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“My dreams had all come true.

And I had given them everything I was and everything I had and everything I could be, everything.

And I was empty.

Gone.

And what I didn’t realize.

Was that when your dreams come true.

You have to dream new.

You have to dream new dreams new.”

Purchase on Amazon! $12.99 Kindle | $27 Hardcover

Published: September 11, 2018
Pages: 320
My Copy Came From: NetGalley and the publisher Gallery/Scout Press
Read Via: Kindle
My Like Level: 4 out of 5

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Book Synopsis From Amazon:

From the New York Times bestselling author of A Million Little Pieces and Bright Shiny Morning comes Katerina, James Frey’s highly anticipated new novel set in 1992 Paris and contemporary Los Angeles.

A kiss, a touch. A smile and a beating heart. Love and sex and dreams, art and drugs and the madness of youth. Betrayal and heartbreak, regret and pain, the melancholy of age. Katerina, the explosive new novel by America’s most controversial writer, is a sweeping love story alternating between 1992 Paris and Los Angeles in 2018.

At its center are a young writer and a young model on the verge of fame, both reckless, impulsive, addicted, and deeply in love. Twenty-five years later, the writer is rich, famous, and numb, and he wants to drive his car into a tree, when he receives an anonymous message that draws him back to the life, and possibly the love, he abandoned years prior. Written in the same percussive, propulsive, dazzling, breathtaking style as A Million Little Pieces, Katerina echoes and complements that most controversial of memoirs, and plays with the same issues of fiction and reality that created, nearly destroyed, and then recreated James Frey in the American imagination.

My Thoughts:

The first word that comes to mind when I think about this book is RAW. Raw emotion, raw writing, raw energy. James Frey’s novels have this quality about them that makes them very unique. His writing is edgy and pointed. Some pages have one word, per line the whole way down. Chapters seem to alternate between story and poetry. Some readers may find this challenging to switch their thinking between two very different writing styles, but I really enjoyed it. I loved the chapters solely dedicated to colorful writing and very intense descriptions of the main characters tumultuous lifestyle. I loved his long soliloquies on things like love, and wild nights of partying.

“More than anything I dream of love, crazy crazy mad love. The love that breaks hearts, starts wars, ruins lives, the love that sears itself into your soul, that you can feel every time your heart beats, that scorches your memory and comes back to you whenever you’re alone and it’s quiet and the world falls away, the love that still hurts, that makes you sit and stare at the floor and wonder what the fuck happened and why.”

(This quote goes on for another whole page BTW) I LOVED IT! I would have copied the whole thing here, but it was just too long to be copied. I will say, it gives me the chills every time I read it.

James Frey’s Katerina is like a long, wild party that you want to attend, but know you could never keep up with. Jay, our main character has fled the country in search of a life free from the expected, established, guidelines society has placed on him. He doesn’t want to be another robot in the world living his life in the typical linear fashion. Although he goes to college after high school, he quickly rebels. He throws the life he is expected to lead in the trash, and leaves everyone behind hopping on a plane to Paris. He wants to “Burn it all down” and write a book that will set the world on fire. Along this journey, he tortures his mind, body and soul with copious amounts of drugs, booze and sex. This is probably where I should warn you that this book is FULL of graphic sex and party scenes. If I had a dollar for every time Jay hooks up with a woman and/or vomits from over indulging in every substance he could get his hands on, I would be quite well off. So, if you are a bit faint at heart, skip this one. For those of you who have read James Frey’s other novels, A Million Little Pieces and My Friend Leonard, you already know what you are getting yourself into. I loved James’ previous novels, and that is why I chose to read this.

Those of you living under a rock when James released A Million Little Pieces back in 2003 won’t remember the controversy this book brought with it. So, I am going to pause this review in order to bring readers up to speed on some past issues author James Frey has been involved in. All of the below information is from Wikipedia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Frey

His two first books, A Million Little Pieces (2003) and My Friend Leonard (2005), were best-sellers marketed as memoirs. Large parts of the stories were later found to be exaggerated or fabricated, sparking a media controversy. (Info from Wikipedia)

Media skepticism

On January 8, 2006, The Smoking Gun website published an article called “A Million Little Lies: Exposing James Frey’s Fiction Addiction”, alleging that Frey fabricated large parts of his memoirs, including details about his criminal record. One incident in the book that came under particular scrutiny was a 1986 train-automobile collision in St. Joseph Township, Michigan.

The website alleged that Frey had never been incarcerated and that he greatly exaggerated the circumstances of a key arrest detailed in the memoir: hitting a police officer with his car, while high on crack, which led to a violent melee with multiple officers and an 87-day jail sentence. In the police report that TSG uncovered, Frey was held at a police station for no more than five hours before posting a bond of a few hundred dollars for some minor offenses. The arresting officer, according to TSG, recalled Frey as having been polite and cooperative.

The book’s hardcover (Doubleday) and paperback (Anchor Books) publishers initially stood by Frey, but examination of the evidence caused the publishers to alter their stances. As a consequence, the publishers decided to include a publisher’s note and an author’s note from Frey as disclaimers to be included in future publications.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune had questioned Frey’s claims as early as 2003. Frey responded by saying, “I’ve never denied I’ve altered small details.” In a May 2003 interview, Frey claimed that his publisher had fact-checked his first book.

On January 11, 2006, Frey appeared with his mother on Larry King Live on CNN. He defended his work while claiming that all memoirs alter minor details for literary effect. Frey consistently referred to the reality of his addiction, which he said was the principal point of his work. Oprah Winfrey called in at the end of the show defending the essence of Frey’s book and the inspiration it provided to her viewers, but said she relied on the publisher to assess the book’s authenticity.

Live confrontation with Oprah

On January 26, 2006, as more accusations against the book continued to surface, Winfrey invited Frey onto her show. She wanted to hear from him directly whether he had lied to her or “simply” embellished minor details, as he had told Larry King. Frey admitted to several of the allegations against him. He acknowledged that The Smoking Gun had been accurate when the website reported that Frey had only spent a few hours in jail rather than the 87 days Frey claimed in his memoirs.

Winfrey then brought out Frey’s publisher Nan Talese to defend her decision to classify the book as a memoir. Talese admitted that she had done nothing to check the book’s veracity, despite the fact that her representatives had assured Winfrey’s staff that the book was indeed non-fiction and described it as “brutally honest” in a press release.

Several columnists weighed in on the controversy; David Carr of the New York Times, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, Larry King, Washington Posts Richard Cohen.

Aftermath

On January 31, 2006, it was announced that Frey had been dropped by his literary manager, Kassie Evashevski of Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, over matters of trust. In an interview with Publishers Weekly, Evashevski said that she had “never personally seen a media frenzy like this regarding a book before”.

On February 1, 2006, Random House published Frey’s note to the reader which was subsequently included in later editions of the book. In the note, Frey apologized for fabricating portions of his book.

On February 24, 2006, Frey’s publicist revealed that Penguin imprint Riverhead had dropped out of a two-book, seven-figure deal with Frey. Riverhead had previously published Frey’s bestselling 2005 book, My Friend Leonard.

On September 12, 2006, Frey and publisher Random House, Inc. reached a tentative legal settlement, whereby readers who felt that they had been defrauded by Frey’s A Million Little Pieces would be offered a refund. In order to receive the refund, customers had to submit a proof of purchase such as pieces of the book itself (page 163 from the hardcover or the front cover from the paperback), and complete a sworn statement indicating that they had purchased the book under the assumption that it was a memoir.

On July 28, 2007, at a literary convention in Texas, Nan Talese verbally attacked Oprah for misrepresenting the purpose of the interview on January 26, 2006. Just before air time, both Talese and Frey were told the topic of the show had been changed to “The James Frey Controversy”.

On November 2, 2007, the Associated Press published a story about a judgment in favor of readers who felt deceived by Frey’s claims of A Million Little Pieces being a memoir. Although the publisher, Random House, had set aside $2.35 million for lawsuits, only 1,729 readers came forward to receive a refund for the book. The refund offer was extended to anyone who had purchased the book prior to Frey’s disclosing the falsehoods therein. Chicago lawyer Larry D. Drury, defending the plaintiff, received approximately $1.3 million for legal fees, distribution of the legal notice, and charitable donations to three charities, while total claimants’ refunds issued to readers only came to $27,348. The publisher also agreed to provide a disclosure at the beginning of the book, citing the somewhat fictitious nature of the text.

In May 2009, Vanity Fair reported that Winfrey had called Frey and apologized for the surprise topic change of the January 26, 2006. She made a televised apology in 2011.

Following the events of Frey’s Oprah appearance, South Park created a parody of the events with their character Towelie, entitled “A Million Little Fibers“.

OK, back to my review. What I found to be extremely interesting is how James weaved his true life controversies into this new novel. His main character Jay suffers the same literary public shaming at the hands of a major talk show host just as James did. James even named his lead character Jay which is obviously closely related to his own name. I looked online to see if there were any other truths in the novel, like his early romance with a beautiful but damaged model the novel is named after, Katerina. I also looked to see if James lived in Paris at any point, but found nothing. I thought it was very tongue-in-cheek to be reading his take on the whole real-life ordeal through a book characters eyes. I imagine it was very therapeutic for James writing everything out and working through the issues in print.

This book was a (pardon the expression) balls to wall, spin you out of control, then smack you back into reality joy ride. I am planning to purchase a copy for my book shelf and will for sure read this again which is very rare for me. Check it out, if you are up for an adventure.

In exchange for an honest review, I am so happy to have received a copy of such an important book. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher Gallery/Scout Press for this Advanced Readers Edition of Katerina by James Frey.

Purchase on Amazon! $12.99 Kindle | $27 Hardcover

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