Wednesday, August 3, 2011


So...Tyra Banks wrote a YA novel. Which, of course, I totally expected to hate. And I kinda did. But I kinda didn't, either. I mean, I'm certainly not going to be recommending this one to every teenage girl I meet, but I'm also not going to be scowling and rolling my eyes in disgust if they choose to read it. Because it really is cheesy and the names are hi-frickin'-larious and the idea of a whole world that revolves around a "Next Top Model"-style competition is beyond ridiculous. But it's also full of Tyra's "Everyone is Beautiful" message and, in a day and age where girls have so many things stripping away their self-confidence, any book with an underlying message about loving yourself just as you are is super-welcome.

But, Oh My Gods, it is completely OTT. Let's start with the names. Our protagonist is called "Tookie" and I dare anyone to read this book and not keep thinking of "Tootie" from "Facts of Life". Tookie lives in "Metopia". Her sister is "Myrracle" and her mother is "Creamy". Their last name is de la Creme. The superest of the supermodels in this world are called Intoxibellas, which, to my way of thinking, makes them sound more poisonous than intoxicating, especially since their ruler is called the BellaDonna. The superestest of the Intoxibellas is called Ci~L (pronounced, as the book tells you, see-el). Tookie's friends are Dylan and Ross and (my favorite) Shiraz. Her "enemy" is "Zarpessa". And, really, it just gets more and more ridiculous.

And the's, uh, every year these Scouts fly down from the misty mountain on top of which sits Modelland and they hand-pick about a hundred girls from all over the world and you can only be picked if you are Walking and your chances of being picked are improved by 91% (still unsure about the significance of this particular number) if you get one of the seven SM-IZEs (kinda like Golden Tickets, only eye makeup) that are delivered to supposedly random girls via water and Tookie is friends with this apparently crazy homeless girl named Lizzie and everyone expects Tookie's sister Myrracle to get picked to go to Modelland, but Tookie gets picked instead. So, Tookie and her soon-to-be-besties are all picked even though none of them are traditionally beautiful and Tookie has to leave Lizzie behind and has all kinds of guilt because they were supposed to run away together and the four new BFFs get to Modelland and most of the really pretty girls are super-mean to these odd girls out, which, duh. (I say most because there are exceptions, as there have to be, unless beauty=evil, which would be totally un-Tyra.) And then this totally hot dude from Bestosterone (the male modelling academy) totes falls for Tookie and stuff and stuff and stuff and drama and oooooh, twist! (that isn't very twisty to anyone who reads much) and happy-ish girl-power-esque ending-like-thing that is really just a prelude to the next book aaaaand...Scene.

Look, it's not going to be nominated for the National Book Award or the Printz or anything, but it's not awful and it does have some decent, self-sufficient female characters and a good core message about self-esteem. And, mostly, the over the top cuh-ra-zee is highly, highly entertaining. Teen girls could certainly do a lot worse when picking out a book.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Love and Death

Mostly love, though. Three romances and a mystery and, tomorrow, pure cheese. (It's a celebrity novel and it's, shall we say, fierce.)

Carly Phillips's 'Serendipity' is the one I forgot the other day and that's not really a surprise. It's not a bad book, but it is fairly forgettable. It's a good choice if you want a nice, un-offensive contemporary with nice, un-offensive protagonists in a nice, small-town setting. It was, in a word, nice. Which certainly has its place, but isn't enough to make it stick in my mind.

Unlike 'A Night to Surrender' by Tessa Dare, which is proving hard to shake. This is one of those books with some absolutely amazing dialogue (I wish I had it in front of me so I could quote bits at you) and a hero and heroine worth rooting for not just as a couple, but as individuals. It's the first book in a series and I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment, not least because the hero and heroine of Book 2 promise to be very, very interesting to watch.

'A Trick of the Light' by Louise Penny is another outstanding installment in her Chief Inspector Gamache/Three Pines mystery series. I love this series because the characters are so rich--and they aren't above commenting on the proliferation of murder in the tiny Quebec village of Three Pines. Although each story can stand alone, I would advise starting this series from the first book, 'Still Life'. Watching these characters grow and change and hurt and heal is, for me, even more satisfying than the inevitable resolution of the central crimes. And, in spite of what I know about these characters (and Three Pines's astonishing crime rate), I still want to go live in their fictional village with their fictional selves.

And, finally, there's Tina Gabrielle's 'In the Barrister's Chambers', which I was really looking forward to reading because the hero is a counsel for the defense, which one doesn't often see in historical romances. And the plot and characters were quite good, but, somehow, the actual writing never quite sparked for me. There wasn't any fizz to the prose. And the couple of diversions into the mind of the villain were probably completely unnecessary. And maybe a little more doubt about the guilt of the accused would have helped. Huh. Well. I guess that was my problem. The romance worked for me, but the suspense plot surrounding it didn't.

Don't forget: Cheese tomorrow. Possibly of the kind that comes in a can. At the very least, plastic-wrapped American slices.