August 30, 2011
I'm back. With a vengeance. First review in a while, and it's delightfully snarky.
Chasing Harry Winston
First published in: 2008
This edition: HarperCollins, 2008 (ISBN 978-0-00-726271-7)
Genre: chick lit
Cover design by: unknown
As I'm gazing outside the window of my Amsterdam-based windmill home, overlooking the tulip fields while sipping milk from my Delft Blue mug and nibbling on a chunk of Gouda, I find myself applauding Lauren Weisberger's keen knowledge of Dutch people. My wooden shoes are a worthy rival to any female Manhattanite's Manolo's, perfectly matching my milkmaid outfit. A fat joint completes the ensemble. I really should head out soon and stick my finger in a dike, so I will hurry up and continue this book review.
CHASING HARRY WINSTON is about three best "friends" (yes, quote unquote) whom each decide something about their lives should change. Brazilian socialite Adriana figures that at 30, she really should get married. Emmy, recently dumped by longtime boyfriend Duncan, feels the opposite is true for her: she needs to have sex. Lots of it. And Leigh, well… she doesn't really know what needs to change, until she meets author Jesse Chapman, a well-known player and the only person who seems to get Leigh to loosen up a little.
You're probably wondering what's with the intro. Well, suffice it to say that Weisberger's need to throw in THE single most irritating stereotype about my people no later than page 3 is the reason why CHASING HARRY WINSTON is officially the book I felt the need to throw across the room quicker than any other irritating book. "Since everyone knew Dutch people wear clogs," Weisberger insists. Lame.
The only thing that's even more lame about this book is its poor attempt at recreating a successful story: three "close" girlfriends, each very different from the other, discuss their sex lives / relationships with one and other in Manhattan. Sex and the City, anyone? (Candace Bushnell even gets a plug in the end of the book.)
Oh and I say "close" and "friends" quote/unquote, because while Weisberger tries to convince us readers that Leigh, Adriana and Emmy are besties, I'm thinking these women are sooner jealous of one and other, thinking their catty thoughts, rather than super tight. I liked Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha. All of them different, all of them with their flaws, but all of them sympathetic – and actually close to one and other. Believable friends, and believable characters. Any woman can relate to one of them (or a combination). I could not relate to any of Weisberger's leading ladies.
- Adriana is vain, shallow and full of herself; Weisberger stresses this by pointing out ad nauseam how every man lusts after her and how fabulous she is. If you thought the Dutch stereotype was annoying: Weisberger does not do the Brazilian woman justice, either. I wonder if Gisele goes around saying "querida" every ten seconds, too.
- Leigh is cold and selfish in a way. There's no personality there. I have nothing to write about her, even.
- Emmy is the only one I felt a remote interest in initially, despite her "Tour de Whore". Which is another problem I have with this book. It seems that either Emmy is a prude for having "slept with ONLY 3 (?!) men in her entire life" (it's just not normal!!! Something must be wrong with her), but when she sleeps with 3 more men in this book, she's prostituting herself. I don't even understand why Weisberger is putting her character through it. It's so obvious that Emmy hates the whole thing, craving a steady relationship, that ring around her finger. It makes her seem rather pathetic and desperate at times, clinging to her one-night stands, becoming whiny and unlikable as a result. Pity. Am I to believe she really changed at all?
None of them really change or grow up. Not in a worthy way. What is the point to this book? I really couldn't find one. CHASING HARRY WINSTON is just a bad book. Not only is it shallow and vapid, but the writing itself is appalling.
It's disjointed and lazy. One moment the characters are enjoying (well…) their vacation in Curacao, and just when it gets a bit interesting, BAM!, we're back to Leigh in New York some time later, where she's waiting for a client. It threw me off. Why not finish the Curacao storyline? Why even bring it up if you're not going to follow through with it? The writing is lazy in other aspects as well, an example being that Leigh is at one point in the book referred to by Weisberger as "Leah". Every character (except Adriana, obviously) favors "sweetheart" over any other term of endearment.
Why did I even finish this book? Because I didn't want to abandon yet another one.
I liked THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA and enjoyed EVERYONE WORTH KNOWING, and I'll stand by my reviews of each. But I'm tired of Weisberger's attitude. Hanging out and playing poker with mechanics (p. 156) is somehow beneath the fabulous life of limos and movie stars and fame. Emmy's either a prude or a whore. There's the typical idea that women should spend hours daily blow-drying their locks. (I'm sorry, but ughhhh, the vanity in this book.) Otis the parrot is apparently too fat and needs to have a makeover. (No joke. This is actually in the book.)
And finally, Weisberger completely offends Rosie O'Donnell, stating that in a Who Wore it Better? stand-off, there wasn't even a 0% to 100% outcome when comparing Rosie O'Donnell, who in my opinion is fucking FABULOUS, to Petra Nemcova, a supermodel (Weisberger clearly insinuating that it should have been 0 to 100). See? Shallow. Okay. I got one for you.
Who Wrote it Better?
Candace Bushnell, 100% – Lauren Weisberger, 0%.
>> On a different note, please visit my revived personal blog Miss-Cellophane.com
© Karin E. Lips
2008-2010 and beyond.
December 20, 2010
Everyone Worth Knowing
First published in: 2005
This edition: Downtown Press, 2006
Genre: chick lit
Cover design by Evan Gaffney
Before I got my wisdom teeth removed last month, I already figured I'd be useless, simply curled up on the sofa, with blankets and pillows, stuffing my chipmunk cheeked face with painkillers and custard, wishing I could simply go to sleep and wake up a week later, healed up and sans agony. Reading the day away was the next best thing. So that's what I did. My book of choice was EVERYONE WORTH KNOWING by Lauren Weisberger (followed by LAST CHANCE SALOON by Marian Keyes – to be reviewed later). A light and uplifting read, perfect for someone who had the attention span of a gnat due to discomfort, pain and hunger.
Bette Robinson's job is, well, it's just terrible. Working as a banker is hardly what she imagined herself to be doing when grown up. In an a-typical impulsive moment, Bette decides to quit, and discovers funemployment – the fun of which doesn't usually last long. One can only walk her dog so many times before realizing something needs to change. Luckily, thanks to her uncle, Bette scores a job working for Kelly, who owns one of Manhattan's top PR firms, and gets a taste of the life: parties, nightclubs, celebrities… and being the subject of nasty gossip columns.
The premise sounds pretty typical – young single girl in Manhattan working way up the career ladder while living the life of exclusivity, getting herself (manipulated) into crazy situations. I'm personally growing pretty weary of Manhattan as the back drop for so many of these kinds of books and having the importance of "being someone in New York (and only New York)" stressed all the time.
…there are many similarities to THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, another of Weisberger's books, but I somehow still feel EVERYONE WORTH KNOWING is a tad bit better (and I'm going to be in the minority here) because it seems more successfully satirical.
It's been three years since I've read THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, so I've been racking my brain trying to describe the reason why, but I can't remember feeling as enthusiastic about it as I do with EVERYONE WORTH KNOWING.
In DEVIL, which – as I understand it – is supposed to take a harder stand against "that world" (being based on Anna Wintour and Vogue all), too many names are dropped and brands are mentioned – e.g. product placement – which left me feeling upon finishing that DEVIL is, if anything, one big advertisement. EVERYONE WORTH KNOWING is a little less extreme in defaming the Manhattan elite, and also less extreme in namedropping. It doesn't try so hard either way.
Albeit less than in DEVIL, Lauren Weisberger still plays for both teams somewhat in EVERYONE WORTH KNOWING: what does she want (from us)? To love Manhattan's elite, or hate it? To have it be relevant, or not?
Are we, readers, meant to be in awe at all the celebrities and exclusivity… or have any disgust with the material world justified? Most likely both – Weisberger to me seems to want to please everybody without really taking a clear stand. (I ended my review of DEVIL: "Lauren Weisberger, Choo's your alliance." – I still feel this way.)
Bette for instance has never before heard of a Birkin Bag. I live in a hole in The Netherlands and while I like bags, I don't really give a crap about labels. Even I know what a Birkin Bag is. Then again, several pages later Bette flawlessly describes one man's entire outfit, including his "men's latest orange Pumas".
I would have perhaps been less hard on the author if Bette really knew zilch about Birkin Bags AND orange puma's AND Armani dresses. This was my main problem with DEVIL. The heroine is supposed to be sort of an antagonist against the material world, yet it is made too relevant – it's Prada this, Blahnik that.
It's inconsistent, but consistently so – not 1, but 2 of Weisberger's books have left me feeling this way.
Weisberger's none too kind about Kelly or her employees, having them drink too much, snort whatever can be snorted up their noses and making sure the (fictional) celeb is a complete tool. But they live the life, and Weisberger does glam it up. What's a banker compared to someone in PR, after all?
What makes EVERYONE WORTH KNOWING worth reading is Bette: she helps to make the book more likable. Bette is one of the most lovely characters I've ever "met" in the chick lit genre. She is like a breath of fresh air to me: very sympathetic and sensible enough, swept away in Manhattan's society but never losing herself in it. Bette doesn't sell out, much preferring her beloved Harlequin book club as opposed to hanging out with slimy celebrities.
Yes, Bette lacks initiative and a back bone, but I don't seek a perfect heroine and couldn't help but adore her, which is very important when reading chick lit – for me anyway. I only read the first part of the SHOPAHOLIC series and felt no need to continue it, mostly because Rebecca Bloomwood frustrated me too much.
Bette is in ways someone I can relate to, despite so many life differences. I think her personality just speaks to me.
The sub-story about her friendships with Penelope and Michael is poor though; Penelope's sub-story seems like predictable filler, and Michael fades away into the background.
One point of irritation regards the gay uncle, whose abundant use of "darling" bothers me to no end; it's like he is channeling the ladies of "Absolutely Fabulous", and doing it badly. Add to that his die-hard republican-ism and I can't help but to shout "SERIOUSLY?!" and shake my head.
But the most important sub-story is sweet and successful: there's a lot of chemistry between Bette and her love interest, their story nicely developed. Definitely swoon material, which is also very important for chick lit. Perhaps – together with a likable narrator – even more than an author taking a clear stand.
I just can't help but to think like a critic more and more. Three years of book reviewing has altered the way I read books: while I can enjoy a book for what it is, I do mentally note the best and worst about it. I think about every book and ask myself questions. So this review will probably come across as very critical.
But ask me the question, "did you enjoy reading it?" – I'll answer, yes. Because I really did. Despite the inconsistencies, despite my questioning Weisberger's satirical merits, EVERYONE WORTH KNOWING is a perfectly pleasant read. Dental work or not.
© Karin E. Lips
2008-2010 and beyond.
September 16, 2008
The Devil Wears Prada
Book bought in: Moab, Utah – USA
Strike a pose…
In this review, the book has not been compared to the movie; I wanted to review the book in itself.
As a horribly unfashionable person myself (at least, that’s what I believe, as Prada does nothing for me and I can’t for the life of me walk in heels, oh, and I like my hips), picking up The Devil Wears Prada with all of its fashion stereotypes meant indulging in a guilty pleasure.
Andy, a freshly graduated aspiring writer, ends up landing an unlikely job as junior assistent to Miranda Priestly, fashion editor and bitch extraordinaire. I say unlikely, because Andy doesn’t care about fashion; she hopes one year as Miranda’s assistant will open the doors to her future as a writer for The New Yorker, a magazine the polar opposite of Miranda’s Runway magazine.
While taking on the most ridiculous tasks (from drycleaning to coffeeruns to more coffeeruns because the other coffee had slightly cooled off), Andy tries to keep herself afloat in the superficial pool that is the fashion industry according to Miranda, trying not to let everything take its toll on her personal life – though inevitably, Andy’s carreer does wreak havoc in certain relationships.
Although Andy might have done herself a favour if she’d put up an ‘Whatever, it’s temporary, I’ll just suck it up’ attitude instead of allowing herself to rage on the inside, Miranda really is a foul woman and I sympathised with Andy.
I couldn’t quite muster up any sympathy for her boyfriend Alex or her best friend Lily, as I found both of them to be the selfish ones, as opposed to Andy.
This book is satirical to the max, definitely what I longed for when I started the first page (re: fashion stereotypes), though I somehow feel cheated.
Here I was, a naive unfashionable person, and having finished this book I somehow seem to know a whole lot more about Prada and Manolo’s than I really care for.
Weisberger, with her no-mercy descriptions of her various shallow characters, wants me to be repulsed by the fashion industry and its rather ridiculous standards, but in the meantime she is effectively trying to seduce me into admiring, and perhaps even desiring this pair of Jimmy Choo’s. I remember completely drooling over eleborate descriptions of Andy’s make-up case, sponsored by Runway. What? Why? That wasn’t supposed to happen. This was supposed to be… satire, mocking the fear of eating three calories more, stuff like that.
…I feel dirty. Quite possibly, a little cheap too.
Lauren Weisberger: Choo’s your alliance.
2007 I mean 2008. Haha. I still confuse years.
Copyright © Karin Elizabeth. All rights reserved. This photo is public only so you ("the public") may view it; it is not to be used as free stock. Use without written consent by the author (that would be me) is illegal and punishable by law; I will take action. So, contact me beforehand if you are interested in using this image or any of my others (non-)commercially.
R&R series with photos and text © 2008 Karin Elizabeth.
Please contact me if you'd like to use this review.
© Karin E. Lips
2008-2010 and beyond.