Posts Tagged ‘diva’

This review was originally posted at West of Mars. It is being posted here, at its new permanent home.

I was standing in the middle of the local library when it dawned on me: I was taking the Boy Band to the orthodontist for a quick fix and I’d left my e-reader at home. And the book I was currently reading.

I was about to be cursed with year-old magazines or the endless, wordless showings of some nature program set in Denali National Park. I never thought I could ever get tired of that sort of scenery. Two visits ago, I did.

But hey, I was standing in a library, right? Although I’d seen nothing I needed from the adult New Release shelf, I’d found some rock and roll fiction in the Young Adult section as I’d helped the Boy Band search for Artemis Fowl.

Just that easily, I was set. I ran back to the shelf and Rachel Cohn’s Pop Princess was mine.

From the moment I read the first sentence in that waiting room, “My life as a pop princess began at the Dairy Queen,” I was hooked. Maybe hooked isn’t the right word; this was one of those rare gems of a book that I crawled inside of and felt an immediacy with. I connected with Wonder, even though I left being 16 behind a decade or two (but not three. Yet.) ago. This wasn’t a recall of what my own life had been, either. Nope. I was totally there with her.

The plot rocks: a former child entertainment star runs into her sister’s old rock-and-roll manager in the Dairy Queen. He offers to make her into the newest princess of popular music — and Wonder takes him up on it. After all, her family life sucks since the her older sister died. School’s worse. And have we mentioned the summer home that’s now the primary home and its charming habit of dropping parts of the ceiling at inopportune times?

Pop Princess recalls Bling for me — only it does many things right. While Kayla is the same sort of diva we saw in Bling, she’s also more rounded. She’s got a host of good points and she does work for her goals. She may be jealous and insecure, but she leads Wonder down the path smoothly, protecting her at times and pushing her to bigger and better when Wonder most needs it.

There’s more going on here. A lot more. Wonder tries to navigate guys. She loses her virginity, not to a groupie but to a guy she thinks she cares about. It means something to her and throws her into a tizzy. Talk about a very real reaction.

Even her career trajectory makes sense. She hits the very top. She transforms — but she’s not entirely happy with who the record company wants her to be. She’d rather be a size eight and not spend all day working on her dance moves and her voice. She’s loving every minute of this life, but she’s also acutely aware of what she left behind.

There are even some dark secrets she has to face. This may be the part of the book that’s most disappointing because it seems almost brushed over, but that’s okay. There’s still so much more fun going on; this shouldn’t be an issue book. It should be a fun read about a girl working to realize a dream — and then realizing other things, too. Wonder may not have one of those epiphanies where she realizes what’s missing from her life. Rather, she tries things and makes choices. I like Wonder. I hated closing this book and leaving her behind.

That is the mark of a great read. Add in the fact that the music angle rings true, and this is one I’ll be suggesting to … well, everyone.

This review was first posted at West of Mars. It’s being reposted here, at its new permanent home.

When I decided to start aggressively reading the rock books I mention on the Rock Books page of the website, I figured I’d hold true to my rule to only post about the books I like.

Then I decided that wasn’t fair to any of us. After all, part of this whole passion of mine is to point you to the good stuff. Or, the stuff *I* think is good.

And besides, since I finished Erica Kennedy’s debut, Bling, it’s been bothering me. I want to write about it.

Here’s why: it got very good reviews from such places as Publisher’s Weekly (although they called the writing “pedestrian,” which I’d have to agree with. I winced at a lot of things that could have been worded better). It got raves from people in the know in the industry. It should have been a great book.

It wasn’t.

One review (from the New Yorker) went so far as to call the book a satire. I got an A in my college satire class, but I missed it here. In fact, if anything, I was disappointed by how cliche everything was. I didn’t feel like this was an insider look into the hip hop world — as I’d been hoping it would be — so much as it was a cliched tale of what happens when the country bumpkin arrives in big, bad New York City.

Mimi has to choose between her friends and her dreams. She shows up in New York with nary a clue about pretty much anything and is taken under the wing of some high-powered people. But other than “because the boss said so,” I don’t see much of a reason for them doing this. In fact, I don’t even see these people acting out of the sense of duty I’m sure that, in real life, they’d feel. This whole scheme — take the talented Eliza Doolittle and make her into a hip hop Star — is certainly something that happens on a regular basis. I can’t imagine this same set of characters being so welcoming and warm to every little idiot who comes off the airplane.

One thing I look for when books are set in the music world is the music itself. Sure, it can be a backdrop, as it is in my own books. But this book is about a woman climbing the ladder of success. They go to nightclubs. We’re in recording studios. Let me see behind the scenes of the hip hop world. Let me feel the music. Let it come alive.

Sadly, it doesn’t. Or, rather, I’m treated to exactly what I expect. I don’t get to see any salicious details, as Publisher’s Weekly claims you do. I don’t get characters I like. I don’t get, I don’t get, I don’t get.

Yep, all in all, I was quite disappointed in Bling. I haven’t read Ms. Kennedy’s second novel, which seems to be out of print, or Feminista, which came out in September of 2009.

This makes me sad. I’d been hoping for so much more from Bling. I’d wanted to see behind the great curtain in hip hop’s Oz.

Maybe I did, and I was expecting too much. Maybe the hip hop world is exactly as it’s portrayed here. If so, I know why I’m not a fan of it.