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3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on April 10, 2004
My overview of this novel is that the author had very little concept of how she wanted to present a large collaboration of ideas and storyboards. She does not seem to possess a flare for fluid, concise storytelling and as a result, this novel "Chemical Pink" breaks up and goes many separate ways. The author hyper-develops one character, Charles, the eccentric female muscle hobbyist to such an exhausting degree and leaves the remainder of the characters as undeveloped afterthoughts. By the 10th instance of this creep's bizarre libido in the first 120 pages, I really wondered how this neverending lecherous spectacle would be essential to anything, and I still say this crude "Penthouse Forum" content had no major bearing on the story once it finally got going. It was just unconscionable shock value implemented to conceal (not very well) the story's deficencies. This is a very patchwork story; characters seem to always be at the right place at the right time, very reminiscent of a Wes Craven movie. The relationship between the female bodybuilder Aurora and her daughter Amy is so played out and uninspired it could have been pulled from any daytime soap. The dialogue, as a whole, is stale and predictable. I thought going in this would be a witfest imbedded with hauntingly funny dark humor, akin to Chuck Palanhiuk, whose novels always appear with this novel. It was nothing of that sort; it was dull, obvious humor with no signs of irony or underlying sentiment. I liken this novel, being a $13.95 psuedo-hardcover novel, to an expensive entree that sounds good on the menu printup, yet when you take that first bite, you wonder what you were thinking when you ordered it. Still, you feel obliged to cram the rest of it down your throat to feel that you at least got something out of the debacle. That is how I felt reading this book.
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on January 6, 2004
Okay, so I will admit that the reason I picked this book up is because I thought the cover picture was a naked man with really big pecs!!! Obviously it wasn't, but after reading about the plot I decided to give it a try.
I have to say that I can't even figure out if I liked the book or not. It kept my interest, and I read it in one sitting, but I didn't finish it and think, "Wow, that's a keeper!"
So, every other reviewer has gone over the plot, and I must say that it was an odd plot. I had never really thought about women body builders and the life that they lead. If this book is an honest example of the life they lead then it makes me wonder why anyone would do it?
I did notice in the other reviews that people talk about the graphic, kinky sex in the book. The acts are definitely pretty kinky, but the author doesn't go into too much detail.
Overall, I don't know if I would really recommend it, or read it again, but I don't feel that I wasted time in reading it.
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on April 7, 2003
Charles Worthering has a hobby and it is not boating, photography, fishing....His hobby is to take a woman and mold her into the heavy weight bodybuilder. What better place to do this than at Venice Beach, California. His last project, May, had destroyed her body with drugs to the point of no longer being able to compete, so Charles is now on the prowl for a new project....and he finds her - and her name is Aurora!
What is great about this book is that Katie Arnoldi not only gives the details of the strict regimen that these women body builders have to follow, but the lives they choose to live in to succeed in this sport.
Do not be fooled into thinking this book is all about workouts and steroid use; it goes behind the scenes with Aurora & Charles...the secret life that these girls live behind the scene!!! (EXTREMELY CRAZY!!!) How far will Aurora go to have the life she has always wanted? A life for not only her, but her daughter? How much will Charles expect in return for all the material things?
You will easily finish this book in one sitting!
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on March 15, 2003
This fast-paced book offers a view into the seedy side of female bodybuilding, a subculture that is ripe for all kinds of deviant behavior because it's based on the use of expensive illegal drugs. This book is really the same old story of female exploitation and body worship, but it's taken to extremes in the characters of Aurora and Charles. Aurora is a blank slate just waiting to be molded by a dominant personality whereas Charles is a depraved individual who uses his money to get women to indulge his nasty little fantasies.
I always wondered about the mentality of a person who would pump herself full of steroids to build an unnatural-looking physique. It's an expensive undertaking and female bodybuilders don't make much money -- not even the national level pros. They are viewed as freaks by mainstream society, the drugs endanger their health and they have usually have to resort to porn or prostitution to foot the bill, so what's the great attraction?
We don't learn a whole lot about Aurora in this book because we only read about her training or living out Charles' sexual fantasies. She seems a bit two dimensional in this regard though she does have a daughter and a mother. Aurora is very passive as she goes from being controlled by her mother to being controlled by her first trainer, then by Charles her sponsor and the trainer that he hires. She spends all her time doing what other people want her to do and is never happy.
On the whole, I found the book interesting but a bit superficial. And I was sickened by the descriptions of the perversions Aurora endured in return for Charles' sponsorship. If I took anything at all from this book, it was that you can never put a price on your dignity.
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on January 30, 2003
I got WAY more than expected with this novel. I was under the impression this book was solely about female bodybuilding and one character's dream of making it big. But during my reading, I became increasinly aware that Chemical Pink is about more than that. Much, much more.
Katie Arnoldi, a former bodybuilder herself, has used her expertise and experience to pen an accurate account of what really happens to female weighlifters -- at least in the scientific aspect. I learned so much about this industry and the irreversible damages that "power" drugs wreak on the body. But it is the supporting characters that completely blew me away.
Chemical Pink tells the story of bodybuilder Aurora Johnson; her 12-year-old daughter, Amy, and the man who becomes Aurora's sponsor, Charles Worthington. Charles offers Aurora the chance of a lifetime: a house, a car, a lifestyle that she's always dreamed of, and the opportunity to train under his wing in an effort to become a professional bodybuilder. Aurora immediately jumps at the chance, but there is one catch -- she is required to make Charles happy on a daily basis. Aurora becomes Charles's object of obsession, his sexual role-playing partner, his trophy, his clay to mold.
This novel is very good. The effects of steroids and other chemicals discussed in the story are horrific. But it is the addictions and obsessions of Charles that really come alive. His sex scenes are quite possibly the grossest I've ever read and left my mouth hanging open with shock! As far as the writing goes, Katie Arnoldi is very talented and can tell quite a story. I believe there is much more to come from her, and I look forward to reading more of her work.
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on August 4, 2002
They say this book is Palahniuk-esque, but I don't know. I'm a big fan of Chuck Palahniuk's work, which is how I found this book in the first place, but the prose style that makes Palahniuk's books so amazing is not to be found here. Which is not to say it's poorly written - it's not, not at all. Arnoldi has a very straightforward narrative style, much sparser than Palahniuk's, but it serves her story perfectly well. I think the comparison comes because to the non-bodybuilder, Arnoldi's characters seem as bizarre as Palahniuk's, and their lives a little surreal. And certainly this book is Grotesque. But I've Been There Done That, and the characters in this book are not bizarre creations of Arnoldi's mind, they're completely real, or at least, there really are people just like them. The author says so herself, and you can take her at her word.
As a former bodybuilder, although not a pro, I recognized Arnoldi's characters instantly. There's the superior attitude toward "normal" people, who jiggle when they walk; the tendency to pose naked in front of the bedroom mirror; that odd separation of self from body; but most of all, the ultimate paradox of women's bodybuilding: bodies that scream strength and power, but which are in fact under the complete and unquestioning control of a male "sponsor" and/or trainer.
Aurora, like all fine young bodybuilding women, needs help. Aurora wants to be the best, and she has the genetic gifts to do it, but she needs the right drugs, the right diet, and a way to finance the gym rat lifestyle. Bodybuilding is more than a sport and more than an art. Dieting and drugging have been elevated to a precise and deadly dangerous science, known only to an elite few and affordable to fewer. Aurora's an amateur and she's broke. Her only chance is to find a sponsor.
And so, Aurora gladly turns herself over to Charles, a wealthy, weasely, bodybuilding aficionado, when he offers to make her a star. All she has to do is give up her personal freedom and all control over her body. Charles and the trainer he hires, Henrik, walk her through every day up to the big contest, controlling her eating, drinking, training, and shooting her up with a dizzying cocktail of drugs from human growth hormone to insulin. They treat her like a prize heifer, and if they are aware of her on a human level, it doesn't show.
This ugly dynamic is what makes the book brilliant. The fact that it is extended into the bedroom, where Aurora performs the *dirtiest* acts for Charles' amusement and Henrik runs a bodybuilder prostitution ring, drives the lesson home. She might look strong and independent, but it's an illusion - her body is the product of patriarchal exploitation at best, sickening perversity at worst. But all through this book the male proprietary nature of women's bodybuilding pops up. Her first "trainer," Skip, takes her under his wing and talks about "peeling" her (making her leaner) and giving her shoes that make her calves "pop." His joy in taking control of her body, beginning with its shape and attire and culminating in the sexual act, illustrates the tendency of men in this book to strive single-mindedly for ownership and domination of women's bodies. There is even a revolting scene where in return for an affectionate peck on the cheek, a mentally disabled man begins to grope and rub against her. Everything Aurora touches seems to turn to dirty sex.

This book follows not so much Aurora's bodybuilding career, as her ironic loss of control over her life and body while exercising a level of physical discipline few people will ever know. The big question, of course, is just how far she is willing to go, and the book provides a very satisfying answer.
There are a lot of good things that I remember about my own time as a bodybuilder, and this book made me wonder what the heck they were. It's a one-sided vision (the sleazy side), for sure, but I loved it anyway. I only wish it had been longer.
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on June 4, 2002
Socioculturally, the 1980's and early 1990's thus far represent the peak of the American maniacal and obsessive quest for power. Men and women transmuted this search into an ostentatious external appearance. For some, it was gaudy gold chains; for others, it was fast, luxurious cars; yet for others, it was excessive muscles. This book arises from the bodybuilding world of this era.
Psychologically, Aurora and Charles compensate for their mothers' emotional abandonment with the narcissistic pursuit of physical prowress. When Aurora's mother disallows her from having an abortion, she removes her daughter's control over her own body, thus, ignoring her feelings. In an attempt to gain back control, Aurora takes up the independent sport of bodybuilding. Charles' offer to free her of monetary concerns and help train to her to championship is one more step to taking back control. She chooses to move to California with the seemingly good intentions of bettering both her daughter Amy's and her own lifestyle. There, her mother continues to show Aurora little compassion as she repeatedly crticizes Aurora's decision to move.
Charles' mother shunned his affection and interacted with him only in terms of respecting her material possessions. He likely saw his mother as a rigid powerful figure and has sought to reenact his submission to her control by having female bodybuilders dominate him.
So, Charles supplies Aurora with the financial and chemical means to overachieve physical autonomy while Aurora supplies him with cold, affectionless sexual diversion. In the end, Aurora does reflect about how her muscular metamorphosis has done little for her to regain self-control and done alot to distance the relationship she has with her own daughter Amy. Charles, regrettably, remains emotionally stunted, unable to break free of the cycle of powerlessness.
The author captures the fragile psychological complexities of these players in the muscle-building arena as well as some abhorrent sexual imagery. I was often appalled yet appreciated the glimpse into this world.
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on April 22, 2002
This book is a fast paced ride through the seamy world of pro bodybuilding. While I'm not familiar enough with bodybuilding to verify or deny the accuracy of the complex usage of steroids, diuretics, and tanning methods portrayed in the book (though if I was the gambling type, I would bet the author is on the money!), this is a great story that vividly portrays members of a subculture that would go to extreme and destructive lengths to acheive their goals.
Katie Arnoldi beautifully creates seedy characters. Their repulsive nature is so tangible and horrifying (especially Charles, the weasely perveted bodybuilding sponsor) that you feel like washing your hands between reads! If you're a writer who wants to brandish an effective villain, I highly recommend reading this book.
I also enjoyed Arnoldi's full-speed pace in telling the story of Aurora, a womens' pro bodybuilding hopeful. Many of the chapters are no more than two pages, yet the author manages to paint up the scene with vibrant characters, sensations and crossroads. Ms. Arnoldi has the art of telling a story down pat, and I hope we see more of her work in the future.
Even the finish of the story is in high gear. She winds up the story with a definite and clear ending, yet you hope for a sequel because there are still many possibilities for many of the characters. High energy book; don't read around bedtime, cuz it's a page turner that will keep you awake!
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on November 5, 2001
I awaited the arrival of this one impatiently, being a keen followed of body building... oh well
OK, so I finished it in less than 2 days, but that was more due to the 'it HAS to get better soon, surely?' factor (think David Letterman) than any particular care about the plot or characters.
Chemical Pink uses that irritating 'technique' (this term is used very loosely, you understand) whereby each chapter is given an oh so subtle title such as 'Intruder in the Home' and 'Breakfast with Hendrik' to completely lay to waste any potential discoveries that may be made by the reader. Each chapter averaged out at 3 pages each in length. I don't know about you but I certainly can't concentrate for longer than 4 minutes at a time, so that was appreciated...
The main character Aurora is given a completely 2 dimensional personality which does little to persuade the reader that female body builders are any more than broad, brawny broads. Her reasoning for wanting to achieve such phenomenal results is nowhere to be found - which was a shame, as this is a particularly interesting aspect of the 'sport'.
I would, however, highly recommend this book to any woman considering taking up body building seriously. The stark naked truth was its one redeeming feature, and the Orange Roughy story will always be at the back of my mind when I consider going a bit too far!
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on May 17, 2001
The LA Times did a great write-up on this book from the angle of the writer exposing the drug culture in professional bodybuilding. It didn't hurt that the author was an attractive bodybuilder who just happens to be married to a writer or artist in LA. Coupled with the exceptional Amazon customer reviews I eagerly looked forward to this book.
Maybe my expectations were too high. I read the book quickly but as I awaited some extreme action event or revelation to heighten my excitement, I noticed I was already 3/4 of the way through the book. Ok, I mildly enjoyed getting an inside look at precisely what a bodybuilder goes through in the steroid cycles leading up to competition. And the sexual escapades and disclosures didn't bother me although they eventually become somewhat boring. Unfortunately, I never felt the tremendous emotional attachment to the characters one generally looks for to really enjoy a novel.
This is a story of a bodybuilding obsessed woman who hooks up with a rich trainer who in return wants to "hook up". Repeatedly, and kinky. It's also a story of her relationship with her young daughter and that daughter's resentment to her bodybuilding. And there is also the former trainer who appears out of thin air and then disappears quickly and serves virtually no purpose in developing a cohesive story line for the book.
I'm glad the other reviewers enjoyed this book and am still struggling to understand why I didn't like it more. It just missed the button which I can only attribute to poor storytelling or poor character development. Of course there is one other possibility. Maybe I'm just a poor reader.
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