Friday, October 23, 2009

In which I simultaneously proclaim my loserdom and my love for Lara Zeises. (Review: The Sweet Life of Stella Madison)

Once I got a full-time job, Friday nights stopped being the night to go out and started being the night to stay in. I look forward to my weekly Friday night hibernation like it's no one's business. It's my time to decompress, my "me" time, and even if you're my best friend, I resent you for planning something that keeps me from my me time. In high school, I felt like a loser if I stayed home Friday night. "Grown up" me? Embraces the loserdom. Going out is why God invented Saturday night.

I love you loserdom. I do. (High school me shakes her head in disbelief.)

How did I spend this lovely Friday night? I devoured a book and a fantastic episode of Dollhouse.
[By the way, rumors abound that Dollhouse will be cancelled. Apparently I'm the only one home Friday nights watching it. Join me in my loserdom and help me save this increasingly brilliant Joss Whedon creation.]

What book? You ask.

THE SWEET LIFE OF STELLA MADISON by Lara Zeises. But of course.

Summary (from Lara's website):
It's not easy being the daughter of a famous chef and a restaurant owner when your idea of a great meal is the kind that's served via a drive-through window.
Seventeen-year-old Stella Madison's food-loving parents have been separated for years, but they're still as sweet to each other as can be, which is just the way Stella likes it. When their connections help her land a summer job at the local newspaper, the salary is hard to resist. There's only one catch: she's expected to write about food.
Now Stella will need all the advice she can get to complete her assignments. Luckily, she has Jeremy, the hot new intern at her mom's restaurant, who's more than happy to help. Soon, Stella can't stop thinking about Jeremy--but where does that leave Stella's boyfriend, Max, who recently dropped the L-word? If that's not confusing enough, her dad's interest in the pretentious programming director of the Food Network seems to go beyond the culinary, and it looks like her mother might be cooking up a romance of her own….
The Sweet Life of Stella Madison is a warmhearted, delectable novel about what it means to love and be loved, especially when there are a few too many cooks in the kitchen.

Way way back in August, the FNC roadtripped down to Delaware to attend the release party for STELLA, and we were treated to delicious mini cupcakes and a fabulous reading from Lara. Seriously, I heard her reading the pages again as clearly as if it were yesterday, and it totally made me smile.

Most of you haven't had the pleasure of meeting Lara in person, but let me tell you ... she's a trip. Lara's funny in an effortless way -- a mix of silly and sarcastic that gives me the "I've been there" giggles -- and she's totally passionate about life. This comes through loud and clear in STELLA.

Lara has a fantastic voice as a writer. Her dialogue is the stuff to be envied, and Stella and every other character really rang true to me.

By the way, it's casually mentioned that Stella is a size 8-10 ... and she has ZERO body issues. Hallelujah.


I wanted to be BFFs with Stella, Olivia, and Kat. No lie. They had the kind of genuine, strong, supportive friendship that severely lacks in many YA novels. They understood each other's flaws, didn't take crap from one another, and provided much needed icewater-to-the-face honesty. With a hug.

The pacing was perfect, and even though STELLA was a quick read, it didn't feel at all like fluff. In fact, beneath the witty writing, there was a satisfying amount of depth. (Stella's parents aren't invisible OR one-dimensionally evil, but they sure have given her emotional issues. Plus, Stella has a humdinger of a love triangle. Yep, I said humdinger.) But that's what I've come to expect from Lara.

Also worth mentioning -- I usually despise first person, present tense narration because it completely distracts me. This may be the one and only time that STELLA MADISON and THE HUNGER GAMES ever get compared, but both Lara Zeises and Suzanne Collins managed to make that narration feel completely natural. Plus, they both created two male love interests that I can't choose between. (Peeta vs. Gale, meet Jeremy vs. Max.) Cue the awe.

And because it's nearly bedtime (oh yes, my Friday night loserdom includes passing out in a sleep coma before midnight), I'll just say this: the next time you're in the mood for a funny, well-written book with characters you'll wish would jump off the page and hang out with you, pick up THE SWEET LIFE OF STELLA MADISON. You won't be disappointed ... but you may get a little bit hungry.

(And the inventor of the midnight snack rests soundly in his grave.)

Want more Lara? Check out her interview with the First Novels Club and read her blog!
Buy THE SWEET LIFE OF STELLA MADISON on Barnes&Noble, Borders, and Indiebound.


  1. I feel the same exact way about Fridays. Every now and then I feel that way about Saturdays and Sundays too. lol. Sometimes, it's just nice to sit in and read a good book.


  2. I love staying on Friday nights. And reading. And watching Dollhouse. Totally get you.

    And yay for characters, and women in general, who can love themselves without being a size zero!

  3. I'm so with you on Dollhouse. And staying home. Yay for the Friday night homebodies. We may save Dollhouse yet. (I hope.)

  4. Donna, you make me blush. :)

    BTW, I think every post-grad goes through that Friday night thing. In college, I wouldn't even leave my apartment until 9 or 10. By grad school, Friday nights became all about movie rentals and takeout. Now, I spend most of Friday night catching up on the week's TV with Joe (we used to go to the gym, but Sunday afternoons are the new Friday nights for that).

    Anyway, really glad you enjoyed the book!


  5. The only reason I was up past 11pm this Friday was to harvest my Farmville crops (and no, I'm not ashamed!)

    These days, my most exciting Friday nights are when Read goes out and plays poker, because it means I have the house to myself and can listen to my "sleepy" music (i.e. Tori Amos or Dar Williams), read without having video games in the background, and catch up on my TV and those "weird, artsy movies" that I like (i.e. The History Boys or Little Children.)

  6. I loved The Sweet Life of Stella McCartney!

  7. This sounds like a terrific read. I'll have to add it to my list, thanks for the recommendation!


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