Book Review – Beautiful You by Chuck Palahniuk

Title: Beautiful YouBook Review Image
Author: Chuck Palahniuk
ISBN: 9780385538039
No. of Pages: 240
Genre: Fiction
Origins: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Release Date: 21 October 2014
Bottom Line: Typical Chuck – uncomfortably hilarious and a spot-on assessment of today’s self-help market, marketing, feminism vs. misogyny, fame, media, and so much more

Beautiful You by Chuck PalahniukSynopsis:

“Penny Harrigan is a low-level associate in a big Manhattan law firm with an apartment in Queens and no love life at all. So it comes as a great shock when she finds herself invited to dinner by one C. Linus Maxwell, a software mega-billionaire and lover of the most gorgeous and accomplished women on earth. After dining at Manhattan’s most exclusive restaurant, he whisks Penny off to a hotel suite in Paris, where he proceeds, notebook in hand, to bring her to previously undreamed-of heights of gratification for days on end. What’s not to like? This: Penny discovers that she is a test subject for the final development of a line of feminine products to be marketed in a nationwide chain of boutiques called Beautiful You. So potent and effective are these devices that women by the millions line up outside the stores on opening day and then lock themselves in their room with them and stop coming out. Except for batteries. Maxwell’s plan for battery-powered world domination must be stopped. But how?”

Thoughts: Chuck Palahniuk has an eye for finding the ridiculous among the commonly accepted practices that drive our society. He does so with humor and sarcasm and a healthy dose of derision. Reading one of his novels is an exercise in laughable discomfort; readers do not want to laugh too much because his subject matter is usually an extreme version of something that is typically taboo, or at least not discussed in polite society. With Beautiful You, Mr. Palahniuk turns his wicked eye on multiple issues, including the media, science, the self-help industry, the idea of fame, and others.

Mr. Palahniuk’s novels are always well-written, and Beautiful You is no exception. His turns of phrases are extremely effective in establishing mood, motive, and setting. Each sentence appears innocuous but is in actuality filled with sarcasm and mockery. In addition, his characters are delightfully earnest even as the situations they face are the echelon of exaggeration. Penny in particular is admirable in her desire to change the face of feminism but soon becomes farcical as she succumbs to the lures of wealth and luxury. In using such passive-aggressive techniques, he forces the reader to read between the lines and think about what he is actually saying.

Then there is the subject matter of the novel. Beautiful You is explicit, more scientific than sensual, and rather terrifying in its clinical coldness. It is meant to shock, and it does just that. More importantly, readers must recognize the joke of it all in order to not only understand the message but also to ease the discomfort. For Beautiful You is very uncomfortable to read at times. It is not just the extremely graphic scenes of arousal and gratification, it is the utter remoteness with which Maxwell goes about his world domination. It is the truth behind his darling media image and behind all of the Cinderella stories that surround his friends. It is the ease with which he can capture an entire gender and manipulate their buying habits. It is in the fact that no one does anything about it.

At its heart, Beautiful You is a biting satire of the distortion the media provides to any situation these days. It positively slays the scientific approach to product development and increasing use of technology in consumer products. In addition, Mr. Palahniuk turns the idea of feminism on its head for those who still consider feminism to be nothing more than bridging the gender gap in a given profession. At the same time, he calls into question the misogynistic ideas behind marketing and society in general. Rounding out the story is his twist on the idea of self-help and the entirely new meaning he brings to the phrase. The basic story is a very simple concept, but Mr. Palahniuk adds his brand of complexity through his typical syntactical games and stellar use of sarcasm to create an unforgettable novel that will make people think twice before breaking out the bedroom toys.

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Book Review – Hitler’s First Victims by Timothy W. Ryback

Hitler's First Victims by Timothy W. Ryback

Title: Hitler’s First Victims: The Quest for Justice Author: Timothy W. Ryback ISBN: 9780385352918 No. of Pages: 288 Genre: Nonfiction Origins: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group Release Date: 21 October 2014 Bottom Line: Fascinating look at a quiet hero Synopsis: “The remarkable story of Josef Hartinger, the German prosecutor who risked everything to bring to justice…

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Book Review – The Art of the English Murder by Lucy Worsley

The Art of the English Murder by Lucy Worsley

Title: The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock Author: ISBN: 9781605986340 No. of Pages: 336 Genre: Nonfiction Origins: Pegasus Books Release Date: 15 October 2014 Bottom Line: Interesting look at the evolution of the murder mystery Synopsis: “Murder—a dark, shameful deed, the last…

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Book Review – Ruth’s Journey by Donald McCaig

Ruth's Journey by Donald McCaig

Title: Ruth’s Journey: The Authorized Novel of Mammy from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind Author: Donald McCaig ISBN: 9781451643534 No. of Pages: 384 Genre: Historical Fiction Origins: Atria Books Release Date: 16 October 2014 Bottom Line: Not as good as I would have liked Synopsis: “On the Caribbean island of Saint Domingue, an island…

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It’s Monday, October 20th! What Are You Reading?

What Are You Reading?

Hosted by Sheila from Book Journey, this is a weekly event to share what we’ve read in the past week and what we hope to read, plus whatever else comes to mind. Finished Last Week: Currently Reading: Currently Listening: Up Next:     What are you reading?

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Audiobook Review – ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

'Salem's Lot by Stephen King

Title: ‘Salem’s Lot Author: Stephen King Narrator: Ron McLarty ISBN: 9780385360142 Audiobook Length: 17 hours, 35 minutes Genre: Horror Origins: Mine. All mine. Release Date: 17 October 1975 Bottom Line: Fantastic Synopsis: “Ben Mears has returned to Jerusalem’s Lot in the hopes that living in an old mansion, long the subject of town lore, will…

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Book Review – The Human Body by Paolo Giordano

The Human Body by Paolo Giordano

Title: The Human Body Author: Paolo Giordano ISBN: 9780670015641 No. of Pages: 336 Genre: Fiction Origins: Pamela Dorman Books Release Date: 2 October 2014 Bottom Line: Very well-written but the story is stilted Synopsis: “In Paolo Giordano’s highly awaited new novel, a platoon of young men and one woman soldier leaves Italy for one of…

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Book Review – The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory

The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory

m4s0n501 Title: The King’s Curse Author: Philippa Gregory ISBN: 9781451626117 No. of Pages: 624 Genre: Historical Fiction Origins: Touchstone Books Release Date: 9 September 2014 Bottom Line: So biased and just plain bad Synopsis: “Regarded as yet another threat to the volatile King Henry VII’s claim to the throne, Margaret Pole, cousin to Elizabeth of…

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It’s Monday, October 13th! What Are You Reading?

What Are You Reading?

Hosted by Sheila from Book Journey, this is a weekly event to share what we’ve read in the past week and what we hope to read, plus whatever else comes to mind. Finished Last Week: Currently Reading: Currently Listening: Up Next:         What are you reading?

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Audiobook Review – Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Title: Doctor Sleep Author: Stephen King Narrator: Will Patton ISBN: 9781442362390 Audiobook Length: 18 hours, 35 minutes Genre: Horror Origins: Mine. All mine. Release Date: 24 September 2013 Bottom Line: Even better than The Shining! Synopsis: “On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look…

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