Tag Archives: fame

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

Review: The Year of Living Famously, by Laura Caldwell

The Year of Living FamouslyKyra Felis, a minor clothing designer whose life consists of working temp jobs to make ends meet between each collection she designs, meets Declan McKenna, an up-and-coming Irish actor who sweeps her off her feet. She finds herself married and moves from New York to Los Angeles, where she beings living a life of bliss – until a film Declan starred in a few years back is finally premiered, and he becomes Hollywood’s next big star.

Kyra reluctantly enters life in the fast lane. Declan’s career is sky-rocketing and there are Oscar rumors; in the meantime, celebrities are eying her designs and she finds herself on her own way to designer stardom. But she is uneasy with the changes in her life. Declan acquires a stalker, and the paparazzi are so terrible, they can’t leave the house without bodyguards. Kyra finds herself propelled toward making a choice she really doesn’t want to make.

I first read The Year of Living Famously, by Laura Caldwell, about three years ago, and enjoyed it enough that it has survived every subsequent purging of my shelves to date. Recently I felt like a “comfort read”, and decided to give it a re-read.

The book begins with Kyra telling the story of her brief rise to fame as the wife of a new superstar. Kyra’s voice is wonderful; you feel like you’re doing catch-up with your best friend whom you haven’t seen for a few years. Her relationship with Declan is oh so wonderful. It’s absolutely lovely when all is well, and when you throw in instant fame, a bitchy celebrity, scads of paparazzi and a delusional, possibly dangerous stalker, it really starts getting good.

But funnily enough, this was where the story derailed a little for me the second time around. Which makes me think that it’s me, and not the book, because I don’t have any memories of feeling this way the first time I read it.

What bothered me on this reading was the fact that Kyra didn’t really make much of an effort to enjoy the changes in her life, to be open to the possibilities. There seemed to me to be a decided lack of spunk, independence and spirit, no gleam of a “let me see how I like this” approach to life. She just seemed to decide she didn’t want this, she never asked for this, and it was all a very very bad thing, tarnishing even the bits that involved her own success. I think I would have liked it better if she’d been more open to things as Declan began his rise to fame, maybe approached things with an eye to seeing how this new life might have angles that fit her personally.

Having said that, though, this book was still a good read. I galloped through it happily, and had a warm glow-y feeling when I finished the last page. It won’t survive another bookshelf purge (in fact, I’ll be adding it to my Giftaway shelf), but all that means is that for me, it’s not a keeper anymore. Tastes change. But it was still well-worth the time re-reading it.

Where to buy The Year of Living Famously:

U.S. (Amazon.com)

Canada (Chapters)

UK (Amazon.co.uk)

Review copy details: published by Red Dress Ink, 2004, Trade paperback, 328 pages