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text 2014-05-16 16:03
Lorde: Your Heroine
Lorde: Your Heroine - Marc Shapiro

Not one I could recommend. My daughters are both fans, and when I asked them if they were interested, they both separately said, in effect "She's seventeen. What's there to read about?" Well, the author is impressed that she's smart (unlike all the other pop stars he's ever written about, apparently). And she's a feminist. Of course, you'll have to take everything here with a grain of salt. The author is either clueless, or he thinks in cliches, because he's quick to inform the reader that she's not a bra-burning feminist. Oh, well, good, I'm glad she's not one of those imaginary strawfeminists one hears so much about.

There's probably nothing here that will really hurt anyone, it's just vapid. Fans might enjoy it, despite the poor writing.

Kindle copy for review from NetGalley

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review 2014-01-02 09:25
Review: Annette Funicello, America's Sweetheart by Marc Shapiro
Annette Funicello: America's Sweetheart, An Unauthorized Biography - Marc Shapiro

Pre-read thoughts: I need to start checking authors on NG more often when I request, but this is by the same biographer who wrote E.L. James's unauthorized biography that I read earlier this year. I'm going to give it a try though since this is written on someone I grew up listening to (some stories there, but too many to go into in this reflection), so we'll see how it goes.

Post read thoughts: Bad enough I read a biography from this author that I completely didn't like, but he also managed to screw up presenting details on a person I actually admire. Honestly, it's worth your time to read A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes: My Story, Annette Funicello's own autobiography versus this book, because all this book presents is just a compilation of information from that and from various secondary sources, plus the author's own biases. And there is under the bus throwing in this, which - despite him not naming names, doesn't make much of a difference if he's still doing it.

Full review:

I think the biggest way to sum up Marc Shapiro's biography of Annette Funicello is that it's poorly written, sensationalistic, and just downright patronizing, at least in it's respective tone. Shapiro evokes this image of Funicello as "America's Sweetheart," but it's almost like he's talking down to the reader and telling them what to think about her respective history and such, using the language of "we know she was/did such and such" and everything else. He doesn't approach her legacy with any kind of maturity. Annette Funicello had much to give to the world, not just with her sweet demeanor and portrayals on screen, but for the causes she worked for as well.

I have a connection to Funicello in that her first name is a part of my name, and a close member of my family was named after her since my family member was born the same year that Funicello first appeared on the Mickey Mouse Club. I grew up listening to some of Funicello's songs like "Pineapple Princess," which was recorded in 1960. Some people may remember my status update where I posted part of the lyrics to that song on the day she died. The loss definitely hit home with me, and I do remember memories of seeing animations put to her music (some might remember DTV which broadcast back in the 80s, where various songs were set to Disney animations - Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and pretty much all the Disney gang were emotionally matched in fun, sometimes emotional montages to the music.)

But tangents aside, my biggest disappointment was that there really wasn't anything new or constructive in Shapiro's narrative. You could just as well read Funicello's autobiography "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes" and get more from that than you could in this narrative, even with the listing of her filmography and recordings included at the end of the narrative. Plus, Shapiro somewhat sensationalizes relations and makes it more of a "trainwrecky" narrative with great liberties taken in the delivery - taking shots at Walt Disney among a number of other figures, and it really is inappropriate in terms of showcasing Funicello's legacy and contributions. I'm not even sure why he went there. For a biography, that is not how you write it, and the biases were really in full view here.

About the only thing that would be newer in terms of Funicello's life offered in this was more narratives leading up to the time she died. She was diagnosed with MS and suffered from complications in silence for quite sometime before she disclosed it to the world. There's a mention of when she made her last sitcom appearance on the TV series "Full House." (And I actually remember that episode.) She did so much to bring light to discussions and research for a cure to MS through her life, and with all that, Shapiro focuses somewhat on it, but then turns around and puts a bird's eye view on her debilitation condition, even saying at one point she "wasn't pretty." By that point I was just glad I was almost done with the narrative.

Long and short story of the matter, skip this one. It does nothing to contribute itself as a good biography of a wonderful person and entertainer.

Overall score: 0.5/5 stars

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.

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review 2013-02-13 00:00
The Secret Life of E.L. James
The Secret Life of EL James: an unauthorized biography - Marc Shapiro This is a short book, which makes sense because there really isn't much to say. Everything you would want to know about EL James you could easily find via Google. This book serves to collect everything in one place.
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review 2013-01-14 00:00
The Secret Life of EL James: an unauthorized biography - Marc Shapiro The blurb for this book sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Except that it wasn’t, not really. To be honest, I’ve got to admit that it can’t be easy writing an un-authorized biography these days. With all sorts of information about virtually everybody freely available on the internet and the book’s subject not participating in the work, it must be all but impossible to come up with information that isn’t already widely available in the public arena. And writing a book about a phenomenon like E.L. James and her trilogy only makes that problem bigger. The lady and her books have been written and talked about by anybody and everybody; from professional reviewers and journalists to fellow authors and enthusiastic amateurs like me. So my first observation about this book is that it didn’t contain anything that was new or surprising to me and I it would astonish me if anybody else interested in this author will find anything they didn’t already know in this book.

My second observation is that the blurb makes this book sound a bit more exciting than it actually is. For example, if you’re hoping to discover something exciting about that “red room of pain” you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Yes, the room gets mentioned, but not in the way you might imagine or hope.

And then there are the mistakes. I came across two bits of information that I know for sure were wrong. Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books are a quartet and not a trilogy as stated in this work. And “Need” by Sherri Hayes is not her second book, although it is the second title in her wonderful “Finding Anna” series. The worry of course is that if I can pick up on two mistakes this easily, there could well be a lot more misinformation here that I haven’t picked up on. I don’t know and am willing to give Mr. Shapiro the benefit of the doubt but I would say: reader beware.

And finally I want to point out one inconsistency that annoyed me. In the first part of the book, when Marc Shapiro writes about the days when James first started writing her story, he states that she wrote for her personal pleasure with no thoughts of getting published, never mind fame and fortune. By the time he gets to the end of the book though, he is suddenly telling us what a clever business woman she is and that she had been planning her marketing strategy from a very early stage. Obviously it can only be one or the other, and this book doesn’t tell us which one it is.

So, after all those complaints, why did I still rate this book 3.5 stars? First and foremost because it was an easy and smooth read. I flew through the pages and enjoyed some of the quotes I ran across:

I liked the answer James’ husband gave when asked what it was like being married to an author of erotic fiction: “Mostly it’s just like being married”

And the following two from James herself:

"There are a lot of ways to describe an orgasm. But at a certain point I ran out of ways."

"I think first person point of view is much easier to write than third person point of view. So naturally I took the easy way out."

I also think this might be a nice little book for anyone who wants to have all their information on E.L. James together in one place. Marc Shapiro has taken all the bits and pieces available in the media and arranged them in a very accessible way, saving fans the trouble of having to do the work themselves. And with James having many millions of enthusiastic fans I am sure there is a good market for this book.

I also liked the extra information available after the actual biography has concluded: discographies, of the classical albums as well as the list as blogged by James, a history of erotic fiction and a piece on Cinema Erotic.

This is a nice little book about an interesting author provided you’re not hoping to discover anything you didn’t already know.
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review 2012-12-30 00:00
The Secret Life of E.L. James
The Secret Life of EL James: an unauthorized biography - Marc Shapiro The Secret Life of E.L. James, eh? What's the secret?That she's actually fully literate? Because her writing would suggest otherwise.That she didn't just find out about sex? Okay, well, she's a mother so obviously she didn't, and it's not secret. But, again, going by her writing one has to wonder.Okay, how about she did more than read other people's fan fiction and watch movies as "research" about BDSM? Well, I think we all know the answer to that.Does she have a shred of integrity?Any ethics to speak of?Or morals, like, at all?Does she even know where the Pacific Northwest is?Does she care about any human being other than herself?Maybe cares that she insulted the people who helped her get where she is?Does she know what domestic abuse is?If she does, is she okay with it?Is she seriously so heinous she truly feels like she was forced into, and wasted time, writing several thousand God-awful words for charity? CHILDREN'S CHARITY. Or maybe the secret is the extent to which she stole from those other fan fictions and movies, outside of the characters, plot, and scenes with words changed she took directly from Twilight?Maybe it's how much work went into all that stealing, and then the simply changing slight details and claiming it's original work? I'm sure that was so difficult for her.But I think the number one secret we would all love the answer to is: What, exactly, were the terms of the deal with Satan that resulted in the inexplicable popularity and improbable financial success of such a poorly written, porn without plot Twilight fan fiction? If any of the above questions were adequately addressed, honestly, I'd maybe consider reading this as it's on NetGalley. But from what I've seen it's just another sycophantic cash-grab that has the audacity to compare ELJ to real authors, with talent, who write original fiction, and dismiss all criticisms against this woman claiming that we would all do what ELJ did.Sorry, Mr. Shapiro, if you've discovered you have a similar lack of ethics and integrity you'll have to deal with that on your own. Don't speak for the rest of us.If you're looking for actual truth, read through some of these links.
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