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review 2019-06-13 10:29
An American-Latina Cinderella story and a whirlwind soap opera
The Perfect Date - Holly L Lorincz,Evelyn Lozada

I thank NetGalley and St. Martin’s (MacMillan) for providing me an early ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Although I don’t normally look at the reviews of a book in detail before I read it (I do to decide if I’m interested in reading the book or not, but I don’t want to spoil my enjoyment), because I update my current reading on several book sites, I can’t help but see what the general ratings for the book I’m about to start reading look like. Let me tell you I was alarmed when I saw how many 1 star reviews this book had. I was even more concerned because, based on the description, I had agreed to participate in a Blog tour, and I was worried about having made a serious mistake and having to vow out of it. Luckily, I enjoyed the book (yes, it’s far from perfect, but I wasn’t expecting perfection), and I wonder if having read the reviews and getting a clear idea of what had upset other readers didn’t prepare me for what was to come and helped me not go into it with false expectations.

The cover, I think, can make people expect a “sweet” or “cute” romance. Well, that, it is not. The description hints at the personality of Angel (perhaps more accurately than that of Duke, whom many readers didn’t like at all), but readers might have expected a more standard romance, where the romantic side of things is the main story. I agree with the readers who said this novel has a lot of “drama”. Oh, yes, it does. It is like a melodrama on steroids, rough around the edges, and it feels like a fairly extreme soap opera. People wear their hearts (and rage) on their sleeves, they don’t do stiff-upper-lip or measured emotions, and they throw themselves headlong into life. It might be because I’m Spanish and we are supposed to be “red-blooded” (what other colour our blood would be, I have no idea), “passionate”, and “hot tempered” and those attributes (I don’t think they are always helpful, but I refuse to call them defects) are also expected of Latinos in general, and because I’ve watched and enjoyed Central and South-American soap operas, but I did like the oomph of Angel, the main character, even if she was not always consistent (but hey, I’ve never found characters in romantic novels or chick-lit entirely consistent). In some ways, her part of the story has strong elements of women’s fiction, even if the style of writing is different. A young Puerto-Rican woman, a single mother from a young age, she’s had to fight against the odds to try to make a living for herself and her little boy, Jose, who unfortunately suffers from asthma. Working two jobs at the same time, studying all hours to get her nursing qualification, and relying on her friend Gabriela, the hairdresser with a heart of gold (the interaction between the women sometimes made me think of Steel Magnolias and Fried Green Tomatoes, minus the Southern gentility), being subject to a #metoo kind of situation (well, more than one), she is pushed and pulled in all directions but tries to remain strong and keep her moral compass. Yes, she loses her cool every so often, but I cheered her on more than once.

Hers is a Cinderella story, indeed, one in a more soap operatic style than a gentle fairy tale (not that fairy tales are truly gentle), with over the top villains who seem to be villains just because they are (no justification or exploration of the baddies. In olden times, I’m sure one of them would have worn a big moustache he’d twirl, and the other one would have been a proper witch), and where Cinderella is far from the passive and pretty young girl just waiting for the prince to come rescue her (she actually kicks him out more than once). The love interest, Caleb, “The Duke”, has his own Cinderella story, as they share in their humble origins (although he is African-American rather than Puerto-Rican), but he’s now living the aftermath of the Cinderella story, and realising that the people who surround him are not true friends, and money cannot buy the really important things. Many readers say he is not likeable because he thinks only of himself (well, yes, mostly, although he shows concern for Angel’s boy, puts his own career at risk for him, and he is also outraged when he reads about the lack of appropriate asthma treatment for children from diverse ethnic background). We do learn about his circumstances, he is put through the wringer in the novel, and his character bears some resemblance to the rakes readers of Georgian and Victorian literature are so fond of. (Perhaps he lacks some of the charm, but that might be in part because we see him from his own point of view at times, rather than what tends to happens with the rogues, who tend to remain attractive, mysterious and dangerous men, whose motivations we know little about). He helps save the day in the end, and, although he will not rate among my favourite male protagonists, he isn’t the worst either.

The book includes many side-stories —I’ve mentioned the issue of the lack of treatments for Jose, and the novel makes a serious point about the lack of investment in research, by the pharmaceutical companies, of appropriate treatment for diverse populations. Yes, we are not all young white males and our bodies do not respond the same as theirs to the medication; and we also have difficult family relations, grief, sexual harassment, alcohol and drug abuse… — and it is set in the world of sports (baseball), and of celebrity culture. Considering Lozada’s credentials, I am not surprised she has a lot to say on the subject, and the baseball players’ wives (a bit like the footballers’ wives in other countries) interactions rang true. There are comedic moments, although they are far from subtle and some people might not find them funny, but if you let yourself go along for the ride and get into the spirit of it, this is a fun read, touching and inspiring as well.

The book is narrated in the third-person, alternating the points of view of Angel and The Duke. As I said, I read an early ARC copy of the novel, and I noticed readers complained about there not being a clear distinction between the one point of view and the other, but expect this will have been corrected in the final version of the novel, as will, I hope, some awkward Spanish phrasing at the beginning of the book.

Although this is not a standard romantic novel, the ending does live up to the genre (wish-fulfilment and all) and yes, I enjoyed it. If you’re easily offended or are looking for a genteel and/or gentle romance, this is not the book for you. I’d recommend reading through the sample and being prepared for a full-on whirlwind soap, that stretches the limits of credibility (and for some, perhaps, of good taste), and mixes a lot of other genres. If all that doesn’t scare you, give it a go! It will be a wild ride!

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review 2016-02-25 00:00
Idols and Celebrity in Japanese Media Culture
Idols and Celebrity in Japanese Media Culture - Patrick Galbraith,Jason Karlin The subject is very interesting if you are fan of J-pop or J-culture, but the way it was presented -the way it was written- made it hard to enjoy it at full. It seems like this was the thesis of the author, with lots of quotations from other authors, lots of notes and a conclusion at the end of each chapter. There are plenty of boring facts in full detail. As much curious as I am for virtual idols and old past idols and the gay community rooting for X idol, it dragged a bit. Honestly I am not a fan of girl idols, like AKB48 but I found very interesting the fact that a virtual idol with parts of the AKB48. I did not read it before (since I don't follow the group) and I was surprised and a little bit in awe.

Mostly I've read this for the Johnnys chapter, which was hilarious. Almost all the facts are based on Arashi (90%) and SMAP (10%). The little conversation transcribed between Nino and Ohno was so amusing. I knew they love to fanservice, but I wasn't aware that it was so much. It cracked me up.

So basically this book tells that idols are normal people without a talent (dancing nor singing nor acting) but they have that "something" that is, merely, charisma. We fans know that they are hopeless and we still love them. Since I am into J&A I could relate to most of the text: buying CD/DVD to support the idol, cheering for them even if they can't sing (Nakai), loving their CM and thinking "they are totally like that". It is funny.

Also funny and so over-the-top is how far some fans will go for their idols. As in, buying 10, 20 CDs to make them on the Top Charts! Buying 10, 20 CDs to shake their hands! Now I am constantly wondering if XX idol, just because they are on the top, means they are popular.... Is Arashi really that popular? Or are there enough crazy fans that buy and buy their stuff so their sales numbers are high? I wonder.

If you are a fan, read it. Most facts maybe will sound familiar, since as a fan, you are in that environment. In spite of the bad presentation, it was an interesting book. Some chapters. Others I would have skimmed (I kinda did, the last chapter ^_^)
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video 2014-05-07 05:10

Must Watch! 

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review 2013-12-18 15:17
Long-Awaited Conclusion to a Flawed but Intriguingly Unique Series
The Redhead Plays Her Hand - Alice Clayton

I don't follow celebrity culture. I rarely go to the movies. I don't even own a TV. I don't read fashion or entertainment magazines, and on those rare occasions where I pick one up (in the waiting room at the doctor's office, say), I don't have any idea who half the people featured are. So for me, reading Alice Clayton's Redhead series is almost like reading sci-fi or paranormal romance -- the characters might as well be aliens or nonhuman creatures, for their lives and priorities and motivations make no sense to me. 

 

The Redhead Plays Her Hand is the last of the trilogy featuring the romance between 33-year-old Grace Sheridan and 24-year-old Jack Hamilton. Grace is a newcomer to Hollywood, though her star is on the rise: she's been cast as the lead in a cable television series billed as "a cross between GleeThe Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and Sex and the City." (Of these three, the only one I've ever seen is Glee: I watched some of the first season while on maternity leave with my oldest son, now three, and I haven't seen it since. This is how out-of-touch I am with celebrity culture.) Jack is Hollywood's latest It Boy, a young British actor whose fame has exploded after he stars in a wildly successful movie "based on a series of popular erotic short stories" involving time-travel. (Think Robert Pattinson, maybe? -But not as experienced. Robert Pattinson in the midst of the mad hype that surrounded the first Twilight movie release... and actually, I've since read somewhere that this series started as Pattinson fan fiction, though I didn't know that while I was reading.)

 

The first two books, The Unidentified Redhead and The Redhead Revealed, are about the early days of their relationship. (Both prior books were indie-published in 2010, but book three just came out yesterday, so Clayton's early fans have been waiting a looooong time for this conclusion.) In Unidentified Redhead, the couple first come together and Grace has to address her hangups about the significant age difference between them. In Redhead Revealed, Grace's fledgeling acting career brings her to New York for a play (usually they live in LA), and so the conflict stems from the physical distance and also with Grace working through some baggage from her past, since the director of the play is an old college flame of hers. In both books, Grace is a bit of a basketcase and Jack is actually the mature one, the voice of reason, though he is so young. 

 

The Redhead Plays Her Hand finds the lovers back in LA and their relationship seemingly well-grounded, at least in the beginning, but it doesn't take long for their roles to shift as Jack begins to fall apart under the pressure of his still-new notoriety. Suddenly he's drinking too much, partying every night with a bad boy co-star, and his behavior begins to have an impact on his work, his reputation, and his relationship with Grace. She tries to talk to him about it, but he takes this as nagging and mostly blows her off. Meanwhile, her new television show brings Grace an unprecedented level of notoriety of her own, and not all of it good: her weight becomes an issue (she is described as a curvy size 8) when she is asked to lose fifteen pounds for the role. 

 

This series intrigues me, because what I like about it, and what I dislike, are so deeply entwined they might even be the same thingI have no interest in celebrity culture, so I don't care and honestly don't really get what motivates these people. They're shallow, consumed by appearances and reputation -- for example, every morning Grace starts her day by reviewing what the gossip websites have to say about her and Jack (imagine, googling yourself every day!) -- which has been an issue for me throughout the series. There is a dishonesty at the core of their relationship, because they're together (and very much in love), but they can't let it be publicly known because it would hurt Jack's career if screaming fangirls knew he was off the market. Throughout all three books, I gritted my teeth at every single scene (and there are a lot of 'em) where they make arrangements to go somewhere but arrive and leave separately, or where they're out in public or semi-public and they're obsessed with maintaining a safe physical distance in case someone snaps a cell phone picture. I just can't buy into any hope for the long-term success of their relationship so long as it's a Big Secret, and I think Grace should have more pride, and Jack should have more guts, than to allow her to be a Big Secret for the sake of his career. 

 

Yet, shallow as they are, gutless as they are, with values and priorities that seem way off the mark measured by my values and priorities -- Grace and Jack are relatable, believable, and you really want their relationship to succeed against all odds (though even at the end, I was never able to silence the voice in my head that doesn't believe any relationship can survive the surreal pressures of celebrity). And as much as I get so impatient with all the namedropping details about what they're wearing and where they're clubbing or dining, I know that part of what makes the story compelling is that Clayton brings us so deeply into Grace's experience, into her head, that we get where she's coming from even though her life is so unbelievably foreign to ours, and the boring namedropping scenes are part of that immersion into Grace's world. 

 

This book, the whole series, has some real flaws -- in addition to the namedropping and the Big Secret that bugs me so much, there are pacing problems and some crimes against grammar -- but it avoids all of the timeworn tropes of the genre (no secret babies, tortured pasts, sexual traumas, big misunderstandings, mistaken identities, wrongful convictions, amnesia, serial killers, special ops, or Navy Seals!) and relies entirely on character-driven and situational conflict, which makes it utterly unique. 

 

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review 2010-06-19 00:00
Byromania and the Birth of Celebrity Culture
Byromania and the Birth of Celebrity Culture - Ghislaine McDayter This one was absolutely fascinating in parts (the sections on how perceptions of Byron fandom and, by extension, modern media fandom were influenced by contemporary politics, science, and the myth of the French Revolutionary Terror as hordes of shrieking women; the section on the threat-to-high-culture of periodicals; and the first half of the chapter on fan responses to Byron were particulary awesome) and way more technical in parts than was useful for me. Freudian theory just isn't relevant to my research, unfortunately, and I would have liked less textual analysis and more historical information. But obviously that's to do with me, not the book!
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