"Guilty pleasure" books aimed at a female audience often fall into two categories: chick lit (a more upscale or effete romance novel, often featuring a stiletto heel or a cocktail on the cover and quite often featuring Manhattan in-the-know ladies and/or smart, sensitive successful overweight women battling it out against the odds) and celebrity books (and books either by or about them). Many tend to reveal secrets (although are there any left?) about women who make up a tiny portion of the population, yet who dominate the fascination of the majority.
It's easy to be snobbish about chick lit and celebrity-authored books. At their worst, they can be formulaic, predictable, unoriginal and, perhaps most gallingly, poorly written. However, there are also clever, satirical, and just plain un-put-down-able treats that, like ice cream, sometimes can be quite a pleasure (and go down nice and easy). Let's face it — there was a reason why the Devil Wears Prada and The Nanny Diaries were runaway sensations — people enjoyed reading them.
The creator of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda has plenty more New York stories up her sleeve. This one's for a slightly more mature set: the type that lusts over real estate, not Manolo Blahniks. Candace Bushnell's New York farce flits around a huge cast of characters, all in or near the coveted address of One Fifth Avenue, where a condo opens up after one of its doyennes passes on to that... great Bendel's in the sky. As one of the characters notes, "Everyone's got plenty of money: it's who you know". And with an established author, a famous actress, a gossip columnist and a vindictive condo association president in the mix, the relationships within One Fifth Avenue quickly become a delicious game of Manhattan Twister.more »
There is a huge contingent of people who miss Sex and the City bad — enough to warrant multiple reruns in syndication every day. For those who can't get enough of gaggles of New York friends brunching and tossing bon mots and eyerolling and crying over men and slutting around — all with perfect eyebrows, outfits and Manhattan apartments, Chasing Harry Winston will slake your thirst. There's a character in... it for every gal: the new fiancée with the huge diamond and doubts about her "perfect relationship," the serial monogamist who sets out to sleep around and of course, the Samantha-type who, on a joke and a whim, decides to try settling down. There's obviously an audience for cosmopolitan New York ensemble pieces, and for those who never get enough flirtinis and sassy gay friends, this book will fit like a $700 shoe.more »
A guilty pleasure at its guiltiest. Hot off the trail of writing the juicy tell-all "Video Vixen," Karrine Steffans decided to re-mine the territory that made her infamous, although the results are not quite as full of fireworks as her first book. There's a healthy amount of celebrity dish to enjoy, such as her inscrutable connection with Bobby Brown, her relationship with Bill Maher, her exploits with Mike Tyson and issues with... Tyra Banks. However, Steffans also has words of wisdom about the long and winding road that took her from video-ho to video-ho-with-a-book. Some of Steffans' most sincere moments are her most unintentionally hilarious — like her declaration that "My biggest fault is that I'm a nurturer." She also gives thanks for "being so humble." It's a wonderful summer beach book, though, its content about as glossy and nutritious as a bottle of Banana Boat.more »
You'd think that after the years of "The Osbournes" and "Behind the Music" and "America's Got Talent," you'd have learned more than you'd ever need to know about Mrs. Ozzy Osbourne but, surprisingly, the rock wife and reality TV goddess led a colorful and fascinating life — even before she met the Prince of Darkness. The daughter of infamous music manager Don Arden, Osbourne grew up at once the daughter of... privilege and anger and violence. Coming of age a canny-but-shy, overweight girl surrounded by famous faces like Freddie Mercury and Jeff Lynne would be interesting enough, but Sharon famously went on to marry Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne. She survived a tempestuous, often dangerous early relationship before settling down to the (relatively) more mild-mannered version of marriage that we've seen on TV. Osbourne's story moves quickly and incorporates a charming mix of British aphorisms and scatology.more »
For those not interested in trends but, instead, how and why those trends get set, Little Pink Slips offers a look into the fraught and jaded world of women's magazine publishing. Magnolia Gold helms Lady magazine, a publication for women older than those who read Glamour but who don't want to necessarily describe themselves as "women of a certain age." Magnolia is suddenly knocked off her pedestal when brash television celebrity Bebe... Blake comes in and transforms Lady into the hacky Bebe. Koslow knows of which she writes: she was at the helm of McCall's and got shuffled to the side — and eventually out altogether — as Rosie O'Donnell transformed the magazine into the ill-fated Rosie. Pink Slips is like a Sex and the City for an older, wiser crowd sophisticated enough to know the high-end trends but classy enough not to be obsessed by them.more »
Hear the name "Joan Rivers," and you're sure to think "frank talk," the type that's catty, not helpful. But despite the obnoxious book title, Rivers' advice on navigating the silicone valley of plastic surgery is actually interesting and useful. Rivers speaks with the authority of a woman who's had various forms of work done since she was in college. Her advice ranges from the serious (if doctors advise you, based on health... issues, not to undergo plastic surgery, then you should listen to them) to the common sense (if you don't like how a doctor's receptionist treats you on the phone, how do you think they'll treat you when you're a patient?) to the in-the-know (make friends with the nurses who might give you a topical numbing agent to put on in the waiting room before you get Botox). With snarky asides, Rivers is absolutely herself, and even for those not considering going under the knife (or the hose or the needle) it's a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the women who do.more »