How to be Famous

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 11 Jul 2019

Member Reviews

I tried to get into this book but unfortunately, it didn't grab me as the first one did. While I loved Johanna in the first book I didn't find her as likeable in this, which is a disappointment as I'm usually a huge fan of Caitlin Moran's work but unfortunately this one just isn't for me. 

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity.
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I didn't really enjoy this book, maybe it’s because I’m over 50! I also had to read the first one, but not sure if it would have made any difference
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Picked this as I used to read Caitlin's journalistic output back in the day...

A raunchy, ireverant, and (mostly) entertaining read - if you can ignore the rather crude and graphic descriptions of sex, drugs and rock and roll, you'll find some quite beautiful writing hidden amongst the pages of this novel.

There are also some great characters, and plenty of laugh-out-loud moments.

I hadn't read the previous book in this series btw - you can read this as a standalone.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for an ARC.
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How to be Famous is about Dolly Wild, who is 18, living in London in her own place, and is a writer for a music magazine in 1994, when BritPop is big!  

Her best friend and man of her dreams, John Kite, has just made it big in music, which means he's touring all of the time.  In the meantime, Dolly makes friends with Suzy, a woman who knows she is going to be famous.

Dolly has a two night stand with comedian Jerry Sharp, which turns ugly later.  There are many points where this book was great, and how Dolly deals with this situation is one of these.

How to be Famous is the second book about Johanna  Morrigan aka Dolly Wild, with the first being How to Build a Girl.  I'm definitely going to read that!

How to be Famous was published on 28th June 2018,  and is available to buy on Amazon  and on Waterstones.  I've found a link to where you can search for local bookshops, including independent!

You can follow Caitlin Moran on Twitter, or through her website.

If you're interested in funny journey stories, then I'd suggest The Fall and Rise of the Amir Sisters by Nadiya Hussain, which I gave 🌟🌟🌟🌟.

I was given this book for free in return for an unbiased review, so my thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin Random House (the publishers) for this book.

Check out my GoodReads profile to see more reviews!
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I didn't read How to Be a Girl so felt a bit lost in this sequel.  It was quite raw and I found it hard to read. Probably more me than the book judging by other reviews.
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The sequel to How to Be a Girl, this is a coming of age novel, set in the early 1990s, filled with exquisite period detail.  The author plunges the reader into the life of our heroine Dolly Wilde, a teenage music journalist, an innocent but still worldly girl.  It is a modern and very real.
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Maybe it's my age – I am the wrong side of thirty by quite a few decades after all – but I just don't get Moran's humour or writing style at all. It all comes across as forced. She has a reputation for her feminist, feisty views, and by crikey is she going to Deliver or Else, but for me, it just falls flat. I like a little more bite.

So what exactly is this book?  I can't get a handle on it. I kept thinking for heaven's sake, Caitlin, Grow the Heck Up!  This is, in all honesty, a poorly written mish-mash of a thing aimed at (possibly) younger readers with an immature sense of humour.

I gave up about a third of the way in, which is more than it deserved.

However, my thanks to Netgalley for an ARC; I now know why I've avoided this author for so long.
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Hilarious and full of sex, drugs and rock-and-roll, this book will make you laugh and (if you're like me and had a far more innocent adolescence than our heroine Johanna) cringe a little, but ultimately it has a lot to say about young women, liberation, sexual politics and equality.  While set in the Brit-pop era of the 1990s, there is a lot of resonance for contemporary young women against the backdrop of the #metoo movement. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC.
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I was expecting 'How to be Famous' to be a vivid flashback to my teenage years in 1995. And it really is, but it's also much more than I expected. The book is raw and aggressive in the best possible way. Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll wrapped up in a funny yet brutally honest book.
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Caitlin Moran is one of the most important, feminist voices of our time. Her books should be added to the national curriculum, she is current, relevant and has so much to teach us
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No-one told me this was a sequel…

So I went into this book without any clue of what had come before. There’s a character in the book who jumps into conversations as if introductions have already been made and that’s how I felt reading this book without knowing of what came before. But that’s in retrospect. Because I actually just thought the family call backs were what they were, people who know each other so well and make assumptions about how well people listen. I swear I have a colleague who talks about people by name and I have no idea who she is talking about. It could be a sister or a friend or just a random. But I smile and forget that I have no idea who this person is, I just enjoy the story. And what a well written story it is.

One thing that I find difficult with this story is basically it is set in a time when I (in my actual life) was the same age as the main character. I had the same interests and was living a grown up life as basically an overgrown child. But she was so confident and successful and able in a way that I wonder if I could ever have been. I don’t think so, which is not to talk myself down but more to look at this character as a bit of an ingenue. Not a manic pixie dream girl, a girl who makes mistakes but seems to come out unscathed. Which, with her abilities, sure why not.

I do think that the story line is probably a decade before the feeling of the time. Or maybe that’s how long the feeling took to spread from London. It’s funny but the last three reads that I have reviewed have most definitely had a feminist message (one I haven’t yet reviewed on this blog – The Whisper Network is coming). Completely coincidental if I’m honest – just the top three books in the digital pile. Which I’m working through fairly rapidly this week. But I think the messages within are so important. This story is very good at unmasking the patriarchal structures in place and how easy it is to disregard what a woman says and, most importantly, how she acts. Because there are parts of this story where it is clear (or should be if anyone was interested in noticing) that actions can speak louder than words.

I enjoyed this book. I would warn it is full of swears (which I love but I know some don’t).

I received a copy of this egalley from the publisher, through Netgalley.
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"How To Be Famous" is a riotous romp through '90s London and a thrilling nostalgia ride for those of us of a certain age. I love Caitlin Moran's natural, conversational tone and abundant humour, her IDGAF attitude. She makes me wish I could start my adult life over again. Words cannot express how much I loved everything about this book. I shall cherish it forever and read it many times more.
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Sequel to How to Build a Girl, this is the book you wish you'd come across when you were leaving school (and your teens), about to embark on the adult stage of your life with barely any experience of living without a list of instructions. 
It isn't pretty, or fanciful, or full of rainbows.  What it is is good advice/messages staged as humour using incredibly awkward and embarrassing scenarios to make its point.
There are times when I cringed, others when I whooped, fist punching the air.
Interested to see what the last in the series will bring about.
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I'm not sure I really expected to enjoy this book. I thought it might be a bit smart arsed, sassy and in your face but it's actually really good. Although it might parallel elements of Caitlin Moran's life, it's clearly a work of fiction about a nineteen-year-old called Joanne Morrigan living in London in the 1980s and writing for the music press while trying, as the title suggests, to be 'famous'. This requires her to change her name to Dolly Wilde as well!

She doesn't always end up being famous in quite the right way after becoming involved with a sleazy comedian who ends up trying to ruin her reputation with a dodgy videotape. It is also made difficult because she is in love with John Kite, an emerging Welsh rock star who is himself climbing the ladder to fame.

Her family are just about on the right side of feasible with her ghastly dad who is having his own midlife crisis as Joanna seeks fame. The observations on the family are spot-on and funny. There is also a fair bit about the problems faced by women in the music industry which are best described as dire, there's a nice guy called Zee trying to set up his own record label with a girl group called The Branks who behave pretty badly just for balance as well.

There are plenty of asides about Britpop and the culture of the time and plenty about what it's like to be young and female and the book gets quite serious talking about groupies and fans but it is an interesting perspective. The other thing to say about Joanna, or Dolly, is that she is really quite respectable, keeping away from cocaine and not really having all that much sex and debauchery apart from the drink!

Anyway, after all these bumpy rides, Joanna finds true love with John Kite, her dad goes back home to live, The Branks have a hit record and everything turns out for the best. It's a bit of a managed happy ending but why not? And, at the end of it all, it's quite a witty read and it raised my opinion of Caitlin Moran to a new level!
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I'm not sure what to make of this book. It reads like the diary of a teenager back in the 90s, which I suppose it is. So from that point of view it should have resonated with me as I was one of those too back in the day – female, weird, not-cool, gig-going lover of Doc Martens, however I just wasn’t gripped by the storyline. I’ve read a couple of the author’s non-fiction titles and couldn’t see what the fuss was about, but thought I’d give her fiction a go. Sorry, it’s not for me although I know it’ll be hugely popular.
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I didn't overly enjoy this book (which is a shame as I am a massive Caitlin Moran fan) - it is an average book.
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Whilst this book was engaging, witty and easy to read I couldn't help but feel I was being 'taught at' by the author. 
The story was quite lean it felt in order to give the author more room to talk about issues she is passionate about, which of course is absolutely great but this meant the book didn't feel like fiction. Especially if you know the author's real story which is basically the story of Dolly in this book. Taking that into account the descriptions of Dolly as 'a genius' and 'the next big thing' etc jarred a little because I couldn't help but feel the author was talking about herself!
Sometimes it felt like it was trying to be a bit too clever and the plot suffered for it as we were taken off into another essay that explained how we should feel about certain things or described absolutely the way things should be. 
Still as I say very easy to read, and fun - especially because I too used to live in Camden so it was great to remember the area - but this for me was basically the author's non-fiction books trying to be fiction and so didn't quite work.
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The prequel to this, How To Build A Girl, was a surprise hit with me back in 2015 when I read it and I didn't even realise a sequel was out until it popped up on Netgalley! This novel brings us back to Johanna but in a very different environment; gone is the family dynamic (she barely even mentions her family from back home) and here instead is the big city, rock-n-roll lifestyle, all told from Johanna's quirky, unique point of view. You don't need to have read the first novel before this one; just enjoy being thrown into Johanna's wild, young, 90s British lifestyle.

My favourite thing about is book is probably how this author captures the era. I was only a child in the 90s but reading this gave me a slice of the life and culture. In a rant about Britpop culture she explains "In a reaction to the cold rains and angry storm-front songs of America North-West grunge, they are about the simple brilliance of life in Britain; football in the park, booze in the sun, riding a bike, smoking a fag, fry-ups in a cafe, dancing at a wedding in a working men's club, playing a new record over and over again, getting pissed on a Friday, getting loaded on a Saturday, hugging your friends as the sun comes up on a Sunday morning. They have turned everyday life into a jubilee. They have reminded us that life is - above everything else - a party." And, in its own way, this book does too.

While there's laugh-out-loud moments, this book tackles some tough topics too, from the Me Too movement to the dangers of too much fame and excess, alcholism and drug abuse. There's a fine line between humour and poignancy but this author really gets it spot on confronting these issues head-on and imbuing them with the passion and innocence of Joanna - a nineteen year old enjoying life in London for the first time, at the right time.

This book just missed top marks for me due to some issues I had with the ending; I do feel things are wrapped up a little too perfectly, certain issues which before were subtly indicated are rammed in your face, and things are wrapped up in a bow. But, on the other hand, I can't think of a better ending - it was fabulous and feel good fun. This book is a packed with colourful characters and brilliant anecdotes, and it all comes together to form a perfect reminiscence on a youth, a look back on a culture and era on the cusp of change, and it's depicted perfectly.
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I haven't read 'How to Build a Girl' but I didn't feel lost in this sequel. It's very sweary and raw and rude, but very, very readable. In spite of declarations to the contrary I did wonder how much of Johanna is Caitlin...it felt so very personal, and so very real.
It wasn't perfect, but I pretty much devoured it.
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When this book originally came out I assumed it was non-fiction. Yes, I somehow missed the words 'a novel' in bright yellow font on the front. I also hadn't realised this book is the sequel to Caitlin Moran's earlier novel, How to Build a Girl, which I haven't read (something I'm about to remedy very soon!), but it does work as a standalone.

How to be Famous is about a girl called Jo who has reinvented herself as Dolly Wilde and now works as a journalist in London. This is the the 1990s and Britpop is at its height. She is in love with her childhood friend, but as he's now a huge star no one quite believes she knows him. She left home to get away from her family, but now her father's moved in - and expects her to take him to gigs. Her best friend is a singer/songwriter with writer's block, she's fallen into a nasty feud with a famous comedian, and has accidentally made a sex tape. What else could possibly go wrong?

I really enjoyed How to be Famous, which reminded me of Jilly Cooper's early blockbusters, Riders and Polo. I adore books about celebrities and I think it helped that I'm old enough to remember the 90s and got all the references - normally I have to check this stuff with my kids. The story is chock full of brilliant one-liners but also has pertinent things to say about fame and celebrities. It's a coming-of-age story, following Dolly's adventures, from where she feels she has landed in Wonderland to the painful lesson that the unwary can and will be exploited by those who have power. Does she have the strength to fight back? What do you think!

I loved the characters, particularly Dolly. Her breezy self-confidence reminded me of Margo from The Durrells. John, Dolly's rockstar boyfriend, is also very sweet. In short, How to be Famous is brilliantly written, screamingly funny and exuberantly filthy! A five-star read for me!


Thank you to Caitlin Moran and Ebury for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.
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