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Thursday, March 22, 2007
Have you ever found yourself wanting to clarify something because you realize (belatedly, sitting straight up in bed in the middle of the night) that you sounded exactly like the kind of pretentious jackass you were decrying, but can't think of a way to do it that doesn't just compound the problem? So, you sit down and try to think of a way to fix it (after ambulating about with it rolling around your head like a dried bean in a box), but everything you come up with is completely cack-handed, flat-footed, and wrong-headed? This is where I find myself in regard to my Light Reading Rant. I still agree with my basic point, but why do I give a damn?

The answer is not flattering. All I can say for myself is that my ire was raised when I overheard a librarian saying (in reference to romance novels for a display) "I'm proud to say I've never read one... well, I've read Jane Eyre of course." The blanket prideful refutation with acknowledgment of one "legitimate" exception is a classic snob maneuver; but my own knee-jerk anti-snob reaction is no less ridiculous. The only (feeble) defense I can offer is that this was the same woman who, when I replied "very well" to her offhand "how are you" question, said "well aren't you the luckiest girl on earth to be so (voice drops) very well," which made me want to launch into a flying tackle and punch her in the head for an hour, just like in that lost chapter from Jane Eyre.

Which brings me to Meg Cabot! I like Meg. She's a funny and unabashed feminist who loves pop culture. She's also extremely prolific. I don't have any idea how many series she has going now, but there are MANY. Her books are usually funny and romantic to some degree because that's how she does things, but she's written YA, kid's books, historical romance, contemporary romance, mysteries, etc. She writes constantly, but still finds time to post regularly to her blog about her on again off again boycott of Gilmore Girls, the one-eyed cat that will only drink hot water out of bottle caps, her opinion of The Secret, book tours (she's in Europe right now), how tough it was to give up TAB, Britney Spears and much more. She's fun and I like reading her books in the tub. (this is a compliment where I'm from!)

Finding the right thing to read when I'm in a low mood can be tough -- it can't be too heavy because I'm not really able to give it my full attention, but it can't be so stupid it makes me angry, or so predictable that I go through the motions of reading but am actually just obsessing about My Problems while moving my eyes back and forth and occasionally turning pages. Cabot manages to strike a good balance for me -- she's fun without being mindless and rewarding without being work. I know the books that fill this particular niche will be different for every reader, and it may even change for me over time; but this winter I read (and was thankful for) a lot of Meg Cabot. Here are a few of them:

The Boy Next Door: This story is is told entirely in emails , except, of course, on those few occasions when the plot requires that we be in the HERE AND NOW. Gimmicky, but tolerable. Cabot has a lot of fun with the gulf between what the main characters say to each other, and what they say to their friends. ha ha. (no, really!) This book reminded me quite a bit of the Givenchy Code , which I read in August, except it (thankfully) didn't seem to take itself as seriously. Like the GC, it's also about a young modern professional woman named Mel (what's up with that?) who lives in New York. In GC Mel was a cryptographer working as dog-walker to afford designer gimcracks and geegaws (okay, SHOES, but how much more fun are gimcracks and geegaws? Infinitely more fun!) and in this book Mel writes a gossip/entertainment column for a New York Newspaper. Her attitude toward shoes seems less urgent. Boy Next Door has a lot of the things that are typical in romance novels: the misunderstanding that two minutes of direct communication would clear up, mistaken identity, cross-dressing serial killers (briefly), a chubby best friend planning a wedding, clueless out of town parents (in both this an the GC), wardrobe dilemmas, 50lb bags of dog food and an obsession with weather disasters... but all delivered with breezy Cabot charm. That said, of the three books in this post, this is probably my least favorite.

Size 14 is Not Fat Either: This is the second book in the Heather Wells trilogy. I read the first one a year ago, and do believe I enjoyed this one more. It probably helps that the world that Heather Wells operates in is more established -- she remains a former pop princess who is now older, wiser, and wearing bigger jeans. She still has her job at a New York College residence hall, she's still living platonically with (but pining for) her ex Justin Timberlake's, I mean Jordan Cartwright's older, hotter, private-eye brother Cooper, and she's still solving crimes. This book introduces us to her father who is fresh out of Club Fed, her friendly neighborhood drug dealer and her new boss. I'm sorry to hear that this is going to be only a trilogy. I think Heather Wells could have some staying power and it will be a shame to see all the things that are just blossoming now (Cooper!, her revived singing career, going back to school, reconnecting with her father, her strained relationship with JC) tied up in a bow with the concluding novel. BUT, that's neither here nor there, I suppose. I enjoyed this, but as is the case with most mysteries and me lately, it's not for the actual puzzle or the crime, it's for the whole world that the characters inhabit.

The thing that still makes me batshit about this series is the title. It has no tie to the reality of the novel! Heather Wells used to be a skinny juvenile Britneyite and now she's a grown woman with a big butt -- in the world of this novel that's a "vanity size 8" which is, as admitted in the book, a size 10! Now, I don't care if Heather Wells is a size 6 or 10 or 18, I just think it's kind of shitty to have a "Size 14" title, and have it hang on NOTHING except for maybe some marketing theme. I applaud the sentiment, I just wish it meant something. For all my bitching, this was my favorite of the three Cabot books in this post.

Missing You: This is the fifth and final book in the 1-800-WHERE-R-YOU series. Jess Mastriani (Our Heroine), aka lightning girl, is back after a tour of duty working for the government in Iraq and Afghanistan. This book picks up a couple of years after the last one, and Jess has PTSS and lost the ability to find missing people. (which she acquired after getting struck by lightning in the first book.) She's attending Juilliard (she plays the flute) but hating it and living with her best friend from home in NYC. Then (ta-dah) her hunky but mysterious old boyfriend from the wrong side of the tracks (Indiana!) comes and asks for her help.

things I like about Jess: she's a hothead but she's compassionate, she knows she's wrong a lot of the time and struggles with it.

things I like about this series: action, hotheaded heroine who is often wrong but struggles with it, and it freely mocks the TERRIBLE Lifetime series that was made from the books (seriously, it was B-A-D). Cabot is also great sketching out distinct characters without a lot of detail. I feel like I've got a good sense of Jess's family and friends, without a ton of exposition. (although I suppose some of this could just be cumulative -- this is the fifth book, after all.)

Anyway, this is another one of the series (like the late lamented Mediator) that Cabot seems to be tying up so she can move on to other things. I think as a series I liked Mediator better, but that might be because it was so clearly inspired by Buffy. But I digress! This is a fun quick read, but if you're interested I would recommend starting at the beginning of the series (When Lightning Strikes).

(this image came up INEXPLICABLY while I was looking for book covers. Liberace and Sam the Eagle seemed too good to leave off, so here they are.)
4 comments on "Megapalooza"
  1. I read what Meg had to say about The (worst kept) Secret and I could not agree more.

  2. I KNOW! Yea verily, she is wise.

  3. Wise like an OWL. (which, now that I think of it, is one of the animals associated with Athena, so I guess this is more of a "what you said!" agreement than any kind of meaningful addition.)


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