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Helen of Pasadena Paperback – October 15, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Dolan's debut novel, Helen Fairchild finds her life turned upside-down after her husband leaves her for another woman and promptly dies in a freak accident during Pasadena's famed Rose Parade. To make matters worse, Helen discovers that they were on the verge of bankruptcy and she's forced to sell their beautiful home and find a job in order to pay her son Aiden's private school tuition. This makes Helen re-examine the choices she's made, noting "I happily traded in my grad-student status for membership in the young mothers' club of Pasadena." Helen finds employment with Dr. Patrick O'Neill, a Pasadena archeologist studying the journals of an excavator of Troy. He also happens to be handsome, charming, and unattached. In addition to her role as research assistant, Helen must help Patrick navigate the Pasadena social scene, which includes a bevy of beauties all trying to get their hands on him. Dolan (of Public Radio's popular Satellite Sisters) has created a compelling narrative and a memorable cast ideal for the woman who enjoys a quick read, likeable characters, and frequent descriptions of what everyone is wearing.
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About the Author

Lian Dolan is the wise and very witty woman behind the Chaos Chronicles, a podcast with 50,000 downloads a month and a blog with 50,000 readers a month. With her four real sisters, she created the Satellite Sisters, a talk show, blog and website; during its years as a radio show, the Satellite Sisters won 8 Gracie Allen Awards. Lian was the principal author of Satellite Sisters UnCommon Senses, published in 2001 by Riverhead. She also writes for and has written for O, The Oprah Magazine, Working Mother and others, and she has appeared on such TV shows as The Today Show and Oprah.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Prospect Park Books (October 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0984410228
  • ISBN-13: 978-0984410224
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #243,512 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lian Dolan is a mother, wife, novelist, talk show host, Satellite Sister and Chaos Chronicler. Her first novel, Helen of Pasadena, was an LA Times Bestseller for over a year and a nominee for Best Fiction from the Southern California Indie Booksellers. Part Rom-Com, part social satire, Helen of Pasadena was a hit with critics and book clubs alike. Her latest novel, Elizabeth the First Wife, continues the tradition with wit, romance and Shakespeare.

Lian writes and talks about her adventures in modern motherhood for her website, and her weekly podcast, The Chaos Chronicles. Lian has always used her voice to take on all aspects of motherhood, from common-sense parenting to all-consuming school volunteering to overcoming handbag envy. She is known for her humorous take on the day-to-day issues that face women everywhere. The Chaos Chronicles was developed by Nickelodeon as a half-hour comedy.

Prior to The Chaos Chronicles, Lian spent a decade hosting Satellite Sisters, an award-winning talk show that she created with her four real sisters. Satellite Sisters has won 11 Gracie Allen Awards for Excellence in Women's Media, including Talk Show of the Year in 2006. On air, Lian has interviewed everybody from Bill Clinton to Nora Roberts to Maya Angelou.

In addition, Lian has written regular columns for many national magazines and websites including regular columns in O, The Oprah Magazine, and Working Mother Magazine.

Lian has appeared numerous TV shows including The Today Show, CBS Sunday Morning and The Oprah Winfrey Show.

She lives in Pasadena, California with her husband and two sons. Her dream is to ride on a Rose Parade float.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By J. T. Stern on November 8, 2010
Format: Paperback
First of all, without going into too much personal detail, let me assure you that Ms. Dolan has done her research. The anthropological fieldwork she has obviously meticulously documented lends the entire book the credibility that researchers can only dream of achieving. By observing these creatures in their native habitat, she reveals that...wait...oh, crap, you're going to think I mean the work Helen is doing with that handsome archeologist at the Huntington! No, no, NO, Helen's gift (well, really Lian's) is skewering the strange and often perplexing ways of the ultra-rich (or keeping up the pretense of it) families who inhabit Pasadena and its world of old money, new money, high culture, and low behaviors. The rich are different from you and me, believe it, and this novel enjoys the hell out of telling it like it is for the haves and have-nots, and most particularly, those who have left one category abruptly for the other. Seriously, this is a really fun, smart, satisfying read and I promise you'll enjoy it. Ms. Dolan not only tells the tale well, she sprinkles it with such deliciously spot-on details you'll have a ball turning every page. And she really gets the minutiae right (private school admissions...nailed...). Buy this book, curl up with it, eat it up, and you'll love every minute you spend with plucky, charming Helen as her world is turned upside down and she finds out what she is really made of. Smart women...Helen and Lian...gotta love `em!
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By C. Purvis on November 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
Loved it! I live in Pasadena, (thankfully on the periphery of Helen's world) but I've been here long enough to confirm that Lian Dolan has NAILED our town and its cast of characters. I literally laughed out loud multiple times. I'm also amazed at Dolan's talent for articulating Helen's inner thoughts so perfectly. No matter where you live, you'll get a kick out of recognizing those people that are "players" in all of our lives. A fun, smart and funny read! Didn't want it to end!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Hays on December 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
I read quite a bit of chick-lit every year. I find it is a good antidote when things in real life are hectic and a good palate-cleanser after reading a long or "serious" book. The best chick-lit is light, refreshing, and distracting. Helen of Pasadena is all of these things, plus some. I was very pleased to find that it was well-written and offered some fresh points-of-view to the genre. Helen herself was likable, not whiny or wallowing, and made decisions well. I especially liked the way Pasadena and its residents were portrayed -- as a real place, neither glamorized nor vilified. It is obvious that Dolan loves her adopted hometown, even its foibles. And, perhaps best of all, the author devotes very little time to her characters' shoes, preferring instead to spend the space on plot and character development! (Note to other chick-lit authors: It's been done! Move on from the shoe fetish!)
Well done, Lian Dolan! I'm looking forward to the next one!
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful By SCOTUS fan on November 1, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you're like millions of Americans who are still mourning the fact that the Satellite Sisters no longer broadcast their conversations to the world every weekday, you'll love this book. Even if you'd never heard of Lian Dolan until you picked up this book, you're going to want to hear more of her. It's fun, campy, and silly (in all the ways that good chick lit should be), but it's also got a lot going on below the surface.

Take the underlying "Troy" myth and the author's careful but clever exploration of why Helen of Troy may indeed have launched a thousand ships. Take the interesting and educational references to just how and why archeologists do what they do. Take the different slant (positive and respectful) of a woman who's working hard to juggle motherhood, work, friendship, romance . . . and an interest in classical Greek stuff.

Put all of that together with some great writing, some laugh-out-loud humor, and some characters that every mom will recognize from her own life, and you've got a winner of a book here. Here's hoping that Julia Roberts plays Helen in the movie.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Anna on April 3, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I didn't expect much from this book, just a light, maybe funny read. Instead I found a main character, Helen, that was just as infantile and annoying as the people around her she complained about. For example, Helen was frustrated for being judged about her appearance but made continuous remarks about others in the style of "that's the same Loehmann's dress she wore last time". There was no introspection or personal responsibility for her situation. While her husband cheated on her and left her in a bad position (if you consider having to move a home in Bungalow heaven a bad position), it was stated on several occasions that she chose to be with him so that her life would be easy. The self-awareness Helen lacks is what usually allows a main character that makes bad choices like-able enough to endure.

I considered that maybe the author wanted to shed light onto the type of people that make up Pasadena's elite and I wasn't supposed to like Helen. While it takes place in Pasadena, referring to common landmarks/events such as the Huntington or Rose Parade, the author did not have the guts to name real private schools in the area opting to substitute with fakes. Nor did the book alude to anything more substantial than what could be read out of a Pasadena visitors guide.

In the end, it was no more than a poorly written romance with a caricature of a Professor.
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