Thursday, October 28, 2010

Favorite Places to Read: JujoMukti, NYC

I think this place is so cool:

JujoMukti, NYC
I discovered Jujomukti last Friday on my way to a friend's party and fell in love. Head over in heels in love. Why, you ask?

1) It's a tea lounge. A TEA LOUNGE which means a gazillion options of tea!...which means I get to curl up with a cup of tea and read...

2) Here:

I love exposed brick walls. I love armchairs. I love windows. So if I get to read in an armchair against an exposed brick wall while looking out the window, then I'm a happy camper. Seriously happy camper.

3) It's quiet which, to be honest, is hard to find in NYC. It's quiet on a Monday night but it's also quiet on a Friday night. It's also quiet on Saturday. Part of this may be because it's relatively new, having just opened in August.

It's a perfect rainy day spot but it's a perfect fall spot as well. I've only been able to get here once since my discovery but I have the feeling I'm going to be a regular at this hidden gem...

NaNoWriMo and Morning Glory

Apologies for having been remiss in announcing the giveaway result!  It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. Joli @ Actin' Up with books is the winner of a copy of Diana Peterfreund’s Morning Glory (I’ve seen posters up around the city for the movie and am getting way excited.)  So congratulations, Joli! 

In other news, Casting Call Friday is going on hiatus for the month due to NaNoWriMo (that’s National Novel Writing Month), which I am again attempting (for the fourth year in a row) and this year hope to actually produce a full novel.  Most years end in the past have ended in tears around the third week so fingers crossed this year isn't more of the same.

I believe Janelle is going to take a stab at the writing marathon as well, so while we might not be mentally capable of writing reviews every week of November, we’ll be keeping you updated and talking about books from the view of the writer, not just reader and posting more fun stuff like Janelle's post about her favorite place to read.

Is anyone else participating in NaNoWriMo this year?  Have you participated in the past?  Does the idea of writing an entire novel in a month scare the hell out of you? (Because it scares me!)

Oh and add me as a writing buddy over at NaNo!  I love to see what people are working on and commiserate/wallow in the sheer absurdity of this folly together!  My screen name is filmphi.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Review - Playing with Matches by Brian Katcher

Summary: (via Goodreads)Some guys are born handsome, but seventeen-year-old Leon Sanders has a mug that looks like it should be hanging in a post office with the caption “wanted for shoplifting and credit card fraud”. Thanks to his twisted sense of humor, he’s managed to go from nerdy to unknown. Leon’s new locker neighbor is Melody Hennon, an unfortunate girl whose face was horribly disfigured from a childhood accident. When Leon takes a chance and makes her laugh, he discovers that underneath the scarred skin, Melody is a funny, smart, and interesting person. Leon never predicted that he and Melody would become good friends…and maybe more.

This book has a really interesting storyline. A boy outcast meets a girl outcast; they become friends, and eventually start dating. But, aside from all the regular issues faced by the average teenage couple, Leon and Melody have to deal with something else, something that’s practically impossible to ignore no matter how hard either of them tries. They have to deal with the issue of her face, which is unattractively covered with scar tissue from a freak fire accident she suffered as a child.
I don’t know what I was really expecting from the story when I first read the back-flap. I half thought that Melody’s disfigurement wouldn’t be that terrible, or that even if it was, Leon would be this really wonderful, big-hearted guy whose sole purpose in the story would be to provide unconditional love, allowing Melody to finally face those inner demons she harbors over her appearance. And that maybe later, she would even get the chance to undergo some miraculous skin-grafting surgery that would restore her physical beauty (quite fairy tale-ish of me, I know.)
Well, Brian Katcher had a whole host of different (and better) ideas about where the plotline Playing with Matches ought to go. Instead of the non-superficial teenage hero I was expecting, Leon’s character is created true to any hormonal seventeen year old high school junior. He is superficial, he cares about beauty, and Melody’s disfigurement bothers him. Despite the strong feelings of attraction he feels toward Melody’s personality, the repulsive feelings he has about her appearance are stronger still, turning him into a flighty and noncommittal boyfriend.
Meanwhile, Melody issues about her disfigurement aren’t that different from Leon’s. Appearance means a lot in most situation, and Melody has had to learn that the hardest way possible. At age seventeen, she has never had a friend, let alone a boyfriend, until Leon comes into her life. This fact alone makes her cling to him as hard as she can for as long as she can. Melody’s desperation becomes so strong that she’s willing to forgive a lot of Leon’s transgressions to keep their relationship going.
Unexpectedly, I found myself charmed by this book. I loved the harshness in Leon’s inability to accept Melody scarred face. Heck, if I had to be completely honest, I would have to admit that I wasn’t quite able to swallow Melody’s appearance either (yes, it’s truly shameful how I assume that beautiful people are going to jump out of the pages of the books I read) and so I never truly blamed Leon for the selfish actions he took in the given circumstances. I also loved the lopsided statuses Leon and Melody occupied in their relationship. Even though Leon was a nobody, Melody was less than that and therefore dependent of Leon for some sort of high school social strata elevation.
Overall, this is a truly great book. There are no negatives that I can think of. Katcher has placed his characters is less than average circumstances and manages to resolve their issues very successfully. He captured the varying emotions of Melody and Leon perfectly, and I can’t wait to get started on his second novel, Almost Perfect, which promises to be yet another interesting ride through a rather conventional teenage relationship.

Lit Snit Verdict: B

Monday, October 25, 2010

Review—Crossing Washington Square by Joanne Rendell

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Some women follow their hearts; others follow their minds. In this “charming, witty, and cerebral” second novel from the acclaimed author of The Professors’ Wives’ Club, we return to Manhattan University, where two strong-willed women are compelled to unite their senses and sensibilities.

Professor Diana Monroe is a highly respected scholar of Sylvia Plath. Serious and aloof, she steadfastly keeps her mind on track. Professor Rachel Grey is young and impulsive, with a penchant for teaching popular women’s fiction like
Bridget Jones’ Diary and The Devil Wears Prada, and for wearing her heart on her sleeve.

The two conflicting personalities meet head to heart when Carson McEvoy, a handsome and brilliant professor visiting from Harvard, sets his eyes on both women and creates even more tension between them. Now Diana and Rachel are slated to accompany an undergraduate trip to London, where an almost life-threatening experience with a student celebrity will force them to change their minds and heal their hearts…together.

Review:  I heard about this book during Book Blogger Appreciation Week and it sounded right up my alley.  I’ve always been discouraged by the dismissal of chick lit as “real literature” and think it has certain merit in the world of fiction. 

Crossing Washington Square makes a lot of really great points about the misconceptions about chick lit and the prejudices people have when they see you reading it.  However, by about halfway through I was just like “I get it.  Enough already!”  The “moral” is dragged out way too long and both Diana and Rachel lack any self-awareness so it takes forever for them to make any ground as characters. 

I really wanted to like this book more than I did.  The set-up for the book was great.  I thought it was fun in the beginning to compare them to Elinor and Marianne Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility, but the comparisons, though started out strong, went nowhere.  Both claimed the superficial aspects of each woman, which made them rather bland.  Diana was stuck-up and frigid, Rachel was emotional and flighty and each stayed like this practically until the last chapter when we're just supposed to suddenly buy them as friends.  We're told they've grown, but I just didn't see it so the ending felt a bit jarring. 

Both characters just didn’t do anything for me.  Just when I thought I was beginning to connect with one, they fell back on some stereotype.  Seriously, if Rachel said she was going to “catch me a Carson” one more time I think I was going to scream.  It was a ridiculous statement for a grown woman to say once, let alone five times.  I was really interested in each of the women for the first couple chapters, but the story just went nowhere and I found myself just getting irritated with both women for their lack of action, or, when they did act, it was just so stupid and flighty it made me roll my eyes.  The middle of the book just felt muddled and meandering.  Though it pulled itself together in the end for a somewhat plausible ending, each character still felt vaguely superficial and forced to me.  

I do commend Rendell for bringing to light the way chick lit has been dismissed as “fluff” (on another note: what’s wrong with fluff?  I would argue that anyone who doesn’t want some “fluff” in their life is pretty boring.) and definitely isn’t to be looked at with any kind of literary or critial gaze.  As Rendell says pop culture influences everything we are: how we think, how we act, and what’s going to happen in our lives.  If we’re seriously studying current television and film in Ivy league schools, why is chick lit still regulated to a “guilty pleasure.”

Anyway, Crossing Washington Square highlights a really interesting argument about the current state of literature, I only wish the story that surrounded this argument was a little more compelling. It's got some great academic thoughts but lacks that spark that makes "women's fiction" great.

Lit Snit Verdict: C

Friday, October 22, 2010

Casting Call Friday — Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married by Marian Keyes

I've had a crazy week traveling all over for weddings and work trips, so I didn't know what my Casting Call pick was going to be until I thought back to my review of Bachelor Boys and realized none of us had cast Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married despite Janelle's glowing review a few months ago.  So, I've decided to remedy that.  I'll admit this is a hard one to cast.  I'm not entirely happy with my picks so I'm looking forward to seeing who you think should play Lucy and Daniel.

First, a synopsis (via Goodreads): What happens when a psychic tells Lucy that she'll be getting married within the year? Her roommates panic! What is going to happen to their blissful existence of eating take-out, drinking too much wine, bringing men home, and never vacuuming? Lucy reassures her friends that she's far too busy arguing with her mother and taking care of her irresponsible father to get married. And then there's the small matter of not even having a boyfriend.
But then Lucy meets gorgeous, unreliable Gus. Could he be the future Mr. Lucy Sullivan? Or could it be handsome Chuck? Or Daniel, the world's biggest flirt? Or even cute Jed, the new guy at work?
Maybe her friends have something to worry about after all....

Now onto the cast...

Lucy Sullivan — Lucy is 26 and hopeless in love.  She's self-deprecating and funny, but slides into "funks" now and then and is known for her moodiness.  She sees what she wants to see in her love life and family, often missing what's right in front of her...

Cast: Carey Mulligan 
Carey Mulligan is a bit young, but I think she's got the right look and "cheekiness" for Lucy.  Plus she can handle the more serious turns the character takes throughout the book.  Having her as Lucy will keep the story from going too "zany rom com" and keep some of the gravitas that makes this story great.

Daniel Watson — Daniel is Lucy's best friend and a notoroious womanizer.  He's not necessarily the most handsome man, but he's got oodles of charisma and charm.  He's always been there for Lucy and is often the voice of reason to Lucy's overactive imagination.

Cast: James McAvoy 
I'll admit, I love James McAvoy, but I'm not completely convinced he's the right fit for Daniel.  I think he's got the right charm and sweetness, but there's just something missing.  If I could combine him and Chris Pine into one human being, not only would I have created the perfect leading man, I think I'd have exactly what I'd envisioned Daniel as.

Karen — Karen is Lucy's bossy flatmate who never shies away from putting Lucy down and telling her the ugly truth saying it's "for her own good."  She's incredibly competitive and arrogant, but can be a good friend to Lucy (when it's convenient for her). 

Cast: Abbie Cornish 
This was another tough one.  Marian Keyes described both Karen and Charlotte as blonds so I wanted to keep Karen blond, even though I think Emily Blunt might make a good Karen (she's a lot like her character from The Devil Wears Prada), but I think Abbie Cornish might do a good job too.  She's got a lot of range and I'd be interested to see her do a more rom com type movie even if she's not the leading lady.

Charlotte —Charlotte is Lucy's other roommate.  She's a sweet, but spacey girl from outside London who's still trying to find her way in the city.  She's even more hapless in love than Lucy, but always tries to look on the bright side of things.

Cast: Rosamund Pike 
Rosamund Pike has the perfect mix of innocence and sultriness that epitomizes Charlotte.  She'd be a great pair to Abbie Cornish without getting lost in big personalities.  She was great as a wide-eyed waif in Pride and Prejudice and I think she could take that type of character up a notch here.

Gus—Gus is Lucy's Irish boyfriend who's great at mooching off other people and drinking.  He's fun and loves a good time, but isn't reliable and still acts like he's 18.

Cast: Chris O'Dowd
I love Chris O'Dowd from The IT Crowd.  He might be a bit goofy for the role, but be a great lovable overgrown child and you would understand why Lucy gets taken in by him.  He's got the right charm and affability for Gus.  Oh, and he's really Irish so points for that.


There are a lot of characters in Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married and, to be totally honest, I'm way too tired to cast them all, but I did want to mention my picks for Lucy's parents: Miranda Richardson and Jim Broadbent.  Though it might be because of Bridget Jones' Diary, Jim Broadbent has always been in my head as Mr. Sullivan when I read (and re-read) this book.  After much thought, Miranda Richardson would be good as the put-upon Mrs. Sullivan.

So What do you think?  I feel like I'm pretty wishy-washy about my picks so I'm eager to hear who you would cast in Marian Keyes awesome book!

Oh, and did you know this book has already been a TV show!?  I still have not dared to watch this entire thing with sound because I feel like it might destroy the book for me, but check it out.  It ran for a whole season and, yes, that is Gerard Butler as Gus!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Favorite Places to Read--1990 Aerostar Van, Utica NY to Las Vegas, NV

I have nothing to review. Nothing. I'm uninspired. Blah.

So, while reading the first excerpt from the new Sweet Valley Confidential, I started thinking about where I was when I first discovered the Wakefield twins. It was here:

 Or more specifically, here:

I'm a military brat and my dad's next assignment was in Las Vegas, NV. So he packed my mom, my brother, my sister and myself into a 1990 Ford Aerostar van and drove from Utica, NY to Las Vegas. It took days. DAYS!

Still, that was the best move we experienced (for 4 years later we made that drive back...NOT fun.). My dad bought us each a Nintendo Game Boy (which was a treat because money was TIGHT), my sister and I some books and we started on our way.

I curled up in that backseat and discovered Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield when they were 12 and attending Sweet Valley Middle School. I was 10 at the time and was in awe of their blond hair and blue-green eyes (Um, I've now come to realize that it's an impossibility) and their life in Sweet Valley. I wanted to live near the beach and swim and play with Lila & co.

It was during that same drive that I discovered Harlequin Superromance novels. My mother used to receive them in the mail every month like clockwork. She had no idea what they were so she would hand them off (she was a bit horrified to discover what we were reading later! Sorry, Mom!) and we never actually opened the first box until that drive. 

Um, talk about the birds and the bees!

Still, even after we arrived and settled in Las Vegas, I still would go and sit in the backseat and read. My tastes may have changed, leaned towards something a bit older (ha! like Sweet Valley High and Harlequin Blaze) but I still always found comfort in that van. Hands down, still remains one of my favorite reading places...even if my Dad made me suffer by driving it ten years later. :)

Do you have a favorite reading spot? Somewhere you like reading as a child? Dish!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday - Daniela

Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher
Release Date: November 9, 2010

Summary: (via Goodreads) Logan Witherspoon recently discovered that his girlfriend of three years cheated on him. But things start to look up when a new student breezes through the halls of his small-town high school. Sage Hendricks befriends Logan at a time when he no longer trusts or believes in people. Sage has been homeschooled for a number of years and her parents have forbidden her to date anyone, but she won’t tell Logan why. One day, Logan acts on his growing feelings for Sage. Moments later, he wishes he never had. Sage finally discloses her big secret: she’s actually a boy. Enraged, frightened, and feeling betrayed, Logan lashes out at Sage and disowns her. But once Logan comes to terms with what happened, he reaches out to Sage in an attempt to understand her situation. But Logan has no idea how rocky the road back to friendship will be.

Just like Erin, I’ve been feeling a little meh about the books I’ve been seeing on the upcoming releases lists. And so, I’ve decided to give some attention to a book that’s already out in hardback, but won’t hit the market in its paperback form till November 9, 2010. The book is Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher. I’m currently reading Katcher’s earlier novel called Playing with Matches, which is about a high school boy falling in love with a badly disfigured girl. And if you read the summary of Almost Perfect that I’ve provided above, you’ll see that this author picks very difficult subjects to write about. Can you imagine the limited market among young adults for books dealing with being disfigured or transgenrered? I’m betting it’s not great…but, Katcher writes about it anyway and rightly so. These are issues that need attention.

I’m really enjoying Playing with Matches and will grab a copy of Almost Perfect just as soon as it comes out next month.

Note: Waiting on Wednesday is an ingenious idea hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Review - Get Lucky by Katherine Center

Summary: (via GoodreadsSarah Harper isn’t sure if the stupid decisions she sometimes makes are good choices in disguise—or if they’re really just stupid. But either way, after forwarding an inappropriate email to her entire company, she suddenly finds herself out of a job.
So she goes home to Houston—and her sister, Mackie—for Thanksgiving. But before Sarah can share her troubles with her sister, she learns that Mackie has some woes of her own: After years of trying, Mackie’s given up on having a baby—and plans to sell on eBay the entire nursery she’s set up. Which gives Sarah a brilliant idea—an idea that could fix everyone’s problems. An idea that gives Sarah the chance to take care of her big sister for once—instead of the other way around.

Review (with a small spoiler): Get Lucky is a chick lit novel about Sarah, a semi-happy 30 year old workaholic, who has decided to devote her life to building that reputable NYC career everyone dreams about. Suddenly, things turn from great to grim, when an unfortunate lapse of judgment gets her fired. Uncertain about what to do next, Sarah decides to take a trip back home to Texas, where she discovers that her older sister Mackie has been facing a dreary predicament of her own: the inability to become a mother. Heartbroken over the situation, Sarah decides to solve the seemingly impossible problem in a very interesting way; it’s a decision that transforms her from a big city hotshot into a pregnant, hormonal, jobless single woman in about a month’s time.
            Okay, at this point, there is a chance you’re feeling slightly dismayed over the whole pregnancy factor about the story. Certainly, not everyone’s interested in reading about gestation and morning sickness when they turn to the chick lit genre. But I strongly advice you not to be alarmed! Even though there are some important physiological changes that the book discusses during Sarah’s nine months of “community baby” bliss, the story’s focus lies more in the non-physiological inner changes that happen to our heroine. In many ways, she’s a broken woman when she arrives in Houston. This pregnancy was her way out, a way to reinvent herself into a kinder, more altruistic person; it was also a way for her to restore the closeness she once shared with her sister. But, this being the chick lit novel that it is, things have a way of turning out exactly the opposite to how they should. Having to share her body with someone else’s babies was supposed to be difficult for Sarah, but having to deal with being jobless, single and increasingly prospect-less (in both those departments) in conjunction to the growing belly, starts to become increasingly disagreeable (and also hilarious.) Raging hormones contribute to the roller-coaster of emotions and impulsive actions that start to ensue, which will have you oscillating between laughter and pain.  
             Essentially, Get Lucky is a book that chronicles the process of creating a life, while also rebuilding one’s life. The best part of the story is Sarah’s honesty. She has made a lot of mistakes in her life, and continues to make more as the story moves along, but being 30 means that she also has to find ways to deal with everything. And so she does. Sarah’s solutions to her predicaments are nothing if not interesting, but with the advertising background that she has got, you’d be foolish not to expect her to think outside the box. She’s a great character. I loved her and I even loved the vicarious pregnancy experience she gave me.  

Lit Snit Verdict: A

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Casting Call Friday: A Minor Rant

Today's casting call is going to discuss One Day by David Nicholls....
I know what you're thinking!
Janelle, you're cheating! This book has already been reviewed. It's already being turned into a movie. We've already discussed it's two cast members--Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess--so you can't cast a book that's already cast!
You're right. It has been cast. HOWEVER, I just re-read it and I'm a bit bothered!

Honestly, I don't have a problem with the foxy Jim Sturgess:

I'm not one to argue with beauty. Or talent for that matter. Sturgess has great range, with performances in films such as Across the Universe,  The Other Boleyn Girl and 21. There's no doubt in my mind he will make a fantastic Dexter. I think he'll successfully capture Dexter's arrogance, his insecurity, his charisma. I think he'll convincingly showcase Dexter coming of age. Um, and he's also a Brit. So this? This makes me happy. 

It's this part that disturbs me:

Anne Hathaway as Emma?? REALLY??

I'm not hating on Anne Hathaway. Not at all. I think she's done some really great work. I liked The Devil Wears Prada. I'm  really interested in seeing her in her upcoming film with Jake Gyllenhaal, Love and Other Drugs and she was FANTASTIC in Shakespeare in the Park's Twelfth Night. So, no, I don't dislike her. 

My problem is this...there are several other actresses, BRITISH actresses, that could do this role justice. We could state the obvious and go with Emily Blunt. I think she'd make an amazing Emma. I totally see her as Emma in the beginning of the novel, where she's rocking her red, asymmetrical hair cut and is disheveled. Her character is Sunshine Cleaning shares quite a few parallels to Emma's story. She possesses the snark, the sass, and the intelligence needed. Oh? and she's a Brit. 
If we were going to go American, why couldn't we have picked Michelle Williams?? Michelle Williams has consistently proven that she's a chameleon, from giving major vamp as Jen on Dawson's Creek to growing in roles like Alma Beers in Brokeback Mountain to eventually portraying Marilyn Monroe!

I understand, film powers that be, that you want a commercially viable actress but there are so many to choose from and I truly, truly believe that there are some serious powerhouse players that weren't considered. I just don't think that Anne Hathaway is a great fit. We need someone who can give us someone who is down in the trenches but makes her way up. Someone indie, someone edgy, someone slightly gritty but able to transform (and don't you dare show me The Princess Diaries). I just feel like this casting choice is way off base...

So there's my rant. Am I, in all of my whining, wrong? Do you see someone else as Emma? Are there any books-into-movies casts you've had problems with?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday?

I'll be honest. I've spent the better part of the last 24 hours trying to find something for my Waiting on Wednesday post, but haven't come up with anything. There are a lot of great YAs coming out, but everyone's talking about them so they're really nothing new. I've been looking for some good chick lit/women's fiction or just some good fiction in the next few months but nothing's really jumped out at me.

Am I getting tougher to please? Have I hit the reading wall? Am I just feeling a little blase this week? Possibly. In any case I'm putting my Waiting on Wednesday post in your hands. What are you excited to read that's coming out in the next few months? What do you have on pre-order, on your Christmas wish list, or just can't freaking wait to get your hands on?

As always, Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Review - The Dating Game (Dating Game #1) by Natalie Standiford

Summary: (via back cover)
Take the Quiz
1. You can't stop thinking about Sean, the hottest senior boy in the school. You are a sophomore girl with next-to-zero boy experience. You:
a. Have your best friend set you up on a blind date with Sean.
b. Get more experience with the guy who has the school's worst rep.
c. Date Sean's best friend, so you look sexy and mature.
d. All of the above.

2. Rumors about how you "put out" are all over school. You:
a. Say, "Thanks a lot," and start a super-popular sexy Web site.
b. Consider paying another girl to parade around in her underwear, so everyone will talk about her.
c. Start dating one of the nicest guys in school.
d. All of the above.

3. You are madly in love with your teacher. How do you let him know? You: 
a. Send a love poem about him to the literary journal.
b. Share an intimate moment with him at the high school dance.
c. Go to his house.
d. All of the above.

Seventeen Magazine meets high school science project, that’s The Dating Game described in less than ten words. And although I’m not a fan of confining a work in the this-meets-that type of way, I really don’t feel bad in this case, because this series is just that light and silly that it would be wrong to try and over-analyze its literary purpose.

So…what's this book about? (Clearly, even if the back-flap description is entertaining, it certainly isn’t very informative.)

The Dating Game is the story of three high school sophomore named Holly, Madison and Lena, who decide to spice up the dating scene for the 800+ students of RSAGE High by launching a web-based dating service called "The Dating Game" (or DG.)

In order to participate and be set up on a blind date with a fellow classmate, students must answer questionnaires about themselves, their dating experience and complete a sting of quizzes. The site becomes an instant hit – in the something-to-talk-about-on-your-way-to-your-locker type of way – but when Holly, Lena and Madison decide to add themselves to the dating pool, things start to get heated. Fast!

Madison, who is the least experienced and therefore most desperate to start dating, is in love with high school jock Sean Benedetto. Now it becomes her mission to discover which screen-name of the hundreds of male DG participants belongs to him so that she can set up a convenient match.

Holly has a false reputation of a being a slut. Getting guys to go out with her has never been difficult, but what she really wants is to meet someone who will look beyond those ugly rumors.

Lena’s interest in DG is purely academic. Her eyes are set on something beyond inexperienced high school boys. In her dreams she drools over only one man: her teacher, Mr. Schulman.

Every chapter of this book begins with a hilarious horoscope prediction about what’s to ensue. And indeed, what ensues is (for the most part) stuff that belongs to the “mortifying confessions” page of a magazine. Interspersing the story are some silly interactive quizzes, meant to rate DG participants (and also you) on a wide variety of topics (see question examples in the story summary above.)

Ever since I read How to Say Goodbye in Robot, I knew that would love Natalie Standiford forever! And now, in my post-The Dating Game state, I still love her just the same. This author gets teens, she gets relationships, and she has humor. I thought I would think this series was too childish (and in a way I do), but I still find it funny and addictive despite myself…and really, what more can you ask from a book than for it to trick you into wanting more.

Lit Snit Verdict: B

Books in the Dating Game Series (in order) and their Lit Snit grade:
1. The Dating Game (B)
2. Breaking Up is Really Really Hard to Do (B+)
3. Can True Love Survive High School (B+)
4. Ex-Rating
5. Speed Dating
6. Parallel Parking

Monday, October 11, 2010

Review and Giveaway — Morning Glory by Diana Peterfreund

Synopis (via Goodreads):
BREAKING NEWS: Plucky young TV producer is fired from her gig at a local morning show in New Jersey-but vows to land on her feet.

With an unfinished college education and suddenly out of a job, Becky Fuller finds herself at Daybreak, a floundering network morning news program in New York City that’s sinking faster than the Titanic. Abysmal ratings are only the tip of the iceberg: The outdated cameras belong in the Smithsonian, and executive producers never stay beyond the next commercial break. To reverse the downward spiral, Becky hires legendary newscaster Mike Pomeroy as co-anchor-or rather, she makes him an offer he can’t contractually refuse. Mike abhors Daybreak’s fluff pieces (pet psychics?) and takes an instant dislike to Colleen, his equally vain co-anchor. The only bright side of Becky’s career is Adam Bennett, the gorgeous producer of an actual hard news show, but Daybreak’s dysfunction spells trouble for their blossoming relationship. As Mike and Colleen’s on-air chemistry proves explosive, Becky must scramble to save her love life, her reputation, and Daybreak itself before the network pulls the plug.

Review:  Reviewing movie novelizations is tough (though probably not as tough as writing them).  If there are weaknesses in plot or characters, lack of motivation, or inconsistencies, do you blame the author or the screenwriter?  Where does one person’s creation end and another’s begin?

Morning Glory isn’t perfect, but it’s full of fun characters created by Aline Brosh McKenna and fleshed out by Peterfreund.  The plot really does play as the perfect chick flick.  Girl unlucky in love and life starts over in New York City where she overcomes preconceptions and antagonists to prove she’s got what it takes.

Okay, I’m making it sound more cheesy than it is, but you get the point.  I hesitate to criticize the book for being a little thin because you can tell Peterfreund is following rules set up by someone else, but the book does lack that certain spark that’s made me love all of her other work.  Becky, however, is a likable protagonist and I found myself rooting for her even if her social awkwardness was a little cliché.  Peterfreund made it work.  Becky’s dating troubles were a slightly eye-roll inducing until I got to the line “I don’t know a guy is into me until he’s naked” and it was frighteningly familiar to something I would have thought/said.  While you don’t really forget that it’s a movie in book form (there's a certain lack of well-roundedness to the world that you would find in a straight-up chick lit book), Peterfreund makes you care about Becky.

One thing that I don’t think I would have gotten out of the movie that struck me while reading the book was that the dismissal of morning shows by “real” journalists is similar to the dismissal of the chick lit genre.  Just because something is fun or “fluffy” doesn’t mean it doesn’t have merit or doesn’t have something to say.  There are real messages hidden beneath the fluff.  Just because it isn’t “hard-hitting” or literary doesn’t make it have any less value.  I think Peterfreund really used this vehicle to make a statement about dismissing “women’s” media as something less important than “serious” (read: male) media. 

Oh, and I do have to mention one thing that’s always kind of driven me nuts about Peterfreund’s books: her vocabulary.  Now, I know I probably don’t have the greatest vocabulary, but I’d like to think it’s pretty decent.  So when I come across lines like “I tried to adjust my circadian rhythms to a more diurnal schedule” it just makes me want to scream “just say you were trying to get your sleep patterns back to normal!”  I think what’s most jarring is that it’s out of character.  Becky doesn’t really talk like this or even think like this for most of the book so it just threw me.  Same for Rampant.  Maybe I wasn’t a precocious enough as a teen but I didn’t use SAT words in everyday life.

Anyway, the important thing is that Morning Glory is that it made me super excited to see the movie.  As you read you can't help but envision Harrison Ford as Mike and that’s some perfect casting there.  I hate to call him a grumpy old man, but…he kind of is…and is awesome at it (though Han Solo Ford will always be swoon-worthy).  I can’t wait to see Diane Keaton as the cheery, veteran morning show host with bite, Colleen. Add in my girlcrush Rachel McAdams and I’m in chick flick heaven.

Lit Snit Verdict: C+

So until the movie hits we have a copy of Diana Peterfreund’s Morning Glory up for grabs to tide you over!  Contest is open to US/Canada and will close 10/21. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Casting Call Friday - The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

The Imperfectionists (our September book club selection) is easily my favorite book since we started this blog. Yes, truly! I have great admiration for newspapermen and journalist and this book is a collection of the stories of eleven members of a Rome-based newspaper. Each character’s story captured some aspect about the paper media business, while also providing a brief glimpse of some universal human experience: the naivete when starting a new job, pondering over the meaning of life, the frustration of being unable to find the one and having to settle for just anyone, the self-hatred experienced by one labeled as an outcast, etc. I loved reading about each of the characters Rachman conjured up. They were all flawed individuals (ergo the book’s title) and yet so relatable precisely because of these flaws.

Alas, this is a casting call post and I must get back to that. Because the story is really a composition of 11 mini-stories, I think it would be very appropriate to film this similarly to a movie like Paris, Je T’aime .

Here is a selection of my favorite chapters, and the actor I’ve chosen to play the main role in the would-be shorts.

Bush Slumps to New Low in Polls
Paris Correspondent Lloyd Burko finds himself aged, no longer attractive to his wife and out of money. Trying to pitch commissionable story ideas to the paper, he gets in touch with his estranged son.

Cast - Michael Caine

World’s Oldest Liar Dies at Age 126
Obituary Writer Arthur Gopal finds himself content working on the least desirable sections of the paper. Then, a tragic event and a meeting with a dying writer challenge him to reinvent himself.

Cast - Kal Penn

“Global Warming Good for Ice Creams”
Corrections Editor Herman Cohen has always worshiped and idolized his childhood best friend. Herman's views must drastically be altered when he is reunited with this friend after many years.

Cast - John Goodman

“U.S. General optimistic on War”
Editor-in-Chief Kathleen Solson has a successful career and an unfaithful husband. Kathleen considers her own prospects of cheating when she runs into an old boyfriend.

Cast - Dami Moore

“The Sex Lives of Islamic Extremists”
Cairo Stringer Winston Cheung is fresh out of college looking to score a journalist position abroad. But he must compete with a couple of sneaky veterans if he wants a commission.

Cast - John Cho

“Kooks with Nukes”
Copy editor Rube Zaga is an outcast at the office. She hates everyone and it seems they all hate her right back. Wallowing in her own mystery, she mulls over the pros and cons of quitting.

Cast - Parker Posey

“76 Die in Baghdad Bombing”

News editor Craig Menzies works really hard at a job he despises. The only things that keep him going are his pipe dream of being an inventor and his beautiful, younger girlfriend.

Cast - Bryan Cranston

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Review - French Kiss (Diary of a Crush, Book # 1) by Sarra Manning

Summary (via Goodreads): When Edie and Dylan first see each other in photography class, an instant attraction draws them together. But true love never does run smoothly—the two spar as much as they can’t keep their hands off each other. Then comes the college trip to Paris: Edie’s willpower will be tested to the limit! In between furious arguments and trips to the Louvre, the two share some passionate moments—but will it last?

Review: I liked this book. A lot.

I picked this up after reading through previous entries of Emily and Her Pink Little Notes and coming across her glowing review. I’m not necessarily a fan of books that are written in journal entries. I think it’s difficult, while reading them, to get a full understanding of the characters and relationships (that could just be me, though).

I didn’t find that to be the case here.

I think Manning did a wickedly awesome job of communicating Edie and Dylan’s dynamic through journal entries. I found myself laughing during her bratty moments & cringing during the embarrassing ones. I also found myself engrossed in their intimate moments. *swoon* Dylan, for all of his typical 19 year old boy craziness, is a keeper in my book. (At least for a girl of the age 16…at my age, I’d (hopefully) tell him to go kick rocks.) He’s the kind of boy you genuinely drool over in high school.

Speaking of intimacy, I enjoyed that Edie was the typical 16 year old girl who may have been in a little over her head, as it would have been easy to try to age her since she went to school with an older crowd. Edie is very firm on not wanting to have sex, as she feels she is not ready—she doesn’t allow herself to feel pressured & takes a mature stance by stating it upfront. This story has the right amount of “steam”, just enough to make your heart beat a little faster…definitely perfect for a 16 year old crowd but still entertaining to those older as well.

All in all, I found this book to be direct and refreshing, light and fun. I’m eagerly waiting on Kiss and Make Up (Diary of a Crush, Book 2) in the mail.

LitSnit Grade: B+

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday - Janelle

I Love the 80s by Megan Crane

Release Date: March 17, 2011
Published by Quercus Publishing

Summary (via Megan Crane’s website): Jenna Jenkins has always loved 80s pop legend Tommy Seer, and in her heart she knows that they were meant to be together - despite the fact that he died when she was 12.

For a while it looked like her fiancé Adam might take his place in her heart, but when he dumps her for a 23 year old Jenna resigns herself to a life of yearning for the man she can never have.

When a freak accident sends her back to 1987 and into Tommy’s world, Jenna realizes she might have a chance after all. Unfortunately, fashion crimes are at an all time high: everyone has big shoulder pads and even bigger hair. More upsetting than the lack of Starbucks and mobiles is that Tommy does not recognize Jenna as his soul mate. Even worse, Jenna knows that in just a few weeks Tommy is going die in a terrible accident. At least, everyone will assume it’s an accident. But was it really?

Can Jenna save Tommy from his fate? Can she survive the horrors of 1987—for the second time around? And is Tommy Seer really the guy for her after all?"

I love, love, love Megan Crane. LOVE her. (Although, that profession may come off as slightly stalkerish...) I don’t think I can eloquently state why… I guess it’s because her characters, her stories are realistic.

I tell Erin quite often that the hero in romance novels must be based off SOMETHING. I refuse to believe, no matter how ridiculous/convoluted the story is, there must be a man out there like these characters. They aren't just pulled out of thin air. After I go on about this for several minutes, Erin just gives me this look (and Erin, you know which look!) and tells me, basically, that it is fantasy.

The point of that tangent is that Megan Crane’s books aren’t about these dreamy, perfect characters. Her characters are flawed and the romance is genuine. No one is swept off their feet and you experience the awkward, beginning stages. There isn’t some dream ending. It’s something that everyone, at some point, has experienced. ( I hope this makes sense…).

I do need to clarify that her novels aren’t necessarily about romance. The journey her characters take are grounded and genuine with a great deal of emotional depth. (Seriously, I feel like Gus of Frenemies right now…)

With that being said, while I’m looking forward to her new book (COME. ON. ALREADY), I’m a bit scared. Freak accidents causing time travel doesn’t exactly scream realistic to me, but I trust Megan Crane to do what she always does—to simply tell a good story.

Note: Waiting on Wednesday is an ingenious idea hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Book Club Discussion -- The Imperfectionists

Ah, that time has come...

I hope you all enjoyed Tom Rachman's The Imperfectionists as much as I did! I sympathized with every single one of these characters. It's a great book focusing on a (sometimes) slightly dismal, but definitely captivating, sense of everyday life.

I hope you'll join us in this discussion. Most questions are from LitLovers , while a few are from our own lovely Daniela. So, curl up with some tea and your favorite blanket (yay Fall!) & let's get started!

1. The book is a series of vignettes about 11 people in the newsroom of an unnamed paper. Yet The Imperfectionists is more than collection of short stories. How are the chapters connected? How does the book manage to cohere as a novel? Or does it? Perhaps you found it difficult to jump from one character to another—did you?

2. We find out at the end of the book why Cyrus Ott began the newspaper in 1953. Did you have suspicions all along...or were you caught by surprise?

3. Talk about how the headline for each chapter ties in with the fate of the character involved—particularly, say, the seemingly unrelated headline for Lloyd Burko: "Bush Slumps to New Low in the Polls."

4. Who was your favorite character and why?

5. When you catch glimpses of one of the characters in a chapter other than his/her own, does the character show the same traits...or do you see a different facet of the personality? What is the effect of having characters reappear?

6. There is a great deal of wry humor in this book. Which parts did you find especially funny?

7. Did you spend time piecing together the full story of the Ott family as told in the italic sections of the novel?

8. What do you make of the title of the book?

9. The fictional newspaper in this work serves as a metaphor for the press in general. Talk about the fate of newspapers— their future survival. What do you think will happen to them and why? What will be the impact of their possible demise? How important is a well-trained, professional press corp to democracy? Is the egalitarianism of news reporting on the Internet a good thing...or not?

10. What do you think was the overall message of all the combined storylines?

Review — Bachelor Boys by Kate Saunders

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Cassie is determined to grant the dying Phoebe her last wish and see her two sons Fritz and Ben safely married off. Yet, entertaining as they were as children, they make terrible adults. Surely no intelligent woman could be persuaded to take one on?
Review:  A few months ago I was lamenting the current state of chick lit.  It seems like a genre that was once exploding with great reads, died quickly with little to no forewarning.  Emily shared my dismay and made a great recommendation of If Andy Warhol Had a Girlfriend, which I listed as one of my unexpected treasures of the Book Blogger Appreciation Week.  When she recommended another chick lit title, Bachelor Boys I immediately set out to find it (which ended in a semi-embarrassing moment at the library when I couldn’t remember the title and the aging male librarian boomed “Bachelor Boys!?” and I could only meekly say “yes, that’s it.”  Why do chick lit titles always have cheesy titles??)
Anyway, I devoured this book on one perfect rainy evening with a glass of wine (and possibly a few's sad, okay?!).  Bachelor Boys has everything I want in my chick lit:  a sympathetic, slightly neurotic protagonist, non-romance drama, discovery of self and self-worth, and, of course, a guy.  (Plus, in my book, anything set in Britain makes it just a little bit better...)

I planned on only reading a few chapters, but was hooked from page one and may or may not have been reading wearing a goofy smile at certain points, just because I was so excited to have a new fun, smart chick lit novel.  After I finished Bachelor Boys, I realized it was slightly similar to Marian Keyes’ Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married, but with the roles reversed and let me tell you, it’s infinitely more frustrating to have be looking at the story from Daniel’s point of view.  You just want to scream at Lucy, “what are you doing!?!”

I loved every single character in this book (okay, I kind of hated Felicity, but that's what she was there for).  Cassie sometimes makes stupid decisions and, at times, is so transparent, but you can't help but love her.  She's smart and endearing, and I loved every scenes where she interacted with the Darling family.  There was a real sense of long-time affection and vibrancy to the Darlings.  I kind of wanted them as my next door neighbors.
I think what I really loved about Saunders’ book is the story of family and dealing with loss.  While Cassie is dealing with losing the woman who is the only real maternal figure she knows, she gets to know her own mother better.  The development of the relationship between Cassie and her mother was slow, but realistic and complex.  Her mom, a shrink and too smart for her own good, really reminded me of Brennan from Bones in her analytical approach to social and emotional situations.  She's difficult to understand at first, but as you peel away the layers you see that she feels as much as anyone else.
Yes, Bachelor Boys was slightly predictable, a little gender-biased, and convenient at times, but having been starved for some good chick lit I really loved this book and will probably pick it up at the bookstore sometime soon so, like Lucy Sullivan, it can be there when I need a good chick lit book after a long day.  
Lit Snit Verdict: A-

Friday, October 1, 2010

Casting Call Friday — Soulless by Gail Carriger

I was having a British movie marathon a week ago when I realized Gail Carriger's awesome series needed to be my next Casting Call Friday selection.  This is a series that's just begging to be on the big screen (or small, a TV series would actually be preferable—that way they'll be on my screen every week).  I've spent too much time thinking about this cast already so here goes...

First, a summary (via Goodreads): Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she's a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire -- and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London's high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

Now for the cast:

Alexia Tarabotti
Alexia, despite not having a soul, is opinionated, resourceful, and clever.  She's generally pretty blunt and no-nonsense.  She's described as having slightly curly black hair, a tan, coffee-like skin tone and a nose that might be a tad large.  She's curvy and tall (both very out of fashion in Victorian England), and looks very Italian (also out of fashion).

Cast: Emily Blunt
Now, I know Alexia is darker complected, but I think Emily Blunt could perfectly pull off Alexia's smart dialogue, witty exchanges with Lord Akeldama, and the withering looks she throws Lord Maccon's way.  She's the right age for Alexia, who's a spinster at 25.  She can be fiesty when she wants to be, demure when it calls for it, and has the perfect haughty look of disdain when people deserve it.  She's a woman you'd probably underestimate, but would never want to cross.

Lord Conall Maccon, Earl of Woolsey
Lord Maccon is the alpha of the Woolsey pack and head of the Bureau of Unnatural Registry.  He's loud, brash, and emotional.  He's got little patience for Alexia's meddling and penchant for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  He's large with dark hair and tawny eyes.  He's used to being in charge, no questions asked, and Alexia has a tendency to ask questions...

Cast: Henry Cavill
I went back and forth on this one.  Lord Maccon could be cast older by someone like Richard Armitage (who would be good, but is a little too emo in my opinion), but I think Henry Cavill just IS Lord Maccon to me.  If you've seen him in the first season of The Tudors you know he's got the confidence and attitude for Lord Maccon.  Plus, he's got this wolfish smile that is just...guh.  (Seriously, it was hard to just post one picture of Henry Cavill as evidence that he'd be a great Lord Maccon...also, I might be slightly obsessed with the guy.)

Professor Lyall
Lyall is Lord Maccon's much put-upon beta.  He's cool, calm, and collected in every situation, not to mention always has a perfectly tied cravat.  He's Lord Maccon's voice of reason and is there to balance out the hot-headed werewolf.  He's also the inventor of the soon-to-be-in-every-home glassicals.  He's got sandy colored hair and is smaller than most of his fellow werewolves.

Cast: Simon Woods

I will admit, David Wendam was in my head for Lyall when I was reading these books, but since I've gone younger with Lord Maccon I feel like I need to re-think Lyall.  I toyed with the idea of Rupert Friend (why, yes, Young Victoria was a part of my British movie marathon. Why do you ask?), but I think Simon Woods would do a good job.  He's got a lot of range.  I've seen him play silly (Pride and Prejudice, Penelope), evil (Rome), and a general nice guy next door (Cranford).  I think he could be a good straight man to Lord Maccon's more blustering character.

Ivy Hisselpenny
Ivy is Alexia's best friend and the owner of a gaggle of silly hats.  She's a generally cheerful girl, who always looks on the bright side of things and usually up on all the latest gossip. She tries her hardest (along with Alexia's mother) to keep Alexia from scandal and reminds her that, despite what she might think, there are society rules they must follow. She's more delicate than Alexia, but she's a loyal friend and smarter than anyone gives her credit for.  She's got dark curly hair and dark eyes.

Cast: Felicity Jones
Felicity Jones has the right look and sweetness to pull off Ivy.  She was great as the naive, adorable Catherine Moreland in Northanger Abbey.  She'd be a great foil for Emily Blunt and give her a little, well, soul, which Alexia needs sometimes.

Lord Akeldama
Lord Akeldama is probably Alexia's closest friend, despite his undead status.  The vampire has a network of society dandies that rival any spy network on the planet.  He always know everything about everyone probably before even they know it.  He dresses outrageous and is seem by some (many of them his fellow vampires) as a silly buffoon, but Lord Akeldama is quite clever and cunning.

Cast: Cillian Murphy
Now, some of my fellow bloggers might call Cillian Murphy "a creeper" (cough, Janelle, cough), but I'm a huge fan of his and think he'd be a great Lord Akeldama.  If you've seen Breakfast on Pluto you know he's up for anything and brings a nice gravity and sensitivity to all his characters, yet there can be a dangerous undercurrent to his roles that would perfectly suit the vampire dandy.

So what do you think?  Agree/disagree?  Who's YOUR perfect Alexia and Lord Maccon?