Tag Archives: celebrities

Review: L.A. Candy, by Lauren Conrad

L.A. CandyJane Roberts and Scarlett Harp, best friends since grade school, are rooming together in L.A.; Jane is an intern for the famous and infamous event planner, Fiona Chen, and Scarlett’s starting her first semester at USC. While at a local nightclub hotspot, they’re spotted by reality TV producer Trevor Lord, who signs them up to star in his next big reality hit, L.A. Candy, along with heiress Madison and the somewhat ditzy Gaby.

Jane soon finds herself right in the middle of the spotlight as L.A. Candy explodes onto the reality TV scene. She’s a star, now, and getting the celebrity treatment from everyone. The problem? As Jane will discover, celebrity status isn’t always fun and games.

Sounds pretty good, right?

If it weren’t for one big thing, I’d probably be writing something like “A fast, easy read. While the characters tend toward stereotypes, the behind-the-scenes look at reality television is interesting. The storyline picks up pace midway through the book, propelling the reader to a satisfying …”

And that’s the problem. You see, I can’t write that the reader is propelled to a satisfying ending.

The thing is, L.A. Candy, by Lauren Conrad, doesn’t have an ending.

I was rather stunned when I read the last line of the last paragraph and realized there were no more pages to come. In fact, I even went to Amazon, and typed in a sentence from the last paragraph into the “Search inside this book” feature, because I had the vague notion that, perhaps, a few chapters were missing from the end of my copy of the book.

Unfortunately, there were no missing chapters. That was the ending. Or rather, non-ending.

As a reader, I really dislike cliffhanger endings. There’s just something annoying about investing all that time into reading a novel, only to find out you’re not going to be told how things end, not until the next book in the series.

Still, some cliffhanger endings do work; usually, the characters resolve the main storyline, the situation that’s driven them for most of the novel, and then the author slips in a little something extra, leaving everything up in the air again. That’s not the case here. In L.A. Candy, nothing is resolved.

Cliffhangers also generally involve something major. You know, like maybe the fate of the world is hanging in the balance. Big stuff like that. In this particular cliffhanger, though, what’s hanging in the balance doesn’t come anywhere near the fate of the world (well, except maybe to Jane). As a reader, I just didn’t feel that invested in Jane and her story for a cliffhanger ending to work for me.

L.A. Candy is the first book in what looks to be a three-book series. And yes, if it had been titled L.A. Candy, Part I, I wouldn’t have liked the cliffhanger ending any better, but I would have at least been prepared for it. In this case, for me that element of surprise most certainly did not work to the book’s advantage.

The Rest of This Review

Leaving aside my antipathy for cliffhanger endings, and understanding that not every reader shares this dislike, here’s the rest of my review, in list format:

  1. Jane Roberts is, as her name indicates, the average girl next door. The problem I had with her was that she was just a little too bland. I do understand that TV viewers always love the girl next door, but as a reader, I would have liked a little bit more.
  2. On the other hand, I loved Scarlett Harp, Jane’s brainy and gorgeous friend. I found myself wishing she had a larger role in the book.
  3. Being in a reality TV show is definitely not all fun and games. I thought the book did a pretty good job of showing a behind-the-scenes look at how it would feel to be a reality TV star.
  4. Conflict isn’t introduced until midway through the novel, which is probably a little late in the game; however, I found the glimpse into the making of a reality TV show, which takes up most of the first half of the novel, interesting enough to compensate for the lack of conflict initially.
  5. Once the hint of conflict was introduced, you could pretty well see the shape and form it would take from a mile away; still, it had me reading quickly to see how things would go. Until that non-ending, of course. But wait. I said I wasn’t going to talk about that here, didn’t I?

All in all, this would have been a light, easy read, perfect for the beach, if it weren’t for the cliffhanger ending. On the other hand, I am, obviously, not the target market for this novel. With this in mind, I’ve given my copy of L.A. Candy to a friend of my daughter who is 16, an avid reader, and also happens to watch The Hills – in other words, solidly within the target market. I’ll be interested to see what she thinks.

Where to buy L.A. Candy:

U.S. (Amazon.com) | IndieBound | Canada (Chapters) | UK (Amazon.co.uk)

Review copy details: published by Harper Teen, 2009, ARC, 326 pages

Incoming! Audition, by Barbara Walters

Incoming! is a feature at Ms. Bookish that chronicles new books that have arrived in the Ms. Bookish household. Here’s the latest new arrival:

Audition, by Barbara Walters

AuditionAbout the Book:

Barbara Walters, arguably the most important woman in the history of television, has had an amazingly full life. In the bestselling Audition, she describes her extraordinary public and private journey.

Initial thoughts:

I picked this up at Costco – I confess, I make the bulk of my impulse book purchases at Costco. We go weekly (we live in the suburbs, and shopping is just about the only form of entertainment around here – it’s a good thing I’m bookish), and the book tables are always so enticing.

I have this thing about memoirs and autobiographies – I love reading them, but it often takes me a while to get through one. I’ve learned that it’s better for me to just get my own copy rather than borrow it from the library. I’m not exactly stellar about remembering due dates and when I should be renewing, so to be honest, I end up racking up nearly enough late fees to have purchased a book in the first place!

This is a memoir I’ve had on my TBR list for a while now. Barbara Walters is an intriguing woman, and I know I will enjoy this book. Glancing through the chapter titles only serves to confirm this: “A very normal girl”, “Don’t let the bastards get your down”, “Heads of State: The Good, the Bad, and the Mad” – they make me want to pop straight into various chapters.

Related Links and other Fun Stuff

Here’s Barbara Walters talking about Audition:

Where to buy Audition:

U.S. (Amazon.com)

Canada (Chapters)

UK (Amazon.co.uk)

Review: Up Till Now, by William Shatner

Up Till NowUsually when I finish reading a memoir or an autobiography, I come away with a sense of connection of sorts with the author, a feeling that I’ve shared in some of the personal details of his or her life. This wasn’t quite the feeling I got with Up Till Now, William Shatner’s autobiography; however, the book is uproariously funny and highly entertaining, with occasional flashes of something deeper.

In Up Till Now, Shatner covers all of his acting career, from his start in theatre in Montreal to his most current role on Boston Legal. Shatner’s in his 70s now, so it’s been a very long career, and for many years, even with all the television parts he was getting, it was very much about working to pay the next lot of bills. Despite this, though, it’s clear that Shatner has enjoyed his career thoroughly.

He adroitly handles various criticisms that have been aimed at him by gently poking fun at himself. For example, on his well-known tendency to pause when he’s saying his lines:

Part of the reason I was becoming better known was what people perceived to be an unusual. Speech. Pattern. Apparently I was becoming known for. Pausing, between words, in. Unusual places. People have commented that it calls attention to the. Words, I’m saying. It provides a different kind of emphasis on a line. I have no idea where that. Came from. Possibly it came from the fact I was working so often in so many different types of plays and television program and movies that at times I did need to hesitate to remember my next words. Possibly, that’s just an assumption, but the reality is that I don’t even hear it. I can mock the idea. I understand people hear me speaking. That way. They’ve even put a name to it, calling it Shatnerian. As in, ah yes, the character spoke with true Shatnerian eloquence.

Shatner only touches on certain things that might have provided more of an insight into who he is. For example, he mentions that many of the Star Trek cast members disliked him, but he really doesn’t seem to know why. About his previous marriages, he admits that he didn’t know how to be married, but he doesn’t explore his relationships much beyond this.

For much of his career, Shatner did not consider himself to be a star, although everyone was always promising to make him a star. It’s apparent that his rise to stardom, through his role of Kirk on Star Trek, came as a complete surprise to him; it wasn’t until he accepted the first invitation to a Star Trek convention that he realized what an impact the series had had on people. To him, Kirk had been just a role, and he was a seasoned television actor who had played many, many roles.

It was impossible to truly grasp what was happening, because nothing like it had ever happened before. A failed television show was becoming a cultural phenomenon. While we were making the series I had often been recognized, but suddenly it started happening all the time and in strange places. People would come up to me in airports and recite ten pages of dialogue word-for-word from a specific episode they loved – and I would have absolutely no concept of what they were doing.

One thing I really took away from the book was the rigor involved in the filming of a television series; despite Shatner’s often very humorous look at his television career, it’s clear that being on a television show isn’t all glamour and roses. It’s hard work – and hard work and a disciplined work ethic is one thing Shatner definitely seems to have.

Stylistically, I could have done without the first chapter of false starts. I didn’t like muddling through any of that, but once all the fun was wrung out of that, the real fun began in earnest. I also didn’t really enjoy the little cliffhangers that occurred, when Shatner would discuss a particular anecdote and then break off right in the middle to go off on a very deliberate tangent. The “commercial breaks”, on the other hand, were quite funny; I couldn’t help but laugh at the plugs for his online store, for example. And the various sections where he pauses to list all the types of Star Trek memorabilia one can buy had me grinning.

He admits near the beginning of the book that he loves to make things up; this colored my perception of the rest of the book somewhat. I was never too sure when he was pulling the reader’s leg …

Mostly, though, there is an exuberance to the writing that made this a very fun book to read. What I came away with most of all was an overall view of Shatner the entertainer. It’s not that there’s no ego involved; in fact, there’s quite a bit of ego involved! But he is, after all, in show business. And while Up Till Now doesn’t illuminate the soul of the man for readers, neither do I think that to be its intention. Up Till Now sets out to entertain us, and it does its job very, very well. I laughed out loud frequently while reading the book, and I was still smiling when I closed the book. Deep and complex? Not at all. But definitely a very fun read.

Related Links and Fun Stuff

Shatner talks about his performance of “Rocket Man” on the Science-Fiction Movie Awards in 1978:

For two decades stories about this performance have been passed down from father to son and rare bootleg copies of the video were passed around. Men boasted of owning a first-generation copy and invited women home to see it. Parodies of my performance have been done on several shows, including Family Guy and Futurama. But now several dozen versions of it can routinely be accessed on the Internet, particularly on YouTube – and with more than a million people a year still mystified by it. And about that, I am not kidding.

Really, how could I resist? I’m not much of a pop culture kind of person, so I for one hadn’t heard about “the best-known performance of the song “Rocket Man” ever done”. Here it is:

Where to buy Up Till Now:

U.S. (Amazon.com)

Canada (Chapters)

UK (Amazon.co.uk)

Review copy details: published by Thomas Dunne Books, 2008, hardcover, 342 pages