Thursday, November 18, 2010

Review: Sweet Valley Confidential

You'll notice that the picture used for this post isn't the usual plain cover image that I'd usually use for a book. I've taken a picture of my copy of Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later
because I think the level of security being put around preview copies of this book is just silly.

A refresher: Sweet Valley High was a mega book series targeted about Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, two gorgeous "perfect size six" 16 year old twins from the fictional town of Sweet Valley in Southern California. These books were packed with melodrama, romance and more melodrama.

I started reading Sweet Valley Twins, which were about the girls in middle school, while I was a tween and quickly jumped up to the high school series. I remember the first time I read a book in a day. I started with the latest Wakefield twins adventure on the beach, and finished as my mom was cooking dinner that night.

I could do that because these books aren't heavy. They were brain candy. I'd switch between Sweet Valley and Edgar Allen Poe. I do the same thing today, as evidence by the occasional Nora Roberts novel thrown in among whatever else I read and review here.

So I was jazzed to hear that a new Sweet Valley book was coming out, dropping in on the twins when they were 27.

A lot of women my age are excited for the series, too. Apparently the publisher thinks that so many are ravinous for this book, which will be published on March 29, 2010.

Look closely at the picture. You'll see the number 117 written in the top left hand corner. That's not part of the title. It was hand written onto the book in black marker. The number 117 was also written on the title page, the first page of the first chapter, and on the first page of the final chapters.

This is to prevent reviewers from selling copies on eBay. That's my guess.

I understand that there's a demand for this book, but...c'mon. It's not the next Harry Potter. It's the next installment of a silly melodrama.

I can't say too much about the actual book because of that assignment, though I will say that I wish they'd given this reboot a chance as another series instead of stuffing updates about every single Sweet Valley High classmate into one book. Part of me likes the twins better when they're stuck in the '80s. The "perfect size six" was taken out - I guess they didn't want to tackle the issue that they'd have to be "perfect size zeros" these days. A howl went up on the internet when all those "perfect size six" lines were changed to "perfect size four" in 2008 for new editions of the books.

Yes, there is a curiosity about the new book, but I don't think the book needs this level of security. But maybe I'm underestimating the rabidness of Sweet Valley fans.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Notes on Nora - and beyond

A few notes:

1. As promised, I picked up Nora Roberts' Happy Ever After after reading the Franzen book. It was OK. I think the series could have been a trilogy instead of a quartet but then I would have only bought three books, not four. I don't think it's worth a full post. What else could I say that I haven't already been said? Roberts is a juggernaut, and even if she writes brain candy, I like brain candy every now and again.

2. Speaking of juggernauts, I'm currently reading Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later. It's for an assignment for an inflight magazine. I can't even even tell you how many Sweet Valley books I read as a kid (I included one in my book a week series), so I'm excited about this. Apparently, the publisher thinks there's a huge demand for this preview copy as they've marked it up beyond belief to prevent reviewers from selling the galley. I'll write further when I finish reading the book.

3. I'm participating in National Novel Writing Month, where a bunch of loons try to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. The book I'm writing is utter crap, but it's a good exercise. I've been trying to get back into fiction writing, and being force to sit down and write almost every day is a good way to get back in the habit. Maybe. We'll see what comes out at the end of November.

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Review: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen


Took me for what felt like forever to review Jonathan Franzen's Freedom. It's "the" book of the fall - not only has Franzen been on EVERY NPR show promoting the book (yes, even Marketplace), but Oprah anointed it as part of her book club, which is odd given this fight they had about Franzen's last book, The Corrections.

I can see why Oprah made it a pick. The book is about one family, told from multiple points of view from every family member but the main couple's daughter. The narrative focuses around the mother, Patty, who grew up to liberal NY-based parents and escaped what she considered her odd family on a basketball scholarship to Minnesota. There she makes best friends with a manipulative elf of a woman, and is introduced to two men who will greatly affect the course of her life, from college through middle age.

It's a political book, too, with much of the narrative focused around a post 9/11 world and the Iraq war.

It's a good book, but I think I'm going to need to read it again in a few years. It's still not my favorite Franzen book - that would be How to Be Alone, which is a collection of superb essays.

I wish I had more to say, folks, but that's it for now. Is it bad that I'm excited for the cheesy romance novel I have up next? Well at least I admit it.

I'm also participating in Nanowrimo, which is a project where a whole bunch of crazy people set out to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. I'm about 15,000 words in. It's a lot of crud - and makes me understand why Franzen worked on this book for 10 years. This stuff's hard.

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