Book Review: Beautiful You

I was thinking of a word to describe how I feel this month, and my first instinct was to go with “procrastination.” After all, how else do I explain why this book review is a month late?

On closer examination, it’s not that I’m purposefully ignoring everything that I’ve got on my plate. It’s that my plate is too small, my helpings too large, and I don’t have enough time or energy to take on everything. Work is busier than ever now that I’ve been promoted, and there just aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish my personal goals.

It hasn’t all been a failure though. I may not be on track with my writing quota or blog views, but I’m managing to squeeze some extra minutes in between working, reading, writing, and blogging (can’t forget sleeping!) to devote to learning Italian through the free app Duolingo in preparation for my trip to Europe this spring.

Needless to say (even though I still wanted to explain myself), I’ve been a bit overwhelmed. I knew that reviewing this book would be a challenge, but I’m finally ready to tell you how I really feel about Chuck Palahniuk’s most recent novel.

NOTE: Please understand that this book is extremely sexually graphic and is only intended to be read by mature readers. As such, consider my review R-rated! You’ve been warned!

Image via Goodreads

Rating: 2 out of 5

I think one of the women in my book club summed up Beautiful You the best with these three words:

“Flying. Flaming. Dildos.”

If I was still in college, I could spend hours writing essay after essay about this novel, but for the sake of time, let me give you all a brief synopsis: protagonist Penny Harrigan is working at a law firm in Manhattan when she catches the attention of C. Linus Maxwell (aka “Climax-Well”), a tech billionaire with plans to release a line of sex toys for women. After a few ultra-fancy dates, Penny becomes Maxwell’s girlfriend/test subject, experiencing pleasure like never before.

The reader clearly learns that this orgasmic bliss wears off, since the very first scene of the story begins at the end, with Penny being sexually assaulted in a courtroom while everyone merely gawks at her, offering no defense whatsoever. As shocking as the scene is, you’re immediately hooked into wanting to learn the details of Penny’s rise and fall as the co-creator of Maxwell’s Beautiful You products.

I can’t say much else without giving away the entire plot, but its controversial subject matter made it an excellent choice for our book club. How would a dozen ladies view a book about women addicted to their vibrators that was written by a gay man?

We all agreed that this novel was downright strange. Although we found it similar to the poor girl/rich man power struggle of Fifty Shades of Grey, no one thought it was sexy. The actual sex scenes were clinical and sterile, with Maxwell as mere observer to Penny, his science experiment.

Another comparison I made was to Davey Havok’s Pop Kids, which was equally pornographic in nature without any real romance. Both stories played up the satire: Pop Kids was a response to the obsession with celebrity, whereas Beautiful You addresses the economic and political effects of advertising in a capitalist society.

I’d be the first to sing the praises of Fight Club for its anti-capitalistic message. This was the phenomenal novel that brought us gems like this:

Image via Pinterest

Straight, cisgender men have been seduced by scantily-clad women in advertisements for decades. One only has to look to the likes of AXE body spray and Carl’s Jr. for evidence. It seemed that Palahniuk was trying to flip feminism on its head by imagining a world in which women, as the primary controllers of household spending, were sold sex–literally. How would society fare if half its population was rendered incapacitated by its hedonistic urges?

Unfortunately, like Pop Kids, the satire in Beautiful You fell flat for me. Palahniuk probably thought he was being oh-so-clever with this sexual world domination story, and pissing off hordes of feminists like myself was likely icing on his cake. As much as I loved Fight Club, I fear that Palahniuk may be resorting to shock value simply because he can take all the risks he wants and every publisher on the planet would still want to represent him.

My book club is more forgiving than me, rating Beautiful You 3 out of 5 stars, but I’m curious to hear what you think as well! Is Chuck Palahniuk a literary genius or just phoning it in? Share your thoughts in the comments!

The real-life Book Club Babes!

The real-life Book Club Babes!

Up next for our book club is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies! The movie adaptation comes out Feb. 5th, so grab a copy of the novel quickly if you’d like to join us virtually!

Advertisements

NaNoWriMo Results & My Monthly Book Club Recap!

I’m back, and it feels so good!

Time flies when you’re writing a novel, so let me share my results from this year’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month to those of you who haven’t been paying attention!)

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 12.03.33 PM

It’s the attempt that counts! 🙂

As the chart above proves, I started off strong during the first two weeks of November, falling behind on weekdays but catching up on the weekends. However, I completely burnt out the last half of the month, writing only a little over 3,000 words during that time.

I may have completed NaNoWriMo with only half of the writing goal, but I’m still so proud of those 25,000 words. That equates to about 80 double-spaced pages, so it’s nothing to scoff at! And since I continued my novel from last year, if you add in my progress from 2014, I have 45,000 words / 140 pages finished in total!

It’s crazy to think that I’m practically halfway to completing the first draft of my manuscript, and even though I did not technically “win” NaNo, I still consider the experience a success, because I’m more motivated than ever to see this book to its end! I’m currently taking a breather from writing, since I don’t want to risk burning out again, but my goal is to complete my first draft and start the editing process next year. Who knows, I may be on my way to publication by December 2016! Wish me luck!

FullSizeRender (3)

Yep, you’re looking at five empty wine bottles!

In other news, the real-life Book Club Babes met this week to discuss Something About You, a romance novel by Julie James. Because I was busy with NaNo, we selected a book that I had already read, so I was curious to hear whether they liked my recommendation.

The ladies thought this was a fun, light-hearted read, giving it a solid 4 out of 5 stars. One of my friends in the group is an associate attorney, so it was reassuring to hear that James portrayed the world of law and order with accuracy (not surprising, given that the author was a former lawyer herself). Many loved the book so much that they’re now interested in reading more of James’ U.S. Attorney series, so another win for the original Book Club Babe!

However, I shouldn’t jinx myself, because it’s quite possible the whole club will quit after reading our selection for December. After a long period of indecision, the group voted to try out Chuck Palahniuk’s Beautiful You. Many of us were Fight Club fans, but I fear that this book’s sexually graphic subject matter will be too offensive.

Beautiful You isn’t rated very highly on Goodreads and Amazon, but as an out-and-proud feminist, I’m still intrigued by how Palahniuk will fare writing about a society in which men are obsolete and women are addicted to their sex toys. Whether we love the book or hate it, it will be sure to incite some heated discussion next month! And if you’ve already read this novel, let me know what you thought about it in the comments!