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October 17, 2009 12:29 AM

Saving Face: a chick-lit novel in real time

savingface.jpgWriting a novel is hard work. As NaNoWriMo begins next month, thousands of people across the world will race to complete a personal deadline of 50,000 words in the space of a month. Writing a book is no easy feat, and most likely even harder when your novel is released to the world, in real-time.

Which is what Dahlia Lithwick is aiming to do. Aside from her writing at Slate, Dahlia is attempting a chicklit novel, called Saving Face - a novel in real time. Saving Face will be updated chapter by chapter as Dahlia writes.

Chicklit fan Dahlia writes: 'Next month, I will start covering my 10th Supreme Court term for Slate. That seems an apt time for some very serious reflection. Or maybe not. When we were told to take time off from our everyday beats to do some kind of ambitious, long-form journalism, my first instinct naturally was to do something legal. Then I thought I'd like to do the hardest thing I could imagine. Which is writing a novel and filing it chapter by chapter as I go. And that's what I'm going to do, with you watching and helping. And I'm going to try to finish in less than four weeks.'

Saving Face, a 'mommy-lit' novel, will be updated here and also on Facebook, where Dahlia will ask for suggestions and keep the novel going. You can help by adding Saving Face on the Facebook site.

Dahlia aims to finish the book in four weeks. Can she do it? Go here to start Saving Face from the beginning.

Think you can write a novel in a month? Check out NaNoWriMo.


[Pic from Slate.com]

Posted by Elle Symonds on October 17, 2009 in Modern Fiction, NaNovember | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 8, 2009 6:25 PM

BOOK REVIEW: Shadow by Karin Alvtegen

Shadow Karin Alvtegen is a Swedish crime writer with a string of one-word titles (Shame, Betrayal, Missing) to her name.  Shadow was actually my first foray into crime fiction (particularly Swedish crime fiction!) so I wasn’t sure what to expect. 

Would it all be down to the Muppet Chef in the kitchen with the meat cleaver?

Well, no. 

The story starts in 1975, with a small boy abandoned on the steps of an amusement park with just one note to explain his presence: “Take care of this child.  Forgive me.”

The action then skips forward to the present.  A solitary old woman has died, leaving a social worker of sorts to piece together the old woman’s life story.  It turns out that she was the family housekeeper of a Nobel prize-winning author. 

As the social worker seeks to uncover the old woman’s history, she unwittingly unlocks a series of devastating family secrets.

Shadow has no main character but several major players whose histories interweave to tell the story.  In less skilful hands this would just be a dry series of character biographies, but Alvtegen deftly weaves all the strands together to create a compelling study of human motivation. 

Although this novel suffers a little of what I always find with translated fiction – the prose seems a little stilted, and I can never tell if that’s a deliberate storytelling device or an effect of the translation process – it did flow very well, and at times I forgot that it wasn’t originally written in English. 

Alvtegen bravely delays the plot twists and conclusion to great effect – this is no cut-and-dried crime novel, and the journey through the characters’ motivations is as rewarding as the results of their decisions.

A great read.

Rating: 4/5

Posted by on March 8, 2009 in Books, Crime / Mystery, Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5 | Permalink | Comments (2)

February 22, 2009 4:32 PM

BOOK REVIEW: The Importance of Being Emma by Juliet Archer

Emma I seem to be reviewing a lot of books with ‘being Em...’ in the title.  If there is a book out there called ‘Being Eminem’, feel free to send it to me.  Anyway...

The Importance of Being Emma is the first in Juliet Archer’s “Choc Lit” series, which will bring Austen characters and plotlines and plant them firmly in the 21st century.  Can you guess which one this is based on?

This book casts spoilt rich girl Emma Woodhouse as the eponymous anti-hero, the daughter of a food magnate returned from various adventures (some of which she enjoyed at Harvard Business School) to revitalise her father’s flagging industry with her radical marketing ideas.

The trouble is, her father has also brought in the cut-throat skills of one Mark Knightley, on whom Emma had a teenage crush, and who her father tasks with mentoring his daughter.  Of course, his daughter thinks she can do just fine on her own, thank you, and wishes Mark would treat her less like a clumsy kid sister and more like a... like a... well, she’ll get back to you on that.

The story is told from both Mark and Emma’s point of view, which does a great job of building the tension, but also had me shouting, “come on would you?!” every few pages.  Both characters are painted brilliantly as both proud to the point of arrogance about their own shrewdness, yet blind to what’s in front of them.

And, as soon as they almost get it together, one of them does something to rub the other up the wrong way (and not in the right way, either).  It’s very irritating, but it keeps you turning the pages.

Tangled into the weave of this would-be love affair are some red herrings in the form of Flynn Churchill, who catches Emma’s eye, and Emma’s ditzy PA, victim of Emma’s attempted makeovers and mismatched matchmaking.  Plus some brilliant one-liners from Emma’s increasingly hypochondriac old maid-like father.

This is a good read and a clever reworking of the original (only with more sex), despite the somewhat broad brushstrokes applied to the secondary characters, and the slightly clichéd view of modern gentry sensibilities (it seemed a bit far-fetched that Emma, with all her experience and her Harvard education, would be so flummoxed by her PA’s Estuary vernacular). 

But, as I said, both Mark and Emma are characterised really well, and the plot is cleverly and effectively structured to keep you hooked till the end.

Perfect for a holiday read!

Posted by on February 22, 2009 in Books, Brand new authors, British Authors, Classic Novels, Modern Fiction, Rating: 3/5 | Permalink | Comments (5)

BOOK REVIEW: Being Emily by Anne Donovan

Beingemily Being Emily is the second novel from Anne Donovan, whose debut – Buddha Da – was listed for both the Orange and the Whitbread First Novel awards. I haven’t read Buddha Da yet but have just ordered a copy on the strength of Being Emily, which is a beautifully written coming-of-age story.

It’s told in the first person, and in a broad Glaswegian brogue (which aids rather than hinders the story) by Fiona – a young girl growing up in the tenements of Glasgow. 

We first meet Fiona when she’s a child – dreamy, obsessed with Emily Brontë (the Emily in question), an aspiring poet, but happy amid the noisy clatter of her Catholic family – mother, father, brother and twin sisters.

The second time we meet her it is four years later.  Fiona’s mother has died in childbirth and the family has become fragmented – each one lost to his or her private grief and coping strategies – her brother has left home for gay London; her father half-vanishes into alcohol, and her almost psychotically irritating sisters immerse themselves in their dance routines. 

After being a lively if preoccupied child, Fiona now seems to be a vague, still-waters sort of teen; doing well at school, dating Jas, an intellectual Sikh, and trying to figure out what to do with her life.  She’s like a sponge, sharply observing those around her but almost drifting through her own life, still underlining her experiences with comparisons and escapes into the world of Emily Brontë.

But Fiona’s life deviates sharply from any Brontëesque comparisons when she callously drops Jas for his slightly fey musician brother, Amrik, whose attention she can never fully capture no matter how she tries.  As a series of tragedies befall her, Fiona takes up multimedia art and creates dramatic, almost violent installations as she tries to express the turbulence inside her, before starting the long journey back to a sense of equilibrium.

Being Emily is a gorgeous, languorous and lyrical novel which treads the fine line between a realistic “real” life and a confused, fantastic “inner” life well.  And I love how it shows how a childhood obsession can echo and vibrate down one life into adulthood.

Beautiful.

Posted by on February 22, 2009 in Books, British Authors, Classic Novels, Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5 | Permalink | Comments (3)

February 11, 2009 10:32 PM

Penguin leather-bound classics

The great gatsby Here at Trashionista we love us some paraphernalia from Penguin Books - so much so that I've privately started calling it "Penguinalia".

Now Penguin Books have collaborated with leather goods designers Bill Amberg to produce six modern paperback classics bound in soft calves' leather.

The titles are

  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  • A Room with a View by E.M.Forster
  • The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  • Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

Leather is usually used to bind hardback books, but these soft bindings have been specially designed to "become more beautiful" each time they are handled!  Each book comes with a leather bookmark, and you can buy them for £30.00 apiece.

Related Penguinalia: Penguin deck chairs | Penguin book bags | Lovely Penguin pencils

Posted by on February 11, 2009 in Book related, Classic Novels, Modern Fiction, Trashionista Recommends | Permalink | Comments (3)

January 27, 2009 1:36 PM

OPINION: What do we look for in a female protagonist?

Wonder Woman I remember reading a book years ago – I can’t remember who it was by, what it was called, or what it was even about (bear with me!). All I can really remember is that it was written in the first person, and it was about a woman who was beautiful and witty, with a great job.  All her friends were beautiful and witty, and also had great jobs.  And that was really it.  At some point the heroine found herself in mild peril, at which point it became apparent that she was not only beautiful and witty, but also brave.

Which is where I stopped reading.

There was nothing to hook me into the story – no foibles, character quirks or situations I recognised.  Everyone had razor-sharp cheekbones and “silvery” laughs – it was all was too glossy, too perfect for me to relate to.

Which has set me wondering – what do we look for in a female protagonist?  Let’s have a look at some who have proved popular so far...

1. Bridget Jones from Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding
Oh dear.  Not beautiful (at least not in her own eyes), occasionally witty.  Goodish job.  Wine-swigging, fag-smoking, calorie-counting obsessive.  Disaster magnet.  Tummy control issues.  Far too attracted to bad boys for her own good.  But we love her.

2. Maggie Walsh from Angels by Marian Keyes
Staid, sensible, “good with money” (although not to her own standards) and with a personality described by one of her sisters as “plain yoghurt at room temperature”, Maggie Walsh is no one’s idea of a wild child.  And yet we cheered her on as she jetted off to Hollywood to prove everyone wrong with her adventures, and never really thought too much, at the end of the book, about how those adventures weren’t that wild.

3. Emma Woodhouse from Emma by Jane Austen
Now, Emma is beautiful.  And rich.  And meddlesome.  And a bit of a snob, in fact.  But those characteristics only make the situation funnier when Emma’s slightly smug attempts at matchmaking spiral out of control, and she’s forced to confront her own feelings.  Plus, underneath that snobby exterior Emma is ultimately very sensitive to the feelings of the people around her, which makes her much more endearing.

So, after this whistlestop and slightly generalised tour of female literary characters, it seems we like flawed women, women who buck the trend, and women who either have to come down off their pedestals or dig themselves out of tricky situations with guts and imagination. 

Female characters have come a long way since Emma’s day – now they have to progress in their careers, raise families, have friends, find love, be occasionally fabulous and have personal lives, which means the situations are only going to get trickier and the books more interesting.

But what do you look for in a female protagonist?  Who are some of your favourites, and why?  Let us know in the comments!

Photo by DasLive, Flickr.

Posted by on January 27, 2009 in Modern Fiction, Opinion | Permalink | Comments (10)

May 28, 2008 9:54 AM

BOOK REVIEW: The Accidental Wife by Rowan Coleman

Rowan_coleman_the_accidental_wifeRowan Coleman is one of those writers where you think, how does she do that? At least I do anyway. The Accidental Wife is Rowan's sixth full length novel since her first was published in 2002 plus she has written a novella and writes the Ruby Parker series for teens (which, by the way, I adore).

The Accidental Wife, a story of friendship and betrayal, is written through the eyes of two women. Each think they may have the wrong life. Catherine, soon to be divorced with two children in a dead end job wonders if she would be happier if she had married her first boyfriend, Marc. Alison, Catherine's former best friend, is actually married to Marc with three children and wondering if she would have had a better life if she had married her school girl crush, Jimmy. Who also happens to be Catherine's soon to be ex husband.

When Alison and Marc move back to the town they ran away from when Alison was sixteen and find Catherine and Jimmy are still there they find out the answers to their questions.

I really enjoyed The Baby Group which was Rowan's last novel so I had high expectations for this one. First off I would say this is not as action packed as The Baby Group. It is gripping but in a more quiet and understated way. Rowan's writing is colourful adding depth to the dialogue - which there is quite a lot of, because after Alison steals Catherine's boyfriend she has a lot of explaining to do.

Rowan obviously knew her characters very well and this comes across. We uncover the layers that make up Alison and Catherine and I changed my perception of both throughout the novel as I discovered more about them.

I do have a criticism and I thought this of The Baby Group too (and the title of that book, but that's another story). It is the book cover. The story inside is a lot more sophisticated and in depth than the pastel cover implies. If I were just browsing the book shop I don't think I would have picked this up. Which would have been a real shame as it is a great read.

Rating: 5/5

Like this? Try Switchcraft by Mary Castillo

Posted by Helen Redfern on May 28, 2008 in British Authors, Modern Fiction, Rating: 5/5, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 5, 2007 10:18 AM

MORE ON MONDAY: Imagine This by Sade Adeniran

Imaginethis Reviewed by Belinda Whitehead


Imagine This is a beautifully written coming of age tale about Lola Ogunwole, a young girl whose father relocates her and her elder brother Adebola to their native Nigeria from England without so much as an explanation for his actions. Sent to live in a remote village with her aunt, and surrounded by a whole host of relatives she has never met before, Lola struggles to settle into her new life in Idogun.


Adebola, meanwhile, is himself suffering at the hands of his cruel uncle Joseph, and through their correspondence the two children dream of running away together to a better life.

Unable to come to terms with her abandonment, Lola starts acting up in school as a ploy to force her father to come and get her, but succeeds only in getting herself into more trouble with her relatives and provoking her father’s anger. When things eventually come to a head, Lola finds that even when it seems life can’t get any worse, it does.

 

This book does more than just tell a story, it takes the reader on a journey of discovery, provoking empathy towards Lola as she endures the many hurdles life throws her way, coming to terms with life, love and, the hardest thing of all, loss.


Rating: 4/5


Like this? Try The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

Posted by Keris on November 5, 2007 in Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (1)

October 19, 2007 12:12 PM

BOOK REVIEW: Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

CrowlakeI added Mary Lawson's Crow Lake to my Amazon wishlist *years* ago on, if memory serves, Jennifer Weiner's recommendation (via her blog, we're not actually friends ... except in my imagination). Despite that, I never actually bought it because it didn't really sound like my kind of book. Too depressing. Too (old) Oprah. But then on holiday I was stuck for something to read and Crow Lake had been left behind by someone else so I picked it up and ... lost about two days.

Set in Northern Ontario, Canada, it's the story of the Morrison family: Kate, who narrates the story, her older brothers Matt and Luke and their younger sister, Bo. At the beginning of the book their parents are killed in a car accident and when Kate reacts incredibly badly to the idea of the siblings being separated, the oldest brother, Luke, decides to give up his chance of teacher training college and take care of the family himself.

The story of Kate's childhood is mixed with the story of Kate as an adult. Apparently repressed and regretful, Kate is an academic, living far away from her brothers and sister and unable to get over the events of their childhood. Not just the loss of their parents, but the loss of the future in academia her brilliant brother Matt (yes, Matt, not Luke) had to give up, for reasons we don't learn until almost the very end of the book.

I found Crow Lake utterly compelling. While not exactly depressing, it is dreadfully sad, full of regrets and missed opportunities, but also somehow life-affirming and encouraging. The characters of Bo and Matt are both wonderful, plus Lawson writes evocatively about the lakes of Northern Ontario. I know the characters and events will stay with me for a long time.

Rating: 4/5

Like this? Try Afloat by Jennifer McCartney

Posted by Keris on October 19, 2007 in Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5 | Permalink | Comments (1)

October 16, 2007 2:35 PM

BOOK REVIEW: The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold

Almostmoon "When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily."

Nothing like an eye-popping opening line to draw a reader into a story, and man did that one draw me in! The Almost Moon is a very different book from Alice Sebold's last novel, The Lovely Bones, but I predict it will make as much of a stir. While Lovely Bones traded on our fears about child murder, abduction and paedophilia, The Almost Moon tackles the difficulties of aging, divorce, and parents with dementia. It's a more mature book, with a less sympathetic narrator, but it's no less compelling. When this was offered to me for review back in July, I didn't care that it wouldn't be out until October, I grabbed it and dug straight in.

The opening chapters were pacy, tense and very dramatic, with an almost palpable tension. But then... things tailed off a little as Helen, our narrator (and mother-killer) reflected on her past. The story slowed down and I was in danger of becoming bored. Thankfully, the pace picked up again, and I was drawn into this dark (yet somehow not depressing) story.

It's all set in a twenty-four hour period, but with flashbacks to Helen's childhood which explain her relationship with her mother, her father's death, and the strange life her mother has been leading for many years. We also start to realise that Helen's moment of madness when she kills her mother is not isolated: she's been slowly unravelling for some time. Although this isn't a murder mystery, there is a sense of mystery and uncertainty: what will happen to Helen, will she cope, will she maybe even get away with what she's done? She somehow becomes a sympathetic character and Sebold's writing about people's private motivations and strange thought processes is brilliantly evocative - a real class act. I am now convinced that Alice Sebold will be writing hit books for a long time to come.

However... the ending of the book still disappointed me a touch, as I felt the author pulled her punches. But maybe she's just more forgiving and humane than I am! Either way, this book is hard to forget.

Rating: 4/5

Like this? Try We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver.

**PS: I've just seen what looks to be the final, UK cover - here.  Hmm. What do you think?**

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on October 16, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Crime / Mystery, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Rating: 4/5 | Permalink | Comments (2)

September 6, 2007 5:06 PM

GIVEAWAY: I Married A Pirate

PirateA few weeks ago we featured an interview with journalist and debut novelist Samantha David, as part of our Summer Special.

Today: the chance to win not just a copy of her book, I Married a Pirate, but a signed copy! (UK only I'm afraid)

Carry on over the cut to find out how to be in with a chance to win...

Entries should be sent to our usual address - subject line: PIRATE - and please include your name and address (so we can send you the book if you're picked at random). Closing date is midnight GMT next Friday, 14 September. Good luck!

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on September 6, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Competition, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Recent Release, Romance | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 31, 2007 10:40 AM

BOOK REVIEW: Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers

FridgedoorIn the tradition of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, Harry Potter and His Dark Materials, Alice Kuipers' debut has been released in both teen and adult editions.

It's the story of Claire and her mum who are both so busy they barely get to spend any time together and instead the majority of their communication is done via notes on the fridge door.

When Claire's mum is diagnosed with breast cancer, we learn their reactions to it via the notes. Of course, both Claire and her mother are shocked and devastated, but they also struggle to cope - not only with the diagnosis, but with each other.

Because many of the notes are short, I read Life on the Refrigerator Door in less than an hour. I found that because I'd spent so little time with these people and knew so little about them (it's hard to convey much backstory in notes on the fridge door), it wasn't as involving and moving as it could have been.

I'm actually a bit annoyed that this book has been treated as a "serious" book about "serious" issues (and Kuipers' introduction doesn't help) when I've read much more moving portrayals of both cancer and mother/daughter relationships in so-called "fluffy" chick lit books.

The above probably sounds more negative than I mean it to be. I did enjoy this book (as much as you can enjoy a book in which one of the main characters has breast cancer), but I would have liked to get to know Claire and her mum a lot better and without gimmicks.

Rating: 3/5

Like this? Try Cancer Vixen by Marisa Acochella Marchetto

Posted by Keris on August 31, 2007 in Modern Fiction, Rating: 3/5, Recent Release, Young Adult | Permalink | Comments (3)

August 27, 2007 12:28 PM

TRASHIONISTA RECOMMENDS: Some lad-lit blogs

How could I not know that Nick Hornby had a blog? Perhaps because it's fairly new - that's my excuse anyway... If you're as in the dark as I was, read it for yourself here. He hasn't updated in a little while, but the rest of his website is a worthwhile browse, and hopefully he'll blog more soon...

Non-fic lad lit fave Dave Gorman, on the other hand, has been updating like billy-o (as my mum would say). Read his blog here, and find out all about what he's been up to, the music on Homes Under The Hammer and the deterioration in quality of a well-known chocolate egg. It's good stuff.

Finally, sometime Gorman collaborator Danny Wallace has a website, where he doesn't blog, but does post occasional news and... 'titbits' might be the right word. There's also the chance to download some video podcasts of the author/TV presenter/head of the Karma Army...

Related posts: Top 10 lad lit | From book to blog

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on August 27, 2007 in Book Websites, Book related, British Authors, Memoirs, Modern Fiction, Non Fiction, Technology, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 23, 2007 11:31 AM

(Quite a lot of) Caprice Crane news

CapricecraneCaprice Crane has been a big fave of ours since her fabulous debut Stupid and Contagious (it wasn't the former, but definitely was the latter!)

Next Wednesday, in honour of the release of her new book Forget About It (which Keris is reading at the moment - jealous!) Caprice will be the star of our author interview. (Buy the book from 27th August in the US/on Amazon or from 4th October in the UK).

In the meantime, you can watch a short film, Passing the Time, created as a sort-of trailer for the book (which will be turned into a feature film by Disney, starring Scarlett Johansson - and which meant Crane couldn't make an actual trailer proper for copyright reasons. Or something.)

Finally, if you're quick and in the Santa Monica area, you might be able to catch Miss Crane at a Barnes and Noble signing today. [Via Galleycat].

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on August 23, 2007 in American Authors, Book News, Book related, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Romance | Permalink | Comments (1)

TV NEWS: Gossip Girl

GossipgirlLast August we brought you news that Cecily Von Ziegesar's controversial teen series Gossip Girl was to be made into a TV series by OC creator Josh Schwartz.

Now we have some more information for you and (over the cut) a video clip!

The series centres around a group of spoilt rich girls at an exclusive Manhattan boarding school, whose antics are immortalised by an anonymous blogger, Gossip Girl. As Catwalk Queen editor Kim says, "The words 'guilty pleasure' spring to mind..."

Look out for the show in the US from 17 September on the CW. And in the UK... hopefully soon!

Carry on over the cut for a sneak preview... (and if you recognise that narrator's voice, that's cos it's Kristen Bell, aka: Veronica Mars!)

[Via Catwalk Queen].

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on August 23, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Television, Young Adult | Permalink | Comments (0)

BOOK NEWS: Love, Stargirl

LovestarLast week, our interviewee Holly Shumas name-checked Stargirl (of the novel of the same name, by Jerry Spinelli) as her favourite female character in fiction.

This week, I was browsing Amazon and found that there's a recently-released sequel: Love, Stargirl. The cover alone makes me want to read it! (But what's new?)

Related: YA archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on August 23, 2007 in American Authors, Book News, Book related, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Young Adult | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 22, 2007 12:31 PM

YAY OR NAY WEDNESDAY

Just yesterday I wrote about a new book with 'club' in the title, and here at Trashionista we've reviewed (brace yourselves!):

The Tuesday Erotica Club, The Yorkshire Pudding Club, The Jane Austen Book Club, The Friday Night Knitting Club, Man of the Month Club, The Dirty Girls' Social Club, The Second Wives' Club and The Adultery Club.

There's also The Sunday Night Book Club, The Naked Drinking Club and - to be a bit different - The Book Group.

So is it time to call time on the word 'club' and ask authors and publishers to think of different titles... (there have to be other ways to bring disparate characters together) or don't you care as long as the story is good?

'Club' in the title - is it a Yay or a Nay... and WHY?

Yay or Nay archives.

[Don't forget it's Yay or Nay day at Hippyshopper, Bridalwave, Dollymix, Corrie Blog, Catwalk Queen, Kiss and Makeup, The Bag Lady, Shoewawa and Shiny Shiny, too!]

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on August 22, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, British Authors, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Yay or Nay? | Permalink | Comments (6)

BOOK REVIEW: There's a (Slight) Chance I Might be Going to Hell by Laurie Notaro

LaurieEver since Keris highlighted news of Laurie Notaro's debut novel, I'd been longing to read it. So much so, I even paid to get my hands on a copy (yes!)

Subtitled: 'a novel of sewer pipes, pageant queen, and big trouble' and of course, called There's a (Slight) Chance I Might be Going to Hell, it sounded nothing if not intriguing (also: I love the cover!)

The book tells the story of Maye, who moves from a scummy-sounding suburb of Arizona to the leafy, gorgeous small town of Spaulding, Washington State. At first, things seem idyllic: Maye and her husband Charlie have found the perfect house, Charlie has a fantastic job, and the area couldn't be prettier. But Maye has a little trouble fitting in: she embarrasses herself hugely at one of her husband's work functions, joins a book club that turns out to be a coven, and has no luck meeting nice, normal people to be friends with.

Then she hears about the annual Sewer Pipe Pageant, a talent show that anyone in Spaulding can enter. Winning the crown at the pageant is a ticket to respect and popularity and so Maye decides she must sign up. She's going to need a little tutoring though: and that's where she decides to track down a legendary former Pipe Queen who was driven out of town decades before - Maye must solve the mystery of why, find the pipe queen and prepare to win the pageant. That's not too much to ask, is it?

Luckily her freelance writing career has hit the skids, so Maye has plenty of time!

I've always enjoyed Laurie Notaro's essay collections, but on the basis of this book, I think she's even better at fiction. There's a (Slight) Chance... is intelligent, witty, fun, hopeful and a bit poignant, too.  There's a credible mystery woven in to a story about trying to fit in, and it all works really well. I loved reading this and didn't want it to end.

And as Notaro herself moved from Arizona to a small town in Washington with her husband, I can't help wondering if any of the incidents in the book really happened...

But what I really want to find out is when is Notaro's next novel coming out, and can I sign up for my copy now?

Rating: 5/5

Like this? Try Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on August 22, 2007 in American Authors, Crime / Mystery, Modern Fiction, Rating: 5/5, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (1)

Romance authors, Mills and Boon... and more unoriginal chick lit insults

Australia's Sydney Morning Herald recently featured this interesting article on romance novels, the popularity of Mills and Boon and why romance authors just can't get no... respect.

I learned about the article from a begrdging Bookninja - I love that site, but *wow* they don't love us...

"Romance as the cougar to chick lit’s fox? I think of it more like the laundry lady to chick lit’s halfwit yuppy."

Oooh - zing!

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on August 22, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction, Opinion, Romance | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 21, 2007 3:11 PM

BOOK NEWS: The Hindi-Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan

Hindi_2Another book with club in the title, and hey, why not?!

The Hindi-Bindi Club is getting great reviews. Monica Pradhan's debut novel, it's about an inter-connected group of Indian-American families who face issues ranging from racism to breast cancer to infidelity, and it entwines personal stories of joy and heartache with delicious-sounding Indian recipes.

It sounds like a mix of The Joy Luck Club, Like Water for Chocolate and Desperate Housewives! First magazine calls it "enthralling".  Definitely one to watch out for (and just look how pretty the cover is!)

Related: BOOK REVIEW: The Tuesday Erotica Club | BOOK REVIEW: The Yorkshire Pudding Club.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on August 21, 2007 in American Authors, Book News, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (2)

August 20, 2007 8:48 PM

MORE ON MONDAY: Mere Anarchy by Woody Allen

MereI suspect unlike most Woody Allen fans, I first appreciated the great director's humour through his short stories rather than his excellent films (Manhattan, Annie Hall, Play it Again Sam, Hannah and Her Sisters, Manhattan Murder Mystery et al.)

His last original collection of fiction was released in 1983 and so Mere Anarchy, a slim volume which still squeezes in 18 stories, was well overdue. But does he still have the golden touch?

I have to be honest, at first I wasn't sure. I'd forgotten that Woody's wordplay can sometimes be dazzling to the point of baffling, and wished often that I knew where my dictionary was...

But once I'd got into the swing of things, I found his way with words entertaining and witty, although wry smile-funny rather than split-your-seams hilarious. The subjects these stories tackle are mostly rather ridiculous - from a man kidnapped because he looks like a famous film star to a someone who loses money after investing in a musical about the adjustable shower head. Other subjects, like nannies selling stories on their employers and the difficulty of getting a child into the right New York pre-school, are bang up to date (even if chick lit did there get first...)

One of my favourite stories was The Rejection (the pre-school one) , which made me laugh out loud. Lines like, "If Mischa could be denied this, there was no meaning in life or all of existence " effectively puncture the bubble of NYC pre-school hysteria. Strung Out, a contemplation on physics and the laws of the universe was very funny too: "I awoke on Friday, and because the universe is expanding it took me longer than usual to find my robe." But Above The Law, Below the Box Springs really made me howl with laughter - it's about some thieves who cut the tags off mattresses and it's just so silly and funny, a great cheerer-upper. (Yes, that is a word...) I'm just not sure why some of the stronger stories in the collection are towards the end of the book.

Although I read the collection straight through like a novel, as I needed to finish it for MoM, I think it would be better savoured in small morsels - the writing is so rich in wordplay it can be better appreciated in small doses and it's a shame to rush through it.

I don't know either non-Woody Allen fans would enjoy the collection or not - you have to have a certain sense of humour. In fact, I might recommend one of his earlier collections first for 'beginners' (Without Feathers contains my fave ever Allen story, The Whore of Mensa.)

But for anyone with a sense of the silly, a great vocabulary and a penchant for Woody Allen-esque humour, this is a great new book. It's nothing new and exciting, just more of the same after a long break - but that's still saying quite a lot.

Rating: 4/5

Like this? Try Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on August 20, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Celebrity Authors, Modern Fiction, More On Monday, New Releases, Rating: 4/5, Short Story Collections | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 17, 2007 6:58 PM

BOOK REVIEW: The Pursuit of Alice Thrift by Elinor Lipman

AlicethriftHave I mentioned I'm a big Elinor Lipman fan (just three hundred times or so)?

The Pursuit of Alice Thrift was released before My Latest Grievance, Lipman's most recent novel, and I must admit, I liked it a touch more. The main character, Alice Thrift, is fairly unsympathetic: as a surgeon, she's used to science and cold hard facts, and finds interacting with people when they're not under anesthetic to be quite a challenge. But when Ray Russo waltzes into her consulting room looking for a nose job (and maybe more...) Alice and he fall in love. Or Alice thinks they do...

A reviewer on Amazon described this book as being about the poor decisions people sometimes make to alleviate loneliness, and that's true to some extent: we learn early on in the book that Ray turns out not to be the man of Alice's dreams - if she'd ever do anything so romantic as indulge in daydreams about love, that is. Alice's formerly very boring, flat lifestyle becomes a lot more interesting - but not always in the ways she would have wanted. She does, however, begin to loosen up a little and make some friends.

At first, I wasn't sure I could read a whole book about a lonely, socially inept middle-aged woman. (Doesn't exactly scream 'fun!' does it?) But I loved this book. Where Elinor Lipman is so talented is that she can turn Alice into a sympathetic character that we care about by the end of the book - without actually changing Alice's personality too much! I found this a page-turner of a read, and only wish the author could churn her books out a little bit faster...

Rating: 5/5

Like this? Try Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on August 17, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction, Rating: 5/5, Romance | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 16, 2007 2:08 PM

Keira Knightley 'too pretty' for Atonement?

Ceri Radford of The Telegraph's books blog can't decide if she's looking forward to the adaptation of Ian McEwan's World War Two-set modern classic Atonement or not. On the one hand, she loves a period drama, on the other hand... there's Keira Knightley. That alone would put me off (me-ow!) but Radford's specific problem is that the pouty one is "too pretty"  for Cecilia, who is described in the book as "plain".

Does it matter that actresses look like the characters they're playing, or is a little artistic licence understandable - we are talking about Hollywood after all!

What do you think?

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on August 16, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Classic Novels, Modern Fiction, Movie News, Opinion, Prize Winners | Permalink | Comments (8)

BOOK REVIEW: No! I Don't Want to Join a Bookclub by Virgina Ironside

NoBetter known as an agony aunt, Virginia Ironside is also an experienced journalist and now a novelist, too. No! I Don't Want to Join a Bookclub is about Marie Sharp, who's single and just about to turn sixty and has decided to start a diary, Bridget Jones-style.

Kind of.

Unlike many people of her generation, Marie is not trying to recapture her youth, doesn't want to take evening classes, expand her mind, keep active, or god forbid, join a book club. What she wants to do is cover up her bingo wings, drink a lot of wine and enjoy being old. But being old doesn't mean doing nothing - in fact Marie has a pretty jam-packed time even though she has retired. She becomes a granny (or, as she inexplicably writes it, grannie) for the first time (something she talks about with such joy, I was incredibly moved and almost wanted to be one myself - although at 28 I think I might be a little young...) Her first love also comes back into her life, one of her oldest friends becomes very ill, and Marie has a young French lodger to keep a motherly eye on.

Although sometimes a little too cynical and curmudgeonly for my tastes, Marie is a very well-drawn and likeable character and I found this a fast and enjoyable read. It was refreshing to read about an older heroine and especially one who is both single and happy about it and happy with her age.

However, I'm not sure I'd want to be like Marie when I'm older - I don't see what's so wrong with salsa dancing and bungee jumping post-retirement if you fancy it, and sometimes Marie sounds more like 80 than 60!

But don't be put off if your age is nearer 20 - this is a good read for any age. I'd just love for a book club to pick it...

Rating: 4/5

Like this? Try Plotting for Beginners by Sue Hepworth and Jane Linfoot.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on August 16, 2007 in British Authors, Celebrity Authors, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (1)

BOOK NEWS: Julian Clary's Murder Most Fab

Julianclary_2Following the success of his double entendre-stuffed memoir, A Young Man's Passage, Julian Clary is the latest celeb to bring out a novel - Murder Most Fab has a Janet Evanovich-esque cover and according to Janet Street Porter in Marie Claire is, "A very funny novel that charts the progress of a gorgeous boy from drama school, through to working as a rent boy and telly stardom. En route there are several murders, loads of drugs and masses of sex..."

It's out today.

[Via Woman magazine and Amazon.co.uk]

Related: BOOK REVIEW - How I Paid For College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship and Musical Theatre by Marc Acito.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on August 16, 2007 in Bonkbusters, Book News, Book related, British Authors, Celebrity Authors, Crime / Mystery, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Television | Permalink | Comments (6)

August 15, 2007 4:57 PM

YAY OR NAY WEDNESDAY

AnybodyoutWell, we didn't get a huge number of answers to last week's Yay or Nay, but you made up for it in quality - we have some very intelligent readers out there! (Maybe flattery will induce you to be more chatty this week? *Looks pleadingly*)

Today I want to ask you what you thought of another book, by another doyenne of chick lit, Mz Marian Keyes. It's her latest, Anybody Out There? Which you've all had plenty of time to read as it's been out in hardback since last year and paperback for... ooh, a good few months!

Did you like it? (Will anyone dare say no?) - Why/why not? And if you haven't read it, do you want to? (Will anyone dare say no?)

Is it a Yay or a Nay - and WHY?

Yay or Nay archives.

[Don't forget it's Yay or Nay day at Hippyshopper, Bridalwave, Dollymix, Corrie Blog, Catwalk Queen, Kiss and Makeup, The Bag Lady, Shoewawa and Shiny Shiny, too!]

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on August 15, 2007 in Book related, Irish Authors, Marian Keyes, Modern Fiction, Recent Release, Yay or Nay? | Permalink | Comments (8)

More Shiny employees catch the book bug

We Trashionistas are not the only book-obsessed Shiny Media employees, you know - oh no.

John of Shiny TV site TV Scoop was even on BBC Four book programme The Book Quiz last night, talking intelligently about literary thriller Perfume as part of one of the programme's featured book groups. Unfortunately, watching it back didn't make for a fun experience, as he reports...

In happier news, Alex of Shiny Shiny is writing a new column for our sister site Dollymix about Women in Fiction, and it's fascinating reading.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on August 15, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Classic Novels, Crime / Mystery, Modern Fiction, Television | Permalink | Comments (2)

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Holly Shumas

HollysWe like to strike while the iron is hot, so no sooner did Holly Shumas get in touch to tell us about her new website, than we grabbed her (in the nicest possible way) for an interview about her book, Five Things I Can't Live Without, and a few other things too...

Please describe your latest book in 15 words or fewer:

A woman approaching thirty needs to get out of her head and into her life.

Where do you like to write your books (in bed, a coffee shop, an office)?

At my desk at home.  I want to be one of those cafe writers, but I'm just too distractible.

Your favourite chick-lit book?

The Big Love by Sarah Dunn.

Your favourite female heroine (if different from above!), and why?

Stargirl, from the book of the same name by Jerry Spinelli.  It's classified as a young adult novel, though if I could write the world a syllabus, it would be required reading for everyone. She shows how magical it can be to completely inhabit your own skin. [Okay, totally adding that to my Amazon wishlist now! - Diane]

What tips would you give to any of our readers who want to become writers?

It's been said a million times, I know, but it's just so true: Read often, and read widely.

Study the genre you want to write in, but read outside of it, too. Figure out what your gifts are as a writer, and cultivate them.

What are you reading at the moment?

I'm almost at the end of "Then We Came to the End" by Joshua Ferris, and I'm so sad about it. It's a phenomenal book, especially if you've ever spent significant amounts of time in a cubicle. If you haven't, I think you'll like it anyway because it's so spot-on about human nature (and so funny, too!) but I'm not making any promises.

What are you working on now? (If you can give us a hint!)

I'm working on a novel about a woman who discovers her seemingly devoted husband has been involved in an emotional affair for the past year. It deals with the question of whether emotional infidelity is better -- or maybe worse -- than sexual infidelity. Grand Central's 5-Spot imprint (which also published Five Things I Can't Live Without) has bought the book; now I've just got to finish writing it...

What question have you never been asked in an interview, but think you should have been? (Tell us the question and answer it too, if you like!)

Q. Is the question "What question have you never been asked in an interview, but think you should have been?" the hardest question you've ever been asked?

A. Yes!

Ingenious answer, Holly - thanks so much for chatting with us!

Interview archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on August 15, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Debut Novels, Interviews, Modern Fiction, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 13, 2007 6:52 PM

TRASHIONISTA RECOMMENDS: Dear Holly

A couple of months ago, Keris told us about Holly Shumas's new book debut, Five Things I Can't Live Without. She'll be reviewing it soon, but in the meantime you might like to take a look at the author's excellent web site, which includes an interactive advice section, Dear Holly. Follow that link for questions from readers and answers from Holly herself on all manner of dating dilemmas.

Why don't more authors do this? I'd love Marian Keyes's advice on skincare and Sophie Kinsella's tips on shoe shopping...

Which author would you most like a Q & A with, and on what topic?

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on August 13, 2007 in American Authors, Book Websites, Book related, British Authors, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Irish Authors, Marian Keyes, Modern Fiction, Recent Release, Romance, Sophie Kinsella | Permalink | Comments (0)

MORE ON MONDAY: The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith

GoodhusbandI love Alexandra McCall Smith's Botswana-set No.1 Ladies Detective series. I always think each book is going to be the last and then, before I know it, there's another.

Good Husband - the eighth in the series - continues in the same vein as the other books, i.e. not much happens. Mma Ramotswe actually doesn't do much (if any) investigating in this book, instead her assistant, Mma Makutsi, and the good husband himself, Mr JLB Matekoni decide they'd quite like to do some investigating of their own, with varied results.

Mma Makutsi's case involves stationery stealing and Mr JLB Matekoni is instructed by "the rudest woman in Botswana" to find out who her husband is having an affair with. No, it's not exactly Law & Order, is it?

But there is a little bit of drama - although drama is too strong a word really - a couple of the regulars are looking to move on. Charlie, one of Mr JLB Matekoni's apprentices (he's the owner of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors) has decided to set up on his own and Mma Makutsi realises that now she's getting married she doesn't need to work at all and hands in her notice.

It's the mellowness of this series that I love, but this latest book is so mellow it's almost unconscious. I enjoyed it - what's not to enjoy? - but it's probably the weakest of the series, which is a shame. In putting Mma Makutsi and Mr JLB Matekoni to the fore, it's almost as if Smith has forgotten the heart of the book. This series belongs to Precious Ramotswe and the stories should always be hers. Fingers crossed she's back in the driving seat (of her little white van) in the next book.

Rating: 3/5

Like this? Try Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexandra McCall Smith

Posted by Keris on August 13, 2007 in British Authors, Crime / Mystery, Modern Fiction, More On Monday, Rating: 3/5, Recent Release, Series | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 10, 2007 11:38 AM

BOOK REVIEW: The Summer Psychic by Jessica Adams

SummerpKeris talking about Australian authors the other day has inspired me to dig out Jessica Adams's The Summer Psychic for a review - she's Australian, you see. And this book also ties nicely into our summer special (ongoing 'til the end of this month, peeps).

The Summer Psychic is Jim Gabriel, an Aussie resident of Brighton who gets visions when he looks into any expanse of water (although his favourite method of fortune-telling is peering into water in the bucket from a child's bucket-and-spade set - well, why not?)

When local reporter Katie Pickard is sent to interview him about what will happen in the following year, she's skeptical to the point of being uninterested. Until Jim makes a surprising prediction: next summer, he and Katie will get married.

But Katie promptly falls in love with Pete, local musical hero (with more than a touch of the Pete Dohertys about him) and they embark on a whirlwind, if not always that romantic, relationship. Meanwhile,  Jim's predictions start to come true, and the paper Katie works for stitches him up with an untrue and unkind exposé. And Jim's colleague Courtney, a witch, seduces Katie's boss and causes all kinds of unpleasant things to start happening.

The book is full of quirky, strange characters, most of who (except Courtney) have an odd kind of charm, but I didn't really believe in any of them. When Katie falls in love with Pete, we're told about it rather than shown her love develop (or given any reason for her falling or such a waster - she's may be on the rebound from a tragic relationship, but still...) Things seem to happen in rather jumpy scenes rather than there being any kind of sophisticated progression.

One thing I was hoping for was some kind of explanation of Jim's powers, but it was all a bit wishy-washy, 'we can't possibly know how it works'-type stuff, which frustrated me. I couldn't really buy into it and I found the book's conclusion a bit sudden and the storyline rambling. Unimportant dialogue was extended and important stuff rushed over.

It's not all bad, though - Katie is an endearing narrator and Adams can write, I'm just not sure about her ability to hold a story together over the length of a novel. I'd like to see her have a go at a story with a far less complex conceit, 'cos for me, this one fell flat.

Rating: 2/5

Like this? Try An English Psychic in Hollywood by Lucinda Clare.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on August 10, 2007 in Book related, Modern Fiction, Rating: 2/5, Romance | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 8, 2007 2:43 PM

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Alice Kuipers

Kuipers_photoAlice Kuipers' book, Life on the Refrigerator Door, is causing a bit of a stir. Published in both adult and teen editions, it's a compelling tale about the effects of breast cancer on the relationship between a mother and a daughter, told entirely via notes on the fridge door. A review is on the way.

Please describe your latest book in 15 words or fewer:

During a tragic year, Claire and her mother learn to make time for each other.

Where do you like to write your books (in bed, a coffee shop, an office)?

I write on a laptop which I bring with me wherever I travel.  Right now, I'm working in my office in Saskatoon.  Next week, I'll be working on my mum's kitchen table in London.

Your favourite chick-lit book?

I loved Bridget Jones' Diary when it came out.  I think Helen Fielding is a terrific writer.

Your favourite female heroine (if different from above!), and why?

My granny is 92 years old and was just in a Muller Light ad.  She's my hero.

What tips would you give to any of our readers who want to become writers?

If any of you are writing, I'd suggest that you keep going and keep going and then write a little more.  It's hard to get what you want to say on the page, it's hard to get published, it's hard to get up every day and write, but if you want to do it then don't let anyone stop you.

What are you reading at the moment?

I just finished the new Harry Potter.  I enjoyed it - I think JK Rowling has done an amazing job with those books.  I'm reading a novel called Steppenwolf now by a German writer called Herman Hesse.  He's one of my favourites.  Not an easy read but very beautiful.

What are you working on now? (If you can give us a hint!)

I'm working on several projects.  One is a novel about a baby that falls out the sky onto someone's doorstep.  One is a short story about a woman who is having an affair.  I just finished a short story about a doctor who wants to save a patient who's 94 years old.

What question have you never been asked in an interview, but think you should have been? (Tell us the question and answer it too, if you like!)

I was having lunch with some other writers who live here in Saskatoon and someone asked, "Why do you write?"  I think I write because I can't do anything else; I write because the only way I can understand the world is to put it on the page.  I liked thinking about that question and I'd never been asked it before.

Thanks, Alice.

Posted by Keris on August 8, 2007 in British Authors, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Young Adult | Permalink | Comments (7)

YAY OR NAY WEDNESDAY

Shopaholic_1It's a while since we've polled your opinions on a particular book rather than a hot topic in publishing, so today it's time to redress the balance.

Today I'm asking what you thought of Sophie Kinsella's latest, Shopaholic and Baby. Did you enjoy it, or have you had enough Becky spin-offs?

And if you haven't read it (yet) - do you want to? Why/why not? Tell us:

Is it a Yay or a Nay, and why?

Yay or Nay archives.

[Don't forget it's Yay or Nay day at Hippyshopper, Bridalwave, Dollymix, Corrie Blog, Catwalk Queen, Kiss and Makeup, The Bag Lady, Shoewawa and Shiny Shiny, too!]

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on August 8, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Recent Release, Romance, Series, Sophie Kinsella | Permalink | Comments (11)

BOOK REVIEW: The Myth of You & Me by Leah Stewart

ThemythofI hadn't heard of The Myth of You and Me by Leah Stewart before, but while I was browsing Amazon.com I noticed it got fantastic reviews. Also, the cover is purdy. (Reminded me of this). So when I spotted a cheap bargainous copy on sale, I had to take a look!

When the teenage Cameron moves to a new town and meets Sonia, Sonia literally saves her life, and the two quickly become the best of friends, with a close, unshakeable bond they assume will last forever. But then Sonia does something that Cameron can't forgive, and she abandons Sonia and their friendship, never to return.

But then... Cameron's boss, the reclusive elderly author Oliver Doucet, who she lives with and cares for, suddenly dies. With no more ties in the world, and a present that Oliver posthumously asks Cameron to give to Sonia, Cameron sets out on a reluctant road trip...

Flashbacks alternate with the present day storytelling as Cameron goes on a quest to find Sonia and what happened between them years ago (and why) is revealed. I was equally interested in the present day story and the past, and the two blended seamlessly together. I couldn't wait to find out what had happened between Cameron and Sonia, and what would happen next. I wasn't disappointed, although maybe I would have liked the ending to have been a bit more conclusive, but it was realistic, kind-of happy, and in one way, rather surprising.

Anyone who knows what it's like to have an all-consuming friendship, to lose a friend, to be jealous of a friend's boyfriend, to be in love with a friend's boyfriend or to ponder the nature of life (so that's pretty much everyone, then) will find something to relate to in this book. And if you're anything like me, you'll probably shed a tear or two, too.

It's a story of friendship, loss, grief, forgiveness and re-creating your past, and it's terrific.

Rating: 5/5

Like this? Try The Girls by Lori Lansens.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on August 8, 2007 in American Authors, Modern Fiction, Rating: 5/5, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (4)

Booker Prize longlist announced

No sooner do I mention the Booker Prize in passing than longlist is announced for the British literary establishment's biggest prize. Nothing that I've read on there (which to be honest, doesn't make a change) but at least there are a few women nominated...

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan is the bookies favourite to win but, as we've said before, that doesn't always mean much!

The winner, announced in October, will bag a healthy £50,000. (And, if they're lucky, increased sales too.)

Carry on over the cut for the full list.

The Booker Longlist:

Darkmans by Nicola Barker

Self Help by Edward Docx

The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng

The Gathering by Anne Enright

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies

Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

Gifted by Nikita Lalwani

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn

Consolation by Michael Redhill

Animal's People by Indra Sinha

Winnie & Wolf by A N Wilson

Prizewinners archive.

[Via BooktradeInfo]

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on August 8, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Modern Fiction, Prize Winners, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 7, 2007 6:07 PM

Alice Sebold interview

AlmostmoonI have in my sweaty (seriously - it's way too humid!) little hands an advance copy of Alice Sebold's new book, The Almost Moon. I've had a little look  at the first page and synopsis and am *very* excited to start reading it soon. Very!

We'll have a review for you nearer the time of release (October) but in the meantime, we have permission to re-print this interview with the author, which I think you'll find interesting. Enjoy!

What was it like to sit down to write a second novel after the success of The Lovely Bones?

I think all novels are a struggle, and after a big success, that still holds true. I think the plus for me was that I could pay my bills, which is huge, and people need to state right off if they've had any level of success. I can get ready-made sandwiches from a good deli instead of eating Goya chickpeas from the can. The other side of it is the increased pressure to follow up your success with another. But my definition of success has always been to write a book I believe in and to stay true to character, so no matter what, I feel very solid going out with Moon. As a writer you are responsible only for what is between hard covers. The rest you can't control. I had a subject that was haunting me, and I waited for the voice of my main character to run clear so I could tell it. As soon as I had Helen, I had my engine. Then it was just the daily unpredictable hell ride from that point forward to get it right.

What do you hope readers will take away from The Almost Moon?

I want readers to enter the reality and experience of my main character, Helen, and to take the ride with her, as it were, even if it takes them into uncomfortable or unimaginable places. To have those unimaginable and dark places more fully queried and understood by the end of the novel. The Almost Moon is asking some pretty intense questions about the relationship between love and duty, what you owe to others versus what you must do to have your own identity in the world. It is a book very much about the dangers of self-erasure.

Helen Knightly is a very different character from Susie Salmon. How was the experience of writing her different from writing Susie? Do you think readers will find it more challenging to embrace her?

Helen is a complex character. Though her actions are, on the face of it, hard to understand, the challenge for me was that, if done right, the reader might be able to see how she had gotten to this place and have compassion for her. I love Helen as I loved Susie, and I see her as I did Susie — someone strong and outside my own creation somehow, even though obviously I wrote the book and I created the character and her world. She is funny, wry, strong, and very broken in what I hope will feel like an utterly human way.

Both of your novels start with a shocking first chapter and a strong voice that hits you right away. Did you write them this way intentionally?

I believe the story should invite a reader in immediately, so my books begin directly. Neither Susie nor Helen has a lot of time to waste, and they let you know right off who they are and how they got there. Maybe this reflects my own hatred of small talk in real life. I've always preferred someone who answers the question "How are you?" with a response like "I feel like hell. My wife left me yesterday." This allows us to get to the heart of the matter, which is what human communication is about. In the book Helen says she hates the phrase "No worries," and every time I find myself using it, I think of how Helen would detest me for it! Who has no worries? It is such a lie!

Both books deal with family — troubled or dysfunctional. Why is family such a concern for you in your writing?

Though modern fiction is full these days of what I think of as high jinks narratives that splice and dice and somehow put family on the back burner, family is who we are. I don't mean this in a reverent or saccharine manner but in the idea that, for good and for bad, we cannot escape our family. They define us even if we work against what they give us or tell us or how they behave. It is a brutal reality: there is no escape, and in encountering that truth, I think writers have endless possibilities to encounter central human truths about identity, love, hate, loneliness, loss, and joy. All of it, every truth we eventually experience, exists within the idea of family first, and how it, or the lack of it, has shaped an individual's mind.

Originally published online here. Reprinted with kind permission.

Author interview archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on August 7, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Interviews, Modern Fiction, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 3, 2007 12:32 PM

BOOK REVIEW: Momzillas

MomzillasI have to admit to being completely superficial: the thing that grew me to Momzillas by Jill Kargman was... the pretty pink and black cover! It also reminded me a bit of The Nanny Diaries which I *heart* so if the novel itself was awful, I was going to be really disappionted. And at first, I did question the need for this book: semi-autobiographical novels about competititve parenting in Manhattan are not new, but I'd yet to read one I really enjoyed, so I was hoping this would be the one. Luckily, it was! (There must be something in that judging by cover thing after all...)

Momzillas follows San Francisco transplant Hannah Allen's attempts to fit in with the New York society mamas who are married to her husband's new NYC colleagues - and friends with her rich and frosty mother-in-law. Suddenly she's thrust into a world where $350 is a modest amount to spend on a birthday present for the child of someone you hardly know, and staying in the city over the summer (or worse, going on the subway!) just isn't done. Struggling to keep up with the snobbery, but feeling that she has to mingle with women who look down on her in order to get her daughter Violet into the right pre-school and to help her husband's career, Hannah despairs of ever feeling less lonely. So when her old Art Histroy professor from university, the one she had a mega crush on back in the day, asks her to meet up and visit museums with him, that's a perfectly reasonable thing to do, right?

As Hannah's relationship wobbles, so does her certainty that she's done the right thing in moving to New York. She also starts to care a bit less about what the ultra-posh mothers in the posh playground think of her and tries to find a niche for herself and a pre-school for Violet that isn't run by Neo-Nazis...

Can her marriage survive her re-ignited crush on her professor and her husband's crazy hours? And can she break free from all the stupid demands of Momzilla society and enjoy her new situation?

I knew that things would surely work out OK for Hannah in the end, but I enjoyed reading about how she got there. Hannah is a very likeable character (and her daughter Violet couldn't sound cuter!) and Jill Kargman's writing style is snappy and witty. I also liked the fact that Hannah's husband Josh was sympathetic rather than cruel or pathetic, as in other books of this type! I felt the book's ending was a little rushed - too much was summarised rather than shown to the reader - and I was aggravated by the narrator's description of single life as almost a fate worse than death! But I'd definitely recommend this as a great holiday read.

Rating: 4/5

Like this? Try The Nanny Diaries by Nicola Kraus and Emma McClaughlin.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on August 3, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Rating: 4/5 | Permalink | Comments (1)

More summer reading recommendations!

Despite the weather for the last two months resembling winter (here in Britain, at least) we've still brought you lots of summer-related goodness, including competitions and summer reading recommendations from Jen Lancaster, Marian Keyes and Jennifer Weiner and er... Philadelphia.

There's still a few weeks of summer left, and as sun to bask in is in short supply, why not bask in another set of reading recommendations, this time from Salon? Here's their suggestions for summer 'chic lit' (<-- I never know if that's a clueless misspelling of chick lit or a play on words... let's assume the latter and give them the benefit of the doubt!)

What are you reading this summer? Have any summer reading guides prompted you to try a book?

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on August 3, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, British Authors, Modern Fiction, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 2, 2007 11:32 AM

Vintage Twins pairs up old classics with newer releases

We've covered books about women who are twins and men who are twins, but never before have we written about... BOOKS that are twins.

Say what?

Publishers Vintage have had the new (and I think ingenious) idea of packaging two books together: one an old classic, the other a classic of the future - a book they think matches the old classic perfectly. 'Twins' include Middlemarch and Possession; Crime and Punishment and Ripley's Game by Patricia Highsmith and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland next to post-modernist Haruki Murakami's Wind-up Bird Chronicle. They're calling it Vintage Twins, of course.

Guardian blog readers are (as ever!) unimpressed, but what do you think? I think it's a great idea and could be very popular at (shh) Christmas...

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on August 2, 2007 in Book News, Book related, Classic Novels, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (2)

August 1, 2007 5:16 PM

YAY OR NAY WEDNESDAY

Secondbuzz_2On Yay or Nay this week: a non-death related question for you! Woo-hoo...

Mediabistro reports that the publicity for Elizabeth Buchan's latest novel The Second Wife will be a little different from the norm. Instead of  running up a huge advertising budget, Publishers Penguin are instead recruiting 1000 volunteers, who all get a free copy of the book, to talk it up to their friends, colleagues and family members. (Plus anyone else they come across!) The volunteers get a pack with suggested topics to discuss and the campaign will run until the end of summer. If it's successful the strategy could be used to promote other books too, harnessing that all-important word of mouth.

But does 'buzz marketing' like this work for you - do you want your friends to have an agenda when you chat? Or is it the way of the future and just an extension of recommending books to each other, i.e perfectly harmless? Are the volunteers being exploited - 1000 books is much cheaper than the cost of advertising after all - or doesn't it matter as long as they're keen to participate?

In other words... Is this whole idea a Yay or a Nay... and why?

Yay or Nay archives.

[Don't forget it's Yay or Nay day at Hippyshopper, Bridalwave, Dollymix, Corrie Blog, Catwalk Queen, Kiss and Makeup, The Bag Lady, Shoewawa and Shiny Shiny, too!]

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on August 1, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Yay or Nay? | Permalink | Comments (6)

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Samantha David

Samantha David is a journalist who has written what could be the perfect summer read: I Married A Pirate is her debut novel and she'll tell you about it below, along with talking about what she's reading now, and women who prefer dogs to men (really)... And yes, we will be reviewing her book at some point, of course! Samanthadavid

Please describe your latest book in 15 words or fewer:

An original, intelligent, irreverant, quirky, laugh-aloud romantic comedy about Bohemia, personal freedom and love. [Ooh, good one! - Diane]

Where do you like to write your books (in bed, a coffee shop, an office)?

At my desk, in front of my computer, preferrably after midnight when I won't be disturbed. (I spend my days at my desk, in front of my computer, being a journalist.)

Your favourite chick-lit book?

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos.

Your favourite female heroine (if different from above!), and why? Pirate

Flora Poste (from Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons) because she makes me laugh. Tessa Sanger (The Constant Nymph by Margaret Kennedy) because she makes me cry.

What tips would you give to any of our readers who want to become writers?

JDI - Just Do It.

What are you reading at the moment?

The Lady of Shalott (Tennyson), Northanger Abbey (Austen) and Scotland Street (Mccall Smith).

What are you working on now? (If you can give us a hint!)

A romantic comedy about the most charming, intelligent, handsome, sexy man in the world and Rosie - who is stunningly beautiful but prefers dogs to men...

What question have you never been asked in an interview, but think you should have been? (Tell us the question and answer it too, if you like!)

Where shall we send the cheque?

Hee... sorry, we're not asking that either, but thanks, Samantha!

Author Interview archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on August 1, 2007 in Book News, Book related, British Authors, Debut Novels, Interviews, Modern Fiction, Recent Release, Romance, Summer Special | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 31, 2007 4:27 PM

EXCLUSIVE 'Be Mine' giveaway!

Be Mine by Laura Kasischke might be a good option for your summer hols if you like a touch of mystery and don't mind being a bit scared on your sun-lounger.

Keris called it "thrilling, thought-provoking, exciting and erotic" (oo-er!) and we have 2 copies to give away to 2 lucky Trashionista readers.

Carry on over the cut to find out how to be in with a chance of winning...

Simply email us your name and address (so we can send you the book if you win), putting "Laura" in the title. We'll pick 2 names at random after the giveaway closes on August 1st.

Posted by Aigua Media on July 31, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Competition, Crime / Mystery, Modern Fiction, Recent Release, Romance | Permalink | Comments (2)

BOOK REVIEW: The Two Mrs Robinsons by Donna Hay

Reviewed by Bag Lady extraordinaire Nicola Pedley...

2robinsonsIn Donna Hay's latest novel, The Two Mrs Robinsons, Oliver Robinson dies, leaving behind two women who love him: the ex-wife he hasn’t divorced and the girlfriend he hasn’t married. The uneasy truce that exists between the two women is stretched to the limit when Eve, the ex-wife, decides to run his restaurant while Anna, the girlfriend, thinks they should sell it.

When an unexpected turn of events forces Anna to change her mind it is soon obvious the two women will not be able to agree on how the business should be run. Anna thinks Eve is stuck in the past and Eve accuses Anna of trying to turn Oliver’s into a fast food joint. Throw in a couple of shady employees and a bit of bad advice and the restaurant soon starts to lose money, much to the women’s horror.

Desperate to turn things around the two women find they have to compromise and soon start to grow closer as they look out for each other. I enjoyed the way Donna Hay explored the grief of her characters. Eve completely falls apart, even though she and Oliver have been separated for five years, while Anna relies on pills to hold her world together. Eve’s teenage children have to cope with their mother’s grief as well as their own, and Anna’s three-year-old son, Charlie, has no concept of death and happily tells people his daddy’s dead with a big grin on his face.

This is a good read about a difficult subject – the death of a loved one and the feelings it leaves behind. The emotions are sensitively handled and joy and pain both have their place in this story of grief and recovery.

Rating: 4/5

Like this? Try How Will I Know? By Sheila O’Flanagan or Anybody Out There? by Marian Keyes.

[Reviewed by Nicola Pedley]

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 31, 2007 in British Authors, Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 30, 2007 11:44 AM

BOOK REVIEW: Back on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber

Reviewed by Diane Johnston of Corrieblog...

BlossomstJudging from the blurb, I thought Debbie Macomber's Back on Blossom Street would be right up my alley. A group of women come together for a knitting class and we find out about their lives as they become friends. Well, um...I can't say the book lived up to my expectations. This book is the third novel set on Blossom Street, a little Seattle neighbourhood. Blossom Street is lined with little shops and the main narrator of this book, Lydia, spends a lot of time filling us in on the shop owners' past events, along with a good majority of the lives of the customers of those shops as well.

Lydia herself is the owner of the Yarn shop where the knitting classes take place. This book revolves around the current life crises of knitting students Alix, who's about to be married but whose wedding organizing has been overrun by her future mother-in-law and another friend, and Collette who is widowed but recently pregnant by her ex-employer. Lydia's sister also has a family crisis which affects her whole family. The story follows the three women's events.

I wanted to like this book but I didn't really. I like a bit of spice in my book, a bit of sex and humour. This had none of the first and not a whole lot of the second. Lydia, in particular, drove me to distraction. Even though she purported to be worried about her sister's family's problems, you never really felt that anxiety. It was all told almost off-handedly. She is supportive, understanding, reasonable, a great wife and mother, a great cook, advisor to everyone that knows her, confident, generous, and... well, you get the picture. She's perfect. To the point where I found her sanctimonious and boring. The other two women are flawed, make bad decisions for the right reasons, but it all works out in the end for them too.

The book has an overtone of Christian spirituality and forgiveness which makes me wonder if that was the main target audience. (There are, as well, two knitting patterns included for prayer shawls, which is the project that the students are knitting). That's not a criticism, it's just not my type of book, that's all. If you've already read Debbie Macomber's books and loved them, then you will like this one too. It's more of the same. Amazon.com calls it "saccharine prose" and that hits the nail on the head for me. It's not badly written, it's just too sweet and nice. The characters and the dialogue don't feel "real".

I want sex. I want bitchy repartee. I want to laugh out loud and maybe even sniff back a tear or two. I want to identify with at least one of the characters.

I didn't get any of that with this book, I'm afraid. Your mileage may vary.

Rating: 2/5

Like this? Try The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 30, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Rating: 2/5 | Permalink | Comments (3)

July 27, 2007 4:05 PM

BOOK REVIEW: Another Man's Life by Greg Williams

AnothermansThe concept of  Another Man's Life by Greg Williams is pretty interesting: twin men with very different lives (one is a single, hot-shot rich businessman, the other a stay-at-home-dad ever since he was made unemployed) decide to swap lives and to find out how the other half lives, if the grass is greener on the other side... and all that jazz.

So they hatch a plan to pretend to be each other for two weeks, during which Tom (the stay-at-home-dad)'s wife will be away and Sean (the single, hot-shot rich businessman) will be off work. Or that's the plan, anyway.

What could possibly go wrong?

Of course LOTS could possibly go wrong, and in fact does - Sean meets a woman he could fall in love with, but is posing as a married man; Tom is shocked to discover how little he misses family life. And both men realise that yes, in many ways the grass is greener on his twin's side of the fence.

A quote from GQ editor Dylan Jones on the front of this book calls it 'Nick Hornby with knobs on', so I was expecting big things. Unfortunately it didn't quite deliver. The brothers narrate alternating chapters but I found little to tell their voices apart, and kept having to flick to the front of a chapter to remind myself who was telling the story! While the moral implications of such a life-swap were dealt with pretty well in the narrative, the characters still came across as a bit unsympathetic at times. And it just isn't as funny and clever as it thinks it is. (Jokes are often punctuated with a "she thought I was really funny" - type comment as if to impress the reader, which doesn't work).

However, I did enjoy the concept and liked the book more as it moved towards its conclusion. I liked the happy ending but just didn't feel I'd read anything particularly special.

As it's 'lad lit', I wonder if a man would have enjoyed it more...

Rating: 3/5

Like this? Try Mr Nice Guy by Thomas Dowler.   

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 27, 2007 in British Authors, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Rating: 3/5, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (2)

July 26, 2007 12:08 PM

THURSDAY TRAILBLAZER: Truman Capote

YCapotees, I know he's not a woman! But he's still a Trailblazer, and he created Holly Golightly so even though he was WRONG about Audrey Hepburn (he hated her as Holly and wanted Marilyn Monroe in the part) I forgive him.

The author of Breakfast at Tiffany's of course, he also wrote other novels, short stories, plays and a musical but his best work is probably In Cold Blood, the meticulously-researched (sometimes a bit too closely, perhaps!) work of 'faction', which inspired hundreds of writers to turn their pens to narrative non-fiction. The book is compelling, stark, brutal and perfectly evocative of the horrible murders it describes. It lives with the reader for a long time.

On a lighter note, Capote was a legendarily fabulous party host and gossip, and lifelong friend of Harper Lee, who used him as the basis for the character of Dill Harris in To Kill A Mockingbird. He was also openly gay in an era were being honest about homosexuality was much rarer than it is today.

Unfortunately in his later years, Truman descended into depression and alcoholism, dying at just 59, but his great works live on.

Thursday Trailblazer archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 26, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Classic Novels, Modern Fiction, Non Fiction, Thursday Trailblazer | Permalink | Comments (1)

BOOK REVIEW: Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye by Victoria Laurie

Abbycooper

Reviewed by Bag Lady extraordinaire Nicola Pedley...

Victoria Laurie is a professional psychic who uses her gift to help police investigations. Her character, Abby Cooper, is a professional psychic who finds herself using her gift to help police investigations. Victoria Laurie lives in Massachusetts with her dachshunds, Lilly and Toby. Abby Cooper lives in Detroit with her dachshund, Eggy… Frustrated by clichéd representations of psychics as kooks and crooks, Ms. Laurie has (clearly!) drawn on her own experiences to create the character of Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye.

Abby Cooper is looking for some excitement because she feels so vanilla – she needs a bit of hot fudge topping. Most people would think that being a P.I., Psychic Intuitive, would be exciting enough but it’s not until a client winds up dead that Abby realises that hot fudge isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Despite helping solve white collar crimes Abby has never offered information to the police, and with good reason. When she inadvertently relates her visions of her clients murder to Detective Dutch Rivers she soon becomes the prime suspect. After all, there are no such things as psychics so how else could she possibly know all the details of the crime???

In most cosy mysteries the heroine solves the crime because she has an amazing run of luck and is privy to all the local gossip and by putting the two together she solves the mystery and saves the day.

Ms Laurie’s neat little twist – giving Abby visions – is, in my opinion, a nicer solution. Of course, her ability isn’t infallible and Abby often ignores her intuitions - she’d go crazy if she listened to them all the time, and the mystery would be solved about half way through the book. But with a nice supporting cast: the potential cop boyfriend, rich businesswoman older sister, and Dave the handyman, not to mention Eggy the dachshund, this is a really enjoyable read and Ms Laurie gives us an insight into being a professional psychic.

And if you really enjoy the book you can contact Ms Laurie via her website to book a reading of your own!

Rating: 4/5

Like this? Try Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris or One For the Money by Janet Evanovich.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 26, 2007 in American Authors, Crime / Mystery, Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5, Series, Supernatural | Permalink | Comments (3)

BOOK REVIEW: Queen of Broken Hearts by Cassandra King

Reviewed by Diane Johnston of Corrieblog...

QueenofbrokenheartsDr. Clare Ballenger is a divorce coach, helping women cope with the loss of a crumbled marraige, guiding them to start afresh and let go of the past. The only problem is, she's still recovering from a more tragic loss herself.

And she has a second chance at love with not just one man but two - but will she be able to let go of the past and move on? Can the doctor heal herself?

I've never read any of Cassandra King's work before so I opened Queen of Broken Hearts without any preconceptions. I was pleased to discover that the main character, Dr. Clare Ballenger, her best friend Dory Rogers, and both of Clare's potential lovers are my age (late 40s) or older. It's nice when you can identify with the people you meet in books. I, too, have been divorced so I can relate to that aspect of the story as well.

The book takes place in Alabama and is filled with colourful peripheral characters. The narrative is in the first person present most of the time, except when Clare takes the reader back to fill in some of the blanks that she constantly opens up. Some she fills in straight away and some take a while but be patient, they will get filled in eventually. I did find that a bit disconcerting, being left hanging at times wondering what she meant when she hinted at something that happened the previous summer or even years before.

There is a romance threading its bumpy way through the book, with all the ups and downs you might expect. The ups and downs do not include juicy sex scenes, so if you're looking for that, look the other way. In this case, the story doesn't really need it because it's not about that. It's about women rediscovering themselves as they approach middle age after their lives change completely and often traumatically. It's about women supporting each other and it's about friendship and love in all the best ways. I'm rating it a little less than perfect, though, because I did find the author's style of leaving you wondering about those blanks a bit annoying at times even though all the loose ends were tied up at the end.

Rating: 4/5

Like this? Try How Will I Know? By Sheila O’Flanagan.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 26, 2007 in American Authors, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5, Recent Release, Romance | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 25, 2007 5:15 PM

YAY OR NAY WEDNESDAY

I found this piece on the Guardian books blog interesting, as it reflects some of my own uncertainty about books like The Lovely Bones. Although I enjoyed that book (or found it a very good read; 'enjoyed' is probably not the right word for a novel about a murdered teenager...) the parts of the novel set in 'heaven' didn't ring true to me - how could they? No-one knows for sure what heaven is like, or if it even exists. Chris Power, who wrote the Guardian article agrees, saying that Lovely Bones is a very readable book but "Susie's narration softens the facts of her horrific death and throws open the door to mawkishness."

So what do you think: does a narration from beyond the grave give a book an added mystique? Or perhaps make the death in the book less harrowing? Or can it ruin things for the reader?

Is it a Yay or a Nay, and why?

Yay or Nay archives. - A more cheery topic next week, I promise!

[Don't forget it's Yay or Nay day at Hippyshopper, Bridalwave, Dollymix, Corrie Blog, Catwalk Queen, Kiss and Makeup, The Bag Lady, Shoewawa and Shiny Shiny, too!]

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 25, 2007 in Book related, Modern Fiction, Opinion, Supernatural, Yay or Nay? | Permalink | Comments (4)

BOOK REVIEW: The Washingtonienne by Jessica Cutler

WashingtonienneJessica Cutler is probably the most notorious of all the people to have been fired for blogging at work. Not only did she work for a senator in Washington, D.C but she wrote about the six different men she was having sex with and all of their sexual peccadilloes... and her own. She blogged anonymously, but was found out through word-of-mouth (and eventually, hard disk evidence) and unceremoniously 'let go' from her job. Instead of hiding in a dark corner, she decided to capitalise on the subsequent media attention she received, and used it to get a book deal (with a 6-figure advance). The Washingtonienne isn't her blog in book form, however; it's novel based on her experiences.

Jackie Turner is a New York transplant in America's capital, working for a senator, having her apartment paid for by two wealthy men she sleeps with, one of whom pays her for the privilege. Then she starts a blog, which causes a huge scandal.

'Semi-autobiographical' doesn't quite seem to cover it!....

I must admit there were times I forgot I wasn't reading a memoir. I always find it hard to get a handle on novels based heavily on the author's experiences - I always want to know exactly which bits are true. If the lawsuit against her is anything to go by, however, Cutler's debut is very close to the truth.

It's witty and readable but the narrator has a very dark world view and it's full of drug-taking and sordid sex (which on one occasion seemed uncomfortably close to rape to me) and the narrator's presumption that most people live like her (those that don't are stupid/boring) and that these things are what constitute 'fun'. Yet puking purple bile into bushes on the way to work and snorting drugs off - well, you'll have to read the book - doesn't sound much fun to me. Although I did feel a bit jealous that she could watch Law & Order all day...

This is definitely a novel in the anti-heroine trend, saved from being appalling by the snappy writing and (finally!) the narrator's insight into her behaviour towards the end of the book. Not everyone will enjoy reading this, some people will find it shameless, I just found it left me with a bit of a nasty taste in my mouth at times. And yet I kind of enjoyed it (she said, in horrified disbelief) and it was certainly entertaining. If anyone else has read it (perhaps for Mamapop's book club) I'd love to know what you thought.

Rating: 3/5

Like this? Try My Horizontal Life by Chelsea Handler.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 25, 2007 in American Authors, Bonkbusters, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Rating: 3/5 | Permalink | Comments (9)

BOOK REVIEW: Marked by PC Cast and Kristin Cast

Reviewed by Trashionista reader Angela Richardson...

MarkedThis book is the first in the House of Night series, where P.C & Kristin Cast have created a world where vampires have always existed. For all Buffy addicts like me who have been suffering from the void of losing their favourite series… we may have been sent a form of methadone from our American friends.

Sixteen-year-old Zoey Redbird has been Marked, to the disgust of her friends, who watch her become sicker and sicker in daylight hours. She is rushed to the House of Night, a school where she will train to become an adult vampire. That is if she survives the Change. Not all of those chosen do. It’s tough being away from all that she knows and on top of that Zoey finds that she’s no average fledging. The vampire goddess Nyx has marked her as special. When she discovers the leader of the Dark Daughters, the school’s most elite club, is misusing her Goddess-given gifts, Zoey must find the courage within herself to set things back to the way they should be.

Okay this is probably teen lit but I tell all you parents now, keep it for yourself and only when you finish it wrap it up as the present you intended. Parents will also be pleasantly surprised at Zoey’s moralistic side to her character that, to cut a long story short, tells teens it’s not cool to be a slut or a drunk.

The only annoying thing about this book is the similarities to Harry Potter. Zoey hates her family and gets whisked away from her horrible life to a magical school, okay it’s for vampires and not witches and wizards, but you get the point. Plus she is separated out from the other pupils as special by a different mark on her forehead… now we’re getting a bit too close to Harry’s scar. This is a shame because the plot is much better than Rowling’s over hyped books. [Ooh! - Diane]

Of course this was always going to be compared to Buffy as it is a teen novel that contains vampires, but I see this as a good thing as there are no other similarities in the plot. It’s like Buffy’s arch-enemy vampire has written a book to show the world that they aren’t all nasty blood sucking fiends, but have a gentler side too: awww!

Overall this was fast paced, funny and exciting. It held my attention all the way through and Zoey grows into a feisty heroine who’d I’d definitely want on my side. (That is if I ever got into a fight between vampires… yes I know I’ve been watching way too much sci-fi.)

Go give your self a well-needed mental holiday from all the everyday stresses and strains and read this book. I guarantee you’ll come away refreshed and ready to fight another day.

Rating: 5/5.

Like this? Try Carpe Demon by Julie Kenner.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 25, 2007 in American Authors, Crime / Mystery, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Rating: 5/5, Recent Release, Series, Supernatural, Young Adult | Permalink | Comments (16)

July 24, 2007 1:50 PM

BOOK NEWS: Fitness Kills by Helen Barer

Fitness_killsHere's another good reason not to go to the gym: you might get murdered...

The first in a new series by Helen Barer, Fitness Kills is a mystery in the same tradition as books like Steamed.

There’s been a murder at an elite spa in Baja, California and no one is safe, especially Nora Franke, a New York food writer who came to the spa to make over its menu. But she didn’t count on murder as the main course.

Carry on over the cut to find out more...

Nora’s life is in desperate need of a change and when the opportunity arises to become a menu consultant at a ritzy fitness spa she jumps at the chance to get out of town. Nursing a broken heart and hoping to drop 30 pounds in the process, Nora heads off full of hope. When a spa guest is found dead, she realizes she got more than she bargained for.

Unless she can solve the mystery of who’s behind the death of two of the guests, Nora might just be the next victim. As Nora digs into the spa, its history, and its curious guests, she finds more than she expected on her plate, including a second guest who dies right in front of her eyes. Then, when her ex-lover comes to her rescue, she knows she needs to solve this mystery – or die trying.

Read an excerpt here.

Related: Book news archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 24, 2007 in American Authors, Book News, Book related, Crime / Mystery, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Series | Permalink | Comments (1)

More summer beach read giveaways from Bookreporter.com

Continuing our summer special-theme, "It wouldn't be summer without sun, surf and sizzling reading," says Bookreporter. So they're offering one reader a week the chance to win a beach bag of goodies, including a great summer read each week until August 24th.

The current book choice is Second Choice by Jane Green, and past books include The Manny and Anybody Out There? So you could find some great reading recommendations over the next few weeks, whether you win or not!

And don't forget we'll be giving books away every week for the rest of the summer, too!

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 24, 2007 in American Authors, Book Websites, Book related, British Authors, Competition, Modern Fiction, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (0)

The best days to sell books?

You might think that the day the new (last) Harry Potter was released would be a bad day to try and get readers interested in buying any other kind of book, but you would be wrong.

That's according to Elaine Viets of The Lipstick Chronicles blog. In a recent post, she explains why Harry Potter nights can be one of the very best days to sell books.

Find out more here (and don't forget to check out the rest of this excellent blog!

Related: Book websites archive.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 24, 2007 in American Authors, Book Websites, Modern Fiction, Opinion | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 23, 2007 11:12 AM

BOOK REVIEW: An Absolute Scandal by Penny Vincenzi

Absolute

Reviewed by freelance writer and Trashionista fan Hannah Davies...

Coming in at 768 pages in the hardback edition, and set amidst the complex financial dealings of the City in the Eighties, Penny Vincenzi's latest novel An Absolute Scandal seems a daunting prospect. Potential readers should bear in mind, however, that this is less than half the size of War and Peace. More importantly, An Absolute Scandal is a very good read overall.

All the classic Vincenzi ingredients are here: a glittering backdrop of wealth and privilege, a large and diverse cast, some energetic sex and, well, plenty of scandal. An Absolute Scandal introduces the characters as they enjoy the kind of material success that, for some, typifies the early Eighties. As disaster strikes in the form of increasing debt to Lloyds Bank, the families are drawn together by their mutual monetary woes. This device is extremely well-handled: the explanations of the financial complexities are clear and accessible, and never take precedence over the gripping human drama. The plot skips lightly from Alice bands and Ferraris in London to well-heeled Americans in Boston, the savage beauty of the Welsh coastline and the glitzy world of the celebrity hairdresser, yet never loses its hold on the reader.

The main weakness is the sudden promotion of 'feisty' housewife Debbie to prominence during the second third of the novel. Although she is clearly intended to be an 'everywoman' counterbalance to the assorted wealthy Sloanes, her character fails to convince, and her struggle to balance the duties of family with the demands of career flirts at times with tedium.

In addition, after a long and intense build-up, the ending feels rushed and somehow not entirely satisfying. Nevertheless, with its addictive plot and stylish narrative, I'd recommend this as a great holiday read. Even if you feel that it is not quite up to the standard of Penny Vincenzi's previous books, you can always use this hefty tome for impromptu arm-toning exercises by the pool. However, be prepared to take less sarongs and sandals than usual, or you might end up paying excess baggage charges!

Rating: 3 out of 5

Like this? Try Adored by Tilly Bagshawe.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 23, 2007 in American Authors, Bonkbusters, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Rating: 3/5, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (2)

July 20, 2007 12:51 PM

WIN! A beach read with Dorothy Perkins

100 copies of The Seven Year Itch, out now in paperback, are up for giveaway in a Dorothy Perkins beach read prize draw.

The latest book from husband-wife writing team/phenomenon Josie Lloyd and Emlyn Rees, The Seven Year Itch is about, well... that fabled seven year itch of course. According to the Dotty P website:

It's seven years since Jack and Amy got married, they're still in love, they've got a son, they're happy... except, the grass is beginning to look a little greener on the other side. Witty and honest, The Seven Year Itch is the perfect beach read for anyone who's ever asked: "Is this it"?

Carry on over the cut to find out how to win a copy.

Simply click here, fill in your details, and cross your fingers - good luck! Entries close 1st August.

Related: Summer special!

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 20, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Competition, Josie Lloyd & Emlyn Rees, Modern Fiction, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (1)

BOOK REVIEW: Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky

Anatomy_2We've talked about Anatomy of a Boyfriend before, when the cover was causing a stir in America. I love the design and was very interested to read the book, which wasn't really anything like I expected: I thought it would be Louise Rennison-esque, instead it's more like Judy Blume...

Daria Snadowsky's debut novel is the story of the relationship between 17-year old Dominique and her new boyfriend Wes. Wes is a shy but sweet athletic/writerly type, while Dominique wants to be a doctor - hence the title of the book, she's obsessed with medical textbooks!

We follow the couple from their first meeting, through to their first semester at university, and all the ups and downs and those major 'firsts' that come with a first love...

This very much reminded me of a modern-day Forever (although with a little less um, description). It's certainly not for younger teenagers but the sexual stuff is realistic and appropriate in the context of the story. Easy to read and with some great emotional depth, I just wondered if the teenager's voices were entirely lifelike: Dom is a little immature at times where her best friend Amy sometimes sounds like SATC's Samantha. Also the relationship between Dom and Wes takes a while to get going, and I was a bit frustrated by that!

I did love the two girls' friendship and found the story very moving and well-crafted. It's quite an easy read, but definitely not a facile one. I was sad when I'd finished it and got quite emotionally involved with the characters so I'm definitely looking forward to more books by this new author. (In other words, thank you Luisa for the loan!)

Rating: 4/5

Like this? Try Good Girls by Laura Ruby.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 20, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5, Recent Release, Romance, Young Adult | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 19, 2007 11:32 AM

GUEST BLOG: Allison Winn Scotch

I loved Allison Winn Scotch's debut novel, The Department of Lost and Found so much I asked the author to do a guest blog for us, and she very kindly agreed to tell the background to her book, or...

The Story Behind The Story by Allison Winn Scotch

When people ask what my novel is about, I mutter something about a young woman who is diagnosed with cancer and wait for the inevitable reaction:  horror.  It's as if their brains are flashing, “There is no way in freaking hell that I'd read a book about cancer."  I mean, truly, it's painfully and incredibly obvious.

So then I offer up my caveat.  "But it's really funny!  And it's not really about cancer, it's more about a young woman's journey to self-discovery, and the cancer is just the catalyst."

They nod their heads and look at me unconvinced.  You're probably reading this and thinking the same thing.  Yeah, right.

So let me rewind and explain how I got here.  Over two years ago, I lost one of my closest friends to breast cancer.  She was 31, a mother to a three-month old at the time of her diagnosis, and one of the most vibrant and tenacious women I'd known.  Her diagnosis was shocking, swift and brutal, and six months later, she passed away.  It all happened so suddenly that I literally barely had time to register that she was sick, much less gone.  Even today, I still sometimes think that I see her on the street or forget entirely that I can't call her or email her to share some news.

(Ahem, I know.  You're wondering, when does this get funny?  Hang in there.)

After the funeral, I didn't know where to put my grief. I mean, how do you box up the devastation of the most painful experience of your lifetime? Where do you put it? How do you move forward? The answer is, or at least, my answer was, to write.

A month or so after her funeral, I woke up one morning with a vision of a character who would soon become my protagonist, Natalie. She was a ferocious 30-year old whose cancer diagnosis would throw her world on end but ultimately, wouldn’t beat her. And so, I sat down in front of my computer and wrote. And wrote and wrote and wrote. Until three months later, not only did I have a completed manuscript, I'd also wrestled with a good amount of my grief. Which brings me to the funny.

As I was writing, it became clear that I was using the book as a tool for healing, and because of this, never once did it occur to me to drag the prose or the plot down in maudlin, heavy-handed themes. Because, come on, as anyone who has ever been touched by cancer knows, the last thing you need in this situation is something else to remind you of the horror of the experience. So instead, I placed Natalie in humorous situations (her first experiences smoking pot, her increasing obsession with The Price is Right, her top 5 list of celebrities she wants to sleep with), and showed (I hope) that you can keep your sense of humor (and your sense of life) even while battling this insidious disease.

Since The Department of Lost and Found has come out, I've received notes from a variety of people whose lives (for better or worse) have been affected by cancer, and nearly all of them have told me that the book has helped them heal in some way. And most of them delighted in the fact that while I still took the time to highlight the difficulties that cancer can wreak, both physically and emotionally, I also made the point that it doesn't have to break your spirit. And that, in fact, it can even bolster it.

So to cancer I say, screw you. If I can eke a laugh out of the disease, then I'm certain that it's not unbeatable. A cure can't be too far behind.

(c) Allison Winn Scotch 2007

Related: Cancer Vixen

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 19, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Debut Novels, Guest blogs, Modern Fiction, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (6)

July 18, 2007 5:09 PM

YAY OR NAY WEDNESDAY

Jamesbond_The big lit news of last week (it happened after last week's Yay or Nay Wednesday, okay?!) was that Sebastian Faulks has taken over Ian Fleming's gig as writer of the James Bond novels. The new Bond book, which was kept a closely-guarded secret until it was finished, will be released in May 2008 and is called Devil May Care. Its release will mark 100 years since Fleming's birth. [Via The Guardian].

But what do you think to the concept of taking over a popular series after the writer's death - is it a heart-warming tribute or close to sacrilegious? Are there any great series that should be revived, or should they always die with the author? And if you're a writer, do you care what happens after you die or do you want your work left alone?

SO: passing the literary baton: is it a Yay or a Nay, and why?

Yay or Nay archives.

[Don't forget it's Yay or Nay day at Hippyshopper, Bridalwave, Dollymix, Corrie Blog, Catwalk Queen, Kiss and Makeup, The Bag Lady, Shoewawa and Shiny Shiny, too!]

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 18, 2007 in Book News, Book related, British Authors, Classic Novels, Crime / Mystery, Modern Fiction, Series, Yay or Nay? | Permalink | Comments (4)

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Jessica Gregson

Jessica Gregson's debut novel The Angel Makers sounds like a fascinating read. It's about the women in a small Hungarian village at the time of the First World War who spontaneously start murdering their menfolk. Incredibly, it's based on a well-documented true story. (Of course, we'll be reviewing it).Jessicagregson Here, she answers all our questions...

Please describe your latest book in 15 words or fewer:

Based on a true story about some very strange events in a small Hungarian village…

Where do you like to write your books (in bed, a coffee shop, an office)?

Mostly in bed, to be honest, last thing at night, though I’m not above sneaking in a couple of thousand words while I’m at my day job!

Your favourite chick-lit book?

I don’t read a lot of chick-lit, but I absolutely love Marian Keyes, and was really impressed by her latest book, Anybody Out There? My all-time favourite book by a woman would probably have to be The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter.

Your favourite female heroine (if different from above!), and why?

This is a difficult one, and a fairly obscure choice, but I’m going to go with Lucia Barclay, from Janette Turner Hospital’s book, “The Last Magician”. I read the book when I was sixteen, and it had an enormous affect on me – it was the first time I can remember finding a character that was so easy to relate to.

Carry on over the cut for more!

What tips would you give to any of our readers who want to become writers?

It’s a bit of a cliché, but: just write. I was talking to a friend about this the other day, and I think it’s very easy for new writers to get hung up on things like form and structure, the idea that there’s a Right or Proper way to write a novel – but really, there’s not. Tell a story from beginning to end, and don’t worry if you think it’s awful as you’re going along: the most important thing for a first draft is to finish it – anything else can be fixed later. I spent years trying to write that perfect first chapter, or even first paragraph, but that sort of approach is a waste of time.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m in the middle of about five or six books, actually! The one I’m carrying with me to read on trains is “The Buddha of Suburbia” by Hanif Kureishi, which I’m thoroughly enjoying.

What are you working on now? (If you can give us a hint!)

My second novel is also based on a true story about the experiences of some Turkish immigrants in Australia during the First World War. In some ways it deals with similar themes to The Angel Makers, particularly the experience of being an outsider, but it’s proving to be a very different book to write. I’m also working on a completely unrelated PhD in international development!

What question have you never been asked in an interview, but think you should have been? (Tell us the question and answer it too, if you like!)

Why do you write? It’s a fairly fundamental question but one I’ve never been asked. And I think I write for the same reason as I do almost everything – because I’m absolutely fascinated by people, their motivations and the strange and wonderful things that they do.

Thanks Jessica!

Interview archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 18, 2007 in Book News, Book related, British Authors, Crime / Mystery, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (1)

Guardian disses JK Rowling; her publisher disses Asda

(Now is not the time to point out that 'diss' isn't the hippest of vernacular - and no, nor is 'hip'; I'm a writer not a rapper).

Nicholas Lezard is pulling Potter to pieces in his latest piece on the Guardian books blog. As someone who got bored 50 pages into Order of the Phoenix, I'm not the hugest JK fan (although I think she seems lovely and is very very clever). But saying her prose is "toxic" seems a bit much, no?

If you're of the opposite opinion to Lezard, make sure you don't head to Asda for your copy when it's released worldwide on 21 July - i.e. this Saturday! Potter Publishers Bloomsbury claim the supermarket chain has unpaid bills dating back 3 years and so it will not be supplying the shop with precious copies of the latest installment.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 18, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Series, Supernatural, Young Adult | Permalink | Comments (3)

July 17, 2007 4:22 PM

BOOK REVIEW: The Tuesday Erotica Club by Lisa Beth Kovetz

TuesdayFour women from very different backgrounds form an unlikely writers' alliance in Lisa Beth Kovetz's debut novel, The Tuesday Erotica Club.

All have different jobs at a New York law firm when newly-pregnant Aimee decides to start a weekly writing group, which quickly becomes a weekly erotic writing group. Her friend Brooke is quick to join, as is older associate Margot, who has a reputation for being a bit scary. Secretary Lux is a latecomer to the group and with her distinct lack of writing skills, wildly coloured clothing and hair and tough attitude, isn't a welcome addition.  But she doesn't care. As the group becomes a regular fixture for all four women, all of their lives begin to change in dramatic ways and Aimee, Brooke, Margot and Lux realise they need each other's support more than they ever could have guessed...

As you might suspect from the title, there's a certain amount of erotic writing in the book, as we are treated to the women's creative efforts. It just stops short of being too much, but probably isn't for the squeamish about sex. However, the real plot of the book is about the importance of female friendship and it's a very good, well-crafted read. Unlike some other books I've read recently (e.g. this one), when the chapters alternated viewpoints, I didn't find it hard to keep them separate at all. And all the women became sympathetic characters by the end of the book, even the ones who didn't start out that way!

I just have two slight reservations: I felt that the character of Lux was maybe a little too naive at times, and I felt that maybe we didn't need to read quite so much erotica (I know, the clue was in the title!) - sex may sell, but this book doesn't need any gimmicks to keep readers hooked.

Rating: 4/5

Like this? Try The Reading Group by Elizabeth Noble.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 17, 2007 in American Authors, Bonkbusters, Book related, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Rating: 4/5 | Permalink | Comments (6)

July 16, 2007 4:40 PM

Hmm... looks like Janet Evanovich collaborative novel is off, for now. Boo!

After telling a rather complicated tale of rumours and suspicions, Galleycat revealed today that the Jenny Crusie/Bob Mayer-esque collaboration between Janet Evanovich and Stephen Cannell has fallen into trouble.

Said Janet to the 'cats, "Steve [Cannell] and I ran into scheduling problems. We still have an active partnership but the project is on hold right now. As of right now we haven't a publishing date."

But not to worry, as a self-proclaimed workaholic, I'm sure she'll bounce back with another book before long!

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 16, 2007 in American Authors, Book News, Book related, Crime / Mystery, Modern Fiction, Series | Permalink | Comments (0)

Maria McCarthy's writing for publication workshop

Put Saturday 8th September in your diary if you're interesting in going to Cardiff for a writing workshop with journalist and author (of The Girls' Guide to Losing Your L-Plates, which Keris loved) Maria McCarthy.

Maria says she'll be giving advice on getting fiction, non-fiction and journalism published including developing feature ideas, approaching editors, getting an agent and copyright and business matters. The workshop will be held from 2-4pm at Chapter Arts Centre, Market Road, Canton, Cardiff  and costs £10 (£8 concessions).

For more information or to book a place, check out Maria's website.

Related posts: Review: Wannabe A Writer? | Review: See Jane Write

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 16, 2007 in Book Websites, Book related, British Authors, Modern Fiction, Non Fiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 13, 2007 5:48 PM

BOOK REVIEW: The Yorkshire Pudding Club by Milly Johnson

YorkspudThe first thing that attracted me to this book was its cover - attractive and conveying a clear 'women's fiction' message without being a pink shoe/butterfly/egg-covered cliche, it's very nice indeed. The second thing that attracted me was the title because like the heroines of this book, I'm from South Yorkshire, so I just had to read it.

The Yorkshire Pudding Club is made up of three women: Janey, Elizabeth and Helen, who have been best friends since school despite having very different backgrounds. When Helen makes them accompany her to an ancient fertility symbol in the hopes she'll fall pregnant, little do the women realise that before long all three of them will have buns in their metaphorical ovens..

But none of their pregnancies will be smooth sailing...

One of the most frustrating things about this book was how long it took to get going. It took about 100 pages for all the women to cop on about their upcoming bundles of joy ('Hmm, I wonder why I'm so tired, and my breasts are swollen and do you know I haven't had a period...' sort of thing)which was annoying and totally lacking in suspense as it's clear from the cover that all 3 women are going to have babies. I was also annoyed by the self-consciously 'Northern' nature of some of the dialogue - it got bit too "ee by gum" salt-of-the-earth stereotypical at times. More importantly, the story constantly switches perspective and I kept finding it hard to keep Janey and Elizabeth's voices separate - they were very similar.

But it wasn't all bad by any means. I found the last third of the book became more exciting and less predictable, and things ended just as I'd have liked. I also loved the support the women gave each other and think this could be a comforting/consoling read for first-time mums.

A good read but not a great one - losing about 100 pages might have helped.

Rating: 3/5

Like this? Try Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 13, 2007 in British Authors, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Rating: 3/5, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 12, 2007 9:25 AM

THURSDAY TRAILBLAZER: Helen Fielding

HelenfieldingOf course. Couldn't really leave her out seeing as she started all this chick lit lark! (Maybe).

Whether you think Helen Fielding, Jane Austen, Nora Ephron, Gail Parent or even Janet Evanovich invented the genre, what's pretty clear is that Helen Fielding helped make it what it is today. Her newspaper columns detailing the life and loves of one Miss Bridget Jones made both her and Bridge cultural icons and had publishers on both sides of the pond jumping on the chick lit bandwagon. It has to be the best-known and most-loved chick lit novel of all time, ever. (And it's the number one choice for fave chick lit novel in our author interviews!)

Fielding's inspired lots of modern-day writers and even many years later her best-known book is still a touching and brilliantly witty read. Bridget Jones's Diary is everything a chick lit book should be: funny, satirical and entertaining with a main character we can relate to.

And that's what makes Helen Fielding a Trailblazer.

Thursday Trailblazer archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 12, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Classic Novels, Modern Fiction, Opinion, Thursday Trailblazer | Permalink | Comments (1)

MOVIE NEWS: Evening

I must admit I hadn't heard of the book Evening by Susan Minot before I saw adverts for the film. But the ads definitely caught my eye: this new adaptation of Minot's book stars Claire Danes, Toni Colette, Meryl Streep and Glenn Close, among others! According to the film's website, it's about a mother-daughter relationship... which I'm guessing doesn't always go smoothly (or else why make a film about it?!)

No news on a UK release date yet but we'll keep you posted.

Movie news archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 12, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction, Movie News | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 11, 2007 4:21 PM

YAY OR NAY WEDNESDAY

Satc_group_Last week, the film and literary worlds were all-a-flutter with the news that Sex and the City is to be made into a movie - after years and years of rumours and speculation it is (apparently) really going to happen. I guess Kim Cattrall decided to just grit her teeth and make nice with SJP... or something. (I'm just speculating, that's not libel!) Anyhoo, what I want to know this week is whether you think it's a good idea.

Should a good thing be left well enough alone? Or are you chomping at the bit to find out what happened next for Carrie and co.? Do TV series ever make good films - if not, will this be the exception? And if you are keen on the idea, what should happen next? (Hey, you never know who might be reading!)

In other words: SATC - the movie: is it a Yay or a Nay, and why?

Yay or Nay archives.

[Don't forget it's Yay or Nay day at Hippyshopper, Bridalwave, Dollymix, Corrie Blog, Catwalk Queen, Kiss and Makeup, The Bag Lady, Shoewawa and Shiny Shiny, too!]

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 11, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Movie News, Television, Yay or Nay? | Permalink | Comments (9)

BOOK REVIEW: A Dangerous Dress by Julia Holden

DangerousFirst of all, can I just say how much I love the cover of Julia Holden's debut novel, A Dangerous Dress? It perfectly captures the mood of the book (and of the dress that's the star of the show). We often compare the US and UK covers, and this is one time when (I think) the UK version is definitely superior. (Here's the original US version - what do you think?)

But what is the book like, you're wanting to know! Well, it's about a dress. Yes, really. Jane is a bored bank worker in the town of Bum****, Indiana (not its real name, but that's what everyone calls it 'cos its so boring). One day, she's contacted out of the blue by a film company who read an essay she wrote in university about the glamorous Parisian gown she found among her late grandmother's belongings. In the essay, she speculated about who might have designed it and where her grandma may have worn it, and talked about its wonderful design.

The film's production crew read her passionate essay and think she's just the person to track down a similar dress for their movie, so Jane packs her bags, hurriedly arranges a passport and catches a plane to Paris to work on a film and follow in her grandmother's footsteps... Love, excitement and glamour await her - or do they?

Well, she certainly has an interesting and exciting time, but it's a bit of a bumpy ride and things don't turn out as Jane expects ( wouldn't make a good book if they did!)

When I think about the plot of this book in retrospect, it seems a little silly but it has a fairytale-like quality that means you have to suspend disbelief as it's fairly unlikely the events of the book would take place in real life and a lot of the plot is based on coincidences and chance. But it's all so charming that I was completely absorbed in the story and couldn't wait to find out what would happen next. I absolutely raced through it and found Jane a charming, if naive, narrator. (A bit YA-ish if I'm honest). I was a little bit disappointed that the end didn't quite tie up all the loose ends, but a sequel would be great and I'll definitely read more by this talented new author.

Rating: 4/5

Like this? Try Venus Envy by Shannon McKelden.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 11, 2007 in American Authors, Debut Novels, Fashion-Lit, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5, Recent Release, Romance | Permalink | Comments (7)

July 9, 2007 10:30 AM

Megan Crane explains... The Concept of the "Frenemy"

Keris loved Megan Crane's new book, Frenemies... but what exactly is a "frenemy"?

The author explains...

The Concept of The Frenemy Megan_crane

I was suspended somewhere at 35,000 feet, on a flight from New York to Los Angeles, when I decided that I wanted to divorce all my friends. I didn't arrive at this decision lightly. The fact was, I loved my friends. I just kind of wanted to kill them all with my bare hands.

The feeling passed (perhaps it was brought on by the in-flight entertainment, or stale pretzels) but I revisited it many times as I set about writing my third book. The concept of the frenemy was something I had thought about quite a lot over the years. While I imagine men must have them too, I'm not so sure they have the kind of frenemy women do. My friends (yes, the ones I occasionally wanted to legally separate from, because I enjoy complicated relationships) and I had so much experience with various versions of this phenomenon that we gave our frenemies a name long before we heard the term "frenemy" on Sex & the City: that girl.

That girl was the one who, when you were young and didn't know any better, you admired ferociously with that specific female-only blend of anger and envy. Because really it wasn't about whether or not you liked her. You hated her. You wanted to be her. Usually all at the same time.

As you grew older, you realized that the very traits that made her that girl were the traits you identified in women you would never be close to the moment you met them. These women, simply, violated the Girl Code. Maybe they were overly-familiar with someone else's partner. Or they seemed unable to perform even the most basic steps of female intimacy rituals. A normal woman might say, "he's a complete loser" or "what are you talking about, you look hipless in those jeans." That girl was more likely to say things like, "he's not your type at all, he's all about the perfect girl, you know, who dresses well and is a size four" or "the thing about style is that not everyone looks good in the trendiest things."

(Just let them sink in. Ouch, right?)

Some other that girl 'tells': They hung out exclusively with men and were conversant on the latest sports statistics and couldn't believe other girls were so annoying about the sports thing. They failed to understand— or worse, refused to understand— about shoes. They maintained that PMS was a fairy tale and said things like it's all in your head or chocolate is such a myth, you should try a three-mile run. Meanwhile, when it suited them, they could become so helpless and afraid and trembling that they could scarcely make it up a flight of three stairs without the assistance of a big, strong, preferably handsome male.

Men, naturally, failed to see the atrocities committed by such women. "That girl is so cool," they would say. "She's just like one of the guys." Or, "I don't know why you can't be nicer to her, she's just lonely and insecure." Yeah, right. About as lonely and insecure as, say, Angelina Jolie.

I thought the very least I could do, as a sort of penance for secretly wishing to divorce my friends, was to write a book that uncovered the perfidy of that girl.

Which I did, only to make a startling realization. We were all that girl to the women who dislike us. And I suspect that many of us have been a frenemy, too. More often than any of us would like to admit.

Copyright (c) 2007 by Megan Crane. Reprinted by permission of Hachette Book Group USA, New York, NY. All rights reserved.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 9, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 6, 2007 11:02 AM

FRIDAY FLICK: Starter for Ten

StarterfortenI started reading David Nicholls' debut novel, Starter for Ten in Waterstone's one day and absolutely loved it. I thought it was going to be one of those novels that's just so funny and familiar and fabulous. I was actually a bit disappointed - it didn't live up to the promise of the first chapter, but even so I was pleased to see it had been made into a film.

Set in 1985, Brian (McAvoy) heads off to Bristol University and is excited to find they're putting together a team to go on the TV show University Challenge. Brian used to watch it with his late father and it's always been his ambition to compete.

As he and his teammates prepare for the show, he falls for the gorgeous and posh Alice, befriends cynical and political Rebecca, struggles to continue a relationship with his best friend from back home and tries to deal with his mother's new relationship.

Funnily enough, the University Challenge part is the best bit. It's genuinely exciting and Mark Gatiss is brilliant as Bamber Gascoigne. (I still can't accept that they teams aren't really on top of each other though.)

James McAvoy is cute and charming and he carries the film really. Yes, it's perfectly predictable, but it's also perfectly enjoyable.

Friday Flick archives

Posted by Keris on July 6, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Friday Flick, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 3, 2007 1:27 PM

BOOK REVIEW: The Next Thing on My List by Jill Smolinski

JillsmolinskiAs soon as I heard the concept of Jill Smolinski's The Next Thing on my List, I was hooked:

June Parker's life is plodding along nicely (or so she thinks) when she has a car accident on the way home from a Weight Watchers meeting (she just has one or two pounds to shift, you see). Her passenger, Marissa, who she barely knows, tragically dies, and June finds in her possessions a list, entitled “20 Things to Do By My 25th Birthday.”

Full of guilt over her Marissa's death, June decides to take on the challenge of completing the list in her memory...

But it's not easy: some of the things on the list are pretty challenging "Change someone's life", for example. Others, like "make Buddy Fitch pay" are simply puzzling - who is this mysterious Fitch man, and what does he need to pay for, exactly? And how?!

Still, June is committed to her task, and with just a few months to go before Marissa's birthday, she speeds into action to finish the 18 items on the list that Marissa didn't get round to - finding her own life is totally transformed in the process.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It was a fun, entertaining read with some depth to it, too. And its message, that we should all dare to do the things we want to do (but are scared of) before its too late may not be a new one, but it's presented in a throughly readable, endearing way. I recommend you read it!

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try Twenty Times a Lady by Karyn Bosnak.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 3, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Rating: 4/5 | Permalink | Comments (3)

July 2, 2007 11:56 AM

YA star Megan McCafferty invites you to create a trailer

Big fan of (famously plagiarised) YA chick lit author Megan McCafferty?

Why not show your love by entering her contest to make a trailer recapping the plots of the first 3 novels in her famous Jessica Darling series (so that's Sloppy Firsts, Second Helpings, and Charmed Thirds). The trailer should be 3 minutes or less, and Megan will blog about entries as they come in, before picking her favourite - the creator of which will win a bag full of signed books.

So why not give it a go? - You couldn't possibly do worse than this...

More details and how to enter here. [Via Galleycat].

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 2, 2007 in American Authors, Book Websites, Book related, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Series, Young Adult | Permalink | Comments (0)

Jordan/Katie Price gives birth

JordankatieCall her what you will (glamour model, TV 'star', 'author'), but Jordan/Katie Price has given birth to her first daughter by Caesarian section at London's famous Portland Hospital. [Via Star Trip].

And! her second novel, Crystal has just been released, too: good timing!

Reports that her baby girl would be named after her new book were pooh-poohed by Jordan/Katie and her husband Peter Andre.  (Anyone know what name they did go with?)

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on July 2, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Celebrity Authors, Modern Fiction, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (3)

MORE ON MONDAY: Michael Tolliver Lives by Armistead Maupin

ArmisteadmaupinI love Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City series more than any other books. Not only are they funny, shocking, entertaining, moving, thrilling, they (along with Barry Manilow albums ... what?) got me through a very difficult time in my life. I reread them periodically and, though I'll never enjoy them as much as the first time, they're still fabulous, brilliantly-written novels.

So when I heard Armistead Maupin had, after 20 years, written another book that, while supposedly not a continuation of the series, featured its main character, Michael "Mouse" Tolliver, I had mixed feelings. While I was desperate to know how things had turned out for Michael (and perhaps pick up some clues about the other characters too), I was worried it might disappoint. I should have known better.

Now in his sixties (how can that be?), Michael works as a gardener and is blissfully happy with his much younger husband (they married at City Hall on the day civil partnerships became legal), Ben. Still living in San Francisco (of course), he remains close friends with Brian and - and this made me blissfully happy - Mrs Madrigal.

Apart from the fact that Michael's mother is dying, leading him to return to his childhood home of Orlando, Florida and discover a shocking family secret, very little happens, but it didn't need to. I was surprised at how emotional I found it meeting these characters again. I know it's a cliche, but it really was like catching up with old friends. I hadn't realised I'd missed these people so much. It was so wonderful spending time with them again.

The only problem I found was that I kept confusing Michael with the author. Perhaps because I know some of the experiences Maupin gave Michael were actually based on his own (as they were in the originally series, but I didn't know that then), but I did keep having to force my brain to picture an older Michael rather than Armistead Maupin. Funnily enough, each time I did it, it gave me a little sigh of pleasure and recognition.

I've read a couple of reviews that claim Michael Tolliver Lives is pointless and I suppose it is ... unless you love the Tales of the City books. I have no idea whether it would stand up as a novel on its own - it's impossible for me to separate it from the series - but I don't care. I loved it. After this, I'll be reading the Tales books again and then I'd like some more please, Mr Maupin. And don't wait 20 years either.

Rating: 5/5

Like this? Try Tales of the City, of course!

Posted by Keris on July 2, 2007 in American Authors, Modern Fiction, More On Monday, New Releases, Rating: 5/5, Series | Permalink | Comments (4)

June 29, 2007 5:31 PM

BOOK REVIEW: Sheila Levine is Dead and Living in New York by Gail Parent

SheilalevineI'd wanted to read Gail Parent's 1972 novel Sheila Levine is Dead and Living in New York for some time, ever since Jennifer Weiner classed it as her favourite chick lit novel on her blog, in fact. It could certainly be called a cult classic: those who know of it seem to love it, but it's out-of-print (though available second-hand on Amazon) and pretty under-appreciated.

Our eponymous heroine Sheila has moved to New York after graduation and is pretty much living the Sex and the City dream: working, partying, young free and single... but she's desperately unhappy. Not only is she a touch chunky, she's - wait for it - she's single. The SHAME. And in fact, never having heard of feminism, she's so depressed by the fact that she has no hubby to take care of her, that she's planning her funeral already. For when she commits suicide. Yeah - that'll show 'em!

Cultclassicweek_4You might think that the storyline of the book is entirely satirical, and at first I thought so too - but then I read the quotes from reviews at the start of the book, calling it "real" and "sad but true", as if all single women in their twenties are so desperate for a man and kids that they'll kill themselves rather than get it. I can't imagine reading this book in the early 70s - I imagine the black comedic feel was probably a revelation back then but reading it in 2007 was a strange experience and I found I didn't relate to the novel at all. Sheila is too self-deprecating to be releatable and the only sad thing here is how much she hates herself.

Rather than the chick lit novel I expected, Sheila Levine's sense of humour is re-he-ally dark. There's no denying this book is funny and that Gail Parent is a very talented writer with a quick wit. But I wish she'd put it to another use instead and never even suggested that women of her era felt this way.

I expected a good laugh, an interesting plot and a dash of nostalgia. I was disappointed: I got a character who hated herself for no good reason and a book that left me with a bit of a nasty taste in my mouth.

Mainly for the quality of Parent's writing, I'd give it..

Rating: 3 out of 5

But I'd rather read a Weiner!

Like this? Try Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher or Girl, Interrupted.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on June 29, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Cult classic week, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Rating: 3/5 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Me and Bridget Jones: Then and Now

CultclassicweekDianephoto2AKA: Why I'm feeling nostalgic now cult classic week is drawing to a close, by Diane...

I remember hearing the buzz about Bridget Jones's Diary almost a decade ago.

In the autumn of 1997, I was a fledgling student of English Language and Bridget Jones, the paperback, had landed in the bestseller charts (not for the last time). "Hmm," I thought, "I might like to read that..." so, cheapo student that I was, I asked for it for Christmas. I loved that it started at Christmas/New Year, with Bridget bemoaning the exact post-Xmas anticlimax I was experiencing. I may never have tasted a sip of Chardonnay (still don't like it), been to Cafe Rouge (I finally made it last year!) or had the pleasure of Una Alconbury's turkey curry buffet (!), but I identified with Bridget, even as I knew she was exaggerated: a satirical version of all women's insecurities.

Most of all, BJ made me feel better about myself. Like her, I'd often woken up fuzzy-headed from a hangover with all my clean tights in my washing basket and the good looking but smarmy men never took ME seriously either... (but good riddance!)

Re-reading BJD recently, I was full of trepidation: would I enjoy it as much a decade on?

Thank goodness, I did. I'd forgotten how funny Helen Fielding really is (Olivia Joules put me off her for a while!) and what a charmingly confused character Bridget is. And I hated Daniel and loved Mark's Darcy-ness all over again. I read it whilst in the grip of a horrible virus, and it was the perfect pick-me-up. It was also a big nostalgia-fest: full of pop culture references from the late '90s, a time I remember very fondly. Remember when the lottery was shown during Blind date? In fact, remember Blind Date?! And Gladiators (ugh - Bridget didn't like it either).

It didn't seem like it then, but it really was a more innocent time, and we were all full of optimism abut the new government and the future of Britain.

I wonder when we'll recapture that again - and what Bridget would think of Gordon Brown...

WIN! Your copy of the book here.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on June 29, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Cult classic week, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (5)

Fabulous Little Black Dress competition!

Not only is it cult classic week, not only is it a year since Keris and I started at Trashionista, it's a year since the fabulous chick lit publishing imprint Little Black Dress came into existence! Such perfect synchronicity warrants a giveaway don't you think?

We do, too! That's why the lovely kind people at Little Black Dress are offering four Trashionista readers a wonderful prize: four readers will win a selection of five LBD titles.

It's a mystery (ooh!) what you'll receive, but LBD books that we've loved include The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes, Singletini , Pick Me Up and The Men's Guide to the Women's Bathroom, so we're sure there'll be something you'll enjoy.

To enter, simply email us the answer to this question: name one of the Little Black Dress books that we've loved. Put LBD in the subject line, and your name and address in the body of the email. Again, I'm afraid this is UK only. Good luck!

And don't forget our Bridget Jones's Diary giveaway too - she's been around a while, but she's still VERY worth (re)reading!

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on June 29, 2007 in American Authors, British Authors, Competition, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Romance | Permalink | Comments (2)

June 28, 2007 10:10 AM

BJD TV: What would Bridget watch?

BjCultclassicweek_2All is revealed (thanks to the power of conjecture) over on TV Scoop!

Related:  Review: Bridget Jones's Diary | WIN! Bridget Jones's Diary.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on June 28, 2007 in Cult classic week, Modern Fiction, Opinion, Television | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 27, 2007 6:32 PM

WIN! A copy of Bridget Jones's Diary

Bjd_2Cultclassicweek_3You've read the review (haven't you?!), you've probably seen the film and read (and watched) the sequel, but would you like to win a brand spanking new movie tie-in version? Yes? That's good, 'cos we have five to give away thanks to the lovely people at Picador!

Here's what to do to be in with a chance of winning: just send us an email with "Bridget" in the title, and your name and address in the body of the email (so we can send you a book if you win). Sorry, UK only.

Look out for more fabulous giveaways in the next few days - there's something for everyone, coming up on Trashionista! 

Posted by Aigua Media on June 27, 2007 in Announcements, Book related, British Authors, Competition, Cult classic week, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (2)

BOOK REVIEW: Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

Bjd You may have heard of this one... can anyone reading Trashionista not have read this book (if so, why?)

Although Marian Keyes's Watermelon was technically the first chick-lit book, Bridget Jones's Diary (BJD) started as a column in the Independent a year before Watermelon was published. Helen Fielding's modern (cult) classic captured the zeitgeist of a generation, introducing us to Mark Darcy, Daniel Cleaver, Una Alconbury, the concept of f***wittage and the importance of Chardonnay.

Plus it introduced us to one of the literary heroine of the nineties: Miss Bridget Jones...

In case you don't know the storyline, a quick reminder: Bridget Jones keeps a diary of her year, which starts with her being introduced to a snobbish man she instantly hates, Mark Darcy, progresses via disastrous dinner dates, job humiliations and bad boyfriends like Daniel Cleaver until she ends up with the man who was right for her all along...

I re-read the book for this review, so I could give it a fair rating and check that nostalgia hadn't made me remember it as better than it was. Not only was it at least as good as I'd remembered, it's actually got better with time: the cultural references may not be as relevant, but Bridget's insecurities and observations may be even truer now than back when this was published. (Women seem to go to even greater lengths to try to please men, for a start...) None of us know what classic s will still be in print (if we still have print books) in a hundred years time. But BJD definitely deserves to be one of them. It's a cult and a classic.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Like this? Try Cause Celeb by Helen Fielding.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on June 27, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Cult classic week, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Rating: 5/5, Romance | Permalink | Comments (9)

What Bridget Jones taught us...

CultclassicweekTo whet your appetite for my review of Bridget Jones's Diary and a very special cult classic week competition, I thought I'd share: What I learned from Bridget Jones.

Here's just a few of the lessons the cult heroine shared with us. From her failures, we all can learn...

That mini-breaks are the height of romance/the ultimate test for a relationship.

Never to take fancy dress invitations too literally.

The older generation conducts extra-marital affairs via department store coffee shops.

Never wrap meat in blue string.

Always check for post under the interior doormat.

1471 is not your friend.

Lotto scratch cards, smoothies, cigarettes, mini pizzas and alcohol can all be extremely addictive...

The man called Darcy is always the hero.

Are there any  I've missed?

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on June 27, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Cult classic week, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 26, 2007 5:53 PM

TUESDAY THREE: Future classics

As you know, it's Cult Classics week at Trashionista this week (although it's slightly on hold since poor Diane currently has no electricity thanks to the inclement weather!) So for this week's Tuesday Three, I'm looking at future chick lit classics.

Since Jennifer Weiner is the chick lit author most likely to cross-over, her debut novel, Good In Bed, is destined to be a future classic. It's is the story of Cannie, who finds out her boyfriend Bruce has left her for another woman by reading about it in his new magazine column. Weiner's debut addresses issues of family, self-image and love in a way we hadn't seen in chick-lit before. Cannie isn't a Bridget Jones style diet-obsessive - she has phases where she's unhappy with her body, but generally she likes being a larger lady. And she is, we're assured, very good in bed...

Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper perhaps suffered a bit for being a Richard & Judy bookclub choice. While being picked by the twosome is a huge boost for earnings and profile, it pretty much guarantees you a critical mauling. Jodi Picoult's books, though, are brilliantly written, topical, moving and entertaining and surely this will be recognised at some point in the future.

Thirteen year-old Anna is a human pincushion, who's been through countless invasive surgeries and blood transfusions to help save her sister Kate, who has leukaemia. She was never given a choice in this - in fact she was born for this very purpose. But now she's had enough. She's taking her parents to court to ask that they stop harvesting her body to help her sister. As you can imagine, this tears an already disparate (and desperate) family apart...

We haven't actually reviewed the final book in the three - Rachel's Holiday - but I couldn't possibly leave it out, since, as the chick lit readers' and writers' favourite, it's surely a future classic. Marian Keyes' third book is the story of Rachel Walsh, whose love of a good time lands her in Ireland's answer to the Betty Ford Clinic. Rachel is hopeful, expecting spa treatments and celebrities, instead, she finds a lot of group therapy, which leads her, against her will, to some important self-knowledge and a man who might actually be good for her.

Which books do you think are classics of the future?

Posted by Keris on June 26, 2007 in American Authors, Cult classic week, Debut Novels, Irish Authors, Marian Keyes, Modern Fiction, Tuesday Three | Permalink | Comments (5)

June 25, 2007 8:15 AM

Jennifer Crusie's tagline competition

Jennifer Crusie is asking for help from her readers for the sequel to Don't Look Down.

The book within the next Agnes book needs a catchy tagline: can you think one up? (I can't,  slogans fox me - I'd be terrible in advertising!)

If you think you can help the great Ms Crusie with your brilliant word power, click here to find out more. [Via Nicola Pedley]

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on June 25, 2007 in American Authors, Book Websites, Book related, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 22, 2007 12:24 PM

Jen Lancaster launches Mamapop's book club

I know, I can't seem to shut up about Jen Lancaster or Mamapop lately (maybe next week...?) but this I had to share: Jen Lancaster, Mamapop.com's resident author/avid reader, has just launched their book club with the inaugural (little political pun intended!) read: The Washingtonienne, Jessica Cutler's infamous blook.

If I wasn't on a book buying ban (I've got too many!), I'd be tempted to join in myself... Perhaps it's a choice for you if Richard and Judy's picks for this summer don't appeal?

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on June 22, 2007 in American Authors, Bonkbusters, Book Websites, Book related, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (3)

BOOK REVIEW: Fly On The Wall By E Lockhart

FlyonFly On The Wall is one of my favourite YA books, and just about the only one of E Lockhart's novels that we haven't reviewed! The subtitle, How One Girl Saw Everything, gives a clue that the title might actually be literal - and it is. Gretchen is studying Franz Kafka's classic story of alienation, The Metamorphosis, for her English class and thinking that it might not be so bad to be a bug for a while and get a different perspective on her boring (yet typically teenage-angsty) life. Her wish is granted, and she gets the chance to be a LITERAL fly on the wall of the boys' locker room. Where yes, she does see everything... and learns a lot about the opposite sex, and about the things she appreciates about her life in the process.

It takes a great author to carry off such a far-fetched storyline, and E Lockhart is that author. I liked this book even more than her 'earthbound' novels, with its echoes of Kafka, myths and superhero storylines as well as the realistic portrayal of the daughter of separated parents. This is another book that both teenagers and adults will love - and you don't have to be a fly on the wall to see that.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Like this? Try The Boyfriend List by E Lockhart.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on June 22, 2007 in American Authors, Modern Fiction, Rating: 5/5, Young Adult | Permalink | Comments (3)

June 21, 2007 7:03 PM

PREVIEW REVIEW: Dedication by Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin

DedicationI approached Dedication, the new novel by Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin (release date 2 July), with a mixture of excitement and trepidation: excitement, because I loved their first book, The Nanny Diaries. Trepidation, because I hated their second, Citizen Girl.

Dedication features a slightly older heroine than those two novels, and the storyline runs a little deeper this time, too. It's the story of 30-year old Kate, whose high-school boyfriend and love of her life Jake left town without a word just before the prom... and then became one of the biggest recording artists of his generation, with a series of songs about their relationship. When Kate's best friend from home Laura calls to tell her Jake's home filming a TV hometown special, Kate seizes the chance she's been waiting twelve years for, and goes back to confront him.

I loved the premise of this novel, and found Kate very relateable. The book switches between the present day and the past, as we find out about Laura and Kate's high-school experience and how Kate and Jake got together. The depictions of being a teenager in the 90s rings very true, and the re-creation of school days is excellent: just that little bit nicer than school days really are, so it reads as nostalgic and bittersweet. I was gripped, and often a little disappointed to have to come back to the present day, as the parts of the novel set in the past are definitely stronger - up until the end, and the confrontation, when I was gripped again.

Dedication is very different to both of Kraus and McLaughlin's previous books, so whatever your opinion of those, I recommend putting it aside and giving Dedication a whirl.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try The Department of Lost and Found by Allison Winn Scotch.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on June 21, 2007 in American Authors, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Rating: 4/5 | Permalink | Comments (6)

June 20, 2007 9:37 AM

Jen Lancaster's summer read recommendations

Hot on the heels of The Philadelphia Inquirer's recommending beach reading, the very funny and fab Jen Lancaster gives her selection of great summer reads, and hints at what she'll be talking about next. (Here's one clue).

You can find out more from this post at great pop culture blog Mamapop.com (You don't have to be a mama to love it, I'm a biiiiig fan.)

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on June 20, 2007 in American Authors, Book News, Book Websites, Book related, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 19, 2007 12:40 PM

BOOK REVIEW: The Department of Lost and Found by Allison Winn Scotch

DeptofEver since I heard about Allison Winn Scotch's debut novel, The Department of Lost and Found, I've been looking forward to reading it. It's about Natalie Miller, political assistant to the senator of New York (shades of Hillary Clinton!) who's a total workaholic. Then one day her boyfriend Ned discovers a lump in her breast and... I'm trying not to use a cliche like 'her whole world turns upside down' but honestly, her whole world does go A over T.

Not only does Ned pick the time immediately post-diagnosis to confess he's been planning on leaving her for another woman, but coping with chemo knocks Natalie for six, and her relationships with those closest to her start to change, too. It's scary stuff.

But that doesn't mean this book is downbeat: it's thoughtful, it's informative about breast cancer treatment, and I often read it with a lump in my throat. But it's also funny and silly at times, and Natalie is endearingly flawed. Sometimes she's more worried about getting the answers on The Price is Right, or why her big love Jake left her than the fact she has cancer. But other times she stares death head on, and wonders what she's given to the world and if she's ready to die.

Allison Winn Scotch wrote this book after her best friend died of cancer, in the hope that writing a slightly happier ending would be cathartic. I hope for her sake that it was, but she certainly did her friend justice with this very entertaining and yes (another cliche) heartwarming read.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try Lady Luck's Map of Vegas by Barbara Samuel

*Allison Winn Scotch's late friend, Elizabeth Anne Prostic, has a foundation in her name - visit www.metacancer.org to find out more.*

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on June 19, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Rating: 4/5 | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 18, 2007 11:21 AM

MORE ON MONDAY: In Search of Adam by Caroline Smailes

IsoaCaroline Smailes' debut novel In Search of Adam is the first novel to be released by The Friday Project, who were set up to discover books via blogs.

It's the story of Jude who, aged six, finds her mother dead from an overdose and  a note that reads, "Jude. I have gone in search of Adam. I love you baby." Written in the first person, we learn how Jude struggles without her mother, wonders about Adam and suffers physical, sexual and emotional abuse from both family and strangers. The abuse leads Jude into obsession, compulsions, self-harm and bulimia.

In Search of Adam made me cry, it made me furious. It made me wonder how anyone can bring themselves to write such a painful book. (I couldn't read it in the evenings because I knew I wouldn't have been able to sleep.) And then reading the notes at the end I discovered that there was so much more to the book that I hadn't even understood and it made me admire the author even more.

I ached for Jude. I wanted to take care of her. Or at least I wanted someone, anyone to take care of her. I almost cheered when she got a teacher who understood and treated Jude with kindness and respect, and I wanted the teacher to take on Jude's parents, but then Jude moved through school and had no-one again.

Another reviewer has said that In Search of Adam will do for child abuse what Mark Haddon did for autism. I agree. I also think it's an incredibly important book. I see great things. They're all deserved.

Rating: 5/5

Like this? Try We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Posted by Keris on June 18, 2007 in British Authors, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, More On Monday, New Releases, Rating: 5/5 | Permalink | Comments (2)

June 14, 2007 5:50 PM

Is Kerry Katona the new Jordan?

It seems like she's trying to be, according to Galleycat: she's releasing a ghost-written novel about a "glamour" model whose life takes a downward turn... called Tough Love, it's out in October this year and er... sounds just the tiniest bit familiar.

I'm sure Iceland shoppers will be queuing in the aisles for a copy... maybe.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on June 14, 2007 in Book News, Book related, British Authors, Celebrity Authors, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (4)

June 13, 2007 6:42 PM

YAY OR NAY WEDNESDAY

In last week's Yay or Nay you were unanimously opposed to the idea of dissing your ex in print ("Get a shrink and get over it already!" as Lucie very validly said).

Also last week, the winner of the Orange prize for Fiction was announced... but should she have been?

Do we need a literary fiction prize just for women, or are mixed prizes like The Booker enough? Does women's fiction need a special prize of its own, or can we compete amongst the men (and win) without discrimination?

What do you think: The Orange Prize - Yay or Nay, and why?

Yay or Nay archives.

[Don't forget it's Yay or Nay day at Hippyshopper, Bridalwave, Dollymix, Corrie Blog, Catwalk Queen, Kiss and Makeup, The Bag Lady, Shoewawa and Shiny Shiny, too!]

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on June 13, 2007 in Book related, Modern Fiction, Prize Winners, Yay or Nay? | Permalink | Comments (7)

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Jessica Conant-Park and Susan Conant

Conantpark_bwWe've had a mother-son interview before, but this is the first mother-daughter writing combo to talk exclusively to us at Trashionista! And I'm excited they did, as I loved their books - Steamed and Simmer Down - and can't wait for the next in the series (Turn up the Heat, out March '08). In the meantime, we have this great interview...

Please describe your latest book in 15 words or fewer:

Jessica: Humorous and romantic culinary chick lit mystery set in the Boston restaurant scene. Recipes included!

Where do you like to write your books (in bed, a coffee shop, an office)?

Jessica: I write in my office surrounded sticky notes with book ideas scrawled across the yellows squares. I have visions of becoming totally organized and working in a neurotically neat space, but I suspect that will never happen. For reasons I don’t understand, there is no overhead light in my office, but I do have a grow light for my plants which casts a bizarre pink glow throughout the room, so that makes for an interesting atmosphere. (The neighbors must wonder if aliens have landed their ship in our house.)

Susan:  Outdoors, often on the back steps.

Your favourite chick-lit book?

J:  simply adore The Hazards of Sleeping Alone by Elise Juska. (By the way, this is one of those books where the cover doesn’t match the story.)

S:  Pride and Prejudice. Or maybe Emma. Yes, is Jane Austen the true mother of chick-lit?

Your favourite female heroine (if different from above!), and why?

J: Charlotte from Elise’s book is such an interesting and endearing character and her faults make her progress all the more meaningful. I love flawed characters; I mean, who wants to read about somebody completely perfect?

S: Elizabeth Bennet, who married the eternally irresistible Mr. Darcy.

What tips would you give to any of our readers who want to become writers?

J: Start writing! It sounds obvious enough, but I know many “writers” who have yet to put anything down on paper. Don’t hem and haw over everything you write because you can always go back later and edit, delete, or expand on whatever you’ve written. I hate writing the first few paragraphs of a book so I often just skip ahead and write the opening lines later, otherwise I might sit poised over the keyboard for days waiting for some brilliant line to come to me... Do not try to copy another author’s style or your writing will be disastrous. I love Elinor Lipman’s books [me too! - Diane], but never in a million years could I write the way she does - I can only imagine how hideous my attempts would be. Show your work to someone. Anyone. As terrifying as this is to new writers, you must have someone else read what you’ve written. Be open to feedback and constructive criticism because that is how you improve!

S: If writing does not come naturally to you, quit trying. Read instead!

What are you reading at the moment?

J: Pick Your Poison by Leann Sweeney.

S: Anne Tyler’s Digging to America.

What are you working on now? (If you can give us a hint!)

J: I’ve been busy gathering materials for our website and am itching to get writing again. My mother and I are getting ready to sign a contract for two more books in the Gourmet Girl series so we will start plotting the fourth mystery very soon.

S: I was outlining my second cat lover’s mystery, but Holly Winter’s malamutes leapt in and shoved the cats aside, so I am writing my nineteenth dog lover’s mystery.

What question have you never been asked in an interview, but think you should have been? (Tell us the question and answer it too, if you like!)

Jessica: Your husband is a chef so you must eat like a queen all the time, right? A: Yes, it’s foie gras and fancy chocolate cakes for dinner every night. Okay, not exactly, be we do eat well. My husband, Bill, works most nights so I’m often left to fend for myself. When he is home and cooking, his food is always spectacular.

Susan: What is a Harvard-Radicliffe summa doing writing dog mysteries, cat mysteries, and chick-lit? Answer: Having fun.

Thanks so much, Jessica and Susan!

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on June 13, 2007 in American Authors, Book Websites, Book related, Crime / Mystery, Interviews, Modern Fiction, Recent Release, Romance, Series | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 12, 2007 7:48 PM

JK Rowling honoured with Blue Peter special!

Surely all wannabe women writers relate/aspire to JK Rowling's rags to riches story, especially as she seems like such a jolly nice lady (sorry, went a bit Enid Blyton there).

Blue Peter obviously thinks highly of her too as they're honouring the famously reclusive author with a special edition of the kids's programme (but you can watch it too, we won't tell..) Children can even enter a BBC competition to attend the filming - find out how here if you know someone who might be interested.

The programme will air on 20 July, the day before the next Harry Potter is released.

[Via TV Scoop].

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on June 12, 2007 in Book News, Book related, British Authors, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Series, Television, Young Adult | Permalink | Comments (2)

Karin Slaughter latest writer to get graphic with her next novel

Crime writer Karin Slaughter is the latest female author to sign up to produce a graphic novel. The number one bestselling author will produce The Recidivists for Arrow.  [Via Book2Book]

Should be interesting (and perhaps gory...?)

Related posts: Jodi Picoult, Wonder Woman? | Wuthering Heights gets graphic!

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on June 12, 2007 in American Authors, Book News, Book related, Crime / Mystery, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 11, 2007 10:07 AM

MORE ON MONDAY: Afloat by Jennifer McCartney

AfloatI didn't know what to expect from Jennifer McCartney's debut novel, Afloat. The cover's rather downbeat and the book features parallel narratives: a young Bell working on Mackinac Island for the summer and Bell 50 years later (reflecting on her life. Just to make it even less appealing, the Mackinac narrative is set in the present day (ish) and the other narrative in the future. But it was far from what I expected, in fact it was brilliant.

Um. Not much actually happens really, but it's beautifully written, evocative and compelling. The earlier narrative is really good fun: Bell and the friends she makes on the island work hard and then spend their nights drinking, falling off their bikes (no automobiles are allowed on the island), and falling in love, and the later narrative in which Bell is clearing her house while waiting for a visit from someone from her past, is moving, scary and uplifting.

The characters are wonderfully drawn and real and the horrors of the future are more subtle than you often find in dystopian novels (not to say Afloat is entirely dystopian, it's utopian too), but they're totally believable.

A really impressive first novel. I can't wait to see what Jennifer McCartney does next.

Rating: 5/5

Like this? Try The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Posted by Keris on June 11, 2007 in Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, More On Monday, Rating: 5/5, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 8, 2007 6:04 PM

Oprah's book news - a new book club pick and a traitorous relative

After much speculation, Oprah has picked the not-exactly-new (but critically acclaimed) Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides as her next book club pick. Anyone read it? I hear great things...

Also, you may have heard this already but it bears repeating: Oprah's Dad is writing a book. About Oprah. That he "forgot" to tell her about. Nice man. [Via Galleycat].

Related: Oprah chooses The Road.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on June 8, 2007 in American Authors, Book News, Book related, Modern Fiction, Non Fiction, Television | Permalink | Comments (7)

BOOK REVIEW: The Art of Undressing by Stephanie Lehmann

UndressingAfter really enjoying You Could Do Better, I was looking forward to Stephanie Lehmann's new book, The Art of Undressing. Except it's not a new book at all! First released in the UK in March this year, The Art... was actually written in 2005. (Those sneaky publishers!) Anyway, the fact that this is a slightly older book might be why I didn't enjoy it quite as much as I hoped I would.

It's about Ginger, a 25-year-old trainee chef who has always felt overshadowed by her mum Coco, a former stripper who now teaches the art of seduction... with Ginger as her mortified assistant. Ginger has a lot on her plate (ha! no pun intended): her sulky teenage stepsister and cold father are still reeling from the death of Ginger's stepmother, who was more of a maternal figure to Ginger than Coco has ever been. Plus Ginger's boyfriend Ian treats her badly, but when she dumps him and tries to seduce Tom, the hottest man at chef school, she doesn't have much luck there either. Does she need to cast off her sneakers and chef's whites and learn to be sexy just like mommy?

That's what the novel can't seem to decide: whether Ginger should conform more to society's expectations of sexually available young women, or whether she should stay true to herself. Whether she's repressed and uptight, or just her own person, with different morals to her mother. At the end of the book, we're left with the tentative feeling that Ginger is starting to relax and be more true to herself without being all uptight about it, but I think the novel tries to please both those people who think stripping is just a bit of fun, and those who find it exploitative. In the end, it doesn't quite please either. And although Tom had his moments of charm, I didn't think he was good enough for Ginger!

I do like Stephanie Lehman's style of writing, she combines real emotion with a fast-paced story, and had clearly done her research on the stripping 'industry' and the food one. The most realistic moments of the book were those which focused on Ginger's complicated family dynamic. Having a "blended family" myself, I thought she portrayed that particularly well.

But I never felt Ginger really learned to feel good about herself, as her own person, and that was disappointing.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Like this? Try Marsha Mellow and Me by Maria Beaumont.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on June 8, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Rating: 3/5, Recent Release, Romance | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 7, 2007 7:03 PM

BOOK NEWS: Shoe Addicts Anonymous

Simultaneously playing into every chick lit stereotype (pink cover, shoe-theme, gang of girly mates? check, check check!) and yet at the same time looking like a dang good read, Shoe Addicts Anonymous is a new book by Beth Harbison about well, yes, a group of shoe-loving gals.

But those gals happen to be "the wife of a controlling politician, a debt-ridden eBay addict, an agoraphobic phone sex operator, and a nanny for the family from hell". Which is a bit different, you must admit! More about the book here and read an excerpt here. [Via EarlyInk.com]

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on June 7, 2007 in American Authors, Book News, Book related, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (3)

Deborah Moggach on the Tulip Fever adaptation

In an article in The Times, author Deborah Moggach explains how the film adaptation of her novel, Tulip Fever, became a bit of a 'mare.

Related posts: Adaptation | Based on the novel by... | Deborah Moggach on the new Jane Austen covers

Posted by Keris on June 7, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Modern Fiction, Movie News | Permalink | Comments (0)

THURSDAY TRAILBLAZER: Nora Ephron

Nora2Back in the early '80s, before anyone else thought to put together food-themed semi-fictional novels, Nora Ephron brought out the irresistible Heartburn, about a betrayed pregnant wife who cooks to stay sane. It's very funny, even over twenty years later.

Nora was always something of a pioneer: she was an early feminist and wrote on this and other hard-hitting topics for Esquire magazine as well as writing lighter articles on a range of subjects, which later were turned into essay collections including Crazy Salad and Scribble, Scribble.

She's also fiercely funny and clever, the screenwriter of my favourite film When Harry Met Sally, mother of two boys, an excellent non-fiction writer and blogger and a big player in Hollywood. What more could you ask for in a Trailblazer?

Read this: Heartburn.

Watch this: When Harry Met Sally.

Don't mention this: Bewitched.

Trailblazer archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on June 7, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Classic Novels, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Non Fiction, Thursday Trailblazer | Permalink | Comments (0)

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie scoops The Orange Prize with Half of a Yellow Sun

ChimimandaI wish I was more of a gambler as I'd been saying for weeks that this would win: Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (right) has been named winner of the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction, for her novel Half of a Yellow Sun (also a Richard and Judy pick). She scooped £30,000 along with her award - nice!

Meanwhile Canadian author Karen Connelly won the 2007 Orange Broadband Award for New Writers for her debut novel The Lizard Cage. (And that's 10K for her, if you're interested).

[Via BBC News; Image: BBC]

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on June 7, 2007 in Book News, Book related, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Prize Winners, Recent Release, Richard and Judy | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 6, 2007 10:53 AM

US Vogue editor Anna Wintour champions Fiona Neill's 'Slummy Mummy'

A more unlikely pairing I have yet to hear of! The perfectly-groomed Anna "Nuclear" Wintour, inspiration for the boss in The Devil Wears Prada, couldn't be much further from Lucy Sweeney, the heroine of Fiona Neill's The Secret Life of a Slummy Mummy, who's often to be found in a state of utter frazzlement.

Yet the latest issue of Vogue features an excerpt of the book, with Wintour saying it "plays with the chaos and comedy of 30-something metropolitan maternity and brings it to an unexpectedly moving conclusion". The book is out in the US on 5 July, and couldn't have had a better endorsement. [Via The Independent, via Booktrade info].

I told you chick lit and fashion were inextricably linked!

Fashion Lit archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on June 6, 2007 in Book News, Book related, British Authors, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 5, 2007 3:59 PM

GUEST BLOG and GIVEAWAY!: Katie Fforde

Katie Fforde, veteran chick lit writer, writes exclusively forDutch_2  us about her new book, Going Dutch (find out how to bag a copy over the cut!) and...

Why sailing floats my boat by Katie Fforde

Ideas for books sometimes take you by surprise.  Going Dutch is a combination of two ideas, neither of which I'd really considered before.

The first idea came when I was chatting with some other writers about older heroines.  Although I didn't say so at the time I thought the last thing I wanted to do was to write about a women who was fifty.  Wondering why, I felt it was because I am quite settled in my life at that age and therefore wasn't interesting material.  Then I thought about the many women whose lives change drastically at that age and suddenly I did want to write about one.

We've had Accacia, our Dutch barge about five years now and I knew one day I'd have to write about her, but for me settings like that have to 'cook ' a bit in my mind before they're ready to be put into books.  When I'd had the idea about the older women, which I was worried could be a bit too similar to many other books if I wasn't careful, I thought, 'put the poor woman on a barge to make things a bit different!' 

There's a lot of Jo in me, or should that be the other way round? I love our barge, love all boats really, but only when they're safely tied up and I'm drinking a gin and tonic or something. The last thing I would ever want to do is go for a sea voyage in one. Going down the Thames and up the Medway was quite exciting enough for me. (It really was exciting coming home when there was a very thick early morning mist and we couldn't see a thing.)

It was after we'd got to Chatham that I endured the boat inspection bit which I put in the book. I was frantically editing at the time, perched on a high stool in my little cabin. Every time I heard anyone approach I leaped off my stool, closed the lid of my laptop and emerged with a smile on my face, wondering what had happened to the saloon since I’d last tidied it. I’d rather foolishly bulk bought Roses’s chocolates at an outlet store and had them sitting round in bowls for people to eat. No one was allowed off the boat without a handful, but we still didn’t win the Best Barge competition. It was a bit like comparing your very ancient, ill kempt old mongrel to a thoroughly groomed Afghan hound at a dog show.

If that's whetted (or wetted - ha ha) your appetite, email your name and address to editor@trashionista.com (with 'Katie' in the title) and three lucky readers will be chosen to win a copy of Katie Fforde's latest, Going Dutch! SORRY - UK only this time.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on June 5, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Guest blogs, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Romance | Permalink | Comments (2)

June 4, 2007 1:19 PM

Beach read recommendations from Philadelphia

I've been saving this 'til June as I thought any earlier might be too soon for us Brits! Jennifer Weiner's old stomping ground The Philadelphia Inquirer gives its summer reading recommendations, with some great-sounding books by women, including The Department of Lost and Found by Allison Winn Scotch, whose novel turns cancer into a fun topic to read about (I don't know how, either, but we will be reviewing it later in the season).

What do you want to read this summer?

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on June 4, 2007 in American Authors, Book News, Book related, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (2)

June 1, 2007 5:48 PM

BOOK NEWS: Michael Tolliver Lives by Armistead Maupin

Armisteadus Yes, I know it's not chick lit (although it would be if Michael was a woman, wouldn't it?), but the Tales of the City series is my favourite series of all time (and, individually, some of the books in the series are my favourite books of all time!) and Michael Tolliver Lives is out this month!

According to Armistead Maupin, it's not actually part of the series, but Michael's in it (and apparently Brian too) and that's good enough for me.

But (why is there always a but?), the cover on the left is the US cover. I absolutely love it and think it's perfect for the series, but the UK cover... well, hop over the cut and tell me what you think?

Armisteaduk

Posted by Keris on June 1, 2007 in American Authors, Book News, Modern Fiction, Series | Permalink | Comments (8)

May 31, 2007 2:03 PM

PREVIEW REVIEW: The Sleeping Beauty Proposal by Sarah Strohmeyer

Sleepingb Out on 21 June, The Sleeping Beauty Proposal is Sarah Strohmeyer's second fairytale-themed fiction, following The Cinderella Pact.

Despite its name, The Sleeping Beauty Proposal is a modern-day story about Genie Michaels, who has been dating university professor and newly successful author Hugh for four years. So when he proposes to her live on TV during a talk show interview, she's amazed but gratified, and can't wait to start planning her wedding. Until... she rings Hugh and he says he's sorry, he was proposing to the love of his life: but not to Genie.

So Genie's best friend  Patty comes up with a plan: as Hugh goes back to his native England to promote his book (with his new fiancee in tow), Genie will just pretend that he did propose to her after all. It's full steam ahead to a wedding that may or may not have a groom...

I love the concept of this novel: although it may sound a bit silly, Strohmeyer pulls it off. She also has lots of interesting points to make about the inferior way single women are treated in modern society and the way an engagement ring can open doors - even if its a cubic zirconia one you bought for yourself! (But then again, her characters seem to still want to get married rather than buck the system and be unconventional).

It was a little obvious how the book would end, but there were enough surprises along the way to keep it interesting. It made me a bit anxious to think what would happen when everyone found out the engagement was fake so I'm not sure how realistic it was that Genie would have been able to keep up the charade, but I guess truth is stranger than fiction and this is a fairytale, albeit a modern one... But why does the villain always have to be an Englishman?!

Rating: 3 out of 5

Like this? Try London is the Best City in America by Laura Dave.

More wedding related gossip and news over at our sister site Bridalwave.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 31, 2007 in American Authors, Book News, Book related, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Rating: 3/5, Romance | Permalink | Comments (0)

BOOK NEWS: 'Abduction' (book tour cancelled)

After the sad case of missing four-year old Madeline McCann hit the news, the UK book tour for Barbara Gowdy's novel Helpless, which is about the abduction of a nine-year old girl, has been cancelled.

The book has been out in hardback since March in the US and is released on 7th June in the UK, where it might hit a bit too close to home for some readers. [Via Galleycat].

Book news | Book related.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 31, 2007 in American Authors, Book News, Book related, Crime / Mystery, Modern Fiction, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (10)

May 30, 2007 3:30 PM

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Joanna Barrett

JoannabarrettJoanna Barrett's The Men's Guide To The Women's Bathroom is a great read, out now in the US and in the UK with Little Black Dress. A witty romp through ladies' bathroom secrets, it has generated a huge amount of buzz, and will be made into a movie by Hugh Jackman's production team. So without further ado, here's what Joanna had to say when we grabbed her for a chat...

Please describe your latest book in 15 words or fewer:

The Men’s Guide to the Women’s Bathroom reveals the secrets behind the door marked “Women.”    

Where do you like to write your books (in bed, a coffee shop, an office)?

I write everywhere!  In fact, I’m answering these questions right now in the waiting room of my dentist’s office!  (Hey, if he’s going to make me wait, I may as well get some work done!) I think Tolstoy wrote War and Peace while waiting for the dentist. 

While in the midst of a novel, I sit in front of my computer in a bathrobe.  I often do not shower nor wash my hair.  I eat takeout and stare into the refrigerator abyss for something sweet.  I tend to ignore the phone and any semblance of a social life.  It’s a lonely time.  When I finish, I like to hear the hum of the printer as it prints out all those pages.  Such a comforting feeling, indeed.  P.S.  Is this too much information? [Not at all! I know the feeling... - Diane] 

Your favourite chick-lit book?

Pride and Prejudice, of course! 

Your favourite female heroine (if different from above!), and why?

I like writing about women with moxie. I loved former Texas Governor Ann Richards. She was a larger than life character. She’s probably the only person in the world who could get away with telling George W. Bush that he was “Born with a silver foot in his mouth.”

What tips would you give to any of our readers who want to become writers?

It helps to heed the old adage “Write what you know.” Why waste time inventing a story when your story is right in front of you? Of course, the most important part of writing is to put it down on paper. It’s only an idea until it becomes words on a page! I think the best book on the subject is On Writing, by Stephen King. [I do too - Diane]

What are you reading at the moment?

I try to read a book per week. This keeps words flowing through my head in order to make my own writing better. One of my favorite books is A Widow for One Year, by John Irving.

What are you working on now? (If you can give us a hint!)

My second novel [Killing Carlton] is due out on Valentines Day, 2008. Its heroine, Madeline Piatro, is in a relationship with a beautiful and yet very bad man. When this man breaks her heart and steals her business idea, she hires a loveable mob hit man to get revenge. And what woman doesn’t secretly yearn to do this!

What question have you never been asked in an interview, but think you should have been? (Tell us the question and answer it too, if you like!)

(I’ve never been asked this question!) That is…I’ve never been asked the question of what I’ve never been asked. Ha! Get it!

Actually, I wish someone would ask me whether I collect real-life stories to use in my novels. I have a good answer for this: yes! While writing The Men’s Guide to the Women’s Bathroom, I used some phenomenal quotes I overheard in women’s bathrooms. Please email me at jobarrett@jobarrettbooks.com if you have a fantastic bathroom story of your own!

And check out Joanna's website at jobarrettbooks.com. Thanks Joanna!

Interview archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 30, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Girly Stuff, Interviews, Modern Fiction, Movie News, New Releases, Rating: 4/5, Romance | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 29, 2007 3:30 PM

BOOK REVIEW: My Latest Grievance by Elinor Lipman

Mylatest Frederica Hatch is the happy but precocious daughter of two university lecturers, brought up on campus at the small (although not very well-respected) Dewing College. She's always been doted upon by her loving parents, and treated as an equal rather than a child - so she's surprised to find her father's been hiding the secret that he was once married once before.

When Frederica turns 16, she finds out the truth as her dad's ex wife, the glamourous and incorrigible Laura Lee French gets a job at Dewing and proceeds to manipulate everyone around her...

This is the eighth of Elinor Lipman's novels, and definitely one of her best. As ever, Lipman is witty, stylish and unpredictable and I loved the turns this book unexpectedly took. It even made me  cry towards the end! Lipman is simply a great writer, so despite the name, My Latest Grievance was nothing but a pleasure to read. (Boom boom!)

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 29, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 28, 2007 8:25 AM

BOOK REVIEW: The Girls' Almanac by Emily Franklin

Almanac_2 Emily Franklin's The Girls' Almanac covers relationships, fertility problems, betrayals, illness, death and, ultimately, friendships: how they are formed and why they last. Following the intertwining lives of Jenna and Lucy, two women who eventually become best friends, we are taken on a tour of how people’s lives cross and what brings them together. The book is written in an unusual format. It’s not linear, instead we get a snippet here and a snippet there told in a series of short stories. First up is Lucy as she comes to terms with the death of her fiance and her mother’s second marriage. The second story is also about Lucy but this time she is a young girl with a friend called Alex. Next comes Gabrielle and Andrea, both as young girls, then Gabrielle pops up two stories later as a doctor in Bogota.

There are so many stories and time frames the characters are hard to keep up with (there’s a chart at the beginning of the book just in case the reader loses track). No sooner have we met and been given the background of a character than that story ends and we hear no more about them, which gave me the impression that the book was imparting facts rather than telling a story. Some stories were interesting but there were some I just didn’t see the point of. Unfortunately the second was one of them, which didn’t bode well for the rest of the book.

It has been said that some short stories are a slice of life but the detached way in which these stories were told left me unemotional about the characters and not really concerned about how or why their lives intertwined. [Nicola Pedley]

Rating: 2 out of 5

Like this? Try The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 28, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Rating: 2/5, Short Story Collections | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 25, 2007 1:25 PM

BOOK NEWS: Lost for Words by Lorelei Mathias

Lorelei Mathias, author of Step On It, Cupid (the book with the best trailer we've seen!) has a new book out now in hardcover and out in July in paperback. Called Lost for Words, it's the story of Daisy, who knows she's in love - she just doesn't know who with! Sounds like fun...

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 25, 2007 in Book News, Book related, British Authors, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Romance | Permalink | Comments (0)

BOOK REVIEW: Steamed by Jessica Conant-Park and Susan Conant

SteamedYes, I did read these the wrong way around! I enjoyed Simmer Down so much I wanted to go back and read the first in the culinary-mystery series by by Jessica Conant-Park and Susan Conant, Steamed.

Steamed takes place a little earlier in the same year as Simmer Down. Chloe Carter has just started at Social Work Graduate school and is having trouble getting to grips with the right social worker mentality especially as Naomi Campbell (not that one!), her boss at her work placement, is a bit too touchy-feely.

Chloe wouldn't mind finding a man to do a bit of touchy feely (snarf) with, but she's having no luck in the boyfriend department: first her fling with her downstairs neighbour ends badly, then she goes on a blind date with a pompous bore called Eric who takes her to a restaurant he's thinking of investing in... until he gets murdered halfway through their date, that is.

Having found the body, Chloe is both terribly shaken and desperate to know who the murderer was. Especially as the prime suspect is a rather tasty chef she wouldn't mind getting to know better... providing he's innocent, that is. However, for some reason Eric's parents have her down as his serious girlfriend, so there's that little mess to sort out too...

I thoroughly enjoyed Steamed, and just wish there were more in this series for me to read - they're addictive, fantastically escapist and well-written with a witty main character. And delicious recipes, too! What more could you want? (An interview with the authors, perhaps? Watch this space... we'll have one with you soon).

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try Simmer Down by the same authors, or The Food of Love by Anthony Capella.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 25, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Crime / Mystery, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5, Series | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 22, 2007 10:03 AM

The Daily Mail book club features Julie Myerson (and more!)

It may not be my favourite newspaper (no offence to its readers!) but the book coverage at the Daily Mail keeps getting better. Their book club choice for May is The Story of You by Julie Myerson, and you can read more about the book and its author here.

If you want to get ahead, their June pick is The Vanishing Act Of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell and upcoming authors include More on Monday favourites Bill Bryson and Marina Lewycka (with her new novel, Two Caravans).

Don't forget you still have until July 2nd to enter their first novel competition, too.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 22, 2007 in American Authors, Book Websites, Book related, British Authors, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 21, 2007 11:38 AM

BOOK NEWS: Courtney Thorne-Smith's 'Outside In'

Yesterday, I caught a few minutes of an old Ally McBeal and was feeling all nostalgic for the time when I watched the show (the early seasons, when it was actually good...)

Anyway!, it reminded me of something I'd read back in November and failed to blog about then (not the first time we've been tardy I'm afraid!): Courtney Thorne-Smith, who played Ally's love-rival Georgia on the show, is the latest actress to turn author, having written a 'comedic' (chick-lit?) novel, Outside In, which will be released (in the US at least) this September.

[Via Galleycat].

Related: Celebrity authors archives | More TV news and gossip over at TV Scoop.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 21, 2007 in American Authors, Book News, Book related, Celebrity Authors, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 18, 2007 11:01 AM

BOOK REVIEW: The Men's Guide to the Women's Bathroom by Jo Barrett

In Jo Barrett's debut novel,Themensguide former lawyer Claire St John has left New York after divorcing her cheating husband Charles. She's now back home in Austin, Texas to write her bestselling book. About what, she's not quite sure... Then she hits on a brilliant idea: she'll demystify women for men. She'll call her book The Men's Guide to the Women's Bathroom. After all, the bathroom (by which she means public toilets - thank goodness for American euphemisms as that wouldn't make a snappy title!) is where Claire has received all the best (sometimes drunken) advice and where women mull over some of their biggest decisions, from 'shall I keep this baby?' to 'do I want to sleep with him tonight?' (Yes I know, those should be the other way around...)

As well as re-adjusting to life in Austin, ignoring her mother's dietary advice and running up and down the road in a bikini (don't ask), Claire is also falling for Jake Armstrong, a sexy food entrepreneur. But should she? A few discussions in front of the mirrors under harsh florescent bathroom lighting should help her decide...

In a similar way to A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, there's a book within a book here as we read both the novel and the book our heroine is creating. I enjoyed this book-within-book much more than the tractors one, though! Not only is Jo Barrett a smart, witty and talented author, but her heroine is too. The novel is full of great banter and memorable characters, and I'm sure it will translate brilliantly to the big screen.

Click here to read a sample chapter.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try Time Off for Good Behavior by Lani Diane Rich.

PS: Do you prefer the American cover? I think it suits the book better.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 18, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Rating: 4/5, Romance | Permalink | Comments (1)

The Melissa Nathan award for Comedy Romance

Chick lit fans may know that tragically, popular author Melissa Nathan died in April 2006, aged just 37.

Before she died, she lay out the terms for a prize to be awarded in her name:  The Melissa Nathan award for Comedy Romance shortlist has now been announced.

The finalists include Jill Mansell, Polly Williams, and of course... Marian Keyes.

Carry on over the cut for the full list and more details.

The award ceremony will be held in London on 13th June 2007, and you can read the full list of nominees here.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 18, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Irish Authors, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Prize Winners, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 17, 2007 4:37 PM

THURSDAY TRAILBLAZER: Lorrie Moore

Lorrie_mooreThis week's Trailblazer is a real personal favourite. J'adore Lorrie Moore.

Lorrie Moore was writing intelligent, witty, poignant and insightful short stories (and one novel) about life, love and relationships as far back as the early '80s She satirised things like America's self-help culture before most of us even knew it existed. She's smart, savvy, always ahead of the curve - and a brilliant writer, too. If I could write like anyone, it would be Lorrie Moore. (She's one of Nick Hornby's favourites too, so I'm in good company).

Moore's first book, the story collection Self-Help, was published when she was twenty-six. As well as her books, she has been published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review and in the anthology The Best American Short Stories. She now teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which may be why she hasn't published a book for nine years (since Birds of America) - a situation I hope is remedied soon. 

Read this: Self-Help, or Who Will Run The Frog Hospital?

What do you think - and who's your favourite trailblazer?

Trailblazer archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 17, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction, Short Story Collections, Thursday Trailblazer | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 16, 2007 4:38 PM

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Gil McNeil

GilmcneilHaving recently really enjoyed Gil McNeil's fourth novel, Divas Don't Knit, I'm delighted that she's chatting with us today. Find out her favourite female heroine, her tips for aspiring writers and what she's working on next by reading on...

Please describe your latest book [Divas Don't Knit] in 15 words or fewer:

Can you knit yourself a new life when your old one starts to unravel?

Where do you like to write your books (in bed, a coffee shop, an office)?

Mostly at home at my kitchen table, or in my office upstairs but pretty much anywhere I can find a pen.

Your favourite chick-lit book?

Usually the one I’ve just finished, but my favourite writers (who I return to whenever I want a treat) include Jane Austen, Anne Tyler, Nancy MitfordJilly Cooper, and Mary Wesley.

Your favourite female heroine (if different from above!), and why?

Again, too many for a neat list, but definitely Bridget Jones, Miss Marple, and Elizabeth Bennett.

What tips would you give to any of our readers who want to become writers?

Read as widely as you can, and stick at it.

What are you reading at the moment?

When I’m writing I tend to read non-fiction. At the moment I’m reading a mixture of travel and knitting books.

What are you working on now? (If you can give us a hint!)

The sequel to Divas Don’t Knit.

What question have you never been asked in an interview, but think you should have been? (Tell us the question and answer it too, if you like!)

Would you be interested in all-expenses paid trip to a luxury hotel somewhere fabulous so you can tell our readers how lovely it was?

Yes, no one's ever asked me that, either... Thanks Gil!

[Photo © Jerry Bauer]

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 16, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Fashion-Lit, Interviews, Modern Fiction, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (1)

"Unconfident and hideous"? You too could be a writing success story!

I loved this quote from The Guardian's interview with literary novelist Charlotte Mendelson: "I wasn't posh and I wasn't confident, and I was really hideous".

Isn't it comforting to know that even published authors who are critically revered have their crises of confidence too, and don't necessarily have an easy life? (Although I have to say she hardly looks hideous now...)

Her book When We Were Bad is out now.

Related: Book related| Author interviews

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 16, 2007 in Book Websites, Book related, British Authors, Modern Fiction, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 15, 2007 6:47 PM

Chick lit on TV Scoop

We love rambling on about chick lit, as you know, and today I'm rambling providing a useful and insightful summary of the latest chick lit TV projects over on TV Scoop.

So if you've missed any TV news over the last couple of months, this will catch you up!

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 15, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, British Authors, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

TRASHIONISTA RECOMMENDS: Snowbooks

We don't usually recommend particular publishers, but Snowbooks is definitely worthy of a special mention. They're a small press, so turn out just a handful of books each year - but they're all of very good quality. So far we've reviewed Taking The Plunge, Drugs are Nice, Mama Lama Ding Dong and one of my favourite books of last year, Plotting for Beginners.

Not only that, but Snowbooks have a beautifully designed website, with a very interesting blog.

And you can catch up with them on Myspace and Twitter, too!

Related: Literature... on Twitter? | Trashionista Recommends.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 15, 2007 in American Authors, Book Websites, Book related, British Authors, Memoirs, Modern Fiction, Recent Release, Trashionista Recommends | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 11, 2007 11:41 AM

BOOK REVIEW: Upstate by Kalisha Buckhanon

Kalishabuchanon_2Kalisha Buckhanon's Upstate is an epistolary novel (and I was twenty-seven before I knew what that meant, so for my fellow duh-brains, it means it's told in letter form) telling the love story of twentieth-century Brooklyn-based Romeo and Juliets Antonio and Natasha.

The couple, aged 16 and 17 at the start of the novel, are at high school and in love and planning for the future.

Then one night Antonio is arrested for the murder of his father, found guilty and sent to jail.

The young lovers's world is turned upside down, but they vow to write to each other and to never let their love die...

At first, I worried that some of the Brooklyn teenage dialect would get on my nerves, but it seemed authentic and didn't disturb my enjoyment of the story.

I found this book incredibly moving and gripping - I read it in less than a day, almost forgetting to breathe at times! It's definitely one of the best books I've read so far this year and I recommend it wholeheartedly.

I loved it.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Like this? Try The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman

PS: Upstate also has butterflies on the cover! BUT they are relevant to the story... Whatever next?!

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 11, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction, Rating: 5/5, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (2)

BOOK NEWS: Khaled Hosseini's new novel

If you loved The Kite Runner as much as our former Trashionista ed Jenni, you'll be equally as excited to know about Khaled Hosseini's new book: A Thousand Splendid Suns.

It's an Afghanistan-set story of betrayal, redemption and love. [Via Glamour] So, like The Kite Runner then! It's getting some great reviews and it's out on May 22nd...

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 11, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 9, 2007 9:08 AM

BOOK REVIEW: Accidental It Girl by Libby Street

LibbystI read the beginning of Libby Street's Accidental It Girl, and was hooked:

People hate me.

Some of them openly despise me.

I'd bet a couple dozen would cheer if I were maimed.

People. Hate. Me.

And why do people disapprove of our narrator/heroine Sadie Price so much?

Because she's a member of the paparazzi, of course.

When she's involved in a chase in which she totals her car and gets on the wrong side of Hollywood bad boy Ethan Wyatt, she thinks the damage is only physical. Wyatt decides to try to turn the tables on Sadie, and give her a taste of her own medicine...

I loved the theme of this book - it was interesting to read about a woman paparrazo for a start, and even more interesting to imagine what it would be like to be followed by the paps, and to learn about the tactics they use. I certainly think I'll be more sympathetic when I see grumpy-looking celeb shots in future (the photographer's probably just called them a bitch and insulted their loved ones, not to mention followed them for miles).

The outcome of the story was easy to predict, but I still enjoyed it a lot. (My one small complaint about the book is Sadie kept saying she was 'a paparazzi, when the word for one person is 'paparazzo'... but I'm a bit anal like that so don't let me put you off!)

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try Fashion Babylon by Imogen Edwards-Jones and Anonymous.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 9, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5, Recent Release, Romance | Permalink | Comments (2)

Simon & Schuster to launch author videos site

Publishers Simon & Schuster are to launch a new video website with news and insight from some of their best-loved authors (Jennifer Weiner, perhaps?)

Called BookVideos.tv, it will launch in June. [Via Galleycat]

Technology archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 9, 2007 in American Authors, Book Websites, Book related, British Authors, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 8, 2007 11:48 AM

BOOK REVIEW: More Than Love Letters by Rosy Thornton

RosyAs the title of Rosy Thornton’s debut would suggest, More Than Love Letters consists of letters, emails, newspaper articles, minutes of meetings, and more. I love Meg Cabot’s epistolary novels - including Boy Meets Girl - but could More Than Love Letters match up?

In a word, yes. Margaret Hayton is a primary school teacher saddled with what she thinks is an old person’s name. Her name helps her local MP, Richard Slater, assume she’s an interfering old biddy who feels compelled to write to him about everything from dog muck in the local park to VAT on sanitary protection to the EU Emissions Trading Directive. Once Richard realises that Margaret’s actually young - and gorgeous - he becomes more interested in both her and her causes.

Interspersed with the story of Margaret and Richard's burgeoning relationship is that of the girls living in the women’s refuge Margaret volunteers at (called, fantastically, Women of Ipswich Together Combating Homelessness or "WITCH"). Domestic violence, bereavement, immigration and asylum seeking all are touched upon in a genuinely thought-provoking way.

Like A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, More Than Love Letters manages to balance serious issues with being the funniest book I’ve read for a while (since this one, in fact). I don’t quite know why it hasn’t been given the same attention as Marina Lewycka’s novel (actually, the chick lit cover - featuring, yes, butterflies - probably has something to do with it), but I highly recommend it!

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian (non chick lit) or Rachel’s Holiday (chick lit)

Posted by Keris on May 8, 2007 in British Authors, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5, Recent Release, Romance | Permalink | Comments (0)

WIN 'A Piece of Normal' in our Sandi Kahn Shelton giveaway!

AnormalYes, I said we'd do this yesterday, but I forgot it was a UK bank holiday! I bet you were all out sunning yourselves stocking up at B&Q, weren't you?

So! you read Sandi Shelton's guest blog and my review of her book A Piece of Normal last week (didn't you?)

This week, you have the chance to win a copy of this great read! Simply answer this question: Name the sisters in Sandi's book (clue here).

Email us your answer, with "Sandi comp" in the subject line and your name and address in the body of the email, so we can have the book sent to you if you win.

Good luck!

PS: Shiny Media employees may not apply. Sorry gang.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 8, 2007 in American Authors, Announcements, Book related, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (2)

May 7, 2007 10:21 AM

Shanna Swendson's new book: Damsel Under Stress

Lovely author Shanna Swendson, a long-time friend of Trashionista, has a new book out now called Damsel Under Stress, the third in the series which began with Enchanted, Inc and continued with Once Upon Stilettos.

In honour of the release of her new book, she's featured on Joshilyn Jackson's fabulous blog this month: read what she has to say here.

Related: Valerie Frankel talks to Joshilyn Jackson.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 7, 2007 in American Authors, Book News, Book Websites, Book related, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Series | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 4, 2007 11:24 AM

BOOK REVIEW: A Piece of Normal by Sandi Kahn Shelton

AnormalI promised you I'd be reviewing this week's guest blogger's book, and now: I am! (Stay tuned on Monday for a chance to win a copy).

A Piece of Normal by Sandi Kahn Shelton is the story of Lily Brown, who's happy with her life. (She thinks). She works as an advice columnist for the local paper, lives alone with her four year old son Simon and is still on great terms with her eccentric ex-husband Teddy.

Then her sister Dana, who's been missing for the last ten years, turns up out of the blue, and her sudden appearance shakes up Lily's cosy existence more than either of them could have imagined...

I really enjoyed this book. It's well-written, the characters felt real to me, and I found it very witty (especially at the start of the book, before the emotional trauma begins!) I also found myself really identifying with Lily and getting incredibly angry with Dana, which has to be the sign of a good story. I couldn't believe some of the things Dana did! I wasn't sure how Shelton could make her even half-way sympathetic by the end of the book, but somehow she managed it.

I still cried at the end, though. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 (although it's a 4.5 in my heart)

Like this? Try In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 4, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5, Recent Release, Romance | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 2, 2007 6:07 PM

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Marian Keyes *squeal!*

MariankeyesI wish you could have heard the screams of excitement at Trashionista HQ this time last week when we realised we had our MOST EXCITING INTERVIEW EVER! in the bag. Yes, it's really true! We've hinted, we've teased, we've reviewed her books and talked about her on and on... and now, she's really, really here talking exclusively to you, our lovely Trashionista readers:  It's Marian Keyes, the Queen of chick lit.

Enjoy...

Please describe your latest book in 15 words or fewer:

Anybody Out There (that’s three words gone already) is a comedy about serious issues and cosmetics (mind you, nothing frivolous about cosmetics!)

Where do you like to write your books (in bed, a coffee shop, an office)?

In bed. I would never, ever get up unless I really have to. My husband comes in every few hours and turns me so that I don’t get bedsores.

Your favourite chick-lit book?

There are so many great books, so I’ll go back to the beginning (for me), and say any of the early Jilly Coopers (not that there’s anything wrong with the later ones, but maybe they’re not chick lit).

Your favourite female heroine (if different from above!), and why?

Robyn Hudson in the books by Sparkle Hayter – she’s intelligent, independent, feisty, sweet – she’s the woman I want to be when I grow up.

Carry on over the cut for more from Marian, including some very useful tips for wannabe writers, and news on her next novel...

What tips would you give to any of our readers who want to become writers?

Firstly, stop talking about it and start writing it – word by word.

Formally set aside time to write – respect your book enough not to try to fit it in, in bitty gaps, around the rest of your life. Better still, try to write at the same time every day – this seems to trigger the subconscious into readiness.

Don’t be surprised if your first efforts are shockingly bad – indeed, expect to marvel at the gap between what you want to say in your head and how it appears on the page. But persevere; chances are it will improve.

Beware of setting yourself up as the ‘new’ Sophie Kinsella or the ‘new’ someone else: it’s always cringingly obvious. Instead write in your own unique voice and be proud of it.

Write what you know – and if you don’t know it, be prepared to research it.

Finally – enjoy it! If you enjoy writing it, chances are that people will enjoy reading it.

What are you reading at the moment?

As a judge on the Orange Prize, I’ve been concentrating on those books for the last few months.

What are you working on now? (If you can give us a hint!)

It’s provisionally called This Charming Man, and is of course a comedy – this time about domestic violence among other things. I’ve been writing it for eighteen months now, which means, I hope, that it’s near the end. I guess it’ll be published in the first half of next year.

Sounds fantastic! Thank you, Marian!

*And massive thanks to friend of Trashionista Clare Allan, email address passer-alonger extraordinaire! *

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 2, 2007 in Book News, Book related, Girly Stuff, Interviews, Irish Authors, Marian Keyes, Modern Fiction, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (4)

YAY OR NAY WEDNESDAY

Last week, we asked: DO men really (as Waterstones staff claim) write better novels than women? and you answered: You don't think so! I have to say, I've read some wonderful books by men, but tend to prefer women's fiction and about 80% of my reading is authored by women - I gravitate naturally towards it (and review it for work, of course...)

ANYWAY! THIS WEEK, I'm inspired by the book I'm reading and the book I've just reviewed, both of which were written by good friends working together, as was another one of my favourite chick lit read of recent years, The Nanny Diaries.

So, what I'm wondering is: would you like to write a book with a close friend? Would you and your best pal bicker too much, do you think friends working together is a recipe for disaster, or does it sound like fun and the prefect way to ensure the long process of writing a novel doesn't become too lonely.

Writing with your bestest friend: Yay or Nay - and why?

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 2, 2007 in Book related, Modern Fiction, Yay or Nay? | Permalink | Comments (2)

GUEST BLOG: Sandi (Kahn) Shelton

Sandi1_2Sandi Shelton is the author of the brilliant A Piece of Normal (look out for a review in a day or two), and is here today as part of her virtual book tour. She's written a guest blog for us on a subject close to many readers' hearts: sisters.

Writes Sandi...

It’s a funny thing about sisters. Doesn’t it seem to you that there’s always one who is oh-so-together and who knows everything about The Right Way to Do Things--eating healthy, making good choices, sending birthday cards to the aunties on time and all of that, and then there’s the other one who’s—well, maybe not so much?

It’s this other sister who’s the hell-raising, spontaneous one, the one with all the cute but dangerous boyfriends. She’s the one for whom the phone rings and the boys’ cars line up outside the house, growling and purring. And she’s always in some kind of trouble.

Full disclosure here: I was the Together sister.

My little sister staked out the reckless territory early on.

When she was three years old, she did a breathtaking thing: she tore up a layered, exquisite organdy dress that our mother had spent 47,348 hours sewing for her. Her reason: “It was scratchy and I didn’t like it.”

High school was just what you might think. The principal had my mother’s number on speed-dial. And if my parents left the house for longer than an hour and a half, forget it. My sister threw parties in which the fun was seeing who could jump off the roof into our swimming pool the most times while holding a beer bottle. Meanwhile, I was the kid with the nerdy boyfriend and the babysitting jobs and the savings fund for college. That’s me, practicing telling a lie to my mother in the mirror: “No, no. I really was at the library. They kept it open until midnight tonight! They did!” She never believed me.

So naturally, I grew up and became a novelist. At last I could make up stuff and have it turn out the way I wanted, instead of the way it usually did. But it wasn’t until I was writing A Piece of Normal, the story of Lily and Dana Brown, two sisters who are locked into their differences, that I realized that I didn’t even know half of my own past. OK, Lily and Dana definitely aren’t my sister and me, but they do have that element of one being stable while the other one is flaky. My sympathies, obviously, were with Lily, who came back home from college to raise Dana after their parents died and who sees herself as the caretaker for the whole world. She’s so conscientious that she won’t even find a lover for herself until she first finds somebody for her ex-husband to go out with. Who wouldn’t love a character who is so selfless and quirky and gently misguided? Who wouldn’t want to reach over and give her an encouraging hug?

But then a funny thing happened. It was while I was writing Dana’s character — Dana, who had run away to be in a punk rock band; Dana, who had broken Lily’s heart and made her feel like a failure — that I started to understand something about what it took to be the daring, flaky sister. She’s the one who sees the need to stir things up, who is willing to sacrifice everybody’s good opinion in order to bring deep, dark family secrets to light, and who isn’t willing to let everybody get away with pushing the past away, pretending things are perfect.

I had always intended to balance out the good and bad in the characters; I didn’t want them to be cardboard, after all. But what I learned was that I actually adored the difficult and out-of-control Dana, and even when she gets herself locked in a betrayal of Lily that it’s going to take an act of supreme forgiveness to get her out of, I was rooting for her even though she was horrible. That’s where writing a novel can be just the best thing ever: your characters tell you things you never noticed about your own life.

And for heaven’s sake, if an organdy dress scratches you, don’t wear it!

Follow the rest of Sandi's book tour via her blog.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 2, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (5)

BOOK REVIEW: Simmer Down by Jessica Conant-Park and Susan Conant

Simmerdown_2I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, never having read a culinary-themed mystery before. Would it be a delicious blend of genres, or a recipe for disaster? And would I stop thinking in culinary metaphors? Time would tell...

Simmer Down is the story of social work grad student Chloe Carter, who's happily loved up with chef boyfriend Josh and looking forward to the opening night of Simmer, the new restaurant where Josh is about to start work.

But on New Year's Eve, at a local gallery's benefit to support the anti-harassment group Chloe works for, at which Josh is cooking, things spiral out of control. Not only does Chloe's ex, Sean turn up out of the blue, but so does Josh's less than pleasant previous girlfriend Hannah, who'd working for a rival restaurant chain. And when Oliver, one of the bosses of that rival group is later found murdered (bludgeoned to death by Josh's supersized food processor), the suspects start piling up...

Could it be the bitchy Hannah? Oliver's wife Dora? Or even his business partner Barry? Or maybe even an unknown business rival? No-one knows, but Chloe thinks that for the sake of Josh's future career, she should be the one to find out...

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I'm not generally a fan of genre fiction, and worried that this book's kitschy cover (like a modern-day Nancy Drew) could be an attempt to hide less-than-quality writing. But I read the first page, and loved it, and then the second... and before I knew it I'd devoured the whole book. This would be the perfect summer read, and was interesting, witty and unpredictable (with mouthwatering descriptions of food and even recipes for said food at the back of the book). I'll definitely look out for the next delicious novel by this mother-daughter writing team.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this?  Try Faking It by Jennifer Crusie.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 2, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Crime / Mystery, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Rating: 4/5, Romance | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 1, 2007 8:24 PM

Something exciting: Wednesday on Trashionista!

And not just one exciting thing either - it's going to be a brilliant day tomorrow!

First, Sandi Kahn Shelton is going to be stopping by on her blog tour with a special blog post related to her book, A Piece of Normal, which we'll review later in the week.

As if that wasn't enough, we have OUR MOST EXCITING AND SPECIAL interview yet lined up for tomorrow afternoon - who could it be...??

Carry on over the cut for a clue.

She's Irish.

:)

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 1, 2007 in American Authors, Announcements, Book Websites, Book related, Interviews, Modern Fiction, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (8)

BOOK REVIEW: The First Assistant by Clare Naylor and Mimi Hare

AssistantI loved The Second Assistant, so when I heard that the authors of that book had written a sequel, catching us up with Lizzie Miller one year on from the end of that book... well, I snapped up a copy quicker than a very snappy thing indeed.

So how is Lizzie's life looking twelve months later? Well, she's been dating producer Luke Lloyd for most of that year, has been promoted to first assistant and is great friends with her predecessor Lara, who also happens to be her boss's wife. Heck, she's even made up with Jason Blum, the screenwriter friend who screwed her over.

But there are a few things stopping Lizzie from being truly happy...

First, there's evil Amber, the new second assistant, who's snotty, underhanded and - of course - British. Is she out to sabotage Lizzie, and if so, how? Then there's a new client at the agency, LiLo-esque actress Emerald, who Lizzie's being sent to Thailand to babysit. AND on top of all that, Lizzie isn't sure if she's ready to settle down with Luke without establishing a career and cash flow of her own first. It's going to be an interesting few months...

I don't know if it's ever possible to enjoy the sequel to a successful first novel as much as the original, and I didn't like this book quite as much as The Second Assistant. But the authors haven't had a sophomore slump, either - this is a perfectly entertaining book, and definitely kept my interest. I was pleased that it ended in a more Hollywood fairy-tale way, which was lacking from the previous novel. That makes the ending a bit unrealistic, but in a novel about Hollywood, who wants gritty realism?

It seems like the last we've seen of Lizzie - I hope we've left her to enjoy her happy ending - so I am interested to see where Naylor and Hare turn their attentions next.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Like this? Try The Second Assistant by Clare Naylor and Mimi Hare.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 1, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction, Rating: 3/5, Recent Release, Romance | Permalink | Comments (2)

More on PS I Love You - the film

We've reported on filming of Cecilia Ahern's smash-hit novel PS: I Love You before: remember when Hilary Swank was injured?

But did you know Friends star Lisa Kudrow is in it? - I didn't! James Marsters from Buffy is also co-starring. And so is Kathy Bates, and Harry Connick Jr (last seen as the totally obnoxious Leo in Will and Grace).

News on a release date as soon as we get it!

[Via Imdb.com]

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on May 1, 2007 in Book related, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Irish Authors, Modern Fiction, Movie News, Romance | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 30, 2007 11:11 AM

MOVIE NEWS: The Jane Austen Book Club

KarenjoyfowlerI seem to be the only Trashionista writer who loved The Jane Austen Book Club , but obviously people somewhere agree with me, as Hollywood quickly snapped up the rights for a big screen version of the novel.

Emily Blunt, who played the English first assistant (based on Plum Sykes?) in The Devil Wears Prada, stars, along with Amy Brenneman from (one of my faves) Judging Amy. Hugh Dancy, who will also star in Bronte (it's in 'pre-production' now) is in it too - but there's no news on a release date yet.

We'll keep you posted.

[Via Imdb.com]

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on April 30, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Debut Novels, Devil Wears Prada, Modern Fiction, Movie News, Recent Release, Richard and Judy, Romance | Permalink | Comments (1)

April 27, 2007 6:32 PM

MOVIE NEWS: Heart-Shaped Box

It might not surprise you to hear that Stephen King's son, Joe Hill, is apparently a super-talented thriller writer, just like daddy. And he's following in his dad's footsteps by having his first novel, Heart Shaped Box, turned into a film, reports Variety.

Veteran Irish filmmaker Neil 'The Crying Game' Jordan will direct.

Movie news archives | Friday Flick archives

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on April 27, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Crime / Mystery, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Movie News, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (1)

BOOK REVIEW: Divas Don't Knit by Gil McNeil

Divas We've already told you that 'knit lit' is hot news, and here's another example of the subgenre: Divas Don't Knit, by Gil McNeil. Jo Mackenzie is a widow with two young sons, and she's had enough of London.

Needing a change to get over the shock of losing her husband (even though he was about to leave her), she takes up her grandmother's invitation to move to the country and take over the running of the family's wool shop.

I'm a big fan of all Gil McNeil's novels: there's something so warm and comforting about them, and I was impressed with the way she made knitting - not really one of my personal passions - so interesting! Her characters were convincing and I enjoyed the storyline: not much seemed to happen, it was more about Jo moving forward over the course of about a year, but I was never bored.

However... McNeil's books could justifiably be accused of being a bit samey. This book is very like her first novel, The Only Boy For Me, which I loved. (Though the TV version I was less keen on, giving up halfway through). She then wrote a sequel to The Only Boy... and then another similar book, and now she's working on a sequel to Divas... There's always an eccentric family, a country setting, a single mother and a sophisticated potential love interest. There's definitely nothing new here, and it would be nice to see this writer step out of her comfort zone a little. But her characters are so likable and her plots so nicely (ha ha) woven, you couldn't hate this book if you tried.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on April 27, 2007 in Book related, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Rating: 4/5 | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 26, 2007 8:49 PM

THURSDAY TRAILBLAZER: Janet Evanovich

AjanetevanovichYes, the great lady said it herself: she probably did, to a large extent, inspire the invention of chick lit: in the US, at least. So Janet Evanovich is the first living author to be featured in our Thursday Trailblazer series!

She started out writing romance novels, which  were moderately successful. But she really found her voice (and a million-selling career) when she invented Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter extraordinaire. Her first foray into smart, snarky, first-person narration, Stephanie is strong, kicks ass and is never afraid to speak her mind. She also looks fabulous (I'm sure). In short, she's an inspiration: and Janet is too, turning her career into a family business (her daughter, son and husband all work for/with her!) - although she has admitted she barely gets time to breathe...

Her novels are obviously inspired by great authors like Elmore Leonard, but Evanovich's own influence is clear in writers like Jenny Crusie and Lani Diane Rich.

Read this: One For The Money.

What do you think?

And who's your favourite trailblazer? Let us know!

Thursday Trailblazer archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on April 26, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Crime / Mystery, Modern Fiction, Thursday Trailblazer | Permalink | Comments (1)

Another cover 'snap'!

Trashionista writer Danielle thoroughly enjoyed Sara Manning's Let's Get Lost, a book that's won almost as many plaudits for the coolness of the cover as the fabness of the story...

Here's the coolness in action:

Sarramanning1

Pretty, no? And unusual looking, too... So imagine my surprise when I found another young adult author has almost exactly the same cover:

Carry on over the cut to see...

...the cover of Sarah Dessen's new book Just Listen:Sarahdessen1

Don't even try to tell me that's not "inspired by"! I know it's the publishers fault, never the author's, and Sarah Dessen's book, a newcomer to my toppling review pile, looks very interesting. But really!

At least Puffin have time to pull their socks up and change the cover: it's not released until July...

Related: Are Butterflies the new feet? | Musical book covers | Judging books by their covers

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on April 26, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, British Authors, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Opinion, Recent Release, Young Adult | Permalink | Comments (2)

BOOK NEWS: The Next Thing On My List

Jill Smolinksi's new novel The Next Thing on My List sounds like a great concept: June Parker's life is plodding along nicely when she has a car accident. Her passenger, Marissa, who she barely knows, tragically dies, and June finds in her possessions a list, entitled “20 Things to Do By My 25th Birthday.” June decides to take on the challenge of completing Marissa's list in her memory...

According to Random House's website:

"Funny, engaging, and heartwarming, The Next Thing on My List features a lovable, relatable heroine and a story with plenty of humor and heart." Of course, they would say that, but I must admit, I'd love to read it. Personal quests like that always inspire me! (Plus reading about someone else's means I don't have to start my own...)

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on April 26, 2007 in American Authors, Book News, Book related, Modern Fiction, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (3)

April 25, 2007 8:45 PM

YAY OR NAY WEDNESDAY

Last week, we talked about whether a new Sense and Sensibility was a good thing and scored a big fat yay from my co-ed Keris and a slightly more reluctant yay from our editor-in-chief Gemma.

This week, I'm getting controversial. Waterstones recently published its top 100 books of the last twenty-five years as decided by 5000 of the book chain's staff ... and only TWENTY-SEVEN of them are by women! Whaaa...?Man

Is it possible that they're right: do men write better books than women?

Tell us what you think: is it a Yay or a Nay - and WHY?

Yay or Nay archives.

[Don't forget it's Yay or Nay day at Hippyshopper, Bridalwave, Corrie Blog, Catwalk Queen, Kiss and Makeup, The Bag Lady, Shoewawa and Shiny Shiny, too!]

[Picture courtesy of Getty Images].

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on April 25, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, British Authors, Modern Fiction, Opinion, Yay or Nay? | Permalink | Comments (5)

Melanie Lynne Hauser news: Supermom sequel and new e-book

According to the ever-informing-me Galleycat, Melanie Lynne Hauser, author of Confessions of Supermom not only only has a sequel to that book out now: Supermom Saves the World...

But she is going to release an older novel, Jumble Pie, as an e-book.

Find out more here.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on April 25, 2007 in American Authors, Book News, Book related, Crime / Mystery, Modern Fiction, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (0)

BOOK REVIEW: The Manny by Holly Peterson

Themanny It's apparently the latest, hottest trend in Manhattan: more popular than the Birkin bag, better than Jimmy Choos: it's The Manny, or male nanny...

Jamie Whitfield is at the end of her tether with her husband Philip, an overgrown spoiled rich kid who can never have enough money and who spends all his time at work, away from Jamie and their three children. Oldest son Dylan has begun to resent the lack of attention from his father, and has started to act strangely as a result - sitting down in the middle of a school basketball game and bursting into tears, for example...

His mother decides something must be done: so she hires Peter, a specialist in child' education, who'll hang out with Dylan and be something of a father figure for him. The only problem is, Jamie doesn't want Philip to know...

Actually that's not her only problem, just one of many : Jamie's trying to break a huge national story in her job as producer at a major news network and it's not going smoothly. More importantly, the problems in her marriage are brought into stark relief by her growing attraction to Peter...

I liked this book, although I think it would have benefited from one final round of edits: it was a bit too long. Also, although Peter started out quite charismatic, he became rather arrogant and the way he talked to Jamie often seemed rude although was supposed to be just cheeky. Jamie keeps telling us how charming Peter is, but this wasn't shown very often! Compared to Philip however, he's wonderful: The author doesn't seem to realise that having Jamie complain so much about her husband makes her look like a bit of a weak character. And having Jamie say she hates the upper-class snobbery of The Grid, the exclusive area of Manhattan she lives in seemed a bit hollow: she is also very taken in by it - and Peterson lives there herself so she can't hold it in that much contempt!

I also felt the story was needlessly slow at times - but as Jamie's work storyline hotted up, I was gripped (this was probably the most exciting part of the novel, and Holly Peterson's own experience as a producer was clear - although for her sake I hope she had a better time in that job than Jamie does in hers...) The book ended a little suddenly, but I was pleased with the denouement.

I think I would have just liked Peter to have been more Mary Poppins-ish...

Rating: 3 out of 5

Like this? Try The Nanny Diaries by The Nanny Diaries by Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on April 25, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 24, 2007 5:59 PM

Touchstone's competing "Blonde Brit Bombshells" in Chicago

MontefiorejohnsonUS Book publishers Touchstone are apparently touting Rachel Johnson (of Notting Hell and Boris Johnson's sister fame) and Santa Montefiore (of The Gypsy Madonna and Tara Palmer-Tomkinson's sister fame) as their "Blonde Brit Bombshells" competing over book sales whilst on tour together in America.

They've been in Chicago recently, partaking in very stereotypical British customs like high tea (in the middle of a bookshop, natch).

[Via Galleycat]

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on April 24, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Modern Fiction, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (0)

BOOK NEWS: 21 Proms

21promsWith the popularity of anthologies like This Is Chick Lit (and er, that other one), a teen short story anthology was obviously well overdue. 21 Proms is a collection of stories about... prom nights. (Who'd have thought?!) It features  YA authors like John Green and E Lockhart, as well as chick lit crossovers like Sarah Mlynowski.

Being an anthology, of course it has to have several feet on the cover - but it sounds like a great read!

[Via Galleycat]

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on April 24, 2007 in American Authors, Book News, Book related, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Romance, Short Story Collections, Young Adult | Permalink | Comments (0)

Interview with Aury Wellington...

No, not on here (unfortunately): editor of controversial anthology This Is Not Chick Lit, Elizabeth Merrick launched a new series of author interviews on Bookslut this week. Her inaugural interviewee is Aury Wellington, author of controversial YA book Pop!

Find out how she writes, what her big break was (clue here) and why her mum always wanted her to join the army... all by reading the interview.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on April 24, 2007 in American Authors, Book Websites, Book related, Debut Novels, Interviews, Modern Fiction, Recent Release, Television, Young Adult | Permalink | Comments (3)

April 19, 2007 8:46 PM

BOOK REVIEW: Notting Hell by Rachel Johnson

I wasn't sure if I'd like Rachel Johnson's debut novel, Notting Hell. I wasn't overly keen on her first book The Mummy Diaries, finding it a bit smug (you can't moan about 'having' to go on holiday, can you?)Notthell

But the author's description of this book (something about the "haves and have-yachts") made me laugh and full of nostalgia for that film (as the residents of this book call Notting Hill), I gave it a go.

It follows a year in the lives of two women, Mimi and Clare, both of whom live on a street with access to a private communal garden - a luxury in London. Mimi has three kids and a part-time journalism career whilst Clare is a garden designer and feng shui obsessive. Whilst Clare are her husband Gideon are super-rich, Mimi and her hubby... are not.

The book's all about the inhabitants of the square from the alternating viewpoints of Mimi and Clare, which allows us to see things that each character does not. But Mimi is the only really sympathetic adult character here, and she has some big flaws... We learn about life on an exclusive communal London garden and the petty rules, silly jealousies and extra-marital affairs that occur. (I'm dying to know how much is based on true events - and if any of it's based on anyone I might have heard of, tee hee!)

It suffers from the same slight smug problem as her earlier book, and I couldn't help feeling books like this are so unconnected from the real world as to be a bit frustrating. But Mimi is a great character and I enjoyed the pace of the book, most of the time - there are occasional interludes when things are getting exciting and the narrator takes us back in time to give us the background story - grr, get on with it!

Still it's a good read (a nice one for summer, with some good moments of humour) if not a great one.

Although if you'll get second home envy or private school bile at the thought of reading about the super-privileged, it might best to steer clear... I find it rather fascinating, though.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Like this? Try The Secret Life of a Slummy Mummy by Fiona Neill

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on April 19, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Rating: 3/5, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 18, 2007 2:15 PM

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Shannon Hale

Shannon Hale is author of the Austen- (and Colin Firth)- inspired novel Austenland, so she was the prefect pick for our Austen Week interviewee.

ShannonhaleHere's what she told us about her book, her writing life, what she's working on next... and what it's like being soooo beautiful (just read it, already!)

Please describe your latest book in 15 words or fewer:

Austenland: Jane obsessed with Mr. Darcy. Goes to Austen-themed resort as therapy. Madness ensues.

Where do you like to write your books (in bed, a coffee shop, an office)?

I write on a laptop wherever and whenever my children permit. At the moment, I’m in a chair in my room while my baby girl naps and my toddler son is at preschool.

Your favourite chick lit book?

I’ve gotta do the safety dance for Bridget Jones’s Diary. She gave us all a place to groove. Go Bridget, go Bridget, it’s your birthday, go go go...

Your favourite female heroine (if different from above!) and why?

Ooh, do I have to play favorites? My first loves were the romantically sassy Beatrice (Much Ado About Nothing), tragically sassy Emilia (Othello), and snarkily sassy Elizabeth Bennett. Others I adore: Tiffany Aching & Granny Weatherwax, Anne Shirley, Amelia Peabody, Kitty Pride (as written by Joss Whedon), Cassandra (I Capture the Castle)…I know I’m totally cheating.

What tips would you give to any of our readers who want to become writers?

You’re a writer when you write. Stop worrying about how hard it is getting published and how little money you’d make anyway and the rejections and vulnerability and weirdness, and just start telling your stories. You’ll feel so much better once you do. Also, those pants you keep thinking might be cute again so you keep them in the closet? Time to throw them out. Seriously. [Hey, how did you know...? - Diane]

What are you reading at the moment?

Chasing the Jaguar by Michele Greene. I was at a conference with Michele recently and she’s completely delightful.

What are you working on now? (If you can give us a hint!)

My husband and I co-wrote Rapunzel’s Revenge, a graphic novel about Rapunzel in the Old West (she uses her long braids as whip and lasso and becomes a vigilante hero — she’s so awesome). We’re working on a sequel now while Rapunzel is being illustrated.

What question have you never been asked in an interview, but think you should have been? (Tell us the question and answer it too, if you like!)

Q: Is it difficult being so stunningly beautiful? A: Why, thank you! I’m so flattered, I don’t know what to say. It’s not so difficult. I mean, there are the normal challenges that come with any unearthly beauty. I don’t need to remind you about poor Helen of Troy. But I just take it one day at a time. That’s all any of us can do.

Too true, Shannon! Thanks so much!

Interview archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on April 18, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Classic Novels, Girly Stuff, Interviews, Modern Fiction, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (2)

April 17, 2007 11:08 AM

Orange Prize shortlist announced

Yep, Marian Keyes and co.'s hard work is nearly over! The Orange Prize for the best book by a woman in the last year... is nearly here.

In the meantime, the shortlist has just been announced - carry on over the cut to read it!

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Half of a Yellow Sun

Novel Rachel Cusk - Arlington Park

Kiran Desai - The Inheritance of Loss

Xiaolu Guo - A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers

Jane Harris - The Observations

Anne Tyler - Digging to America

[Via Booktrade info]

Opinions, anyone? I'd bet on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie...

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on April 17, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, British Authors, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Prize Winners | Permalink | Comments (1)

Jane Austen and Stephanie Laurens

Stephanie1The next essay in our special Austen Week series comes courtesy of Stephanie Laurens: why does she think so highly of Jane?

The potent magic of Regency-era romances transcends time. To this day there is no more compelling hero than a Regency gentleman, no feistier heroine than a Regency miss - the continuing popularity of Regency romances testifies to this. (There are few women in the world who would turn down a waltz with Mr. Darcy, regardless of whether they can waltz or not. )

Austen invented the subgenre, and countless storytellers, myself included, have followed in her wake. Jane created the stage on which I, a modern-day storyteller, walk – and If Jane Austen hadn't written her books, I can't imagine I would have written mine.

Stephanie Laurens's new novel 'The Truth About Love' is out now.

Jane Austen and Julia Quinn

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on April 17, 2007 in American Authors, Austen Week, Book related, Classic Novels, Modern Fiction, Romance | Permalink | Comments (3)

April 13, 2007 12:28 PM

BOOK REVIEW: The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman

IcequeenI'd been wanting to read something by Alice Hoffman for quite some time and just never got around to it. So when she released her latest book The Ice Queen and it started getting great reviews, I quickly snapped up my local library's copy!

When the nameless first-person narrator (catchy name, eh?!) of this book is eight she is upset with her mother one day, so when her mum goes out for the evening, she wishes for her never to return. She doesn't: she dies in a car crash and TNFPN and her brother Ned go to live with their grandmother. From then onwards, our narrator is convinced she has a gift: when she wishes for something bad, it always happens - but she can't seem to stop herself from wishing. In adulthood, she half-heartedly wishes to be hit by lightning, and then she is. It has strange and devastating  physical consequences including colorblindness, limping and pain. But in other ways, it begins a new and exciting chapter in her life - especially when she meets mysterious fellow lightning strike survivor Lazarus Jones - a man who is literally too hot to touch...

Although this book has an ethereal, ghost-story quality to it, it's told in simple, easy to read language rather than being all airy-fairy! The events are sometimes strange and there's elements of fairytale and magical realism here, but it's all kept tethered to the ground by great writing and a strong and constantly unpredictable (but believable) storyline.

Simply put, it's a wonderful read that made me realise that by missing out on Alice Hoffman all these years, I've really been missing out.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Read the opening of the book here.

Like this?

Try A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on April 13, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction, Rating: 5/5, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (5)

April 12, 2007 8:35 PM

TRASHIONISTA'S MOST BRILLIANT PRIZE PACKAGE EVER!

Mansfield_2dI'm not even exaggerating a little bit when I say this is the best prize we've ever had, ever!

Here is what's on offer for ONE LUCKY TRASHIONISTA DEVOTEE:

DVDs:

ITV's Mansfield Park

ITV's Northanger Abbey

BOOKS: 

Ahopelessromantic_2Going Home by Harriet Evans

A Hopeless Romantic by Harriet Evans

It’s In His Kiss by Julia Quinn

Scandal’s Bride by Stephanie Laurens

The True Darcy Spirit by Elizabeth Aston.

Plus, three runners-up will win one copy of each book! Carry on over the cut to find out how to enter...

We're sorry but this comp is only open to UK residents - and employees of Shiny Media may not enter (dammit).

To be in with a chance of winning, simply email us the answer to this question, putting "Austen" in the subject line:

Which well-known American chick-lit author edited the book "Flirting With Pride and Prejudice"? Clue: we reviewed it last July. Don't forget to include your name and address, too - in case you win! Entries close at midnight BST on April 20. Good luck!

And look out for lots more Austen-themed goodness next week, when Trashionista turns all regency on you! Austen week, all week long - it's gonna be gooooood!

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on April 12, 2007 in Announcements, Book related, British Authors, Classic Novels, Competition, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sophie Dahl devotes herself to writing (again)

The lovely Kim, editor of our sister site Catwalk Queen, informs me that Sophie Dahl, model-turned-author-turned-model... is to turn author again, with two new books on the horizon - a novel and a food memoir. (Of the latter, Kim adds: 'I'm curious; will it be a book on how to avoid eating food? Miaow!')

Well, someone had to say it...

Celebrity authors archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on April 12, 2007 in Book News, Book related, British Authors, Celebrity Authors, Memoirs, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Cosmopolitan's Miss Write competition

Are you Miss Write? Cosmopolitan's UK edition is once again running its popular new novelist competition, and you can find all the details on how to enter and exactly what the prize involves, by clicking here.

If you want to enter, you'll need to have a synopsis of your story plus the first 3,000 words ready by the closing date, 31 May 2007. Go on - this could be your big chance! You could even see your book being reviewed on this very site - how cool would that be? (Answer: very).

Related: The Daily Mail's first novel award | Debut novels

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on April 12, 2007 in Book News, Book related, British Authors, Competition, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Prize Winners | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 11, 2007 10:30 PM

BOOK REVIEW: Let's Get Lost by Sarra Manning

SarraTaking a break from the usual chick-lit titles, I thought I'd review something different. Okay, so it is chick-lit I suppose, only for youngsters. And before you roll your eyes at me and say, 'Hey - aren't you, like, twenty?!' then let me tell you that basically, we're all young at heart. And I'm twenty-two. So there.

And let's face it, it's hard to resist a beautifully-written crossover, which can only briefly describe Sarra Manning's Let's Get Lost. Author of other teen tales such as Guitar Girl and Pretty Things, Manning has a wonderful ability to portray teenage issues in a way that's compelling for teens and adults alike.

High-school bad girl Isabella is best known around school for her bad attitude and personal army of tag-along friends. With a father she finds relatively easy to control and a life of doing practically everything she wishes, Isabel is the girl that everyone else wants to be. However, haunting her daily is the death of her mother: something she feels responsible for and something which will, it seems, never leave her.

When she meets the seemingly wonderful - and not to mention older - Atticus Smith at a party, Isabel is immediately mesmerised. A university student, his freedom and contentment reaches out to Isabel the sad rebel who cannot get away from the fact that everyone knows about her mother's death.

Throughout the book, Isabel and Smith become closer, and sometimes not so close again, as Smith struggles to uncover just what makes Isabel who she is. With trouble brewing in school, and friends gradually beginning to grow apart, Smith is the only thing Isabel has to hold onto. But will everything stay the same?

Despite being aimed at teenagers, Let's Get Lost is a fabulous read for absolutely anyone, touching on the subject of bereavement and how it can affect everyone someone so young. A tale of young romance and a secretive girl almost lost in her many layers that will either make you yell out 'I told you so' or... well... cry.

Admittedly it's not the funniest book out there, but frankly? It doesn't need to be. Sharp writing and a moving tale is what makes this book unique. So I'd recommend it to anyone who is in need of something cute yet serious. Manning certainly has a gift for compelling writing and she demonstrates it beautifully throughout this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try The Boy Book by E Lockhart.

Posted by Danielle Symonds-Yemm on April 11, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5, Romance, Young Adult | Permalink | Comments (5)

April 10, 2007 7:00 PM

More on Jodi Picoult and Wonder Woman

WonderwomanIf you're a regular Trashionista reader you'll know that bestselling author Jodi Picoult is to write a five-issue run of iconic comic Wonder Woman.

Here's an interview with the author, and a bit more information about the whole project...

enjoy!

[Via Bookslut]

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on April 10, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Faber's book club guides

Here's something useful, whether you're in a book club or not: publishers Faber have produced a series of online guides (in PDF format) to some of their most popular books, including A Complicated Kindness and The Bell Jar.

Just clicky here to peruse them...

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on April 10, 2007 in American Authors, Book Websites, Book related, Classic Novels, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (2)

April 9, 2007 8:34 AM

BOOK NEWS: Dedication

I'm half-excited and half scared to read this new book: it's the latest (third) offering from Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. Will it be as fabulous as The Nanny Diaries, or a total stinkeroo like Citizen Girl?

I guess there's only one way to find out... it's out in hardcover in the UK and US on 5 June .

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on April 9, 2007 in American Authors, Book News, Book related, Modern Fiction, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (2)

April 5, 2007 4:29 PM

BOOK REVIEW: Fashion Babylon by Imogen Edwards-Jones and Anonymous

FashbabThere's something about seeing 'anonymous' on the cover of a book that makes my spine tingle with excitement... even if, as when I read Primary Colors, the author has already been unveiled. I think Imogen Edwards-Jones's mysterious collaborator will be a bit harder to track down, though: 'anonymous' is a collection of people throughout the fashion industry who provided her with gossip, information and scandal in order to make Fashion Babylon a must-read for anyone with even half an eye for fashion.

Which...um... isn't me.

So what would I make of the book?

Honestly? I thought it was fabulous! You don't have to be at all interested in fashion to find this story of a struggling British designer trying to make it big completely fascinating. In fact, the less you know about the way the fashion world works, the more this book will be a refreshing and often shocking read. I kept having to remind myself that, as the author testifies at the start of the book, everything detailed here really happened (and some of the stuff attributed to rumour probably did, too).  Hotel Babylon is the third in Edwards-Jones's 'Babylon' series (after Hotel Babylon and Air Babylon) and I'd now love to read the other two and find out the goss from those industries, too!

But the book isn't just a dirt-spilling delight, there's a storyline too, and despite the faults of the designer (who admits she likes her models as skinny as possible, to make her clothes look good - couldn't possibly design FOR a woman's figure, could she?! - and her business partner, who's a little on the drug-addled side) I was hoping their collection would do well, and cheering them on to success. My only slight criticism is that it all got a little too shallow at times, but then I was right back to caring about the characters within a few paragraphs. A great read. [DS]

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try Fashion Victim by Sam Baker

Fashion Lit archives

Posted by Aigua Media on April 5, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Fashion-Lit, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5 | Permalink | Comments (4)

April 4, 2007 11:34 AM

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Libby Street

This week, we have a fabulous two-for-the price of one deal! Author Libby Street is (shock, horror!) actually two different women, working as one. And here Sarah and Emily aka: Libby Street, talk exclusively to Trashionista.

Please describe your latest book in 15 words or fewer: Libbyst

Accidental It Girl: A female paparazzi and Hollywood's hottest bachelor get a lesson in how opposites attract.

Where do you like to write your books?

EMILY: I do a lot of the preliminary, story development stuff with a spiral notebook on the couch. (Usually with Murder, She Wrote or The Golden Girls playing quietly on the TV. Embarrassing, but true.) The actual writing goes down at a desk - just me and my laptop.

SARAH: I don’t know. In my old apartment, I sat at my kitchen table which was in my living room. Manhattan apartments are fun that way. I have recently moved into an apartment with so much more space, I’m not sure what to do. We’ll see where I end up working the best! Right now, that same kitchen table (which I have turned into a desk) is the front runner...

More from Libby Street over the cut!

Your favourite chick-lit book?

EMILY: It's not original but… Bridget Jones's Diary. The first, the best.

SARAH: I agree with Emily. I just reread it recently and, MAN!, it’s really great.

Your favourite female heroine? And why?

EMILY: Fanny Price from Jane Austen's Mansfield Park. She never wavers in her beliefs, no matter the cost. Of all Jane's heroines, I think Fanny is the least mutable. I admire her enormously, probably because I can be such a flake sometimes.

SARAH: Elizabeth Bennett from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. She is confident and smart, but willing to recognize that she has faults. I want to be just like her.

What tips would you give to any of our readers who want to become writers?

EMILY: Write the story you've always wanted to read. And, most importantly, never give up.

SARAH: Don’t be discouraged when things aren’t going well. Just keep on plugging away.

What are you reading at the moment?

EMILY: Nothing terribly fun, I'm afraid. I'm currently reading Robert McKee's Story for about the thousandth time. I find that whenever I begin a new project I like to go back to basics and remind myself of the essential elements of a rock-solid, compelling story.

SARAH: I’m reading Traveler’s Tales: India. I am going there in November and I can't stop reading about the place! Traveler’s Tales is a series of books composed of excerpts or essays written by (obviously) writers and/or travelers. If you are going to a new place, I would highly recommend these books. They offer a much more in depth perspective on the character of a place than many of the guide books I’ve read. In fact, I wouldn’t classify it as a guide book, but I am using it to plan my whole trip.

What are you working on now?

We're working on several concepts for new novels. We haven't quite decided which one to pursue yet, but we're leaning toward a story that would be a new direction for us - an older young adult. (The characters would be just starting at university.) We think it'll be a lot of fun to write, which is almost as important as it being really fun to read.

Sounds good to me - thanks ladies!

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on April 4, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Interviews, Modern Fiction, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (2)

April 3, 2007 4:36 PM

Are butterflies the new feet?

Awolff  (...And other weird questions you'll only find at Trashionista!)

We've been talking a lot about book covers lately: are UK ones nicer than their US counterparts? Jill(Interestingly, we're most split down cultural lines on that one, so publishers are doing something right!) Why do so many books look like those of another author? And of course - what's with all the feet on chick lit books?

Well, if these two book covers (and others like them - this seems to be a trend) are anything to go by, feet may be about to be ousted by butterflies! It's obvious really - what are modern women interested in apart from shoes and insects? Seriously though, I welcome the change but would like a little more variety in cover design... What do you think?

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on April 3, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Opinion | Permalink | Comments (3)

April 2, 2007 5:12 PM

Valerie Frankel talks to Joshilyn Jackson

Joshilyn Jackson can always be relied upon for interesting reading material - from gods in Alabama to Between, Georgia to her fantastic blog.

Each month she hosts a different member of The Girlfriends Cyber Circuit, a group of authors who arrange virtual tours around each other's sites to help promote each other. This month, she's asking Valerie Frankel about her new book, about a woman who's jilted (almost) at the altar and as ever, it's a fun read.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on April 2, 2007 in American Authors, Book Websites, Book related, Interviews, Modern Fiction, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: sneak peek of the cover

So apparently, there's this famous series of books about a wizard - you may have heard of them?

Those desperate for some, any, news about JK Rowling's new and final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, might be sated for a little while by a look at the brand new UK cover.

Hop over the cut to see it:

Pottercover372

[Via Galleycat]

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on April 2, 2007 in Book News, Book related, British Authors, Modern Fiction, Series, Supernatural, Young Adult | Permalink | Comments (7)

The woman behind the Richard and Judy book club

Yes, those of you in the UK are probably at least vaguely familiar with the name Amanda Ross - Richard and Judy's producer and the woman behind their famously successful Oprah-inspired book club.

The Telegraph recently ran a profile/interview of Ross, which explains how the books are chosen, her personal taste and the book she enjoyed best of all the book club picks. Basically, it's a look at the woman behind the book club.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on April 2, 2007 in Book related, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Richard and Judy | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 30, 2007 3:43 PM

FRIDAY FLICK: White Oleander

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaollie Based on the wonderful novel by Janet Fitch (which I LOVED - and I'll be reviewing her latest, Paint it Black, soon) White Oleander is the story of Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer) a beautiful but manipulative single mother who is sent to jail for murdering her ex-lover, leaving her teenage daughter Astrid (Alison Lohman) to shuttle from foster home to foster home with often disastrous consequences.

Astrid finally finds a happy home with Renee Zellweger, who she really clicks with - but soon her jealous mother has found a way to destroy that, too...

The story of a mother too selfish to let her daughter (or anyone else) be happy is moving and convincingly acted (nice to see Pfeiffer being coolly evil for a change, she does it well!) But there's no way this could match up to the brilliance and subtlety of the book, and it's not a particularly great film, although it's not a bad one, either. The choice of Billy Connolly to play Ingrid's ex struck me as odd - not what I was expecting from that character, and hard for British viewers not to see him as a comedy figure! Alison Lohman is very talented though, and hopefully destined for bigger things.

Like this, but with Angelina Jolie (and no murder): Girl, Interrupted

Friday Flick archives

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on March 30, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Crime / Mystery, Debut Novels, Friday Flick, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (4)

BOOK REVIEW: Taking The Plunge by Stacie Lewis

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaastaaaaaaaaaa_2Taking The Plunge is an antidote to those happy, fluffy, "isn't planning a wedding a wonderful dream" type books that so often grace chick lit shelves. Not that there's anything wrong with those books per se, but they are escapism, aren't they? As anyone planning a wedding (and about five people I know currently are) will tell you, it's a stressful experience at the best of times.

And Stacie Lewis's debut novel certainly does not describe the best of times...

A touching and jaw-dropping account of one woman's pre-wedding calamities (that makes a great case for elopement!) this is the story of Bernie, an American in London who gets engaged to her British boyfriend and is deliriously happy about it - until she tells all four (yes) of her parents, and they start to make her life a misery...

And I really mean a misery: because both her parents are divorced and re-married, arguments and power struggles ensue about everything from who pays for what to the wording of the invitations. And because Bernie is in London, she doesn't have as much control over her big day as she'd like - is the venue really okay? Surely she doesn't have to have the cheapest dress available? And she can choose her own rabbi to perform the service, right? Everything becomes a struggle, and more than once Bernie and Sam think about eloping.

At times, all this tension is funny but as it becomes more dramatic it's just horribly sad that something supposed to be a happy event is hijacked by the selfish attitudes of the bride's parents, who are old enough to know better. What's really sad is that this is based heavily on Stacie Lewis's own experience (how she managed to forgive her mother for something that happens later on in the book, I don't know, although I do admire her for it).

The structure of the book is a little odd, as "Wedding Truths" are included at the beginning of each chapter. These good, although very cynical observations are made by the author (and this is where it's made clear that the events of the book really happened). I think I'd have preferred the whole book to have kept one narrative voice - or it would also have worked brilliantly (better?) as a memoir.

Saying that, I found this a compulsive and enjoyable read - a fast, easy read made even more intriguing by the fact that a lot of it is based on the author's real experiences, although if I wanted to get married, I'd think two or three (hundred) times about having a big wedding after reading Taking the Plunge. And I won't be passing it on to my stepsister or my engaged friends until after they've tied the knot!

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try Wedding Belles by Zoe Barnes. [-- That comp, though, is now closed - sorry!]

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on March 30, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Rating: 4/5, Romance | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 29, 2007 11:55 AM

Marian Keyes wins popular fiction award at the 'Nibbies'

We've told you before about the Nibbies (or the Galaxy British Book Awards as they're more properly known) and now we're delighted to bring you the news that much-loved Queen of Chick Lit Marian Keyes won the award for popular fiction - way to go, Mazza! (As she'd probably loathe me to call her...)

It was also great chick lit news for Lauren Weisberger, who won Television and film book of the year for The Devil Wears Prada (of course).

Find out the other winners  and who called Ricky Gervais names (!) over the cut...

But if you'd rather not know the goss and find out the winners when the awards are on TV, then you don't have long to wait - they're on tomorrow night at 8pm on Channel 4 .

List of winners:

Book of the year: Conn & Hal Iggulden, The Dangerous Book for Boys

Popular fiction award: Marian Keyes, Anybody Out There

Decibel writer of the year: Jackie Kay, Wish I Was Here

Television and film book of the year: Lauren Weisberger, The Devil Wears Prada

Biography of the year: Peter Kay, The Sound of Laughter

Children's book of the year: Ricky Gervais, Flanimals of the Deep [Gervais's video-linked acceptance speech apparently provoked a "foul-mouthed rant" from Richard Madeley, co-host of the event (with wife Judy, obv.) Is it me or is Mr Madeley losing the plot a little bit? *Allegedly*]

Crime thriller of the year: Ian Rankin, The Naming of the Dead

Sports book of the year: Steven Gerrard, Gerrard: My Autobiography

Newcomer of the year: Victoria Hislop, The Island

Reader's Digest Author of the year: Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

The Richard & Judy best read of the year: Jed Benfeld, The Interpretation of Murder 

Lifetime achievement award: John Grisham

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on March 29, 2007 in American Authors, Book News, Book related, British Authors, Modern Fiction, Prize Winners, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 28, 2007 6:48 PM

BOOK NEWS: To My Dearest Friends

Patricia Volk's Stuffed has to be one of my favourite memoirs of all time, about her adventures growing up with a food obsessed family (they ran a restaurant). So I'm delighted that she's releasing a new book soon: To My Dearest Friends is a novel which sounds deliciously Elinor Lipman-esque, and it's out in hardback here on 17 April.

Not long to wait!

[Via O magazine]

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on March 28, 2007 in American Authors, Book News, Book related, Modern Fiction, Non Fiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 27, 2007 4:18 PM

Love in the book signing queue

Maybe it's just the crowd I run with, but whenever I've been to book signings or author readings, it'sAaaascottolinesigning usually been women of all ages and the odd (sometimes very odd) older man - not exactly the ideal breeding ground for romance. The lucky couple in this picture met in the queue at a signing of bestselling American crime author Lisa Scottoline's book Dirty Blonde, and by the time they'd reached the signing table, had arranged to meet for coffee. A year later, they're still together!

So next time you're at a book event, you might want to take a good look around for any viable prospects, ladies...

[Via Galleycat].

Related posts: Posh is a signing sensation | In defence of romantic novels

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on March 27, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Crime / Mystery, Modern Fiction, Romance | Permalink | Comments (0)

In defence of romantic novels

At the risk of incurring the wrath of literary snobs (as I did a couple of weeks ago when I blogged that chick lit... could be good), Guardian books blog writer Henrietta Clancy is today standing up for that frequently maligned genre, the romance novel. In particular, Mills and Boon.

Do we have any big romantic fiction fans out there? I'd always prefer chick lit and, to be honest, romance doesn't appeal to me (maybe I'm just not very romantic) but, of course, I won't sneer at anybody who enjoys it! Unlike some people.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on March 27, 2007 in Book Websites, Book related, Modern Fiction, Opinion, Romance | Permalink | Comments (3)

March 26, 2007 5:21 PM

MOVIE NEWS: Revolutionary Road

Mega books blog Galleycat reported on Friday that Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet are apparently to be reunited on screen for the first time since a little film called Titanic (maybe you've heard of it?)

The film, Revolutionary Road, is an adaptation of Richard Yates' 1961 novel about a young married couple. Winslet's husband Sam Mendes is set to direct and the film will apparently be made in association with the BBC. Filming will start this summer, so hopefully we can Friday Flick it before too long!

Movie News archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on March 26, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction, Movie News | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 23, 2007 12:59 PM

BOOK REVIEW: Dear Zoe by Philip Beard

AaazoDear Zoe has been compared to The Lovely Bones (which unlike some people, I found a brilliant read) but I'm going to state this right now: it's much, much better.

It's narrated by Tess, in the form of one long letter (divided into chapters) to her three-year old sister Zoe who died in a car crash almost a year earlier - on September 11, 2001.

It includes her recollections of the past and details of where her life is now, leading up to her attempts to get down on paper what happened the fateful day that Zoe died - and her own part in what went wrong.

It's intended to be a young adult novel, I think, but anyone could read and enjoy it. It's the best YA I've ever read, totally unputdownable. It's subtle and poignant and heart-rending, but doesn't layer the sentimentality on with a trowel, which The Lovely Bones (much as I loved it) did. I also thought the exploration of private grief on a day associated with public grief was compelling and heartbreaking. It made me think of all the people whose loved ones died on that day, both in the Twin Towers attack and for unrelated reasons. I'm not ashamed to say I cried. A lot.

But this is by no means a depressing book - it concentrates a lot on normal teenage life. At times, I found myself thinking it really was written by a 15-year old girl, rather than a grown man! Philip Beard has perfectly captured the life of a teen girl and the inner workings of a teenager's mind. He must have done some research into the grooming rituals of an image-obsessed teenager, as he has this down pat.

He's created a flawed but intensely likeable character in Tess. He's also created a very vivid and true-seeming depiction of a family's loss and I highly (highly!) recommend it.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Like this? Try Anybody Out There? by Marian Keyes

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on March 23, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Prize Winners, Rating: 5/5, Recent Release, Young Adult | Permalink | Comments (2)

The Daily Mail's first novel award for aspiring literary stars - could it be you?

The Daily Mail's book club has been a popular addition to their paper and website and now news reaches Trashionista Towers that The Daily Mail has teamed up with Transworld Publishers to launch the Daily Mail First Novel Award. Transworld will offer the winning author a publishing contract of £30,000 and publish the winning book in April 2008.

The prize will be judged by a panel of book experts including authors Joanne Harris and Lee Child.

If you want to enter, you don't have long: only until 2nd July 2007, in fact. All entries must be original, previously unpublished works of fiction on any subject in any genre. And as the title suggests, it must be your first novel!

Go to the site for more details on how to enter.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on March 23, 2007 in Book related, Competition, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Prize Winners | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 22, 2007 12:08 PM

THURSDAY TRAILBLAZER: Sylvia Plath

AaslyviaYes, she was a depressive who killed herself, and I'm not suggesting that action should pave the way for other female authors, but it's a shame the way Sylvia Plath died has come to overshadow her wonderful writing.

I'm sure you'll have heard of her first and only novel, The Bell Jar, the story of one young woman's summer in New York, working as an intern at a magazine, and the mental breakdown that follows... It's not a happy story, but it's well-written and evocative and sadly, many young women can relate to that kind of depression - reading this book they'll know they've not alone. Plath was also a very talented (if often bleak) poet, with her collection Ariel probably her best-known and most-respected work. Her diaries are also published and show more of the inner workings of her mind. Perhaps most surprising is that Plath also wrote a children's book, Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams. Let's try to remember her for her writing, and not for how she died...

Read this: The Bell Jar

Who's your favourite trailblazer?

Thursday Trailblazer archives

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on March 22, 2007 in American Authors, Classic Novels, Memoirs, Modern Fiction, Thursday Trailblazer | Permalink | Comments (7)

BOOK REVIEW: The Sweetheart Season by Karen Joy Fowler

AakjUnlike some people (okay, a lot of people), I found Karen Joy Fowler's The Jane Austen Book Club a throughly enjoyable read, so I was really looking forward to her next book, The Sweetheart Season.

It's the story of Irini Doyle and her colleagues at a small-town cereal factory, who form a baseball team after World War Two, when all of the men of Magrit (their small town) have died or, having seen a bit of the world, decided to stay away. The team will give them the chance to travel the country and meet some eligible bachelors... or at least, they think it will.

That's ostensibly the storyline, although actually the baseball theme take a while to get going. We learn about the history of Magrit, the cereal factory and its founder, Henry Collins and many other things too! Fowler has certainly created a very believable small town from her imagination, but perhaps she's created it in a little too much detail - although her writing is always wry and often funny, there's just to much of it, and the book could have been made much snappier and more enjoyable with a less rambling plot. I was disappointed that the baseball storyline took a while to get going, but when it did I was reminded how boring (and to a Brit, incomprehensible) baseball is. I also didn't understand why the narrator of the story was Irini's daughter, who admits at the start of the book that she might be embellishing... it's already fiction, I see no reason to pile an unreliable narrator on top! (And the afterword spoiled the ending, too - pure self-indulgence.)

My discrepancies made sense, however, when I found out that this book was actually written in 1996, but not published until last year. I'm sure Karen Joy Fowler's next book will be as crisply edited as The Jane Austen Book Club, and all the better for it.

Here's an enjoyable but slow read in the meantime!

Rating: 3 out of 5

Like this? Try Ya-Yas in Bloom by Rebecca Wells.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on March 22, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction, Rating: 3/5, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 21, 2007 12:42 PM

YAY OR NAY WEDNESDAY

Last week, we decided that accuracy and great writing were more important than having been to the place you're writing about - thanks for all your great responses!

This week, Muriel Grey, chairwoman of the Orange Prize judging panel has really been stirring things up by claiming that women's fiction is dull, concentrating on trivial concerns and lacking in grand literary ambitions. (Read more of her opinions here - and an excellent rejoinder here).

Do you agree - should women be attempting more epic literary works, or is that not what women want to read? Are books about political coups inherently more worthwhile than ones about single motherhood? Should men and women be writing the same kind of books? Does it matter what a book's about, as long as it's good? And finally...

Is Muriel right? - Tell us what you think: Yay or Nay, and why?

Yay or Nay archives.

[Don't forget it's Yay or Nay day at Hippyshopper, Bridalwave, Corrie Blog, Catwalk Queen, Kiss and Makeup, The Bag Lady, Shoewawa and Shiny Shiny, too!]

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on March 21, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, British Authors, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Opinion, Yay or Nay? | Permalink | Comments (7)

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Maggie Marr

AmaggieYou might not have heard of Maggie Marr yet, but you will: I have a feeling her new novel, Hollywood Girls Club, is going to be big. If you're stateside, you won't have to wait long to find out: it will be released in the US on April, and in the UK in (sob!) October (although there's always Amazon of course). We're very privileged as Maggie made time to chat to us between moving house and tending to the needs of her young toddler and newborn baby. That's dedication - thanks Maggie!

Here's what she told us...

Please describe your latest book in 15 words or fewer:

HGC is the intertwined tale of four friends in Hollywood trying to get a movie made. (That is 16 words....gosh that IS tough!)

Where do you like to write your books (in bed, a coffee shop, an office)?

I write my books at home. Before recently moving I had a favorite brown chair in which I would sit and write - however, the chair was falling apart and quite unfixable so it didn't make it through the move. Now I have a den with a lovely window overlooking the back yard.

More from Meg over the cut, including her favourite "social climbing realist" and what she's working on next...

Your favourite chick-lit book?

So tough! I really love I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have To Kill You by Ally Carter; a YA/Chick Lit combo. I also still love In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner. She is an amazing writer.

Your favourite female heroine (if different from above!), and why?

I have to go with Meg March in Little Women. I still to this day love her character. Little Women still resonates with me. Another character that I continue to love because she is sooo good at being bad... or maybe just a social climbing realist is Becky Sharpe in Vanity Fair.

What tips would you give to any of our readers who want to become writers?

NEVER GIVE UP. If you truly want to be a writer...then write. Write every day, even if it's just to journal. Also find a critique group; they are invaluable for two reasons. First it is an excellent way to hear from others just what you are conveying on the page and second it creates a deadline for you. If your critique group expects 10 pages from you every Thursday night...well then you better come prepared with your 10 pages. Also, READ! Read everything. Read the classics, read what you love, read the paper, read magazines, READ, READ, READ! There is no better way to study your craft than to read...(well and to write; but I already covered that.) 

What are you reading at the moment?

Right now I am reading This Is Chick Lit

What are you working on now? (If you can give us a hint!)

The second Hollywood Girls Club Book. I think it will be called Secrets of The Hollywood Girls Club and much more salacious than the first.

Sounds great! Thanks again!

Interview archives

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on March 21, 2007 in American Authors, Book News, Book related, Girly Stuff, Interviews, Modern Fiction, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (0)

BOOK NEWS: Rhona Cameron's 'Naked Drinking Club'

Remember Rhona "the moaner" Cameron from I'm a Celebrity... Get me out of here! a few years ago? Moany, wasn't she? None of which has anything to do with the fact that the Scottish comedian/presenter/journalist/ has written a new novel.

Intriguingly named The Naked Drinking Club, it's set in 1980s Australia and is apparently a rather wild coming of age story. It was released on 1st March and is her first novel, although not her first book - Rhona's literary debut was an autobiography, called 1979: A Big Year in a Small Town (which I always wanted to read for the vain reason that I was born in 1979...)

Book news archives | Celebrity authors

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on March 21, 2007 in Book News, Book related, British Authors, Modern Fiction, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 20, 2007 5:41 PM

BOOK REVIEW: A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo

Aneng_2 As  it featured on the Orange longlist, released yesterday, I thought a review of A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo would be timely!

It's the story of Zhang, known as 'Z',  who comes to London from a small Chinese town, in order to improve her English and learn about the culture. But she doesn't find the UK all she expected - people are unfriendly, it's cold and she's lonely. Then she meets a man and the two quickly become lovers, and then move in together - the result of a misunderstanding. (Z says she wants to see his house, he says "be my guest" and she takes it literally)... It begins in hilariously broken English ("sorry of my English" says a note at the beginning of the book) which improves as the story progresses...

The book is chronologically told, divided into months telling the story of Z's year in the UK (and later Europe).  It's narrated by Z, but as if she's talking to her lover, and it shows the misunderstandings that pervade their relationship. Each chapter begins with a definition, hence the title, and these are very revealing, often having a deeper or double meaning.

Only a Chinese writer could pull off writing in broken English without seeming xenophobic/racist, and that makes it OK to laugh at the silly misunderstandings caused by Z's lack of knowledge. The writer presumably had the same problems learning English herself, but clearly she's got the hang of it now: this is Xiaolu Guo's first book in English. It makes you realise how difficult English is, and I enjoyed all the cross-cultural references a lot. The book itself is very good, although it starts off very funny and becomes a lot more melancholy as Z loses her innocence (both socially and sexually). I didn't quite feel that this dark mood at the end of the book was entirely necessary - I wasn't  sure Z enjoyed much of her time over here at all, and that seemed a shame for such a likeable character (as well as from a British tourism perspective!)

But it's definitely an unusual and charming read, and I'd recommend it.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try Empress Orchid by Anchee Min.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on March 20, 2007 in Book related, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Prize Winners, Rating: 4/5 | Permalink | Comments (0)

TUESDAY THREE: Mothers and daughters

I was inspired by Mothers’ Day last Sunday (in the UK and Commonwealth) to have a look at some fictional mothers and daughters for this week’s Tuesday Three. Let's face it, apart from sisters, there are few relationships likely to provide better fodder for humorous fiction!

Jane Sigaloff’s Like Mother, Like Daughter features Alice, whose mother , Suzie, is approaching sixty but is acting like her coming birthday is her sixteenth instead. When she comes up with a hare-brained scheme to find love for herself and her daughter, Alice begins to despair - why can't she have a mother like other girls?

When her mother and sister have a car accident, Belinda “Benny” Bernstein flies home and is horrified by what she finds, in Pamela Ribon's Why Moms Are Weird. Not only is her mother dating three men at once, her house is filthy and filled with trash. Her sister is in an(other) abusive relationship and has started a collection of stray dogs. And what's even more galling is that neither of them have commented on Benny's weightloss.

Benny takes it upon herself to fix everything, but what she doesn't realise is that just because something's broke, doesn't mean she has to be the one to fix it. Anyone who has suffered guilt pangs at moving far from home - or who has a mother who is too close for comfort - will enjoy this book.

We couldn’t choose focus on mother/daugher relationships without including Postcards from the Edge now, could we? Former Hollywood actress, recovering alcoholic and drug addict with a famous mother Carrie Fisher’s novel about a Hollywood actress who's a recovering alcoholic and drug addict with a famous ... well, you get the idea!  Postcards is a cult classic - a book to be read and re-read, gawped at and laughed over. And the film's pretty great too.

Posted by Keris on March 20, 2007 in American Authors, Modern Fiction, Tuesday Three | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 19, 2007 12:41 PM

Orange Prize longlist announced

My favourite literary award of the year is one step closer to being decided with the announcement of The Orange Prize long list. As we told you before, Marian Keyes is among the women on the judging panel, and she's been chronicling her adventures in reading on her monthly blog/newsletter (in February her reading was broken up by a trip up the Amazon).

Anyway, the long list is rather... long (no!) so I'll post it over the cut:

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Poppy Shakespeare by Clare Allan

Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

Peripheral Vision by Patricia Ferguson

Over by Margaret Forster

The Dissident by Nell Freudenberger

When to Walk  by Rebecca Gowers

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo

The Observations by Jane Harris

Carry Me Down by M J Hyland

The Girls by Lori Lansens

Alligator by Lisa Moore

What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn

The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney

Careless by Deborah Robertson

Afterwards by Rachel Seiffert

Ten Days in the Hills by Jane Smiley

Digging to America by Anne Tyler

The Housekeeper by Melanie Wallace

Lots there I'd love to read (especially Jane Smiley and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's books) , but only one that I have - Xiaolu Guo's A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers.

How about you?

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on March 19, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, British Authors, Debut Novels, Irish Authors, Marian Keyes, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Prize Winners, Richard and Judy | Permalink | Comments (2)

WIN! Love in the Present Tense plus 4 months' supply of Galaxy chocolate!

Galaxy are running a competition in conjunction with the British Book Awards and Richard and Judy book club selection Love in the Present Tense by Catherine Ryan Hyde.

Simply enter your details here for the chance to win a copy of the book and four months' supply of chocolate (ooh, that would be nice in time for Easter!)

You have until 31 March.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on March 19, 2007 in Book related, Competition, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Richard and Judy | Permalink | Comments (0)

MOVIE NEWS: The Men's Guide to the Women's Bathroom

JoAnna Barrett's new novel, The Men's Guide to the Women's Bathroom has been generating a huge amount of buzz before its release on 27th March - not least because the lovely Hugh Jackman has already optioned the book for his very selective production company (they only choose three projects a year; this is their comedy) so it must be worth a read! Of course we'll bring you our review asap...

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on March 19, 2007 in American Authors, Book News, Book related, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Movie News, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 16, 2007 2:44 PM

BOOK NEWS: Forget Me Not

Awolff Okay, this will be my last maternally-themed post of the week, I promise!

Forget Me Not is the new book by Isabel Wolff (her seventh!) and was released on 5th March. It's the story of Anna Temple, a 36 year old City Analyst who, after the sudden and unexpected death of her mother, is forced to re-evaluate her life. Anna decides to get a new job as a garden designer (the title's a pun, geddit?) and embrace some life-changing new developments that happen as a result of an uncharacteristic one night stand... (can you guess what?!)

PS: Is it me or is this another case of a book cover 'snap'? Carry on over the cut to see what I mean...

Isabel Wolff's pretty new covers look a little bit like Jill Mansell's pretty new covers, no?

Jill

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on March 16, 2007 in Book News, Book related, British Authors, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Romance | Permalink | Comments (5)

FRIDAY FLICK: Postcards From The Edge

ApfilmWhat could be better for Mother's Day weekend than a Friday Flick which celebrates a dysfunctional/realistic mother-daughter relationship?! Based on the cult novel by Carrie Fisher, which we LOVED, Postcards From The Edge (the film) takes this relationship front and centre.

It tells the story of Hollywood actress Suzanne Vale, who has to move in with her mother after an accidental drug overdose, as she tries to get her life and career back on track...

Meryl Streep plays Suzanne, and does a great job at capturing her bewildered post-rehab state, although at times she's a little more subdued than I would have expected. But the show is really stolen by Shirley McClaine, playing Doris - surely a very thinly-veiled version of Carrie Fisher's own mum, Debbie Reynolds - the similarity is very striking (apparently Reynolds was incensed to audition for the role and be turned down!)

It's not quite as good as the book, but it's a quality film and one of my favourite adaptations ever. And the tag line is fabulous:

"Having a wonderful time. Wish I were here."

*DID YOU KNOW?* If you get the DVD, one of the highlights is Carrie Fisher's rambling (in a good way) and deliciously indiscreet ("I was having an affair with him") commentary. She also points out which parts of the story really happened to her... unmissable.

Friday Flick archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on March 16, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Celebrity Authors, Friday Flick, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (1)

BOOK REVIEW: The Secret Life of a Slummy Mummy

AslummumAnyone who's read Fiona Neill's Slummy Mummy column in the Times will have been looking forward to the publication of The Secret Life of a Slummy Mummy, her novelisation of the column. But newcomers will enjoy it, too. It's narrated by Lucy Sweeney, our eponymous heroine, whose housekeeping and organisation skills are on the lax, not to say slovenly side. Her husband despairs of her, as she turns up at the school gates in her pyjamas, locks herself out of the house, runs out of petrol at inconvenient times and loses her credit card, only to locate it later in the fridge - after it's been cancelled!

With three young sons to look after, Lucy knows she has to pull herself together, especially as the presence of Yummy Mummy and Alpha Mummy at the school gate always make her feel bad about herself. Then Sexy Domesticated Dad joins the PTA, and Lucy starts to enjoy the school run.

But it's just some harmless flirting... isn't it?

I really liked the tone of the book, but I have to say it did put me off having three young children! It very well conveys the stresses this puts on the primary caregiver, and on a marriage. I also couldn't believe one woman could be so disorganised - being a rather anally retentive control freak myself  I was squirming! I couldn't help of course wondering how much all  of Lucy's expereinces were based on the writer's own life - for her own sake, I hope it's exaggerated quite a bit!

The novel ended a bit abruptly, and tied things up in a little too much of a hurry for me, becoming a tad too farcical... but it was still a very good read and I look forward to whatever Fiona Neill writes next.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try Hens Dancing by Raffaella Barker; The Only Boy For Me by Gil McNeil.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on March 16, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Rating: 4/5 | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 14, 2007 5:37 PM

YAY OR NAY WEDNESDAY

Thanks for the great responses last week, when we tried to figure out if 'literary' is a term of endearment or abuse! (Not sure what we agreed, but none of us liked lit snobbery).

This week... Stef Penney had good reason to not visit Canada whilst researching her Costa award-winning novel* The Tenderness of Wolves: she was agoraphobic.

But in general, what do you think about writers, for example, setting their books in a country they've never been to, making up geographical details (as Jenny Colgan admitted to doing with her novel Working Wonders) or otherwise not letting accuracy get in the way of a good story?

In other words... is it a Yay or a Nay, and why?

*Guess I was wrong about there not being a woman on the shortlist - slapped wrist for me.

Yay or Nay archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on March 14, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Modern Fiction, Opinion, Prize Winners, Recent Release, Yay or Nay? | Permalink | Comments (11)

BOOK REVIEW: Hot and Bothered by Annie Downey

AnniedowneyAnnie Downey is an intelligent, funny writer with a healthy dose of quirk. She regularly contributes to alternative parenting magazine Hip Mama and Hot and Bothered is her first novel.

Her heroine is a single mother of a young girl and teenage boy and she's dealing with looking after them plus the fallout of a messy divorce and her own lack of motivation and enthusiasm for life. She's cynical, funny, rather ditsy and somewhat lacking in self-belief...

and very charming.

The book has a chronological narrative but is divided into chapters with different themes, all of which begin "A week..." ("...from hell" and "...of merriment" are two headers). Each chapter is then divided into short (ranging from one sentence to a page and a half) paragraphs, making this a snappy, focused read with very little waffle. It's also an often unpredictable read, and I found many moments in the book hilarious - such as when the main character goes for a walk, meets a woman outside her house, invents that she's a professional dog walker and lands herself a new job walking the woman's dog and cleaning her house...! It's such a funny scene, and by no means the only thing I laughed out loud at - but the book is very warm and contains real emotion, too.

It was also just a tad odd - the main character (whose name we don't learn 'til the end of the book, so I'm afraid it hasn't stuck in my brain! I know, I'm getting old) is obsessed with pink clogs, but aren't clogs the least comfortable footwear ever? And she makes frequent references to being small and midget-like, but it turns out she's the same height as the lovely Keris... who as we know is in perfect proportion - ish. Maybe the author feels a little height disadvantaged, I don't know... Also, the main character's best friend Kip is more than a bit mean, but I came to like her by the end of the book!

Definitely not your usual mummy/mommy lit - this story's a good bit more complicated, and a little bit more quirky but it's a very fun read I found hard to put down.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try The Only Boy for Me by Gil McNeil.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on March 14, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Rating: 4/5, Romance | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 13, 2007 4:29 PM

BOOK NEWS: Crystal by Katie Price

Crystal_1Yep, Jordan's at it again - or rather Katie Price is (doesn't she get confused?!)

Described as "a glittering and sexy story of passion and betrayal and one woman’s search for true love" Crystal is the dual-named glamour model's second attempt at fiction after the success of Angel last year. (Which we quite liked, by the way). Clearly designed to be another beach read, Crystal will be released on 7th June.

[Via randomhouse.co.uk ]

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on March 13, 2007 in Bonkbusters, Book News, Book related, British Authors, Celebrity Authors, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Romance | Permalink | Comments (4)

Galaxy Book Awards shortlist announced

The Galaxy British Book Awards, formerly just The British Book Awards (those ones that Richard and Judy present where they always shout slightly embarrassing 'impromptu' interviews across the stage to the people giving out the books, I'm sure you've seen them on TV) have announced their shortlist. And they're now calling themselves The Oscars of the Book World. Posh!

Carry on over the cut to see the books in the running and for details on how to vote (for Marian Keyes!)...

The full list, with several categories, is very very long (despite the name 'shortlist'!) so it's better viewed via the awards' website. Perhaps of most interest to Trashionistas is that Marian Keyes's latest, the wonderful Anybody Out There? has been nominated for Sainsbury's popular fiction award. To vote for Marian, or any other book, click here. (Go now - hurry!)

Related: Richard and Judy archives | Prizewinners archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on March 13, 2007 in American Authors, Book News, Book Websites, Book related, British Authors, Irish Authors, Marian Keyes, Modern Fiction, Prize Winners, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 12, 2007 6:49 PM

Read Sisterwife for free

SisterwifeAcclaimed suspense author Natalie R Collins is giving away a free download of her book, Sisterwife, on her website. Here's the blurb:

Prophesied to be the catalyst in a modern-day Armageddon, Kelsey Waite flees a life in Utah, freeing herself from a polygamous lifestyle and abusive father. She is forced to return to the state, and face her demons - and the charismatic cult leader who believes she is destined to be his second wife - when her daughter is kidnapped.

Sounds intriguing.

Related posts: Free online novel | Kate Thompson's Love Lies Bleeding

Posted by Keris on March 12, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Books the British public just couldn't finish!

Normally at Trashionista we concern ourselves with those books you just can't put down, but today we're talking about books you struggle to pick up again after reading a few pages/chapters...

The book world is all a-flutter today about a new survey which shows the most frequently abandoned reads: top of the list is 'challenging' Booker Prize winner Vernon God Little by WBC Pierre, which 35% of 4000 surveyed readers apparently gave up on.  It was joined by Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses and classic of the impenetrables: Ulysses by James Joyce. The only female author at the top, and the biggest surprise, is that 32% of adult readers couldn't make it through Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (although, actually, you can add me to that list - Quidditch World Cup? Snoozeathon! Pick up the pace, JK...)

If any of those books are on your personal unfinished list, The Times helpfully tells you how they end, and The Guardian digests them for you.

So... what's the book you just couldn't finish? Find out mine over the cut!

For me it's William Faulkner's famously difficult The Sound and the Fury.  (With no differentiation in tenses and no idea which character is talking, it's a 'puzzler', to say the least). On the other hand, I managed to get to the end of the execrable Citizen Girl - but wished I hadn't bothered!

How about you?

Related post: Lovely Bones and Jane Austen on publishing insider's list of books NOT to read

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on March 12, 2007 in Book News, Book Websites, Book related, British Authors, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Prize Winners, Rubbish Books | Permalink | Comments (11)

March 9, 2007 5:12 PM

FRIDAY FLICK: Cold Mountain

Coldmountain_1Based on the critically acclaimed novel, by Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain stars Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger (who won an Oscar for this role).

Law plays a confederate soldier who, disillusioned with the Civil War, sets off on foot to return to Cold Mountain and Ada, the woman he loves. Of course, things haven't exactly been a picnic for Ada while he's been away ...

I must admit, I haven't seen the film because, despite being beautifully written, the book was far too slow-going for me. Anyone seen it?

Friday Flick archives

Posted by Keris on March 9, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Debut Novels, Friday Flick, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (2)

BOOK REVIEW: The History of Lucy's Love Life in 10.5 Chapters by Deborah Wright

075153703901_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_Lucy is dissatisfied with her life. She works in a job that's more about paying the bills than satisfaction and self-worth, she's in a relationship with a lovely bloke but can't tell if he's The One or if she'd be better off playing the field, and she's lonely. Nights are spent awake, fantasising about Lord Byron, and the days encompass endless lectures from her boss, a successful scientist.

One day Lucy arrives at work to find a mysterious parcel sent to her boss by a former suitor. The letter reveals that the suitor has been working on a time machine - included in the package - which he hopes will win the scientist's heart. Out of curiosity they build the time machine, and it does nothing.

But then Lucy loses her job, and is given the time machine as a parting gift. Determined to give it one more try, she assembles it in her flat. As is the way with technology, a swift kick is all it takes to make the time machine operational. All of a sudden, whole new worlds are open to Lucy, and she attacks them with aplomb, making friends with Byron, Ovid, and Casanova, to name but a few.

Through her travels, Lucy learns about poetry and art, and has the opportunity to reassess herself, her life, and her relationship.

While this may sound unbelievable and twee, it's not. There is some suspension of disbelief to deal with, but no more than can be found in other books, where we are told that women working as editorial assistants can afford flats with views of Hyde Park, and every girl has a best friend with a wardrobe of designer gear to be loaned at the drop of a hat.

What the book is, instead, is  a fresh take on the personal inventories we all do, and a lesson to appreciate what we have when we have it - the plot offers much more than adventures in the past. In fact, the plot offers so much more that the book could really be reviewed as two separate novels. For a bit of escapist fun with extra culture and more excitement than is found in most Boys' Own Adventure books, you couldn't do better than this. [Kate Walker]

Rating:
5 out of 5
Liked this? Try: Under My Spell, by Deborah Wright

Posted by Aigua Media on March 9, 2007 in British Authors, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Rating: 5/5, Romance, Supernatural | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 8, 2007 2:48 PM

BOOK REVIEW: The Adultery Club by Tess Stimson

033044520001_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_In the beginning of the year we got excited about previews of The Adultery Club being given away with Red magazine. Tempted by the teaser - and the ubiquitous tube and rail advertising - I decided to put to one side my contempt for all things adulterous and read the book with an open mind.

Rather than a stereotypical novel with a narrator of sorts, The Adultery Club is narrated by the three main characters - Mal, the wife; Nicholas, the cheating husband; and Sara, the mistress - each taking it in turns to pick up the narrative thread from their point of view. 

I would have expected a book written in this fashion to be equally sympathetic to all characters, and judging by the reviews on Amazon, many readers found that to be the case. But while I felt more sympathy for Nicholas than I expected to, this was mostly due to the character of Sara, who was painted as a scheming harlot who did everything she could to ensnare a man she knew to be the married father of small children, persevering after refusals she could tell were difficult to utter.

Despite hating one of the characters, however, I didn't hate the book. Rather, I enjoyed it. A lot. Stimson is a talented writer who really gets inside the heads of her characters, meaning we do too. While this made me dislike Sara, it gave me sympathy for Nicholas, as the reader follows his moral waverings - while he is weak in the face of Sara's relentless pursuit, he initially and repeatedly tries to do the right thing.

As a portrait of the suffering that betrayal causes for all involved, The Adultery Club is a worthy three-dimensional read. It's also an involving book, and one that will stick with you once you've read the final pages. Anyone considering embarking on an affair would be well-advised to pick it up, as it eloquently describes the heartache, loneliness, and self-hatred that betrayal causes for all involved - even the innocent parties.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Liked this? Try: Getting Rid of Matthew, by Jane Fallon

Posted by Aigua Media on March 8, 2007 in British Authors, Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5 | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 7, 2007 10:32 AM

BOOK REVIEW: Motherland by Maria Beaumont

Motherland_2I must admit I wasn’t particularly thrilled at the prospect of Maria Beaumont’s Motherland. Despite being an obsessed mother myself, I’m a bit bored by all the Mummy Lit crowding the shelves, but Motherland is different.

Fran used to have a fab career as a voiceover artist. She used to be madly in love with her husband, Richard. She used to be cool, calm and in control. And then she had kids. Frightened half to death at the idea of going back to work, cutting herself off from her two best friends and alienating her husband - plus the small matter of drinking so much that she forgets to pick her kids up from school - Fran hits rock bottom and then drags herself back up again.

Fran is a lovely character. Sarcastic, facetious, bitter and depressed, she still manages to be funny and endearing. Her descent into depression is written so sympathetically that I found myself feeling anxious on her behalf. The bitchy mothers at Fran’s children’s school are charicatures, but intentionally so (one has a wart on her nose, for heaven’s sake) and, in my experience, those type of mothers are all the same anyway.

Beaumont does something clever with the chapter numbers too (I know, how clever can you be with chapter numbers? But trust me, I was very impressed when I (finally) noticed) and it only added to the thrill of watching Fran get her life back.

Despite it being the kind of story that’s been done many times before, Beaumont’s writing and humour make Motherland a hugely satisfying and enjoyable read.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try The Rise and Fall of a Yummy Mummy by Polly Williams

Posted by Keris on March 7, 2007 in British Authors, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Rating: 4/5 | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 6, 2007 12:20 PM

BOOK REVIEW: I Love Capri by Belinda Jones

009941493702_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_Trashionista makes no secret of our love affair with Belinda Jones. She's a master of writing fluffy escapist fiction set in glamorous locations, and I Love Capri is no exception.

Kim is down on love and down on life. Having had her heart badly broken a few years before the book begins, she healed herself by retreating from the world - lots of nights in and dodgy telly in place of a jet-set lifestyle and exciting trips abroad as a professional translator. Making matters worse is her mother, who is never happy with Kim's appearance, and who has a worrying tendency to meddle in her daughter's love life.

Following the death of a grandfather she's never met Kim inherits £5,000, which she plans to spend on liposuction for her and her long-suffering flatmate. Before she can book an appointment, however, her mother whisks her off to Capri, home of the deceased grandfather, to do the translating as her mother prepares to take over her grandfather's boutique.

Initially terrified of leaving her comfort zone, Kim finds that life in Capri is better than she could have imagined. Despite being surrounded by high-end designer goods and miles of bling too ostentatious for J.Lo, Kim feels energised, not intimidated. Add to the extra energy a gradually improving relationship with her mother, more male attention than she knows what to do with, and a growing affection for the island and its inhabitants, and Kim finds herself to be a whole new woman.

But self-discovery isn't all that Capri has in store for Kim. Oh no. After all, it wouldn't be chick lit without a love affair, and spokes in wheels, and heartache, and more love, and extra suitors - inappropriate, natch - hiding in the wings. The difference between this novel and standard chick lit, though, is all in the quality of Jones' writing. The plot hinges on a fresh spin on an age-old question, one that will leave you reassessing your moral compass. Making it even more unique, I Love Capri doesn't end predictably, although the ending is entirely in keeping with the characters you've grown to love. [Kate Walker]

Rating:
5 out of 5
Liked this? Try: Divas Las Vegas, by Belinda Jones

Posted by Aigua Media on March 6, 2007 in British Authors, Modern Fiction, Rating: 5/5, Romance | Permalink | Comments (1)

TRASHIONISTA RECOMMENDS: Holly's Inbox

Are you ready for the "Bridget Jones's diary of the digital age"?

New website Holly's Inbox is a real time novel set in the reception area of a city investment bank. When you go into the site it is like you are accessing Holly's actual inbox and reading her emails as they come in.

I've just read week one and I can see it could become totally addictive.

Related posts: Horizons Past: free online novel / Read The Mummybiz online ... as it's written / Five Chapters

Posted by Keris on March 6, 2007 in Book Websites, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Trashionista Recommends | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 1, 2007 1:04 PM

BOOK REVIEW: The Girls by Lori Lansens

Thegirls"I have never looked into my sister's eyes. I have never bathed alone. I have never stood in the grass at night and raised my arms to a beguiling moon. I've never used an aeroplane bathroom. Or worn a hat. Or been kissed like that...So many things I've never done, but oh, how I've been loved. And, if such things were to be, I'd live a thousand times as me, to be loved so exponentially."

So begins Lori Lansens' The Girls, one of the books chosen for Richard and Judy's 2007 bookclub. Who could fail to be moved by such a tender and evocative beginning? And it just gets better and better.

Rose and Ruby Darlen are as close as sisters can be. Born joined at the head, they have lived a life full of spectacle, ridicule, love and wonderment. Now approaching 30, the girls are telling their own story in two contrasting styles, capturing all the hopes, fears, crashing disappointments and ordinary yet tender moments in two extraordinary lives.

I found Lori Lansens' evocative tale deeply affecting. It’s a long time for me since any fictional characters leapt from the page like Rose and Ruby, remembering their beloved Aunt Lovey and Uncle Stash.

As a mum of two eight-year-olds, I'm no fan of stereotypical portrayals of twins in fiction (and there are a few about – they’re not all pairs of good or evil you know) so the warm and subtle storytelling in this for me, unforgettable book, comes like a breeze of fresh air over a sea of mediocrity. I've savoured every page - reading passages aloud to my mum or partner, as I go. At turns laugh out loud funny, heartbreaking and shocking, The Girls is an absolute gem – a book I could read and re-read.

I even found myself nodding in agreement when it came to Aunt Lovey’s musings about three different types of people in this world - those who love children, those who love their own children and those who hate children but call their pets "Baby." Oh that sounds familiar. I think I’ve met a few of that last lot. [Linda Jones]

Rating: 5 out of 5

Like this? Try My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Posted by Aigua Media on March 1, 2007 in American Authors, Modern Fiction, Rating: 5/5, Recent Release, Richard and Judy | Permalink | Comments (4)

February 23, 2007 10:27 AM

FRIDAY FLICK: The English Patient

EnglishpatientBased on Michael Ondaatje's Booker-Prize-winning novel, The English Patient won 9 Oscars.

Juliette Binoche is Hana, a nurse caring for a badly burned Englishman (Ralph Fiennes) at a deserted Tuscan monastery. As he's dying, the patient tells Hana how he fell in love with a married woman (Kristin Scott-Thomas) whilst working in the Middle East. The relationship had tragic consequences and we see these scenes in flashback.

As you would expect from such a great cast (including - yes! - Colin Firth), the acting is brilliant if a little cold. The film looks incredibly beautiful and it is tragically romantic, but I found it pretentious, while, at the same time, being totally transfixed.

I would suggest reading the novel after watching the film. If I hadn't seen the film first I would have found the novel completely inpenetrable.

Friday Flick archives

Posted by Keris on February 23, 2007 in Book related, Friday Flick, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 19, 2007 11:07 AM

MORE ON MONDAY: Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Millions_1Frank Cottrell Boyce's debut children's novel was made into a film directed by Danny Boyle, but the book is far superior. Set at an unspecified date in the near future, two boys discover a bag of stolen money that's been thrown from a passing train. The trouble is it's Sterling and the Euro is due to come in any day, making the cash obsolete and unspendable, so the boys go about trying to get rid of it as fast as they can without attracting the attention of any responsible adults, not least their father and the thieves themselves.

As if the above wasn't enough to cope with, their mother has died and 9-year-old Damian deals with his grief by hiding in a cardboard box "hermitage" and obsessing over saints. The boys' father has no idea how to deal with this or indeed his own grief.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. It's entertaining, innovative, exciting, sweet, funny and well-written. The boys' grief is dealt with sensitively and also amusingly (which I know sounds odd, but trust me). I'd imagine it'd be an excellent book to read to children from about 8 years old. I really loved it.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Like this? Try Bee Season by Myra Goldberg

Posted by Keris on February 19, 2007 in British Authors, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, More On Monday, Rating: 5/5 | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 16, 2007 4:26 PM

GUEST BLOG: Levi Asher on 1970s chick lit

During our Top 100 Extravaganza, I compiled a list of chick lit precursors, i.e. books that could have been described as chick lit had chick lit existed. Yesterday I read an article by author and founder of Literary Kicks, Levi Asher, on the books he read in the '70s that could perhaps be considered chick lit. I thought you might like to read it too.

Great Chick-Lit of the 70's (or, the Books That Raised Me) by Levi Asher

The industry is buzzing about chick-lit again. I don't know much about this whole phenomenon, except in a strange way I do, because I was raised on chick-lit. As a kid in the 1970's, the first grownup books I read (and really enjoyed) were the racy, funny and wise novels that my grandmother, my mother and my older sister left lying around the house. These books had a big influence on me, and I wonder if the chick-lit of today could possibly be as good.

Sheila_levine1. The first adult book I ever read was Sheila Levine is Dead and Living in New York, a hilarious but sensitive sex comedy about a single Jewish woman hunting for the love of her life while slumming with some clearly unsuitable replacements. This novel came straight off Grandma Jeannette's shelf in Miami Beach, and I do believe I even smuggled it back home in my little suitcase so I could finish reading it when summer vacation ended too soon. I learned a lot about human sexuality by reading this book (a bestseller at the time), and I distinctly remember asking my sister to explain words like "diaphragm" and "orgasm", which is hilarious in retrospect since my sister probably didn't know what these words meant either.

Sheila Levine's gimmick is that the book is a suicide note, because the narrator has given up on finding a man and has decided to kill herself (she doesn't succeed, and the novel ends with Sheila's epilogue to her suicide note, in which she worries about whether or not her rescuers put her apartment door back on the hinges after they broke it down to save her life). I wonder what happened to Gail Parent? I liked Sheila Levine so much that I bought her follow-up, David Meyer is a Mother, but it wasn't as good. I remember hearing that Gail Parent wrote scripts for the show "Rhoda", which makes a lot of sense since Rhoda Morgenstern and Sheila Levine are basically the same character. I also remember a terrible-looking film version of Sheila Levine coming out with Jeannie Berlin in the title role. It ran for about two days in theatres and has since disappeared from the face of the earth, even though Roy Scheider was in it just before starring in Jaws.

The book is still in print, but I don't like the shiny new cover anywhere near as much as the old one.

Madhousewife2. I think I picked up Sue Kaufman's Diary of a Mad Housewife from my Mom's collection. This is a brilliant, sharp satire about the miserable, unappreciated wife of an social-climbing Manhattan lawyer. In the book's best moments, such as the climactic cocktail party that collapses into a faux-pas-ridden disaster, Kaufman's sharp and observant narrative takes on a Dostoevskian intensity. It's not for nothing that the title evokes Nikolai Gogol.

Diary of a Mad Housewife also beat the odds when it was made into an absolutely great film starring Carrie Snodgress as timid Tina Balser, Richard Benjamin as her jerk husband and Frank Langella as a ratty suitor. Here's some surprising Mad Housewife trivia: Neil Young saw this movie and wrote the song "A Man Needs A Maid" about it:

Now I'll go somewhere, I don't know when
I was watching a movie with a friend
I fell in love with the actress
She was playing a part that I could understand

Neil Young then went on to meet, date and marry Carrie Snodgress, which shows that he must have really liked the movie. The strange thing about all this is that the song "A Man Needs A Maid" expresses a man's plaintive desire for a submissive woman, whereas the book and the movie are clearly attempting to skewer the notion that submissive women can be happy in relationships. No wonder Neil and Carrie got divorced a few years later.

Sue Kaufman's novel is still available in a new edition with an introduction by spoken-word poet Maggie Estep (this book's hip credentials are through the roof). Incidentally, Diary of a Mad Housewife should technically be categorized as chick-lit of the 60's, but I didn't read it until the 70's, and I like the way the title "Great Chick-Lit of the 70's" sounds.

Kinflicks3. My sister turned me on to Kin-Flicks, an absolutely wonderful literary bestseller by Lisa Alther that inspired me as both a reader and a writer.

Kin-Flicks is about the phases in the life of a southern girl, Ginny Babcock, who we meet as a lusty cheerleader with a jock boyfriend. But she quickly switches gears after the town hoodlum steals her away from the jock, after which she escapes to college and becomes a tweedy intellectual under the guise of a stern and matronly philosophy professor. Ginny then goes on to morph into a sex-crazed vegetarian lesbian, a dutiful country housewife and several other original life forms before she finally exhausts herself from all the changes.

Back in her hometown, where her mother is sick, a mature Ginny peers at cells dividing under a microscope, and begins to understand the cycle of dependency and rejection that has dominated her entire life to this moment. Kin-Flicks is, among other things, the most Taoist book I've read since the Tao Te Ching, but the book is as funny and engaging as it is wise. Kin-Flicks is still in print as well, again in a trashy looking cover that doesn't do the work justice.

Now that I've talked about these three books, I may as well come clean; the whole concept of this article is admittedly offensive, and I don't really think it makes sense to categorize books as varied as Sheila Levine, Diary or Kin-Flicks as prototypes for a commercial genre. These books are not chick-lit ... and yet it seems clear that they were marketed as guilty pleasure reading for largely female audiences (plus one nerdy kid on Long Island who didn't know better).

So, is it possible that among the pink stacks of today's "Women's Category Fiction" shelves there exist writers as timeless as Gail Parent, Sue Kaufman, Lisa Alther? Well, I don't know the answer to that question, because I don't read chick-lit. I haven't since the 70's, anyway.

What about you?

Posted by Keris on February 16, 2007 in Book related, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (26)

February 12, 2007 10:15 AM

BOOK REVIEW: Taming the Beast by Emily Maguire

TamingthebeastEmily Maguire's debut novel could be described as literary erotic fiction. It's the dark tale of a fourteen-year-old who is seduced by her English teacher one day at school, and of the life-changing chain of events that this unleashes for the heroine and everyone close to her.

Sarah is obsessed with Mr Carr, sex and literature - in that order. But how far will she, and the people who love her, go for the sake of devotion and obsession? In some ways, the character of Sarah was not easy to identify with - she was ruthless, often cold-hearted, and she treated herself and others with little respect. But somehow Emily Maguire made her oddly sympathetic. Mr Carr, who I expected to hate, came across as human too - albeit a terribly flawed, damaged individual. There was something compelling about the story of Sarah's exploits, and I found it very easy to care about Sarah's friend Jamie, her longtime friend and admirer.

Throughout this book, Emily Maguire explores the complexity of relationships. There are no easy answers. This is sometimes an uncomfortable read, but a worthwhile one. The descriptions of Sarah's violent sex life were graphic but not gratuitous, though not particularly erotic, either. The focus was on the emotional state of the characters, and the book was both disturbing and thought-provoking. It is worth reading for a no-holds-barred look at the extremes of female sexuality, and the study of where the true power lies in relationships. There were parallels drawn with Jane Eyre which, though slightly hard to get a grip on initially, gave the book an interesting focus on unconventional heroines, and a feminist slant. A dark and original book. [Luisa Plaja]

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller

Posted by Keris on February 12, 2007 in Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Rating: 2/5 | Permalink | Comments (5)

February 9, 2007 10:33 AM

The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs

FridaynightWe’ve had a few books about book clubs and now knitting clubs are popping up on chick lit shelves everywhere, as Diane mentioned a while ago. Kate Jacobs’ The Friday Night Knitting Club has already secured a movie deal (with Julia Roberts, no less).

It’s the charming story of Georgia Walker - single mother to a mixed-race daughter, Dakota, and proprietor of a knitting shop in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Encouraged by Georgia’s mentor, Anita, and assistant, Peri, local women begin to gather in the shop on a Friday evening to chat, knit and eat treats cooked by 12-year-old Dakota ... and The Friday Night Knitting Club is born.

But then Dakota’s father James reappears on the scene wanting a relationship not only with Dakota, but with Georgia too. Georgia’s former best friend, Cat, also turns up, unsatisfied with her glamorous life. Everything seems to be changing and Georgia’s not sure she’s ready.

Woven in (or should I say knitted in?) with Georgia’s story are the stories of the other members of the group: Anita is embarking on her first romance since the death of her beloved husband; pompous academic Darwin is struggling to complete a dissertation while her husband works on the other side of the country; filmmaker Lucie is undertaking single motherhood.

The women are not given equal time - this is certainly Georgia’s book - but they are all interesting and it might be fun for at least a couple of the women to get their own books in the future. The author’s habit of using description in place of names - "the white haired woman said," "The TV producer left the office door open" - drove me to distraction, but that might bother anyone else.

The Friday Night Knitting Club is a lovely, warm, evocative, book that also made me cry. It was perhaps all a bit too perfect and neat (I wasn’t entirely convinced by James’s reasons for staying away, but, at the same time, it was certainly possible and, if true,* believably painful). And, yes, it did make me want to try knitting (again).

* Yes, I know it’s not true, it’s a novel, but you know what I mean. Don’t you?

Rating: 4 out of 5 (I’d like to give it 4.5, but since I can’t it’ll have to be 4)

Like this? Try Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos

Posted by Keris on February 9, 2007 in American Authors, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Rating: 4/5 | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 6, 2007 3:49 PM

Irish book awards

Cecelia Ahern and Marian Keyes are going head to head in the Irish Book Awards, the shortlist for which was announced last week. A Place Called Here is up against Anybody Out There in the popular fiction category. Also shortlisted are Maeve Binchy, Ross O'Carroll Kelly and John Banville (writing as Benjamin Black).

The overall winners will be revealed on March 15. [via Irish Independent]

Posted by Keris on February 6, 2007 in Book News, Cecelia Ahern, Irish Authors, Marian Keyes, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (1)

BOOK REVIEW: Step On It, Cupid! by Lorelei Mathias

Steponit_2

After seeing the vid-lit for Lorelei Mathias' Step On It, Cupid! I just had to give it a read. Granted, I'm not usually one for tales of dating (I'm a meanie who'd much love to see our heroines end up alone with twenty cats. Okay, joke!), but this one just seemed cute. Not only that, but the Little Black Dress series is wonderful (Spirit Willing, Flesh Weak is another great read, but we'll save that for another time.) Anyway, on with the review.

Sassy twenty-something Amelie (yep, just like the film) has a fabulous job in advertising, and after vowing to make her work the centre of her life for the coming year, she's determined to succeed when she and best friend Duncan are handed one heck of a task - an ad campaign for Fast Love, Britain's upcoming and already widely popular speed-dating company. The task at hand is to come up with a brand new strategy - but SPEED-DATING? Of all things!

Passing off speed-dating as a tool for the utmost in desperate, Amelie is stumped when she finds herself dragged along to speed-dating nights as research for the Fast Love project. And after being introduced to countless impossible suitors, maybe it's time to give up on the whole romance thing? Speed-dating couldn't possibly work...or could it?

Step On It, Cupid! is cute, romantic and definitely a joy to read if cutesy, romantic books are for you. However, despite the lovable Amelie and plenty of humour in places, I did think the whole concept (overworked ad girl with demanding boss finds love) is starting to become a bit overused. It may be dotted with cliches, but the speed-dating theme does bring a whole new, original twist to it. Needless to say, I enjoyed it, and as previously mentioned, I usually give the overtly lovey-dovey ones a miss.

In all, it's a fun, light read, that'll keep you guessing. And for once, the ending isn't TOTALLY obvious, either.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Like this? Try The Bachelorette Party by Karen McCullah Lutz

Posted by Danielle Symonds-Yemm on February 6, 2007 in Modern Fiction, Rating: 3/5, Romance | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 2, 2007 5:28 PM

The Bad Mother's Handbook on ITV

BadmotherA dramatisation of Kate Long's The Bad Mother's Handbook will be shown on ITV later this month. As you can see the book's been give a new - and very pink - tie-in cover.

With a fantastic cast including Catherine Tate and Anne Reid, it sounds like must-see TV. Read more about filming (and have a look at the pics) at Kate Long's website.

And we'll let you have more details as soon as we know them ourselves.

Posted by Keris on February 2, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 1, 2007 2:06 PM

BOOK REVIEW: The Second Wives Club by Jane Moore

009946503501_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_v39997405_Modern marriage is more disposable than institution, according to any sociologist looking to get press clippings on a slow news day. Papers fill their lifestyle sections with treatises on 'starter marriages', divorce rates are on the up, and compound families of step-everyones have fast become the norm in modern-day Britain.

Or so they said last year. This year's press has been peppered with the odd piece on falling divorce rates, the acceptance of marriage as a meaningful declaration of life-long love, and the pursuit of happiness amongst our feckless youth. Which could cause problems for Jane Moore, whose Second Wives Club is due to be published in paperback this April.

At least, it could if the book weren't a fun read.

The Second Wives Club opens with the dramatic crashing of a dream wedding by the - horror! - first wife who had been told her ex was taking the kiddiewinks to the park for the day, not dressing them up in their Sunday best and making them play pageboys.

Ghastly. But every cloud has a silver lining, and for second bride Alison, that silver lining comes when a guest at the wedding invites her to join the second wives club, a place where trophy wives, former mistresses, and self-effacing childcarers join together to bitch about the horrors of being a second wife and all of the social politics such a position entails.

All of the club's members have relationship troubles of sorts, with children from the first marriage, difficult starter wives, and - naturally - the husbands themselves. During their meetings they conspire to fix these troubles, with varying degrees of morality and success.

I'd like to end the review like this: Essentially this is a light-hearted romp, with enough drama to keep you absorbed. The characters are all interesting people, although not all are likeable.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Being honest, however, I have to end it like this: The only two downsides for me were thus: first, reading the book instilled me with an overwhelming sense of deja vu. I know I've not read the book before, but I have. I knew the characters, I knew the essence of the plot turns, if not the details, and I knew exactly how it was all going to work out in the end. And not in the cosy familiar sense I get with most chick-lit, where the familiarity breeds enjoyment, but in the predictable dull sense. Second, (and I know this is very -ist of me) I can't quite bring myself to enjoy a novel where two of the main characters actively pursued married men and took them from their wives and children. It goes against everything I'm made of.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Like this? Try Getting Rid of Matthew by Jane Fallon

Posted by Aigua Media on February 1, 2007 in British Authors, Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5 | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 29, 2007 1:54 PM

BOOK REVIEW: Bitch Lit edited by Maya Chowdhry & Mary Sharratt

BitchlitMaya Chowdhry and Mary Sharratt have edited this collection of short stories all having the general theme of women anti-heroes. Bitch Lit is apparently an antidote for all the Dick Lit we’ve had to endure in the past.
 
The blurb claims that all these stories are tales of women and power, the opposite of cautionary tales. Bitch Lit is a celebration of women who take the law into their own hands, who defy society’s expectations, put their own needs first and don’t feel guilty.

Unfortunately when they say ‘take the law into their own hands’ what they actually mean is break it. The characters in these stories serially murder, steal, commit adultery and fraud or, if you’re lucky, are just extremely selfish or mean spirited. They’ve attempted to describe this book as feminist, but that’s like saying Hitler was male so if the world was a fair and righteous place we should have a female dictator who commits genocide and tries to take over the world. It’s just wrong!

As with any book of short stories there will be a mixed bunch. Some are better than others, but all of these left a sour taste in my mouth and stole some of the faith I had that human nature was basically good and kind. Ironically the authors who wrote the shortest stories were the most successful in fitting in a complete tale. Some of the longest ended leaving me confused and wondering what happened. It seemed they’d reached their maximum word count and just stopped. They might as well have stopped mid sentence for all the sense some of the endings made.

One thing this book does achieve is in provoking a reaction. I can imagine people who enjoy looking at a rubbish bag or an unmade bed as a new form of modern art would find this book extremely interesting.
 
If you’re like me and prefer to recycle your rubbish, do yourself a favour don’t buy this book and save a tree. [Angela Richardson]
 
Rating: 1 out of 5

Like this? Try This Is Chick Lit edited by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Posted by Keris on January 29, 2007 in American Authors, British Authors, Modern Fiction, Rating: 1/5, Recent Release, Rubbish Books, Short Story Collections | Permalink | Comments (0)

Free online novel

Author and journalist Bill Stephens is publishing his novel, Horizons Past, online for free. Along with a new chapter each week, the website also features a forum where you can "comment, critique, offer plot revisions, or just chat."

Stephens calls his style "Nicholas Sparks with a sense of humor" and the book’s premise sounds entertaining:

Take "Notting Hill" (1999 movie with Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant - Hollywood actress falls for the owner of a small travel book store in London's Knotting Hill area) and set it on the Texas Coast, add substance, a sand poet, intrigue, a hurricane, and a pinch of Anna Karinina (sic), and you have the story line. Cultures collide and humor abounds when the movie star (think Sandra Bullock) encounters the reclusive Texas beach sand poet (think Harrison Ford).

[via Publishers Lunch]

Related post: Read mum-lit novel The Mummybiz online... as it's written

Posted by Keris on January 29, 2007 in American Authors, Book Websites, Book related, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

MORE ON MONDAY: My Lucky Star by Joe Keenan

MyluckystarJoe Keenan was a scriptwriter for Frasier, which might give you an idea of his kind of humour. My Lucky Star is his third book featuring Gilbert, Philip and Claire, a trio of screenwriters (well, Philip and Claire are, at least) who manage to get themselves into the most unlikely of scrapes (generally thanks to Gilbert). I enjoyed the first (Blue Heaven) and haven’t yet read the second (Putting on the Ritz), but it didn’t hinder me from enjoying My Lucky Star to the fullest.

Gilbert (the loose-cannon of the three) has been out in LA and has, against all expectations, managed to drum up interest in his screenplay. He invites Claire and Philip out to LA to assist him in adapting a novel for a major producer. They’re understandably suspicious, but assume Gilbert has passed off one of their scripts as his own. They’re wrong, it’s not one of their scripts Gilbert has appropriated, but the script of ... Casablanca (with a few identifying details changed).

Claire and Philip are horrified by the prospect of exposure as unwilling plagiarists, but for various reasons too convoluted to explain here, they stay to help out and find themselves embroiled in ever more outrageous, disastrous and hilarious scenarios.

Like a demented cross between early Jackie Collins, Tales of the City and Will & Grace, My Lucky Star is enormous fun. I laughed out loud loads of times and actually went back a few times to re-read the funniest jokes (and laughed again). It’s intricate and clever and must have been incredibly difficult to write (it took Keenan ten years, fitting it around his all-consuming day job).

There are some fabulous characters (Monty was my favourite, but I love Gilbert too), brilliantly amusing situations, even a bit of Hollywood satire. Plus - and this may put some of you off - if it was a film it would be a 15 (R or even NC17 in the US, I think) due to a number of gay sex scenes, and though they are fairly graphic, Keenan’s dry humour imbues every scene. Plus they’re essential to the plot. No, really.

I loved this book and never picked it up without smiling (and, frequently, saying “I love this book” to the consternation of my ignored husband). If you like dry humour and Hollywood farce, you’ll love it too.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Like this? Try How I Paid for College by Marc Acito

Posted by Keris on January 29, 2007 in American Authors, Modern Fiction, More On Monday, New Releases, Rating: 5/5, Series | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 25, 2007 6:59 PM

A novel in txts

Earlier today I mentioned Meg Cabot’s Boy Meets Girl, which is made up of emails, text messages and other sundries, now there’s a novel in which the entire narrative consists of text messages alone.

Published earlier this week in Finland, The Last Messages by Hannu Luntiala is the story of an IT-executive who resigns from his job and travels throughout Europe and India, keeping in touch with his friends and relatives via texts (roughly 1,000 of them altogether). [via Book 2 Book]

So is this the future and, if so, should we be worried?

Posted by Keris on January 25, 2007 in Book News, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (1)

BOOK REVIEW: A French Affair by Susan Lewis

LewisSusan Lewis has written many best selling books. In her latest book A French Affair she has used her favourite theme of motherhood. Something that I didn’t think would interest me, as my maternal instinct is about as large as a microbe.

Jessica had a seemingly perfect family - three children, a famous husband and her own successful career in television. That was until her daughter was killed in a freak accident. Jessica instinctively knows there was more to her daughter’s death, but her husband Charlie is so paralysed with the horror of losing a daughter that he refuses to even discuss his wife’s suspicions.
 
When their marriage is rocked by yet another terrible shock, Jessica decides to go back to the house in France where her daughter died to get some answers. When she reaches the idyllic vineyard she soon finds a great deal more than she was expecting in a love that is totally forbidden and a truth that will almost certainly devastate her life.

It’s very difficult to describe this book as it tries to be a little of everything. The story is mainly about relationships and how events can change your feelings about everything, but it’s also a mystery as Jessica is investigating the mysterious circumstances in which her daughter died.
 
The plot is very good, but the majority of it was squished into the last quarter of the book. The first half was so slow that I found myself falling asleep in embarrassing places – on the train, the bus, in the car (luckily I wasn’t driving… that would be illegal!). It reminded me of when you go to a restaurant and the plate of food is so large that however much you eat there’s still loads left on the plate. The more time I spent reading this book the longer it seemed to get until I reached that magic halfway mark where Lewis stored away most of the story.
 
I think this would be a good summer read. It was set in hot foreign climes and had a very lazy atmosphere. However, it was a little too slow to keep my attention. [Angela Richardson]
 
Rating: 3 out of 5

Like this? Try My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
 

Posted by Keris on January 25, 2007 in British Authors, Modern Fiction, Rating: 3/5 | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 19, 2007 12:57 PM

Dawn Annandale: another author bends the truth

Well, who'd have thought it?! Another day, another "non-fiction" writer's truth-telling credentials called into question...

Dawn Annandale, author of the sensational memoir, or rather 'memoir' Call Me Elizabeth (about her time working as a prostitute in order to get out of debt), has admitted that she lied to police about a rape charge in an attempt to delay court proceedings against her.  A nifty trick which cost the taxpayer a cool £15,000...

Annandale's next book, Call Me Madam, is out later this year and will apparently not surprisingly now be marketed as FICTION.

Related: Augusten Burroughs latest author to face accusations of lying   

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on January 19, 2007 in Book News, Book related, Memoirs, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Recent Release | Permalink

BOOK REVIEW: A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews

AcompI loved Miriam Toews's earlier novel, A Boy of Good Breeding, so I was excited to pick up A Complicated Kindness, which I'd heard a lot of great things about, although I had no idea of the storyline.

It's set in a Mennonite community in Canada in (I think) the early '80s (dates are deliberately sketchy). Mennonites are a religious sect of the 'are they a cult or aren't they?' variety and as Toews was brought up Mennonite I can only assume she is drawing heavily on her own experience with this story of a disillusioned sixteen-year old girl, fed up of her isolated life in a dead-end town in which all forms of fun and self-expression are heavily frowned-upon.

To add to main character Nomi's sense of alienation, her mother and sister ("the better looking half of our family") are missing, her best friend is bed-bound in hospital and she feels disconnected from her boyfriend. Plus she's failing in school and her only prospect for a future career seems to be snapping necks at the local chicken factory...

Cheery, no?

I was surprised by how different this was to her earlier book - it's a much bleaker story and although it has first-person narration instead of third-person as in A Boy... I felt much less connected to Nomi than the characters in that book. I was also disappointed with the way not much seemed to change, and nothing really happens!

It's all pretty gloomy, although intelligently written with great use of language and some wonderful moments of black humour. I also totally believed in the characters and admired the way Miriam Toews created narrative tension out of very little action! But I felt let down by the book's ending.

I wanted to love this book, but instead I just liked and admired it, in a slightly detached way.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try A Boy of Good Breeding by Miriam Toews.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on January 19, 2007 in Book related, Modern Fiction, Prize Winners, Rating: 4/5 | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 18, 2007 11:44 AM

Eva Mendes needed big boobs for comic book role - apparently

Actually, I think the word she used was "bajoongas"...

Bookslut is scathing of  the choice of Mendes for the upcoming* film adapatation of  graphic novel Ghost Rider. Especially as the gorgeous star recently admitted she'd put on weight for the film specifically to enhance her chest size:

"The original Roxanne was blonde and blue-eyed, but also had huge bajoongas... I figured since I can't be blonde and blue-eyed, I'll at least have her bra size. So the bajoongas got big. They were out of control!" 

Don't say we don't bring you the need-to-know news, people!

*February in the US, March in the UK.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on January 18, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction, Movie News, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (4)

BOOK REVIEW: Cause Celeb by Helen Fielding

Causecleb_1

Helen Fielding put her pre-novelist experience working for Comic Relief to good use by writing a book about aid work in Africa (don't worry, it's not as worthy as it sounds!) Cause Celeb was her debut novel, and never captured the public imagination in the same way Bridget did, but it still boasts the same humour and charm as her Miss Jones novels...

Rosie Richardson is tired of her Daniel Cleaver-ish TV presenter boyfriend and so makes the dramatic decision to chuck it all and head off to work in Africa. But after four years helping to keep a refugee camp going, disaster strikes when drought and famine hit the region. She has no choice but to return to London, and try to use her former 'connections' in television to put together a star-studded celebrity charity appeal...

Although perhaps a little far-fetched at times, this storyline certianly works better than Olivia Joules, where I didn't feel a chick-lit girly girl and a terorist plot blended at all well...

Here, Fielding's knowledge of the subject shines through, and she has some serious points to make, which she does in a very non-zealous way, meaning the reader really learns something. This is a book with much more to say than Bridget Jones's Diary, which is perhaps why it didn't do as well! But I think all Fielding fans will enjoy it as it's witty and very well-written, and has a touch of romance too - something of a hidden gem, in fact.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try Sundowners by Lesley Lokko

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on January 18, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5, Romance | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 17, 2007 1:58 PM

YAY OR NAY WEDNESDAY

Bj_2Back on Monday, I told you that Anne Hathaway will play Jane Austen in an upcoming film about the classic author's young life called Becoming Jane.

So we now have Americans portraying Jane Austen, Beatrix Potter and ultimate chick-lit heroine Bridget Jones.

But should they? Is it necessary in order to pull in crowds at the box office? Does it matter, as long as the accent - I mean performance - is good? Or should we be giving British actresses more of a chance? (And if you're American, what do you think?)

Americans playing classic English heroines - tell us, is it a Yay or a Nay, and why?

[Don't forget it's Yay or Nay day at Hippyshopper, Bridalwave, Corrie Blog, Catwalk Queen, Kiss and Makeup, The Bag Lady, Shoewawa and Shiny Shiny, too!]

Photo courtesy of BBC online.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on January 17, 2007 in Book related, Classic Novels, Modern Fiction, Movie News, New Releases, Opinion, Yay or Nay? | Permalink | Comments (7)

Book clubs - not just for books?

Anyone who knows me will laugh/nod their head in recognition when I say that I'm far too much of a control freak to be in a book club and have other people set my reading list. Plus, I have way too many books lined up to review! But there's no denying their popularity, and I have enjoyed some of the books about book clubs. (This one more than this one, which I found shocking in its pro-life propaganda - but that's anther story!) And if it's good enough for Rory Gilmore, it can't be a bad idea...

But a recent post on the Galleycat book blog suggested that book clubs are more about gossiping, or wine-drinking, or problem solving than actually talking about books! I can see that might be the case if you're with a group of good girl friends, but perhaps not so much if you're part of a group at say, your local library... Apparently clubs are now evolving to include meals, movie adaptations and other social activities (so more of a get-together than a 'book club' then...)

Are you part of a book club? Do you actually read and discuss the books, or does your attention wander? We'd love to know!

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on January 17, 2007 in American Authors, Book Websites, Book related, British Authors, Memoirs, Modern Fiction, Opinion | Permalink | Comments (3)

BOOK REVIEW: Everyone Else's Girl by Megan Crane

EveryoneI wasn’t entirely convinced by Megan Crane’s debut novel, English as a Second Language, so I picked up Everyone Else’s Girl with a bit of trepidation. I needn’t have worried though, the writing was just as great as Megan’s first book, but the main character, Meredith, was nicer, the love interest hotter and ... well, I’m getting ahead of myself.

When Meredith McKay goes home to New Jersey for the hen night/bachelorette party of her brother’s fiance (and Meredith’s former best friend), Jeannie, she has no plans to stay any longer than strictly necessary. She’s got her own life in Atlanta with an apartment, job and boyfriend she loves.

But when her father has a car accident on the way back from driving Meredith’s mother to the airport for a dream trip to Europe ... and neither Meredith’s older brother nor younger sister have any intention of looking after him (or his collection of tropical fish), Meredith finds herself stuck in the life she’d tried so hard to escape.

The funny thing is, not much seems to have changed since she left. All of Meredith’s old high school embarrassments, tensions and humiliations are just waiting to catch up with her. As is Scott, formerly the butt of the McKay family’s jokes (which he knows all about, by the way), now a seriously sexy lawyer out for revenge on Meredith (sexy revenge, as Homer Simpson would say)!

But Meredith’s already got a life in Atlanta, she wouldn’t be interested in making one in New Jersey, would she?

I LOVED Everyone Else’s Girl. Meredith is sweet without being a pushover (most of the time) and I totally identified with her mixed feelings about her home town, her family, even her former friends. Every part of the book felt realistic and true to me. The supporting characters are great (particularly Meredith’s cooler sister, Hope who should get her own book) and it’s funny and painful and have I already said true? Loved it.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Like this? Try Why Moms are Weird by Pamela Ribon

Read our interview with Megan Crane

Posted by Keris on January 17, 2007 in American Authors, Modern Fiction, Rating: 5/5 | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 16, 2007 1:23 PM

MOVIE NEWS: The Time Traveler's Wife

What have directors Steven Spielberg, David Fincher and Gus Van Sant got in common? They’ve all considered - and rejected - the film version of Audrey Niffenegger’s novel The Time Traveler’s Wife. German director Robert Schwentke (who directed Jodie Foster’s Flightplan) is now apparently on board. [via Reuters]

Mean Girls’ Rachel McAdams is in negotiation to star as Clare. Still no sign of a male lead. Any ideas?

Posted by Keris on January 16, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Movie News, Romance | Permalink | Comments (4)

Meryl Streep wins Golden Globe for 'Prada' portrayal

Meryl Streep's star turn as boss-from-hell Miranda Priestly in hit chick-lit film adaptation The Devil Wears Prada has earned her a Golden Globe award for best actress in a comedy film, reports the BBC.

Most deserved, I must say - good on ya, Mezza!

Devil Wears Prada archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on January 16, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Debut Novels, Devil Wears Prada, Fashion-Lit, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Movie News, Prize Winners | Permalink | Comments (2)

Pulpwood Queens go Hollywood book festival

If you're in the Texas area, or can be this weekend, The Pulpwood Queens Go Hollywood!Girlfriendslogora book festival ("where tiaras are mandatory and reading good books is the rule!")is being held in Marshall, Texas from 19-21 January. Excitingly for fans of Galleycat, book blog supremo Ron Hogan will be on one of the panels.

Here's a detailed schedule and more information (in pdf format).

And if you're more British-based, don't forget about Aye Write! in Glasgow this February.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on January 16, 2007 in American Authors, Book Websites, Book related, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Five chapters

Five chapters is a new, free internet-based way to read great fiction. A story is published every week, with a chapter every weekday. And! You can submit stories for publication, as well as reading them...

Find out more.

Related: The neverending story...

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on January 16, 2007 in American Authors, Book Websites, British Authors, Modern Fiction, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 15, 2007 11:03 AM

Lovely Bones and Jane Austen on publishing insider's list of books NOT to read

Okay, I can understand that some people didn't love The Lovely Bones, it certainly has its flaws... But topping a list of Books you shouldn't bother to read? No. No no noooooooo. And Austen too?!

Although I do agree about Brick Lane, as I got bored half-way through and took it back to the library - life's too short.

What's on your "don't bother" list?

[Via Galleycat].

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on January 15, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, British Authors, Classic Novels, Modern Fiction, Recent Release, Romance, Rubbish Books, Supernatural | Permalink | Comments (12)

January 12, 2007 6:07 PM

MOVIE NEWS: Special Topics in Calamity Physics

CalamityMarisha Pessl's hugely successful and hugely hyped debut novel (nothing to do with the author's looks ... probably) has been optioned by no less than Miramax Films (and producer Scott Rudin). David Hare, who adapted Michael Cunningham's The Hours, is writing the screenplay.

No clues as to casting yet, but since the main character is a teenage girl, I'm thinking Lindsay Lohan or Keira Knightley, as usual. [via Galleycat]

Posted by Keris on January 12, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Movie News | Permalink | Comments (1)

Can I offer you some Seduction, for free?

Ha - bet that title woke you up on a dreary Friday afternoon (if not, nothing will...)!

I loved Catherine Gildiner's very funny memoir of her unusual Canadian childhood Too Close to the Falls, and now she's written a novel, called Seduction, which for some CRAZY reason isn't available in the UK yet. But you can read an excerpt on this website here, and I think it reads a bit like a Jennifer Crusie novel... which can only be a good thing.

Let's hope it hits these shores shortly!

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on January 12, 2007 in Book News, Book related, Memoirs, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Non Fiction, Opinion | Permalink | Comments (0)

BOOK REVIEW: Meri Sugarman, Psycho Queen by M. Apostilina

MerisM. Apostilina's Meri Sugarman, Psycho Queen is another book that changed its name as it flew over the Atlantic: in America, it was called Hazing Meri Sugarman. But the story is the same: when Cindy Bixby moves away to university, she thinks that joining her mum's old sorority will be the perfect way for her to make new friends and to bond with her mother.

But although she knows getting into the sorority will be tough, she has no idea HOW tough, as the clearly psychotic sorority president Meri puts the wannabe sisters through their paces in a series of humiliating, outrageous and at times illegal dares, challenges and stunts. Cindy's torn between wanting to impress Meri, and wanting to challenge her supremacy, until Meri takes her humiliation a step too far, and Cindy vows to bring her down...

This is a really fun and very fast, well-written, snappily-paced novel which even manages to fit in a nice romantic sub-plot but it's only fair to warn you that the storyline is pretty farcical. Although the heroine is a university student, it reads much more like YA than grown-up chick lit. Which isn't to say it's not enjoyable all the same...

I wasn't that keen on the way Cindy kept putting herself down, but she grew in confidence by the end of the novel. What I did really like was the way everything was pretty nicely tied up in the last chapters - and yet there are sequels already on release in the US. I hate it when authors wimp out on a proper ending to make for the  sequel (Louise Rennison!) so I'm glad this is a good read in its own right.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try Secret Society Girl by Diana Peterfreund.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on January 12, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Crime / Mystery, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5, Recent Release, Romance, Series, Young Adult | Permalink | Comments (6)

January 10, 2007 7:40 PM

YAY OR NAY WEDNESDAY

Take a wander over to brilliant books site bookburger to have a look at this book cover, for YA novel Anatomy of a Boyfriend.

Does it denigrate males? Is it offensive?

Or... do you like it?

Tell us: is it a Yay or Nay - and why!

Related: Judging books by their covers / Musical book covers / Colour in your own covers! / Yay or Nay archives.

[Don't forget it's Yay or Nay day at Hippyshopper, Bridalwave, Corrie Blog, Catwalk Queen, Kiss and Makeup, The Bag Lady, Shoewawa and Shiny Shiny, too!]

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on January 10, 2007 in American Authors, Book News, Book Websites, Book related, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Romance, Young Adult | Permalink | Comments (7)

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Sue Hepworth and Jane Linfoot

SueandjaneToday*, a twofer! *(I was going to say 'for the first time...' then, but actually it's the second. But still exciting!)

Lovely authors Sue Hepworth and Jane Linfoot of Plotting for Beginners fame (which, if you've been paying attention, you'll remember I LOVED) are today's special double-feature in the one and only Trashionista author interview...

Please describe your latest book in 15 words or fewer:

Sue: An intelligent comic novel looking wryly and drily at everyday domestic life and long-haul marriages.

J: Wry domestic novel, designed to make intelligent readers laugh and feel happy - chick-lit for hens.

Where do you like to write your books (in bed, a coffee shop, an office)?

S: In an empty room, in an empty house and preferably in an empty street.

J: In the kitchen/living room surrounded by domestic chaos.

Your favourite chick-lit book?

S: Bridget Jones' Diary (also Heartburn by Nora Ephron, written before chick-lit was invented.)

J: Bridget Jones' Diary (is that what everyone says?) [Diane - yep! see above... and also this]

Your favourite female heroine (if different from above!), and why?

S: Miss Piggy, because she is feisty, funny, passionate and glamorous, and she goes after what she wants, no holds barred.

J: Eddie from Ab Fab because she carries it off so brilliantly.

What tips would you give to any of our readers who want to become writers?

S: Write every day, learn to take criticism, and never give up your dream.

J: Go to Writing Workshops/Creative Writing Classes/a Writers' Group - you will gain invaluable stimulation and support from writing friends. When starting out write about what you know; this will give your writing an immediate authenticity. (You can get more ambitious later.) Go for it - you will be able to do it.

What are you reading at the moment?

S: Footfall by Christine Poulson - an atmospheric whodunnit set in Cambridge.

J: Back issues of Enjoy Your Bike Magazine.

Carry on over the cut for more from the talented twosome!

What are you working on now? (If you can give us a hint!)

S: A Sheffield-based romantic comedy with quirky characters, but which has a serious side as well.

J: My love life, clearing out the garage, the plot for a new novel, and a piece on Cycling in France for Enjoy Your Bike Magazine.

What question have you never been asked in an interview, but think you should have been? (Tell us the question and answer it too, if you like!)

S: Which book (by someone else) do you wish you had written? Leaving Home by Garrison Keillor, because it's funny, warm, wise, humane and timeless.

J: What did you enjoy reading as a child? I loved Enid Blyton.

Thanks Jane and Sue!

Interview archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on January 10, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Interviews, Modern Fiction, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Harry Potter tipped to die (sob)

As you all surely heard just after Christmas, JK Rowling has announced the title of the seventh, and final, Harry Potter novel. According to The Guardian, bookmakers are convinced that she'll - say it isn't so! - kill Harry off in this final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Don't do it, JK!

PS: Of course you can pre-order the book already, and see a preview of the new HP movie, due July 7th, via Amazon UK's 'Harry Potter store'...

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on January 10, 2007 in Book News, Book related, British Authors, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Series | Permalink | Comments (3)

See Notes on a Scandal for free

NotesonascandalposterThe current issue of Heat magazine (13-19 January 2007) has details of how you can see the movie adaptation of Zoe Heller's best-selling novel, Notes on a Scandal (titled What Was She Thinking? in the US) for free.

The film stars Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench and Bill Nighy and screenings take place next Tuesday (16th January) at Odeon cinemas across the UK.

Posted by Keris on January 10, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Modern Fiction, Movie News | Permalink | Comments (1)

Reading "24"

Twenty_1With Day 6 of 24 coming soon to Sky One (in the UK), I thought I'd see if there are any books on offer (I watched the first series, but haven't watched any more since I got so fed up of the female characters - particularly Jack's wife and daughter - being so pathetic. Do like Kiefer though.)

"24": Behind the Scenes by Jon Cassar, the show's Director/Co Executive Producer and features a behind-the-scenes DVD as well as everything you would usually expect from an official guide.

There's a biography of Kiefer Sutherland and an official companion to seasons one and two, plus - yes! - some novelisations, like Operation Hell Gate and Veto Power. There's even something called 24: The House Special Subcommittee's Findings at CTU.

Blimey. Smell that testosterone.

Related posts: Chick Lit Authors' Favourite TV Shows / Reading ... Desperate Housewives / Alias / Friends / Sex and the City / Angel / Dawson's Creek / The O.C. / Gilmore Girls / Veronica Mars / Grey's Anatomy / The West Wing / The Sopranos / Will and Grace

Posted by Keris on January 10, 2007 in American Authors, Modern Fiction, Non Fiction, Series, Television | Permalink | Comments (5)

January 9, 2007 4:22 PM

BOOK NEWS: The Adultery Club

AdulteryThe Adultery Club is a new novel by Tess Stimson about... well, I guess adultery might feature! You can get a free preview of the book in this month's Red (the one with Teri Hatcher on the cover).

I haven't read mine yet, but I will as it's perfectly handbag-sized and I love cute little freebies  (more authors, take note!)

Oh, and it sounds interesting too, of course...

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on January 9, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Romance | Permalink | Comments (3)

The Crusie/Mayer writing workshop

This is exciting news: one of our all-time favourites Jenny/Jennifer Crusie and her collaborator Bob Mayer have launched an online writing workshop, set to run throughout the whole of 2007! (If that doesn't inspire you to write a brilliant chick-lit novel, what will?)

It's free to participate and you can ask questions and make relevant comments on each virtual lesson. Find out more here. The authors freely admit they're using the opportunity as prep for an upcoming writing book they're going to produce - but I don't think that's any bad thing!

Here's the course syllabus - scroll down for recent lessons.

[Via author Kate Harrison's blog].

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on January 9, 2007 in American Authors, Book News, Book Websites, Book related, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 8, 2007 3:35 PM

MORE ON MONDAY: Story of My Life by Jay McInerney

JaymcI didn't think I would like Jay McInerney. He was part of an '80s group of writers (along with the more famous Bret Easton Elis - author of American Psycho - and the less famous Tama Janowitz) known as the (literary) 'Brat Pack', who chronicled life in Manhattan in the decade of greed. I've also seen him in interviews and assumed from them that his books were anarchic but vapid, shallow cocaine-glorifying romps. Story of my Life proved me seriously wrong. Not that it isn't about drug use and shallow people - the novel features a lot of both - but it doesn't glorify either and offers some hope of escape by the end. It's also brilliantly sharply written and very, very funny.

Alison Poole is a twenty-year old aspiring actress living in New York City. Her rich father is supposed to be funding her education, but keeps flaking on her, so she has to survive on her wits (which she does brilliantly, if not always morally). She's quick-witted, clever, promiscuous and a regular drug-user who has seen and done too much, too young. Ye somehow McInerney also makes her sweet, charming and a wonderful narrator for this slice-of-life story...

Alison bursts onto the page and into your mind from the first sentence: "I'm like, I don't believe this s***." Then she holds your attention completely throughout this short but sweet (and occasionally sour) novel. I'm not someone who relishes reading about drugs and sex and cocaine (I edit a chick-lit website after all), so trust me when I say this book is brilliant. And it doesn't take things too far either - it might occasionally border on crude but is so funny and relate-able you don't care. Mostly it's about the emotional impact of such a lifestyle and it certainly doesn't glorify living the way Alison does.

It's bold, intelligent and as I said before, very very funny. It's definitely a different read to the books we usually cover, but I think most chick-lit fans will love it: it's about a strong, bright female heroine making her way in the world, despite the obstacles of her past. And who can't relate to that?

Rating: 5 out of 5

Like this? Try Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on January 8, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction, More On Monday, Rating: 5/5 | Permalink | Comments (4)

BOOK NEWS: Good in Bed sequel

Exciting news hot from Jennifer Weiner's blog. She has finished a draft of the the sequel to her enormously successful debut novel, Good In Bed.

Entitled Certain Girls, the book picks up Cannie, Joy and Peter’s story twelve years after Good In Bed ends and, according to Jennifer, "deals with, among other things, over-the-top bat mitzvahs, ungraceful aging, blended families, and what it’s like to go from being a writer to being written about."

No date yet, but I for one can't wait.

Related posts: Spotlight on Jennifer Weiner

Posted by Keris on January 8, 2007 in American Authors, Book News, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 5, 2007 6:21 PM

Richard & Judy bookclub 2007

Richard_and_judy_4_1Yes, they've been announced! The titles of the books that are going to be flying off the shelves for the rest of this year:

The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld
The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This Book Will Save Your Life by A M Homes
Restless by William Boyd
Love in the Present Tense by Catherine Ryan Hyde
The Girls by Lori Lansens
Semi-Detached by Griff Rhys Jones

They'll be officially announced on Richard & Judy's UK TV show on 31 January and you'll be able to buy them from the website. [via Galleycat]

I've only heard of two of the books and three of the authors, so I have to disagree with Mark Lawson's assertion that the couple choose books that would have done well without their help.

So what do you think? Is it a good list? Have you read any of them? Do you want to read any of them?

[Richard and Judy archives]

Posted by Keris on January 5, 2007 in American Authors, British Authors, Celebrity Authors, Crime / Mystery, Debut Novels, Memoirs, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Non Fiction, Recent Release, Richard and Judy, Television | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 4, 2007 5:23 PM

Love is... by Mike Gayle and Emlyn Rees

Joining two of Company magazine's regular male writers in the latest issue are lad-lit authors Mike Gayle and Emlyn Rees, getting all soppy as they talk about "Love is..." (their definitions of love, that is, not the kitschy/sickly cartoons of the same name). Mike Gayle apparently learned a lot about love from Oprah. Bless 'im.

Emlyn Rees and his wife and writing partner Josie Lloyd's newest book, The Seven Year Itch, will be released in hardback on 18 January.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on January 4, 2007 in Book related, British Authors, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Romance | Permalink | Comments (0)

THURSDAY THREE: "Torn between two lovers ...

Oneforthemoney_2... feelin' like a fool, lovin' both of you is breakin' all the rules." Sorry, got a bit carried away with an oldie there. Chick lit is often criticised for being all about the heroine finding a man. And that's rubbish. Sometimes she finds two men and then has to choose between them!

My first pick of course has to be Bridget Jones’s Diary.* Daniel or Mark, Mark or Daniel? Who will she choose? (Indeed, who did she choose?) To begin with Bridget was attracted to her sexy but naughty boss over the much more reliable (yet equally sexy) Mark Darcy. She picked Mark, but then Daniel came back on the scene ...

* I was surprised to see we’ve only reviewed the film, not the book - but you’ve all read it anyway, haven’t you?

Janet Evanovich’s One for the Money is the first in the Stephanie Plum series (which has now reached Twelve Sharp). Along with introducing us to Stephanie, her wardrobe of spandex shorts, her pet hamster Rex and her highly dysfunctional family, we also meet Ranger, a fellow bounty hunter, and Joe Morelli, Stephanie’s first love. And, yes, eleven books and countless adventures and near-death experiences later, Stephanie is still trying to choose between them.

What will the third book be? Carry on over the cut to find out.

Jane Green’s Mr Maybe features Libby who is desperate to find a suitable man. She's not fussy, just as long as he's drop dead gorgeous, filthy rich, owns a large house and drives a flashy car. But then she meets Nick. He’s gorgeous enough - and he makes her laugh - but he's dirt poor. Just as she's beginning to despair, Ed walks in and it seems to Libby that her prayers have been answered. He ticks every box on her list ... and so what if he has a moustache - she can cope with that can't she? The story centres around Libby's relationships with the two men, and her struggle to decide on what actually matters in making a successful relationship.

Thursday Three archives

Posted by Keris on January 4, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, British Authors, Debut Novels, Jane Green, Modern Fiction, Series, Tuesday Three | Permalink | Comments (3)

January 3, 2007 6:48 PM

BOOK REVIEW: Girl's Guide to Witchcraft by Mindy Klasky

GirlsguideMindy Klasky’s debut novel is the first in a series about Jane Madison, a librarian who discovers a secret room full of magical books in her new home. Inspired by an apparently successful love spell and encouraged by her “familiar,” Neko, and watcher, David, she decides to learn about witchcraft.

And if that wasn’t enough to be dealing with, Jane also learns that the mother she thought died when she was a baby isn’t dead after all and wants to get to know her.

I really enjoyed Girl’s Guide to Witchcraft. Jane is a believable and entertaining character and I enjoyed the twist on the chick lit staple of the gay best friend (Jane’s familiar, Neko, is a cat turned homosexual human!).

Jane is a little naive, falling for her Imaginary Boyfriend (a man she’s liked from afar) and believing him to be her real boyfriend after only two dates, but that’s a minor quibble. With a cast of eccentric and interesting characters along with a fun premise, Girl’s Guide to Witchcraft is an intriguing debut.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try Enchanted Inc by Shanna Swendson

Posted by Keris on January 3, 2007 in American Authors, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Rating: 4/5, Series, Supernatural | Permalink | Comments (2)

India Knight's diet book and dirty bits!

And if that title doesn't get your attention, nothing will... First, the diet book: Sunday Times journalist and chick-lit author (of My Life on a Plate, which I loved, and How do you Want Me? which I didn't) India Knight has teamed up with her friend and fellow slimmer Neris Thomas for a new book, designed to be a straightforward guide to weight loss - as reflected in the title: Neris and India's Idiot-Proof Diet Book. The Guardian does another fabulous Digested Read of the book (in the style of the original) here.

Secondly, The Dirty Bits for Girls is India's second new release, designed to raise your temperature! It's a compilation of all the memorable mucky bits from literature, for, well - girls. With a bit of commentary too, I think - if you're interested in that...

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on January 3, 2007 in Book News, Book related, British Authors, Classic Novels, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Non Fiction, Romance | Permalink | Comments (3)

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Zoe Rice

Zoe_riceWe loved Zoe Rice's first novel, Pick Me Up, so we were delighted she agreed to answer our questions.

Please describe your latest book in 15 words or fewer:

Izzy hilariously navigates the glamorous NY art world and the difficult men in her life.  

Where do you like to write your books (in bed, a coffee shop, an office)?

I always write in my "office," which is right next to my "living room." As any young New Yorker will tell you, we don't' have much space to live in here, so the office is the right side of the love seat, while the living room is the left. :) 

Your favourite chick-lit book?

I was greatly inspired by working with Sophie Kinsella on her US publications. Can you imagine anything more fun than researching her second novel by traipsing around NY's SoHo eating chocolates and buying designer clothing? Shopaholic Takes Manhattan (or Shopaholic Abroad, as the UK called it) would have to be my favorite. To have been a part of Sophie Kinsella's first three novels was hands down the most fun I ever had as a junior editor.

Carry on over the cut for more from Zoe ... trust us, you want to hear about her cat!

Your favourite female heroine (if different from above!), and why?

I'm sure that I am in no way alone in this choice, but my favorite will always be the very first chick-lit heroine: the feisty, intelligent, warm-hearted, and witty Elizabeth Bennett of Pride and Prejudice.

What tips would you give to any of our readers who want to become writers?

The best advice I can give is to let yourself be edited. If you know of a writing workshop, or you even just have a group of friends who also like to write, get together with them and see what notes they have to improve your writing. And don't be afraid to delete!

What are you reading at the moment?

I just finished the first Gossip Girl novel, which is aimed at an older young adult audience. It's gotten so much press, and sold so many copies, I just had to see what the fuss was about!

What are you working on now? (If you can give us a hint!)

I'm actually working on 2 novels right now and trying to decide which one I'd like to pursue to the end first. The chick lit novel centers around a heroine who works in television marketing, and the young adult novel features a privileged group of Brooklyn private schoolers.

What question have you never been asked, but wish you had (you can answer it too if you like)?

Hmmm, I've been asked a lot of questions, so this one is hard! But I'll choose this: "Was Robbie, the cat in Pick Me Up who's named after Robbie Williams, based on an actual cat?" Zoe's answer: "Why yes, Trashionista, however did you know? I fully admit that my kitty Jasper is one of the loves of my life. He performs tricks like speaking on the telephone and pointing to himself when asked: Who's the cutest kitty in the world? Next, I will teach him to slow-dance to Robbie Williams' famous "Angels." (Too much information?)

Thanks to Trashionista, one of the most rocking chick-lit sites I know! xx

And thanks to you too, Zoe, one of the most rocking chick lit authors we know!

Posted by Keris on January 3, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Debut Novels, Interviews, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 2, 2007 6:35 PM

BOOK NEWS: Forever In Blue

ForeverinblueJanuary 9 sees the release of Forever In Blue, the fourth and final book in Ann Brashares Traveling Pants series.

The first book of the series, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (we loved the film adaptation), was released in September 2001 and was a bestseller, as were the sequels The Second Summer of the Sisterhood and Girls in Pants. So far sales for the three books are more than six million copies in the US alone!

[via Publishers Weekly]

Posted by Keris on January 2, 2007 in American Authors, Book News, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Series, Young Adult | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tips for new novelists

If your New Year's resolution (sorry, I said that dreaded word!) is to finish the book lingering at the back of your sock drawer/hard drive (or in my case, to think about starting one... baby steps) then author Laura Lippman's excellent advice should help. I love her tips on finding an agent:

"Finished? Time to find an agent. Yes, you need one. Even if you manage to sell your book on your own, or win a contest that ends in publication, you'll need an agent. Spend a day at a library or well-stocked bookstore. Surf the Internet. Find books that are similar in genre, story and/or tone with your (now-finished) book. Check to see if the writer mentions the agent in the acknowledgement section. If so, this functions as a pretty good reference, don't you think? Do you publicly thank people who did a crummy job?"

I also love the fact that she admits to stealing the tips idea from Jennifer Weiner, whose wonderful advice can be found on her website.

So get to it, potential authors! But not before you're finished reading today's posts on Trashionista, obviously.

Related: Tips for new writers! / Ally Carter's audio advice.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on January 2, 2007 in American Authors, Book Websites, Book related, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (1)

SPOTLIGHT: E Lockhart

E_lockhart3Since E Lockhart's book The Boyfriend List was our favourite young adult book of 2006, it seemed fitting she should be our first spotlit (exclusively) young adult author.

First things first - the E stands for Emily!

After attending both an art school and a prep school, Emily - like Megan Crane - went to Vassar before going on to attain a doctorate in English Literature at Columbia.

Her first YA book, The Boyfriend List, sold on proposal and Emily followed it with Fly on the Wall (the story of a girl who is turned into a fly and can observe her classmates unnoticed) and The Boy Book (a sequel to The Boyfriend List). Emily’s fourth book, Dramarama, will be released in May.

Carry on over the cut for Emily’s bibliography.

The Boyfriend List
Fly on the Wall
The Boy Book
Dramarama coming soon (as is a review!)

Did you know? Emily’s favourite chick flick is Gregory’s Girl! [via Lara Zeises]

Posted by Keris on January 2, 2007 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction, Spotlight, Young Adult | Permalink | Comments (4)

January 1, 2007 1:37 PM

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all our wonderful readers and a huge THANK YOU for all your comments and contributions this year - you make this site what it is and we couldn't do it without you! We hope you had a great festive season and wish you a fabulous year to come!

We hope you'll stick around in 2007, as we have plans to make Trashionista bigger and better than ever. This week alone, expect a movie news round up, more on memoir scandals, chick lit book updates... and review after review after review!

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on January 1, 2007 in Announcements, Book News, Book related, Memoirs, Modern Fiction, Movie News, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 29, 2006 7:24 PM

Top 10 chick lit books of all time

For the final Top 10 of our Top 100 Extravaganza we had to be strict. We wanted to include our own all-time favourites and the books we think are the best chick lit books, but we thought the most influential and successful - the books that, for whatever reason, define the genre - should be included too. Following a flurry of emails (Diane: “We need a Weiner!”), we have our Top 10 Chick Lit Books of All Time. Let us know what you think.

Satc_110 Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell

I didn’t actually manage to finish Sex and the City the book, although of course I love the TV series. We’ve included the book because it’s been highly influential, although perhaps not in a good way. Many of the critics of chick lit who claim that it’s all about shoes, shopping, drinking and searching for a man are actually thinking of Sex and the City, the TV show, and not chick lit at all. Annoying, but what can you do?

Anyway, it gave us Carrie Bradshaw, so we have to love it, don’t we?

9 Thirtynothing by Lisa Jewell

Thirtynothing is probably my second favourite chick lit book of all time. Like all of Lisa Jewell’s books, the setting is perfect, the characters realistic and believable and it also has one of my favourite ever first chapters. Lisa Jewell is a glorious writer and Thirtynothing is a delightful book. If you haven’t read it, you really should.

8 The Nanny Diaries by Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin

One of the most successful books in the Top 10, The Nanny Diaries was so popular its two authors scored an incredible $3 million advance for their second book, Citizen Girl, which they had to return when it turned out to be a stinker. Proof that it’s not that easy to write chick lit after all.

The film adaptation of The Nanny Diaries is due out in April in the US.

7 The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

I haven’t actually read this one yet (I must, I know), but clearly it is the most successful chick lit book of the last few years. The title has become a household name, the book sold millions of copies in hardback, stayed on the New York Times Best Seller list for six months and has since been translated into 27 languages and the film’s been both a critical and commercial success. And they say chick lit’s dead. Sheesh.

6 High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

Ooh, a controversial one. Yes, I’m aware that Nick Hornby isn’t a woman and that High Fidelity isn’t chick lit, but it’s close enough and influential enough that it has to be here. Plus it’s the book that inspired Lisa Jewell (amongst others) to start writing and that’s good enough for me.

Fever Pitch is often credited as the book that created Lad Lit, but, as I’ve already mentioned, Fever Pitch is non-fiction. High Fidelity was Nick Hornby’s first novel and is the brilliantly written and hugely entertaining story of Rob Fleming’s relationship history. While it is a great book, Nick Hornby has gone on to be critically acclaimed and accepted as literary, unlike any chick lit author I can think of. Now that can just be because he’s a man ... can it?

Carry on over the cut for the Top 5.

5 Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie

Welcome to Temptation was Jennifer/Jenny Crusie’s third mass-market (i.e. not romance) novel, but it’s a favourite of anyone who reads Jennifer’s books. Actually, you don’t read Jennifer Crusie’s books, you devour them. Welcome to Temptation has all the essential Crusie ingredients: a feisty heroine, a sexy hero and an arguably even sexier anti-hero in Davy Dempsey. This was the book Diane insisted made it into the Top 10!

4 In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner

My favourite chick lit book of all time, In Her Shoes has got everything - the antagonistic sisterly relationship so popular in chick lit, a love story, personal growth, humour (of course), even an evil stepmother. Plus Jennifer Weiner is the woman most likely to emulate Nick Hornby and be accepted by the literary establishment. But don't hold your breath.

3 The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

This, the first book in the enormously popular series, is yet another example of how much skill is involved in writing an apparently simple book. Kinsella came up with the perfect chick lit conceit: if chick lit is all about shopping, then what about a character who is, quite literally, all about shopping? And it worked. Becky Bloomwood is a charming and hilarious heroine, just on the right side of irritating.

(Look out for the latest Shopaholic book, Shopaholic and Baby, due out in February 2007.)

2 Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes

The Marian Keyes connoisseur’s favourite Marian Keyes book and the chick lit connoisseur’s favourite chick lit book*, Rachel’s Holiday is the story of Rachel Walsh - one of the Walsh sisters who also appear in Watermelon, Angels and Anybody Out There? For anyone who thinks chick lit is lightweight, meaningless and obsessed with shoes and shopping, here’s a book about drug addiction, alcoholism and anorexia (although it was still described as “fluffy” by one of the broadsheets!).

* Both Megan Crane and Hester Browne chose it as their favourite in our author interview.

Bridget_31 Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

Bridget Jones’s Diary may not have been the first chick lit book, but it’s certainly the most famous. Spawning a sequel, two films and introducing “singletons” and “smug marrieds” into the vernacular (not to mention increasing sales of big knickers), Bridget remains the “face” of chick lit. It is also v. v. funny.

Bridget is also the most commonly referenced book and heroine in our weekly author interviews, cited by Laura Zigman, Janet Evanovich, Kelly McClymer, Rebecca Agiewich, Sara Gruen and Deanna Carlyle!

So what do you think? Have we got it right or are we completely wrong? Is your favourite missing or a hated book included? Let us know!

Posted by Aigua Media on December 29, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, British Authors, Debut Novels, Devil Wears Prada, Irish Authors, Marian Keyes, Modern Fiction, Opinion, Sophie Kinsella, Top 100 Extravaganza! | Permalink | Comments (19)

FRIDAY FLICK: Primary Colors

PrimaryPrimary Colors (the book) caused a furore when it was published in 1996. Attributed to Anonymous, it’s an apparently fictionalised account of the real 1992 Democratic primary. We now know the book was written by Joe Klein, a Washington DC reporter, and we also know that the exploits of the Clinton-esque Jack Stanton weren’t a patch on what the real President Clinton would eventually get up to.

I haven’t read the book but, after seeing the film, I’ve added it to my list. The film is interesting, entertaining and intriguing (part of the fun, of course, is guessing who each character is based on and how much of it is true), with great performances from John Travolta (doing an impressive Clinton impersonation), Adrian Lester as the naive staffer who wants to believe Jack is “the real thing,” Emma Thompson as Jack’s wife Susan (she doesn’t do an impression of Hilary, but she does do an American accent that I thought was a bit patchy) and Kathy Bates. There’s even a brief but memorable appearance by Allison Janney, The West Wing’s CJ. In fact the film is rather like an extended episode of The West Wing, but without the humour (like seasons 5, 6 and 7 of The West Wing then).

Well worth a watch.

Friday Flick archives

Posted by Keris on December 29, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Debut Novels, Friday Flick, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (3)

BOOK REVIEW: Light on Snow by Anita Shreve

ShreveAnita Shreve's Light on Snow is a great read for this time of year, as it's set before Christmas in the snowy surrounds of a tiny and remote New Hampshire town, where 12 year old Nicky and her dad relocated to three years earlier following a family tragedy. Out walking through the snow one day, they hear a strange sound, and go to investigate. To their surprise, they find a newborn baby abandoned in this isolated part of the woods. For a while, they are brought closer by caring for the baby- taking her to the hospital, looking after her temporarily... but then the baby is found a foster home and father and daughter go back to their separate grief-filled lives.

Until the mother of the baby tracks them down...

I loved this novel. It's atmospheric, moving and perfectly conveys the sorrow of grief. I also love its realism- there's real hope by the end of the novel, but this springs organically from the story- there's no surprise happy ending, nothing that seems too unlikely. In short, it's like real life. The way it's written, in spare, clear prose suited the story and stopped it being too sentimental. Shreve also effortlessly captured the voice of a 12-year old girl and should be studied by anyone who wants to do the same!

Gripping, poignant and hopeful, it's not lighthearted, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Recommended.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try All He Ever Wanted by Anita Shreve; Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on December 29, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 28, 2006 1:21 PM

THURSDAY THREE: A little surprise

SomethingblueWe’ve heard that mommy lit is the new big thing and we’ve looked at busy single mums, but what if the bundle of joy is a bolt from the blue?

Adele Parks’s Larger Than Life follows Georgina’s unplanned pregnancy. As her pregnancy progresses, her character develops from being the type of self absorbed city slicker most people would prefer to hide from in the toilets than speak to at a function, to being a more thoughtful and considerate woman with a redeeming feature or two.

Something Blue by Emily Giffin is the sequel to Something Borrowed in which Darcy’s best friend fell in love with her boyfriend. Something Blue now follows Darcy, as she takes herself and her surprise pregnancy to London to make a new start.

Carry on over the cut for the third bouncing baby ... I mean, book.

Jill Mansell’s Solo centres around Tessa, a strong-minded young painter, who finds herself in trouble after an ill-considered one night stand. The bulk of the novel is taken up with her life after this point, and (of course) lots of interesting encounters with the father-to-be.

Thursday Three archives

Posted by Keris on December 28, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, British Authors, Modern Fiction, Tuesday Three | Permalink | Comments (7)

December 27, 2006 4:07 PM

Top 10 young adult books

Since we’ve only fairly recently started to include young adult books in our reviews, this, the penultimate Top 10 of our Top 100 Extravaganza, consists of five books we’ve reviewed and five we haven’t ... yet. (Recommendations for numbers 10 to 6 from Luisa Plaja of teen review site, Chicklish of which I’m also a co-editor).

Goddess_society10 The Goddess Society by Kelly McKain

The Goddess Society is about the club that three friends form to lose their virginity 'in a non-tacky way'.

A funny, wonderfully observed account of teen life and love.

9 Let’s Get Lost by Sarra Manning

Isabel's a Queen Bee, tough and mean. She's also recently bereaved, but refuses to show any emotion about this to anyone. No one gets through to her, until she meets Smith and gets 'lost' in him, and then in herself.

I can't recommend this book enough. I found it breathtaking. It swept me away, made me laugh and cry.

8 Becoming Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty

Bindy Mackenzie is a unique teenager, and you get instantly drawn into her life by Jaclyn Moriarty's unusual and gently amusing storytelling techniques and her use of pages from Bindy's special stationery collection.

An unusual, fun, heart-warming and intriguing book.

7 Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

This unusual novel starts with the death of the main character, fifteen-year-old Liz, and follows her into the afterlife.

Gently funny, occasionally sad, and profoundly moving.

6 A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone

Written in verse and paying homage to Judy Blume’s classic, Forever, A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl is high quality, thoughtful and easy to read.

Carry on over the cut for the top 5.

5 The Principles of Love by Emily Franklin

The story of Love Bukowski’s attempts to create a life for herself when her father becomes the Principal of Hadley Hall prep school and she finds herself having to start over and make new friends.

“Beautifully written and Love has an interesting and original voice.”

4 I Was a Teenage Popsicle by Bev Katz Rosenbaum

Floe Ryan died in 2006 but was cyrogenically frozen until a cure for her illness could be found. Now it has, and she's been brought back to life ... but it's 2016 and things are very different ...

“This book is fun and imaginative - a great idea, executed well, even if this future isn't quite as I'd imagine it!”

3 Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty

The first in a trilogy, Sloppy Firsts is about Jessica Darling, whose world falls apart when her best friend moves away.

“Sloppy Firsts is a great example of YA chick lit, but is actually shelved in the adult section too - like it says on the back cover “a good read for anyone between the ages of 15 and 99.” Recommended.”

2 The Princess Diaries Seventh Heaven by Meg Cabot

The Princess Diaries series, featuring reluctant princess Mia Thermopolis, is chock-full of Meg Cabot's trademark humour and charm and should be read by young and, um, not-so-young alike.

“For days after I finished reading this book (and I read it in a day) I found myself looking forward to getting back to it and then being disappointed to remember I'd finished it.”

Boyfriendlist1 The Boyfriend List by E Lockhart

The story of Ruby Oliver, a fifteen year-old girl who's been referred to a psychiatrist after suffering a series of panic attacks, it's a funny, moving and realistic portrayal of teenage life.

“Ruby Oliver is a believable and endearing character and The Boyfriend List is compelling, fun, and captures the spirit of teenagerdom brilliantly.”

We really loved the sequel, The Boy Book, too.

We’d love to hear your YA recommendations!

Young Adult archives

Posted by Keris on December 27, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, British Authors, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Romance, Series, Top 100 Extravaganza!, Young Adult | Permalink | Comments (10)

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Jenny Crusie

JennycrusieJennifer 'Jenny' Crusie (she gets billed as both on her book covers and in interviews) is one of our all-time favourite writers here at Trashionista, so we're honoured to have an exclusive interview with the prolific and talented author...

Please describe your latest book in 15 words or fewer:

Hot Toy, a Christmas novella in the Santa, Baby anthology: A woman battles a spy ring and her ex-boyfriend to get her nephew the toy he believes Santa is going to bring him.

Where do you like to write your books (in bed, a coffee shop, an office)?

At my desk, in the window seat in my office, in bed, on the couch in my living room that looks out over the river, wherever it feels right at the time. Usually some place private.

Your favourite chick-lit book?

I love Lani Diane Rich's books.

Your favourite female heroine (if different from above!), and why?

Still Sophy from Georgette Heyer's The Grand Sophy. I named my heroine in Welcome To Temptation after her, although I changed the spelling to Sophie.

More from Jenny Crusie over the cut...

Superbig_3What tips would you give to any of our readers who want to become writers?

Read everything. Not just all kinds of books, but screenplays and play scripts and comic books and non-fiction, read everything you can get your hands on. And watch movies and listen to storytellers of all kinds, including your relatives, ask them about their lives. Get story everywhere, be a story addict, listen for it on the street, in restaurants, people are telling stories all the time, all you have to do is listen and they'll tell you the most amazing things.

What are you reading at the moment?

The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine.

What are you working on now? (If you can give us a hint!)

I just finished The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes, a collaborative novel with Anne Stuart and Eileen Dreyer about three sisters with paranormal powers in which we each wrote the point of view of one of the sisters. [See the collaborative blog, Well Behaved at all Times]. And I'm just this week finished Agnes and the Hitman with Bob Mayer[see the other collaborative blog, He Wrote, She Wrote]; I'm writing Agnes who's a food columnist with anger issues and Bob's writing Shane who's a hitman for the US government. Trouble ensues.

Thanks Jenny!

Related: BOOK REVIEW: Faking It / BOOK REVIEW: Don't Look Down / JennyCrusie.com / Argh Ink (Jenny's blog)

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on December 27, 2006 in American Authors, Girly Stuff, Interviews, Modern Fiction, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (6)

December 26, 2006 3:00 PM

Top 10 Lad Lit

Our Top 100 Extravaganza continues with a look at the boys' version of chick lit: lad lit.

Threedayrule10 Dead Famous by Ben Elton

Ben Elton’s books are hugely successful and Dead Famous, with its Big Brother show style setting, was bound to be a hit. The back cover reads "One house, ten contestants, thirty cameras, forty microphones, one murder... and no evidence." Who wouldn’t want to read that?!

"The idea is brilliant, but unfortunately the book itself just doesn't live up to expectations. It is not Ben Elton's finest effort, but for those who can persevere with it the ending is pretty good."

9 Just Like Heaven by Marc Levy

Released originally in 2000 as If Only It Were True, Marc Levy’s debut was reissued under the name Just Like Heaven to coincide with the film adaptation. It’s the story of Lauren, a resident in a busy ER department and what happens when she ends up in a coma following a car crash. Arthur moves into her former apartment and finds ... Lauren.

"I would definitely recommend this book to anyone as a quick and enjoyable read."

8 A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby is arguably the father of lad lit. It all began with Fever Pitch (which is ironic, since it’s non-fiction). Anyway, it’s New Years Eve and four people have gathered on the roof of Topper's House with the intention of ending it all. Instead, they end up talking about their lives and getting to know each other.

"I enjoyed this book more than I expected to. I don't think its quite up there with some of his previous efforts, but it is still definitely worth a read."

7 The Three Day Rule by Josie Lloyd and Emlyn Rees.

Yes, I know Josie Lloyd isn’t a lad, but Emlyn surely is and it didn’t seem fair to leave him out. The book follows the Thorne family, unhappily spending Christmas at their father's house on a remote Cornish Island.

"I truly wasn't expecting anything amazing when I opened this book, but a couple of pages in and I was already hooked. I'd go as far as to say that this is one of the best books I've read this year. It doesn't try too hard, it touches on a lot of issues without ramming them down your throat, it’s equal parts funny and tragic, and it all ties up nicely at the end in perfect 'happily ever after(ish)' Christmas style. Definitely recommended for escaping your family this Christmas!"

6 Mr Nice Guy by Thomas Dowler

Fed up of getting rejections on his manuscript, Thomas took things into his own hands self-published, giving away his debut novel as a free e-book and audio book, via his website.

"It's written in a very pacey, snappy style ... and there were some unexpected twists and turns ... it wasn't predictable but it did deliver the happy ending I hoped for."

Carry on over the cut for the Top 5. Any guesses on who might be at number one? (Here's a clue: it's not Marian Keyes.)

5 Mr Commitment by Mike Gayle

Mike Gayle is another lad lit success story and Mr Commitment tells the tale of Duffy, whose life is not going to plan. So he decides to marry his girlfriend. As you do.

"I am really pleased I perservered with reading this book. I found myself desperate to get back to reading it whenever I was supposed to be doing something else. Definitely one to read!"

4 Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About by Mil Millington

I know we only reviewed it earlier today, but it’s so great we couldn’t leave it out.

"Yes, it is sarcastic and facetious, but it somehow manages to be charming and sweet at the same time. Most of all though, it’s just really, really funny. Read it. You won’t be sorry."

3 The Food of Love by Anthony Capella

Anthony Capella’s debut is a modern-day re-telling of the classic story, Cyrano de Bergerac, set to a backdrop of gorgeous Italian cuisine.

"This book is a great read but beware, it's written with such passion that it makes you want to eat, so make you have stocked up on all the ingredients for a good Italian meal prior to reading because you will suddenly become convinced that you can cook."

2 How I Paid for College by Marc Acito

Edward, a high-school senior in 1980s New Jersey, is desperate to study acting at the prestigious Julliard in New York City but his overbearing father has refused to pay and his flaky mother is incommunicado. And so Edward hatches a number of outrageous schemes to fund his college education.

"A fabulous, over-the-top, brilliantly written, laugh-a-minute American lad lit (is that enough adjectives yet?!) novel that I can’t recommend enough to anyone with a sense of humour and a pulse."

Familyway_11 The Family Way by Tony Parsons

Tony Parsons is probably the most high-profile lad lit writer after Nick Hornby. The Family Way focuses on three sisters, all reaching the time of their lives when children are on the agenda. The book follows the trials and tribulations of all three sisters as they follow the path their hearts have set them.

"This is a book that will take you through a complete rollercoaster of emotions. I laughed, I cried, I even shouted out loud at a couple of points - would have been great if the characters could have heard me! I would definitely recommend this book very strongly to anyone. It has something for everyone, irrespective of age or gender."

So what do you think? Have we included your favourite lad lit tales or is there a book you think we've missed?

Posted by Keris on December 26, 2006 in Book related, British Authors, Debut Novels, Josie Lloyd & Emlyn Rees, Modern Fiction, Opinion, Romance, Top 100 Extravaganza! | Permalink | Comments (3)

SPOTLIGHT: Melissa Bank

MelissabankI realised too late that Melissa Bank’s The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing should have been included in the Top 10 chick lit precursors after reading a 1999 Salon.com interview that included the question, "Do you think its getting lumped together with these single-women books is pure marketing, or does this signal an emerging genre of young women's fiction?" - so I’ve decided to shine our weekly spotlight on her instead.

Born in 1960 in Philadelphia, Bank holds an MFA from Cornell University. While working as a copywriter, she refusing promotions, telling her boss she was only interested in a writing career. She won the 1993 Nelson Algren Award for short fiction and her stories have been published in numerous distinguished publications.

The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing - a collection of interlinked stories - took Bank 12 years to write, but it was worth it, it became a bestseller both in the US and the UK. And, as we told you back in September, the movie version, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar is due out next year.

Five years later, Bank followed The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing with The Wonder Spot and found herself in the centre of a controversy when author Curtis Sittenfeld’s review of the book began, "To suggest that another woman's ostensibly literary novel is chick lit feels catty, not unlike calling another woman a slut - doesn't the term basically bring down all of us? And yet, with The Wonder Spot, it's hard to resist." Ouch.

Carry on over the cut for Melissa’s bibliography.

The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing
The Wonder Spot

Read about Melissa’s favourite books, music and films at Barnes & Noble

Spotlight archives

Posted by Keris on December 26, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction, Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (1)

BOOK REVIEW: Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About by Mil Millington

MillingtonMil Millington’s debut, Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About, was inspired by his enormously successful website, but it’s been fictionalised - so Mil becomes Pel and his German girlfriend Margret becomes Ursula and adventures, rather than just arguments, are had. That’s not to say there aren’t arguments, because there are - many, many arguments and each is hilarious.

Pel works in a university library and spends his time trying to avoid doing any work at all. When his supervisor disappears he’s asked to “act up” in the role, while still doing (or rather, not doing) his original job. While working hard to avoid doing either job, he discovers that there are scary, dodgy and downright dangerous things going on at the university and, of course, he tries desperately not to get involved with any of them. And fails miserably. At the same time, Ursula has decided they must move house and this, of course, just adds to Pel's woes.

None of the above is really important. Yes, the book has a plot, but it’s far-fetched and unbelievable and it really just serves to string together the constantly fantastic jokes and dangerously funny set pieces (do not read the scene when Pel gets stuck in the loo window in a public place, trust me). This really is the funniest book I’ve ever read and I also spent a lot of time waving the book at my husband and saying, "Listen to this! This is just like you!"

Yes, it is sarcastic and facetious, but it somehow manages to be charming and sweet at the same time. Most of all though, it’s just really, really funny. Read it. You won’t be sorry.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Like this? Try Marry Me by Carey Marx

Posted by Keris on December 26, 2006 in British Authors, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Rating: 5/5 | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 22, 2006 7:33 PM

FRIDAY FLICK: Practical Magic

PracticalmagicBased on the book by Alice Hoffman, Practical Magic is the story of sisters and witches, Sally (Nicole Kidman) and Gillian (Sandra Bullock) who live in a small town with their aunts (played entertainingly by Dianne Wiest and Stockard Channing). As is often the case with sisters in fiction, they’re opposites: Sally is the free-spirited one and Gillian the more serious homebody.

A curse on the female members of the family means any man who falls in love with them will die and the curse has already done away with Sally’s husband. When Gillian gets into trouble with an abusive boyfriend (played by ER’s foxy Dr Kovac, Goran Visnjic) it brings a sexy cop (Aidan Quinn) into their lives.

This is a great girly film (and not just because of Visnjic and Quinn). It’s funny, a bit scary, a bit soppy and well-acted throughout. A good film to watch of a cold winter’s night!

Friday Flick archives

Posted by Keris on December 22, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Friday Flick, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Supernatural | Permalink | Comments (3)

BOOK REVIEW: Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty

MeganMegan McCafferty’s debut novel received perhaps unwanted publicity earlier this year when it was one of the books embroiled in the Kaavya Viswanathan plagiarism scandal.

It’s about Jessica Darling, who is devastated when her best friend Hope moves away, leaving her with just the “Clueless Crew” (Manda, Bridget and Sara) for company. With her mother caught up in the plans for Jessica’s sister’s wedding and her father unable to communicate except through Jessica’s running, she feels alone in the world. Until, that is, druggie dropout Marcus Flutie starts talking to her. Not only is he the bad influence of all bad influences, he was best friends with Hope’s brother who died of an overdose, so Jessica can’t even confide in Hope about him.

When a new girl at the school turns out not to be what she seemed and Jessica starts writing for the school newspaper, she starts to work out what it is she needs from her friends, family and herself.

Taking place over a full year in Jessica’s life, Sloppy Firsts will take you back to high school and remind you how happy you are not to be there anymore. Jessica’s intelligent and angst-ridden voice is entertaining, funny and painful by turn. I found myself reading quicker and quicker to find out how things turn out for her, but since this is the first book of a trilogy, the ending left me wanting more.

Sloppy Firsts is a great example of YA chick lit, but is actually shelved in the adult section too - like it says on the back cover “a good read for anyone between the ages of 15 and 99.” Recommended.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try The Boy Book by E Lockhart

Posted by Keris on December 22, 2006 in American Authors, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5, Series, Young Adult | Permalink | Comments (3)

December 21, 2006 4:12 PM

THURSDAY THREE: Threesomes

The theme of this week’s thursday three is threesomes. No, not like that! Books with three main characters. Sheesh.

Louise Bagshawe’s The Movie features naive, overweight Megan Silver, studio exec Eleanor Marshall (her mentor), and superbitch supermodel Roxana Felix (her rival) in a Jackie Collins-esque sex-fest.

The Other Side of the Story by Marian Keyes is about Gemma and Lily - best friends turned worst enemies - who are both intent on writing a best-seller. The threesome’s rounded out by Jojo, an agent on the hunt for her next money-spinning novelist. All the humour and emotion we’ve come to expect from lovely Marian.

Carry on over the cut for the final book.

Alison Bond’s How to be Famous follows Lynsey, Melanie and Serena: three women looking to make it in Hollywood. A no holds barred look at the cut-throat world of film, fame and being fabulous

What’s your favourite threebie*?

Thursday Three archives

*made-up word.

Posted by Keris on December 21, 2006 in British Authors, Debut Novels, Irish Authors, Marian Keyes, Modern Fiction, Tuesday Three | Permalink | Comments (3)

BOOK REVIEW: A Place Called Here by Cecelia Ahern

PlacecalledhereTo some, Cecelia Ahern is a modern weaver of fairytales and her fourth book A Place Called Here certainly has a touch of magic about it.

It tells the tale of Sandy Shortt, a private detective in charge of a missing persons' bureau, who is obsessed with searching for people and possessions which have mysteriously disappeared. While investigating the disappearance of Donal Ruttle she finds herself in a place called 'Here', which just so happens to be the very place lost things go - be it the odd sock from the washing machine, your much needed passport, or any one of the hundreds of people who just vanish each year.

'Here' is where the reader really has to wilfully suspend their disbelief.  To be honest, the concept that everyone and everything that has ever gone missing just happens to exist in a parallel village just didn't quite work for me. But, in the spirit of giving Ms. Ahern the benefit of the doubt, I ploughed on.

While 'Here' Sandy meets up with many of the people she has spent the last 24 years searching for and in turn sets about seeing if she can find herself. While all this is happening Donal's brother Jack is searching for Sandy in the real world and finding out all about her sometimes troubled past.

With this book you keep waiting for it to get great. The potential is there, but it never quite kicks off. Imagine if the Wizard of Oz ended with Dorothy's house landing on the wicked witch and you get an idea of how frustrating this story is.

From a writing point of view, it sometimes smacks of 'trying too hard'. There are moments of wonderfully beautiful prose, but other sections are clumsy and disjointed.

Nonetheless it is unoffensive and if you really can make belief in an alternative universe (or village) then A Place Called Here could be for you.

[Claire Allan]

Rating: 2 out of 5

Like this? Try After You'd Gone by Maggie O'Farrell

Posted by Keris on December 21, 2006 in Cecelia Ahern, Irish Authors, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Rating: 2/5, Rubbish Books | Permalink | Comments (7)

December 20, 2006 5:05 PM

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Laura Zigman

Lauraz1Laura Zigman hasn't released a book in four years, but we found her latest, Piece of Work, well worth the wait! So we're delighted she agreed to take part in the Trashionista Author Interview...

Please describe your latest book in 15 words or fewer:

It's about a stay-at-home mom who goes back to work and has to publicize a has-been actress. In three words: It's about failure.

Where do you like to write your books (in bed, a coffee shop, an office)?

Now that I'm wireless, all three.

Your favourite chick-lit book? Bridget Jones' Diary

Your favourite female heroine (if different from above!), and why? I guess that would have to be Bridget Jones. Because she was truly funny.

What tips would you give to any of our readers who want to become writers?

Just get it out; you can fix it later.

More from Laura over the cut...

Superbig_5What are you reading at the moment?

From Here to Maternity: The Education of a Rookie Mom by Beth Teitell. She interviewed me for the Boston Herald and she is absolutely hilarious in person and on the page. That's why she's my NBF (New Best Friend).

What are you working on now? (If you can give us a hint!)

A novel about a family who lives in the suburbs on a cul-de-sac that's full of really annoying neighbors. As usual, it's semi-autobiographical...

What question have you never been asked in an interview, but think you should have been? (Tell us the question and answer it too, if you like!)

"Don't you ever get tired of fictionalizing your own life?" And the answer would be...

"Actually, no."

Thanks Laura!

Author Interview archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on December 20, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Interviews, Modern Fiction, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (2)

December 19, 2006 4:15 PM

Keris's "Top 10 books I reviewed this year"

Our Top 100 Extravaganza continues with my favourite books of the year (read Diane’s list here). Like Diane, I limited myself to books I read for the first time this year and, because I’m doing a Top 10 Young Adult list, I didn’t include any young adult books here.

Don’t forget to tell us about your favourite books of the year.

Littlelady_110 Little Lady, Big Apple by Hester Browne

The sequel to The Little Lady Agency, Little Lady, Big Apple follows Melissa’s adventures with her etiquette and grooming agency. As you can guess from the title, she’s off to New York.

"It's a testament to the strength and charm of the characters that when I sat down to read I felt I was catching up with old friends (even though I only read the first book last week). It's fun, funny and sweet."

9 Pick Me Up by Zoe Rice

Pick Me Up is the story of Izzy who works in an art gallery and loves Robbie Williams. Clearly, I was destined to love her. And I did.

"I really enjoyed this book. Izzy's a charming, down-to-earth character and the supporting cast is great fun too. There are laugh-out-loud moments and an enormously romantic ending."

8 Happiness Sold Separately by Lolly Winston

The follow up to the enormously successful Sophie’s Bakery for the Broken-hearted brilliantly chronicles the breakdown of a marriage.

"I've never read a book where wanting more than one person at the same time is portrayed so convincingly. I had no idea who to root for. I wanted everyone to be happy. Winston writes about the minutiae of life beautifully."

7 Ex and the Single Girl by Lani Diane Rich

I hate to compare Lani Diane Rich to Jennifer Crusie - because everyone does - but I have the same confidence in Lani’s books as I do in Jennifer Crusie’s. I just know I’m going to get an entertaining and involving story and Ex and the Single Girl didn’t let me down.

"Portia is funny and real and Ian is sexy. Ex and the Single Girl is a fun and fast read about following your heart and finding your place in the world."

6 Me vs Me by Sarah Mlynowski

Sarah Mlynowski is an author at the top of her game and Me vs Me is her first foray into chick lit paranormal. Unable to decide whether to stay in Arizona and marry her boyfriend or move to New York for a great job opportunity, Gabby wishes (on a star) that she could do both. And she does.

"I really loved this book. It’s an original and interesting idea, entertainingly executed."

Carry on over the cut for the Top 5.

5 Anyone But You by Jennifer Crusie

Jennifer Crusie is one of our Top 10 chick lit authors and her books are always a cause for celebration. Anyone But You is one of her simpler stories, but it’s full of her usual humour, romance and great sex.

"A lovely, charming, sweet and romantic book. I loved it."

4 Cancer Vixen by Marisa Acocello Marchetto

A bit of a departure, Cancer Vixen is a graphic novel and non-fiction so it really shouldn’t be in this list at all, but it’s amazing and inspiring and I couldn’t leave it out.

"The word 'unputdownable' is overused in book reviews. I mean, it's not true, is it? There's no book that you literally can't put down, but there are some books that once you start reading you don't want to stop and, for me, Cancer Vixen was one of those books."

3 Love Walked In by Marisa De Los Santos

Marisa De Los Santos’s debut novel tells, in alternating chapters, the stories of 30-year-old Cornelia and 11-year-old Clare and what happens when their lives intertwine.

"Love Walked In is a beautiful, magical book. It's old-fashioned, cleverly crafted and constantly surprising. The characters all seem utterly real - they are flawed, intelligent and interesting."

2 Stupid and Contagious by Caprice Crane

I heard a lot about Stupid and Contagious before reading it - it was probably the most-recommended book of the year. I was worried I’d be disappointed. Far from it.

"Stupid and Contagious is extremely funny, it made me cry and when I finished it I could happily have turned back to the first page and started it again. One of the best chick lit books I've ever read."

Anybodyoutthere1 Anybody Out There? by Marian Keyes

Marian is a chick lit goddess and number one in our Top 10 chick lit authors list. Her latest book, Anybody Out There?, is also, in my opinion, her best.

"Anybody Out There? made me laugh out loud. It also often gave me that trying-not-to-cry pain in the throat. And once I gave up and sobbed. It made me think. It made me want to move to New York. It's a wonderful story with brilliant, believable characters and a truly satisfying ending."

Top 100 Extravaganza archives

Posted by Keris on December 19, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, British Authors, Debut Novels, Irish Authors, Marian Keyes, Modern Fiction, Opinion, Romance, Top 100 Extravaganza! | Permalink | Comments (8)

BOOK REVIEW: Santa, Baby by Jennifer Crusie, Lori Foster and Carly Phillips

AsantabSometimes there's a book I just can't wait to read, and I never learn not to over-hype it to myself, in case I get disappointed... this was the case with Santa, Baby. It's Jennifer Crusie! It's Christmas themed! I'll love it, right?!

Well... maybe. Despite the cover, which gives huge prominence to the big draw that is Jennifer Crusie, this book is actually three novellas with a Christmas theme in one handy holiday volume.

And as I was reading, I couldn't help wishing that the book was another great Crusie novel, instead...

The collection opens with Hot Toy, Crusie's novella, which is light but very entertaining, well-written with an unpredictable storyline. As always, she has great ideas and tight plotting and it's very definitely Christmas-themed. It's not as good as her novels, but as a light seasonal treat, very enjoyable. Then we have Christmas Bonus by Lori Foster and Naughty Under the Mistletoe by Carly Philips and... meh. Firstly, they could have been set at any time of the year with just a few Christmas details thrown in later, unlike Crusie's story which is seeped in a seasonal theme (with a sexy spy thrown in for good measure).

I found the two non-Crusie stories (sorry, novellas- and that's part of the problem- they were more like stories streeeetched out to become mini-novels, without the plot to back it up) very cliched and hard to believe or relate to: this is a world where you know someone intimately and make plans to be with them forever after just one night, and where a man repeatedly calling you "sweetheart" is endearing rather than deeply patronising. Of the two, I slightly preferred Naughty Under the Mistletoe, partly because it didn't have  fifty pages of sex (I'm not exaggerating- call me Prudey McPruderson but I like something left to the imagination, especially as this occasionally missed the mark- "donned a rubber"? Sounds safe, but not sexy... and flickering tongues just remind me of lizards I'm afraid!) but didn't think either of these stories were anything special or managed to capture any real emotion. And there was too much telling and not enough showing ("how could any man get inside her when she'd feared emotional closeness would result in unhealthy dependence?"- who thinks like that?!)

If you like a predictable romance story that you don't need to think about, you might enjoy them, but they weren't my cup of tea, and I'd recommend just reading Hot Toy to get you in the holiday mood- then, as with a box of champagne truffles on Christmas morning (she hinted), exercising some restraint and leaving the rest- for your own good.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Like this? Try Don't look Down by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Meyer.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on December 19, 2006 in American Authors, Book News, Book related, Crime / Mystery, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Rating: 3/5, Romance, Short Story Collections | Permalink | Comments (3)

High Fidelity, the musical closes

Only last month, Diane wrote about how Nick Hornby's book High Fidelity had been turned into a Broadway musical.

Sorry to say it only lasted ten days before closing and, to add insult to injury, critics have voted it one of the top five musicals that should never have been made. [via BBC News]

Posted by Keris on December 19, 2006 in Book related, British Authors, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

SPOTLIGHT: Joshilyn Jackson

JoshilynInspired by the fact that Diane adored both of her books (and even chose Between, Georgia as her favourite book of the year), I thought I'd shine this week's spotlight on Joshilyn Jackson.

Joshilyn was born and raised in the Deep South of the US. After dropping out of college to pursue a career in acting, she worked in regional repertoire and travelled with a dinner theatre troupe, but after a few years realised she preferred writing plays (including Another Snow White and Screwing Lazarus) to acting in them.

She went back to college to study English literature and graduated with honors from Georgia State. After moving to Chicago she earned an MA in English from the University of Illinois. She then taught English at the same university, before returning to her home town and marrying the boy next door.

Joshilyn says she's been writing for as long as she can remember and - even though novels are her first love - her first success was with short stories. She says now, “It took seven years and three manuscripts from the day I grew enough of a spine to take a serious run at a career in fiction to the day I sold my first book.”* This book was gods in Alabama and it was a bestseller, as was her second novel, Between, Georgia.

Joshilyn lives just outside of Atlanta with her husband, their two children, and a cat named Franz Schubert, and is currently at work on her next novel, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, the story of a good mother who is visited by a drowned girl's ghost.

*[via Barnes & Noble]

Carry on over the cut for Joshilyn's bibliography.

gods in Alabama
Between, Georgia

Did you know? Arlene Fleet, the main character in gods in Alabama, briefly appeared in a short story Joshilyn wrote ten years ago. It's called Little Dead Uglies and you can read it on her website.

and

Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants is one of Joshilyn's favourite books.

Related posts: Joshilyn Jackson arrested! / Joshilyn Jackson video

Posted by Keris on December 19, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Opinion, Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 18, 2006 5:35 PM

Losing Gemma on TV tonight

UK-based Trashionistas may well be interested in a two-part drama starting on ITV1 tonight (9pm). Losing Gemma is based on the best-selling novel by Katy Gardner - about two friends who go backpacking in India and what happens when one goes missing. It concludes tomorrow night, also at 9.

Posted by Aigua Media on December 18, 2006 in Book related, British Authors, Crime / Mystery, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Meg Cabot

Megcab2My co-ed Keris out-and-out worships (well, pretty much!) the lovely Ms. Cabot, and I think she's a darn fine YA and chick-lit author too, so we were delighted when the Princess Diaries author took part in the famous (hey, it could be!) Trashionista author interview...

Please describe your latest book in 15 words or fewer:

Princess Diaries, Seventh Heaven, is the seventh book in the Princess Diaries series.

Where do you like to write your books (in bed, a coffee shop, an office)?

On my 12 inch PowerBook G4, in bed.

Your favourite chick-lit book?

I'm a big fan of Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series, Megan Crane's English as a Second Language, Valerie Frankel's Hex and the Single Girl, Susan Juby's Alice series, and Michele Jaffe's Bad Kitty.

Your favourite female heroine (if different from above!), and why?

Princess Leia Organa from Star Wars. Because she's socially conscious AND a dead shot with a laser gun (and she understands keeping your hair out of your eyes while shooting stormtroopers is important).

What tips would you give to any of our readers who want to become writers?

Write all the time. Never stop sending out your stuff. And remember that the first Princess Diaries got rejected seventeen times before my current publisher finally bought it.

Superbig_6 What are you reading at the moment?

Cancer Vixen by Marisa Acocella Marchetto.

What are you working on now? (If you can give us a hint!)

Princess Diaries 9 (there are only going to be 10 full-length books in total, so we're almost at the end), in which everything that occurs in After Eight, Princess Diaries 8 (out in January) finally sinks in. [We'll be reviewing 8, 9 and 10, no doubt!- Diane]

What question have you never been asked in an interview, but think you should have been? (Tell us the question and answer it too, if you like!)

There is no question I have never been asked. There are questions I can't believe I've been asked--such as the time a guy asked me if I'm still upset, like my character Princess Mia, that my boobs are so small--but I've been asked them all. By the way, the answer no...my boobs may be small, but they are spectacular.

[That's a Teri-Hatcher's-guest-spot-on Seinfeld reference, fact fans!]

Thanks Meg!

Meg's fabulous site / Interview archives

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on December 18, 2006 in American Authors, Book Websites, Book related, Girly Stuff, Interviews, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Recent Release, Young Adult | Permalink | Comments (5)

December 15, 2006 1:54 PM

BOOK REVIEW: In Between Men by Mary Castillo

InbetweenmenRemember when we told you about Latina Lit (way back in August)? Well, Mary Castillo is the Latina Lit queen. Her second novel, In Between Men, is about Isa who has just been unlucky enough to be voted the un-sexiest woman alive by the students at the high school where she teaches. At first she’s not concerned - she’s got more important things to worry about than her appearance, like her job and her son - but when she meets Alex and starts receiving advice from a hallucination of Joan Collins, she realises it may well be time for a makeover.

Alex isn’t interested in Isa. He’s not interested in a relationship at all, and particularly not with the mother of one of the kids he coaches in soccer, but when Isa gets knocked out by the ball at a game, Alex feels responsible enough to take her out to dinner. And when he sees the post-makeover Isa, he starts to change his mind.

With its reluctant-to-love main characters and far-fetched and hilarious supporting characters, In Between Men reminded me a lot of Jennifer Crusie. There’s a subplot with Isa’s ex-husband which I didn’t entirely enjoy, perhaps because knowing she used to be married to such an unbelievable loser made me lose a little bit of regard for Isa (but I should give her a break because she was only 18) and I occasionally found it a little confusing and had to go back and reread certain scenes, but I think that was because there’s just so much going on.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book. Isa is wonderful, Alex is gorgeous and I can’t wait to read more from Mary Castillo.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie

Posted by Keris on December 15, 2006 in American Authors, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5, Romance | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 14, 2006 5:03 PM

Top 10 chick lit precursors

Can you remember a time before chick lit?

We’ve sort of established that chick lit began in 1995 (with Marian Keyes's Watermelon), but there have always been books about strong women trying to come to terms with their place in the world, haven’t there? They just weren’t called chick lit before. We’re calling them chick lit precursors and here’s our Top 10 (along with a recommendation of their more recent chick lit "cousins").

(The following list is, of course, entirely subjective; my only rule was that the books had to have been originally published before 1995.)

Postcards10 Postcards From the Edge by Carrie Fisher (1987)

Suzanne Vale is an actress trying to recover from drug addiction, resume her career and get on with her life, while dealing with her difficult relationship with her mother. Like a lot of good chick lit, Postcards From the Edge is written in the first person, it’s also stuffed with Carrie Fisher’s trademark humour.

Chick lit cousin: Why Moms Are Weird by Pamela Ribon

9 Heartburn by Nora Ephron (1983)

The story of Rachel Samstat, a food writer whose husband has an affair with the wife of a prominent politician ... during month seven of Rachel's second pregnancy, it’s as hilarious and insightful as you’d expect from the writer of When Harry Met Sally.

Chick lit cousin: Watermelon by Marian Keyes

8 Sheila Levine is dead and living in New York by Gail Parent (1975)

As Diane reported, Jennifer Weiner reckons this was the first chick lit book, so who am I to argue? Sadly out of print, it’s the story of Sheila Levine, a Jewish girl living in Manhattan, her search for Mr. Right, and her struggles with her weight. Certainly sounds like chick lit!

Chick lit cousin: Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner

7 Jilly Cooper

Yes, an author rather than a book, but I’m specifically thinking of her "girls' name" books: Emily (1975), Bella (1976), Harriet (1976), Octavia (1977), Imogen (1978), Prudence (1978), Lisa and Co. (1981). More romances than the bonkbusters Cooper has become known for, these books are funny and romantic and have been reissued more than once with more chick lit style covers (most recently last year).

Chick lit cousin: Jill Mansell or Katie Fforde

6 Fear of Flying by Erica Jong (1973)

Fear of Flying created a sensation in the seventies with is frank descriptions of women's sexual appetites. The author Henry Miller said of it, "This book will make literary history ... because of it women are going to find their own voice and give us great sagas of sex, life, joy, and adventure." [via Erica Jong’s website]

Yep, that’s a chick lit precursor alright!

Chick lit cousin: Freya North (for the sex)

Carry on over the cut for the Top 5 (once again, number one might not be what you think!)

5 Forever by Judy Blume (1970)

The author Sarah Mlynowski says, “People always call Helen Fielding the mother of chick lit, but I think it’s Judy Blume. She’s who we all (chick lit writers) grew up reading, and she’s the one who helped shaped our consciousness.” [via Deanna Carlyle]

As if to prove Sarah's point, next June sees the publication of Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume , a collection of essays from authors including Trashionista faves Meg Cabot, Megan Crane, Diana Peterfreund and Alison Pace and Sarah herself.

I’ve picked Forever because it’s the Judy Blume book that had the most impact on me (stop sniggering) and it’s still causing a stir today, being one of the most challenged books in schools and libraries (it wasn’t shelved in my library growing up; you had to ask for it “under the counter”).

Chick lit cousin: The Boyfriend List by E Lockhart

4 Nancy Drew (from 1930)

We’ve mentioned the influence of the Nancy Drew books a few times, and the “girl detective” remains as popular today as ever. Nancy has gone through a few incarnations over the years, but has always been intelligent, brave, talented and independent. An excellent chick lit heroine!

Chick lit cousin: Stephanie Plum

3 Dorothy Parker (from 1926)

A commonly quoted important chick lit characteristic is “snark” and they don’t come much snarkier than Dorothy Parker.

In her review of the Parker biography What Fresh Hell is This, Diane wrote, “One of the founder members of the Algonquin round table - an influential group of writers in 1920s and 30s New York - Dorothy Parker was a gossipy journalist, well-known short story writer, clinical depressive with a tendency to suicide attempts - and a famous wit.”

Chick lit cousin: Wendy Holden

2 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)

Ha! Bet you thought this would be number 1, didn’t you? As I'm sure you know, Pride and Prejudice is the story of the Bennet family, particularly Lizzie - who would make a perfect chick lit heroine even today - and Mr Darcy (on whom the best chick lit heroes are inevitably based).

In my review of Flirting with Pride and Prejudice, I wrote, "It is a truth universally acknowledged that if Jane Austen were writing today, she would be considered a chick lit author" and Austen’s influence on chick lit (not least Bridget Jones’s Diary) is well-known. She wasn’t first though. Oh no.

Chick lit cousin: Bridget Jones’s Diary, of course!

Evelina1 Evelina by Frances Burney (1778)

Beating Pride and Prejudice by 35 years is Frances Burney’s Evelina.

Written as a series of letters, this is the story of innocent Evelina's entrance into London society. “Evelina, comic and shrewd, is at once a guide to fashionable London, a satirical attack on the new consumerism, an investigation of women's position in the late eighteenth century, and a love story.” [via Amazon]

That’ll be the earliest chick lit book then!

Chick lit cousin: Boy Meets Girl by Meg Cabot


So what do you think? Do you agree? Have I missed any? We’d love to hear from you.

Top 100 Extravaganza archives

Posted by Keris on December 14, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, British Authors, Celebrity Authors, Classic Novels, Crime / Mystery, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Opinion, Romance, Series, Top 100 Extravaganza!, Young Adult | Permalink | Comments (8)

THURSDAY THREE: You never forget your first love

I married my first love so there’s no chance of me forgetting him (he’s always here!), but many chick lit heroines (and some heroes) aren’t so lucky. They make the mistake of giving up “the one,” but that’s all the more fun for us because we get to read what happens when they bump into them again ...

In Lani Diane Rich's The Comeback Kiss, Finn returns to the town he grew up in and where he left his first love, Tessa, without even saying goodbye. A lot has changed, but Tessa hasn't and as soon as Finn sees her, he knows it's going to be hard to leave again.

My Favourite Mistake by Beth Kendrick is about Faith, who returns to her hometown to help her younger sister and runs into her childhood sweetheart, Flynn. Faith rejected Flynn's marriage proposal ten years earlier, but finds that her feelings for him are as strong as ever. 

Carry on over the cut for more first love ...

Emmy left her fiance while he was asleep in a hotel room. Three years later, she's forced to return home and unsurprisingly afraid of running into her ex. She does, of course ... and you can read all about it in Laura Dave's London is the Best City in America.

Have I forgotten any? Fancy sharing your own first love story with us? (Go on, it's Christmas!)

Thursday Three archives

Posted by Keris on December 14, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Romance, Tuesday Three | Permalink | Comments (4)

BOOK REVIEW: Copycat by Erica Spindler

Copycat_1Erica Spindler is well known for her thrillers. She has won the Kiss of Death Award in the past and I think that gives you a clue as to the type of books she writes.
 
Copycat is about a killer who suffocated three little girls in their beds leaving them posed as if they were sleeping. This earned them the name the Sleeping Angel Killer. They left no clues or witnesses. The crime remained unsolved until the killing started again five years on.

Kitt Lundgren, the lead detective from the original investigation, is overlooked for the case. After all, the last time it had pushed her over the edge and she had hit the bottle. It had taken her years to become sober again and now she’s only trusted with the lowliest of cases. That is until she spots a difference. A tiny variation in the killings that opens terrifying new possibilities.

The first thing that hit me about this book was the title. It immediately made me think of its namesake, the 1995 movie Copycat starring Sigourney Weaver. Considering the name, it’s ironic that there are so many similarities between the two. They both contain serial killers that may be copying the handiwork of others and washed up alcoholic investigators who are traumatised by the original murders. The whole book came across as very formulaic. But then I’m sure Spindler thought ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’!

Apart from the lack of originality, this book works. It’s exciting and keeps you reading. The main characters are likeable strong women, although their home lives are too full of woe at times. There are a few plot twists that keep you guessing who the killer is until the end. It’s a great read.

I’m sure this will deliver to the crime buffs out there, but don’t expect anything new. [Angela Richardson]
 
Rating: 4 out of 5
 
Like this? Try Bloodstream by Tess Gerritsen 

Posted by Aigua Media on December 14, 2006 in American Authors, Crime / Mystery, Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 13, 2006 5:30 PM

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Janet Evanovich

JanetevJanet Evanovich, firm Trashionista favourite and author of the famous and fabulous Stephanie Plum series of novels that began with One For The Money, is a busy, busy woman. So we're very grateful she made time for a brief Trashionista interview, although as you'll see, brief might be the operative word... (good things come in small packages!)

Please describe your latest book in 15 words or fewer: Some adventure, some cussing, some pizza, some sex and a bunch of good people in Trenton, New Jersey.

Where do you like to write your books (in bed, a coffee shop, an office)?

Office.

Your favourite female heroine and why?

Bridget Jones. She's very human.

More from Janet over the cut...

Superbig_7What tips would you give to any of our readers who want to become writers?

Go for it.

What are you reading at the moment?

I seldom get a chance to read. I find it too distracting to read while I'm writing ...and I'm always writing!

What are you working on now? (If you can give us a hint!)    Plum number 13.

Thanks Janet!

Related: Review of Twelve Sharp / Yay or Nay: One For the Money / Review of Love Overboard

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on December 13, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Crime / Mystery, Interviews, Modern Fiction, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (1)

The most overrated books of the year?

Current affairs magazine, Prospect, asked contributors to nominate their most overrated books of 2006. [via Book 2 Book]

The top three were:

1 The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
2 The Blunkett Tapes by David Blunkett
3 Everyman by Philip Roth

But it was broadcaster David Cox's response which made me laugh (don't sit on the fence, David, say what you mean!):

"The Night Watch, Sarah Waters. An imitation Catherine Cookson for dim but pretentious lesbians. The Inheritance of Loss, Kiran Desai. A typically box-ticking, offence-avoiding Booker winner whose supposedly innovative structure is more sensibly viewed as narrative incompetence ..."

So what are your most overrated books of 2006? And, for the sake of positivity, your favourites?

Posted by Aigua Media on December 13, 2006 in Book related, British Authors, Modern Fiction, Opinion, Prize Winners, Rubbish Books | Permalink | Comments (7)

BOOK REVIEW: My Fat Brother by Jim Keeble

FatbrotherReading all this chick lit is, of course, fabulous, but sometimes I fancy a bit of testosterone and it was with that in mind I picked up Jim Keeble’s My Fat Brother. Jes is the fat brother of Scott - a popular poet with a gorgeous girlfriend. The brothers are friendly, but not particularly close.

But then Scott’s girlfriend dumps him and while his professional life seems to be going from strength to strength, his personal life is going from bad to worse and this, coupled with a family tragedy, leads Scott to question everything, try to repair familial relationships and, um, assault a penguin.

My Fat Brother isn’t a bad book - I enjoyed it to a certain extent - but it’s similar to quite a lot of books I’ve read recently in that it takes forever to get going and the reader seems to be expected to care about the characters from page 1. I’ve actually given up on a couple of books because even by page 100 I didn’t care. It’s just lazy writing.

For example, Scott’s devastated when his girlfriend finishes with him, but I’d seen so little of their relationship and had so little insight into his feelings about her (apart from the fact that he once vaguely thought about what it might be like to marry her and he’d never thought that about a girlfriend before), that I just didn't care. About halfway through the book something happened that made me cry and I realised I really felt for Scott, but halfway through is too late.

Plus a lot of the action in the book seems to take place for comic effect rather than there being any genuine motivation. And it’s funny. A bit. Just not funny enough. It’s a shame, because there’s some good stuff in here about the odd and competitive relationship brothers often share, but it’s hidden under a lot of, in my opinion, irrelevant, unoriginal, and insufficiently explained subplots. A shame.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Like this? Try The Family Way by Tony Parsons

Posted by Keris on December 13, 2006 in British Authors, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Rating: 3/5 | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 12, 2006 7:16 PM

The first chick-lit book...

What do you think it was?

Jennifer Weiner has said before (on her blog) that chick lit all started with cult '70s classic Sheila Levine is dead and living in New York by Gail Parent, but it's often said that chick lit didn't begin until the 1990s, with landmark books like Bridget Jones's Diary and Watermelon... On the other hand, some people consider Pride and Prejudice the first chick lit novel! And where does Sex and the City fit in? Or books like Heartburn and Postcards from the Edge?

What do you think- which one would you call the original chick lit, and does it matter? I've got a feeling this debate could run and run...

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on December 12, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, British Authors, Classic Novels, Girly Stuff, Irish Authors, Marian Keyes, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (1)

BOOK REVIEW: The Ex-Factor by Andrea Semple

TheexfactorThe Ex-Factor is Andrea Semple's wonderful debut novel and Semple's talent for writing addictive, hilarious tales works wonders with both her first books. Even though I'll shamefully admit that I've yet to read The Man From Perfect, it's there on my wishlist nonetheless. And when it arrives? I'm likely to devour it in a matter of hours. As soon as I'd read The Makeup Girl, I was out in search of The Ex-Factor, and due to her quick and witty writing style, Andrea is one of my favourite chick-lit authors.

The Ex-Factor's Martha Seymore is an agony aunt. You know the sort: women who seem to know it all relationship-wise. They answer your questions, give you hearty advice and what's more, they're experts. At Gloss magazine, Martha's column is highly successful, though when she discovers that her OWN relationship is ... well, doomed ... the realisation that she didn't 'see the signs' starts to hit her. Hard.

Cue a stay with a best friend, nights out to nurse the pain away and a flatmate by the name of Jacqui; a coke-snorting fan of casual sex who lives in a church.

And of course, old classmate friend Desdemona who was highly renowned for getting exactly what she wanted ...

With a cast of funny yet intriguing characters and the irony of Martha's situation, The Ex Factor is a fabulous read. Despite not being as fast-paced as The Makeup Girl, it's fabulously fun and guaranteed some giggles. As Martha pieces together her relationship history, she realises that she might not be that different from her horde of readers after all ...

But is that really a bad thing?

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne

Related posts: Andrea Semple's Spotlight / Andrea Semple's new column

[Danielle Symonds-Yemm]

Posted by Danielle Symonds-Yemm on December 12, 2006 in British Authors, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5 | Permalink | Comments (0)

SPOTLIGHT: Sarah Mlynowski

Sarah_pic_newSarah Mlynowski was born in Montreal, Canada in 1977. After graduating with an honours degree in English literature from McGill University, she moved to Toronto to work in the marketing department of romance publisher, Harlequin.

Her first novel Milkrun sold over 600,000 copies and following publication of her second novel, Fishbowl, Sarah moved to New York to write full-time. Since then she has published three more adult chick lit books, started a young adult series, All About Rachel (about a girl whose mum and sister are witches), and written the first guide to writing chick lit, See Jane Write.

She lives in New York with her husband and wishes she had naturally straight hair.

Carry on over the cut for Sarah's bibliography.

Adult chick lit

Milkrun
Fishbowl
As Seen On TV
Monkey Business
Me vs Me

Young adult

Bras & Broomsticks
Frogs & French Kisses

Anthologies

American Girls About Town
Sixteen: Stories About That Sweet and Bitter Birthday

Non-fiction

See Jane Write

Did you know? Sarah's favourite film of all time is The Goonies.

Related posts: CNN on chick lit / Chick lit for little chicks / Spotlight archives

Posted by Keris on December 12, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction, Romance, Series, Supernatural, Young Adult | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 11, 2006 2:00 PM

Top 10 chick lit authors

Jennycrusie_1Our Top 100 Extravaganza continues with the Top 10 chick lit authors chosen from our weekly Spotlight feature.

10 Belinda Jones

Belinda Jones has carved herself the best career ever - she travels the world and writes always-entertaining chick lit books based on her adventures.

9 Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell’s Thirtynothing is one of my favourite books of all time and her latest, Vince and Joy is wonderful too.

8 Emily Giffin

Emily Giffin is one of the new breed of chick lit authors, scoring huge sales in an allegedly dying market.

7 Meg Cabot

Meg Cabot may be better-known for her young adult novels, but her adult chick lit books are entertaining and very funny.

6 Jennifer Crusie

Jennifer Crusie (pictured) was writing chick lit before it was called chick lit and she just keeps getting better.

Carry on over the cut for the Top 5 and find out who's number one (it might not be who you think!)

5 Sophie Kinsella

The Shopaholic books are chick lit classics and rightly so. Plus Can You Keep A Secret has one of my favourite ever chick lit heroes. (Look out for the latest Shopaholic book, Shopaholic and Baby due in February 2007.)

4 Lauren Weisberger

Had to be Top 5 due to the enormous success of The Devil Wears Prada (the only book to get its own Trashionista category!). Weisberger’s debut brought the chick lit debate back with a bang.

3 Jennifer Weiner

One author who has apparently begun to transcend her chick lit label. Graduating from an Ivy League school and writing short stories has probably helped.

2 Helen Fielding

Nope. She’s not number one, but she had to be up there. The one who - arguably - started it all with Bridget Jones and still the author still most associated with chick lit. Marian

1 Marian Keyes

Why? Because her first book, Watermelon, came out in 1995 - a year before Bridget Jones’s Diary - making her arguably the originator of chick lit. Plus she’s published a further seven gorgeous novels and two wonderful books of non-fiction. And because she’s a goddess.

Posted by Keris on December 11, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, British Authors, Devil Wears Prada, Irish Authors, Marian Keyes, Modern Fiction, Opinion, Top 100 Extravaganza! | Permalink | Comments (8)

MORE ON MONDAY: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

CloudatlasThe Cloud Atlas Sextet is a piece of music written by one of the characters in David Mitchell’s award-winning book and it's described as follows:

... 'sextet for overlapping soloists': piano, clarinet, 'cello, flute, oboe and violin, each in its own language of key, scale and colour. In the 1st set, each solo is interrupted by its successor: in the 2nd, each interruption is recontinued, in order.

Overlapping and interruption is also the structure of the book. It begins with a diary interrupted by a series of letters from the above composer. This is taken over by Half Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery which in turn is interrupted by The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish followed by An Orison of Somni and Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After. Each is set in a different historical period (the last two are set in the future) and each is written in the style of that period.

I've been intrigued by David Mitchell's books for a while but always thought they looked like extremely difficult reads. Cloud Atlas isn't difficult, but it does reward attention. I didn't particularly enjoy the middle - the futuristic part. It was interesting, but I’m not a science fiction fan and I found it difficult to become emotionally involved.

My favourite parts were undoubtedly The Luisa Rey Mystery and Letters from Zedelghem. I also enjoyed The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish.

Entirely gripping, Cloud Atlas is a dazzling achievement. It's more than a stunning book: it's six stunning books.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Posted by Keris on December 11, 2006 in British Authors, Modern Fiction, Prize Winners, Rating: 4/5, Richard and Judy | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 8, 2006 8:09 PM

Diane's "Top 10 books I reviewed this year"

Dianephoto2_1Trashionista's Top 100 Extravaganza! continues...

I've reviewed A LOT of books since I started writing for Trashionista back in July, and here are my top ten favourites - do you agree that these are some fabulous reads? What are your top reads of 2006? I'm making myself abide by two rules:

As I've already written about the top 10 non-fiction chick lit books, I'm going to stick to my fictional faves and

No re-reads or old favourites allowed - only books I read for the first time this year!

With that in mind, here's my top 10 for 2006, with what I said about each in quotes...

10. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. A classic novel with an engaging heroine and a lot to say. "Based in early twentieth-century Brooklyn, it tells the story of Francie Nolan and her family’s fight to get by in a time without electricity, a welfare system, or even windows in the bedrooms of their tiny apartment.  Francie lives with her hard-working mother, hard-drinking father and younger brother Neely in a slum neighbourhood of the city. If all that sounds depressing, it isn’t... If you want a compelling story that teaches you something, this is a great read, and despite its size, a fast one."

9. Singeltini by Amanda Trimble. Fun, fast-paced, a bit farcical but a very enjoyable read in a fabulous cover! "Singletini is pretty standard, fairytale-ending chick-lit but written in a fast and compelling style, (perhaps as a result of the author's time in advertising?) that never becomes boring... This is Amanda Trimble's debut novel - I'd definitely like to read more."

8. Twenty Times a Lady by Karyn Bosnak. Great premise and a very well-written, fun story! "A fast, funny and very enjoyable love story/road-trip novel. Whilst you may be able to predict how the book will end, you won't predict how Delilah gets there - and that's the mark of a good writer. The book speeds along, and there's a lot of surprises on the way to a happy ending. I loved the fact that the main character is a risk-taker, not afraid to seem stupid- and brave in sharing her feelings. And I frequently found myself snorting with laughter at her remarks!"

7. The Guy Not Taken by Jennifer Weiner. Weiner's latest is actually a collection of short stories... and very good it is too. "Despite some stories being stronger than others, the book works as a whole and is very entertaining.  It's a treat for Jennifer Weiner fans who love her previous work, but newbies would get a lot out of it, too.  Although I raced through (er, I mean savoured slowly!) the stories, my favourite part of the book was actually the "Notes on Stories" at the back of the book, sharing some of the gossip behind the writing process."

6. Stupid and Contagious by Caprice Crane. Okay, so I'm cheating a little with this one, as Keris actually reviewed it - but then she lent it to me quick-smart and I adored it too! The best new chick-lit writer of the year, no doubt. Said Keris, " Full of pop culture references and more than I ever needed to know about the disgusting things wait staff to rude customers, Stupid and Contagious is extremely funny, it made me cry and when I finished it I could happily have turned back to the first page and started it again. One of the best chick lit books I've ever read." I concur.

What will the top 5 be? Carry on over the cut to find out!

5. How I Paid For College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship and Musical Theatre by Marc Acito. I'm allowing a man to infiltrate the sacred top 5, because this book was just so, so good! Original, inventive, fresh and packed full of sex, theft, friendship and musical theatre it perfectly captures the feeling of 80s teen flicks. "How I paid for College… is a fabulous, over-the-top, brilliantly written, laugh-a-minute American lad-lit (is that enough adjectives yet?!) novel that I can’t recommend enough to anyone with a sense of humour and a pulse."

4. The Vanishing Point by Mary Sharratt. Not precisely chick-lit, but with strong heroines and a killer plot, it's not to be missed.  "More than anything, this book is haunting, and stayed with me long after the final heart-wrenchingly unpredictable twist revealed the truth I'd been waiting all novel to find out."

3. A Boy of Good Breeding by Miriam Toews. A warm, funny and poignant story, wonderfully written. Nothing much happens, but it keeps you hooked all the same. "There's occasional silliness and moments of great humour, but written in a wry, observant way that's always intelligent and never carries a joke too far.  It's easy to believe in this quaint little town with its slightly unusual residents... A Boy of Good Breeding is superbly written and the kind of book you want to re-read immediately."

2. Plotting for Beginners by Sue Hepworth and Jane Linfoot. Brilliantly-written and heartfelt hen-lit for the over-50s, I loved this very funny book. "Plotting for Beginners is a wonderfully funny novel about starting again after your children have left home, your husband is AWOL and you want to fulfill your dreams...  found this an enormously satisfying, well-written and perfectly-plotted novel with a main character who's as lovable and funny as Bridget Jones - if a tad more prone to a hot flush..." Look out for an interview with the authors in the new year!

Finally, number 1 in my list, and my heart, for 2006, is...

Joshjackson3_11. Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson! The book I've been boring all my friends and family about! My read of the year hits the perfect balance between a pacey, exciting storyline and real emotion, and it made me laugh, cry and gape at the quality of the writing. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't enjoy it. "Dealing with themes of abandonment, betrayal, family loyalties and nature vs. nurture, this novel is addictive, thought-provoking reading that's practically perfect in every way.  I defy you not to fall in love with it!"

Trashionista Top 100 Extravanganza! archives / Joshilyn Jackson interview.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on December 8, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, British Authors, Classic Novels, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Opinion, Recent Release, Romance, Top 100 Extravaganza! | Permalink | Comments (5)

BOOK REVIEW: My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Jodipicoult2_1Another one I can't believe we haven't reviewed yet, My Sister's Keeper is the novel that Jodi Picoult is best-known for. After it was picked as a Richard and Judy book club selection in late 2004, it snowballed in popularity, largely due to the brilliant and intriguing premise of the story, which is, as the cover's tagline has it: "If you use one of your children to save the life of another, are you being a good mother or a a very bad one?"

Thirteen year-old Anna is a human pincushion, who's been through countless invasive surgeries and blood transfusions to help save her sister Kate, who has leukaemia. She was never given a choice in this - in fact she was born for this very purpose. But now she's had enough. She's taking her parents to court to ask that they stop harvesting her body to help her sister. As you can imagine, this tears an already disparate (and desperate) family apart...

The book moves from perspective to prospective, and kept me hooked as it explored all the possible implications of the upcoming trial, and each member of the family's feelings about Kate's illness and Anna's life. At first, I didn't think I could ever be persuaded to side with Anna and Kate's parents, but reading their chapters I had compassion for them, if not always agreement with their choices. I would imagine for someone who has children, this aspect of the book would have even more depth.

Some people don't like the ending - you certainly won't expect it! - but I thought it was sad and moving and a good conclusion to the story.

If you haven't read this book, you should. It's definitely the best Picoult I've read, and an intriguing, suspenseful, thought-provoking story that will stay with you for a long time. Oh, and if you don't cry copiously, you have no heart...

Rating: 5 out of 5

Like this? Try Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult.

Related posts: Spotlight: Jodi Picoult / Jodi Picoult, Wonder Woman? / My Sister's Keeper: Yay or Nay?

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on December 8, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction, Rating: 5/5, Richard and Judy | Permalink | Comments (3)

Marian Keyes on Orange Prize judging panel

Yep, it's all Marian, all the time here lately - we do like some other authors too, I promise! But this is big news so I had to share. In her monthly newsletter, the lovely Ms Keyes announced that she's been picked as one of the judges for prestigious literary award The Orange Prize, which celebrates women's fiction. Past winners include We Need to Talk about Kevin and Small Island.

Says Marian, "Naturally my joy will be corrupted by snobby types complaining that if a chick-lit author is judging the Orange Prize, then the barbarians are at the gate, my dears. But my response will be a mature and dignified one. Yes. TOUGH *****, SNOBBY AMIGOS! THEY ASKED ME AND THEY DIDN'T ASK YOU!!!!!"

Well put.

More info on the judging panel here.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on December 8, 2006 in Book related, Irish Authors, Marian Keyes, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Prize Winners | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 7, 2006 8:00 PM

THURSDAY THREE: Christmas is coming

...In literature, as in real life! You might not have a great deal of time for reading just now, so what are some light Christmas reads for you to enjoy as the season approaches? Here's three to start you off...

One of the big Christmas releases this year is Santa, Baby, three short novels / long stories by different authors, in one handy volume. The big draw is Jennifer Crusie's Hot Toy (read an excerpt here), and you can read our review, as well as our exclusive interview with Ms Crusie, later this month.

A Redbird Christmas is another fairly short novel, by Fried Green Tomatoes author Fannie Flagg. It's a fable about Oswald T. Campbell, whose health is so bad he's warned he'll die if he doesn't move to Florida, far away from the cold Chicago winter. Miracles ensue!

What will the third seasonal-themed story be? Carry on over the cut to find out!

Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich (you can also expect an exclusive interview with her later this month!) is a special Christmas-themed Stephanie Plum story. Amazon reviews are very mixed of this one, but might be worth a try if you're a die-hard Plum fan!

What's your favourite holiday read? (Whether specifically Christmas-themed or not!) Perhaps you'll get a new fave this xmas? I know I'm hoping to put my feet up with a good book on Boxing Day...

Thursday Three archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on December 7, 2006 in American Authors, Modern Fiction, Romance, Series, Short Story Collections, Tuesday Three | Permalink | Comments (2)

Read mum-lit novel The Mummybiz online... as it's written

Fiction and non-fiction about the trials (and joys, of course!) of motherhood are hugely popular now, allowing women with children to share their feelings / read books they can relate to.

Now, as part of Time for Mum, a motherhood website, novel The Mummybiz is being published online as it's written, allowing readers the chance to influence edits and get a sneak peek at what could be a future classic of the 'overwhelmed mum' genre!

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on December 7, 2006 in Book News, Book Websites, Book related, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, New Releases | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 6, 2006 5:34 PM

BOOK REVIEW: Hens Dancing by Raffaela Barker

HensRaffaella Barker's Hens Dancing isn't the newest of chick-lit books (it was published in 2000) and, appropriately, it's more hen- than chick-lit, but it's still a darn good girly read!

The story of Venetia Summers (yes, she's rather posh) whose husband leaves her and their three kids to shack up with his masseuse, it's told in diary form and covers a year of Venetia's life - from nits to bathroom conversions to unexpected guests, and most importantly, to her learning to cope with being a single mother with an irascible ex.  So basically it's about life-changing disasters, small triumphs and everything in between...

At the time this came out, Venetia was compared pretty heavily  to Bridget Jones, and if you imagine Bridget a little older, a tad wiser, with kids and an estranged husband, it's a pretty good description.

But Hens Dancing is a great book in its own right. I loved the memorable characters, like Venetia's eccentric mother and of course, her funny and very lively children. It's very well-written, funny and sharp and made me laugh out loud several times - and sympathise hugely with Venetia at others.

I highly recommend it!

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try The Only Boy for Me by Gill McNeil.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on December 6, 2006 in Book related, British Authors, Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5, Romance | Permalink | Comments (1)

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Jodi Picoult

Jodi_3Launching Trashionista's super-special Super Interview Month, Jodi Picoult talks exclusively to us! Woo-hoo!! Over to Jodi...

Please describe your latest book in 15 words or fewer:

[The Tenth Circle is] the story of a father dealing with the aftermath of his daughter's date rape - and the rage that it creates.

Where do you like to write your books (in bed, a coffee shop, an office)?

At my desk, upstairs in my house.

Your favourite chick-lit book? Anything by  Sophie Kinsella.

Your favourite female heroine (if different from above!), and why? Scout Finch, from To Kill A Mockingbird - because she's honest and real and will grow up to be an amazing woman who changes the world.

More from Jodi Picoult over the cut...

Superbig_1What tips would you give to any of our readers who want to become writers?

DO IT. Carve out a bit of time each day to write, and even if you write garbage, stay there and keep going - you can always edit garbage; you can't edit a blank page.

What are you reading at the moment?

A galley of a book that will come out this summer called Turpentine.

What are you working on now? (If you can give us a hint!)

Just this week I wrapped the first draft on a manuscript called Change of  Heart. It's about a man on death row who decides he wants to donate his heart to the sister of his victim, who needs a transplant -- which means that he can't be executed via lethal injection, but instead by means of a less humane form of execution. Then he begins performing miracles...and that some people think he might be Jesus...but the things he says are NOT in the Bible, yet DO come nearly verbatim from a gospel (the Gospel of Thomas) that was rejected by the Church as heresy - and is still considered heresy today. The book questions why we believe the things we do - because they're right, or because it's too frightening to admit we don't have all the answers?

Thanks Jodi! (That sounds great!)

Look out for more Super Interviews all month long! Coming soon: Meg Cabot, Jenny Crusie and Janet Evanovich (really!)

Interview Archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on December 6, 2006 in American Authors, Interviews, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (3)

December 5, 2006 8:22 PM

SPOTLIGHT: Laura Zigman

Laurazigman_1This week we turn the spotlight on Laura Zigman. Laura grew up in Massachusetts, and after graduating from university spent ten years working as a publicist in the New York publishing industry.

She spent five years writing Animal Husbandry (while working full-time) and the film rights were bought before it was even published. On publication in 1998 it became a national bestseller and (along with Bridget Jones's Diary and Marian Keyes's Watermelon) was one of the earliest books to be described as chick lit. The film based on the book, Animal Attraction (also known as Someone Like You and one of our Top 10 chick lit film adaptations) starred Ashley Judd and Hugh Jackman.

Laura’s second novel, Dating Big Bird (which, in contrast to Animal Husbandry, Laura wrote in three months!), came out in 2000, and her third, Her, followed in 2002. Her long-awaited new book, Piece of Work, came out in September this year and has been optioned by Tom Hanks' production company with My Big Fat Greek Wedding's Nia Vardalos set to both write the screenplay and star in the movie.

Laura currently lives outside Boston with her husband and young son.

Carry on over the cut for Laura’s bibliography and look out for our interview with Laura coming up in Super Interview Month!

Animal Husbandry
Dating Big Bird
Her
Piece of Work

Listen to Laura talk about Piece of Work on eyeonbooks.com

Spotlight archives

Posted by Keris on December 5, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (1)

New York panel talks up chick lit

Book insiders Galleycat report today that "Attendees at the Small Press Center's book fair last weekend might have been surprised to see a panel scheduled for Saturday afternoon on chick lit..." 

But it sounds like a great and very positive discussion, in which authors including Sarah Mlynowski and (editor of This is Chick Lit) Lauren Baratz Logsted emphasised the wide variety of chick lit available, and the fact that it's not just about mindless bimbos who love shoes. Not that there's anything wrong with loving shoes... or writing for them, for that matter!

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on December 5, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (3)

BOOK REVIEW: Me vs Me by Sarah Mlynowski

MevsmeSarah Mlynowski's Me vs Me has been compared to the Gwyneth Paltrow film Sliding Doors and the premise is similar. Just before Gabby is about to leave Arizona for her dream job in New York, her boyfriend Cam proposes. She loves Cam, but she really wants to move to New York and he won’t even consider it. Frightened of making the wrong decision, Gabby wishes she could do both and suddenly finds herself living two lives: one in New York and the other in Arizona. The difference between Me vs Me and Sliding Doors is that Gabby knows about both her lives: every night after going to bed in one life, she wakes up in the other and lives each day twice. And for a while it works out fine ...

Gabby’s New York life seems to be going swimmingly - if you ignore Heather the psycho roommate and the fact that Gabby misses Cam. She’s great at her news producing job (having only just mentioned the novelty of a chick lit heroine who’s good at her job, here’s another - I hope it’s a trend) even if her boss is getting a little over-familiar. She’s even losing weight and she’s stopped biting her nails.

Meanwhile her Arizona life gets worse and worse thanks to Cam’s beyond-controlling mother taking over the wedding plans. Arizona is a nightmare and her nails are a mess, but at least there she’s got Cam.

Gabby has literally got the best of both worlds, but before too long she realises she has to choose - in other words, she’s back where she started.

I really loved this book. It’s an original and interesting idea, entertainingly executed. I preferred the New York side of the story - I found Arizona-Gabby too irritatingly spineless (even though she’s aware that she is) plus I could happily have battered mother-in-law Alice to death with her own wedding binder (on the plus side, it takes real skill to create a character this infuriating!). The only sour note for me was Cam. In the Arizona half he is such a controlling, patronising mummy’s boy that I didn’t want Gabby to end up with him in either life.

I’ve enjoyed almost all of Sarah Mlynowski’s books, but with Me vs Me and the fab All About Rachel series, she really is at the top of her game.

Rating 5 out of 5

Like this? Try Enchanted Inc by Shanna Swendson

Related posts: See Jane Write review / Chick lit for little chicks / As Seen on TV review / CNN on chick lit

Posted by Keris on December 5, 2006 in American Authors, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Rating: 5/5, Recent Release, Supernatural | Permalink | Comments (7)

December 3, 2006 8:43 PM

Lisa Jewell in Eve magazine

January's Eve magazine includes an advert for a "How to write your own novel" workshop to be held in London on Saturday 3 March 2007. The workshop will not only include advice from an agent, an editor and a marketing director, but also British author Lisa Jewell, who will be on hand to talk about getting started, securing an agent and the highs and lows of being an author. More information here.

And that's not all. The February issue includes a free copy of Lisa's wonderful book, Vince & Joy.

Posted by Keris on December 3, 2006 in Book related, British Authors, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Romance | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 1, 2006 2:05 PM

Trashionista's Top 100 Extravaganza!

December is shaping up to be an exciting time to be a chick lit fan, Trashionista readers...

Not only is it Super Interview Month, but we'll also be sharing chick-lit themed top 10s (like our favourite chick lit books-turned-movies, or our top 10 'lad lit' choices) culminating in our top 10 chick lit books of all time on December 31st. Keris and I will also each share our favourite books we've reviewed this year, so your Christmas book shopping should be sorted.

We're calling the whole thing Trashionista's Top 100 Extravaganza! and we want you to join in by telling us what you think of our choices- in fact, we can't wait! All the fun starts on Mon (sorry, coudln't resist a rhyme to help you remember!)- see you then!!

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on December 1, 2006 in American Authors, Announcements, Book News, Book related, British Authors, Classic Novels, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Recent Release, Top 100 Extravaganza! | Permalink | Comments (1)

December is Super Interview Month!

Superbig_8Because we have some super interviews for you this month, and lots of them!

You want exclusive Trashionista interviews with Jenny Crusie, Janet Evanovich, Meg Cabot and more? You got 'em!

Stay tuned throughout the whole of December to make sure you don't miss out!  (Can you tell I'm excited?!)

It all starts on Wednesday, December 6th, with an exclusive interview with Jodi Picoult (*squeal!*)

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on December 1, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Celebrity Authors, Interviews, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Recent Release, Romance, Young Adult | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sara Gruen guest blog

Saragruen_2No, I didn't forget about this one! I saved it to take the sting out of the end of NaNovember! If NaNoWriMo's put you off writing for a while, lovely Sara Gruen's got some tips ...

Sara’s Tools for Avoiding Writing by Sara Gruen

I began this morning as I do every other work day, which is to say I sat down with my cup of tea and immediately glanced around the room seeking reasons not to write.

I paid the bills yesterday. Ditto with watering the plants. I called the piano tuner and made the kids' orthodontic appointments and checked that they were up-to-date on their vaccinations. Hmmm, let me see... I could work my way through the pile of manuscripts I've promised to blurb. I could swap out some of my desk fish’s water. I could update my Web site. I could figure out how to get music onto this iPod I've had since July. Then I remembered I promised to do this guest blog! Elation!

As you may have gathered, I have procrastination down to a fine art. Even though I have two deadlines, one self-imposed (NaNoWriMo - let us know how you got on, Sara!) and one publisher-imposed, I can’t seem to help myself. As such, I’ve decided to share my wisdom and experience:

1. Email. One of the very best tools, and even better if you have multiple accounts, because while you're checking one, something might be arriving in another, so you have to go back and check. This loop can keep you occupied endlessly.

2. E-bay. Haven't you always needed—yes, NEEDED—a sequined paisley clutch bag from the early 60s? Clearly you need it more than that hateful Snoopy123 person who keeps bidding you up. Remember to stay poised on the Refresh button for the old swoop-and-scoop at the very end. It’s all about winning!

3. Google yourself. Yes, virtual naval gazing. Frightfully egocentric (and occasionally just plain frightful), yet very effective for procrastination. You'd be amazed at what turns up! Pages and pages of it!

4. For the truly desperate, there's always housecleaning, furniture rearranging, and interior wall painting. My family room sags under the weight of the five colors I’ve applied (it turns out to be difficult to get just the right shade of orange) and the windows are hermetically sealed, having gone from white to green (don’t ask) to purple (again, don’t ask) to dark brown and finally, back to white. Gardening is also good. I once went out with a pair of shears and butchered my lilac down to a third of its original size and something resembling a shape. When I saw what I’d done, I was horrified. Fortunately, it appears to be impossible to kill a lilac.

I joke about procrastination, but it is a real problem—and I suspect not just for me. My personal low was the time I sorted my rubber bands by size. This was while I was avoiding writing Water for Elephants, and the result was that I asked my husband to move my desk into our walk-in closet, I covered over the window, closed the door, and wore noise-reduction headphones. No internet access, no view, no telephone—nothing but me and my laptop. I spent more than three miserable months in that sensory-deprivation pod, but when I staggered forth into the daylight, I had a finished book.

I now know myself and my writing habits well enough to allow myself limited procrastination. I give myself about half an hour to get caught up on my e-world when I sit down at my desk, and then I open my file. My theory is that if I stare at it long enough, I’ll eventually start writing or editing, and so far I’ve been right.

And if I ever find myself pondering wall colors again, I’ll move back into the closet. I won’t like it, but I’ll do it.

Thanks, Sara! Now, excuse me while I clean my keyboard with a paperclip and a cotton bud ...

Posted by Keris on December 1, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction, Opinion | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 30, 2006 8:00 PM

THURSDAY THREE: Marriage and mayhem

Almost everyone I know is getting married lately, and it got me thinking about the number of books devoted to the subject of weddings- especially the ones with madness and mayhem involved! Here are three picks of the bunch- but feel free to read on and suggest your own...

Laura Wolf's Diary of a Mad Bride is a "will there be a wedding disaster or won't there?" classic. Amy vows that when she gets married, she'll be far more level-headed than her taffeta-obsessed engaged girlfriends. But when her boyfriend proposes, she finds she's just as bad as everyone else: "Marriages are made in heaven - but weddings are made in hell...What is it about getting married that can turn a sophisticated, level-headed woman into an obsessed wreck?" A great fast and funny farce- just don't use Amy as your role model...!

Carry on over the cut for more wedding fun...

The next book is about a sister of the bride, rather than a mad bride... If you hated the Debra Messing film The Wedding Date (everyone I know who's seen it does!) then don't be put off by the book it's based on- they're nothing alike! Liz Young's Asking for Trouble is about Sophy, who doesn't have a date for her sister's wedding, so asks an attractive escort to accompany her... of course, things don't go quite to plan!

Finally, Marry Me by Carey Marx is the true-life story of a comedian's quest to find true love and get married... within six months! It's very, very funny- but you'll have to read it to see if he achieves his goal...

What are your favourite marriage/wedding themed books?

Thursday Three archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 30, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, British Authors, Girly Stuff, Memoirs, Modern Fiction, Non Fiction, Recent Release, Tuesday Three | Permalink | Comments (5)

BOOK REVIEW: Daughter of the Bride by Francesca Segre

Daughterofthebride_1Just managed to sneak another NaNovember author review in! Francesca Segre's Daughter of the Bride features Daniella, a financial reporter on Wall Street who, unlike many chick lit heroines, is actually good at her job. She's intelligent and articulate - no Bridget Jones style snafus for Daniella. But. She's single and she really doesn't want to be, so when her mother announces she's getting married, Daniella's not sure how she feels about it. Basically, she doesn't think it's right that her mother should be getting married before her.

Daniella's family lives in San Francisco and so she finds herself flying back and forth to help her mother choose a dress and a caterer and a florist, etc. Back in New York, Daniella dates various men, always looking for her idealistic IB (Imaginary Boyfriend). At one point, one of her boyfriends tells her that she's holding back in the relationship and that he's not sure she's ready to get settle down and get serious, that she doesn't really want it, she's too busy being herself and "chasing dreams of perfection." I would have preferred to see more of this insight from Daniella instead of her immediately thinking every man she meets could be "the one" and then constantly being disappointed. I was actually quite disappointed that, although Daniella states she doesn't need a man to validate her in her work, in her personal life she definitely seems to feel like she's less valuable because she's single.

The book doesn't really have much in the way of plot and I'm afraid I was bored by all the marriage plans. (I found planning my own wedding tedious, so I was bound to lose interest in planning a fictional wedding.) There are some lovely characters though. I particularly liked Daniella's brothers, Max and Enrico, and would have liked to see more of them. In fact, I enjoyed the book more whenever Daniella was in San Francisco. There was something I found almost claustrophobic about the New York scenes.

The main problem I think I had with Daughter of the Bride was that it was strangely humourless. Searching for a man may not be a comedy topic in reality, but reading about it without the relief of laughter is actually quite hard work and I found myself scanning quite often.

That said, Francesca Segre writes beautifully so I'll definitely check out her next book and if you're planning a wedding - either for yourself or your mother! - you'll probably enjoy Daughter of the Bride more than I did.

Rating 3 out of 5

Like this? Try Why Girls Are Weird by Pamela Ribon

Francesca's guest blog / Francesca's author interview

Posted by Keris on November 30, 2006 in American Authors, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, NaNovember, Rating: 3/5 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Watch Madonna talk books

Well, it makes a nice change from hearing her talk about adoption, Africa, etc etc etc! She talks about her hugely popular The English Roses book, and its new sequel The English Roses: Too Good To Be True. And she makes some great feminist points about books for young girls!

The interview is in four parts, all on YouTube.

[Via Book Trailer Park].

Related: Kylie joins celebrity authors.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 30, 2006 in American Authors, Book News, Book Websites, Book related, Celebrity Authors, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Series, Technology, Television | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 29, 2006 8:09 PM

YAY OR NAY WEDNESDAY

OjHi, Yay or Nayers! Last week you were pretty much agreed that it's OK if your partner doesn't read your writing... better than him/her reading it and making lukewarm/disparaging comments, at any rate! (But I think I'd want my boyfriend to read and love my masterpieces - if I had a boyfriend. Or any masterpieces.)

This week, the question is simple, if controversial. (And in several parts...) You may have heard all the outcry about the proposed OJ Simpson book (worst taste idea of the year), which has now thankfully been dropped by the publisher. Found not guilty in criminal court of the murders of his ex-wife and her boyfriend, OJ was nevertheless found guilty in a civil trial. And although he's not in the same league, disgraced ex-politician Jeffrey Archer has a new book deal (oh joy) and indeed released a book from prison. Great! On the other hand, this prison diary is one of the best books I've ever read.

So what I want to know is this: should books by convicted criminals ever be published, and should they receive money for them? Does it depend on whether the book draws on a crime they've been found guilty of? Is it only okay once they've served their time? Should it be taken on a case by case basis (eg. Jeffrey Archer - bad writer but not in bad taste, OJ - bad to the bone *allegedly*?) What do you think?

To answer all or any of that(!), tell us: is it a Yay or a Nay... and Why?

Yay or Nay archives.

[Don't forget it's Yay or Nay day at Hippyshopper, Bridalwave, Corrie Blog, Catwalk Queen, Kiss and Makeup, The Bag Lady, Shoewawa and Shiny Shiny, too!]

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 29, 2006 in American Authors, Book News, Book related, British Authors, Crime / Mystery, Memoirs, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Opinion, Yay or Nay? | Permalink | Comments (9)

BOOK REVIEW: The Vanishing Point by Mary Sharratt

VpI have a confession to make: My natural tendency is that I hear 'historical fiction', I think zzzzzz... so it takes a really great book set in the past to get me hooked. The Vanishing Point is just such a book.

Mary Sharratt 's third novel is the story of May Powers and her sister Hannah and it begins in Gloustershire, England in 1689. Known as the local 'trollop', 22-year-old May discovers one day that she's been promised in marriage to her father's cousin's son all the way across the pond in Maryland. She leaves her sister, father and housekeeper/surrogate mother Joan behind, not knowing if she'll ever see any of them again, and makes the trip to start her new life in the USA.

When she gets there, she's unimpressed by what she finds: touted as tobacco farmers, her father's cousin's family own little land and only very basic property. They live in the middle of nowhere, and work from dawn til dusk - and she now must, too. What's more, her new husband is four years younger than her, inexperienced, shy and unimpressive. In the face of such disappointment, and the temptation of some charismatic Irish farm workers, May finds it hard to curb her wanton ways...

When Hannah arrives to join May two years later, after the death of their father, she finds the cabin where she's expecting to see May almost deserted - what has happened here, and where is her sister?

All this happens within the first 100 pages, so I could give away a lot more of the plot, but I won't because all the plot's unexpected twists are a large part of the enjoyment of this novel. It's so well-written (dispelling any idea that historical novels are boring or old-fashioned), well-researched (but not in a way that forces facts down the reader's throat) and brilliantly-plotted. It's also easy to read and understand, with just the right mix of historical and modern language so that it's realistic but never stuffy. And turns out people were pretty bawdy back then!

I learned a lot from this novel (do you know what the traditional red and white-striped barber's pole used to represent?!) and really got a feel for life in the 17th century. I'd never thought about how hard it must be for emigrants from England to America, who would d never see their families again and have to start all over in a place that had a  far less advanced civilization (living conditions were much more basic, and someone with kidney stones would certainly die, due to the shortage of doctors, for example). Sometimes this book is brutal, and violent, especially the descriptions of animals being slaughtered, but it's never gratuitous.

More than anything, this book is haunting, and stayed with me long after the final heart-wrenchingly unpredictable twist revealed the truth I'd been waiting all novel to find out.

You don't have to be interested in history to love this book - you just have to read it. It's a book that doesn't seem to have received the coverage it deserves in the UK, but I'm crossing my fingers that the Orange panel gives it some serious consideration...

Rating: 5 out of 5

Like this? Try The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory; Property by Valerie Martin.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 29, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction, Rating: 5/5, Romance | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 28, 2006 12:26 PM

SPOTLIGHT: Sarah Mason

SarahmasonHaving just learned that she's got a new book out next year - and because we've loved all of her books so far - I thought I'd shine this week's spotlight on Sarah Mason.

Aged 25, Sarah started an enormously successful company importing gourmet popcorn from America (she was once voted one of the top five British entrepreneurs). She started writing after selling the business.

Her first novel, Playing James, was published in 2002 and Sarah became the first-ever first-time novelist to win the Romantic Novelists' Association Romantic Novel of the Year award. Playing James was followed by The Party Season and High Society. (All three books got a 5 out of 5 rating from Trashionista!)

Sarah's new novel, Sea Fever, is due out in July 2007 and is described by her publishers as "Sun, sea, sailing, and sex ... [following] the scandal, gossip, drama and fun of an America's Cup regatta."

Sarah lives in Cheltenham with her husband and daughter.

Carry on over the cut for Sarah's bibliography.

Playing James
The Party Season (Party Girl in the US)
High Society (Society Girls in the US)

See Sarah talking about High Society and The Party Season on Meet the Author.

Posted by Keris on November 28, 2006 in Book related, British Authors, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Prize Winners, Romance, Series, Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0)

Marian Keyes news- she's on Strictly and on film!

MariankeyesAnyone who watched Strictly Come Dancing's sister show It Takes Two yesterday will have seen footage of the lovely Marian Keyes behind the scenes on Saturday's SCD, giving her unique take on the series- inspecting the underwear arrangements inside the girls' dresses (not whilst anyone was wearing them, I hasten to add!) and screaming with such excitement at meeting Lilia - she almost provoked the poor girl to need a restraining order. Then she treated us to a little of her dancing... hmm. All in all, very entertaining. If barmy.

AND! Did you know that there's a film of her novel Last Chance Saloon? If you did, you're more informed than I am! Called ‘Au secours j’ai trente ans’ (which Babelfish translates - I suspect a little too literally - as "With the help I am thirty years old") it's a French film that sadly doesn't have a subtitled version available on English or American Amazon, but you can buy a copy via the French version of the site. A reviewer there only gave it 2/5, but Marian says in Further Under the Duvet that she thinks it's a very good adaptation - and you can't say fairer than that!

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 28, 2006 in Book Websites, Book related, Girly Stuff, Irish Authors, Marian Keyes, Modern Fiction, Movie News, Television | Permalink | Comments (2)

BOOK REVIEW: BreakupBabe by Rebecca Agiewich

Breakupbabe_1At last, a review of one of NaNovember authors' books!  Rebecca Agiewich's BreakupBabe started out as a blog, which Rebecca then fictionalised both to add a plot and - I'm conjecturing here - to avoid getting sued.  Because I am so incredibly nosey, books like this drive me mad.  I want to know which parts are true and which are made up, dammit!

Rebecca Rachel works for a software company as a technical editor.  She's just had a horrendous break-up with a guy she works with.  She's not handling it well and she starts a blog to try and process her feelings.  And the blog, as blogs are wont to do, starts to really help.  But then it's discovered by her colleagues and things fall apart.  Plus Rachel starts writing a book based on her blog.  This book, in fact.  You can see how this is confusing.   

Along with the story of Rachel's break-up (or "The Great Unpleasantness", as Rachel calls it) and her problems at work, we also hear all about Rachel's dating escapades.  These aren't the kind of so-bad-they're-funny dating stories you sometimes get; they're more real and hopeful and painful.  With each new man I was rooting for Rachel and hated seeing her disappointed over and over again. 

(If anyone has read Jennifer Crusie's Anyone But You, the BreakupBabe story reminds me a lot of the book Nina's friend is writing about her dating experiences.  Remember the publisher suggests she fictionalise it to include a more hopeful ending?)

Although I think Rebecca Agiewich is a really talented writer, I sometimes found her style a bit affected.  I also could have done with less about the medications Rachel was on, but that's probably personal preference. 

As for which parts are true, it doesn't matter, of course.  BreakupBabe feels true, and that's the most important thing. 

Rating 4 out of 5

Like this? Try I'm Celibate, Get Me Out of Here by Jo Elliott

Did you know? Rebecca is still writing the Breakup Babe blog

Don't forget! It's not too late to enter our competition to win a copy of BreakupBabe

Posted by Keris on November 28, 2006 in American Authors, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, NaNovember, Rating: 4/5 | Permalink | Comments (1)

BOOK REVIEW: Plotting for Beginners by Sue Hepworth and Jane Linfoot

PlottingDespite the title, Plotting for Beginners by Sue Hepworth and Jane Linfoot isn't a writing guide, but, as the subtitle says, 'a novel for new beginnings.' Sally Howe and her husband are spending a year apart, as he wants to live in a cabin in the American wilderness and she wants to write a novel and launch a career in journalism. Says Sally, "Women reach fifty and think they're on the verge of liberation and excitement, and their broken-down men just want to stay home and fart. Or in my case, go and live in a cabin in the Rockies and fart."

On dropping Gus off at the airport, however, Sally is shocked that he considers the Rockies just the start of his overseas adventures - the year after, he's thinking of Australia! So instead of happily singing along to Fred Astaire and facing a self-indulgent year ahead, Sally spends the journey home worrying about the possible disintegration of her marriage - and its effect on her writing plans...

She soon finds out she won't be as alone as she thought, when her newly-separated brother comes to stay (and insists on keeping interrupting her writing for her opinion on his DIY), her youngest son keeps coming home for a visit and her brother's attractive single friend keeps calling in to see her...

Plotting for Beginners is a wonderfully funny novel about starting again after your children have left home, your husband is AWOL and you want to fulfill your dreams. I loved Sally's voice, the diary format, the secondary characters and the  book as a whole. Anyone who's interested in writing, or lives in the same are of the country as Sally (or both, like me!) will find it especially entertaining, but they're by no means prerequisites for enjoying the book. Please don't think that the fact Sally is in her 50s means you won't relate to her - she's so likable that anyone will, and you'll be willing her on to literacy success, and laughing out loud at some of the ups and downs of her year alone. You'll also be hoping that she'll find a satisfactory solution to her relationship difficulties...

I found this an enormously satisfying, well-written and perfectly-plotted novel with a main character who's as lovable and funny as Bridget Jones - if a tad more prone to a hot flush...

Read it!

Rating: 5 out of 5

Sue Hepworth has a blog where you can even read a short-lived blog by main character Sally, and see pictures of some of the sites mentioned in the book- very postmodern! You can also find out more about the author...

Like this? Try Having it and Eating it by Sabine Durrant.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 28, 2006 in Book related, British Authors, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Rating: 5/5, Romance | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 27, 2006 10:34 AM

Mediabistro's 12-week novelist courses

NaNoWrimo is reaching its end - how are you all doing? Close to hitting 50,000 words, I hope? (My arms ache just thinking about it!) If you haven't quite made it, or you think three months is a much more sensible amount of time to write a novel in, you might be interested in the Media Bistro course, 12 Week Novelist: Chick Lit Edition. Nano specialist and friend of Trashionista Francesca Segre is teaching it, and it runs from January 10 - April 16. The only downside? You have to be living (or staying) in LA... There is a general 12-week novelist course which is available online, though.

Related posts: Introduction to NaNovember / The Three-Day novel / A Novel in a Year  / Novels that take a long time!

NaNovember archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 27, 2006 in American Authors, Book Websites, Book related, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, NaNovember | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 24, 2006 3:05 PM

FRIDAY FLICK: Where the Heart Is

WheretheheartisThis made for TV movie is based on the best-selling book by Billie Letts. I'd never heard of either the film or the book so I didn't know what to expect. Natalie Portman is Novalee Nation who is abandoned, penniless and pregnant, in the carpark of WalMart by her loser boyfriend Willie Jack. With nowhere else to go she finds herself living in the WalMart for weeks, until her baby is born and she and "the WalMart baby" become local celebrities.

Novalee and her daughter, Americus, are taken in by the local community, including Sister Husband (Stockard Channing), Lexi (Ashley Judd) and Forney (James Frain) and start to build a life, interrupted by a series of tragedies (well it is a TV movie after all!).

Natalie Portman is mesmerising as Novalee. Never less than totally convincing, she's charming, independent, strong and sweet. Don't be fooled by Ashley Judd appearing on the cover of the DVD, this is Portman's movie. That's not to say Ashley Judd isn't great too; in fact there are a number of fabulous female performances : Stockard Channing, Joan Cusack and a sparkling cameo from Sally Field as Novalee's runaway mother.

We are occasionally updated on Novalee's loser boyfriend Willie Jack's whereabouts and misadventures and I actually found this unnecessary (I didn't care what happened to the fool), but that aside this is an enjoyable and intelligent feel-good film.

Posted by Keris on November 24, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Friday Flick, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Romance | Permalink | Comments (4)

AUTHOR INTERVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Karen Quintiere

Karen1_1We're in the enviable position of having more NaNo author interviews than there are Wednesdays in NaNovember, so today's bonus interview day!

If you read Karen Quintiere's guest blog, you'll know that her book, Designing Bitches, is out next month. Read on for Karen's interview and then carry on over the cut to find out how you can with a copy of her book.

Please describe your latest book in 15 words or fewer:

Designing Bitches is coming in December from Triskelion Publishing. It's my first novel and I couldn't be more excited or terrified.

My main character, Peyton Doucet, is a middle school Art teacher whose dreams of being a fashion designer were cut short when her best friend ripped the couture rug out from under her. Now married and living in Washington, DC, she gets a second chance to make her dreams come true.

(That's more than 15, Karen, but I'll let you off cos it's Friday!)

Where do you like to write your books (in bed, a coffee shop, an office)?

I write on my Sony Vaio - it's Raspberry Red and totally cute. I don't really have a preference as far as where I write - my notebook travels wherever I do.

Your favourite chick-lit book?

I adore Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series. Becky Bloomwood and I have a lot in common, which is both good and bad, I suppose!

Your favourite female heroine (if different from above!), and why?

As much as I love Becky Bloomwood, I have to say Scarlett O'Hara, who, in my opinion, is the original Chick Lit heroine. 

What tips would you give to any of our readers who want to become writers?

I started a few years ago on a fan fiction site, which opened up a whole world for me that I never knew existed.  Through the site, I was able to create my own characters, invent storylines for them, and put my work out there for a lot of people to see. I also met a wonderfully talented group of writers who support and encourage me at every turn. I think it's a great place for any writer to start because it is an anonymous forum for lots of people to see your writing and give you feedback.  The first time I got an email from a stranger who'd read and loved my writing was one of the best days of my life.  My only other advice is to read, read, read, from as many different styles and genres as you can.

What are you reading at the moment?

I tend to read several books at once - I'm a voracious reader and my tastes are fairly eclectic.  Let's see..

Echoes of a Distant Summer by Guy Johnson (Maya Angelou's son)
Happy Hour at Casa Dracula by Marta Acosta
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

I think I'll stop at three, otherwise I may give the impression that I don't have a life!

What are you working on now? (If you can give us a hint!)

Right now, I'm working on the follow-up to Designing Bitches, which is tentatively titled, Bitches in Bikinis.

I'm having lots of fun with it so far - the girls are on vacation in Morella, a very cool spot I found in the lyrics of a U2 song and promptly Googled. I'm about 7,500 words in so far and have most of the scenes plotted out. 

What question have you never been asked, but wish you had (you can answer it too, if you want.)

What superhero power would you like to have, and why?

I would love to have the power to turn invisible - I am super nosy and the chance to spy on others is too good to pass up. Of course, if there is any sort of superhero hyperspeed metabolism available, then I'll just have to be nosy in the usual way.  Being able to eat whatever I want and have it burn right up? That would be the best thing ever. 

Thanks, Karen! For your chance to win a hot-off-the-press copy of Designing Bitches, just email us with "Bitches" in the subject line and your name and address in the body of the email (so we can send you the book - we won't send you anything else, honest) before 30 November 2006.

And don't forget there's still time to enter our other NaNovember competitions: The Salem Witch Tryouts, BreakupBabe, Daughter of the Bride, Time Off For Good Behavior and Sara Gruen (three books!)

Posted by Keris on November 24, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Competition, Debut Novels, Fashion-Lit, Interviews, Modern Fiction, NaNovember | Permalink | Comments (4)

PREVIEW REVIEW: Singletini by Amanda Trimble

Singletini_1Normally on Trashionista, we review books that are available for everyone to buy (works well that way!) but sometimes we're lucky enough to get an advance copy of a lovely new novel, and we can't wait to tell you about it. So although Singletini by Amanda Trimble isn't available to buy in the UK until January 1st, it is available on pre-order at Amazon, so you could still pop a copy in your basket for a post-Xmas treat!

Singletini's main character Victoria Hart feels her life is a mess. At 25, she's disorganised, just lost her hated job in computer sales and is lost as to what to do next. All her friends' lives seem more sorted than hers - they have direction in their careers, and her great friend Gwynn has just got engaged, to Victoria's horror. She wants to be young, free and single - but the rate she's going fears she'll end up with nothing in her life. Then she spots an ad for a new, very well-paid job - as a "wingwoman". Her friends think it's akin to prostitution, but is it really?

Of course it's nothing quite so dramatic, but I loved the inventiveness of the idea - a wingwoman is someone a single man takes out with him to help him get dates or pull women. She breaks the ice with the women he fancies, talks him up (pretending to be a friend, sister or colleague) and when she succeeds in setting him up, gets paid very handsomely for doing so, plus expenses. But Victoria (of course!) discovers that the job isn't exactly easy money...

On top of all her work pressure, her friend Gwynn is expecting her to act as general dogsbody with all her wedding preparations (I actually got very interested in this subplot, which I thought could even have been expanded into a novel on its own, but I liked the fact that Singletini is fast and furious, with lots of storyline). Victoria's also trying to decide between two eligible bachelors - both of whom she met through work and wants for herself - and realising that she's spending most of the money she's making at her new job on upkeep for her glamorous new image.

Singletini is pretty standard, fairytale-ending chick-lit but written in a fast and compelling style, (perhaps as a result of the author's time in advertising?) that never becomes boring. The wingwoman idea is very creative and lends itself to lots of humor and interesting moral questions (none of which are really explored). What frustrated me a little about the book was a slight lack of depth - Victoria doesn't seem to have any realisation that her obsession with weight and shopping is shallow, or that 25 is too young to be worried about being alone forever, or that her friend's wedding planning behaviour (treating Victoria like a doormat) is unacceptable.  But she does make some changes in her life and becomes happier by the end of the book, and it's very entertaining escapism on the way.

This is Amanda Trimble's debut novel - I'd definitely like to read more.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella; Save Karyn by Karyn Bosnak.

Related: PREVIEW REVIEW: The Guy Not Taken by Jennifer Weiner.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 24, 2006 in American Authors, Book News, Book related, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Rating: 4/5, Romance | Permalink | Comments (2)

November 23, 2006 6:22 PM

THURSDAY THREE: Big girls don't cry

The best kind of  weight-ishoos chick lit allows larger ladies in fiction to be empowered human beings with friends, confidence, love lives and careers - instead of sad little victims. As it's traditional stuff-your-face-day (Thanksgiving) in the US, and approaching traditional stuff-your-face-day (Christmas) in the UK, what better time to highlight heroines for whom fat is not a four-letter word... (You know what I mean!)

Classic in this sub-genre is Jennifer Weiner's Good In Bed. Cannie is a sexy, confident, attractive woman who is larger than life in every sense of the word. Sure, she has her confidence off-days (like when her boyfriend simultaneously dumps her and writes about her weightiness in a national magazine, with no prior warning). But her story isn't about weight loss, but finding happiness.

Carry on with me over the cut for more...

Louise Kean's The Perfect 10 is a bit different, as the main character has lost weight and gained a great figure - but she realises that perhaps her weight wasn't the cause of her problems in the first place... she must face up to what's really bothering her.

Conversations With The Fat Girl by Liza Palmer also explores the idea that weight loss might not be the answer to main character Maggie's happiness. Maybe she has to y'know, accept herself... then it won't mater what weight she is.

Let these women be a lesson to all of us - enjoy this holiday season, and try not to mentally beat yourself up, whatever your size!

Thursday Three archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 23, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, British Authors, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Recent Release, Tuesday Three | Permalink | Comments (2)

BOOK REVIEW: Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA

ApplewoodYep, another confession, but a fictional one this time. Applewood is a wealthy community in Long Island and if you're an Applewood mom you're no-one unless you're active in the PTA. When the woman of the PTA discover that a Hollywood studio is considering using the local school as a film location, they're excited about the prospects for the community. When they learn that the star of the film will be George Clooney, well, excitement is an understatement.

But the book isn't about George Clooney (although he does make the odd appearance), it's about the lives and friendships of three women - Maddie, Lisa and Ruth. All members of the PTA, all three women have problems. Maddie thinks her husband is having an affair and is considering some infidelity of her own. Lisa's alcoholic mother comes to live with her, throwing her organised life into disarray. Ruth's had enough of taking care of her husband, incapacitated after a stroke, and embarks on an affair of her own.

But the PTA is a dog eat dog world and other members are only too happy to use the movie project for their own manipulative ends. Can Maddie, Lisa and Ruth save the project and sort their own lives out?

Obviously any book about scandal in the suburbs will be compared to Desperate Housewives, but Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA reminded me more of the classic Peyton Place. Lisa, Maddie and Ruth are all interesting and entertaining characters - I loved Ruth in particular. It's a little predictable in parts, but it's otherwise a funny, compelling and well-written book. This is Ellen Meister's debut. I think her next book might just knock my socks off.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try Goodnight, Nobody by Jennifer Weiner

Posted by Keris on November 23, 2006 in American Authors, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Rating: 4/5 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Karyn Bosnak's new YouTube videos

Karyn Bosnak is the latest author to hop on the YouTube bandwagon, with a new series of video posts she's calling 'Storytime'. Watch the first one here and find out about her friend Mark, her lazy eye, and even a bit about her novel, Twenty Times a Lady. She's a natural! (Much like our Shiny media colleagues, who've been at this YouTube lark for ages now- such trendsetters...) Word on Karyn's blog is that a new Storytime is due very soon.

Related: Melanie Lynn Hauser on YouTube / Meet The Author / Expanded Books

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 23, 2006 in American Authors, Book Websites, Book related, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, Recent Release, Technology | Permalink | Comments (2)

November 22, 2006 12:45 PM

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Francesca Segre

Francesca_segre_final_1Our NaNovember celebrations continue with this week's interview with American author Francesca Segre. Francesca wrote her book Daughter of the Bride for NaNoWriMo and the film rights have been optioned for Goldie Hawn.

Please describe your latest book in 15 words or fewer:

29 year-old Daniella watches her mother get hitched while her own ring finger is bare.

Where do you like to write your books (in bed, a coffee shop, an office)?

I work at libraries or cafes on my laptop. I usually ride my bicycle to The Cow’s End, a café at Venice Beach, a mile from my house. Working at the Cow’s End is good for three reasons: 1) It has no internet access (aka most dangerous procrastination tool.) 2. There are other “regular writers” at The Cow’s End, which can be good for camaraderie. 3. A break from writing means a nap on the sand. Nice! I’d like to work at home, but I get so distracted (read internet.)

Your favourite chick-lit book?

This is not original, but I do think Good in Bed takes the cake. It was so funny, from the first scene of Cannie wolfing down M&Ms to the later scenes where she grows up and moves past the ex-boyfriend. The character was likable and fresh. The story was unpredictable and different from the generic skinny girl goes shopping and looks for boyfriend.

Your favourite female heroine (if different from above!), and why?

While Calliope Helen Stephanides in Middlesex isn’t strictly a heroine because she is also a he, I thought s/he was a fascinating, warm, and genuine character. I wanted her/him to have an okay life and find an end to the torture and confusion of having an unidentifiable sex.

What tips would you give to any of our readers who want to become writers?

Don’t write for fame, glory, or money. Write because you have a story to tell and it will drive you (and everyone else around you) bonkers unless you get it out. Beyond that, stop procrastinating! Sit down, shut up and write.

What are you reading at the moment?

An Anthropologist on Mars, by Oliver Sacks. This is a fascinating collection of true stories about idiot savants.

What are you working on now? (If you can give us a hint!)

She’s a TV reporter in a small town. I’m sorry I can’t tell you more.

Thanks, Francesca!

If you haven't read Francesca's guest blog - what are you waiting for?

And don't forget that you can win a copy of Daughter of the Bride simply by emailing us your name and address (subject: "Bride") before 30th November 2006.

And as if all that wasn't enough, a review of Daughter of the Bride is coming up next week!

Posted by Keris on November 22, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Interviews, Modern Fiction, NaNovember | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 21, 2006 2:18 PM

SPOTLIGHT: Kate Harrison

KateharrisonThis week's spotlight shines on British novelist, Kate Harrison.

Kate was born in Wigan but, due to her father's job, spent much of her childhood travelling around Britain and Europe (she attended more than 13 schools and lived in the Isle of Man, St Helens, Bramhall, Bracknell, Camberley, Newbury and Holland!).

While studying journalism at college in Portsmouth, Kate won the ESSO Young Journalist of the Year competition. She then held various positions at the BBC (including on-screen reporter, producer and director), but after attending an Arvon Foundation writing course, Kate started writing a novel.

At a writing conference, Kate won the ‘opening to a novel competition’ and landed a publishing deal and an agent on the same day a few weeks later!

Old School Ties was published in Autumn 2003 and chosen for WH Smiths Fresh Talent promotion. It was followed by The Starter Marriage and Brown Owl's Guide to Life. Kate's fourth book, The Self-Preservation Society, will be out next year.

Kate has recently left the BBC to write full-time and you can read about how she's getting on here.

Carry on over the cut for Kate's bibliography and more.

Old School Ties
The Starter Marriage
Brown Owl's Guide to Life

See Kate talk about The Starter Marriage at Meet the Author.  

Posted by Keris on November 21, 2006 in Book related, British Authors, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Romance, Spotlight | Permalink | Comments (0)

Novels that take a long time!

To write, rather than read, that is- although in some cases it might be both! It seems that while the frenzied atmosphere of Nanovember is great inspiration for some authors, others need a lot more time to hone their craft...

Mary Sharratt told us last week that researching and writing her tour de force novel (review coming soon!) The Vanishing Point took ten years, a real labour of love. Bestselling author Donna Tartt also took ten years between smash hit The Secret History and its follow-up, The Little Friend (meaning the so-so reviews for the latter must have been especially galling- that's the sophomore slump for you!)

Meanwhile, in the latest issue of Mslexia, Jane Harris explains why her debut novel The Observations took a massive thirteen years to come to fruition. So if you're a budding novelist, I  guess it doesn't really matter how long it takes... as long as you get there in the end.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 21, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, British Authors, Crime / Mystery, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, NaNovember, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (1)

High Fidelity- the musical!

Yes, strange as it may sound, Nick Hornby's 90s lad-lit classic High Fidelity (which was made into a film in 2000) has now been adapted into a musical for the Broadway stage! The show opened yesterday to a flurry of hype and some mixed reviews... if you're interested, buy tickets or find out more via topfivebreak ups.com.

Related: The play's the thing (apparently) / Movie news archives.

[Via Vanity Fair].

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 21, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction, Movie News | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 20, 2006 4:57 PM

BOOK REVIEW: Miss Understanding by Stephanie Lessing

MissunderstandingMiss Understanding is about Zoe Rose who is .. odd. She shows signs of having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and possibly even autism, but this isn't referred to openly (at least not that I noticed, but I could have missed it - I'll explain in a bit). She has recently been made deputy editor to Issues magazine (which featured in Stephanie Lessing's first book, She's Got Issues) and since Zoe's apparently a radical feminist and Issues is a typical women's fashion glossy, you can imagine it's not exactly a match made in heaven.

Zoe starts work at Issues and immediately gets on the bad side of a couple of Fashionistas (in a very funny bathroom scene). It has to be said, no-one is convinced by Zoe's journalistic credentials and everyone is more interested in the fact that one of her enormous boobs leaps out of her blouse in the first editorial meeting. Because that's the other thing - Zoe can't dress herself. At all. Basically the rest of the plot is typical bitchy, back-stabbing, sabotage type of stuff you would expect from a book set at a glossy magazine.

For probably the first third of the book I kept putting it down and gasping with frustration. It's predictable and obvious and far-fetched, but it's also really funny and that's what kept me reading. I have a vague idea in the back of my mind that Stephanie Lessing meant Miss Understanding to be a satire on chick lit, but then I kept stopping to ponder whether satire works if you have to be told it's satire and if a satire on chick lit is just another way of saying bad chick lit.

As for Zoe being a radical feminist, she suggests articles like 'Why Your Girl Boss Is Mean to You When You Dress up for Work!' and 'Why Girls Are Mean to Redheads, Fat Girls, Girls with Freakishly Large Breasts and Sluts!' So, um, not so much (then again it is meant to be satire .. I think). There are actually some interesting (though not new) points made about the way women treat other women, but there are also too many examples woven through the book - in general the woman are stereotypes and stereotypically mean to one another - I felt a bit like Stephanie Lessing was beating me over the head with it.

The reason I'm unsure as to whether Zoe's issues are mentioned openly, is that I found myself scanning great chunks of the book - there was just too much waffle - but I kept reading because the character of Zoe fascinated me and there were some damn good jokes in there. Stephanie Lessing can really write so I hope she forgets the satire and writes a "proper" chick lit book next time.

Rating: 3 out of 5

If you like this, try The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

Posted by Keris on November 20, 2006 in American Authors, Fashion-Lit, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Rating: 3/5 | Permalink | Comments (3)

MORE ON MONDAY: Holes by Louis Sachar

HolesLouis Sachar's Holes is one of those books described as 'crossover', meaning it was written for children, but it's so good that adults ended up buying their own copies, too.

A miscarriage of justice sees Stanley Yelnats [notice the palindrome?] sent to a detention centre for young boys called Camp Green Lake. There, he and his fellow inmates are forced to dig a hole a day, every day in the dried up desert, with only very limited supplies of food and water. Their holes must be- five feet wide and five feet deep and there's no escape as they're in such an isolated area... The Warden of Green Lake describes thier back-breaking labour as "character building."

But what's really going on? Stanley is determined to find out...

Obviously I'm not going to give away the plot, but suffice it to say that Stanley gets to the bottom of the holes (metaphorically speaking) and manages to turn his history of bad luck around. Part adventure story, part morality tale, Holes is a fantastic and exciting read for any age group!

Rating: 4 out of 5

DID YOU KNOW? Holes was made into a 2003 film starring Sigourney Weaver.

Like this? Try The Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 20, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction, More On Monday, Rating: 4/5 | Permalink | Comments (2)

November 17, 2006 1:28 PM

FRIDAY FLICK: Must Love Dogs

MustlovedogsBased on the novel by American author Claire Cook, Must Love Dogs stars Under a Tuscan Sun's Diane Lane and High Fidelity's John Cusack along with Dermot Mulroney, Elizabeth Perkins, Christopher Plummer and Stockard Channing as Dolly (the most memorable character in the book, in my opinion). So it's got a good pedigree, but did it make my tail wag?

Okay, I've stopped that nonsense. Diane Lane plays primary school teacher Sara, whose family want her to start dating again after her divorce. The title refers to a lonely hearts advert Sara's sister places on her behalf. (In the book it was a newspaper ad, but the film has, unsurprisingly, updated this to internet dating.)

Sara's first date goes disastrously when the man she's arranged to meet turns out to be her widowed father. But eventually she meets Jake (John Cusack) - I'm fairly sure he wasn't called Jake in the book - and things look promising. She also finds herself getting closer to the father of one of her school children (despite the kid telling her his father is "incorrigable"). So who will she end up with? I'm thinking the clue might be on the cover.

I'm sorry to have to say that, about half an hour into the film, the DVD packed up. I read the book last year and didn't particularly enjoy it, but funnily enough it's actually stuck in my memory much more than a lot of books I liked more. What annoyed me about the book - and also in what little I saw of the film - is how pathetic Sara is because she's single. Just because you're not married doesn't mean you eat your meals standing up at the sink, does it?

Would anyone who's seen it all the way through like to comment?

Posted by Keris on November 17, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Friday Flick, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Romance | Permalink | Comments (4)

GUEST BLOG AND GIVEAWAY: Rebecca Agiewich

BreakupbabeWritten for NaNoWriMo, Rebecca's first novel, BreakupBabe is summed up as "How I got over the worst, most humiliating breakup in web-recorded history – and became stronger, smarter, and better off without the biggest Loser on the face of the earth."

As part of our NaNovember Extravaganza, Rebecca's not only written us a guest blog but has also kindly offered a copy of BreakupBabe for you. Yes, you! If you enter the competition, that is. Read on to find out how to enter.

How to become a rich, famous and fabulous author by Rebecca Agiewich

Hear ye, hear ye, Trashionista fans, I have been asked to write a guest blog about how NaNoWrimo will make you a rich, famous, and fabulous author, just like it has made me! Now if you’ve missed me on Oprah – don’t worry – I haven’t actually been on yet, and if you didn’t see that front page review in the New York Times Review of Books, uh, well, they haven’t done one yet, but my novel BreakupBabe (which came out this past May) is out there and selling slowly but surely!
 
Carry on over the cut for more from Rebecca and how to enter the competition.

Without NaNoWrimo, I don’t think I ever would have gotten it done. That’s because writing a first draft is a painful, horrible process, and unless you get through it as quickly as possible, commando-style, you won’t get it done (or at least I won’t). Before I wrote the first draft of BreakupBabe during the 2003 NaNoWrimo, I’d been working on another book-writing the same four chapters over and over again! That’s because, as founder of NaNoWrimo, Chris Baty points out, a writer’s most important tool is a deadline.

And since most of us don’t have the luxury of a deadline imposed by a fancy publishing house, artificial deadlines must do, and NaNoWrimo provides that, along with the pressure of sixty thousand other people trying to do the same thing.
 
Besides helping me get my first draft done, a miracle in itself, NaNoWrimo also instilled in me one of the most important writing habits I have: writing every single day. In order to keep up your NaNo wordcount, you pretty much have to write every single day. I learned that morning was my best time to write, and now three years later, I still at least five mornings a week – even though I still have a full-time job (grr). It’s gotten to be like a good workout for me; if I don’t do it, I feel off for the entire day.
 
So, while NaNoWrimo is a grueling, demanding, and some might say masochistic to do, take it from this almost-famous, almost-bestselling author – it will be the one of the best thing you can do for your fledgling novelist career. It was for mine.

Thanks, Rebecca. If you'd like to win a copy of BreakupBabe just email us your name and address, put "Babe" in the subject line, and we'll pick a winner at random after 30 November 2006. Easy as that.

Rebecca Agiewich interview / Introduction to NaNovember / Francesca Segre's guest blog / Karen Quintiere's guest blog / Lani Diane Rich guest blog and giveaway / Mary Sharratt guest blog

Posted by Keris on November 17, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, NaNovember | Permalink | Comments (21)

BOOK REVIEW: Something Borrowed

SthborrI guess we've kind of reviewed Emily Giffin's books the wrong way round: Something Borrowed was her debut, but we reviewed Something Blue first. That doesn't matter though- these books complement each other and can be read in either order. Something Borrowed is told from the point of view of Rachel, who is about to turn thirty and having a bit of an early mid-life crisis. Her best friend since school Darcy seems to have everything: a wonderful man, a glamorous job in PR and a wedding to plan. Rachel on the other hand, feels lost and overlooked. Especially whenever she's with Darcy.

Life perks up a little when she finally realises she has great chemistry with a man she's known for years... shame he also happens to be Darcy's fiance, Dex....

You would think that a woman lusting after her more beautiful friend's man would come across as desperate and nasty, but Giffin is careful to make sure that doesn't become the case. Although sometimes I felt frustrated with Rachel, most of the time I was sympathetic to her feelings and wanted Dex to pick her!

It helps that Darcy isn't a very sympathetic character, and we want Rachel to step out of her shadow. I thought the exploration of the two women's friendship was excellent, especially the idea that your friends may be more of a habit than people you have true connections with- and the way we stay in close contact with people out of familiarity, even if they're not good for us... But also that the thought of losing a friendship, even an imperfect one, can be devastating. I think most women will relate to that. Plus, I love the New York taxi cab cover!

I better not give away the ending, although if you've read Something Blue (or our review of it, oops!) you'll already know how things turn out. Even so, it's still a great read, highly recommended. And not just by me- according to the cover Marian Keyes, Meg Cabot and Lauren Weisberger couldn't put it down either!

Rating: 5 out of 5

Like this? Try Something Blue by Emily Giffin; Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 17, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Rating: 5/5, Romance | Permalink | Comments (4)

BOOK NEWS: Perfectly Plum

PlumWho doesn't love curling up with a good Plum? A Stephanie Plum book, that is... Janet Evanovich's series of books about Stephanie Plum, Bounty Hunter (the latest of which, Twelve Sharp, came out this year) have been one of the most popular series ever. Their kick-ass, take-no-prisoners heroine has become a female icon and the books are simultaneously fun, inspiring and edge-of-your-seat dramatic. So it's not surprising that BenBella books, publishers of This is Chick Lit, Welcome to Wisteria Lane and Totally Charmed have an upcoming anthology devoted to all things Plum. Called Perfectly Plum (subtitle: Unauthorized Essays on the Life, Loves and Other Disasters of Stephanie Plum, Trenton Bounty Hunter) it will be released in June.

And the best part? Trashionista's very own Keris Stainton is one of the contributors, with an essay on Stephanie's relationship with her sister- you won't want to miss this!

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 17, 2006 in American Authors, Book News, Book related, British Authors, Crime / Mystery, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Non Fiction, Opinion | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 16, 2006 5:01 PM

THURSDAY THREE: Books that aren't what they say!

If you're thinking, "Huh?" don't worry, all will become clear! I'm talking about books whose titles are purposefully misleading, obscure or don't describe what the story is actually about in any way.

First up has to be A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewczykca, which found itself housed in the non-fiction/agriculture sections of book shops around the country. It's actually the fictional story of two sisters and their irascible Ukrainian immigrant father, who's just married a gold-digger from the motherland and is trying to complete his masterpiece- a pamphlet about a history of tractors, written in Ukrainian... (incidentally, the mix-up hasn't had disastrous results- the book's sold well and and won awards).

What will the other two quirkily-titled books be? Come with me over the cut to find out...

You might not have heard of this next book yet, but you will... Special Topics in Calamity Physics has been a big hit in the States and with literary critics. Marisha Pessl is a name you'll be hearing again and again... A long and complex book modelled on the structure of a literary course (with a final exam at the end), it certainly sounds different. And nothing at all to do with physics, of course.

Finally, the book that could be said to have started this naming trend in women's fiction: The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing. When I told people I was reading this, Melissa Bank's debut, back in 2000, they all thought I was mad "But you're not into hunting or fishing..." No, I'm not. So it's lucky this book is a collection of linked stories about life and love centered around a woman named Jane, instead...

Are there any I've forgotten? What's your favourite book  that doesn't do what the title describes?

Thursday Three archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 16, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, British Authors, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Prize Winners, Recent Release, Tuesday Three | Permalink | Comments (7)

FRANCESCA SEGRE GIVEAWAY!

DaughterofthebrideFrancesca was our first NaNovember guest blogger and she has kindly donated a copy of her novel Daughter of the Bride to a lucky Trashionista reader.

When her mom calls to say she's getting married, Daniella is both thrilled and devastated. Mom, who's pushing sixty, is about to walk down the aisle for the second time, and Daniella, at twenty-nine, hasn't come close to saying "I do" once. Even worse, Mom insists Daniella help plan the big bash: white gown, band, caterer, the works.

Between cake tastings, dress fittings, and ring shopping, Daniella struggles to make sense of her own frustrating love life-all while juggling her high-pressure TV job and hectic dating adventures. And it isn't long before she realizes she's going to have to make some changes in her own life-or never walk down the aisle herself. [via Amazon.com]

Carry on over the cut to find out how you can win a copy.

To be in with a chance of winning, just do the usual - that's email us your name and address and put "Bride" in the subject line. We'll pick a winner after 30 November 2006. Good luck! (And don't forget you can still enter our Sara Gruen and Lani Diane Rich giveaways.)

Intro to NaNovember / NaNovember archives

Posted by Keris on November 16, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Competition, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, NaNovember, Romance | Permalink | Comments (1)

BOOK REVIEW: The Nanny Diaries by Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin

NannydAs one of the biggest chick-lit books of the last five years, and an upcoming film (starring Scarlett Johanssen, of course) I can't believe we haven't reviewed The Nanny Diaries yet. But I don't mind, I'm more than happy to do the job! I might be a bit biased though- this is one of my favourite chick-lit novels of all time. If you've read the execrable sequel Citizen Girl, don't be put off - The Nanny Diaries is nothing like. Which means it's fresh, fun, fast-paced and highly enjoyable. Nan the Nanny (yes... get over it) is studying for her master's in child education and turns to nannying for rich Manhattan families to pay the bills. Suddenly she has to juggle her studies with the ever-more demanding family she works for whilst also trying to avoid her difficult flatmate (which isn't too hard, as Nan barely has time to eat or sleep anymore!)

Demanding, unreasonable and distant, it's hard to care about Nan's employers, but they do show occasional moments of compassion... VERY occasional! Although a potential love interest enters the story, it's Nan and her little charge Grayer whose relationship is the focal point, and this is told with great love and sweetness. Nan is the only person who really seems to make time for little Grayer, although sadly she has to attempt to undo some of the obnoxious behaviour his parents have inculcated in him. The book really provides a great insight into the emotional issues around caring for children who are not your own. On a lighter note, the book also allows a great deal of "I wonder if someone really did that!" speculating, as Kraus and McLaughlin really were nannies to the rich and famous...

I loved the insight into the rich and snobby New York world of Mr and Mrs X, and I found Nan empathetic, capable and intelligent, even if I was frustrated at times by her lack of assertiveness (but assertive would equal fired in her job, so it's understandable). I raced through this book twice, and now I've been talking about it I'm thinking of reading it a third time- I know I'll enjoy it just as much.

A modern chick-lit classic.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Like this? Try You'll Never Nanny in this Town Again by Suzanne Hansen.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 16, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Movie News, Rating: 5/5 | Permalink | Comments (5)

November 15, 2006 8:00 PM

YAY OR NAY WEDNESDAY

Well, last week you were pretty unanimous: you hate the idea of novels which turn real people's lives into fiction (in that case, Jackie Kennedy into a spy). I think Shanna had the best idea- why not loosely base it on a famous person (i.e make it a book about a famously stylish president's widow)? Seems classier, somehow...

Anyway! Today's Yay or Nay isn't about a moral dilemma, more a book world bust-up: the literary community is divided over whether graphic novels should be included in the running for major lit prizes. Some call it sacrilege, some call it progress... Before reading the wonderful Cancer Vixen I would have been very against the idea, but now I'm not so sure...

But what do you think: is it a Yay or a Nay- and Why?

Related: Yay or Nay archives / Manga Romance / Wuthering Heights gets graphic! / Jodi Picoult, Wonder Woman? / Movie News: Cancer Vixen / Book Review: Cancer Vixen

[Don't forget it's Yay or Nay day at Hippyshopper, Bridalwave, Corrie Blog, Catwalk Queen, Kiss and Makeup, The Bag Lady, Shoewawa and Shiny Shiny, too!]

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 15, 2006 in American Authors, Book News, Book related, Memoirs, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Yay or Nay? | Permalink | Comments (3)

MARY SHARRATT GIVEAWAY!

Loved Mary Sharratt's guest blog? Intrigued by the sound of her book? Well, we have one copy of The Vanishing Point (which I'm loving just now!) to give away to one lucky UK/Europe-based reader!

Simply email us your name and address with "Mary" in the subject line to be in with a chance to win!

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 15, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Competition, Modern Fiction, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (1)

TRASHIONISTA AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Jenna Bayley-Burke

Jenna2Jenna Bayley-Burke is the author of Just One Spark which she wrote as part of NaNoWrimo. Here, she talks to us (and coming soon- a guest blog from Jenna!)

Please describe your latest book in 15 words or fewer:

Mr. Buttoned Uptight needs a girlfriend and a caterer, so decides to multi-task.

Where do you like to write your books (in bed, a coffee shop, an office)?

I like to write at coffee shops with my favorite coffee-of-the-month (maple latte, try it!), however, I do most of my writing in bed with my laptop, and my kidlets sleeping down the hall.

Your favourite chick-lit book?

Hmmm. Favourites are overrated. Kristin Lobe's Paris Hangover for the setting and her use of description, Jane Porter's The Frog Prince for the way she layers in emotion, and Saralee Rosenberg's Fate and Ms. Fortune for the humor. You didn't really expect me to pick one? Please, that's like eating one M&M. No one does that!

Your favourite female heroine (if different from above!), and why?

Oh! I just read the Santa, Baby anthology, and loved Toni Larson from Carly Phillips' Naughty Under The Mistletoe. I'm always a big fan of heroines who know what they want, and take it. 

[Expect a Trashionista review of Santa, Baby, which also features a Jennifer Crusie novella, in December].

Carry on over the cut for the rest of our interview with Jenna...

What tips would you give to any of our readers who want to become writers?

Read your favorite authors as you would textbooks. Look to see from whom you can learn emotion, setting, humor, sensuality, action, etc. And write. That's the main thing.

What are you reading at the moment?

Well... Raising a Reader, YOU on a Diet and Off Her Rocker by Jennifer Archer. Just finished an advance reader's copy of Vicki Lewis Thompson's My Nerdy Valentine last night. Fantastic!

What are you working on now? (If you can give us a hint!)

My NaNoWriMo, Sure Thing. It's difficult because it uses the characters and time line of Just One Spark. It's hard, but Kate & Derek needed their own story.

Thanks Jenna! Jenna's new novel Cooking Up a Storm is released on December 1st.

Jenna's blog / Interview Archives / Nanovember archives

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 15, 2006 in American Authors, Book Websites, Book related, Girly Stuff, Interviews, Modern Fiction, NaNovember, New Releases, Recent Release, Romance | Permalink | Comments (3)

BOOK REVIEW: Why Moms Are Weird by Pamela Ribon

WhymomsareweirdBelinda Bernstein has the unfortunate nickname of "Benny" and, despite moving to the opposite side of the country, an incredibly co-dependent mother. Benny likes her life in Los Angeles and has just entered into a new relationship (with the gorgeous Mickey), but when her mother and sister have a car accident, Benny flies home and is horrified by what she finds.

Not only is her mother dating three men at once, her house is filthy and filled with trash. Her sister is in an(other) abusive relationship and has started a collection of stray dogs. And what's even more galling is that neither of them have commented on Benny's weightloss.

With the help of a handyman to whom Benny finds herself incredibly attracted, despite the fact he tells her he's unavailable and despite not knowing where things stand with Mickey, Benny takes it upon herself to fix everything. But what Benny doesn't realise is that just because something's broke, doesn't mean she has to be the one to fix it.

I really enjoyed this book, despite becoming frustrated with Benny's inability to see that her help isn't wanted. Benny's an entertaining and intelligent (if frequently unreliable) narrator and her mother is hilarious. Plus Mickey is one of the most original chick lit heroes I've read for a long time (the scenes between them crackle off the page).

Anyone who has suffered guilt pangs at moving far from home - or who has a mother who is too close for comfort - will enjoy this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner

Pamela Ribon has an enormously successful blog at Pamie.com

Posted by Keris on November 15, 2006 in American Authors, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5 | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 14, 2006 12:11 PM

The play's the thing (apparently)

CarrieswarWe often feature book-to-movie adaptations, but what about books-to-plays? The London theatres seem to be full of them at the moment.

From the end of this month, Nina Bawden's classic, Carrie's War - about a former evacuee returning to her wartime home and telling her story to her children - is on at Sadler's Wells. The book has been adapted by Emma Reeves and the show is directed by Andrew Loudon (creators of Little Women and Anne Of Green Gables at Sadler’s Wells).

Coram Boy, Jamila Gavin's Whitbread award-winning children's book about growing-up, struggle, tradition and corruption, returns to the National Theatre from 29 November. Its previous run was a sell-out.

PeskyratThe smash-hit musical, Wicked, is based on Gregory Maguire’s novel - about the witches from The Wizard of Oz and how the wicked witch perhaps wasn't so wicked after all - is currently showing at the Apollo (not to mention New York, Chicago, LA and more!).

Susan Hill's ghost story The Woman in Black is in its 15th year in the West End at the Fortune Theatre. (A friend of mine went to see this and was so terrified she literally wouldn't go to bed afterwards - she was about 35 at the time!)

My personal favourite - Lauren Child's That Pesky Rat - opens at the Soho Theatre at the beginning of December. (The pesky rat even has a rat blog!)

Posted by Keris on November 14, 2006 in American Authors, Book News, Book related, British Authors, Classic Novels, Crime / Mystery, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Opinion, Prize Winners, Young Adult | Permalink | Comments (2)

SPOTLIGHT: Sara Gruen

Saragruen_1Yep, another NaNo-centric Spotlight. I hadn't heard of Sara Gruen until quite recently and now I'm kind of fixated on her (a rumoured $5million advance will do that to me!).

Born in Vancouver, Canada, Sara went on to study English Literature at college in Ontario. In 1999 she moved to the US for a technical writing job and has subsequently become a citizen. After Sara was laid off from the tech writing job, she decided to try writing fiction full-time.

Her first novel, Riding Lessons, was published to critical and popular acclaim. Sara then wrote Water for Elephants, but her editor turned it down and asked for a sequel to Riding Lessons instead. The sequel, Flying Changes, was then followed by Water for Elephants. Her new novel, Ape House, is due in 2008.

Carry on over the cut for more about Sara and her bibliography.

Sara lives in Northern Illinois with her husband, three sons, two dogs, three cats, two goats, and horse in an idyllic-sounding environmentalist community (the residents live in energy-efficient homes and share an organic farm and a charter school).

Sara donates a portion of the earnings from all of her books to various animal charities. You can find links to some of the charities and info on how you can help here.

Don't forget you can win a copy of each of Sara's books by emailing us with your name and address and "Sara" in the subject line (before 30 November 2006).

Riding Lessons
Flying Changes
Water for Elephants

Read our interview with Sara / Introduction to NaNovember / NaNovember archives / Spotlight archives

Posted by Keris on November 14, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, NaNovember, Series | Permalink | Comments (1)

GUEST BLOG: MARY SHARRATT

MarysAs part of our NaNovember celebrations, Mary Sharratt, a fave of Joshilyn Jackson and loyal friend of Trashionista, talks about how long it took her to write her book The Vanishing Point- and why she set it way back in the past...

Mary Sharratt on... why timing (and research!) is everything.

Back in the early 1990s, long before the whole NaNoWriMo phenomenon began, I wrote the first draft of my novel, The Vanishing Point, as a novella. The writing didn’t take long—the story itself flowed out of me in the form of a dark fairy tale. Full of love and longing, deception and betrayal, the narrative was informed as much by folklore and tragic ballads as historical research. The setting in the Maryland wilderness was in place, as was the skeleton plot, including the sleight of hand twist and revelation at the end.

Then it occurred to me that in order to do justice to this plot, the story had to be much bigger than a novella. To fully develop the characters and setting, I would have to do a significant amount of research. This proved daunting, as I was living in Germany at the time, in what for me, at least, was the pre-internet era. The old chestnut, “Write What You Know,” reverberated. But what did I know about 17th century Maryland tobacco plantations? I had no connection with that region. But my two 17th century sisters would not leave me in peace.

Abandoning my safety zone, I leapt into the void and researched the novel for over a decade. Why go to all this trouble when I could have made my life easier by writing something contemporary? Because writing is at its most addictive when it becomes as escape for the writer, as well as the reader. Historical fiction is my mode of time travel. By setting my story in the distant past, I hope to evoke the same sense of timeless wonder and “otherwhere” that is found in fairy tales. It’s my great challenge to make that historical world as real and alive for the reader as it is for me.

[I've just started the book and so far, it's fabulous, and seems brilliantly well-researched- but not boringly so!- Diane].

Thanks Mary!

Related:  Author Interview: Mary Sharratt / Mary Sharratt's dressed-up book tour / Mary's website.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 14, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction, NaNovember, Opinion, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 13, 2006 7:22 PM

The Galaxy Book Awards

Call me psychic, but last month I talked about the delicious connection between books and chocolate and now it's been announced that the new sponsor of the British Book Awards will be...  Galaxy! A perfect combination as far as I'm concerned, but some publishers have suggested that the partnerhsip might be too woman-centric and turn men off (because men aren't allowed to eat chocolate by law, obviously...) [Via Galleycat].

The British Book Awards (known as "The Nibbies") are hosted by Richard and Judy every year around Easter.

Related: Richard and Judy  Christmas book party / Richard and Judy archives / Prizewinners archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 13, 2006 in Book News, Book related, Modern Fiction, Prize Winners, Richard and Judy | Permalink | Comments (0)

MOVIE NEWS: The Possibility of Fireflies

FirefliesYA author Dominique Paul is about to make her directorial debut with an adaptation of her own book, The Possibility of Fireflies . Kelly Preston (aka Mrs John Travolta and Tom Cruise's nasty ex in Jerry Maguire) is to star and the team behind Monster will produce the film, the story of a single mother and her two daughters.

Related: Pop! author causes controversy / Ally Carter movie news / Young Adult archives / Movie News archives.

[Via Galleycat and The Hollywood Reporter]

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 13, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Modern Fiction, Movie News, New Releases, Young Adult | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 10, 2006 6:17 PM

BOOK REVIEW: Sleep With Me by Joanna Briscoe

Sleepwith The characters in Sleep With Me by Joanna Briscoe are selfish, self-indulgent, snobby whining thirty-somethings who are hard to relate to and even harder to care about. But it's okay; they're supposed to be. This is a haunting, creepy, slow-moving novel that builds to a dramatic crescendo. It's subtly sinister- an uncomfortable read for no reason you can put your finger on.

Told from the alternating viewpoints of Lelia and Richard, a London couple who are perfectly happy together, the action begins at a Christmas party after they've just conceived their first child. Happy and glowing, they barely notice the presence of a new member of the group, Sylvie, who appears mousy and uninteresting. And yet slowly over the next few months she starts to make her presence felt...

Seducing Richard and leaving Lelia alone with thoughts of a past that haunts her, Sylvie becomes an addictive presence in the couple's life, but one that is never acknowledged between them. I can't say too much about the plot without revealing the story that a reader must allow to unfold for themselves, but this is a very compelling read.

The alternating viewpoints narrative works well, and as we reach the end of the book, allows certain plot points to be put together without our discovering them earlier. It also gives us a real insight into these people's heads- I think one of the reason the characters seem so unlikeable is that as narrators they're so emotionally honest, and tell us more than we need to know about themselves- often things we wouldn't wish to know about another person! Joanna Briscoe is a very talented and sharp author to be able to achieve this, and it shows a great understanding of human nature- its weaknesses and foibles (with an emphasis on human sexuality and how we deal with grief), which is really what this book is all about.

If that sounds like a super-serious read, it isn't- Sleep Wit Me isn't full of humour but it's not a hard book to work through; you'll want to race through it. A quote on the front describes it as "a great summer page turner..." Great it may be, but set in winter, with some very dark themes, there's nothing summery about it. I'd say it's a great winter read, if you don't mind feeling a little discomfited while you're reading- and for a few days afterwards...

I'm just not sure Briscoe intended for me to dislike her characters as much as I did- they're rather stuffy, cold and formal, although I had sympathy for them, especially Lelia, towards the end of the book.

The book feels a bit like a more modern Patricia Highsmith, where an undercurrent of menace is created out of very little, so it could be a creepy classic of the future!

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 10, 2006 in Book related, British Authors, Crime / Mystery, Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (2)

BOOK REVIEW: Day Shift Werewolf by Jan Underwood

Janunderwood

We told you about the three-day novel earlier, now read our review of the 2005 winner...

Jan Underwood was the winner of the 28th Annual International 3 Day Novel Writing Contest in 2005 with this, her first novel Day Shift Werewolf. As you’ve probably guessed, the novel was written in three days and it weaves together eight stories that are connected by the town of Stevens’ Ferry.

Each story is about a supernatural being who has become disillusioned with their lot in life...

Warren, the werewolf of the title, realises he doesn’t like meat, but he does have an slight obsession with apostrophes (Steven’s Ferry? Stevens’ Ferry? Stevens Ferry? Don’t worry, Warren will sort it out...) A minor demon decides he’d rather be a four-year-old girl and a Norwegian Gnome tries to claim political asylum. My favourite story was the first in the book. Ms Underwood slowly unravels the story, revealing a little bit more of her characters with every page until the picture is complete. The humour is very subtle and giggle-to-yourself funny.

The novel is short (well, it was written in three days), but I really like the idea of such a short novel. It’s great for reading on a train or in a café because it’s just the right size for a handbag. Even a small handbag. [Nicola Pedley]

For further information check out www.3daynovel.com.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try the other winners of the 3 Day Novel Contest; Enchanted Inc by Shanna Swendson.

Supernatural archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 10, 2006 in Book related, Competition, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, NaNovember, Rating: 4/5, Recent Release, Supernatural | Permalink | Comments (0)

Small Island to be given out free

SmallislandFollowing the news that Zadie Smith's debut novel White Teeth had been added to the school syllabus, I asked which other modern novels you thought should be studied. Diane suggested Andrea Levy's Whitbread Prize winning book, Small Island, saying, "students could learn about race issues in the 50s, immigration, World War 2 and read a good book all at once!"

Well, it's just been announced that, as part of an initiative to mark the 200th anniversary of the Slave Trade Abolition Bill, 50,000 copies of Small Island are to be distributed free to libraries and schools next year. The participating cities - Bristol, Liverpool, Hull and Glasgow were all involved in the slave trade and the campaign for its abolition. [via Publishing News]

Posted by Keris on November 10, 2006 in Book News, Book related, British Authors, Modern Fiction, Prize Winners | Permalink | Comments (0)

How NaNoWriMo can pay big bucks

Well, maybe not. But Sara Gruen who wrote her second novel Flying Changes for NaNoWriMo has recently moved to a new publisher in a two-book deal worth an estimated $5.2million! [via MediaBistro]

Sara doesn't mention the figure on her website, but she does admit to having celebrated the deal by adopting ten infant bonobo apes (along with exceedingly cute pic).

You can read our interview with Sara here and don't forget to enter our competition to win all three of Sara's books here.

NaNovember archives

Posted by Keris on November 10, 2006 in American Authors, Book News, Book related, Modern Fiction, NaNovember | Permalink | Comments (1)

FRIDAY FLICK: Chocolat

ChocolatThe news that Joanne Harris's next book - The Lollipop Shoes - will be a sequel to the enormously successful Chocolat inspired me to make it this week's flick.

Juliette Binoche plays Vianne Rocher who, along with her daughter, arrives in a quaint French town and opens a chocolate shop. You wouldn't think that would be a problem, would you? But the religious and political attitudes of the town - and the sensual effects of Vianne's chocolates - soon serve to stir up trouble.

Juliette Binoche is perfect as Vianne and Johnny Depp is of course gorgeous as Roux, but his Irish accent's a bit hit and miss. The film looks beautiful too - the costumes, the chocolates, the village. It's romantic, dramatic, sensual, thought-provoking and intelligent (and was nominated for five Academy Awards). A perfect Sunday afternoon film (and if you haven't read the book - what are you waiting for?)

Posted by Keris on November 10, 2006 in Book related, British Authors, Friday Flick, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Romance | Permalink | Comments (0)

Lionel Shriver loves snooker!

Author of We Need To Talk About Kevin Lionel Shriver admitted to a fondness for snooker at a recent reading in Sheffield as part of the city's Off The Shelf festival.  Her next novel, The Post-Birthday World (due in March next year) will even feature a scene at the world snooker championships at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre.

As a native of Sheffield and a big fan of Shriver's novel, this made me feel inordinately proud... shame I hate snooker, though.

[Via The Sheffield Telegraph].

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 10, 2006 in American Authors, Book News, Book related, Modern Fiction, More On Monday, New Releases, Prize Winners | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 9, 2006 5:54 PM

Who is Lucy Jackson?

Her novel Posh will be published in January, but her identity is such a mystery that even her editor doesn't know who she is.

According to her publishers, Lucy Jackson is an alias for 'an acclaimed short story writer and novelist', who they claim dropped the manuscript off in the lobby and only communicates via telephone and email. [via Publishers Weekly]

Some think it's a publicity stunt, others suggest she needs to protect her privacy because of her connection to the world she's writing about - no, not Mrs Beckham - New York City prep schools.

The article also comments on the similarities between the cover of Posh and the cover of Curtis Sittenfield's book, Prep. Carry on over the cut to see what you think.

Posh Prep_1

Posted by Keris on November 9, 2006 in American Authors, Book News, Book related, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (1)

Kate Madison's NaNo

Kate Madison's NaNo novel sounds very intriguing. Kate is co-authoring it with her friend Malia Jacobs - they will each be writing the part of a different sister.

Two sisters, both alike in vanity, in fair California where we lay our scene…

Paige Miller has always been the responsible one. But while reeling from a devastating break-up, Paige decides to let loose and experiment—a decision which ultimately results in a host of unsuitable suitors, far too much alcohol consumption, and the title “Ho of the Year.”

Marisa Miller is a flighty New Age lesbian who’s allergic to commitment. But when Marisa finds herself homeless, jobless and on the road to single motherhood, suddenly a little security doesn't sound so bad.

Spilled Perfume is a story of sex, sisters and killer scents.

Intro to NaNovember / Kathleen O'Leary's NaNo / Lisa Clark's NaNo / NaNovember archives

Posted by Keris on November 9, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, NaNovember | Permalink | Comments (1)

BOOK REVIEW: The Rise and Fall of a Yummy Mummy

Yummy_1Anyone who has ever looked in the mirror six months after becoming a mother and not recognised the shell of a woman looking back will relate to the gloriously funny, warm and poignant Rise and Fall of a Yummy Mummy by new chick on the block Polly Williams.

Amy Crane may have become a mother, but in all other respects she has lost her identity and she struggles to reconcile her love for her gorgeous baby girl Evie with old life as a career girl, lover and friend. She bounces between two groups of friends - the NCT mothers who don't feel fulfilled without a baby strapped to their boobs, and the yummy mummies with the designer prams and designer children.

Ultimately she falls under the spell of the super glamorous Alice who sets about co-ordinating 'Project Amy' - a makeover to ensure the new mum gets her groove back. At the same time she struggles to keep her relationship together with Joe, who she suspects cheated on her while she was heavily pregnant.

Will Project Amy be a success? Will  her relationship with survive? Will her eye-brows ever grow back?

Polly Williams adds enough twists and turns to keep even the most seasoned chick-lit fanatic guessing - and laughing - to the end. The Rise and Fall of a Yummy Mummy is recommended for anyone who ever wanted a change.

Rating: 4 out of 5

[Claire Allan]

Like this? Try Watermelon by Marian Keyes

Posted by Keris on November 9, 2006 in British Authors, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Rating: 4/5, Recent Release | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 8, 2006 5:50 PM

YAY OR NAY WEDNESDAY

Evepoll Eve Pollard, the mother of Claudia Winkleman and an ex-newspaper and magazine editor has now written a new book called Jack's Widow, in which JFK's widow Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis is depicted in fictional form as a spy for the CIA.  According to Galleycat, the Kennedy family is upset about the novel and Patrick Anderson of the Washington Post denounced it as a "ghoulish piece of trash."  (Ooh).

So what do you think- is it okay to use famous dead people in a novel? Is the key factor whether they have any surviving relatives? Do we need to be more respectful of the deceased, or is this a way of keeping their memory alive? Is it only all right when they've been dead for hundreds of years (like Shakespeare)?

So many questions, but it only really boils down to one: is it a Yay or a Nay- and why?

Yay or Nay archives.

[Don't forget it's Yay or Nay day at Hippyshopper, Bridalwave, Corrie Blog, Catwalk Queen, Kiss and Makeup, The Bag Lady, Shoewawa and Shiny Shiny, too!]

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 8, 2006 in Book News, Book related, British Authors, Crime / Mystery, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Yay or Nay? | Permalink | Comments (9)

BOOK REVIEW: Piece of Work by Laura Zigman

LaurazigmanPiece of Work is Laura Zigman's fourth novel after a four year absence (which, reading this book and between the lines, I'm going to assume might be something to do with her having a baby...)

It's the story of Julia Einstein (no relation!), who gave up a stressful but stimulating job in PR to have and raise her baby boy Leo. But now Leo is three and about to start pre-school, and Julia's husband Peter has been "downsized" from his job and seems in no hurry to get back to work.

So Julia reluctantly dips her toe back into the world of work...

Laura Zigman is an intelligent writer whose characters are empathetic and relate-able. I suspect many women will understand and relate to Julia's difficulty in leaving her son after three years of being his primary carer- not to mention her jealousy at the good times Leo and Peter seem to have without her. But even women who haven't been in that situation will still feel empathy for Julia as her feelings are so well conveyed.

Peter takes to house husbandry like a duck to water and has soon streamlined the family's routine and is cooking delicious nutritious meals every day and making friends with all the mothers at school. Meanwhile, Julia is struggling with a self-sabotaging boss and a badly behaved old film star client, who she has to travel the country with. She thinks maybe returning to work wasn't such a good idea, but Peter's in no hurry to return... so they're a bit stuck.

I really enjoyed this book, finding the episodes with Julia's client especially entertaining- the woman is awful, and yet somehow very real and not a caricature. Knowing that Zigman used to work in publicity made that aspect of the book all the more juicy! It's well written, snappily-paced and moving. My only slight criticism is that the assumption that one day Peter will return to work (for the sake of his self-esteem? Do men 'have' to work full time?) is never questioned- it's always just an implicit assumption. I would have liked to have seen that turned on its head a little more. But I love the way the author portrayed a man competent at looking after the house and his son (there are too many useless men in fiction!) and the  struggles the couple went through seemed realistic. There was also an added sadness in a back story about Julia's childhood, which added a little more depth to the novel but never became depressing.

Her characters and subject matter are maturing, but Laura Zigman can still be relied upon to write great stories- however long we have to wait!

Rating: 4 out of 5

Like this? Try Dating Big Bird by Laura Zigman; The Guy Not Taken by Jennifer Weiner.

AND! Look out for an exclusive Trashionista interview with the author coming soon!

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 8, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Rating: 4/5 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sara Gruen giveaways

If you read last week's interview with Sara Gruen, you'll know that she wrote her enormously successful book, Flying Changes, for NaNoWriMo.

So as part of NaNovember, we've got a copy to give away. But that's not all! Sara has kindly offered a copy of each of her three books to one lucky Trashionista reader! That's Riding Lessons, Flying Changes and Water for Elephants. We spoil you, we really do.

To be in with a chance to win email us with the subject line "Sara" and including your name and address (so that we can, you know, send you the books) before 30 November 2006.

Sara Gruen interview / NaNovember archives

Posted by Keris on November 8, 2006 in American Authors, Competition, Modern Fiction, NaNovember, Prize Winners | Permalink | Comments (2)

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Rebecca Agiewich

RebeccaagiewichRebecca is yet another NaNoWriMo success story, so we couldn't let NaNovember go by without talking to her. We'll have a guest blog from Rebecca and a giveaway of her book Breakupbabe coming soon!

Please describe your latest book in 15 words or fewer:

Breakupbabe is a comic novel about a struggling 30-something writer who goes through a horrible breakup, begins dating like mad, and starts a blog about it all.

Where do you like to write your books (in bed, a coffee shop, an office)?

A variety of Seattle coffee shops.

Your favourite chick-lit book?

The first Bridget Jones.

What tips would you give to any of our readers who want to become writers?

Get in the habit of writing every single day. Take writing classes. And ignore that voice telling you you can't do it or that you suck. Even the best writers hear that voice - they've just learned to fight by - by writing anyway.

What are you reading at the moment?

The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud.

What are you working on now? (If you can give us a hint!)

I'm working on another novel that takes place partly at a summer camp. I'm obsessed with summer camp since I had my best childhood moments there, and also because, as an adult and a counselor, I fell madly in love with another counselor who I've never quite gotten over.

What question have you never been asked in an interview, but think you should have been? (Tell us the question and answer it too, if you like!)

What is your favourite part about being a published author? I absolutely love hearing from people who've read the book and telling me how it has touched them or changed their lives or made them feel better. Every time I hear from a reader it makes my day, and makes me feel like all the struggle to write a book was worth it.

Introduction to NaNovember / NaNovember archives / Sara Gruen interview / Interview archives

Posted by Keris on November 8, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Interviews, Modern Fiction, NaNovember | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 7, 2006 10:47 AM

Dirty Blonde- Courtney Love's new book

As Keris just mentioned, Courtney Love "allegedly" made off with a copy of  Stupid and Contagious recently, without you know, paying.

Now she's released a book of her own: out this week, Dirty Blonde is a collection of diary entries, poetry, song lyrics and photographs from the singer/actress/alleged book thief. Perhaps she'll offer Caprice Crane a free copy...?

[Via Bookslut].

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 7, 2006 in American Authors, Book News, Book related, Debut Novels, Memoirs, Modern Fiction, New Releases, Non Fiction | Permalink | Comments (1)

BOOK REVIEW: Stupid and Contagious by Caprice Crane

StupidandcontagiousI'd heard a lot about Caprice Crane's debut novel - not least that Courtney Love shoplifted a copy - so my expectations were high.

Like many chick lit heroines, Heaven Albright has a brilliant PR career until that is she's unfairly dismissed. Procrastinating about starting her own agency, she takes a waitressing job in a trendy restaurant. Independent (and unsuccessful) record company owner Brady Gilbert leaves his psycho girlfriend and moves into the apartment next door to Heaven's. Of course they don't get on at all to begin with. Heaven doesn't think Brady's all there and Brady thinks she's crazy, but from the very beginning the reader knows they're made for each other (reminding me a little of When Harry Met Sally - and I imagine Heaven's surname is a nod in that direction).

Their friendship develops when Heaven invites herself along on Brady's trip to Seattle to try and sign a Next Big Thing band and also wangle a meeting with the head of Starbucks to interest them in his invention, Cinnamilk. Plus Heaven wants to go to a vigil for the anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death.

Things, of course, don't go according to plan, but one of the things I loved the most about this book was that it was all believable. Heaven and Brady have a couple of the misunderstandings required to sustain the plot - and they both make mistakes - but they're never stupid or far-fetched and you always feel that they care for each other. Like Harry and Sally, they may not be perfect, but they're perfect for each other.

Full of pop culture references and more than I ever needed to know about the disgusting things wait staff to rude customers, Stupid and Contagious is extremely funny, it made me cry and when I finished it I could happily have turned back to the first page and started it again. One of the best chick lit books I've ever read.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Like this? Try Time Off for Good Behavior by Lani Diane Rich

Like Megan Crane, Caprice Crane is another member of The5Spot blog

Posted by Keris on November 7, 2006 in American Authors, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Rating: 5/5, Romance | Permalink | Comments (5)

November 6, 2006 11:37 AM

MORE ON MONDAY: The Woman who walked into Doors by Roddy Doyle

RoddydoyleThe Woman who walked into Doors by Roddy Doyle is not the most enjoyable or pleasant book you'll ever read, but it is probably one of the very best.

It's the story of Paula Spencer, a working-class Irish woman whose husband and father of her children Charlo subjects her to appalling physical abuse throughout their marriage until finally, and violently, he dies. (I'm not spoiling the plot here- that's made clear in the first few pages).

It's also emotional, incredibly real and often gut-wrenching.

It's hard to believe this book is written by a man as the first-person narrator, Paula, is so real and vivid and the narration is always believable, even as it becomes more horrifying. We learn the history of her relationship with Charlo- how he made her knees go weak when she first met him, to the horrific abuse he dealt out. We also learn about Paula's childhood and upbringing and her family background and there are moments of wonderful although dark humour, too.

Doyle has a particular gift for capturing cruelty and realism, and it's used to great effect here. The scenes of abuse are genuinely disturbing and frightening and although it's not a true story, obviously (unfortunately) it's a story that will ring true with many people and that makes the emotional impact stronger.

It's a dark book, not a read to cherish or 'enjoy' as such, but one that's so addictively well-written you can't help devouring it to the very end. And when you do, the reward is that things are starting to look up after Charlo's death; finally Paula has the chance to move forward. We have to believe she'll take it.

Rating: 5 out of 5

*DID YOU KNOW?* Ten years on from the publication of this book, Roddy Doyle has brought out a sequel, Paula Spencer, which is getting very good reviews.

Like this? Try We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver.

More on Monday archives.

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 6, 2006 in Book related, Irish Authors, Modern Fiction, More On Monday, Rating: 5/5 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Kathleen O'Leary's NaNo

Kathleen O' Leary, aka Kat of the Kitty Can Scratch blog and the editor of fabulous new online women's magazine Fetch (full disclosure: I'm a contributor), says of her fledgling NaNoWrimo novel:

"Harlan Pruitt, age 23, is one year out of college and living in an over-the-garage apartment in the sleepy Upstate New York town where she went to high school. In spite of her degree from a top-twenty school, she is working as a sales associate at a local boutique, a position with little room for upward mobility. Her upper middle class family is mortified by her life choices and is not quiet about this fact. I hope to have some semblance of a plot, involving a yet-to-be-determined catalyst that will spur Harlan out of her zombie-like state, and then she’ll, um, do something. It’s all very preliminary at this point. "

Sounds good to me! Thanks Kat!

Lisa Clark's Nano / Intro to Nanovember / Nanovember archives

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 6, 2006 in American Authors, Book related, Debut Novels, Modern Fiction, NaNovember | Permalink | Comments (2)

November 3, 2006 6:17 PM

BOOK REVIEW: English as a Second Language by Megan Crane

EnglishmegancraneMegan Crane's debut features Alex Brennan who, bored with her life in New York - and offended when an ex claims she couldn't get into graduate school in England - heads to an unnamed UK university to get her master's in literature. There she befriends Spanish Cristina and good-time Brit boys Toby and Jason, makes an almost instant enemy in fellow American Suzanne and gets an immense crush on her tutor, Sean.

According to the bio at the back of the book, Megan Crane spent the last 5 years at university in England working on her master's and PhD in literature so I don't think it's too unreasonable to assume that English As A Second Language is at least a little autobiographical. And as exciting as I'm sure it was to live, I didn't find it particularly exciting to read about. Carry on over the cut to find out why not.

Crane is an intelligent and engaging author and recreates the atmosphere of an English university perfectly. Of all the books by American authors featuring English characters, this is the only one I've read that rings completely true. The speech patterns, habits and behaviours are all conveyed brilliantly (Alex even comments that women up North dress tartier than those down south, to which I exclaimed 'Hey!' in indignation, but - yeah - it's a fair point). Plus there's a great scene featuring Robbie Williams's Angels (even if no-one else in the US is catching on to the Robster's charm, at least a couple of chick lit authors are!) and some interesting and entertaining characters.

The problem for me was that the book has no plot. The only conflict is between Alex and Suzanne and Suzanne is such a nutcase that I just wanted Alex to tell her where to get off and not bother with her again. There's a little romantic tension between Alex and Toby (and Suzanne) but it blows hot and cold so often (and Alex seems so distanced from any possible feelings for him) that I lost interest in whether they would get together or not.

Having said all that, I did enjoy the book as a slice of student life and a reminder of my own experiences as a mature student (I didn't get up to half of what Alex gets up to though. Oh, let's face it, I didn't get up to a tenth of what Alex gets up to!) and I think Megan Crane is a talented writer. She just needs a plot.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Like this? Try Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot

Related posts: Trashionista Recommends: The5Spot / Whatever next?

Posted by Keris on November 3, 2006 in American Authors, Debut Novels, Girly Stuff, Modern Fiction, Rating: 3/5 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Another Janet Evanovich collaboration

Not content with the enormously successful Stephanie Plum series, the fledgling Metro Girl series, the re-released romances the Full series written with Charlotte Hughes, and a how to write manual, Janet Evanovich has now signed a deal to co-write a series of adventure novels with thriller writer Stephen J. Cannell. (Although I read somewhere - sorry can't remember where - that she motivates herself by spending her money before she's earned it, so that could be a contributory factor!)

Perhaps inspired by the success of Bob Mayer and Jennifer Crusie's (we're Crusie crazy today!) Don't Look Down, the books will be set in Orange County and follow the adventures of a former Special Forces operative, Benjamin Cannon. (Hang on a minute. Now I'm thinking less "inspired by" and more "rip-off of". It's not just me, is it?) The first book, No Chance, will be out at the end of next year.

Related posts: One for the Money review / Twelve Sharp review

Posted by Keris on November 3, 2006 in American Authors, Book News, Crime / Mystery, Modern Fiction, Romance, Series | Permalink | Comments (1)

Jenny Crusie on being a "quote whore"

Yesterday was a momentous day in Trashionista history, as my co-ed Keris and I actually... met! in person! (And swapped a frankly immodest amount of books). And we chatted about books quite a bit, too... (well, what did you expect?!)

"Have you seen Jenny Crusie's latest blog?" she asked me. I hadn't, but I checked it when I got home, and it's very entertaining (and informative). Called Confessions of a Reformed Quote Whore (!) it's about the practice of giving author quotes for new releases. If you've ever wondered if an author really enjoyed the book they're raving about on the cover, find out there!

Next month we'll (very excitingly!) have an interview with Ms Crusie *squeal* and a review of her latest, too. (It's Christmas-themed...)

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 3, 2006 in American Authors, Book Websites, Book related, Modern Fiction | Permalink | Comments (3)

A novel in a year

During November, which we've re-named NaNovember, we're of course exploring the idea of writing a 50,000 word novel in a month. But a month might not be the right timescale for everyone...

In The Telegraph (in print and online) experienced novelist Louise Doughty is running a creative writing class via the newspaper, with a lesson each week bringing you to the goal of a novel in a year (still an impressive feat if you're a beginner, no?) She's already on week 43, but all the archives are online and make a great resource no matter how long it takes you to finish your novel! There's a message group so you're not alone (there's apparently been a huge response) and an introduction to the whole concept here.

Next week, we'll look at the experience of writing a novel in just three days- and review the results!

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on November 3, 2006 in Book Websites, Book related, British Authors, Modern Fiction, NaNovember | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 2, 2006 8:31 PM

BOOK REVIEW: Heartburn by Nora Ephron

Nora1We've talked before about how we're big fans of Nora Ephron (expect a review of her latest before too long!) and for me, Heartburn was her finest hour. (Okay, joint finest hour with When Harry Met Sally!) The story of Rachel Samstat, a food writer whose husband has an affair with the wife of a prominent politician... during month seven of Rachel's second pregnancy. It's heavily based on Nora's own life (her husband was Pulitzer prizewinning journalist Carl Bernstein). It's also fast, funny and furious.

It's a slim volume, but it's sharp, very moving and we feel Rachel's pain. The fact that it's based on real life also adds a gossipy quality that I (being nosy!) loved. Some readers can take or leave the recipes which are dotted throughout the text (I really liked them, although I might give the sorrel soup a miss). The characterisations are deft, the humour stands up well, even twenty-three years later, and the anger never becomes bitter. And we finally get a sense at the end of the book that things are going to turn out well for Rachel, thank goodness.

Fans of When Harry Met Sally will spot some of the events and lines from the movie, which were used here first (but still made me laugh). Probably the best compliment I can give it is that I've read it at least three times- and can't wait 'til the next three! A classic of the genre, and as the quote on the cover says, "proof that writing well is the best revenge"!

Rating: 5 out of 5

Like this? Try Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher.

Related: Thursday Three: Cooking Good! / Thursday Three: In The Club / Book Review: Hanging Up by Delia Ephron / Movie News: Julie and Julia

Posted by DIANE SHIPLEY on