story about Niffenegger's familiar themes of love, loss and identity. It is certain to cement her standing as one of the most singular and remarkable novelists of our time."

10 June 2009

Alexandra Potter

I knew that one of old Alexandra Potter books will be reprinted in November and I've come across the cover of Do You Come Here Often? on the Hodder website. Isn't it goooorgeous? I love it! Here's the summary:

What becomes of the broken-hearted?
She was only a teenager when she first had her heart broken. But since then Grace Fairley has moved on. In fact, she`s moved in too – with Spencer, who is handsome, reliable and wants to marry her. Or does he? It`s been a while since she`s even heard mention of their wedding day...

You give love a bad name
Jimi Malik has moved on too. Unlike Grace though, his wedding day to Kylie is just around the corner. They`ve only just met, but he knows he`s found the one for him. Or has he? Because when he skips out of his own stag do and bumps into his ex, Grace, something suddenly doesn`t feel right.

More than a feeling?
It looks like there might be something wonderful between them. But is it worth risking their new-found friendship for? One thing is for sure - as the radio plays its late-night love songs, one girl is about to find out that the best lines can actually be the ones you write yourself...

A romantic comedy that looks at being single again, finding true love and how it can all get very, very complicated...

I'll definitely read this one as soon as it's available - I've read two other novels by Alexandra Potter (Be Careful What You Wish For and Who's That Girl?) and I personally thought they were fantastic. I also bought Me & Mr Darcy, but haven't read it yet; I expect it'll be great though. Oh yeah, another book by her that I also have (still unread) is Calling Romeo - must read that one asap.

So yeah, another lovely book to look forward to in 2009, yay!
(OK, enough slacking, back to work now, blah.)


"When Bruno returns home from school one day in 1942, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their Belin home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance. But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences."


I didn't know what to expect but I sure got more than I bargained for. I suppose it's hard to write a "boring" story about the Holocaust since even the topic itself is haunting, but it's always nice to come across an original take on the subject, which this little book (supposedly a fable) certainly was ... Even though the narration is in third person, the events are described in a way that a nine-year-old boy would observe them - the narration itself is quite simple and repetetive at times. The omniscent narrator, similarly to the main character, appears very naive and through their narration we discover how ignorant Bruno is about what is actually going on around him - he doesn't know what war is, he doesn't know why Jews are different, he doesn't know what goes on at the concentration camp etc. I understand that this naivety of the main character is often criticised, but I personally quite enjoyed this form of narration since it really adds to the effect of the story and a lot is left to reader's imagination. Even though this story takes place in an extremely horrible environment, it is far from graphical, but the hints about the actual going-ons are everywhere so it is easy to imagine what actually went on. As a fable, this story is full of symbols which could be discussed for hours, but I'm not going to go into that now (even though I'd like to some day) ... In conclusion, this may be a short novel, but it's really a very powerful and rather original. And the ending is definitely one of those that I'll never forget ... I admit it left me stunned - I had a hard time reading the last two chapters and afterwards I needed some time to be able to function again.
I recommend this book to anyone and I think it would make a great school read as it really provides a lot of material for discussion about a subject that should not be forgotten so easily.

Obviously, the book has been turned into a film, which I haven't seen yet and I'm not really sure if I want to ... I do and yet I don't. We'll see. Here's the trailer in case anyone's interested.

This book sort of reminds me of the Book Thief by Markus Zusak, another original take on the Holocaust, told from the point of view of Death (you'd be surprised what an amusing narrator the Grim Reaper can be, heh). I read it last year and loved it! Another novel with the similar topic is apparently The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, which is also meant to be really good, but I haven't read it yet (it's already waiting on my bookshelf though) - will report when I do. Click the covers for more info.

8 June 2009

New books!

I got three new books today:

These are not top reading priority, but they're just so incredibly cute, plus getting new books makes me a very happy bunny. :)

ETA: I ordered another book called When You Wish by Kristin Harmel - it seems lovely and I can't wait to read it. I'm also excited about the Confessio
ns of a Reluctant Recessionista by Amy Silver (thanks to Chicklit Club for the heads up!) - must not forget to order that one in October! :)

7 June 2009

PostSecret & more books

I love Sunday Secrets and here's one that seems appropriate, hehe:
I admit I used to scorn chick-lit as well (years ago), but then I discovered what fun it actually is and now I proudly call myself a chick-lit fan and would gladly be seen in public reading an excellent "trashy" book (d'oh, the covers are usually beautiful), I don't care what others think - chick lit ftw! :)

The other day I ordered not one, not two, not three but FOUR books:

I would also like to take this opportunity to express my unadulterated hatred for The Book Depository - the most evil online bookshop ever because they sell fabulous books at a cheap price and most importantly, they do not charge delivery (!!!), which is crucial if you live in continental Europe (like yours truly). Basically, I detest this fantastic bookshop because they made my dreams come true and now I order books like a maniac; it's like feeding heroin to a junkie, really bad. The reasonable part of me thinks this is the worst thing that could have happened to a book junkie like me, but the book junkie in me looooooooooooves it. I can't express how happy I feel when I get home from work and there are new books waiting for me. :D

Speaking of which, the two books I ordered last week arrived yesterday and I'll probably start reading Wintergirls tonight, provided I don't slack too much (again) throughout the day.

I also finished reading The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas yesterday and I can't wait to review it as the book was incredible, one that will stay with me forever. But that'll have to wait as I've already wasted enough time online and must focus now on other, supposedly more pressing tasks. Ta-ta!

ETA @ 00:21 - READING WINTERGIRLS. SEVENTY PAGES IN AND I AM AMAZED, REALLY BLOWN AWAY. I hang on every word and this just might be by far the best book I've read in a loooong while. Wish I could stay up all night reading it but sadly that isn't possible (damn you, real world). But all I can say for now is WOW.

5 June 2009

Review: POP TART by Kira Coplin & Julianne Kaye **

"She was America's sweetheart. Until the love affair ended with a bang! Young make-up artist Jackie Reilly has always dreamed of making it big in TinselTown, concealing the flaws of the rich and famous. Stuck in a rut with a crazy boss, she thinks her big break will never come - until she meets a girl who guarantees her life will never be the same again! 16-year-old Brooke Parker is bubbly, vivacious, charming - and about to become the world's most famous teenager. A pop singer on the verge of superstardom, Brooke instantly takes a shine to Jackie and draws her into a world of white-stretch limos, screaming fans and invitations to VIP events. But as Jackie quickly finds out, fame has its dark side. Forced to juggle the various egos of Brooke's entourage - from bitchy stylists to over-eager publicists and a manager that serves his own interests before all else - all preserving the golden girl image of brand Brooke. Caught in the tight grip of the P.R machine, Brooke starts to rebel, taking Jackie along for the ride. At first her bad girl antics are a blast, earning her even more column inches, but when her heavy partying brings Brooke's demons to the surface she begins to fall apart and soon, she is taking Jackie down with her. When Jackie is forced to learn the rules of showbusiness the hard way, her friendship with Brooke is put to the ultimate test - will she be yet another casualty of Brooke's increasing quest for fame? Or can she save herself - and Brooke?"


This book promises so much, but sadly delivers so little. The plot is non-existant and boring and pointless, the characterization is very poor and I had a hard time understanding the motives for the characters' actions, it all seemed so random. I presume the authors were inspired by the rise and fall of Britney Spears (Brooke is refered to as the pop princess, dated a boyband member and cheated on him, was taken to hospital in the middle of the night etc.), but the book just doesn't deliver. There is no action and on the whole things just don't make sense.

I was also infuriated by the poor editing and a lack of commas in crucial places, namely when someone is being directly addressed! Here are just a few examples:
"Honestly Sheryl, it's fine." (p. 23)
"You're never going to believe this Jackie ..." (p. 23)
"Now remember ladies ..." (p. 37)
"All right ladies, just two more minutes ..." (p. 45)
"Take it easy killah." (p. 55)
"Hey Brooke," I said, suddenly worried. (p. 66)
"Don't worry girls." (p. 67)
The book is full of mistakes like that and I'd be willing to overlook that (sort of) if the book was any good, but this just added to my displeasure. I'd actually rate this book 1/5, but what I liked about it was the cover, the description and they way the characters talk, that kinda works, heh. Otherwise I really don't recommend it, but I can see how someone would be tempted into reading it like I was and I'd love to see what others make of it.

So you're probably thinking I'm crazy for expecting something decent from such an obviously shallow book, but it honestly had potential. I've read other similar books that were rather enjoyable and I particularly remember Hollywood Car Wash by Lori Culwell, which really delivered what it promised - a first-hand account of a life in Hollywood. I read it a long time ago (I have the old cover, it's being rejacketed now), but I know it's a story of a small town girl who stars in a very successful TV show and how she is forced to change into this girl people want to see. She has to change everything, from her name to her body (forced into plastic surgery) and she becomes a part of a power couple with a famous actor who is actually gay etc. - a lot of crazy stuff happens so you can't be surprised when this young star has trouble handling it all. Hollywood Car Wash is a great fictional account of the life that many young stars have probably had to experience to achieve fame. I'd rate it 5/5 and stronly recommend it!

1 June 2009

Review: JOURNAL by Helene Berr ****

"From April 1942 to March 1944, Helene Berr, a recent graduate of the Sorbonne, kept a journal that is both an intensely moving, intimate, harrowing, appalling document and a text of astonishing literary maturity. With her colleagues, she plays the violin and she seeks refuge from the everyday in what she calls the "selfish magic" of English literature and poetry. But this is Paris under the occupation and her family is Jewish. Eventually, there comes the time when all Jews are required to wear a yellow star. She tries to remain calm and rational, keeping to what routine she can: studying, reading, enjoying the beauty of Paris. Yet always there is fear for the future, and eventually, in March 1944, Helene and her family are arrested, taken to Drancy Transit Camp and soon sent to Auschwitz. She went - as is later discovered - on the death march to Bergen-Belsen and there she died in 1945, only weeks before the liberation of the camp. The last words in the journal she had left behind in Paris were "Horror, Horror, Horror...", a hideous and poignant echo of her English studies from "The Heart of Darkness". Helene Berr's story is almost too painful to read, foreshadowing horror as it does amidst an enviable appetite for life, for beauty, for literature, for all that lasts."

When I was younger, I was a big "fan" of Anne Frank's diary - I've read it so many times and for some reason I was strangely fascinated by her life story. I haven't checked Anne's diary in years, but I was still very excited when I heard that another WWII diary had surfaced, this time by a young woman in her early twenties, which made it even more interesting.

Helene Berr was was born in 1921 and lived in Paris. She kept a diary from 1942 to 1944, which she used mainly to write down the incredible horrors of war as well as for describing her daily life. Unlike Anne's family, who were hiding in the secret annexe, Helene's family decided not to run away because they thought that would be cowardly of them. Helene says she expects they will regret their decision eventually, but they still stayed.

At first, Helene talks about her friends and her life as a student of English literature at Sorbonne, but her entries eventually turn into detailed descriptions of war. Obviously, the war has changed her life completely - not only did she have to wear the yellow star and was subjected to all sorts of prohibitions as a Jew, but her father was also taken away for a while along with many of her friends and acquaintances who were deported. When the burden of war because too much to bear, she feels she cann0t write silly things about her life anymore so she uses the diary to record the horrible consequences of war - she says she chose to do this so she wouldn't forget because these things must not be forgotten. Yes, we all know that millions of Jews were brutally murdered during World War II, but that's just empty statistics - Helene, however, makes it all very real as she gives these people a face, so to speak; she writes about people she knows that were deported, children who were left alone, women giving birth on the street, families who commitied suicide so they would avoid deportation, brutal and inhumane executions she heard about etc. These entires are so powerful that I personally found them quite hard to read and they moved me to tears several times. As I said, we all know WWII was possibly one of the biggest tragedies of humanity ever, but reading about someone who actually experienced it all makes it all SO real. How was something so horrible even possible?! Helene wonders that herself but comes to the conclusion that the Nazis simply turned into beasts and machines who don't think about what they're doing, but just do what they're told without an ounce of sympathy because they were completely brainwashed.

As depressing as Helene's journal is, she also devotes a lot of time talking about her friends, the boy she was in love with and had to leave due to war, literature, music etc. In a way, it could be a diary of a normal girls in 1940s if it hadn't been for the war.

Helene sensed what her destiny would be and unfortunately it came true - her whole family was deported to the concentration camp and she passed a few days before liberation, which makes the whole story even more tragic. She instructed their cook to keep her diary if she is taken away and give it to Jean, the boy she fell in love with and who was in the army - she says she was also writing the last party of the journal for him so he would know what she was thinking about and going though while he was away. He survived the war and allowed the publication of the diary, which was published for the first time in 2008 and was an immediate bestseller.

I personally believe that everyone should read this diary in order to avoid forgetting was really happened during WWII and how horrible it was as it is really something that must never be forgotten.