THE WINTERS IN BLOOM by Lisa Tucker and BEL CANTO by Ann Patchett: Books 37 & 38 of 2011 [BOOK WEEK 2]...

Alrighty, we’re down to my last group book report for BOOK WEEK 2, and we’re ending it with two ensemble pieces. My second book was an ensemble, so I was kind of shying away from these for a while. But my third book, which I’m currently working on, only has two main points of view, so now it’s on like Tron as far as ensemble is concerned. Shall we? THE WINTERS IN BLOOM by Lisa Tucker Lisa Tucker is on my top ten list of contemporary authors and one of the few authors I pre-order in hardcover. She’s a favorite because she has three qualities that I greatly value: 1. The ability to create compelling characters, 2. The ability to bring the drama while keeping her writing literary, and 3. The ability to weave in suspense so well, that you can’t turn the pages fast enough. Her latest offering, THE WINTERS IN BLOOM revolves around two extremely anxious parents whose strange son has been kidnapped. We get POVs from the parents, the father’s ex-wife, the father’s mother, the son himself, and the kidnapper (who may or may not be one of the aforementioned). What I Loved: I read this book on the plane home from a friend’s East Coast wedding. I started it while waiting in the terminal with the intention of just reading until I was allowed to pull out my laptop and work on the plane. The next thing I knew, I was done. The cabin was dark and the captain was telling us to put away our electronics because we were about to begin our descent into Los Angeles. Time flies when you’re reading a Tucker book. Also, this novel’s last line is so utterly perfect and superb, I can’t get it...

Why Can’t I Be Quiet Like Ryan Gosling? [Dear Thursday]

Watching the “Quiet Ryan” Funny or Die video (which I’ve posted below), I was reminded of two things: 1. My long-time desire to be a more quiet person in general. I tend to be loud and obnoxious and only become more so the better you get to know me. I’ve always been that way, and even when I try to be quiet in new situations, if I’m somewhere for more than say, an hour, the loud and obnoxious usually comes out. I just can’t tame it, because at a base level, loud and obnoxious is who I am. Still, I often wish I did quiet as well as Ryan Gosling, and of course, Davie from 32 CANDLES. 2. I am OBSESSED with “A Real Hero” by College, the song featured in this video. It’s off the DRIVE soundtrack and I’ve been listening to it just about every day since seeing the movie a few weeks ago. So two questions: 1. What quality do you wish you could have, but simply can’t pull off at a base level of personality? And… 2. What song(s) are you currently obsessed with? I’m sick of everything in my collection right now, save “A Real Hero,” so I’d love some suggestions. Quiet Ryan – watch more funny...

SUBURGATORY Review: Fall TV 2011 [Worth Watching?]

Being a big fan of the movie, EASY A, I was really looking forward to this new ABC sitcom, which many critics have been comparing to the acclaimed movie. Did it live up to its hype? Let’s discuss. Overview: After a single father (Jeremy Sisto) discovers a pack of condoms in his daughter, Tessa’s dresser drawer, he panics and moves them to the suburbs. Alan Tudyk (FIREFLY) also stars as an old college friend of the father’s, who acts as their guide. What I Liked: Jane Levy is wonderful in the role of Tessa. And I see can see why everyone is calling her the next Emma Stone. She has excellent timing and comedic chops. What I Didn’t Like: Well, despite really wanting to love this series going in, it managed to hit quite a few of my hot buttons: 1) The premise for their move to the suburb sucks, and really makes me dislike the father from the start — even if he is played by Jeremy Sisto (who loved in SIX FEET UNDER) — for not communicating with his daughter about sex, and for doing something so extreme. 2) As someone who hates the suburbs, this felt more like a horror movie, than a cute “fish out of water” sitcom — seriously, I just couldn’t believe the father would disrupt his daughter’s life this way. Manhattan is so much better — even when they try to convince us that it isn’t, it’s so much better. 3) Absolutely no high schoolers of color in the entire show, save one, solitary black diversity student who only says, “Hi” when introduced as such. I kept wondering how any place could make a list of five best cities to raise kids as they keep claiming throughout...

REVENGE Review: Fall TV 2011 [Worth Watching?]

Though, I really like Madeleine Stowe (12 MONKEYS – hey, hey hey!) and Emily VanCamp (I even stopped watching BROTHERS & SISTERS after she left), I didn’t have high hopes for their new night time drama, REVENGE. Was I right? Was I wrong? Here’s my review: Overview: A woman whose father was falsely accused of a fraud that led to a terrorist attack, reinvents herself as Emily Thorne, and returns to The Hamptons to take revenge out on the people who destroyed her father. This is being billed as an adaptation of THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO. What I Liked: This was surprisingly really good. Intriguing storylines, great chemistry between all the leads, well-developed characters — basically everything you’d want a night time soap to be. I’m a HUGE fan of THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, so really this series was kind of made for me. What I Didn’t Like: Must we set everything in the Hamptons? I’m beginning to suspect that every executive producer spends her or his summers there and between ROYAL PAINS, THE RINGER, and this, I’m getting a little sick of this particular setting. Diversity Report People of Color? 2 Emily’s best friend (for this identity at least) is English and biracial. Also, the daughter of the antagonist has a black girl who runs in her crew. No men of color, though. Report Card Show B Diversity C Worth Watching? Sure, especially if you’re missing BROTHERS & SISTERS. This isn’t quite the same, but it has a crack-a-lackin’ story, really great leads in Emily VanCamp and Madeline Stowe, and it will do in a...

UP ALL NIGHT and FREE AGENTS Reviews: Fall TV 2011 [Worth Watching?]

I hear COMMUNITY has gotten better, as has PARKS & RECREATIONS. Also, I love Christina Applegate, Will Arnett, and Hank Azaria, so I had high hopes for NBC’s new comedy block starring all of them — though I also had major resentment that it didn’t pop off until 10pm. You’d think that the powers that be would know that most of the people in UP ALL NIGHT’s target demographic have to get up early with their children the next morning. But, no worries, apparently the block is moving into the 8pm/7c time slot as of next week.So without further adieu, here are my spoiler-free reviews of UP ALL NIGHT and FREE AGENTS. Overview UP ALL NIGHT: Power couple Regan (Christina Applegate) and Chris (Will Arnett) have a baby. Their whole life gets turned upside down even as they try to hold on to the old versions of themselves. In a refreshing twist, Chris leaves his law career behind to become a stay-at-home dad, and Regan goes back to work as a producer on a talk show hosted by the zany and wonderfully self-absorbed, Ava (Maya Rudolph). FREE AGENTS: Alex, a recently divorced dad (Hank Azaria) hooks up with fellow PR executive, Helen (Kathryn Hahn), whose fiancee died a year ago. While trying to keep things simple, things get messy. The series also stars Anthony Head (Giles from BUFFY!) as their boss. What I Liked UP ALL NIGHT: Um, a sitcom that talks frankly and openly about new parenthood? Really, I might as well have hit the series record button based on concept alone. Maya Rudolph is also a scene-stealing joy to watch. And, smarm-master Will Arnett is somehow just right playing a nurturing father — this might just be his comeback role. FREE AGENTS:...

Happy Birthday, Fierce and Nerdy! [Dear Thursday]

Three years ago, we launched Fierce and Nerdy on September 8th, and we’ve been rocking the internets (in nerdiest ways possible) ever since. Fierce and Nerdy has changed a lot over the years, and starting this month we’re going to be implementing even more changes. But we’ll always be fierce, we’ll always be nerdy, and we’re looking so forward to spending another year with you, dear readers. With that in mind, if you’re in the L.A. area, we’re toasting Fierce and Nerdy at a Happy Hour next Friday. So do swing by to raise a glass. Click HERE for the details or just check them out below: featured image credit: Leo Reynolds If you really want to wish us happy birthday, please gift us with a Like on the Fierce and Nerdy FaceBook page and/or a follow on...

Ugh! No Book Report [Dear Thursday]

Sorry Guys, I know I’ve been a bit awful this week and I’m totally going to make it up to you in the weeks to come by 1) staying my butt at home, and 2) actually writing book reports. I’m going to be awesome … next week. Meanwhile, if you’re in the St. Louis area, do come out to the 32 CANDLES Barnes & Noble book event this Saturday, because I’m going to put all the awesomeness I should have been putting into blogging this week into that event and therefore it will be considerably dope. Until Monday … Love, love, love,etc P.S. — Don’t drop dead of shock, but my toddler has suddenly taken to saying “awesome” like a hundred times a day. I wonder where she learned...

On a Jet Plane/Finishing My Book [Dear Thursday]

Sorry for the lack of book reviews lately. We’re in serious overhaul mode, preparing to launch a whole book review department in September-Octoberish. Also, I’m putting the finishing touches on my second novel, which I’m determined to get off my computer by this weekend. Which brings us to the main point of today’s post: What do you do on planes? Me? I read for about 30 minutes, then I write until the captain tells me to turn off all my electronics, at which point I pull out a magazine. In my opinion there’s no better place to write than on a plane. There’s just something about hurtling through the sky in a hunk of metal that allows me to get all sorts of work done. But how about you? What do you do on planes? Read? Watch the in-flight movie? Or do you, like me, use plane rides as mile-high office space? Sound off in the comments! featured image credit: Gudrun...

I’m Becoming My Mother … Yay!!! [Dear Thursday]

Guest posting at fellow author, Nicole Blade’s mom-site, “Ms. Mary Mack” about why I never ever say, “Oh no, I’m becoming just like my mother” … out loud: The other day while working at my office (Starbucks), I overheard two college-aged girls giggling over something one of them had done or said at a previous time. This something must have been pretty heinous, because the doer declared in the most dramatic of voices, “I’m like, ‘Oh no, I’m becoming just like my mother!’” Oh, the horror — becoming like one’s mother. What’s interesting about this common fear, is that you rarely overhear young men saying with such laughing terror, “Dude, I’m becoming just like my dad.” Even my own husband often precedes a nitpicking sentence with, “Not to sound like my mother, but…” Yet, he never fears aloud sounding like his father, who had his share of undesirable traits. When my back gets raised over what I perceive as others picking on or making fun of the women who carried their silly selves around in their wombs for nine months — which is rather often now that I’m a mother myself — I remind myself that I’d probably feel the exact same way …  if my mother were not, in fact, dead. Read the rest at MS. MARY MACK! If you liked this post, please do us the further boon of Liking the Fierce and Nerdy page on FaceBook. Also, we’re giving great stream on Twitter, so do give us...

GREAT HOUSE by Nicole Krauss [Book 27 of 2011]

You’ve probably heard from other writers that they don’t negatively review other writers’ work as a matter of policy. Many writers believe that to do so is in bad taste. Some writers say that giving another writer a bad review is mean-spirited and self-serving. Some writers just think it invites bad karma — we can be a superstitious lot and many of us believe that giving bad reviews invites future bad reviews. Writers will also tell you that they’ve been given bad reviews and would never want to inflict that on another writer. Whatever. What you’ll almost never hear a writer say is that they don’t want to give a bad review, because the writing world is small, and there is a pretty good chance that you’ll run into the writer you gave a bad review … or even worse, need a blurb from her or him. This, I think, is what accounts for 90% of most writers’s distaste for reviewing other writers, but sadly, almost no one is frank enough to say so. However, I’ll admit to it now: that’s why I don’t give bad reviews to black authors. If I can’t find anything nice to say, I don’t say anything at all, just because I hate awkwardness and it would be awkward to run into an author I had given a terrible review. Most often, the possibility of a negative review doesn’t even come up for me. I’m a pretty generous reader in most cases. Also life is too short to read books I don’t enjoy. I’ll usually abandon a book as opposed to giving it a full read and review. But in the case of GREAT HOUSE by Nicole Krauss, there were a few other factors in play for my reading to...

SILVER SPARROW by Tayari Jones: Book 26 of 2011 [Dear Thursday]

I had planned to read SILVER SPARROW first thing on my vacation, but somehow other books got in the way, and I didn’t start reading it until the last day of my vacation. Big mistake. I got sucked into such an intense book thrall, that I ended up having to take the first day after I came back from my vacation to finish reading it, just so I could get on with my life and, you know, promote my own dang book. Anyway, here are my thoughts on SILVER SPARROW by Tayari Jones. What’s It About: A bigamist marries two women and ends up having a daughter with each of them. Dana, the “secret” daughter, knows about Chaurisse, the “offiicial” daughter, but not vice versa. The story is told from their two points of view. What Makes It Different: t I’ve heard about secret families plenty of times IRL, seen them on TV and at the movies. But I’ve never read a book about a “silver sparrow.” This made it immediately fascinating from like page one. What I Loved: SILVER SPARROW is a rare combination: beautiful language, poetic prose, wonderful character work — but still a page turner. What’s even more amazing is that you know pretty much what’s going to happen later within the first few pages, but watching it all unfold — glorious! It was like undoing what appeared to be a basic white origami crane and finding a compelling pattern on the inside of the paper. If you’re in a book club, order this joint yesterday, you will talking about it for days. In the middle of the book, which I had downloaded as an e-book, I ordered the hardcover, and gave it to my visiting SIL to read, just so...

ROBOPOCALYPSE by Daniel H. Wilson: Book 25 of 2011 [Dear Thursday]

If you haven’t heard of ROBOPOCALYPSE by now, then I you’re not a true nerd. This novel has earned mentions from just about every nerd blog, because of it’s high-concept premise (a robot uprising) — as told by a former robotics grad student from my own grad alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University. Funnily enough, the first screenplay I ever got optioned, a high school comedy about a ragtag team of St. Louis high schoolers who build a hip-hop robot, was heavily consulted on by a grad student from the CMU Robotics program, so this book had me at the writer bio. What’s it About: The 13th version of a truly intelligent robot decides to take Earth back from the humans, and you know, save itself from getting scrapped once again. Humans fight back. We’re told within the first five pages that we win. This is the story of how we managed to do so. What Makes It Different: The way humans fight back in this book is way more logical and realistic than, say, a TERMINATOR. In fact, this book is going to make it hard for me to watch a TERMINATOR 5 movie. What I Loved: Having consulted with a CMU robotics student back in 2002, it was super-interesting to see a bunch of the stuff he talked about happening — robot cars that sense each other, surgery robots, unwieldy domestic robots — in a book set about three decades from now. Also, this was a super-easy read, well-paced and exciting. Within 50 pages, I was like, “Holy cow, this would make a great movie. I wonder if any one has bought the rights.” Looked it up on imdb — Steven Spielberg optioned it before it even sold to a publishing house. Nice! I seriously...

THE EMPEROR OF MALADIES by Siddhartha Mukherjee: Book 15 of 2011 – Dear Thursday [BEST OF FaN]...

You only have until next Friday to enter to win our 32 CANDLES swag giveaway. You can win just by spreading the word about 32 CANDLES, so definitely get those deets HERE. Meanwhile here’s a report I did on a book I’m still quoting. It’s also the one non-fiction that I think everyone should read. Originally published 04/14/11 Every so once in a while a book comes along that inspires within me so many ideas that my usual book report format just doesn’t fit. I actually finished the book back in February and have been trying to figure out a coherent way to present my notes ever since. Today I give up that struggle. I’m just going to download my thoughts as a numbered list, prefaced by these three statements: This is a very well-written book detailing the history of cancer from ancient times until right about now. It’s already my favorite non-fiction book of the year. Everyone whose life has been touched in any way by cancer should read this book. 1. Video killed the health-intiative. It is perhaps sad that we will probably never have another president with a serious health problem.  According to EMPEROR: “Polio research was shaken out of its torpor by Franklin Roosevelt in 1937.” Having been paralyzed from the waist down because of polio, Roosevelt led the charge to advance research and publicize polio. It would take decades for cancer research to find its own champions. 2. WARNING: Reading this book at first is a bit like watching HOARDERS. You will yourself feel riddled with cancer, hopeless about a cure. 3. It occurs to me that we should be more grateful for current medicine. Almost every medical procedure, tool, and pill that we take for granted really represents...

It Feels Like Someone’s Missing: IVF Update (Finally) [Dear Thursday]...

I’ve been going back and forth about writing this post. On one hand, I do feel that writing about this process not only helps me but other people. On the other hand, we are living in a time when folks are quick to scream “oversharer.” My favorite feminist blog Jezebel has done not one, but two posts about women who overshare by posting that they are pregnant before the first three months. Why this culture of oversharing some people ask? Why don’t people know how to keep things to themselves anymore? I’m sometimes tempted not to talk about my situation for fear of offending someone with my oversharing ways. But I also take umbrage with those who are so quick to accuse people like me of oversharing. If you really feel other people are oversharing, why not hide them or simply defriend them? Also, why is it okay to talk about getting a new job, then losing a new job, without it being considered oversharing? I’ve seen people post some pretty gnarley wound pics (hey! look at my swollen, purple, broken leg!), but somehow saying that you had a miscarriage out loud is oversharing. Weird political views — that’s fine. Your pregnancy results before three months? Eww! In a way, it feels that many “overshare” sore points are conveniently things that women are often interested in talking about: pregnancy, periods, relationships — they’re all on the “overshare” list. And, of course I also wonder why those sensitive to oversharing are even on social media. What kind of interactions do they want with their friends? Do they want to live in a world, where no one ever has anything icky or unpleasant to report, where everyone just says socially acceptable things and keeps it oh-so-polite?...

No Spoilers, Please [Dear Thursday]

There’s this thing that used to happen to me all of the time in my 20s. I’d be on the street with a friend or sometimes just walking around a store, when a woman would approach me, tell me she was a psychic and that she was getting a very interesting reading off of me. Would I like her to read my aura or my palm or just my general being for [insert small amount of money here]? Being cynical down to my very core, I always answered no. Not just because I believed I was being hustled (sadly, I’m one of those people who believes that any stranger who approaches me about anything, even directions, is a potential hustler), but also because I don’t like spoilers, whether they be fictional or IRL. “Thank you, but I don’t want to know,” I’d tell these possibly real, possibly fake psychics, then I’d go’on about my business. The truth is, whether the end of the story is good or bad, I just want to be surprised. But how about you? Have you ever been to a psychic? Did what they predicted turn out to be true? Or do you, like me, prefer to live...

What Comes First? Story or Character? [Dear Thursday]

Hey-yo, I’m talking all about the troubles that come with being ridiculously story-driven over at the “Girlfriends Book Club”: “When last we spoke, I was suffering through the beginning of my third novel. Well, thank the Lord, the beginning is over and done with and now I’m just chugging along on my story as outlined. There are only a few things getting in the way of my pure storytelling enjoyment and that would be my characters. A lot of writers just love their characters, love them to death, love them so much that they invent whole stories for them. For example, mystery writers who stay with the same character for book after book or great literary novelists like Jennifer Egan (A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD), who treats every one of her characters like an infinitely interesting Faberge egg with back story. I am not one of those writers.” CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST at “Girlfriends Book...

The Ruination of Keira Knightley (for Me) [Dear Thursday]

The first time I ever saw Keira Knightley was in a clever little English gem called BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM, in which an Indian girl defies her parents to play soccer (for reasons this American still can’t quite comprehend). I did not mind Knightley at all, and I’ve enjoyed her in several films since, including PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN; LOVE, ACTUALLY; and even the PRIDE & PREJUDICE remake — though I know that’s a controversial opinion to hold. I didn’t really love PiRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 2, but was all set to like PotC 3 well enough until I mentioned to a friend that I was going to see it and she said, “Oh, I can’t stand Keira Knightley. She’s a mouth breather. Every time I see her on screen, I’m like ‘close your mouth!” Now I had never noticed this particular quirk of Knightley’s before, but lo and behold, I spent the entirety of the movie, fascinated by Keira Knightley almost-always slightly open mouth. Thus I went from huge fan to not being able to watch Keira Knightley on film. ATONEMENT got a shout-out in my debut novel, but I haven’t actually seen it. I will probably read the book it was based on before I ever see it. Speaking of which, I adored Kazuo Ishiguro’s NEVER LET ME GO, but I’ve yet to see the movie version starring none other than Keira Knightley. So it is with great relief that I find myself excited to see a Keira Knightley-free PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 4 this coming weekend. Have you ever started out liking an actor, only to have her or him ruined? If so, sound off in the...

THE OPPOSITE OF LOVE by Julie Buxbaum: Book 17 of 2011 [Dear Thursday]

As it turns out Julie Bauxbum and I decided to read each other’s books for the same reason: basically she has a daughter around the same age as mine, for whom she’s curating a first books collection. As someone who is also deep in the process of curating her own daughter’s first books collection, I commented on her blog post with my own favorite picture book finds. And we both decided on our own to read each other’s debut novel. So here are my thoughts on THE OPPOSITE OF LOVE. What’s It About: A woman with a perfect boyfriend and well-paid legal career suddenly finds her life unravelling. What Makes It Different: Our Yale Law grad hero, Emily Haxby, cusses, which I loved. Also, she’s neurotic in an unusual way — as opposed to the Type A way of so many rom-coms. And the epilogue is the prologue. What I Loved: First of all, I have to say right out front that I am super-biased, b/c both Emily and I are early entrants into the dead mother club. I didn’t realize I was longing for a book that got how difficult this makes dating and connecting with your remaining family members until I started listening to the audiobook of OPPOSITE. At so many points in the book, I found myself nodding along and saying, “Yes, yes, that’s exactly how it feels.” At one point, Emily even makes the same decision that I had to make for myself in order to move her life forward. Buxbaum gets it. She really gets it. It was a lovely gift to read this book on the other side of true healing. What I Didn’t Like: The Smithie in me just couldn’t get behind Emily’s passive-aggressive handling of a...

HARD-BOILED WONDERLAND AND THE END OF THE WORLD by Haruki Murakami [Book 16 of 2011]...

So the nerd blogosphere has been buzzing about Haruki Murakami’s upcoming trilogy 1Q84 pretty relentlessly. The first print run of the first volume sold out on it’s first day of release in Japan. The critics love it. The fans love it. I want to read it so bad I could spit. But, alas, the translated version doesn’t come out here until October 2011, so… I decided it was time to read something else by Murakami. This would be my third Murakami novel; the first was NORWEGIAN WOOD, and I loved it. My second Murakami came in the mid-aughts with KAFKA ON THE SHORE. Again, I loved it. But for whatever reason I had yet to find my way back to another Murakami novel after that. So almost sick with the desire to read 1Q84, I checked to see what all they had on Audible and loved the description of HARD-BOILED WONDERLAND AND THE END OF THE WORLD. Here are my thoughts: What It’s About: I really can’t neatly sum it up. But the narrative switches between a Calcutec (a sort of human processing and encryption system) living in 80s-era Tokyo and a stranger newly arrived in a strange land. What Makes It Different: What’s interesting about Murakami is that though you can point to other pieces of literature that have obviously influenced his work (including Kafka, Chandler, and a few Russian greats), nobody could ever call him derivative. It’s like he’s swallowed the white male Western cannon and spit out something wildly original. What I Loved: Turning on this book during my daily walks felt like turning on a dream. I haven’t been so wholly transported to another world in quite a while. Also I wish I knew how Murakami manages to make the...

#JustRead [No Dear Thursday]

I know I promised you a book report on the Murakami that I read while fiercely anticipating his 1Q84, which hits these translated shores in October. But unfortunately, I’m a bit overwhelmed with deadlines, so I’ll have to save my thoughts until next week. Meanwhile, my editormate and wunderauteur, Dolen Perkins-Valdez has started a #JustRead hashtag on Twitter. Basically every Monday, we proudly tweet about what we #JustRead. So put it in your calendar now to tweet your #JustRead on Monday. Also meanwhile, all this #JustRead got me wondering what you are reading right now. I’ve got three books going: DO THE WORK by Steven Pressfield on my iPad OPPOSITE OF LOVE by Julie Buxbaum on my iPhone THE MURDERER’S DAUGHTER by Randy Susan Meyers in physical form But how about you? I’m always looking for books to add to my TBR. Sound off in the comments! Happy Reading! etc featured image credit:...

WONDROUS STRANGE by Lesley Livingston: Book 14 of 2011 [Dear Thursday]

When I first started listening to audiobooks years ago, I was broke and owed the Los Angeles County library a lot of money which meant that I couldn’t check books of any kind out for free. So I resorted to buying audiobooks on eBay. My only requirement was that they be cheap. Like $5 – $10 at the most. I would later go on to pay off my debts one by one, starting with the most important, my library bill. And in 2008, I bought my first Audible.com package. As a writing mom, my time to read anything but a stack of how-to books has become all but nil. It takes me months to read one physical book of fiction and just a few weeks of my walking commute to listen to an audiobook, so my Audible.com account has become even more crucial. This is all to say that when they had a $5 sale a few months ago, I went insane, purchasing all sorts of books I had never or only vaguely heard of. WONDROUS AND STRANGE by Lesley Livingston was one of those books. Here are my thoughts: What it’s About: Kelley, an actress playing the Faerie Queen Titania in a MIDSUMMER’S NIGHT DREAM gets mixed up with real faeries and a very handsome changeling Janus Guard named Sonny. What Makes it Different: I loved the conceit of an actress who is playing a faerie queen actually interacting with real faeries. Also, I think just about every 17yo dreams about living on her own in New York City. A What I Loved: As someone who writes lovingly about L.A., it’s nice to see someone with a huge heart-on for NYC. Central Park, the Theater District, and even Tavern on the Green are...

HOW WE DIE by Sherwin B. Nuland: Book 13 of 2011 [Dear Thursday]

The last time I was at Smith College, I had breakfast with my very first creative writing professor, and we got to talking about the death of her father and my mother. One thing led to another, and she told me that I ought to read HOW WE DIE by Sherwin B. Nuland. Now if you’ve been following this blog, you know that I usually don’t read non-fiction unless the writer is an editor mate or the book is helping me figure out how to do something. HOW WE DIE is literally a book about how we die, so this is the first time that I’d read something in a very long time — maybe since college — that didn’t teach me so much as learn me. Here are my thoughts: What’s It About: How we die. What Makes It Different: It’s interesting, b/c we see death on television and read about it in books all the time. But I think there’s probably very few of us that understand what happens in both medical and physical terms when we die. What I Loved: Guys, real death is really, really, really oh-so fascinating. Much to my poor MIL’s horror, I could not stop talking about this book as I read it. As a writer, it made me much less blase about death. As a mortal, it made me think about how I would want my own death to go. And as a mother, it made me want to make a living will, so that my own death wouldn’t be an unnecessary burden to others. It’s hard to explain why I liked this book so much, but what I think it comes down to is understanding. By understanding death, I now don’t feel quite so scared...

ONE DAY by David Nicholls: Book 12 of 2011 [Dear Thursday]

Wait a minute, is this by first book by a dude this year? I do believe it is. What’s strange though is that only other women have recommended it to me. And let’s talk about recommendations. Seemingly every other time I told someone that I was working on a book with a one day of one month for two years structure, they would ask me if I read ONE DAY by David Nicholls yet. So when I finally finished the last substantial rewrite of my second novel, I figured a read was in order. Here are my thoughts: What It’s About: I lost track, but I believe it takes place over 20 years in the lives of Emma and Dexter, two people who connect at a university graduation party. Each chapter visits one or both of them on one day of that year. What Makes It Different: A former actor and a screenwriter on the side, Nicholls has an innate sense of drama that lends itself to a cinematic story with fully universal truths. I didn’t have much in common with either of the main characters, but I found myself identifying with these two people more than I’ve identified with fictional characters in quite a long time. The book just resonates. What I Loved: Everything. I liked that Nicholls really “gets” your 20s. I love that he really “gets” your 30s. I love that I didn’t always necessarily like the two main characters at the beginning, but by the end of the book I loved both characters beyond all reason, not because they were likeable, but because they were so very real. So looking forward to the movie version, starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess, which comes out this summer! What I Didn’t Like:...

THE LIFECYCLE OF SOFTWARE OBJECTS by Ted Chiang [Book 9 of 2011]

I can’t remember the last time I read a novella. But ya’ll know how much I’ve loved i09’s reading suggestions so far — they were the ones that hepped to be both A HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS by N.K. Jemisin and my favorite web comic of 2010. So when they started raving about THE LIFECYCLE OF SOFTWARE OBJECTS by Ted Chiang (which can be read for free HERE), I had to give it a chance. What It’s About: A laidoff zookeeper is recruited to help with the development of of a highly interactive and consumer-programmable animal and robot avatars. What Makes It Different: You know how most future fiction says that robots will eventually take us over? This says the opposite of that. It’s kind of like Spielberg’s AI, except it’s not precious or mind-numblingly illogical. What I Loved: It really made me think about the emotional side of technology. It also made me think about human nature, how some of us fully commit to certain devices, and how some of us (including me) jump from gadget to gadget searching for that next big thrill, without a thought for the gadgets we leave behind me. It also made me feel bad for MySpace — you’d have to read this to understand why. Writing Lessons Learned: Try focusing on the gadgets. So many books and movies use technology as either a cool trick or a villain that we have to vanquish. I always find it intriguing when an author or screenwriter zeroes in on one piece of technology. Think Pixar’s WALL-E or THE TRUTH MACHINE (a now hopelessly out-of-date book that hung its entire plot on the near-future development of a piece of technology that allowed people to irrefutably tell whether others were telling the truth — of...

Dear Thursday: SINK REFLECTIONS by Marla Cilley [Book 8 of 2011]

Dearest, I know, I know that I’ve yet to do a graphic novel this year. I think that must be some kind of record, and the sad thing is that I have two really cool ones waiting in the TBR wings: BAYOU Vol. 2 by Jeremy Love and GOOD EGGS by (fellow Smithie) Phoebe Potts. I’m going to get to those sooner than later, I promise. But this week, I’m going to review a book that’s like the total opposite of cool: SINK REFLECTIONS by Marla Cilley Why I Decided to Read It: This post about my newfound obsession with cleaning should just about explain it. Basically Friend of FaN, Janice from Sew Girly mentioned that she had just started this system. What’s It About: It’s a self-help book meant to make cleaning a quick and everyday part of your life, but it’s also a compendium of the information provided on the Fly Lady website. So if you don’t feel like spending the money or checking the book out from the library, you can get all this information for free HERE. But warning, the site is like 90s-level clogged and disorganized. I thought it was well worth the $10.20 the book cost just to have the information presented in an orderly fashion. What Makes It Different: You know that saying, “Cleaning is next to godliness” — well, this woman really, really believes that. Also, it’s based on the theory that a clean house begins with a “shiny sink.” What I Loved: I’m only six days into about 31 days of the getting-started “Baby Steps,” but it seems to be working. Not only is my house slowly but surely getting generally cleaner, but it doesn’t feel like I’m killing myself to get it that way....

Dear Thursday: CALL ME IRRESISTIBLE by Susan Elizabeth Phillips [Book 6 of 2011]...

Though I mostly read women’s & literary fiction, sci-fi/fantasy, and graphic novels, I like to return to my first love, romance novels for occasional reminders about what makes for a good book — not in critics eyes, but in reader’s. Literary novels often have so many problems that romance novels don’t — lack of plot, meandering plot, vague purpose, and incomplete endings. And romance novels have so many problems that literary novels don’t — characters that don’t make any sense because they’re plot puppets, predictable endings, characters falling in love at first sight (mostly due to physical attractiveness), and uniformity of heroines (almost all are virginal or freshly dumped and beautiful — but they don’t know it or spend any time maintaining it). So it’s terrific to read a novel in either genre that doesn’t fall into any of those traps. Susan Elizabeth Phillips is one of those novelist who consistently avoids those traps, so here are my notes on her latest offering, CALL ME IRRESISTABLE. Why I Decided to Read It: Susan Elizabeth Phillips has been one of my favorite contemporary authors since I was like thirteen. I read her second book, HOT SHOTS, and I’ve read every one ever since. She’s also one of the few authors I bought in hardcover during the starving artists years. What’s it About: This is basically the Dark Tower of the SEP world, where almost all the main characters that have been featured in her past books cameo in this one. The story’s male lead is Ted Beaudine, a character  who was introduced as the 9yo surprise son of the main characters of FANCY PANTS, an early SEP novel. We’ve caught glimpses of him and have pretty much seen him grow up through cameos in other...

Dear Thursday: SIMA’S UNDERGARMENTS FOR WOMEN by Ilana Stanger-Ross [Book 5 of 2011]...

Since I moved to a walking neighborhood, I haven’t reviewed a car book (a book I listen to in the car) in forever. The last one was back in the fall of 2010. But thanks to a series of IVF appointments, I recently managed to get through an entire car book. So here are my thoughts on SIMA’S UNDERGARMENTS FOR WOMEN by Ilana Stanger-Ross. Why I Decided To Read It: Well, this was basically a brain fart. I somehow ran across this audiobook on my library’s catalog and I vaguely remembered one of my favorite book bloggers, Reads4Pleasure liking it. But as I would later find out when it came time to write this report, her review was decidedly mixed as is mine. Reads, if I were you, I’d definitely have words with whoever recommended this as a beach read. What It’s About: Sima, an infertile bra-whisperer owns a popular undergarments store in a Jewish neighborhood and is married to a plodding, retired school teacher named Lev.  The addition to her staff of a beautiful, vibrant shop assistant named Timna changes her and her life in ways she never would have never foreseen. What Makes It Different: I’ve read too many books that treat infertility with a shrug and a line about how a couple can’t have children, most often not bothering to explain why. I found it refreshing and fascinating to see a woman going through the infertility process in the 60s, especially since a few of the tests are still the same, and also because, unlike say PRIVATE PRACTICE, the testing happened in real time, over the course of months — as opposed to the few hours or days allotted to it in movies and on television. What I Loved: Well, I...

Dear Thursday: BURN by Crystal Hubbard [Book 3 of 2011]

One of the things I promised myself when deciding to do my 52 books in 52 weeks challenge again this year, was that you guys would have to put up with more same authors, sequels and more straight-forward romance. I didn’t read either last year, and there’s just no way I could do that again this year. I had to put CHILDREN OF THE WATERS by Carleen Brice at the bottom of my queue, I couldn’t finish reading THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS trilogy. But the lack of romance wasn’t the challenge’s fault. For whatever reason, none of my favorite romance writers published last year, and I’ve been having a lot of trouble finding new romance writers with stories that engage me. Luckily, a few of my favorite romance writers are putting out books this year, so my “Dear Thursday” series will definitely be a little more romantic this year. First up BURN by Crystal Hubbard. Why I Decided To Read It: Being in an BW/WM IR (interracial relationship) myself, I adore BW/WM IR romance novels — that is, I would love to adore more of them. It’s just that so many of them have the same plot. A white guy falls in love with black woman because she’s outrageously beautiful and they have hot sex, BW’s family doesn’t approve, WM and BW get into an argument and split up, then they get back together after BW comes to her senses and tells off her family, who then decide to just go with the relationship, because she did such a great job telling them off. Don’t get me wrong, I adored this plotline in the movie, SOMETHING NEW, but I’m sick of it now. The other thing that keeps me away from a lot of...

Dear Thursday: APARTMENT THERAPY by Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan [Book 2 of 2011]...

I’ve never been one for interior design. I tend not to decorate, and though I appreciate well-designed things, I rarely feel compelled to you know, design them. Curious then, that this week’s book is a popular interior design book/manual called APARTMENT THERAPY: the eight-step home cure by Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan. Why I Decided To Read It: Staying with Delia Hauser the last time I went to Brooklyn was nothing short of a revelation. Her space is a work of art, and though I spent less than 24 hours in it, it made me want to explore the world of design. Also, we recently moved to a town home, so I do have somewhat blank slate available to me. But why APARTMENT THERAPY? Well, Delia’s apartment was featured on Apartment Therapy’s website last year, so I knew that I could easily trust their brand’s taste levels. What It’s About: Though this book is ostensibly for apartment dwellers, it’s really a book about how to decorate your home in a mindful way that suits your practical, emotional, and aesthetic needs. What Makes It Different: A lot of interior design books try to push you toward their aesthetic. This one wants you to find the designer within. It basically teaches you to design from the bottom up. What I Loved: As someone who has a lot of designer friends, and even went as far as to marry a designer, it felt like I was finally getting some insight into how my friends and husband do what they do. The books also has all sorts of interesting advice, which I’ll cover in the Interior Decorating Lessons Learned section. What I Didn’t Like: Supposedly this home cure is meant to be dispensed in eight weeks, but unless you have absolutely...

Dear Thursday: THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins [Book 1 of 2011]

I’ve been meaning to read THE HUNGER GAMES for a while now. Not only is Ms. Collins a fellow screenwriter-turned-novelist, but also everybody’s talking about this series, including our own Amy Brown and Gudrun Cram-Drach. So without further ado, here are my thoughts on a little book called THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins. Why I Decided To Read It: I’m not a bandwagon sort of gal — except when it comes to reading. If everybody’s talking about a novel, sooner or later I’m going to read it. That’s just how I roll. But in this case, I’m glad I managed to resist THE HUNGER GAMES for as long as I did. I can’t imagine being an early adopter and actually having to wait for the next book. What’s It About: THE HUNGER GAMES can basically be summed up as LORD OF THE FLIES meets AMERICAN IDOL meets THE LOTTERY, except with a fantastic heroine named Katniss. In a dystopian future, there are 12 districts, from which the names of 24  twelve to eighteen-year-olds boys and girls are randomly drawn to compete in a to-the-death match called THE HUNGER GAMES every year. When our main character’s sister is called, she volunteers to take her place. Complications arise, however, when her fellow District 12 “tribute” Peeta, starts playing games with her heart — dangerous stuff, since they’re supposed to you know, kill each other and all that. What Makes It Different: Unlike TWILIGHT’s Bella Swan, there is much to be admired about this main character. She’s plucky yet grim, a complete realization of her back story. And not once did I think she was being an idiot. That’s an almost unfamiliar feeling for me when it comes to way girls (especially white ones) are depicted...

Dear Thursday: GLORIOUS by Bernice McFadden [Book 47 of 2010]

Five more books to go after this one. Sadly this will be my last piece of women’s or African-American fiction for the year, but man, are we ending with a winner. Here are my thoughts on GLORIOUS by Bernice McFadden. Why I Decided To Read It: The better question is why didn’t I read it before now? It’s hard to have a conversation with other black authors/readers without McFadden’s name coming up, and I was getting sick of saying, “She’s on my list!” Then the last time I visited my sister in St. Louis, I noticed GLORIOUS on her shelf, and I was like, “Oh, you like Bernice McFadden?I met her in New York–”  And she was all like, “She’s one of the best writers out there. She’s my favorite writer. I’ve read every book of hers. I love her books.” Now, if you know my sister IRL, you know she’s kind of the opposite of me, in that she doesn’t get fangirly about anyone or anything. So her unusually enthusiastic endorsement did it. I downloaded GLORIOUS as soon as I got home and soon found out that I had only been doing myself a disservice by waiting this long. What’s It About: Easter Bartlett, a born writer, leaves her racist small town and eventually lands in Renaissance-era Harlem. What Makes It Different: McFadden is a very literary author who knows how to both write and entertain. Sadly, those two qualities often remain separate in “good” literature. What I Loved: Now GLORIOUS is probably being marketed as a piece of historical black fiction, because it seriously makes you feel like you are living inside Renaissance-era Harlem. But I would argue that this book should also be marketed as a must-read for female writers. For...

Dear Thursday: THE ONE THAT I WANT by Allison Winn Scotch [Book 45 of 2010]...

So getting back to fiction novels, here are my thoughts on THE ONE THAT I WANT by Allison Winn Scotch Why I Decided To Read It: This novel had quite a bit of internet buzz, and I love internet buzz, so… What It’s About: This could have easily been subtitled The Inner-Life of a Doormat. Basically Tilly, whose always there for everybody else, receives the gift of clarity by her psychic ex-BFF, and the whole world that she’s lovingly constructed for herself starts falling apart: her marriage falters, her recovered alcoholic father falls off the wagon, her guidance counselor job becomes a hassle — you get the picture. What Makes It Different: I’ve seen people go into a psychic’s tent and get a weird fortune or discover a stunning secret revealed. I even read a book in which the client gets pushed back in time, but I’ve never come across someone getting the gift of clarity. Neat! What I Loved: Great concept and as the daughter of a former guidance counselor, I liked the POV character’s job. On a personal note, the main character is also a member of the Dead Mothers Club, and I liked Scotch’s exploration of how having her mother die early affected Tilly’s later life. Oh, and the cover is bangin‘. What I Didn’t Like: The concept is great, but the execution is rather vague. Also, as the exact opposite of a doormat, I found much of Tilly’s behavior, including a general lack of curiosity in the face of receiving a pretty significant psychic power baffling. Lack of curiosity is a huge pet peeve of mine when it  comes to literary characters. Writing Lessons Learned: Meet you at the crossroads. Presenting your main character at a crossroads is a great...

Dear Thursday: COME TO WIN by Venus Williams and Kelly E. Carter [Book 42 of 2010]...

Wow, only 10 more books to go before I meet my goal. And today’s book is a whole lot of awesomeness. I finished it yesterday, and I’m still a little sad about it. Here are my thoughts on COME TO WIN by Venus Williams and Kelly E. Carter . Why I Decided to Read It: Well, long story short, Carter (no relation) and Williams are my editor mates, under Dawn Davis. I met Carter at a signing for another editor mate, Dolen Perkins-Valdez, and the concept for her book sounded so awesome, that I downloaded it, even though I rarely read non-fiction that can’t be found on a marketing or self-help shelf. What It’s About: Successful people from many different walks of life talk about how playing sports when they were younger shaped their future successes. Some famous names include Bill Clinton, Denzel Washington, Jack Welch, Meg Whitman, Condoleeza Rice, Richard Branson, Vera Wang and Hill Harper — and seriously that’s a really short list. So many titans gave interviews for this book. What Makes It Different: These people really talk deeply about the lessons that sports brought to bear on their current lives. I don’t think I’ve ever talked about any other book in general conversation as much as I’ve talked about COME TO WIN. What I Loved: In many ways this book is inspirational literature in disguise. The essayists impart important life lessons, but also, to my surprise, important parenting lessons, which I’ll go into further below. I suggest that everyone read it as I did: one chapter every other day or so. The reason I am so sad to finish reading a book I began in July is because I used it as a sort of Go Big Or Go Home Bible, reading...

Dear Thursday: THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS by N.K. Jemisin [Book 38 of 2010]...

So a little bit of housekeeping before I get into this week’s book review.  Alas, no DEAR THURSDAY next week due to Thanksgiving. Also, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, I have more book reports due than weeks left in the year, so it looks like we’re going to have to do another BOOK WEEK, so that I can catch up on my 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge. I’m not complaining. BOOK WEEK 1 was so much fun, and now we’re putting aside the week after Thanksgiving for BOOK WEEK 2, so do, do, do come back for that. Meanwhile here are my thoughts on THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS by N.K. Jemisin. Why I Decided To Read It: You know how on Amazon, they’re always telling you if you like this book, then you’ll also like this other book. Well, according to Amazon if you like my favorite book of the year, WHO FEARS DEATH, then you’ll also like THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS. Also it’s black sci-fi written by a woman, which sadly doesn’t happen very often, so yeah, I downloaded it immediately. What’s It About: Yeine, the biracial daughter of a barbarian father and a mother from her world’s most privileged society is called back to her mother’s kingdom ostensibly to compete with her two cousins to become the heir ftoor her grandfather’s throne. While there, she meets then Enfada (sorry if I’m spelling this wrong, that’s the problem w/ audiobooks), a group of gods who have been enslaved by her grandfather’s kingdom and used as weapons. The father of all these gods, Nahadoth, is pretty much hot sex on a platter. What Makes It Different: I’ll just refer you back to the “What’s It About” paragraph. What I Loved: First of all,...

Dear Thursday: EX MACHINA by Brian K. Vaughn [Book 37 of 2010]

So I was thinking the other day that it’s been a while since I reviewed a graphic novel. And then when I heard the news that one of my favorite graphic novel series of all time, Y: THE LAST MAN, might get converted into a television series, that reminded me that I still hadn’t posted my thoughts on the first volume of his other graphic novel series, EX MACHINA, which I read (haha) while on book tour in Washington D.C. You’ll see why this is funny in just minute here…. Why I Decided to Read It: I happened upon a comic book shop while leaving Union Station, I decided to inquire after HELL HOUSE by Ryan Dixon and Chad Feehan, b/c (ahem!) customer inquiries are one of the many ways we readers can make sure book and comic book stores take notice of our favorite reads. Dixon’s and Feehan’s graphic novel wasn’t out yet (as I already knew, of course), but I needed something to read on metro, so I asked the guy behind the counter to make a suggestion. After receiving my like list, he suggested EX MACHINA by Brian K. Vaughn. What It’s About: A superhero with the power to “speak” to machines decides to run for office and ends up actually becoming the Mayor of New York! What Makes It Different: Obviously you’ve never heard that storyline before, right? Also, his chief of staff is a black man with locs. What I Loved: It’s so funny that this was written pre-Obama, because basically it deals with someone coming into office with a superhero reputation and the best of intentions and finding out that politics is just about the dirtiest, grimiest, most corrupt, and let’s face, mind-numbingly stupid profession that you can...

Dear Thursday: THE MARRIAGE BUREAU FOR RICH PEOPLE by Farahad Zama [Book 36 of 2010]...

There’s only one thing I like more than a good book and that’s  a good book set outside of my own culture. Do you, too, love discovering countries that you haven’t been to yet through fiction? Then you’ll definitely want to read my thoughts on THE MARRIAGE BUREAU FOR RICH PEOPLE by Farahad Zama. Why I Decided To Read It: I met book blogger, Reads4Pleasure through twitter and started reading her wonderful review blog. She made THE MARRIAGE BUREAU FOR RICH PEOPLE  sound so intriguing that I surprised myself by downloading the book on her suggestion alone — the first of many suggestions taken, as it turns out, we have really similar reading tastes. What Makes It Different: This is basically the novel version of Love Actually with Indians and arranged marriages — that is to say fantastically unique and familiar at the same time. Westerners will have no problem finding their way “in.” What I Loved: I didn’t quite realize how interested I was in the process of arranged marriages until I started reading this book. I loved all the marriage anecdotes peppered throughout and all the people we meet when they come in to join the agency. If this book doesn’t get a British movie deal or at the very least a BBC mini-series within next three years, then I’m going to send a very nasty letter to both the British Film Council and the BBC. One last thing, Zama sets up one of the best ironic situations I’ve found in a novel this year: the main character founds a successful marriage bureau and starts arranges several marriages, save that of his son, who is unmarriageable for reasons I’ll let you discover. Brilliant! What I Didn’t Like: It bit of a creaky...

Dear Thursday: FREEDOM by Jonathan Franzen [Book 34 of 2010]

Have you heard of this book FREEDOM by Jonathan Franzen? Sadly, it hasn’t gotten very much coverage, but I decided to do the author a favor and talk about it on this blog anyway. It’s just so sad when good books don’t get the attention they deserve. Why I Decided to Read It: Seriously though, everyone’s been talking about this novel. Franzen was on the cover of TIME . The NYT was brought to task for not reviewing more women because of how much they liked this book. It’s an Oprah Book Club pick. I actually had quite a few other reasons to read this novel. 1) As a reader I like to read what the public is reading, just to see what all the excitement is about. I hate feeling left out of a conversation. 2) I never read THE CORRECTIONS, so I felt like I owed the author one. 3) As someone working on her second novel, I’ve become obsessed with non-debuts as of late. This is Franzen’s fourth and reportedly best novel, which really inspires me. What Makes It Different: This is basically a domestic drama written by a man. Except it’s really, really well-written. At one point I realized that this story could be summed up as Family Ties without the unnecessary youngest third sibling (sorry, Tina Yothers) and a Mallory who wasn’t stupid. What I Loved: Well, what sets this apart from other domestic dramas is that it incorporates a lot of political and philosophical ideas that you’re not likely to find in a many other domestic drama novels, and it does so, without turning the novel into a rambling mess. Also, if you thought Franzen spent the majority of the last nine years between novels procrastinating, you would...

Dear Thursday: WHO FEARS DEATH by Nnedi Okorafor [Book 33 of 2010]

Wow, I haven’t filed a report on a sci-fi/fantasy novel in a while now, and what a wonderful way to come back to the genre. This week I’m talking about the much ballyhooed African sci-fi/fantasy novel, WHO FEARS DEATH by Nnedi Okorafor. Why I Decided To Read It: About three weeks before my own novel released, the internet seemed to explode with the WHO FEARS DEATH meme. I had to stop reading several reviews after the first paragraph, b/c people were so rapturous about this novel and being a nerd to my very core I’m deathly afraid of spoilers. So I downloaded it from Audible.com, quick like a bunny … but didn’t get around to reading it until like four months later. What It’s About: A young sorceress (and product of a rape) named Onyesonwu sets out to stop the genocide of her mother’s people. What Makes It Different: Wait, a novel set in Africa in which the main character is both a woman and powerful? What! What I Loved: Guys. I’ve been trying to figure out why I loved this novel so much, and one word keeps on popping up: hero. This book has a hero — I mean a real hero. I mean a “move over Clint Eastwood” em-effin HERO. Onyesonwu is fierce and intelligent. Never backs down. I could go on and on, but you know, spoilers. Anyway, this novel has replaced THE MAGICIANS as my favorite book of the year. Yes, it’s that good. When it was done, I just shook my head and said, “You wrote that, Ms. Okorafor. You WROTE that.” What I Didn’t Like: The novel starts with a flash forward to a future event, then jumps back in time to the beginning-beginning. The story is strong...

Dear Thursday: ELK’S RUN by Joshua Hale Fialkov [Book 32 of 2010]...

It occurs to me that I haven’t done a graphic novel in awhile, so here are my thoughts on ELK’S RUN by Joshua Hale Fialkov. Why I Decided To Read It: During my first and so far, only San Diego Comic-Con, I met Fialkov (who had just launched this series) through friend of FaN, Clark Perry. The comic’s original distributor, though committed wasn’t great about regular release dates for new issues, so eventually I abandoned the series, only to find out just this year that Fialkov found a new distributor and released it as a graphic novel. Nice! What It’s About: It’s technically about a teenager, living in a mysterious town, of which his Vietnam war-vet, taciturn, and bat-ish-crazy father is a founding member. The people in this town don’t have to work if they don’t wish to. But they’re not allowed to leave, and when one of the town members kills a child while trying to sneak out, all heck breaks loose. What Makes It Different: If you think your father was toxic, this guy will make him look like Ward Cleaver. What I Loved: The story was both suspenseful and thought-provoking. Unlike most other graphic novels, every act of violence resonated. In many ways, this comic is less cartoony than many books and movies that center around violence. What I Didn’t Like: Like LOST, quite a few questions got left unanswered. And I don’t think the author is planning a sequel to give us those answers. Sad face. Writing Lessons Learned: What If Your Father/Husband/Neighbor Was…: In any other book, the father character would have been either the main character or the main villain.  In ELK’S RUN, however, we get the story from the POV of not only the father, but also...

Dear Thursday: THE PURPLE COW by Seth Godin [Book 31 of 2010]

It’s been a while since I reviewed a non-fiction book, but I’m making them more of a priority in my reading pile. I’ve had so many people tell me that they only read non-fiction, that I’ve vowed not to become one of those people who only read fiction, which I pretty much was before meeting the only non-fiction readers. Anywho, I do have two non-marketing-based books coming up in this series before the end of the year. But until then, here’s yet another review of a marketing book: THE PURPLE COW by Seth Godin Why I Decided To Read It: While doing marketing research for 32 CANDLES, I kept stumbling across the cult of Seth Godin. THE PURPLE COW isn’t his most recent book, but the title intrigued me, so I downloaded it on my iPad. What It’s About: How to market your product in an age when TV and print advertisements have pretty much reached their saturation points. What Makes It Different: This book is basically an homage to products that marketed in a different way. What I Loved: I love that Godin encourages his readers to take risks, and think differently about the way we market our products. He has an extremely strong writing voice, which made this a very easy read. I felt like I was learning and receiving an inspirational message at the same time. It was also great to see how many things 32 CANDLES had gotten right in purple cow terms like the cover, and going hardcore after a specific group (my goal is that every black woman with a natural has heard about this book by year’s end) as opposed to casting the widest net possible. What I Didn’t Like: The cover art really didn’t do the...

Dear Thursday: THE PARTICULAR SADNESS OF LEMON CAKE by Aimee Bender [Book 30 of 2010]...

So this is my second book review of the year inspired by a suggested book from our Fierce and Nerdy book blogger, Amy Brown. The first book, THE MAGICIANS by Lev Grossman turned out to be my favorite book of the year so far. But what did I think of THE PARTICULAR SADNESS OF LEMON CAKE by Aimee Bender? Read on to find out! Why I Decided To Read It: B/c Amy made it sound soooo intriguing. What It’s About: A girl discovers at a young age that she can tastes the emotions and inner lives of the people who prepare and make the food that she’s eating. What Makes It Different: You know how they say white Americans can’t do magic realism? This is really good magic realism. And it’s really good precisely because this family is so very WASPish. What I Loved: The writing is in one word: exquisite. I mean really, really exquisite. Spare and potent, just the way I like it. Also, the concept is killer, and I thought the hotly debated ending was perfect. I also loved that the whole thing was set in my beloved L.A. What I Didn’t Like: I listened to the book and it felt like the author spent chapters and chapters describing the main character’s home and family. I actually put it down and listened to a whole nother book before coming back to this one. So I’d say give it about 100 pages to really get good and cracking. It’s worth the journey in, though. Writing Lessons Learned: It’s the writing stupid. This book really made me want to write better than I do. I always do my best when it comes to my own writing, but this book reminded me that I could...

Dear Thursday: GIRL IN TRANSLATION by Jean Kwok [Book 29 of 2010]

So if you saw me IRL in August, you already know that I was just obsessed with GIRL IN TRANSLATION by Jean Kwok. What a great way to end the summer. Why I Decided To Read It: Last spring it seemed like everybody was talking about this book, and it felt like I kept running into mentions of it everywhere I went online. So I decided to download the audiobook and see what all the fuss was about. What It’s About: A Chinese girl moves with her mother to New York in 1997 after the Hong Kong handover. They are then put to work by her miserable aunt in her uncle’s horrible sweatshop. What Makes It Different: I’ve never read a novel from the perspective of the daughter of a sweatshop worker. For me at least, this was a whole new POV. What I Loved: Since I was actually in Beijing during the Hong Kong handover, I found it particularly fascinating to think about someone coming to the States at the same time. I loved the main character, Kimberly, and felt very inspired by her spunk and can-do. What I Didn’t Like: I can’t discuss it without spoilers. So read the book, then we can talk about it. Suffice it say, it’s nothing so major that it would make me not recommend the book as a whole. Writing Lessons Learned: Embrace American values. What’s interesting is this felt story more American than most novels I read, in that the main character is chasing after the American dream of money and prestige, using sheer grit, hard work, and intelligence to achieve her goals. It made me cheer for Kimberly from the beginning because she’s so emblematic of a core American value. Make your obstacles bigger....

Dear Thursday: SUBSTITUTE ME by Lori L. Tharps [Book 28 of 2010]

Oh, I’ve been a reading fool over the last few weeks, and therefore have a backlog of books to talk about over the next few weeks, starting off with SUBSTITUTE ME by fellow Smithie, Lori L. Tharps. Why I Decided To Read It: Ya’ll know how I like to represent for my clique, so it will probably come as no surprise that I’ll read anything by a fellow Smith College grad. Also, my editor sent me the ARC, so score! What It’s About: A smart white woman in her 30s hires a smart (but directionless) black woman in her 30s to be her nanny. What Makes It Different: You know, I’ve read fiction from the working mother’s perspective and I’ve read fiction from the nanny’s perspective, but I can’t ever remember reading it from both perspectives with the husband’s POV thrown in. That made SUBSTITUTE ME particularly fascinating. What I Loved: Oh, this book did a number on me. I talked about it with just about EVERYONE and I even got up at 6am a couple of days in a row, just so I could finish reading it. I loved that I had no idea what would happen next or how it would all turn out. What I Didn’t Like: The featured baby is a complete angel, never interrupts, doesn’t throw temper tantrums, sits there quietly while the grown folks carry out their assorted dramas. As the mother of a completely opposite 14-month-old, this made me hiss. Writing Lessons Learned: Give Book Clubs Something To Talk About. I  really, really want to talk about all the controversial ideas, situations, and plot points in this novel with someone. I’m sad that most of my mom friends haven’t read it yet, b/c I want to discuss...

Dear Thursday: Wii’s Just Dance [FaN Favorites]

So, as many of you know, I’m just obsessed with Wii Just Dance. So I’m running my original review of the game and hoping all the things I didn’t like get fixed in the next version. We’ll see… From March 4, 2010 Okay, I’m just an hour away from finishing my latest audiobook, but I’ve accepted that that hour is just not going to happen today. So look for that review next Tuesday and let’s talk about the new Wii game, JUST DANCE, b/c every time I mention this game on Facebook, somebody’s asking me whether I like it or not. So w/o further ado, here are my thoughts, organized in what I have decided to make my usual reviewing fashion: Why I Decided To Buy It: The commercials made it look like so much fun. Also, this seemed like an even more fun version of Dance Dance Revolution, which CH and I played a lot when we were slimming down for our wedding. But on a more practical note, the way my (absolutely free) weight loss program [more on this later] works is that I’m given a low number of calories and after that, the more calories I burn, the more calories I can eat. My MIL is a fantastic cook, so I need to burn a lot of calories if I want to enjoy a decent dinner. You burn about 292 calories after an hour of non-aerobic dancing, and a ton more with aerobic dancing, so I’ve been dancing like a fiend lately. What’s It All About: Basically you hold the Wii Remote in one hand and mirror the movements of either a male or a female dancer. And you accumulate points by how well you mirror her or him. Both dancers...

Dear Thursday: GET KNOWN BEFORE THE BOOK DEAL [FaN Favorites]

I chose this book review just b/c now that I’m on the other side of publishing, I still think it’s the marketing book that every writer should read like yesterday. From February 11, 2010 I’ve been reviewing mostly fiction up to now, but as I mentioned last week, I’ve become very interested in fully learning the art of promotion before 32 CANDLES hits bookshelves. And sense I’m a page-to-life learner, I’ve been reading a lot of books on the subject. Here are my thoughts on the latest self-help-for-self-promotion book: GET KNOWN BEFORE THE BOOK DEAL by Christina Katz. Why I Decided To Read It: Like I said last week, I’m completely gung-ho about getting out there and promoting 32 CANDLES, I’m just not sure how to go about it. What’s It About: Building your platform, so that you can more easily get a fiction or non-fiction book deal. What Makes It Different: Unlike a lot of the other self-promotion books that I read, GET KNOWN is both comprehensive and engaging. Usually it’s either/or with these books. What I Loved: This is basically the self-promotion bible I’ve been waiting for. There were so many good ideas in here that I had never considered before. Ms. Katz is a straight-shooter and her writing style is both compelling and engaging. It felt less like a read and more like a conversation with a professional. I kept on having to put down the book and make notes, I got so inspired. Also, if you don’t have a platform, she helps you figure out how to get one. I absolutely think that every MFA student should get this upon graduation. Yes, seriously! What I Didn’t Like: You know how they say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? I...

Dear Thursday: I’m Scared Therefore I Do it Anyway [Book Tour News]...

They always say that it’s a thin line between love and hate. Maybe that’s true. My natural tendency is to love everyone b/c folks in general are just so frickin dope. And I try not to hate, b/c I’m lazy and hate takes a ton of energy to maintain. Over the last few years, I’ve actually found that it’s a thin line between scared and should. What do I mean by that? Well, back in 2006, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (which I consider my writer’s bible) introduced me to the concept of “fear as your true north.” Basically Pressfield asserted that being scared to write something is a good thing — fear means you should write it. This inspired me through the rewrite of 32 CANDLES and has served me well while writing my follow-up, THE AWESOME GIRL’S GUIDE TO DATING EXTRAORDINARY MEN. But I’ve also started applying the concept to my real life. If someone asks me to do something and my first instinct is to say no because it scares me, then I force myself to do it anyway. That’s basically how I operate now. I’m not an overly confident person (the word neurotic has come up in descriptions), but I try to do the things I’m scared to do. So when I saw this GalleyCat article, suggesting that authors do an impromptu book tour with the JetBlue All You Can Jet (AYCJ) Pass, which allows you to travel to any JetBlue city between Sept. 7 and Oct. 6 for $700, I was intrigued. So intrigued that I actually got all the way to the payment page, before calling my husband to talk me out of it. I decided that 1. Switching the Fall tour to September as opposed to October...

Dear Thursday: THE GIRL WHO CHASED THE MOON by Sarah Addison Allen [Book 27 of 2010]...

So yeah, remember how I got all sentimental during BOOK WEEK back in June and vowed to keep on reading a book a week for the rest of the year? Yeah, well so far that’s not going so hot. But I’m committed to reading a book a week from this week forward, and we’ll be hosting another BOOK WEEK before the end of the year, so that I can catch up and claim my 52 books read by hook or by crook. Wait for it. Meanwhile, here are my thoughts on THE GIRL WHO CHASED THE MOON by Sarah Addison Allen. Why I Decided To Read It: I adored both GARDEN SPELLS and THE SUGAR QUEEN, so I was somewhat aghast to learn that I had full-on missed the release of THE GIRL WHO CHASED THE MOON back in March. What It’s About: Um, let’s see, well this teenager’s activist mother dies, so she moves in with her grandfather, who happens to be a giant and he lives in a small town, which has a lot of magical things going on. She finds out that her mother back in the day then was nothing like the woman she knew. Mom was a mean girl and did something so terrible that the town hates her for it. However, the former goth chyck that her mother used to pick on takes the teenager under her wing while trying to avoid the attentions of the popular guy that one-night-standed her and then ditched her when they were back in high school. What Makes It Different: This is kind of like Romeo & Juliet meets Alice Hoffman meets LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE. A truly compelling read with a lot of elements you wouldn’t necessarily put together like romance...

Dear Thursday: That Time of Year Again

So if you know me IRL, then you know that I have one go-to color as far as nail polish is concerned and that is blue. This is my boring color. The one I pick when I’m not feeling adventurous. When I am feeling adventurous, then I usually pick some shade of green. I did black when I accompanied by husband to the Emmys, and silver for a hot minute this Fall — those are the most “normal” colors that I’ve gotten for years and years now. But remember two Augusts ago, when I got all itchy and kept on saying, “I need a change, I need a change” and then the next thing you all knew I had cut off all my dreadlocks and quite my job? And remember last August, when I got itchy again and not only got a braided mohawk but also changed up my entire wardrobe? Well, there must be something about August, because I’m feeling soooo itchy right now. Not only am I fixing to change my hair yet again, but I’m also looking at my boring blue nail polish sideways. And I’m wondering what colors you all are just loving this season. Sound off in the comments. Click on the pic for photo credit...

Dear Thursday: Sick Baby

You should know that I don’t label myself as a mom. I consider being a mom a really special part of my identity, as opposed to my title. For example, I didn’t list being a mom in my biography. When people say that being a mother is the most important job you’ll ever have, I think “Really, the most important? I could (probably won’t, but technically could) write a Pulitzer-winning novel that people are reading long after my daughter and I are dead. I mean I know women who are working toward cures for different types of cancers, is motherhood really their most important job? What a weird thing to assume.” I keep my motherhood and my work separate. I ask others to babysit when I’m writing or having a book event. A few times at book events, people have asked, “Where’s your little girl?” I find that a bit bizarre, because I’m at work, so obviously she’s not going to be there. I wonder if male authors get asked this question so often. I’m still finding being a write-at-home mom a bit hard to navigate. My goal is the give 100% to both the mom and the writing part, without giving 100% of myself to either. I don’t want to base my self-worth in either job. I just want to do my best at both. And most days that feels like a pretty reasonable goal. Then my baby got sick. At first we thought it was teething, but suddenly it turned into a summer cold, and it’s making her miserable. I rarely get sick, and on the rare occasion that I do, I constantly lament my terrible fate until whatever I have passes. I would never voluntarily get sick. But even though I have an...

Dear Thursday: Decided to Stop Checking My Amazon Stats Till August 1st...

… and I’ve been happier ever since. I do wonder how many authors have made this choice to stay sane. Another question I was wondering about the other day: Is getting published a right or a privilege. I’m not a big believer in rights or deserving for various reasons, so I consider it a privilege. But then again, I certainly understand the frustration of good writers not getting published. And I have a real problem with people who want to write not doing so. If you have a novel inside of you, I feel you owe it to the world to conquer your fear and write it. But that’s me. What do you...

Dear Thursday: Soooo Busy

So I’ll just point you to our tagline poll. “We’ve got your geek right here” and “Geek and Destroy” are neck-and-neck, so make sure to get your vote in. It will really count. Anywho, go HERE to have your say and I’ll be better next week. Promise! 100% Best,...

Dear Thursday: Meet Me in St. Louiee

Friendly reminder, I’m in St. Louis reading from and signing 32 CANDLES tonight, so if you’re in the area, please do come...

Dear Thursday: Me and etc are not cool right now!

I know this is the last day of work for a lot of you, so I just wanted to push 32 CANDLES extra-extra hard, since we’re going back to our regular schedule next week. People have been calling this a great vacation read from the get-go. That’s one of the reasons 32 CANDLES was released in the summer as opposed to the winter. So really now is the perfect time to pick up your copy. Also, it’s important to keep sales momentum going throughout the summer. But just so you know, I wouldn’t be asking you to read it over and over again if I didn’t truly think you were going to enjoy it. And don’t just take my word for it, here’s what folks have been saying about 32 Candles over at Amazon: There are so many wonderful moments of discovery in this novel, I don’t want to give any of them away if you haven’t read it yet. I’ll just tell you, this is a very unique story. I haven’t read anything like this (and I read a lot) […] This is going in my top 10. –-AmyQOWTF I would definitely recommend this book. It is especially great for a lazy summer day on the beach or in the park. I started reading the book on the airplane during some weekend travel and I didn’t want to put it down. I wasn’t able to finish it over the weekend, so when I left work the next day I literally sat at the first bench I could find and finished the novel before heading home for the day. I just couldn’t wait to see how things turned out for Davie Jones. Any book that draws you in that much certainly deserves 5 stars....

Dear Thursday: A SPOT OF BOTHER by Mark Haddon [Book 26 of 2010]

So my book-a-week challenge was supposed to be done at 25 books, but a funny thing happened on the way to finishing it. I discovered that I didn’t want it to end. I’ve truly enjoyed being back in the reading habit, and I really can’t think of any reason not to keep it going. So here’s hoping that I make it to 52 books by New Year’s Eve, First up in the resurrected challenge: A SPOT OF BOTHER by Mark Haddon. Why I Decided To Read It: This was another Altadena library shelf find. I just adored Haddon’s THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT TIME, so I snapped this audiobook up when I found it. What It’s About: A British family, which consists of a retired stiff-upper-lipped dad, a bored-and-cheating mother, a gay son, and a divorced, single-mother daughter who announces at the the front of the book that she’s marrying her nice-but-not-particularly-bright boyfriend — everyone in the family thinks she can do better, but are mostly too polite to say so. The story revolves around her nuptials. What Makes It Different: This book is so British, it’s comical, but at the same time it manages to go deep into the hearts and minds of what could have been stock characters. It’s the literary answer to movies like Father of the Bride. What I Loved: I loved the moments that happen (sometimes funny, sometimes sad), because no one talks to each other. I found the exploration of dating beneath yourself compelling, as I did the meditation on “loving the one you’re with.” What I Didn’t Like: The brother’s boyfriend gets short shrift. It felt like we never really knew him. Also, though the book gets good and cracking by the middle, the...

Dear Thursday: BITCH IS THE NEW BLACK by Helena Andrews [Book 22 of 2010]...

Remember how I promised you that I would eventually review a non-marketing piece of non-fiction, because I wasn’t completely self-absorbed and could in fact read non-fiction that didn’t either 1) directly benefit me or 2) teach me how to do stuff. You probably didn’t believe me. “Ernessa, you’re just makin promises you won’t keep (again),” you probably thought to yourself. But then … BAM, today I’ve got thoughts on BITCH IS THE NEW BLACK by Helena Andrews — yes, an actual memoir! Who’s all about keeping her promises now? (Ignore the fact that I’m still four books away from my promise to read a book a week until my own book, 32 CANDLES launches). Why I Decided To Read It: Okay, well Erica Kennedy (FEMINISTA, BLING), adores this chyck IRL. Also, she’s a label mate, being Harper-produced and we have the same cover designer, Archie Ferguson. So you know how when someone tells you that your distant cousin,  ReeRee, who you’ve never met,  is in some horror movie, and you go to see it even if you don’t particularly like horror movies? — that’s kind of how I felt about reading this book. I don’t go out of my way to read memoir, but I ordered a copy of BitNB for both my bookcase and my iPad. What It’s About: Basically it’s a collection of essays about dating, family, career, and pets. If I were not black, I might say it’s a collection of essays about tackling dating, family, career, and pets as a black woman, But despite a certain Washington Post article that hit the internets like a viral bomb, this book isn’t about the collective black woman experience, it really is a memoir about Andrews’s one-of-a-kind life. What Makes It Different: Well, Andrews...

Dear Thursday: SECRETS OF HAPPINESS by Sarah Dunn [Book 19 of 2010]

Okay, apparently I’m 6 books behind my goal of a book-a-week until my own comes out. But I’m determined to catch up before June 22. Thus, I’m declaring next week BOOK WEEK here at Fierce and Nerdy. Not only will I catch up on my reading challenge, but we’ll all be talking books, books, books. So do join us next Monday for that. Meanwhile, my thoughts on the last chicklit book of my challenge, SECRETS OF HAPPINESS by Sarah Dunn, after the jump: Why I Decided To Read It: There are only a few authors in the entire chicklit movement that I’ll read in hardcover and as soon as their book comes out, no questions asked, no need to explain to me what their book is about. And Sarah Dunn is one of those authors. As a recovering Lutheran school grad, I adored her first book THE BIG LOVE (2005) and recommended it to just about everybody I knew. So how chagrinned was I when I found out that she had released her second book, SECRETS OF HAPPINESS over a year ago? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, my favorite authors need to blog, so that I can keep up with them. That’s all. What It’s About: This one is a multiple-character novel, but the main-main character is a neurotic, ex-evangelist and divorced television writer, living in New York with a much younger lover. We’re introduce to an assortment of her associates, including her adulterous married bestie, her ex-boyfriend, her gay male writing partner, and the sister of her young lover. What Makes It Different: In a genre littered with multiple-female-only POV books, this was a refreshing change of pace. What I Loved: If you don’t like Woody Allen, you will...

Dear Thursday: GIRLS OF RIYADH by Rajaa Alsanea [Book 17 of 2010]

Guys, I have so many books in my hop right now: graphic novels, non-fiction, memoir, young adult, sci-fi, women’s fiction — all sorts of stuff. It’s been such a pleasure to read so much lately, and I can’t wait to share my thoughts on them. But til then let’s talk about what will probably be last non-American read of the summer — actually I’m listening to Mark Haddon’s SPOT OF BOTHER right now in the car, but it’s a little boring in an English PBS sort of way, so if it doesn’t pick up soon, I’m going to have to switch it out, even though I absolutely adored THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG AT MIDNIGHT. But enough about that other stuff, here are my thoughts on GIRLS OF RIYADH by Rajaa Alsanea. Why I Decided To Read It: One of the things I’m going to miss most about Altadena, is the library. Their audiobook section is both magical and ever-changing, seemingly yielding an audiobook I want to listen every time I visit, no matter how many times I scour through it. This particular book had a great cover and an intriguing premise, so I picked it up, not knowing what to expect. What It’s About: Sex in the City meets Saudi Arabia’s Velvet Class. It follows the educational, career, and love lives of four women from wealthy families. What Makes It Different: Though this novel owes a lot to Sex in the City, there’s barely any kissing and sex is only alluded to. It was like reading a present-day Victorian novel with lots of unfamiliar fashion terms (to me) like abaya. Also, the book is written as a sort of email epistolary. What I Loved: I’m a sucker for chick lit — set...

Dear Thursday: FROM CAPE TOWN WITH LOVE [Book 15 of 2010]

Okay, I know that I haven’t been great about keeping up with my book-a-week pledge, but I’ve reset and am totally fixing to catch up before 32 CANDLES  comes out. That all excused, here are my thoughts on FROM CAPE TOWN WITH LOVE by Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due, and (fellow CMU-grad) Blair Underwood. Why I Decided To Read It: Ooh yay, my first full disclosure, since full disclosure rules were introduced: I was sent an ARC, and Tananarive is on my Top Ten Writers of All Time list, so I was on board to read. What It’s About: In his third outing, bodyguard/actor/detective, Tennyson Hardwick, is charged with protecting the adopted South African child of an A-list movie star and then must find her when she is kidnapped by the South African mafia. What Makes It Different: You know how black actors are always saying that they want to be the black James Bond, but we’re never going to see a movie like that, because Hollywood is so slow to change its ways? This is kind of like the novelization of that movie. What I Loved: Great settings, and for a nerd like me, a fascinating introduction to Los Angeles’s popular kids. I also loved Tennyson’s cranky retired-cop father. What I Didn’t Like: Tennyson is a ridiculous slut. At one point, he’s beating himself up with his urgency to save the kidnapped two-year-old — but then stops to have rather complicated sex a few pages later. Oohkay… Writing Lessons Learned: Setting, Setting, Setting. I always find books set in Los Angeles fascinating, because unlike New York stories (which can basically be broken down along class lines), every author seems to have a different version of Los Angeles. I loved that Tennyson had to deal with solving...

Dear Thursday: Our First T-Shirt Winner!

Hey Guys, Don’t have a lot of time to talk, as we’re going into final cut production of the 32 CANDLES trailer this morning. But I wanted to take a second to congratulate Katrina Gamble, our first 32 CANDLES T-shirt winner. She pre-ordered three books (one for herself, one for her mom, and one for someone else), which gave her three entries in our first T-shirt drawing. Now she’s won a free T-shirt. Couldn’t have been easier. Have you pre-ordered the book? Let me know in the comments, on Facebook, or by regular ole email (etc at 32candles dot com), and you’ll be entered to win one of the T-shirts we’re giving away EVERY WEEKDAY until the book comes out. Thanks!...

Dear Thursday: My New Rules of Reading

Sadly, I didn’t do as much reading as I thought I would do on my trips to Scotland and France. I spent most of my plane ride either sleeping or greedily watching movies of my own choosing. However, I did do a lot of reading — just not a lot of finishing. Unbeknownst to me, I had finally drawn a long overdue line in the sand. If a book doesn’t capture me within the first 100 pages, or by Location 500 on my Kindle, then I have to put it down. It’s funny, because I tend to be afraid that I’m going to miss out on something great if I don’t keep reading, and in a few cases that has been true. I loved Orson Scott Card’s Pastwatch (this was before I found out he was a raging homophobe), adored Eugenie’s Middlesex, and thoroughly enjoyed King’s and Straub’s, Talisman, even though all of these stories took a while to really get pumping. I actually put King’s Bag of Bones (yes, he definitely has a problem with long, labored beginnings) and Gaiman’s American Gods down only to pick them up again due to the raves of multiple friends. However, for every bad start book that’s worked out, there’s at least two or three that haven’t. I won’t go into the list, but yes, King is on this one, too. So what changed over the course of my multiple plane rides? Well, I guess I realized that my physical reading time is very limited. It’s fine if audiobooks disappoint me, because I would have been taking my daily walk or driving to wherever I’m driving anyway. But I rarely have a chance to just sit down with a book, so when I do, whatever I’m reading...

Dear Thursday: THE MAGICIANS by Lev Grossman [Book 14 of 2010]

Guys, by the time you read this, I’ll hopefully be on a plane reading. Of course, I’m looking forward to doing my research in Scotland and seeing my writing exchange partner IRL for the first time in almost two years. but there’s a little part of me that is always thrilled to take a plane trip alone simply b/c it means I’ll get to read a lot. Oh, the thrill of it! And I can’t wait to report back, til then, here are my thoughts on THE MAGICIANS by Lev Grossman. Why I Decided To Read It: Amy from “Book Simple” has made me want to pick up a lot of books, but her review of this “Harry Potter for Adults” sent me straight to audible.com. What It’s About: Quentin, a very high-achiever, who is obsessed with a series of Narnia-like books set in the land of Fillory, finds out that there really is a college for magicians, which is called Brakebills. That’s a very simple synopsis, b/c I really don’t want to take a minute of discovery or enjoyment away from you. What Makes It Different: Not as black-and-white as Narnia, not as epic as Lord of the Rings, not as childish as Harry Potter — THE MAGICIANS owe all of these works a huge debt, yet its angst and cynicism makes it quite unlike anything I’ve ever read before. What I Loved: I always find that my favorites of the year sneak up on me about two-thirds of the way through my enjoyment of them. For example, last year, I thought I was simply enjoying the movie, AWAY WE GO, and then with 30 minutes to spare, I realized that I was actually watching the movie that I had enjoyed more than...

Dear Thursday: The Jane Austen Book Club [Book 13 of 2010]

Now two books behind on my reading goal, but this might be a good thing as I can do a whole week of book reviews if I keep it up. Go Team! Anyway, let’s get back into the swing of things with a book I’ve been meaning to read for over five years. Ah well, better late than never. Why I Decided To Read It: Saw the audiobook at the library and was like, “Oh wait, I’ve been meaning to read that for years now!” So I picked it up. What It’s About: Six Austenites of different ages and lifestyles form a book club. What Makes It Different: Austen homages are huge now, but I think this might have been the first. What I Loved: Well, being in the “she’s awright” camp on the whole Jane Austen fandom thing, this book didn’t irritate me with it’s super-fandom. It was also twee and light — yet surprisingly deep at parts. What I Didn’t Like: This book is very, very, very white bread — I mean really white bread. And the dialogue wasn’t stellar. Everyone kind of sounds alike. Writing Lessons Learned: Find your passion. This novel shouldn’t have been my cup of tea. It’s vignettey, and nothing much happens, and it has like zero-diversity — but I thoroughly enjoyed it because the characters (and obviously the author) were so very passionate about Austen. Passion makes up for a lot. Sweat the little stuff. What’s really interesting about this novel is that all the interesting stuff happens between the chapters. If someone gets hurt, in an argument, or broken up with, we don’t see it. So there’s lots of emphasis on the little stuff like memories and social hiccups, and that lack of conflict makes for...

Dear Thursday: Stupid Customer Service

So yesterday, I packed Betty into the car and went to pick up my first pair of really expensive glasses at a high-end store in Silver Lake. I’ve always wanted a pair of expensive glasses, and I finally indulged that dream … only to be told the day after they were supposed to be ready that they weren’t ready or even in the store. The store was also unable to tell me when they would be ready, and after apologizing profusely, the owner assured me that she or the shop assistant would be calling me soon to tell me when my glasses would be ready and she promised to come out to Altadena herself to fit me. It was hot, and I was hungry, and Betty was fussing, and the store was woman-owned, so I didn’t cancel my order all together, though I was tempted. Then the day wore on and no one called. I was shocked that any business charging this much for glasses would dare to be this unprofessional. I was also disappointed, because now I feel like I have to cancel my order on principle alone and I can’t stress enough how very, very much I loved these glasses. I’ll just say they are purple and awesome and leave it at that. Anyway, this is what I call “stupid customer service.” If I’d had a good experience, this is what I would have done: featured my new glasses on Fierce and Nerdy, sang this shop’s praises to friends, worn them during all of my publicity for 32 CANDLES, referred anyone who complimented me on the glasses to the shop. But now, I’ll probably cancel my order, leave a negative review on Yelp, badmouth the shop to the friend that referred me...

Dear Thursday: THE ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE: RECORDED ATTACKS by Max Brooks [Book 12 of 2010]...

Long post title, but the book is fairly short since it’s a graphic novel. So w/o further ado, here are my thoughts on THE ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE: RECORDED ATTACKS by Max Brooks. Why I Decided To Read It: See this is why I plan to personally walk down to my local library and ask for prominent placement in their “New Arrivals” section. I was walking into the library, saw this book, picked it up, and was intrigued enough to check it out. What It’s About: From what I can tell, Max Brooks had written another graphic novel called WORLD WAR Z, about a zombie war that nearly takes out humanity. This graphic novel is a sort of prequel. What Makes It Different: It literally is an illustrated listing of recorded zombie attacks. What I Loved: The recorded attacks take place on every continent save Antarctica, and it was a fantastic way to revisit many different eras in history. Wonderful artwork by Ibraim Roberson. What I Didn’t Like: The political stuff is a bit simple. Also the listiness didn’t exactly make this graphic novel a fevered read. I’ve been checking and re-checking this book out since January, and the only reason I went ahead and finished it, is because it’s due back tomorrow, and I doubt the library will let me recheck it out a kajillionth time. Also, no illustration credit given on the front cover for Ibraim Roberson. Are you kidding me??? Not cool… Writing Lessons Learned: Everything’s more interesting with zombies. A lot of this felt like history we already knew … but WITH ZOMBIES. Think a TransAtlantic crossing was bad for regular slaves — try doing it with ZOMBIE SLAVES. Think kung fu masters are badass? Try Kung Fu Masters who have...

Dear Thursday: THE BRIGHTEST STAR IN THE SKY by Marian Keyes [Book 11 of 2010]...

Toward the beginning of the year, my favorite chicklit author, Marian Keyes, posted this message on her site: My dear amigos, happy new year to you all and I hope your festive season was not too unpleasant. I’m very sorry but this is going to be a very short piece because I am laid low with crippling depression. Regular readers know that I’ve been prone to depression on and off over the years but this is in a totally different league. This is much much worse. I know I’m leaving myself open to stinky journalists saying ‘What has she got to be depressed about, the self-indulgent whiner, when there are people out there with real troubles?’ so I won’t go on about it. All I will say is that I’m aware that these are terrible times and that there are people out there who have been so ruined by the current economic climate that they’ve lost the roof over their heads and every day is a battle for basic survival and I wish I could make their pain go away. But although I’m blessed enough to have a roof over my head, I still feel like I’m living in hell. I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, I can’t write, I can’t read, I can’t talk to people. The worst thing is that I feel it will never end. I know lots of people don’t believe it, but depression is an illness, but unlike say, a broken leg, you don’t know when it’ll get better […][…] So amigos, I’m sorry to abandon you for the moment. Full service will be restored at some stage, I hope. Thank you in advance for your kindness because you’ve always been so lovely to me and once again Happy New...

Dear Thursday: LONG WAY DOWN by Nick Hornby [Book 10 of 2010]

Funnily enough, this is only the the second book of the year by an author I’ve already read before. Go figure. Why I Decided To Read It: I used to be a HUGE Nick Hornby fan … before grad school and his many movie deals. And somehow I didn’t realize that I was no longer reading his stuff, until I ran across this audiobook at the library. So it felt a little bit like reconnecting with an old friend who I hadn’t seen in over ten years and being reminded of why I liked him so much in the first place. What’s It About: Four disparate people decide to attempt suicide in the exact same way. Upon running into each other while trying to commit said suicide, they form quirky suicide club instead. As you do… What Makes It Different: Suicide as humor isn’t necessarily new, but this is like suicide as humor times four. What I Loved: This novel was ridiculously cynical in a really wonderful way. Also, the four characters really do come from different walks of life. I’m a plot-driven writer myself, so it was really refreshing to read stream-of-consciousness that didn’t make me want to bang my head against a wall. Last but not least, the dialogue was top-notch. What I Didn’t Like: There was one American musician character in this lot who was such a cup of tepid tea, that I felt sorry for the interesting character that could have taken his place in this book. This could have been made up for by his insights on being an artist, but unfortunately those came too late in the book for me to truly take an interest in his character. I never got over my dislike. Also, the ending in...

Dear Thursday: MINION by L.A. Banks [Book 9 for 2010]

Yes, yes, I know it’s Week 10 of 2010, but I promise to catch up by next week. Wait for it! Why I Decided To Read It: As an early Buffy the Vampire Slayer adopter, Banks basically had me at a “black vampire slayer.” What’s It About: Damali, a 20-year-old LA spoken word artist and neteru (vampire huntress) who is about to come into all of her powers when she turns 21. She’s also juggling a difficult romance with a drug dealer from her past named Carlos Rivera. What Makes It Different: Dark-skinned heroine who rocks dredlocks and kills vampires. What doesn’t make it different? What I Loved: Hot paranormal romance featuring black people. Woo-hoo! Also, I love that Damali leads a diverse team. And I tend not to like bad boys IRL or in lit, but Carlos Riveras is a very sexy hero. Oh, and way sexy cover. Yay. What I Didn’t Like: This isn’t so much a fully-realized novel as the first part of a multi-part story. It felt like the book ended mid-action when I was just really getting into it! And alas, since I’m trying to read a new author every week, I won’t have time to find out what happened until next year. Boo! Also, as a former denizen of North Hollywood, I found it hard to believe that there would be a “really hot” club there. Seriously, I wished — but I always had to drive when I wanted to hit a good club with my girlfriends. Writing Lessons Learned: Action first, THEN team. I loved how Banks introduced Damali and her team. Basically after a couple of prologues we see the team in action on a big vampire kill THEN we meet them as individuals. Simple-yet-complicated love...

Dear Thursday: Wii’s JUST DANCE

Okay, I’m just an hour away from finishing my latest audiobook, but I’ve accepted that that hour is just not going to happen today. So look for that review next Tuesday and let’s talk about the new Wii game, JUST DANCE, b/c every time I mention this game on Facebook, somebody’s asking me whether I like it or not. So w/o further ado, here are my thoughts, organized in what I have decided to make my usual reviewing fashion: Why I Decided To Buy It: The commercials made it look like so much fun. Also, this seemed like an even more fun version of Dance Dance Revolution, which CH and I played a lot when we were slimming down for our wedding. But on a more practical note, the way my (absolutely free) weight loss program [more on this later] works is that I’m given a low number of calories and after that, the more calories I burn, the more calories I can eat. My MIL is a fantastic cook, so I need to burn a lot of calories if I want to enjoy a decent dinner. You burn about 292 calories after an hour of non-aerobic dancing, and a ton more with aerobic dancing, so I’ve been dancing like a fiend lately. What’s It All About: Basically you hold the Wii Remote in one hand and mirror the movements of either a male or a female dancer. And you accumulate points by how well you mirror her or him. Both dancers looked like they escaped from an iPod commercial. What Makes It Different: Unlike DDR, you actually get to do real dance moves. And there’s a huge variety of songs from the 60s, 70s, 80, 90s and 00s. What I Loved: Dancing to...

Dear Thursday: A GOOD YEAR by Peter Mayle [Book 8 of 2010]

Wow, two whole months of reading or listening to books every week. Glorious! Of all the indulgences I could have allowed myself this year, I can’t think of one better than this. That all said, her are my thoughts on A GOOD YEAR by Peter Mayle. Why I Decided To Read It: I make it a policy to read any book that I run across that’s been made into a movie, and I ran across this one in the library. I should also say that I’m constantly surprised about what does and doesn’t get made. I haven’t seen the Ridley Scott movie, starring Russell Crowe, which arose from this book, but I could see the attraction for a big movie director, looking to make a little movie. This is certainly a little book. What’s It About: Max, a British investment broker with debt issues, gets a big deal stolen our from under him and is fired by his boss. Just when everything seems lost, he inherits an old broken-down French winery from his uncle. Cue the quaint characters and a surprise cozy mystery. What Makes It Different: This is basically travel chicklit, but with dudes. What I Loved: I love travel p*rn disguised as fiction, and this book was heavy on both travel and food p*rn. The plot was basically something that happened between huge meals, lots of wine, jokes about French people, and detailed descriptions of Provence. After reading so many heavy books, this was a nice palate cleanser. What I Didn’t Like: It makes me feel somewhat grumpy to say there wasn’t any real conflict and that the plot was thinner than prosciutto — but it was. And at no time did I feel a compelling need to actually finish this book....

Dear Thursday: ORANGE, MINT AND HONEY by Carleen Brice [Book 7 of 2010]...

Let me tell you, I was in the reading and listening habit before, but this book-a-week stuff is the straight-up business. Just wanted to say that before giving you my thoughts on ORANGE, MINT, AND HONEY by Carleen Brice. Why I Decided To Listen To It: I’ve been meaning to read or listen to this book for over a year now. I first saw it featured in a rave review in Essence Magazine. Then I rediscovered Ms. Brice online. I love both of her blogs: White Readers Meet Black Authors and The Pajama Gardener. Then Ms. Brice announced that ORANGE was being made into a Lifetime movie, which will air this Sunday, so I made it a priority to listen to the book before I saw the movie. What’s It About: Shay, the neurotic daughter of an alcoholic is forced to leave her doctorate program, due to her deteriorating mental health. When the ghost of Nina Simone encourages her to go home to her alcoholic mother, she is surprised to find her mother in full recovery. She’s also being the mother to her 3yo half-sister, Sunny, that Shay always wanted growing up. Cue the resentment, drama, and comedy. What Makes It Different: Well, first of all Shay is a big ol’ nerd. She studies public health and she is awkward. But get this, her love interest is also a big ol’ nerd! As someone who used to call herself the black female version of Woody Allen (w/o all the icky IRL stuff) and who wrote a play about God being a drag queen Nina Simone impersonator, this book had me from the get. What I Loved: What didn’t I love? The relationship between Shay and her mother is so well-crafted. Their back story is...

Dear Thursday: GET KNOWN BEFORE THE BOOK DEAL [Book 6 of 2010]

I’ve been reviewing mostly fiction up to now, but as I mentioned last week, I’ve become very interested in fully learning the art of promotion before 32 CANDLES hits bookshelves. And sense I’m a page-to-life learner, I’ve been reading a lot of books on the subject. Here are my thoughts on the latest self-help-for-self-promotion book: GET KNOWN BEFORE THE BOOK DEAL by Christina Katz. Why I Decided To Read It: Like I said last week, I’m completely gung-ho about getting out there and promoting 32 CANDLES, I’m just not sure how to go about it. What’s It About: Building your platform, so that you can more easily get a fiction or non-fiction book deal. What Makes It Different: Unlike a lot of the other self-promotion books that I read, GET KNOWN is both comprehensive and engaging. Usually it’s either/or with these books. What I Loved: This is basically the self-promotion bible I’ve been waiting for. There were so many good ideas in here that I had never considered before. Ms. Katz is a straight-shooter and her writing style is both compelling and engaging. It felt less like a read and more like a conversation with a professional. I kept on having to put down the book and make notes, I got so inspired. Also, if you don’t have a platform, she helps you figure out how to get one. I absolutely think that every MFA student should get this upon graduation. Yes, seriously! What I Didn’t Like: You know how they say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? I think they should change that into a piece of advice for authors: “Readers do judge a book by its cover. They just can’t help it.” I’ll admit that I order six books on the...

Dear Thursday: LITTLE GIANT OF ABERDEEN COUNTY by Tiffany Baker [Book 5 of 2010]...

Alright, don’t drop dead of shock, but I actually finished listening to this last book on time. So without further ado, here are my thoughts on THE LITTLE GIANT OF ABERDEEN COUNTY by Tiffany Baker Why I Decided To Read It: This book got great reviews and I just happened to read one of them before putting in a big order at audible.com. What’s It About: It’s a story about a little girlnamed Truly, growing up in Upstate New York, who has both an out-of-control pituitary gland and eating habit, which causes her to grow into a fat giant of a woman. What Makes It Different: Um, when’s the last time you read a story about plain female giant? What I Loved: I love unusual main characters, and this book certainly has that going for it. Baker creates a very rich history for her small town, with a compelling and complex cast of characters. Also, I loved that the main character gets a romantic relationship with a really lovely guy. What I Didn’t Like: This was waaaaaaaay too self-indulgent, with overworked metaphors and a plot that seemed to take forever to really get going — seriously Baker could have cut out a good quarter of the book and still told the story. I nearly switched audiobooks like three times while listen to the first bit.  Also, it employed a first-person omniscient narrator, which is one of my biggest pet peeves, b/c it takes me out of the story when I have to constantly ask, “How could she possibly know that???” Writing Lessons Learned: Go for the unique character. People will always read women-driven fiction centered around a traditionally beautiful woman, but they’ll remember stories like these, the stories centered around women who don’t often...

Dear Thursday: Telenovellas and iPads

So yesterday, I woke up with one determination in my head. I early adopted the iPod. My husband early adopted the iPhone. The only reason that I didn’t early adopt the MacBook Air was b/c I had sworn not to get another computer until I got a book deal — and even with that vow verily given, I was sorely tempted. But I promised myself that I would not early adopt the Apple iPad. Yesterday, while I got ready for my breakfast date, which would take place during Apple’s announcement, I promised myself this. Then I went up front and told my husband that we COULD NOT early adopt the iPad. I told him we needed to be strong and prove that we’re not hopelessly Cult of Mac. So of course this is all to say that I’m totally going to early adopt the iPad. I want it so bad I could spit. I look at my Kindle now and just shake my head b/c it’s basically “dead gadget walking” until the iPad is released. That’s all. Oh, and one more thing. I am in complete agreement with this article about how American TV needs to stop killing their programs with endless seasons. It’s cruel and unneeded, and I would be so much more willing to adopt new programs if I knew that they had a firm final destination. Also, how cool would it be to hire someone like Joss Whedon to executive write just one or two season concepts. And I would totally be willing to watch those kinds of programs on my iPad. That’s all — for real this...

Dear Thursday: The Book of Eli

Sorry, I’m still in the process of finishing this week’s book. I’ll post my review of it tomorrow. Meanwhile, a few people have asked me what I thought of The Book of Eli, which I saw last Saturday, so I’ll just say a few things about that film here. I don’t think I have any real spoilers in here, but my thoughts do revolve around something that you find out in the first half-hour, so if you want to go in completely pure like I did, STOP READING NOW. While watching the movie I went back and forth with myself about whether I was actually liking it It occurs to me that I might be sick of Hollywood assuming that everything will fall apart and lawlessness will rule supreme in the event of any catastrophe. In short, I’m weary of movies assuming the absolute worst about humanity. I also found it impossible to believe that there was enough government to burn every single Bible but one, but not enough to prevent lawlessness. I just really found the concept of the religion dying without the Bible hard to swallow. Let me tell you, if we ever do suffer through an apocolyptic war, the FIRST thing that will bounce back is religion — even if that’s what caused the war in the first place. One last gripe, I’m not a big proselytizer (and by “not big,” I mean I don’t at all), but if I had the last Bible in America, please be sure that I would be gathering up the flocks and spreading the good word. The main character of Eli won’t even let a curious character touch his Bible. And that really upset me on a religious level. I guess my whole beef with...

Dear Thursday: Jose Saramago’s BLINDNESS [Book 2 of 2010]

Just to refresh your memories, I’ve decided to read a book week until my own book, 32 CANDLES, comes out on June 22, 2010. So here goes this week’s review of Jose Saramago’s BLINDNESS. Why I Decided To Read It: The movie trailer made me think, “Now that’s a book I would like to read!” But I totally didn’t want to see the movie. Has that ever happened to you? What’s It About: It’s set in an unnamed city (which we’ll assume is in Portugal, since the author is Portuguese), in which a white-blindness is spreading like a contagious disease. To prevent the further spread of this strange blindness, Patient Zero and everyone with the sickness is interned in an old hospital. But the wife of the ophthalmologist (who tried to help Patient Zero after he was struck blind, only to be struck blind himself) accompanies him to the hospital, though she has not caught the blind sickness. But the disease keeps on spreading and society proceeds to break down. What Makes It Different: It’s basically an apocalypse novel but with blindness. Original yet familiar. What I Loved: Beautifully written and it illuminates the beauty of tragedy. Also it’s a rich study of how humans react to adversity. The Doctor’s Wife is an awesome character. The last few paragraphs made me cry, which was a little awkward, since I was at the mall when I finished it. The conflicts were sometimes big, sometimes anemic, which made the novel feel very real. What I Didn’t Like: I almost stopped listening to the audiobook after it took almost an hour just to get to the part where we meet the main character, the Doctor’s Wife. Also, the author is very self-indulgent and goes off on a...

Dear Thursday: Erica Kennedy’s FEMINISTA

So in the interest of procrastinating living well, I have decided to try reading or listening to a book a week and then reporting on it here. Hopefully this will inspire you guys to also read a few books while you’re waiting for 32 CANDLES to come out. Oh, and I’ve broken this review into sections, b/c that’s basically how I break books down when I’m reading and reviewing them in my head. So here goes: Why I Decided To Read It: I loved Erica Kennedy’s first novel, the hip-hop roman a clef, BLING, and I’ve basically been waiting for her to write another novel for over four years now. What’s It About: It’s about a writer, trying to find the perfect mate.I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t all chicklit about a writer trying to find the perfect mate? Same ole. Same ole. But in this case you’re wrong. See below. What Makes It Different: The main character, Sydney Zamora, has an extremely strong personality. She’s also smart and (gasp!) a feminist. Also, the love interest is complicated in a way that you’d expect a scion to be complicated in real life — but they’re rarely depicted this way in other chick lit and women’s fiction. What I Loved: I can’t remember the last time I read something romantic with a main character that described herself as a feminist. How refreshing. I also like that she was a complicated feminist and seemed to live by her own rulebook for Feminism. Plus, she’s mean. I love mean women. Also, the book is laugh-out-loud funny and really readable to the point where I had trouble putting it down. I really hope that Ms. Kennedy doesn’t make us wait another four years for her next novel. What...

Dear Thursday: If You Can, Don’t Do What You Love

I found this NYT item about how hard it is to live your hobby dream with an Etsy store interesting, in that the whole article had a tone of being stunned that making a living from crafting was hard. Why, one artist and her husband worked 14 hour days to get all of her orders out. Another knitted liked a mofo from dawn to evening with no relief except to answer customer emails and drop off her Etsy orders. And another woman only makes Wisconsin minimum wage when you do an hours-put-in-to-money-being-made ratio. I was amused by the tone of voice, because it assumed that doing what you love for a living wasn’t almost always super-hard. I’ve had friends and family alike insinuate that since 2006 my jobs have been easy, b/c I get to do what I love (write) for a living. And while it’s true that doing what you love doesn’t feel as much like work as say, digging trenches, let’s not get it twisted. Pursuing your dream is always going to be way harder than a 9 to 5. The main problem is that almost every kind of regular paid writing gig requires more than 40 hours a week from you. For example, television writers don’t get to go home at 5pm everyday no matter what. They get to go home when the script is done, which is why I barely see a few of my friends now that they’re staffed on shows. When I was writing for radio, I found it hard to keep doctor’s appointments or schedule lunches, b/c not only was I working an ever-changing 50-to-60-hour week, but anything could come up at any time that would require more writing from me. I remember being stunned about how...

Dear Thursday: Research and Other Loaded Guns

So I’m going to the gun range to shoot guns today w/ a friend of my husband’s who knows about guns. And yes, for the friends that know me IRL, I’m still a pacifist, but I’m rewriting a very violent book. As you do. So I need to do some in-person research. Should be interesting. I mostly just want to figure out which character shoots what and how it feels for them to shoot what they’re shooting. This is actually the fun part of writing. Last year, I got to go to Solvang to research a climatic moment in 32 Candles, and I’ve already decided that both Catalina and Hawaii will appear in my next women’s fiction novel. On the subject of research, I like to not bother with it until I’m in rewrites, b/c it’s a little too fun and can quite easily become yet another form of procrastination. But I know a lot of writers pride themselves on their research, and spend years doing it before they set pen to paper. In a way, though, I feel that life in general is research, so for the most part, one needn’t do a bunch of it if one wishes to write. But it does matter what you’re writing, and of course the research is the best part for a lot of writers. To the other writers who read this blog, how do you handle research? Also, what does one wear to a gun range? And yes, yes, I’ll try to get...

Dear Thursday: The Best Songs of 2009

Again, I’m pretty sad that I gave indie music such short shrift this year, and I really hope to correct that in 2010. But that all excused, here’s my nominees for the best songs of 2009: Best Pop Song: “I Gotta Feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas. I remember listening to this the morning before I went to the hospital to have Betty. And I imagine that it’s probably an awesome soundtrack for getting ready for a night of clubbing. I Gotta Feeling – Black Eyed Peas Best Rap Song: “Kiss Me Thru the Phone” by Soulja Boy Tell Them. Oh come on, don’t try to act like you’re not in love with this song, too! Kiss Me Thru The Phone – Soulja Boy Tell`em Best R&B Song: “Sweet Dreams” by Beyonce. Basically, I just go out of my mind every time this jam comes on the radio. Plus, Beyonce dressed up like a robot for the video. I mean what more do I have to say? Sweet Dreams – Beyoncé Best Indie Song: “Bulletproof” by La Roux. Yes, I chose this song because the singer’s hair is just so frickin cool on this single cover. But the song is pretty good, too. Bulletproof – La Roux So what are your favorite songs of the year? Let us know in the...

Dear Thursday: The Best and Worse Albums of 2009

The one bad thing about no longer working in Top 40, is that I’ve not been listening to nearly as much music as I did last year. Also, I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had a chance to explore as much non-super-commercial music as I would have liked to, but here goes for my album pics of the year: Best Debut Album: This kid K’Naan out of Canada via Harlem originating in Somali is pretty dang wonderful. Mixing political protest, along with reggae, along with hip-hop, and lyrics that are heavy on the poetry, he totally earned his place as a critical darling. The album’s called Troubador and it’s strong all the way through. Definitely worth checking out. [Troubador, r. February 2009. Your way in: “ABC’s”] Best Lastest Album: I thought Lily Allen‘s first album was a bit of a one-trick pony, but was so pleasantly surprised by her sophomore effort, which perfectly encapsulated a 20s mindset. Her subject matter and perspective have definitely grown up, but her delivery and lyrics remain delightfully mischievous. It’s like listening to Rumplestiltskin’s impish little sister sing. [It’s Not Me, It’s You. r. February 2009. Your way in: “The Fear“] Worse Album: It’s Blitz! by The Yeah Yeah Yeahs was not only way more commercial than I wanted it to be, but also tepid. Unlike their first two full-length albums, the only surprise on this collection of songs was how woefully uninspired they were. Huge fail IMO, even if their pandering netted them bigger album sales. As with most worst album picks, I chose this one, b/c it was the most disappointing. But it should be noted that I loved Karen O’s bad-ass jacket in the video for “Zero.” We’ll be covering singles in the coming weeks,...

Dear Thursday: Let’s Get Ready for 2010…

… by going over 2009 ad nauseum. As the new year gets closer, I thought it would be a good idea to use our entertainment space to figure out our nominations for the Best and Worst Entertainment of the year, starting off with TV. Here are my nominations… Best New TV Show of 2009: Hands down Modern Family. Such a lovely surprise with the added benefit that both my husband and my MIL like it, too. I already told you everything I love about this show here, so I won’t rehash — just encourage everyone to watch. Best Returning TV Show of 2009: Big Bang Theory is pretty much the only show I make sure to watch on the same night it broadcasts and the character of Sheldon is pure comic genius. Plus they helped me towards hating Wil Wheaton even more than I already did. Worst New TV Show of 2009: V. I wanted to love it, but it is SO boring and ham-handed. Also, it can’t decide whether it wants to be derivative of Lost or derivative of Battlestar Galatica, which just makes it a derivative mess. Worst Returning TV Show of 2009: I want to say Heroes, but I took back my dignity and finally forced myself to stop watching it this year. So I’ll just say Scrubs, b/c it refuses to effin die already. If Scrubs were my boyfriend, I would have been dumped him … and filed a restraining order. So now it’s your turn. Please nominate shows for each of these categories in the comments and at the end of the year, we’ll put the top two in every category to a vote. Fun,...

Dear Thursday: Sorry! Sorry!

As many of you know my MIL moved in a couple of months ago for a change of pace and to help us with Betty. It’s been wonderful, and I’ve been able to get so much done. In fact, it’s been so wonderful, that I plum ole forgot that I simply can’t get as much work done when I am by myself with Betty. Today has been one of those days. I had a fun post that I was planning to write, but then life got in the way and now the back-up babysitter is here and I only have 3 hours to reach today’s goal on my freelance project, so I’ve got to skip today’s column and also tomorrow’s Hello Friday — though I promised you last week that I wouldn’t. Please forgive me. The MIL comes back next Tuesday and I’ll get my act together for Monday. I super-duper-promise. Til then please enjoy, Procrastinate on This!, Three Line Lunch, and Thought Chuck, which will definitely be posted at their regularly scheduled times. Also, thanks for all the helpful purse advice. I’m not on the fence about whether to get something practical and big or the awesome (but expensive!) and big Cole Haan I’ve been stalking. What would you do? On one hand, I am a mom and I’ve never in my life paid more than $50 for a purse. On the other, my feet are permanently wider and I’m about 4 sizes bigger than I plan to be by this time next year. Should I get the one thing that still fits, even if it’s (let’s face it) ridiculously...

Dear Thursday: The Everyday Feminist

Hey Guys, I wanted to end our Feminism series by offering up some everyday solutions — not just complaints — for the current state of Feminism, so here goes. 1. Stop congratulating men for doing what they should have been doing in the first place. Now I went back and forth with myself on this one, b/c I’m a big believer in positive reinforcement and encouragement. However, it’s hard to say that men and women should be equal when I can’t count on two hands the number of women who have told me that I’m “so lucky” to have a husband who changes diapers. Really? Now I think I’m lucky to have found someone I love as much as I love CH, but the straight-up fact is that I would never have married anyone who doesn’t change diapers. Parenting is a two-person job. If one person isn’t willing to help out then that makes the other person “unlucky” IMO, not me “lucky” for having a husband that does what he’s supposed to do. I also see this in other aspects of society. Single fathers getting all sorts of TV shows, book deals and love for going above and beyond while single mothers are just a fact of life. When a busy male executive cuts out early for his daughter’s play, “Awww.” Busy female executive — well, that’s why she didn’t get the promotion. I once had an ex who informed me after our relationship ended that he had been an awesome boyfriend, b/c he had never cheated on me. Again, really? Did that make me an awesome girlfriend b/c I also didn’t cheat? When did it get so bad that some men started thinking that they should be congratulated for staying faithful? I mean...

Dear Thursday: A Culture Gap That No Amount of Talking Can Surmount

So I want to come clean, because last week I said that CH and I didn’t argue over our differences. That was a lie, because we have hit one HUGE roadblock in our relationship as parents from two very different cultures. It’s actually rather hard for me to talk about in this venue, because I get upset just thinking about it. So I’ll just say it quick like ripping off a Band-Aid. CH told me … CH keeps on insisting that our dear innocent daughter… I can barely say it, the notion is so foul, but I must if I wish true healing to begin. CH wants Betty to cheer for the San Diego Chargers. I hear your audible gasp and I’ll reaffirm what I just said. Yes, he actually wants her to cheer for the San Diego Chargers. I’ve argued and argued with him on this subject, explaining that the Pittsburgh Steelers are the One True Team, to which he answered that it’s unseemly to cheer for a team just because they win. I explained that I don’t cheer for the Steelers just b/c they win, but because they are the best football team in America and a dynasty that has no match. He says Betty should cheer for the Chargers because she’s from California and it’s too dangerous to cheer for the Raiders. He also pointed out that I wasn’t from Pittsburgh to which I answered, “I spent my most seminal years in the the great olde town of Pittsburgh. To say I’m not from there is an insult of the gravest nature. Also, one need not be from Pittsburgh to know that they are the greatest football team of all time, so excuse you, sirrah! Excuse you!” Yet CH sticks to...

Dear Thursday: Interesting Moments in an Interracial Relationship

So though I’m definitely positive when it comes to Interracial Relationships, they do have their interesting moments. I’m lucky to live in California where IR relationships are quite common. However, the influx of BW-WM relationships is fairly recent, so often CH and I will go some place and be the only IR couple of this sort. I won’t say that we get stared at, but we do get remembered. For example in our old neighborhood of Silverlake, many of the waiters at restaurants that we frequented could guess what we wanted before we made our order. If you live in LA, you know how uncommon it is for a waiter to remember what his or her regulars eat. And it never happened in the places that I frequented before meeting CH, but it happens all the time to us. We also get remembered at grocery stores, by work acquaintances no matter how brief the meeting, and by the front desk staff of our dentist, OB, fertility doctor, and Betty’s pediatrician. To put this in perspective, I’ve been going to the same doctor as Betty for about five years now, and they never remembered my name but now they do. And I’ve gotten used to hearing, “Oh hi, Ernessa, Dr. Whoever will be with you in just a moment” by the time I walk into a medical office the second time with CH. I don’t mind being known as half of that one BW-WM IR couple, but it does put me at a guilty disadvantage, when people remember us, but I don’t remember them. Also, travelling is very interesting. While CH finds small towns with one privately-owned gas station charming, I find them horror-movie scary, as they could potentially house all manner of racist rednecks...

Dear Thursday: Month of Minefields: This I Believe

As I mentioned on Tuesday, though I’ve returned to organized religion, I don’t necessarily have the same belief system that I did when I was younger. To give you a bit of background, not only was I raised in the Lutheran church, I also went to Lutheran school, was confirmed, and spent a year as perhaps the worst acolyte of all time. Falling asleep easily when bored and having little to no attention span does not a good acolyte make. But still I loved using the little stick with the bell on the end of it to put out candles, so I’ll always have that to keep my memories fond. There are two reasons I left the church. When I was seven or eight, my mother told me honestly that sometimes she wasn’t sure if there really was a God, but that she hoped that there was. My immediate thought was, “Oh my God, she’s going to Hell.” And I saw her falling into the hellfires of damnation, b/c she wasn’t a true-true believer. This gave me nightmares for years, so yes, when I was given the choice of public or private school at the age of 12, I was all too happy to go public. The other thing that led me down the path of completely rejecting organized religion was my mother’s death. I didn’t blame God for it, but at the same time it didn’t do much to make me want to sing his praises. And we ended up having a decade-long cooling off period in which I took the time to really study who I believed God to be and carve out this ever-changing belief system. So without further ado, this is what I believe… 1. God loves all of us...

Dear Thursday: New TV So Far

So I thought now would be a good time to talk about TV So Far this season. First up the new shows: Glee: This show started off great, but seems to be losing steam. The story lines are tepid, and IMO need an injection of the big drama that Ryan Murphy’s other show, Nip/Tuck is known for. Also, there’s a lot riding on the supposed fact that Rachel (whose nose I love, btw) is the best singer in glee club and even though she quits every other episode they need to keep on getting her back b/c glee just isn’t the same w/o Rachel. But, um, Mercedes has a way better, I mean Aretha-Franklin-level voice. I’m not understanding why she isn’t getting more solos. Is it b/c she’s big, black, and therefore (by Hollywood standards) not beautiful? Hmm. I’m trying not to stop watching this show, but if the writers really think it’s okay to give the black character one measly storyline and the Asian-American character none, I might have abandon it mid-season. I’m getting a little too old to take on new shows that do nothing with their characters of color. Plus Jane Lynch, the best thing about this show, only had one scene in last night’s episode and that’s just criminal. Modern Family: I DVRed this b/c it looked sorta funny, and it turned out to be hella funny. The best gay couple I have ever seen on television, non-cliche breeders, plus Al Bundy. I’m also in love with the chubby Latino kid. However, Gabby’s kids on Desperate Housewives are also chubby, so I’m a little concerned that ABC is trying to jump off a new kind of Latino typecast. Anyway, I highly recommend this show. Totally worth a watch. FlashForward: Well,...

Dear Thursday: On the Fringe of Subconscious

So on Monday night, I had the weirdest dream: Some kind of being came to me and showed me what my life would have been like if I had gone to New York instead of grad school and then LA and what my life would have been like if I had taken the full scholarship I was offered to attend J-school at the University of Missouri-Columbia. The details were hazy, but I met an artist in New York and we moved to New Mexico where we were living a humble but happy enough life with no kids and no pressure. And in the J-school timeline, I was working in London, having worked my way up from a writer to the executive producer. There was a BF in the periphial somewhere, but it was serious or passionate. I was extremely busy, but my work was very glamorous and I was fashion-industry thin with a wardrobe to match. The being asked me which life I would prefer, and I said, “Where’s Betty? Where’s my husband? Of course I want them.” Then I woke up. Spooky, right? And totally true. But what if I told you that the last thing I watched before going to bed was the season premiere of Fringe which tipped off what will probably be a season wide focus on an alternate reality? Aha! And the strange thing, is this isn’t even the first time Fringe has inspired a weird dream. It’s happened a few times before. In fact, I think Fringe might be my #1 weird-dream-inducing show. But how about you? Are there certain shows on TV that often worm their way into your dreams after you see them? Sound off in the...

Dear Thursday: Up, Up, and Away … Someday

This recently published picture of the Omega Centauri cluster taken by the refurbished Hubble scope reminded me of two things: 1. I need to make sure to hit observatories when I travel out of town. Living in a city with heavy light pollution is no fun for a star gazer. And… 2. I so want to see those stars for myself. And of course those two thoughts got me to wondering whether the dream of space travel for commoners is dead. Growing up, I had always hoped that I would get to travel to the moon during my lifetime. Now I’ve pretty much given up on that happening. Though we fund NASA with our tax dollars, they don’t even seem to have space travel for commoners on their radar. I keep hearing about these private companies that are supposedly working on space tourism, but I’ve been hearing about these companies for 15 years now and I’ve only seen millionaires go into space. At this point, I’m not only worried that I won’t get my much-dreamed-about space vacation, but that Betty won’t either — unless she grows up to be a billionaire, but I don’t want to pressure her. Maybe I’m just being impatient. Virgin Galatic says that their space flight program for almost-regulars ($200,000 to start, but they hope to eventually get it down to $20,000) might be ready as soon as June 2011. However, it’s hard to remain positive about that venture when as of this writing, I couldn’t get their website to load. But what do you think? Are we going into space sooner than later or are we destined to live our entires lives stuck in this cage on this...

Dear Thursday: Your Best Summer Fling

God, I’m glad that summer is over. The TV situation is usually bad during this time, but this summer it seemed particularly bad with no real seasons of Torchwood or Dr. Who to distract me. However, as always, there were a couple of summer gems. I’ve already talked about how I finally jumped on the So You Think You Can Dance bandwagon and how much I enjoyed Top Chef Masters. But I remain a scripted television devotee, so let’s stick with fiction for this post. ROYAL PAINS: I loved the show’s intriguing, if highly unbelieveable concept — a doctor’s heart of gold gets him in trouble with the NYC richies, so he inadvertently lands in the Hamptons to serve those richies at a premimum with his horndog-accountant brother as the CEO of his practice, and a super-hot Indian Physician’s Assistant. Light but engaging, this was the perfect summer fling. I like that this show doesn’t revolve around one quirky character like House and Psyche. I also love that the super-hot chyck has dimensions and not only an interesting, but also a complex screen-life. And of course, it helps that Howard Leder from “Belly of the Whale“ is part of their below-the-line staff, so obvs they have great taste in editors. I just hope they don’t eff it up by moving it to Fall or Spring. I hate that so many of the shows that become popular during the summer abandon us for the Fall and Spring and clog up my DVR when I have plenty of other stuff to watch. BEING HUMAN: So a werewolf, a vampire, and a ghost rent a flat together and … try to fit in. Talk about great concepts, Being Human has sci-fi, fantasy, laughs, and it’s on the...

Dear Thursday: Another Huge 32 Candles Announcement

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. Way short edition of Fierce and Nerdy today, b/c it’s the end of August, and a ton of our bloggers are on vacation, recovering from vacation, moving, gearing up for the Fall, etc, etc. So bear with us, b/c we’ll be right as rain in September. Speaking of Fall, I’ve been thinking of doing something a little new with my hair. Maybe braiding it at the side for a fauxish mohawk and I’ve also been thinking of putting some funky colors in it. I think I might be going through a bit of a hair crisis actually– What’s that you say? You don’t care about my hair? Get to the frickin’ announcement already? Oh well, if you insist — though I had about two more paragraphs worth of hair stuff that I could have discussed. Maybe some other day. Today I’ll just say that Miramax optioned the rights to 32 Candles. Here’s the Publisher’s Marketplace announcement: Ernessa T. Carter’s 32 CANDLES, […] to Miramax Films, in a nice deal, by Steve Fisher at APA on behalf of the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency. And go here to see the “Miramax hot for 32 Candles” announcement that’s running in Variety right now. It should be noted that we’ve asked them to make a correction about the last bit. Of course, “Molly Ringwald Ending” is not the name of this novel or any novel that I intend to write in the future. But other than that, I’m all sorts of thrilled about the deal and keeping my fingers crossed that the big-screen version actually does get made. Oh, and if you’re new to the blog go here for the novel’s back story. Meanwhile, I’ve received suggested...

Dear Thursday: The Art of Re-Run

One of the interesting things about having our nephew, Josh from “Future So Bright” spend the last month with us is seeing how his entertainment habits differ so very much from mine. While he was here, he rewatched television shows, movies, and even listened to the 7th Harry Potter tome (which he had already read twice) on audiobook while we roadtripped to Santa Fe and back. I, on the otherhand, have it as a general policy that I don’t re-watch or re-read anything no matter how much I like it. My official word on the matter is that there are too many good things in the world waiting to be watched and read. Why waste your precious time on the same stuff? Also, I think I might have been embittered about having been assigned Romeo & Juliet no less than 5 times during my academic career while having to seek out other brilliant works on my own time dime. Still, while Josh was here I did end up rewatching quite a few things, and I now have a new appreciation for movies like The Breakfast Club, Big Fish, and Ratatouille, which I maintained was the best Pixar film before his visit, but now that I’ve rewatched it two more times I super-feel that way . I don’t think I’ll be re-renting the 4th (and best) season of The Wire anytime soon, but m/b I’ll be a little more understanding when Betty decides to watch something I was okay with only seeing once like a thousand times as children are wont to do. Anyway this all got me to wondering about how you guys like your entertainment. Are you cool with the reheat, or do you prefer a new gourmet meal everytime like me? Let...

Dear Thursday: The Best of Summer (So Far)

This blog post by Clark Perry from clarkblog inspired to throw up my best of summer entertainment choices so far. Best Commercial Movie: Definitely Star Trek. What a lovely surprise, and thanks to Fringe and Lost, JJ Abrams is quickly becoming one of my favorite nerds in the industry. But as far as the Best Indie Movie I’ve seen this summer, I would have to suggest Moon. Great, original storyline, and soooo atmospheric. Also, much like March of the Penquins, it’s a summer movie that makes you feel colder just by watching it, so if it’s scorching where you are, definitely check this one  out. Click on the pic for the trailer. Best Album: I haven’t had a chance to explore as much new music as I’ve wanted to this summer. But I’m especially grateful to NPR for introducing me to Bat for Lashes the morning before I went into the hospital to have Betty induced. This wildly imaginative album kept me in good company during the contractions and turned out to be great writing music while I blogged. Click on the pic for a video. See my Best TV and Best DVD summer picks after the jump: Best TV: I’ve been watching A LOT of TV, so it’s hard to choose. I agree with Clark that Torchwood was hands down the best series of the summer, but at a mere 5 episodes, it was so short. Don’t hate but I think my favorite new summer discovery is “So You Think You Can Dance.” Yes, it’s cheesy, but as many visitors as we’ve had, I value it for being entertainment that everyone could agree on. And BT-dubs, I totally call Brandon to win it tonight, though I’m not so far gone that I actually...

Dear Thursday: Page to Screen

One of my abs favorite things to do is to hold off on seeing a movie until I’ve read or listened to the book that it’s based on. I’ve done this with so many books that it’s. Impossible to recount them all, but some of my most memorable read-then-watch moments include Circle of Friends, Children of Men, Twilight, and right now, Blindness. I like to read the book first, b/c in most cases the movie doesn’t compare — though I have been surprised in a few cases: Like Water For Chocolate was equally wonderful on page and screen, and I thought Children of Men way surmounted its source material In both depth and diversity. Blindness after a bit of a slow start is building up into an extremely resonant and thoughtful read. And though the movie got mixed reviews, I’m looking forward to watching it after I finish the book. But what about you? Are you a source material first reader or do you prefer to see the movie first? And either way, what have been your favorite page-to-screen transitions? Let us know in the...

Dear Thursday: London Theater vs. Here Theater

Photo Credit: Neha Viswanathan I’ve been telling people for years that the London theater scene is better than ours, and apparently Ken Davenport over at “Producer’s Perspective” agrees with me. Go here to see his full list, but here are three of my faves from his list: . 1.  STANDING OVATIONS ARE HARDER TO COME BY. . 3.  YOU CAN EAT AND DRINK ANYTHING IN THE THEATERS. . 7.  YOU CAN BUY ADVANCE DISCOUNT TICKETS AT TKTS. I would add to this list that London audiences skew way younger, and cheap tickets are much easier to come by. While I was over there the first time, I was able to see, Rent, Noises Off (way better in British, btw), and a Noel Coward play starring Alan Rickman for under $100. I wish theater over here was anywhere near as accessible to general audiences. Still, this won’t stop me from catching a show or two when I travel to NYC in September to meet up with my agent and editor. Any suggestions about what I should see?  Sadly, breastfeeding pretty much rules out the Fierce and Nerdy endorsed and booze-heavy Rock of...

Dear Thursday: Terrific Beach Reads

So, a few points about this NYT article re: Terrific Summer Reads, written by women. 1. I am so in agreement about non-romance books by women being ghettoized into either chick lit or women’s fiction, while John Updike, Philip Roth, Michael Chabon, et al, simply get to be literary fiction. It occurs to me that if a woman had written Chuck Palahniuk’s Diary (which had a somewhat mad female artist as its central character), then it would have been classified as women’s fiction and probably wouldn’t have been so well-received. 2. Yea, a book about 4 Smithies made the list! But ugh, my third novel revolves around 3 Smithies, and one Trojan (USC). But yea again, my characters are black, and the likelihood of my just-started novel coming out before 2012 is slim, so hopefully time and color will create a no-conflict barrier. We’ll see. Still I’m looking really forward to reading Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan. Oh yeah, and … Smithies REPRESENT! What-what!?!? 3. I wish, there was a more general list of good beach reads. I love women’s fiction, but I just finished reading, Life Sucks, a really great graphic novel that would have been an awesome beach read. But then again, my beach reads are usually a little heavier, b/c for whatever reason reading heavier stuff helps me to enjoy my sunny vacation more. That all caveated, here is my mixed list of Top 10 Awesome Beach Reads in no particular order. I’ve included genre specifications, but might I suggest going outside your usual genre for your next vacation read? Might be fun… Also if you guys have any suggestions for the great beach reads in any category, let us know in the comments. 1. Anything by Lisa Tucker (though Once...

Dear Thursday: Nice Girls Finish Last

So it looks like Archie finally chose between Betty and Veronica, and the winner of his (not-sure-why-it’s-desirable) hand in marriage: Veronica! I’m sure a lot of good-girl-next-door-types are crying into their good girl non-alcoholic drinks over this, but I for one think Archie made the right choice. As someone who has always walked the line between good-girl/bad-girl, I have to say that bad girls are often more interesting. So someone’s nice. What’s so great about being nice all of time? Interesting beats nice in 9 out of 10 taste test, in my opin. That’s why I tend to always be on the side of bad. I always felt sad for Skeletor when he couldn’t trump He-Man. I way more prefer Angelina Jolie to Jennifer Aniston, who comes off as nice-but-vapid to me. And I love that when I die, most of my friends and loved ones probably won’t sit around talking about how nice I am. I guess my problem with people who are agressively nice is that it renders them boring in many aspects. I mean if you’re too nice to argue or disagree or do anything that might offend, who are you really, except … nice. Seriously, what’s so great about nice? Wasn’t it Tolstoy who said “All nice girls resemble one another, each bad girl is bad in her own way” … or something like that. But maybe you disagree? Who do you think Archie should have chosen? Betty or Veronica? Meanwhile the Archie marriage issue will hit comic book stores this August, so mark your...

Dear Thursday: Summer TV

So summer is officially here — at least in TV Land, and I’m facing the same dilemma I face every summer: What to watch, what to watch? This is especially important this summer as I’ll be particularly housebound with a newborn. Sadly many of my past summer regulars are unavailable to me: Damages already bowed. And Weeds, Entourage, and other premium-channel fare has been sacrificed to budget cuts in the ETCH household. So the new plan is a bit of a triage. Netflix TV Series: Right now we’re watching the first season of True Blood. Next up the second season of Burn Notice., and then the third season of Eureka. After that… we don’t know yet. But if you have any suggestions for awesome TV on DVD watching, please let me know. New TV: Since many of my past summer favorites are unavailable to me this year, I’ve decided to give a bunch of new series a chance. So far I’ve decided that Fox’s House-lite series, Mental, completely sucks. But I’m excited to pass judgement on Royal Pains (a medical Robin Hood show, premiering June 4 on USA),  Jada Pinkett Smith’s no-nonsense head nurse series, Hawthorne (TNT, June 14), and the new sci-fi Bones rip-off, Warehouse 13 (SyFi, July 7th) Give Old TV a chance: Despite a less-than-stellar season last go-around and a horribly long, legally-induced hiatus, I’m giving Project Runway another chance. Hopefully Heidi and crew won’t disappoint. Also, after years of hearing other people go on and on about So You Think You Can Dance, I gave it a chance and was surprised to find it rather engaging and completely welcome — especially during summer drought. But what about you guys? How do you plan to get through the summer TV drought....

Dear Thursday: Baby’s First Sport

This is a cross post with Deep Into Sports Montage by Chris Darling Now here’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately as an expectant mother: should I enroll my child in a sport, and if so, how should I go about it? I still remember my first trip to the YMCA when I was seven-years-old. My mother took my sister Liz and me on an informal tour around the premises. And we observed the classes that they offered there every Saturday morning for kids: Swimming, T-Ball, Gymnastics, Racquetball, and Karate. She told us that we could choose whatever class that we wanted, and it seemed like a great treat. I chose swimming. And my sister chose swimming, because I chose swimming and she was in the habit of copying me exactly when we were children. Liz really took to swimming and is still quite a good swimmer today. I thought swimming was fun, but eventually went on to try gymnastics, which I really loved. Though I did give both racquetball and karate a chance before fully committing to gymnastics for the next five years of Saturdays. I was no Mary Lou Retton, but I was a physically fit kid, which is something you can’t take for granted these days. And this makes me want to give my unborn daughter the same chance I was given to take an interest in sports. I don’t think YMCAs offer the same variety of sports these days, so I’m not sure how to go about getting my daughter interested in sports. Should I do as my mother did and take her around to a bunch of different sports, even if they’re in different facilities? Also, should I encourage her towards a team sport, so that...

Dear Thursday: Hip-Hop, Do You Know Where You’re Going To?

Photo by Andrew Siguenza So as many of you know, I used to be a huge fan of hip-hop, and now I’m really … well not so much. I liked the last Kanye West album. I like a couple of the cuts off of the last Nas album. I thought the last Jay-Z album was a great piece of nostalgia. I don’t even listen to Nelly anymore. And the other day I asked my husband, “Do you think it would actually be physically possible for me to be anymore sick of ‘Blame It’ without being moved to create a felonous act just so I would never have to hear it again?” I still listen to other types of music, so I know it’s not a case of my ears no longer being open like a lot of people my age. Also, I work in Top 40, so I have the charts to back me up on this. The number of hip-hop songs in the Top 40 have been in steady decline for a few years now. It’s kind of like the anti-climatic end of a bad marriage — the conversation just gets sparser and sparser until the day that one of you just up and asks for a divorce. I haven’t asked hip-hop for a divorce yet, but let me tell you, I’ve been thinking about it. I wonder where are relationship is going. It’s gotten stale. Hip-hop no longer seems to want to try anything new, and it’s not even attempting to blow my mind. It just trots out the same tropes and stereotypes, no surpises to the point that I have to ask hip-hop, “Hey, when did you get so vanilla? Seriously, you might as well be Pat Boone, you’ve gotten that...