Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Book Review: Confessions of a Karaoke Queen

By Becky Gulc

This is the debut novel by 'Ella Kingsley,' or at least her debut novel in the chick lit genre. Ella Kingsley is actually a pseudonym for an established author, we just don’t know who!

"Confessions of a Karaoke Queen" has a bright pink cover with a glitter ball and lights getting you in the mood for a fun, light, girly read, which is exactly what this book delivers!

The story centres on Maddie Mulhern, a woman in her mid-twenties who is newly dumped by Lawrence, who is quite frankly full of himself. He ends their relationship because she’s holding him back and he wants to be a star! Maddie has a so-so job, but it’s far from being the managerial job for which she’s been aiming. However, she soon receives an opportunity to find out exactly how good her management skills are. Bring in pop duo "Pineapple Mist," stars of the 1980s, a.k.a. Maddie’s slightly embarrassing parents. The pair now spends their time running a karaoke bar called Sing it Back, but with the opportunity to go on a three-month 1980s tour overseas they suddenly leave the bar in Maddie’s hands. The problem? Maddie hates karaoke.

Maddie soon learns just how much the bar is struggling to survive, and with encouragement and support from the loyal staff members they decide things need to change. Without the funding to make any changes themselves, they spot the following announcement:

‘Tooth and Nail TV is looking for the UK’s Next Big Reality TV Sensation. Don’t attract hundreds at the weekend, attract millions!’

Surely signing up for a reality TV programme will be exactly what the club and people working there need? Not quite. Maddie soon finds that there’s more to Evan, the executive producer, than meets the eye. And when she clicks with the delicious Nick, the show director, surely it’s too good to be true? And why is Lawrence suddenly declaring his love for Maddie? She soon finds herself in a complete mess, questioning everyone, feeling like she’s letting down the people she cares about; dreading what her oblivious parents are going to come back to after their tour.

I enjoyed the range of characters in this book, from Loaf the eccentric loner to Jaz and her guinea pig sidekick, Andre. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of Loaf towards the closing chapters of the novel. Although I liked Maddie, I found her to be very naive and gullible, to the point of being annoying sometimes. One example is her keeping her real name a closely guarded secret (something much longer than Maddie!), yet telling Nick what this is the second time they really have a conversation or ‘date’, just seemed a bit unrealistic to me even if she really liked him. Maddie is also lacking self-esteem for even talking to Lawrence again; she never even liked him that much in the first place, this making a possible reunion just sheer silliness to the reader! As the story was told in first person narrative, I wonder if having different narrators such as Jaz or Lou, her best friend would have made a difference to the feel of this story by breaking it up a bit.

The constant references to 80’s and early 90’s pop culture were a lot of fun and brought back some great memories (I’d completely forgotten Big magazine existed but I loved it!). The only niggle I had was whether Maddie as a 25 year-old would really have the same memories of some of the popular culture items referenced, if the book is set in the present day she would have been very young, for example, to have had an interest in Scott and Charlene’s wedding on Neighbours, whereas for my age (bit older!) it completely fitted with what I was into in the late 80’s. Maybe we should assume her parents being 80’s stars influenced this however.

I think the pace worked well in moving the story forward and there was enough going on to make you not want to put the book down, particularly in the first few chapters. I did feel that towards the end I couldn’t take some of the characters such as Evan seriously, which was a little disappointing. Overall, however, I did really enjoy this book and I think others will too if they accept it as a light read; and if you grew up in the 80’s you may very well love the references too! There are also some great comical moments in this book. As a fan of reality TV, I also enjoyed that the workings of such a programme was a focus of this novel.

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