Book review: ‘Seeing Stars’ by Diane Hammond

Many people come to Hollywood seeking fame and wealth — and it’s not too different for mother-daughter team Ruth and Bethany Rabinowitz. Leaving their comfortable lives in Seattle behind — along with Bethany’s sensible dentist father, who waits for their return — the women move to Los Angeles and immediately begin the scary, demanding process of making 13-year-old Bethany a star.

To even have the possibility of making it in Tinseltown, we learn, every wannabe celebrity must enlist the services of a talented team — and that means hooking up with Mimi Roberts, a cutthroat talent manager who “makes pronouncements” to all of her clients: “Don’t mumble. Own the room. Never be late for an audition.” With Mimi on their side and a tidy new name plastered over her own, Bethany Rabinowitz becomes Bethany Ann Roosevelt and starts to act her little heart out.

As more and more auditions line up, some more disappointing than those before, the Rabinowitzes must weigh the cost of their dreams against the pain, sweat and tears needed to keep moving forward — maybe before it becomes too late to turn back.

More than anything, Diane Hammond’s Seeing Stars seems to be a cautionary tale for aspiring Hollywood types — and in that vein, it functions very well as a work of contemporary fiction. With plenty of nods to certain Disney stars and topical references to films like “High School Musical,” which seems to be the dream gig of every working teen in L.A., Hammond’s book draws the reader into a sordid, often sad world of backstage lots, incredibly long hours, droll parents and sacrifice rarely displayed to those of us who simply enjoy the end results: glamorous movies and well-packaged TV shows.

Though Bethany and Ruth are the “stars” of the book, plenty of peripheral characters fill in the landscape — most notably Allison Addison, a spoiled but talented teen who lives full-time with Mimi Roberts, the girls’ manager, and is one of the kids collectively known as “the Orphans.” Dumped by their parents and from all reaches of the U.S., the Orphans board with Mimi while she sends them out on countless auditions and passes them off to unsuspecting stage mothers like Ruth. It’s impossible not to feel for these kids, shuttled around in an endless waiting game and lacking any real parental guidance, but it was really frustrating, too.

In fact, frustrating is the way I would describe much of the book — and not because the writing wasn’t solid. It definitely was. Hammond does a great job of introducing us to a very motley crew of folks who don’t seem to have much in common other than their shared dreams of success, and sometimes that’s enough to bind them . . . but sometimes it’s not. And watching everyone desperately chasing something that often seems so elusive actually made my stomach hurt. I wondered, too, about everyone’s motivations — especially Ruth’s. Why put themselves through this? Who were they benefiting and who were they hurting? Can the kids even get a decent education while working like this? And since many of these motivations seemed anything but altruistic, that bothered me, too.

Readers interested in the fame game will find plenty of “behind the scenes” information in Hammond’s novel, dropping us everywhere from auditions to sets to popular Hollywood landscapes — and everywhere in between. The jargon was flying from the get-go and, as someone interested in the movie biz, I found it pretty interesting. Seeing Stars also examines close family relationships and motherhood, too, and has some poignant scenes, though the sheer length of the novel dragged it down for me. Pick it up if you’re interested in the making (and breaking?) of a star, but skip it if character-driven drama isn’t for you.

3.5 out of 5!

ISBN: 0061863157 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website

tlc_logo copy

Review copy provided by TLC Book Tours

Book review: ‘Just Like Me, Only Better’ by Carol Snow

For Veronica Czaplicki, a single mom and student teacher in suburban L.A., life has begun to lag just a tiny bit. It might have been when her husband, Hank, left her for a real estate agent many years Veronica’s senior — and Veronica was forced to rent a tiny guesthouse from a lazy couple happier to push their children onto their new “tenant” than try and carpool their little ones themselves. Now a single mother struggling to stay afloat financially, Veronica is unhappy, worried, perpetually stressed — and seeking a new way to make ends meet.

Which is convenient for Jay Sharpie, manager of one Haley Rush — a television and radio star in the vein of Miley Cyrus who has disintegrated into another trainwreck devoured by the tabloids. Because plain-Jane teacher Veronica bears an uncanny resemblance to Haley, so much so that people constantly stop her in the street, asking for a signature or a photo. And Jay spots her, too.

Before she knows it, Veronica has been sucked into the Hollywood vacuum, signing on to become a Haley impersonator of sorts — someone to go out in public and act normal, essentially, since Ms. Rush refuses to get up before noon and drowns her sorrows in illicit substances. In order to do some serious damage control, Veronica pretends to be Haley for public appearances, tucking a trademark cowboy hat low on her head and hoping no one will notice the difference.

And for a while? No one does. But what happens when Veronica becomes just a little bit too much like Haley — and the lines become impossibly blurred?

Carol Snow’s Just Like Me, Only Better is a wildly entertaining novel I tore through in a matter of hours, laughing the entire time. With humor and plenty of warmth, our narrator Veronica was someone I rooted for from beginning to end, hoping she’d find a way to make a better life for herself — and her son, Ben — before she got too caught up in the fame game.

The antics that carry Veronica/Haley from activity to activity are hilarious and, though I could spot some of the plot devices a mile away, that didn’t make me enjoy the novel any less. Brady Ellis serves as a hunky love interest while Jay functions well as the Type A obsessive manager who, despite everything, does seem to have Veronica’s best interests at heart. Haley is the typical spoiled celebutante, known more for her blonde extensions and pretty face than miraculous singing or acting abilities. But as long as the money’s rolling in, who cares?

Carol Snow is an author completely new to me, but I’ll be looking for her backlist soon! With excellent pacing and plenty of humor, the novel absolutely flew by. Fans of chick lit and those interested in the California fame game will find plenty to enjoy in Just Like Me, Only Better, and I’ll be eager to go on another adventure with Snow soon.

4 out of 5!

ISBN: 0425232484 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by publicist

So I saw “17 Again,” but I wasn’t really seeing it…

17_againIn the world of cinema, it doesn’t take much to make me swoon. A slight grin; gently tousled hair; a longing glance or two; some tears; a dynamic love story. And an incredibly good-looking guy doing/being all of the above!

And after seeing Zac Efron in “17 Again” on Saturday, my quota of ridiculously hot ogling has been filled.

It’s a really cute movie . . . really. Twenty years ago, Mike was the hotshot basketball player with his whole life — and career — ahead of him. An unexpected, erm, development derails his plans of going on to greatness and instead lands him squarely in the role of husband, father and office drone. At the end of a terribly long day capped by his discussions of his impending divorce from high school sweetheart Scarlett, some sort of magic — and an observant school janitor — allows him to transform back in his 17-year-0ld self. He basically gets a mulligan.

At first, Mike (played by Efron or, for about ten minutes, Matthew Perry) believes he’s been given a second chance at adolescence in order to go after all those dreams he sacrificed for Scarlett and their son and daughter. He’s basically living in a selfish wasteland. And I won’t ruin the film for you . . . not that there are too many spoilers, persay. But Mike heads back to high school with the help of his longtime best friend Ned, he gets a firsthand look at what life is really like for his kids. And he realizes that his true purpose in being 17 again is, in fact, not selfish at all.

Yeah, I know . . . blah blah. Plot stuff. Things happening. I laugh out loud a bunch of times, and I’m watching the movie but I’m not watching the movie. I’m too busy staring at Zac Efron pushing his hair out of his eyes (how is even that quirk adorable to me? Why doesn’t he just get a haircut?), Zac Efron twirling a basketball, Zac Efron leaning back casually in a chair. I can’t stop staring at his face, the way he crosses his arms. And before you think I’m a cradle-robber, let me remind you that Mr. Efron is, in fact, 21 years old! I had to Wikipedia that before I got too involved! I’m 23, so I figure my window of opportunity hasn’t quite slammed shut just yet . . . never mind that he’s, uh, perhaps a wee bit out of my league!

But that’s just depressing. Let’s move on to the eye candy! I present to you . . .


Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit B

Exhibit C

Exhibit C

Exhibit B? Yeah. Mama’s got a new desktop background. And it’s high-res!