Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mini Reviews: Beauty, Starstruck, and Crash and Burn

My mother in law Cathy is flexing her reviewing muscles
on the blog today!

BEAUTY
Lauren Conrad
Beauty tips/make-up
288 pages
HarperCollins
Available Now
Received from publisher for review

CATHY'S THOUGHTS
To be honest, when I started these books, I had preconceived ideas based solely on what I knew of Lauren's personality from the show "The Hills".

The first book, Beauty, is a exactly what the title suggests–a beauty book. Ms. Conrad admits that she's learned most of her hints on make-up and hair from the professionals she's worked with while doing reality TV. Her tips are probably geared more for the teen to thirty age group, but do seem to be well-researched and offer helpful instruction.

What I was most surprised by was Ms. Conrad's personal anecdotes and insights. They were thoughtful and well-written. She was not boastful when she talked about personal beauty. She emphasized playing up your best individual features, and trying to be your best self. Her personal beauty idol is her mother, you have to love her for that!!! She was very sweet in her description of her mom.

As in most beauty books, the pictures make it a bit difficult to distinguish and understand all the techniques being depicted, but overall, some good tips and a pleasant surprise in her stories.

Rating: 3.5/5

STARSTRUCK
Fame Game #2
Lauren Conrad
352 pages
HarperCollins
Available Now
Received from publisher for review

CATHY'S THOUGHTS
This is a story of a group of twenty-somethings living in LA working on a reality TV show. Sound familiar? Assuming Ms. Conrad is simply writing about what she knows, it does make you think about reality shows and how they're produced. Most seem to be scripted and not all that real. If you like these type of shows though, it's fun to see "behind the scenes" and even spend some time trying to guess who she may have based some of the characters on.

The plot is fairly predictable in that the characters don't have much depth, and they are often inexplicably surprised when they have no privacy while on the show. Another small frustration is that the story just ends without any real resolution. There are some lessons learned in the book though, such as fame is fleeting, stick to your values, and work harder and don't settle. These seem to be lessons that Ms. Conrad learned while working in LA because she has moved on and accomplished more than her fifteen minutes of reality fame might have otherwise allowed. I have to say I was biased starting these books, but was pleasantly surprised by both.

Rating: 3.5/5

CRASH AND BURN
Michael Hassan
Contemporary Young Adult
544 pages
Balzer + Bray
Available Now
Received from publisher for review

CATHY'S THOUGHTS
Mr. Hassan takes a unique and interesting approach to a very current topic–school violence. He gives us a look at the lives of two boys, Crash and Burn, one the hero and one the antagonist. Crash is our narrator, writing a book about "the event", and we therefore learn everything through his memories and hindsight. And as many of us know, there is always a different perspective after the fact.

Crash, the hero, and Burn, the perpetrator, have a long history together. Both have similar backgrounds: affluent neighborhoods, problems in school, mental and behavioral issues, and lots of frustration in dealing with life. If we were not told at the beginning of the book who was the hero, we might have had trouble deciding which character was going to crack first.

The chapters alternate between Crash's book and the chaos of the aftermath of him saving the school. This is a very insightful way of presenting the story and keeps us interested throughout. We see how Crash and Burn's lives have intertwined since elementary school, both in positive and negative ways, and really either of these boys could have snapped. Mr. Hassan seems to overload Burn's live with disasters though, and I don't know if anyone could have handled all the bad things that happened to him on top of being poorly medicated for mental illness.

The overabundance of problems in Burn's life as well as the fact that Mr. Hassan spends a touch too much time on Crash's pursuit of drugs, sex, and truancy made the story feel a little overindulgent, especially considering this is a YA book. I realize sex and drugs are often parts of teenagers' lives, but having Crash be so extraordinarily proud of these things (particularly his sexual conquests), as a parent, made me question the message it might be sending to younger readers. I understand that he was not intended to be the typical hero, but I felt certain things were glorified that didn't need to be glorified.

I do think this story opens our eyes to teenage angst and the fact that we can never truly know what is happening below the surface. There are always signs, and there are many in the book that should have been addressed by the adults, but then again hindsight always provides the clarity missing from the original situation.

Maybe that is the message–be aware and don't be afraid to step up and help. That is how Crash saved the day and became the hero.

*Cathy did mention to me when we were discussing her thoughts on this book that she was surprised it was considered YA due to some of Crash's behavior and his constant fixation on sex and drugs. As a result, this book is recommended for older readers.

Rating: 3.5/5

39 comments:

  1. I didn't really love Beauty. I thought the tips in it were just common sense. I really loved Conrad's book Style though. If you haven't checked that one out it has a lot of great advice. I think maybe they should've been two books in one.

    Angie

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    Replies
    1. That sounds like it would have been a good idea to combine the two books. I will check out Style. Thanks

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  2. I have actually been kind of curious about those Lauren Conrad books. Well, I'm impressed that they were pleasant surprises if not all that deep! Crash and Burn, however, is the one I am truly interested in and it sounds like it has a ton more depth and a meaningful message. I think that is more the one for me!

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    Replies
    1. Crash and Burn is definitely meatier and timely. Lots to think about in it.

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  3. *waves* Cathy!!! Only 2 more month....


    So I read FAME GAME and was pleasantly surprised. It was fun to read but just as you said, there wasn't much depth to find in the characters. Even though she tried hard to bring these characters to live something was missing. I'm not surprised to see the same issues in book 2.

    Crash and Burn actually sounds interesting and I haven't given it much thought to be honest. But.. the premise sounds good and unique!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "waving back at you" I am counting days! I think Ms. Conrad has some writing skills that has moved her past her reality days. See you soon

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  4. Oh, yes none of these books really sound like a good fit for me. But at least I know that now

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    Replies
    1. I hope I gave you enough to make that decision, especially with all the books out there.

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  5. I've only heard about Fame Game series. The other two doesn't sound appealing to me. I have no idea why. But I'm still interested in Fame Game series. I might give them a try. Great reviews Jenny :)

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    1. Ms. Conrad is a good writer so try the Fame Game if that sounds appealing. Thanks

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  6. Hi, Cathy! Great reviews -- you've been busy!

    I'm not the biggest Lauren Conrad fan but it's good to hear she's somewhat "normal" -- definitely love someone whose personal beauty idol is her mom.

    Crash & Burn sounds like an interesting novel. Harder to categorize as YA when there's lots of bad behavior, sex and drugs (even though that does happen amongst the teen set).

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the support. Jenny is great to let me review a few. I give Ms. Conrad kuddos for loving her mom!!! Crash and Burn is definitely more thought provoking especially in these times.

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  7. Cathy you did awesome once again!

    I think that first book (with tips) would be awesome to give as a gift to a teenager I know. Thanks for pointing it out--her birthday was coming up and I was stumped!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Felicia, glad it gave you a great gift idea!

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  8. I flipped through Lauren's beauty book, mostly looking at the pictures. I should try really reading it.

    I wonder what percentage of Lauren's Fame Game series she actually wrote. With celebrity authors I always assume there's a ghost writer, whether that's fair or not. It'd be pretty impressive if she actually wrote it all.

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    1. I hope it was Ms. Conrad writing and if so, I had underestimated her.

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  9. Out of all of these, I'm most interested in Crash and Burn. I've heard of all of these titles, but they are the first reviews I'm seeing for them, but I'm glad you enjoyed them all for the most part, despite any qualms. Wonderful reviews, Jenny! :)

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  10. Nice mini reviews, and I am glad you enjoyed them. None of these were really on my radar, but you did pique my interest in Crash and Burn.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks and Crash and Burn does have a unique take on this issue.

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  13. First things first: Jenny, you have the coolest mother in law ever.
    Crash and Burn, while interesting, would probably make me very anxious, and I'm an escapist through and through.
    As for reality shows, there's nothing even remotely realistic about them. My sister worked as an editor on one years ago, and while it involved singing and was more spontaneous than most, I still haven't watched a single one since.
    I enjoyed this post a lot, ladies!

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    1. Thanks for the compliment and I think Jenny is very cool for letting me post on her site. Interesting about the reality show insights--thanks

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  14. Jenny, it is SO cool that your MIL shares your book obsession! I was already interested in reading Crash and Burn, and now I'm even more curious to see how this dual perspective on school violence is handled. I probably won't read Lauren Conrad's fiction series, but I might check out the beauty book. Some of my friends follow her beauty dept. blog and love this book, so I'm curious about it. Love these reviews, Cathy, thanks for sharing!

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    1. Jenny and I do share this obsession and I appreciate her letting me post on her site. Hope the review will help you decide.

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  15. Now I know who Lauren Conrad is! Seriously, I felt like I was missing some important information and her name kept coming up. I had NO idea who she was. I never saw the Hills.

    Oh I would have to agree that Crash and Burn wouldn't be for kids, but I am now curious as to the different kind of hero. Might be worth a look!

    Great reviews Cathy!

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    Replies
    1. HaHa, I don't think you were truly missing anything. Glad I piqued your curiosity

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  16. I was hesitant to read things (even articles) written by Lauren Conrad, but I actually like her now.

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    1. Her book was an easy read and fun if you like the reality tv shows.

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  17. Seems like Crash and Burn was a bit uneven. I can see how the fixation on drugs and sex can be worrisome. I was hoping more of a journey of enlightenment for the characters. Not sure if I'll pick it up. Thanks for your honest opinion, Cathy!

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  18. I tend to avoid books written by celebrities but it's good to know that Conrad's books are based on topics she'd know. Great reviews, Cathy!

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  19. Okay, I'll admit it. I have no idea who Lauren Conrad is. I've seen her books, but that doesn't really mean anything to me. I'll look her up to see why she was famous. I couldn't help but think there was a little Jenny humor in the first two reviews. Maybe you two are rubbing off on each other!

    Really insightful on the third book, Crash and Burn. I have not heard of this one. I do think some of the YA I'm reading lately is pushing the boundaries a bit, but then I still dangle my toes in the middle grade pool so I think maybe I just am being naive. But whichever the case may be, maybe this novel will open some eyes. Or sit on the shelf because it makes the people who should read it uncomfortable. Great review of this one Cathy! Thanks for sharing it.

    Heather

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  20. I've been considering LC. Thanks for your honesty! :)

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  21. The other books I have not read but I did read Crash and Burn and really enjoyed it. I think the father bugged me the most! GAH! Lovely reviews Jenny!

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  22. I do have some of Lauren Conrad's books but I haven't read any yet. I have Crash and Burn and have been meaning to read it but just haven't worked up any excitement for it. I do think that sometimes these kinds of books are hard to recommend to everyone due to content and I would have guessed there was some heavy content just by the description. I'll be reading it one of these days, I think.
    Great reviews here!

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  23. I've never had the urge to read books written by celebrities and actually I stay away from them as a general rule. But my cousin has read the LA Candy series by Lauren Conrad and has been telling me for the longest time to read them. I still don't know yet, maybe one of these days I will give it a try.

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  24. Great reviews Cathy! :) I admit to some bias when I see books by Lauren Conrad. Great to know the books were better than you would've thought. She sounds like the best to come out of that bunch. She's definitely been more of a success than the others while keeping her personal life out of the limelight.

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