Such A Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster
A tribute to Jen Lancaster.
Friday, May 30, 2008
Such A Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster
A tribute to Jen Lancaster.
Not featured is Bravo TV, Olive Garden Breadsticks, expensive purses and German cars.
Jen Lancaster, the popular blogger of Jennsylvania, has- hold the applause- written another book. This ones rounds out the troika of memoirs under her belt. Such a Pretty Fat is the latest. It's about Jen's discovery that, despite having a nice hair and a good tan, her health may be in danger if she doesn't lose a few pounds. Jen's wit can be subtle and I had to read a few passages twice, thinking, did she mean what I think she meant...? The answer was usually yes.
I can totally identify with Jen from her love of Olive Garden breadsticks to songs on her ipod play list to shows on Bravo to my favorite, the "HHT credo." The HHT basically means you can't be held responsible for actions while feeling Hot, Hungry, Tired. I've adhered to that one for years. She puts into words what we think and feel. What makes Jen so popular is that we can ALL relate to cringing at the thought of a mind numbing working out vs. taking a nap. Wouldn't you rather eat something buttery and delicious than hop aboard the treadmill? I laughed out loud so many times that I wanted to pick up the phone to call her and say, "YES, ME TOO!"
Peppered with Jen's trademark snark and wit, Such a Pretty Fat is a quick read. I can't believe Jen toiled away for years being an office temp because she is such a talented writer, a wordsmith if you will. Words flow, incidents are described in a way that you will bust out in a guffaw. She is vain and self centered but so endearing that you want to be her friend which is why she is so well liked. If you want to grab your pink Crocs, your Izod shirt and a strand of pearls to see her live, click here because she and her Chardonnay might be headed to a city near you. Want to buy Such a Pretty Fat? Here's the Amazon link.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella
Twenty-eight-year-old Lexi wakes up in the hospital and can't remember how she got there. Her confusion worsens when the nurse tells her she wrecked her Mercedes the night before – because she'd never gotten her driver's license. Or owned a car, for that matter. Lexi soon discovers that she suffered a head injury in the accident, and the injury caused amnesia. She's lost the past three years of her life and can't figure out how she went from a 25-year-old struggling sales girl to a 28-year-old successful, married businesswoman.
Sophie Kinsella's novels, like the Shopaholic series, always mix an adorable main character with a funny plot. Though the amnesia storyline is somewhat predictable, the novel is hilarious and charming. It's the perfect summer read! ---Maggie Marton
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Ads and BlogAds Needed!
If you read this site and have a book or product or service you would like to market or advertise, please place an ad through Blog Ads or directly through me (firstname.lastname@example.org) Rates are inexpensive and you will be seen by a thousand viewers per day from around the world. I've gotten hits from places like the Middle East and Australia. Amazing that my words reach so far!
I need an income to keep this site going, after all who works for free? In addition, if you are an aspiring writer and need help with your query and synopsis, I will help revise for a small price.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Gorgeously Green by Sophie Uliano
When my husband came home with energy saving light bulbs a few years ago, my friend laughed because she thought he was cheap. Who’s laughing now? One of the easiest no brainer things to do to save energy is to switch out the light bulbs. What began as a way to save on our energy bill became a very popular way to conserve energy. My kids know not to let water run while they brush their teeth and to not waste anything. We all recycle and have been doing so for years. I think I'm on the right path to becoming “green”.
Sophie seems like a fun person, a gentle spirit and a kind soul. I hope to meet her someday, after all, with both have daughters named Lola, (my girl is a Great Dane) live in Southern California, love beauty products and yoga. Seriously, what better basis for friendship? Gorgeously Green has a permanent place on my bookshelf and I plan to refer back to it again and again. I can't want to see what else Sophie comes up with! Buy the book, implement the ideas and live green!
What is the #1 thing we can all do to live Gorgeously Green?
Thursday, May 15, 2008
The Divorce Party by Laura Dave
Laura Dave is a great, great author. She has this incredible way of creating characters who are so flawed and normal, like people you or I might actually know. It's as if she can climb into their skin and become that person. Laura weaves the story together in a seamless fashion which satisfies those who like to read light women's fiction as well as the more serious kinds of books. Some writers have a literary talent that cannot be denied. Laura was born to write, I think.
Laura's first novel London is the Best City in America was very warmly received and now The Divorce Party is getting rave reviews. Let's just say this is a smart writer and her career is full of promise. Both her novels have been optioned to become major motion pictures. She's living my dream. You go, girl! I can't wait for her next book which I hope is about a lovely girl named Cindy who runs a website and gets discovered by Hollywood... umm...anyway, I'm very excited to share this interview with you.
How many times did you drive out to Montauk to visit the location for the book? What is it like there?
I drove to Montauk too many times to count. It is a beautiful town which is, quite literally, on the end of the earth. Because of that, it requires something different of its inhabitants. Living in a city, there are so many distractions—so many ways to avoid knowing what is really going on inside of you, inside of your closest relationships.
The quiet in Montauk—the solitude and isolation there—requires an attention to one's own life and surroundings that I greatly admire.I am also fascinated by the people who live in Montauk year-round versus the summer people, who come in and try to take over for a while. There seems to be this reclaiming that occurs perennially—an acknowledgment each September from the year-rounders that this place is ours. That type of devotion to one's home isn't unlike what is necessary to keep a marriage strong, or to keep a family together. This is part of what I ended up exploring in The Divorce Party, which made Montauk a great setting for it.
How do you chose your character's names?
That's a really interesting question. A lot of the time, a character's name will just come to me. In fact, when they are coming to me and feel right, it is often an indicator that the story is moving in the right direction. When I am having trouble naming someone, it usually means that I haven't gotten to the heart of that character quite yet.The first character I named in The Divorce Party was Champ Huntington, the family patriarch, quickly followed by my narrators: Champ's daughter-in-law, Gwyn, and Maggie—who is engaged to Gwyn's son and on her way to becoming the newest Huntington. I had the most trouble naming Maggie's fiancé, Nate, who kept changing his mind on me. He was Jacob for awhile, then Jack, then Lucas. But I can't write about anyone named Lucas and not think of Lucas: the movie (staring Charlie Sheen!)
Your books are very in depth giving each character lots of personality and detail. It's almost like you studied psychology. How do you form your characters?
I am not one of those writers who sits down and maps out everything about a character before I start writing. I usually know a few defining things about each character, (like what you would know after spending an afternoon with someone for the first time), and I let myself learn more as I go. This creates a situation in which my characters are allowed to surprise me—and, occasionally, make things very difficult for me too. I created a character in The Divorce Party who is 8 months pregnant by a man she has known for 10 months. Not necessarily a typical recipe for lasting love. But this character is adamant that it is, in fact, a love that is meant to last a lifetime. And about a hundred pages into the book, I started to believe her. This meant a complete rewrite. But, for me, that is also the fun part.
While I have never formally studied psychology (unless you consider Psych 101: Freshman year of college, which no one should!), I am fascinated by what makes people move, make decisions, change their lives. Informally, these are the questions I am always trying to answer for my characters.
What is the last book you read?
The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Amazing.
What is one movie that you could watch over and over again?
The Insider (the Michael Mann movie with Al Pacino and Russell Crowe). I love love love that movie. I'm not even sure why, but there you have it. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if I happen to turn on the television and see When Harry Met Sally, I'm fixated until the final time Meg Ryan says "on the side."
The Divorce Party is being turned into a film. How did producers get the book ahead of the release date?
I have a great film agent. That's the simple answer. She loves books, and takes on ones that she cares deeply about—then she finds the right people to be involved in turning them into movies. I don't know how she does it, exactly, but she is truly awesome.In terms of The Divorce Party, Universal Studios acquired the rights with Echo Films, Jennifer Aniston and Kristin Hahn's new production company; and Gwyn Lurie, who wrote the screenplay for my first book, is back on board to write this screenplay as well. I'm very excited.
What traits do you admire in each of your characters?
I admire in my characters many of the same traits I admire in real-life people who inspire me: a surprising sense of humor, a comfort in their own skin, a willingness to stand up and take risks. We are often on journeys in our lives to, quite simply, get out of our own way—to be braver and happier and more giving. I admire when my characters set out on these journeys and figure out how to come through for themselves and for the people who matter most to them. And I always, always like when they can figure out how to laugh instead of cry.
How long did it take you to write the book? Do you have a complete outline before you sit and write it? How do you tackle the process of writing a novel?
I am never sure how to answer the question of how long something took to write. Technically, I started putting pen to paper about twenty months ago (and by pen to paper, I mean: I opened my Mac). But there was this specific image that got the ball rolling for me, which has been running through my mind for years: a woman driving down a driveway to her future-in-laws house, and realizing that she is not signing up for the life that she thought she was. I couldn't let go of that image, which makes me unsure when the work actually started. Maybe I was doing some of it all along, and just waiting to figure out how the pieces all came together.
A trip I took to Montauk to visit friends in the spring of 2005 really helped me begin to see the entire picture.Even as I'm writing a book or a story, I always work toward that sense of discovery. I only outline minimally. But, something happens in the writing that lets me know if I am on the right track. I usually write several drafts before I show anyone a word.
Are there things you wish you could change once the book is printed and published and sitting in book stores?
Of course. In fact, many times I have seen writers make changes to their books while they are giving a reading. I totally understand that impulse. I once heard one of my favorite writers say that the best thing he ever wrote he left on a bus. He didn't mean it literally, but was speaking to a point that I can relate to: once a book is out there in the world, the parts you want to change become so large. While it is lost on a bus, it is perfect.
What is the status of the film version of your first book, London is the Best City in America?
These things seem to take a long time. My first book is still in development at Universal Studios and a great screenplay has been written. I promise--I'll keep you posted as I know more!
If you could write a movie of your life, what would the title be? And who would play you?
I would definitely need to title the movie after one of my favorite songs, maybe a Rolling Stones song, like Ruby Tuesday or Moonlight Mile—though Moonlight Mile has already been taken (and for such a sad movie!), so I guess I'll go with Ruby Tuesday.I love music so much--I would want to be in charge of the soundtrack. I have a lot of ideas already. But, I'm not sure what the movie would be about, or who would star in it. Maybe I would start with the music and take it from there. Two tracks that would definitely make the final cut? If I Should Fall Behind by Bruce Springsteen and ANYTHING by The National.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Read it now, Dark SummitI have had to slow my reading down a bit because I've been working hard at rewriting my new novel. I'm almost finished. This book, partly about Marilyn Monroe and the glamour of 1950's Hollywood, has been a huge labor of love in which my character needed a major overhaul. Agents didn't like her vain, self centered, celebrity loving personality. I really want a great agent and if rewriting Barrett is what I had to do then so be it. I never thought it would take years to work on a book but between writing, editing, rewriting, sending query letters and taking in the feedback and having a trusted friend and book reviewer for People magazine (hello Caroline!) read the book and give me constructive criticism, well, that's just what goes into writing a novel that people will want to read.
One of the books I have on my book shelf to read is this gripping true story called Dark Summit by Nick Heil. It is the story of the climbers who tackled Mt. Everest and lost during 2006. It's a year that saw incredible tragedies from people who tried to climb this mountain. I'm always intrigued with this kind of dare-devil hobby. Climbing is hard enough (I've only climbed a rock wall) but add in snow and wind and freezing temperatures and precarious topography and its a sure recipe for disaster. Dark Summit has received good reviews and it's definitely
going to be read and passed around. Perfect summer reading- an intense story based on real life events.
Labels: Dark Summit
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
The Painter from Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein
Here's a fantastic novel to keep you busy while your favorite TV shows go on hiatus. I do the most reading of the entire year during the summer after May sweeps. What else is there to do? Grab a book. Reading is better than watching television anyway. I'm pretty hooked on my reality shows right now but I always have a book or magazine next to me.
Jennifer Cody Epstein, the author of The Painter from Shanghai...oh, where do I begin? I received this book and thought it would take me a month to get through. It's historical fiction which requires more concentration. You don't want to miss a single description or miss a date or event. Jennifer is brilliant and I'm not exaggerating. This book is so rich in detail and I greatly admire and appreciate all the very hard work and dedication that went into this jewel of a book.
The Painter From Shanghai is about Pan Yuliang, a painter from guess where? Shanghai! This is the story of her life starting from when she was sold into prostitution by her uncle then taken as a concubine. The novel sweeps from pre war Shanghai to the glamour of 1920's Paris. We are consumed with her struggle to become who she is meant to be, a painter of provocatively beautiful paintings. Yuliang's life is difficult but her desire to be a painter keeps her moving forward. If you have never seen her art, you must visit Jennifer's site and view these works. They are gorgeous and colorful and by today's standards, not very risque. But back in Pan Yuliangs time, they were outrageous hence the trouble and hardship Pan Yuliang encountered. Don't miss this novel. Head to your favorite bookstore and buy it now.
Jennifer, the book is amazing. Tell me about the huge task of researching for The Painter from Shanghai.
Huge is the word! Although as a former journalist and erstwhile academic (I love universities and basically try to spend as much time as I can at them) the research was actually far less intimidating for me than the writing. For about two years I really just researched, without writing a word (or, rather, writing mediocre short stories that never seemed to go anywhere). At some point I realized that I was using the research as a crutch to keep from starting the novel, because the idea scared me so much. So I had to wean myself off the books and onto Word.
In terms of subject: basically, I read everything I could find on China during this period in English, online, in texts and novels. I also enlisted the help of Chinese- and French-speaking friends to help translate and research relevant texts in those languages (one friend, for example, spent hours on my behest at the Beaux Arts library in Paris), and to vet what I was writing for mistakes. I interviewed a few art historians, painters and the curator of the Guggenheim exhibit at which I first discovered Pan Yuliang, about ten years ago. I also took a couple of painting courses to get a sense of the process and the feeling of painting (although the strongest sense I got was that I’m a far better writer than painter!)
You didn't skimp on the details of Pan Yuliang's life from beginning to end. Did you give yourself a broad creative license to fill in the blanks?
Happily, this was one of those subjects where I actually had to use creative license—even the art historians I spoke to confirmed that there is so little actually factually known about her (even the birthdate on her gravestone in Paris is generally agreed to be inaccurate) that in order to get a full sense of her story, one has to simply imagine. Once I’d come to terms with that, the task of telling a story—rather than, specifically, the story—came much more easily.
Her nude paintings caused a huge stir. Did men painting nude women have the same effect back in those days?
I think it was pretty forbidden on both levels. But in some ways, a man painting a woman nude was even more of a transgression, as women were supposed to be essentially shielded from male eyes well into the twentieth century. “Proper” women, in the old Confucian traditions, left home as rarely as possible, and even when one was ill she wasn’t supposed to be physically examined by a doctor. Rather, she’d be presented with a statue of a woman, and would point to the areas that were likely affected.
The idea of a woman painting a man nude was probably the most scandalous option of all—which in part may explain why there are so few paintings of men in Pan Yuliang’s work—even fully-clothed ones—and why the response when she did do it was so vehement (the painting I have vandalized in the book is based on one that really was vandalized in real life, and scribbled with obscenities referring to her history as a prostitute). What I love so much about her, though, is that she simply didn’t care—in life as in her work she challenged concepts on gender and propriety, and once really did dress up as a man to get into a painting class in Nanjing that was open to men only because they were painting male nudes.
I have always loved Monet, Georgia O'Keefe and Van Gogh, Who are some of your favorite painters?
I didn’t actually know much about painting before I began this project, believe it or not! I do love Manet, Matisse, Cezanne and Rembrandt; I also love Sargent, Valedon, Cassatt, Hiroshige, and—believe it or not—Norman Rockewell, who I think does Americana so beautifully and humorously. Of the Chinese artists, I must say Pan Yuliang has been my favorite. But I’m probably a bit biased J
If you had to delve inside the life of another person for your next book, who would you choose?
There were a few characters I came across in doing this who really fascinated me; Tokyo Rose (one of the English-speaking presenters who taunted US forces on-air as part of Japan’s propaganda efforts during World War II) was one of them, as was Yoshiko Kawashima, a Manchu princess brought up in Japan who later became a spy for the Japanese during World War II in Shanghai. (Obviously, there’s a theme of some sort at work here!).
What I’m actually working now on a non-real-life character for a novel about Tokyo during the end of the war. It’s still pretty rough, but I envision her as an adolescent and am really looking forward to seeing both pre- and post-Occupation Japan through her eyes.
There are so many intriguing and interesting women in history. My favorites include Marie Antoinette, Elizabeth I, Harriet Tubman, Amelia Earhart…what about you?
Hmmmm. Those are good ones. There are so many…some of my writing heroes are Pearl Buck, Edith Wharton and Toni Morrison (whose Beloved ranks as one of my favorite books of all time). I also greatly admire Eleanor Roosevelt, Madame Curie, Helen Keller, Margaret Sanger, Rosa Parks…the more I think the more I’ll come up with, so I’ll stop now!
What was your writing schedule when you were working on the novel?
These days it’s pretty civilized; we have a sitter and I generally try to fit in three or four hours four days of the week on writing or book-related activities When I was a new mom and we had absolutely no money (as opposed to a little) it was kinda insane—the only hours I had to work were when the baby was sleeping. So I’d try to get from 5-9 in (until my husband left for work) and then would add a couple of hours when she was napping, if I wasn’t too tired. I believe I spent much of the first half of the book in a state of sleep-deprived psychosis—I really don’t remember writing a lot of that stuff!
Why don't we know of Pan Yuliang? I'd never heard of her before the book. It seems like we should know her beautiful work.
That was actually the first question I had when I saw her painting at the Guggenheim: Why don’t we know this woman?! She strikes me—not just in terms of talent, but raw perseverance—as a true heroine and inspiration. The only thing I can come up with in terms of her relative obscurity—at least in the West—is that she was Chinese, and most Westerners aren’t very familiar with China’s history or its arts. I also think the fact that she’s a woman had a lot to do with it; women—particularly in her time—were given even lesser opportunity for advancement then they were here, and I think her history as a prostitute made it seem in bad taste to many to appreciate her art (even now I get the sense that it casts a disproportionately long shadow over her accomplishments in China). Though I also think it can be argued that women are largely being left out of the current Asian art boom—for whatever reason that might be.
Are you an avid reader? What genres do you enjoy reading?
Absolutely. With books, as with food, I’m pretty much am an omnivore and a glutton. I love historical fiction in particular. Right now I’m simultaneously reading Max Hasting’s Retribution, Elsa Durante’s History, Elisa Albert’s The Book of Dahlia, Dazai Osamu’s The Setting Sun and (with my daughter) The Horse and His Boy, Through the Looking Glass and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. (Yes, I’m already encouraging her in my bad habits!)
What will we find you doing on the weekend?
Reading. Yoga. Running with my dog. Watching Disney (princess movies or Hannah Montanna) with my daughters. Struggling to get my daughters into bed so I can have a civilized conversation with my husband. Sleeping (if I’m lucky!).
What do you have planned next?
As I said, something set in Tokyo during World War II. I actually have far more experience in Japan than in China (I lived there for five years and speak the language fairly well) so it’ll be a nice change!
Sunday, May 04, 2008
New in Paperback!
I enjoyed this fun, quick read and I know you will too. Laurie Viera Rigler's novel is now in paperback which means when you grab your latte at Barnes and Noble, you can pick up this book too. If you love Jane Austen, want to escape to another time and place and/or are a book addict, then this novel is for you.
Here is the official write up:
CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT is the comical tale of a modern Los Angeles woman, Courtney Stone, who’s trying to heal a broken heart with Jane Austen novels and Absolut. One morning, she wakes to find herself in early nineteenth-century England, in another woman’s body. Nothing can prepare Courtney for the chamber pots and filthy coaching inns of nineteenth-century England, let alone the realities of being a single woman who must fend off suffocating chaperones, condomless seducers, and marriages of convenience. This looking-glass Austen world is not without its charms, however. There are journeys to Bath and London, balls in the Assembly Rooms, and the enigmatic Mr. Edgeworth, who may not be a familiar species of philanderer after all. But when Courtney’s borrowed brain serves up memories that are not her own, the ultimate identity crisis ensues. Will she ever get her real life back, and does she even want to?”
Here's a homage to all Jane Austen movies I found on YouTube. It puts me in the mood for renting Jane Austen movies for days on end. Ahhhh, I love romance.
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