Friday, September 24, 2010

My take on the Franzen Flap of 2010

Forgive the lapse of posts recently, but I just had my second child and life's been, um, busy.  Hardly enough time to read, let alone write!  But I have been meaning for weeks now to weigh in on the fuss about Jonathan Franzen and his new book.

To recap, Jonathan Franzen published a new book this summer and landed not only 2 NYT book reviews but the cover of Time as well.  Then Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult got lots of press for protesting.

My take?  I am firmly on their side.  My reaction to seeing the cover, even before the #franzenfreude started, was "WTF, why does this dude get the cover of  Time??". 

I'm pretty tired of literary fiction by men getting all the attention.  Case in point: nearly every book blog I read this summer gushed about One Day by David Nicholls.  I got very tired of the pandering, and eventually angry, because I read it and HATED it.  I thought the characters, particularly the male protagonist, were downright unlikeable.  And other than a few comic scenes, the novel was dull, dull, dull - with a total cop-out of an ending.  But everyone else was giving him the blog equivalent of a blow job.

Frankly, One Day is a pale imitation of a women's fiction novel, written by a man.  It's a quasi-romance.  It tries to get into the characters' heads.  And in my opinion failed miserably.  (I'll be honest - I'm not a big fan of Nick Hornby, either.)

And you know damn well that if One Day had been written by a woman... it would NEVER have gotten so much attention.  I think that's what makes me the maddest.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

More writing...

Just signed the contract for my 3rd nonfiction book about Women's Fiction! Will be part of the Genreflecting Series.   Due out Fall/Winter 2011.  Also just submitted the Women's Lives and Relationships chapter to the forthcoming next edition of Genreflecting, and got my finished copy of Integrated Advisory Service: Breaking Through the Book Boundary to Better Serve Library Users ,where I contributed to the Women's Stories section.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson

Loved this book.
I'm a big fan of Joshilyn Jackson in general, after being wowed by her first novel, Gods in Alabama

I've also blogged about her at Booklist.

Backseat Saints is the story of Ro, an abused wife who finally makes a break for it.  What's really interesting is that the character that Jackson has created  does not seem at all to be the type of woman who would put up with abuse.  She's really headstrong, witty, and you get the feeling she could bust anyone's balls at a moment's notice (at least, before she got married, she was strong).  She also happens to be in love with her hateful husband, despite the abuse.  When a psychic tells her that she's going to die at his hand unless she kills him first, she finally lets the "old" Rose Mae out.

Funny, smart, and fast paced, I enjoyed this story for the characters as well as the tight plot.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Jennifer Weiner will be with us for a while!

Yay, today Jennifer Weiner just signed a contract for 4 more books with her publisher, Atria Books.
She's one of my favorites, so I'm very happy about this news!

Courtesy of Galley Cat:

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff

After reading a lot of CRAP women's novels in the last year or so, I was delighted to finally get some good stuff this year (be sure to see my posts about Katherine Center and Allison Winn Scotch for examples of the good stuff!)

As you know, I do a Summer Beach Reads Roundup for Library Journal. This year, there was a book that I enjoyed so much, I asked my editor to please let it run as a separate review instead of the shorter reviews that get into the article.

Isabel Wolff's A Vintage Affair has totally renewed my faith in women's fiction (British women's fic to be specific!) I've read several of her chick lit novels before, but they were from the early 2000s - to be honest I hadn't even realized she was still writing. Turns out, she just hasn't been published in the US for a while. Thanks, Bantam, for bringing her back to us!

Wolff, Isabel. A Vintage Affair. Bantam. Jul. 2010. c.257p. ISBN 978-0-553-80783-7.

Vintage clothing lover Phoebe opens her own resale boutique in London's Blackheath neighborhood, meeting much success. She's grateful for the hustle and bustle the shop provides, because it lets her forget her guilt over the death of her best childhood friend, not to mention that she just left her fiancĂ© at the altar. When the elderly Mrs. Bell contracts with Phoebe to sell her entire wardrobe, Phoebe finds herself reeled in by the story of Mrs. Bell's childhood friend, thought lost in the horrors of the Holocaust. Additionally, our heroine's got not one but two new suitors keeping her on her toes. Sounds like a lot, but Wolff manages to keep every story line interesting and on track, including plenty of fashion talk. VERDICT:  Fans of British chick lit, rejoice! (And readers who aren't already fans, prepare to become such.) With a wide cast of realistic, wonderfully drawn characters, a deft blending of the past with the present, and a seemingly effortless managing of several plots at once, this charming novel by the author of Behaving Badly and The Trials of Tiffany Trott deserves a place in all popular fiction collections.

Review from the May 1, 2010 issue of Library Journal. Copyright 2010 Library Journal/Rebecca Vnuk.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Katherine Center and Allison Winn Scotch

Recently, I had the privilege of "meeting" 2 authors I really like, Allison Winn Scotch and Katherine Center, via Twitter of all things! Ah, the power of the internets. It all came about like this - I did a program at the PLA national conference this year, my portion was on Women's Fiction (surprise!). I mentioned Scotch and Center as 2 of my top picks for up-and-coming WF authors (although, now that they each have 3 books under their belts, they've arrived, really). Library Journal picked up the program to blog about, Center got notification of it via Google Alerts, tweeted the program, sent it to Scotch, and voila, the next thing I knew I'm following them, they're following me, and boom, internet friendship blossoms. : )

Anyway, over on the Booklist blog that I contribute to, I've started talking about good WF picks for book clubs, and, have featured both of these stellar authors. I was lucky enough to snag a review copy of Scotch's upcoming novel and got my hold in early at the library for Center's latest, so here are condensed blurbs about them. Head over to the Booklist postings about Scotch and Center to read more about them. Enjoy!

Katherine Center: Full post here. "Center’s newest, Get Lucky, was just published this month in trade paperback, so even though it’s new it won’t be a hassle to obtain for groups. Sarah, an ad exec, is fired from her job when she forwards an inappropriate email to her entire firm. She decides to leave the rat race of New York to stay with her sister in Houston for a while. Her sister, Mackie, has been trying unsuccessfully to have a baby. Sarah decides that what the heck, she’s not working anyway, she’ll be the surrogate! While of course, wackiness ensues… this is also a story with real heart and depth."

Allison Winn Scotch: Full post here.
"Her latest book, The One That I Want (due out in June 2010) has the same sense of whimsical fantasy - only this time instead of going back in time, we get to take a look forward. Tilly actually loves her seemingly perfect life, until she realizes it’s not so perfect after all. When her husband leaves her to follow his basketball-coaching bliss, Tilly stumbles through life until a psychic pal grants her the gift of clarity - the ability to flash forward into the future and see where life is going to take her. Again, Scotch handles a whimsical premise that could be downright silly in another writer’s hands and manages to make it sound perfectly reasonable and possible. Her down to earth characters and snappy sense of humor are a real treat, and readers will enjoy discussing Tilly’s fate."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Recent Salon article on women's fiction: Women's Fiction: All Misery and Martinis?

"As Rebecca Traister wrote in 2005, 'Beating on 'women's' fiction -- and dismissing certain literary trends as feminine rubbish -- has a history as long as the popular fiction itself.'"

The article also goes on to define a big issue with women's fiction, which is that it's a very vague definition, and no one seems to know who gets to decide (publishers? readers? authors?) what ends up tagged as WF or not.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Beach Reads... Summer will be here before you know it!

The upcoming issue of Library Journal (May 1, 2010) has my latest Beach Reads roundup:

Would like to point out that I would also add to the list 2 more books I just finished (not in the article, but they were positively reviewed in LJ by others. I'll be posting my own reviews here this week sometime) -
Allison Winn Scotch's The One That I Want (due out in June); and Kathleen Center's Get Lucky (out now).  I'm  also really looking forward to Jennifer Weiner's Fly Away Home, which is due out in July, but from what I gather from following Weiner (OK, OK, stalking, LOL) on Facebook, she's in the final edit stages, so there isn't an ARC available yet... I'm hoping my editor at LJ gets her hands on it and sends it my way when it needs to be reviewed!

And I simply LOVED Isabel Wolff's A Vintage Affair (due out in June).  It came to me as part of the article, but I liked it so much I asked LJ to run a separate, starred review of it so it wouldn't get lost in the roundup. Will post the review once it's published!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Well, hello there! And mind if I brag?

Well!  It’s been way too long since I’ve posted, but let me take a moment to tell you why!  I recently published an article on Readers Advisory for Public Libraries magazine,  titled "Jack of All Trades Reader's Advisory" for the Jan/Feb 2010 issue.  When it’s available online, I’ll post the link here.

I also have this year's women's fiction  "beach reads" roundup coming out soon for Library Journal... should be the May or June 1st issue, I think.  Will certainly post the link when it's available.  Here's the link for 2008's list (I didn't write this one, but it's still fab!), and the 2006 roundup.

I’ve done several presentations in the last month, Feel the Need to Weed for the Illinois State Library’s On the Front Lines conference, and Books:  The Top 5 of the Top 5 for the national Public Library Association conference.

And, I’ve snagged 2 kudos this year.  I am the 2010 recipient of PLA’s Allie Beth Martin Award, as well as named one of Library Journal’s 2010 Movers and Shakers

So you can see, some of this has kept me from posting on this blog!  I plan on being able to post at least weekly in the coming months – we'll see!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Article that started it all...

Here's a link to the chick lit article I wrote for Library Journal back in 2005, which was my entryway to becoming a library expert on women's fiction (editors at Libraries Unlimited had come across my article and that led them to asking me to write the 2 books for them!)

Hip Lit for Hip Chicks

Older titles, but still relevant info.

"Chick lit offers fun, entertaining reading—don't go looking for timeless prose, philosophical musings, or unpredictable plots here!—but that does not completely explain its allure. The genre's aim of eliciting a response of "I'm exactly like that" or "That just happened to me!" has really struck a chord with women in their twenties and thirties who want to be reassured that they are not alone in screwing up their lives—or that screwing up doesn't preclude a happy ending."  Read More...