Monthly Archives: June 2010

Where Has All the Chick Lit Gone?

Yesterday  Lit Snit posted this really insightful  “Discussion – Where Has All the Chick Lit Gone?”,

Erin writes in her post: “Chick lit was everywhere. What happened?  Sure, there’s still some out there, but the good stuff (in my opinion) is harder to find, and the pickings are slim.”… “Are we supposed to believe that women can’t write fun, smart novels without talking about shoes and shopping?”

Then I found this post on AustenProse (I love this blog), Laurel Ann writes:

“The conversation came around to her shocking statement that chick-lit was dead, how the recession had killed it and the affect on her and many of her fellow authors in the genre. Inwardly, I felt embarrassed. I should know this. I’m a professional book seller. It then dawned me that our new release tables were sorely lacking in the tell-tale shocking pink covers that personified the genre”

“Honestly, I do not think chick-lit is dead. It’s just had a make-over. Now its heroines don’t just shop for shoes and have sex, they have a social conscience while they’re doing it.”

Where has all the Chick Lit  gone indeed? Is chick-lit really dead?

I started reading chick lit in my early twenties, the first chick lit I ever read was “Can you keep a secret?” by Sophie Kinsella, it was love at first page, I was thrilled on my discovery.

Now I am almost 29 and I feel a bit disappointed in a genre that used to be my favorite but right now doesn’t represent me.  I don’t want to read about marriage, divorce, children, illness…but neither I like writers like Louise Bagshawe or Jackie Collins, all that glitter blinds me.

I share an apartment with other four people, my only possess is my third-hand bicycle, I have a job but I feel like I’m not going anywhere, I go out on friday night and come back on saturday morning…I  am still very much a girl, this is probably why I relate so well to everything that comes with “ya” attached and I am sure I am not alone.

Given a choice I prefer to read about an 18 years old girl rather than a thirty-something woman, an 18 years old girl is not obsessed by a career, she doesn’t worry about her biological clock ticking, she doesn’t have a mortgage and neither  do I.

I don’t regard myself as a particular shallow person, I had my share of pain  in life but I don’t particularly enjoy reading about it, I guess what I am trying to say is that even if I had a mortgage or my biological clock was ticking I wouldn’t want to read about those things.

Chick-lit is not dead but it definitely had a make-over, problem is I haven’t changed that much in the last ten years, should I be worried about myself then?…what can I say? I am not.

I haven’t given up completely on the genre, last year I read three brilliant chick lit:

* Slacker Girl by Koslow Alexandra
* Calendar Girl by Neale Naomi
* If Andy Warhol had a girlfriend by Pace Alison

and there is at least one writer out there who I am sure understands how I feel, her name is Meg Cabot.

I’ve never been into urban fantasy but I am currently reading the The Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews and I am really enjoying myself:

Magic Strikes

“When one door closes, another opens”! (I would rather keep all doors open)

Em

2-Tone inspirations

Something great happened this weekend: I WENT TO SEE THE SPECIALS!

I love ska music, I love  the sound, the energy and there is nothing like a ska live performance to make me realize that  being part of a jumping crowd is all I need to charge my batteries.

For those of you who are not really into ska music let me introduce The Specials aka british ska legends.

The Specials were part of the late 70′s ska revival but the music they made  was also  influenced by punk (they shared The Clash’s management, and Strummer was a big fan). They only reformed in 2009 after two decades apart, here it’s the New York Times’ article about their reunion.

Listen this song,  “A message to Rudy”, and tell me if you can stay still:

There are so many covers that we don’t even realize how much their music is in the air and I love them all:

here it’s the one from my favorite cover band Nouvelle Vague “Friday Night, Saturday Morning” (I go out on Friday night and I come home on Saturday morning/I like to venture into town/I like to get a few drinks down/The floor gets packed the bar gets full I don’t like life when things get dull):

and also we have:

Amy Winehouse ,  “Hey Little Rich Girl

Kasabian, “Too much too young”

No Doubt, “Guns of Navarone

Lily Allen, “Blank expressions”

The Prodigy, “Ghost Town

Reel Big Fish, “Monkey Man

Hope you like them

Em

Looking for romance: HELP

It’s been a while since I read a great contemporary romance (not historical, not urban-fantasy) and I would like some advice because lately I have been really unlucky.

What would you recommend considering that:

• I don’t like Susan Elizabeth Phillips;

• I have mixed feelings for Lisa Kleypas;

• My favorite contemporary romance novels are: Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie, Practice Makes perfect by Julie James and Body Check by Deirdre Martin;

• I like when there is an opposites-attract theme (any kind of fight would do).  I have a thing for lawyers or maybe I watched too many episodes of Ally McBeal and Boston Legal;

• I like when the heroine is smart, financially independent, a girl with an attitude;

• I would prefer if the hero wasn’t an FBI agent, I don’t mind millionaires but reformed bad boys are not really my thing. I don’t mind bad guys as far as they are not reformed;

• I would prefer if there were no children involved;

• I like a surprise and there are always exception to my rules ;

Any recommendation? Is there a book you recently rated “10/10″ “A” “*****” ?

Thanks

Em

Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block

Yesterday I attended the gay pride in Dublin, Oh Boy It was great fun, a huge party!

gay flag

The book that it’s on my mind right now it’s Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block, this novel was originally  published in 1989 and it’s the first in the Dangerous Angels series (there are four more books in this series).

Weetzie Bat describes gay marriage, children out of wedlock, abortion, common-law marriage and the AIDS epidemic, the story is set in an almost dream-like version of Los Angeles, referred to as Shangri-L.A., in an indefinite time period.

Weetzie is a bleach blonde punk pixie who is looking for love, she becomes BFF with Dirk and sort of falls in love with him, Dirk is gay, owns a black mohawk and a sweet red 55 Pontiac named Jimmy.

When Dirk’s grandma dies leaving him her bungalow in Hollywood , Weetzie and Dirk start living together while they keep looking for their perfect ducks until they find them. Weetzie falls in love with a movie maker,My Secret Agent Lover Man, Dirk falls in love with Duck.
“Any love that is love is right” A new family is born.

The story is all funky details and pop culture, it’s glamorous and surreal, it’s an urban fairytale that made me smile and gave me a mild headache, interesting because of its very peculiar style and also because it deals with controversial  issues:

* deception & forgiveness: Weetzie wants a baby but  My Secret Agent Lover Man doesn’t want one, I must admit that the way Weetzie deceits her lover really bothered me and I found her character less likeable precisely because of her behaviour on the matter;

* definition of family: Weetzie’s traditional family is broken, her parents’ divorce caused her pain and unhappiness, above everything else Weetzie is looking for happiness and you can only be happy if you are surrounded by love, when Weetzie’s time comes she creates a “non conventional” family that proves to work better than her traditional one;

* homosexuality;

* death and disease (aids);

* drugs and substance abuse;

As charming as this short, fast-paced story is I would put a “handle with care” disclaimer on the cover, what I mean is that it requires some post-debate because it deals with a crucial concept such as the definition of family itself.

Family it’s not only about personal choices but it’s about making choices that will necessarily affect other people life, either wholeheartedly agree or wholeheartedly disagree with Weetzie Bat would be wrong from a reader’s prospective, you might reach a full agreement or disagreement but stop and THINK ABOUT IT.

The Soundtrack (chosen by Francesca Lia Block):

X – Los Angeles
Ladies of the Canyon – Joni Mitchell
Iggy Pop – Lust for Life
Winter – Tori Amos
Wild World – Cat Stevens
Dancing Barefoot – Patti Smith
Free Falling – Tom Petty
Electricity – OMD
Wild Thing – The Troggs
Real Wild One – Iggy Pop
Secret Agent Man – Agent Orange
I want your hands on me – Sinead O Connor
Emperor’s New Clothes – sinead O’ Connor
Thank you – Alanis Morisette
Breathe me – Sia
Think pink – the fabulous poodles

My grade: 4/5

Em

Personal YA anecdote. What about your experience?

As some of you know I am Italian (although I have lived abroad for almost six-years)… how does the school system work in Italy?

3-5:  we are in kindergarten, 6-10:  we attend primary school, 11-13:  we are in middle-school, 14-18:  we attend high school and then off we go into university.

Differently from other countries we rarely attend private schools (mainly managed by catholic institutions).

Public schools are free which is great but our country is always in financial trouble and this has some practical implications like leaking roofs, lack of facilities and more serious issues…yet part of the available money are given to private schools.

Families that send their kids into private schools  pay taxes (lots of taxes like everybody else) so some people claim it’s fair to give them some money back , other people believe it’s their own business as their kids would be welcome into the public system (if they prefer  a private system they  should  pay for it).

What’s more important: the value of freedom or the duty to give everybody an education?

It’s an open debate but if we start encouraging a private system  there will be no turning back, I understand both views but I proactively support a  “public free education “  as I value equality more than freedom.

Every year lots of students make a point of protesting  against the government and this new trend that encourages private education (among other things), protests started many years ago , what happens is called “occupation” meaning taking control of the school (sometimes students sleep in the building)  for one week or so and stop academic activities:

students

assembly

I won’t go into a discussion about the ethics of the whole operation (is it fair that a majority of students take control of the entire  school? What about the minority that would rather take regular lessons?  Did this approach bring some improvements in our school system?).

My freshman year, I was 14 years old,  there was an “occupation” in my school: an unforgettable experience!

Older students organized a schedule with classes on  sexual education (that’s right an 18 years old boy was briefing us on sex and contraception), drugs & liberalization of drugs , immigration & politics.

I was attending “politics” and the guy who was hosting the meeting was raging against private schools with a superficial obnoxious attitude , I thought “I can’t take more of this crap” and without realizing what I was doing I raised my hand and found thirty pairs of eyes on me.

I sucked at public speaking (I still do) my face turned  deep crimson as  I bravely stood up and argued my point with   this 17 years-old guy, obnoxious yeah  but  way more popular than I was.

What I didn’t know is that another boy sitting in that room was really impressed by my speech and  developed a little crush on me or so he claims.

In retrospective this is how everything started.

This is as close as my life ever got to a YA novel…what about your experience?

Em

The blue sword by Robin Mckinley

I have never heard of Robin McKinley before Angie (here it’s her post on  Books we Love) and Chachic recommended it on their blogs (they  literally wrote declarations of love) McKinley is not as popular here as she is elsewhere and it took me a while to get hold of this book.

I loved, loved, loved The Blue Sword, a few months ago I was in Syria and while reading I kept thinking about places I have seen, a perfect landscape for this story:

Krak des Chevaliers

McKinley’s descriptions are so vivid that they become real on the page, it’s the weirdest experience when you leave reality and join fantasyland.

From Goodreads:

Harry Crewe is an orphan girl who comes to live in Damar, the desert country shared by the Homelanders and the secretive, magical Hillfolk. Her life is quiet and ordinary-until the night she is kidnapped by Corlath, the Hillfolk King, who takes her deep into the desert. She does not know the Hillfolk language; she does not know why she has been chosen. But Corlath does. Harry is to be trained in the arts of war until she is a match for any of his men. Does she have the courage to accept her true fate?

This is the kind of story that requires a responsive reader, willing to take a leap and join Harry’s  world. I must admit that I was a bit worried in the first two chapters but then the adventure began and I couldn’t rest until The End.

McKinley is a master at linking together magic, history, mythology , it’s a whole alchemy that works perfectly.

Harry Crewe is a young woman who feels that something is missing from her life, she is craving adventure, she doesn’t completely fit it in the society she belongs to.

Harry is brave, resourceful,  not only does she get to know the Hillfolk, she finds herself in a society where women can be warrior and is chosen as a king’s rider. I can picture Harry on screen so I am wondering if there is a movie based on this, is there?

And then there is Corlath…how not to fall in love with Corlath? Harry gets kidnapped by Corlath (which in normal circumstances would bother me) but since the beginning we understand that he is a king who is carrying the weight of magic  on his shoulders and he didn’t have much choice in the matter.

I love that at the beginning there is no hint of a possible relationship between Harry and Corlath, it’s an emotional relationship that slowly develops over time  as they get to know and respect each other.

And there is more to consider:  a message of tolerance between different cultures  that underlines the narration.

When she first joins the Hillfolk Harry has some difficulties at adapting but she never regards herself as superior, as she adjusts to their habits  she also starts caring for her new people without forgetting or neglecting the good of her own homelanders.

In the end Harry becomes an inspiration to the Hillfolk, who have longed for a female hero since the time of Aerin, and  finds her place in the world.

There is a subtle difference between a story where the hero/heroine joins the native and turns against its own kind and one where there is a true message of dialogue, establishing a bridge between two worlds that not necessarily respect each other.

I like that McKinley takes the subtle way.

My only regret is that I should have read this book when I was 14 because I would have loved it even more.

My grade: 5/5

Em

Secret Society Girl (Secret Society Girl 1)by Diana Peterfreund

I hereby confess I was expecting Secret Society Girl (Secret Society Girl) to be good but not so freakishly good,   here I am desperately waiting for Secret Society Girl 2 – Under the Rose to be shipped at my door (carefully avoiding spoilers).

secret-society-girlFrom Goodreads:

Secret Society Girl takes us into the heart of the Ivy League’s ultraecxlusive secret societies when a young woman is invited to join as one of their first female members.
Elite Eli University junior Amy Haskel never expected to be tapped into Rose & Grave, the country’s most powerful—and notorious—secret society. She isn’t rich, politically connected, or…well, male.
So when Amy receives the distinctive black-lined invitation with the Rose & Grave seal, she’s blown away. Could they really mean her?

I know nothing of secret societies or Ivy League Us colleges and I found the whole secret societies’ rituals a bit absurd but Diana  Peterfreund could have written about everything and it would have worked for me.

This is a story with zero paranormal activity and yet there is mystery.

It’s that kind of YA that it’s perfect for a twenty something,  we have a smart heroine like Amy Haskel who is obviously over some of the typical young teen issues  (I can’t take no more whining), an intelligent high-achiever girl who values friendship and struggles over making the right choice when it comes to friendship, love & secret societies (of course).

Amy is one of the smartest, most compelling heroine I ever came across to.

What does Amy have to deal with?

* War and Peace by Tolstoy (a book I actually loved but Amy is not really into russian literature);

* being tapped by the oldest, most powerful secret society in the world and then being almost discarded by the previously mentioned society based on the crime of  being a girl;

* getting on with her life  in a college where ambition is the new black;

* old friends and new friends aka Lydia and hottie Malcolm Cabot:

“I looked up to see Malcolm Cabot standing over my table. A senior, a popular party boy, and the son of a state governor, Malcolm Cabot and I didn‘t run in the same social circles. My friends stocked up on popcorn and had Sex and the City marathons, while his crowd liked to drive down to ―The City for marathon sex weekends”

* new enemies like Poe:

“I‘m sorry, the jerk said. His head was bowed as if in contrition, but the position just made him look like he was doing that evil looking-at-me-through-his-eyebrows thing so popular on horror movie posters. ―Can we start again? He stuck out his hand. ―I‘m Poe”

* her more-than-a-friendship-not-yet-a-relationship with Brandon:

“one of those true geniuses that dotted the campus population, the kind that could compose concertos on breaks from discovering the cure for cancer. His raison d‘être was applied math, but he spared enough time to fit in his knack for writing appallingly good short stories, and to compete with me for magazine editorships (I‘d only just barely beat him out for this one). No scrambling for internships or resume stuffers for Brandon. He just went around being quietly brilliant, unapologetically dorky, and universally well liked” (isn’t this whole paragraph brilliant?)

a guy who is a dream but I have that well know feeling that yeah Brandon is perfect but lacks that certain something (I hate that feeling, it always brings troubles);

* George Harrison Prescott, a very attractive guy Amy should really stay away from:

“George Harrison Prescott was not only the most beautiful man in my class in Prescott College (and no, that‘s not a coincidence about the names), he was also a Player with a capital ―P”

Diana Peterfreund’s writing reminds me of Megan McCafferty (there is no Marcus Flutie but one of those boys is bound to have a special place in Amy’s heart, I second Brandon but he sounds a bit too safe).

A second opinion:

The Book Smugglers (this review it’s awesome)

Me and My Books

My grade: 4/5

Em

The Beatles in my life aka crash course in happiness

Yesterday I won a wonderful contest on the Book Binge : a Copy of The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg (see review and contest here).

What was this contest about? The Beatles !

What’s so great about this contest? Comments that bloggers came up with:

http://jmartinlibrarian.wordpress.com/2010/06/09/win-a-copy-of-the-lonely-hearts-club-by-elizabeth-eulberg/

I love the Beatles (and I would like to post a picture of me in Abbey Road here but I can’t find it) and the way their lyrics influenced our culture, this is one of my favorite reference because it’s so true (and Levithan is a genius):

“First single. Fucking brilliant. Perhaps the most fucking brilliant song ever written. Because they nailed it. That’s what everyone wants. Not 24-7 hot wet sex. Not a marriage that lasts a hundred years. Not a Porsche or a blow job or a million-dollar crib. No. They wanna hold your hand. They have such a feeling that they can’t hide. Every single successful love song of the past fifty years can be traced back to ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand.’ And every single successful love story has those unbearable and unbearably exciting moments of hand-holding. Trust me. I’ve thought a lot about this”

About “I wanna hold your hand” by The Beatles” — David Levithan (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist)

Can you think of other great Beatles’ references or books somehow influenced by their music?

The thing about this band is that their songs put me in a good mood, some lyrics might be cheesy but they make me feel happy.

The Beatles in my life aka crash course in happiness:

All you need is love: All you need is love, love/ Love is all you need

I want to hold your hand: And when I touch you i feel happy, inside/It´s such a feeling/That my love/I can’t hide

Let it be: Let it be, let it be/Let it be, yeah, let it be/Whisper words of wisdom/Let it be/

A little help from my friends: No, I get by with a little help from my friends/Mm, I get high with a little help from my friends/Mm,Gonna try with a little help from my friends

We can work it out: Life is very short, and there’s no time/For fussing and fighting, my friend./I have always thought that it’s a crime,/So I will ask you once again.

Hey Jude: And anytime you feel the pain, hey Jude, refrain,/Don’t carry the world upon your shoulders./
For well you know that it’s a fool who plays it cool/By making his world a little colder.

Em

Stylish and Versatile! Blogger awards (PART II)

Last but not least I got a Versatile award from The Literary Lollipop, a big thank u to Lit Lollipop for passing this on to me …books are sweet, they really are.

versatilebloggeraward

Here are the rules:

  • Thank the person who gave you this award
  • Share 7 things about yourself
  • Pass the award on to people who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic for whatever reason (…in no particular order)!
  • Contact those you have chosen to receive the award.

Seven random but versatile things about myself:

1. I can’t speak french but I would love to

2. The best female singer I discovered in 2009 is Florence and The Machine (I have a little girl crush on her)

3. Japan: the country I would like to get to know better

4. Dylan Moran rules

5. There was a time in my life in which I could almost speak latin but then I picked up economics and I am still wondering what possessed me to do so (I should have sticked with the classics)

6. I am a really good swimmer ( between 7 and 17 years old I was swimming competitively)

7. After a trip to India I turned into an almost vegetarian (I eat fish)

A selection of Blogs that deserve this award (there are many out there):

La Vie Boston (check out her 10 Things I love Tuesday)

Alita Reads (great mix of reviews and playlists)

Book, Line and Sinker (Natalie talks about this and that, mainly books and I love her blog)

Stylish and Versatile! Blogger awards

In the last two weeks I was given two wonderful blogger awards, it’s always a surprise and I am very grateful.

First up we have the stylish  blogger award (thanks to Katie at Book Love!), rules:

1. List 5 random things about yourself
2. Share the award with 5 other bloggers
3. Link to each of the recipients and let them know they’ve won via comments on their blogs
4. Thank and bring the love back to the person you won the award from by linking back to her (or him!)
stilysh award

5 random but stylish things about myself:

1. I have never shaped my eyebrows and I never will, this is a decision I made  years ago after reading an interview by french actress Catherine Deneuve (pretty random but it’s the true story of my adversity towards tweezers);
2. If I had to name a favorite brand I would choose petit bateau, I buy almost all my panties and t-shirts from there (not exactly sexy but it’s very me);
3.I am currently reading What I Was by Meg Rosoff and it has one of the prettiest cover I’ve ever seen (I had to take a few pics):
What I was by Meg Rosoff
4. I believe in Apartment Therapy
5. Paradise Kiss is the most stylish anime out there

The stylish award goes to bloggers that write about books and do it with style:

Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia (it’s all a matter of personality and  celi.a has lots)
Belching Words (there are all kind of cute things in here and Lex likes Nodame Cantabile )
The Infinite Shelf (make sure to check her comics)
The Crooked Shelf (those posts really have style)
Write Meg! (I adore everything that happens on this blog)

Enjoy