Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Book Report: The Outsiders

Boy, when that heat wave broke, it really broke. I haven't had my air conditioner on since Saturday (though will probably need it some in the next few days). I've slept with my windows open the last couple of nights, and even needed the big comforter last night. It was cloudy all day Sunday, and rained all day on Labor Day. Thus, it was the perfect weekend for the Chick Lit and Chick Flick celebration.

So, here's the report ...

Saturday I stuck with catching up on House DVDs, along with the University of Texas football game and the Wallace and Grommit movie on HBO. Sunday morning, Oxygen showed I'm With Lucy, which was one of the movies I watched over the phone with Rosa last year, so that was a nice nostalgia dose. I really like that movie, so I think I'll add it to my "get on DVD someday" list. I also caught Mr. and Mrs. Smith on HBO OnDemand. I was pleasantly surprised by that movie, though I'd have enjoyed it a lot more without all the tabloid hype that went with it. It would have been more fun if I could have forgotten about the actors' personal lives (the main reason I never saw it in the theater). I love things that throw wild events into "normal" settings. I also watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and I think that's a really sweet version of the story. It's been ages since I read the book, but it seems to fit the book better than the earlier movie version. I do still love Gene Wilder's version of Willie Wonka, though. That evening I watched Sense and Sensibility on DVD, and it was a strange jolt to see Hugh Laurie in period costume and with British accent after all that House viewing, though if you've been watching a lot of House, Mr. Palmer seems rather sweet and cuddly in comparison.

I didn't really watch much on Monday because I was enjoying listening to the rain and reading.

First, I finished reading The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. I think that will have to go on the re-read list for when I have time to really get all the jokes, because I thought it was such a clever story with many laugh-out-loud moments. Not a good book to be reading on deadline, though! I'll definitely read the rest of the series, and now I have this strange urge to re-read Jane Eyre.

After that, it was all chick lit, with an inadvertent theme of outsiders or outcasts (the books were chosen from my to-be-read collection strictly due to proximity).
The Grrl Genius Guide to Sex (with Other People) -- A Self-Help Novel by Cathryn Michon -- Something I snagged on sale at B&N because the title and the idea of a "self-help novel" intrigued me. From what I can tell, it's a fictionalized account of what really happened to the author, written as a sort of cautionary tale to illustrate what she learned along the way. She throws in things you'd see in self-help books, like factoids, charts and anecdotes. And the whole thing is laugh-out-loud funny to a "scare the neighbors" degree. The factoids are fun facts about chocolate, "at least you aren't this screwed up" tales from real life, mating rituals from other cultures, and comparisons to the animal world. The charts compare advice given by Cosmo, The Rules and the author's 4-year-old niece (guess who makes the most sense about relationships). The story woven in among the jokes is about the author's divorce from hell, her fixation on firefighters, her attempt to win a salad-making competition, and her efforts to get custody of her dog. I didn't know what to expect of this book, but I ended up loving it. My one complaint is that the edition I have received a very poor copy editing job. "You're" shows up frequently in places where "your" is the right word, and that's one of my pet peeves. But since I'd just been reading The Eyre Affair, I assumed that the bookworms must have eaten recently, resulting in some excess apostrophes.

Diamonds Take Forever by Jessica Jiji -- I got this in the goody bag at RWA. On the surface, it sounds like the stereotypical chick lit novel: young woman with a media job has just gone through a bad breakup, and she tries to recover from breakup with help of gay best friend while also trying to get a promotion at work. The twist is that the heroine is the daughter of a Moroccan Jew and a super-liberal, ultra-feminist artsy mother. Her father's family thinks something's wrong if she's not already married and popping out babies, and hey, that arranged marriage thing wasn't such a bad idea, while her mother thinks that the idea of marriage, white dresses, weddings and all that is part of the oppression of women in a patriarchical culture. The twist of the different cultural influence and how it affected the heroine's self-image was interesting, and the heroine works in feature-oriented radio news, something I used to do, so that was cool to see. But to be honest, I'm not sure this would have been published at all if it hadn't been for the cultural twist, and these days, as my agent says, the multicultural thing alone isn't enough to make a book high-concept enough to sell.

Emily Ever After by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt -- This was kind of weird reading for me, because to a large extent, it was my series without the magic. It's about a small-town good girl who moves to New York and finds herself feeling very out of it, culturally. There's even a hot co-worker from the East Coast upper crust, and there's a whole sequence in the book that's quite similar to a segment of Damsel Under Stress, although in this book it's Thanksgiving and in my book it's Christmas, and there's no food fight at a church social in this book. I was actually kind of surprised that this book was published by a mainstream publisher because the subject matter is overtly Christian, and a lot of the conflict in the book is the heroine trying to maintain her values in a setting where those values are mocked or ignored. At the same time, though, she's not quite as strict and uptight as some of the other religious people she meets, so she feels rather lost in the middle. I could certainly relate to the heroine's dilemma, and that was told with a great deal of honesty. The other thing I could relate to was the fact that it seemed that the publishing company the heroine worked at was based on Random House, and the description of the setting fit Random House perfectly, so I had a vivid mental image of the place where she worked, which was fun for me to read. This just isn't the book I would write about this subject matter, which I guess is good because it means I'm still free to write it. I wouldn't classify this strictly as "inspirational" fiction because it really doesn't have a lot to do with her going on any kind of spiritual journey or learning about her faith. It's more about the cultural and social implications of having a different value system than most of the people around you, and anyone from a more traditional culture -- whether just plain small-town mid-America or any kind of religion -- could probably relate.

The Breakup Club by Melissa Senate -- I featured this a while back on the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit, but hadn't found time to read it. Then when I did read it, I ended up staying up until two in the morning to finish it. I think this may be my favorite of her books. It's about a group of people who've all been dumped (or in the case of one person, she was the dumper, but doing so got her isolated from her friends and family) who find each other as a sort of support group. It's sweet and funny and at times sad and painful, but ultimately heartwarming. Not all the ends are tied up neatly, so I kind of wonder if there will be a follow-up book down the line to show what happens to the rest of the group. These are certainly characters I wouldn't mind seeing more of.

As for other news, it does look like we're set with January 2008 for book 4 (and I don't know yet if that means the last Tuesday in December or the last Tuesday in January). Their reasoning was that all the big bestselling authors tend to have their books come out in the fall, and they don't want me to be lost in all that. They want my book to come out at a time when it's likely to get more attention. And that's okay with me. As for the blogging around the release, I have an idea that might make that more fun and that might make the wait for book four easier. I'll have to talk to my editor about it to see if we can make it happen. Stay tuned ...

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