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On Chick-lits

I do not like chick-lits. Yes, you read that right (*looking at EvilDevil). I feel it is not really a genre, but simply the book description.
And I do not like chick-lits. At all.

Spattered with pink (eeuu!) and margaritas and martinis and cosmopolitans and lotions and stockings – rather than soaking in literary awards, or IQ for that matter, I’m surprised such books sell like hot cakes.

The image that pops in my head (when a book is termed as chick-lit) is that of mediocre quality writing, published with minimum editing, available in paperback at half the price, and is as easily forgotten as read.

What ever happened to the enriching content or highlighting an issue of concern?
Don’t get me wrong. Chick-lits are fun, if well crafted. But look at the quality of chick-lits being produced nowadays.
All they have is random “bold”-ness and a generous serving of sex, affairs, lusty and flirtatious men and women, gossip, gal pals, shopping, high heels, parties, diets, broken dreams, lucky breaks, and the clichéd jazz (happy sorta endings) that help in no way apart from wasting time.

Chick-lits were meant to show a woman’s point of view. Remember Rona Jaffe’s fast –paced, sassy tale of New York girls’ office life, “The Best Of Everything” that came out in 1958? No, I haven’t read it but during my research I did come across a lot of reviews of this book. And most of them did mention how “the book changed the lives of many readers” (yes, in a positive way)! Now that’s what you call a good chick-lit that is a real bestseller. The one that has an impact. And weren’t chick-lits aimed at (young) women to change their perspective for the good? What really happened to that funda?

And if you consider it to be a genre, I’m sorry to say it has really degraded and instead of dealing with the real problem/issues faced by women, it highlights the kind of lifestyle most women yearn for today. Obnoxious most of the time. And it’s all in the name of enjoyment and fun. Fine, there is nothing wrong in indulging in fun. But honey, can’t you pull up your socks and just think of a better name, if not the content!??!
All I ask you “budding writers” is to make some sense! Those “no-brainer” reads make it to the bestsellers list.
How, I have no idea!
Someone told me recently that chick-lits sell. It’s easier to find publishers for it. Not many publishers take their chances with serious content lest they lose face.
Ok, what? How???


It baffles me how each time someone blames the publisher(s) and walks away with a chick-lit. Now just because no one can really go (cross-) question the publisher, the argument ends there (forcibly).
I’ve met a couple of publishers during book fests and boy! Are they serious about their work or what! Name “chick-lits” that have won any awards. You won’t find many. Right. Because they have no invigorating content!!!

To add more misery are your ‘telly series’ (like Sex and the City) that makes young women think they too can write a shoddy articles about their lifestyle in the metro as a single girl and garner accolades. Accolades of shame I say.

And what’s with the pink cover! Really!!! Or cup cakes or cherries or hearts or suggestive silhouettes of women. All marketing gimmicks eh? Here’s a secret ladies – when you do that, no matter how good the content is, you definitely are losing out on certain readers. Because we are going to assume (and sorry about that –once bitten twice shy) that the inside would be as girly, uninteresting, formulaic and mundane as the cover.
Wise men have suggested that books furnish a house. But looking at the books on the shelves of major bookstores I don’t think I wish to furnish my room with the sickly pinks or sugar spewing, atrocious thin tomes.

And oh yes, the plot seems to be written for the dim-wits. An ordinary story, with no great characterization or depth or meaning what-so-ever, to mock the readers and their IQ. And there is no real humor. It is all forced/fake and non-existent. Don’t even get me started on the predictable endings. FYI “Happily ever after” is a myth.
Again, and I’m not defending myself here, there have been works by seasoned authors that count as really good chick-lits. But my grudge is against the new-age silly chicks who really think they can compile and compose a novella, when in reality they can hardly frame a sentence, or make sense.

I’ve read some of Sophie KinsellaMarian KeyesHelen Fielding and Janet Evanovich who’ve whipped up delicious chick-lits to savor. Yes, not all their work is good. But they are naturally humorous and entertaining, with sometimes a hidden agenda being addressed.
I recently heard people all over celebrated May 2011 as the inauguralInternational Chick-lit Month. Wow! I wish people attended that to learn more about crafting good stories rather than jotting clichéd routines and self-proclaim them as best-sellers!

*All views expressed in the blogs are of the writer (Sanjana Kapoor) alone and do not reflect the views of Sonia in any manner.


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Book Review of “Hard Eight” by Janet Evanovich

Hard Eight

By Janet Evanovich

This hysterically funny downright crime thriller is full of action. Super fast paced that it is, I was able to finish it at one go – enjoying the few hours of my otherwise mundane Friday night.

Stephanie Plum, our beloved sloppy/inept bounty hunter has to hunt down Evelyn and her daughter. After having divorced her husband Steven, Evelyn had taken child custody by using her mother’s house for collateral in the bond. Now that she has disappeared, her absence on the day of the hearing will make her mother lose the house. Steph, of course, has to help out.

 

But as she begins her job, a dead body is found on her couch (it is Steven); she is stalked (by a killer rabbit!); and threatened to death(by some powerful crime lord). Did I mention her cars (yes, two of them) are blown up in this one?!

Joe and Ranger are by her side to protect her. But our brave-heart has to undergo her share of thrill.

Our regulars – Lula and Grandma Mazur join in to set the “comedy of errors” trying to capture the bad guys and manage to stay alive. Steph’s sister and her parents add the much needed drama.

This is no great plot as such, but the sheer comic nature and the colorful personalities make this a quick, light and purely entertaining read.

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Book Review of “To the Nines” by Janet Evanovich

To the Nines

By Janet Evanovich

Another wonderful offering –full of humor and (sexual and life threatening) tension for Stephanie Plum fans.

To The Nines sees Stephanie in a new case. As a bounty hunter, she has been asked to trace a certain Samuel Singh, a computer nerd and an illegal immigrant. On reaching his residence the landlady informs her that Samuel has been missing- but his belongings are intact – except his laptop and his dog, Boo. At his work place, the boss informs Steph that Samuel was a loner with no friends. As her hunt grows she finds herself targeted. She is shot at; tranquilized with a dart; is stalked by a psycho who sends her roses with threatening messages.

This mystery takes her to Las Vegas, with Lula and that’s where you have some of the funniest scenes.

Much goes on in her life with Joe and Ranger by her side too – I mean the sexual tension.

But a girl gotta do what a girl gotta do. It is on Steph to gain control on her life and outwit the stalker. And how she does it makes up for a fine read.

Let’s not forget Steph’s family life going haywire with her sister about to deliver a baby, but not ready to marry the father of the child yet; Steph’s mother fretting over the whole situation; Steph’s father threatening to move out of the house because there is not enough (bath)room space for all.

Oh and Lula and her antics never fail to bring out a smile, if not an “lol” moment.

 

There is ample character development and growth. Steph seems to be more mature and sensible. This one has ample of laughs and action. It is simple, fast-paced and breezy. And definitely very interesting.

 

*For those reading the Plum series for the first time, here’s a quick over-view.

Stephanie Plum, a Jersey girl, is amongst the worst bounty hunters ever. It is her luck favoring her most of the times – not her skills. She works for her cousin Vinnie tracking “skips” bonded by the bail bond company Vinnie runs. Super cop Joe Morelli loves her to no extent and I believe Steph does too – but she never confesses it. Ranger, on the other hand, is Steph’s hot bounty hunting mentor of sorts. Quite skilled in his work, he creates the minimum fuss. Steph refers to his mysterious home as the Batcave.

This series is high on humor and entertainment. A no-brainer of course.

Together, Joe-Steph-Ranger makes a formidable love triangle.

 

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Book Review of “Twelve harp” By Janet Evanovich

Twelve Sharp

By Janet Evanovich

 

I seem to have an OCD of sorts, I must confess. Every time I see a new Stephanie Plum book I have to read it. And read it to the tee! The best part is that you don’t really have to scratch any part of your grey matter to guess or predict the mystery (mostly). It is not a “psychological thriller” kind. It is pure fun to read.

So officially we have two worst bounty hunters in Trenton, NJ, – Lula and Stephanie (in that order). While on an assignment, Stephanie is stalked and approached by a woman (Carmen Manoso) who not only dresses like Ranger but talks and walks like him. She carries the same attitude that Ranger does. Carmen claims to be Ranger’s wife. She says that Ranger married her, dumped her, emptied their bank account and fled the scene, all within the last six months. Stephanie is shocked to hear that, ‘coz she believes that secretive Ranger ain’t dishonorable enough to treat any woman like that.

Carmen carries a 9mm G-Lock and even fires a bullet into the rear fender of Steph’s new Morris Minnie, just to show her anger.

And Carmen has her own game plan. She’s on the lookout for Ranger, who now seems to be missing along with his twelve year old daughter. The girl has been kidnapped from her birthmother and stepfather in Miami and fingers are pointing to Ranger.

So we have the usual love triangle going in this one as well. Apart from the usual ruckus of being chased and chasing the bad guys, Steph pairs up with Ranger to find a killer, rescue a kidnapped child, avoid being nabbed or shot; and eventually grows close enough to prick the ego/love of Joe Morelli.

In this one, Evanovich highlights the elusive Ranger and gives us a glimpse of the real man.

But the regular (and new) characters in odd situations, not to forget Grandma Mazur and her quirks, make this a “no-brainer” sorta read. Some readers might not like the convenient route taken by Evanovich all the time, but what the heck – it works!

The plot is easy (yeah, predictable); the dialogues are snappy and fun; and the action is strong enough to keep you hooked. Just like the earlier ones, Twelve Sharp is a fast-paced entertaining novel with ample of crazy humor, romantic tension, action, mystery, and a twist (no exploding cars!)

 

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Book Review “Ten Big Ones” By Janet Evanovich

Ten Big Ones

By Janet Evanovich

 

So we can never expect a “normal” day in the life of Stephanie Plum–can we!?! Her innocent little trip to the deli in quest for nachos with the ever faithful Lula couldn’t get any more adventurous. There’s a robbery, leading to an explosion, leading to car destruction, leading to Steph becoming a target of a gang. That’s all. No wait –there’s more: her involvement with Joe and Ranger is getting hotter; she has to save and protect and hide herself from the most dangerous force to attack Trenton; and yes, she has to hunt down Junkman. Now that’s all. Phew! And guess where she hides! In ranger’s apartment without Joe’s knowledge!

A girl bounty hunter, forever landing herself in trouble, making life for Joe (her, on-again/off-again, boyfriend) a little worse each time, blatantly flirting with Ranger half the time, exploding cars unintentionally, Steph sure is capable of unimaginable feats! Or maybe it’s just her bad timing / bad luck. But in spite of all the pitfalls she’s the delight of her crazy grandma and Lula’s best bud.

I wish — Steph soon grows up and is mature enough to finally pick “one” man – Joe or Ranger; Lula becomes a person rather than a “cartoon character”; Grandma Mazur gets over the funeral jokes/incidents; Ranger starts being less “flat”; and Joe – well – I think he’s good as a hot cop in love with Steph.

This one has funny dialogues, fast-paced action and wacky climax. And in spite of all the “repetitive” jazz, incredibly entertaining and hilarious as ever, Ten Big Ones is totally worth a read!

 

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Book Review of “Metro Girl” By Janet Evanovich

Metro Girl

By Janet Evanovich

 

Janet Evanovich, best known for her numbered series of fluffy mysteries featuring Jersey girl Stephanie Plum, is sure a “funny” woman. Not many authors bring out “lol” moments among their readers, but it looks like this comes darn naturally to Evanovich. This series of Alexandra Barnaby (“Barney” as she is fondly called) is a somewhat fresh read.

Metro Girl is about a Baltimore babe – Alexandra Barnaby. Alex (known to her family as ‘Barney’) grew up in her father’s garage and can disassemble and reassemble engines quicker than most men could open a hood. Working in her father’s garage over the summers and other vacations has instilled her and her brother with a love of cars.

This mystery/comedy (mis)adventure begins with Barney’s quiet life being disrupted by an early morning call from her care-free, frolicking, womanizer brother, telling her that he’s leaving for Miami for a while. His voice is drowned out by a noisy boat engine. And the call is abruptly dropped with the sound of a woman’s scream. So Barney’s “forever-inviting-trouble” brother (“Wild” Bill) seems to be in deep **** and Barney does what any dutiful sister would – run to Miami from Baltimore to save him.

Barney becomes more worried for her brother when she discovers that Bill’s place trashed twice – once before her arrival – and then after her arrival in Miami. Her apartment is mugged too, by a scary goon who threatens to kill her if she does not disclose Bill’s whereabouts.

Barney also learns that he is also accused of running away with NASCAR king Sam Hooker’s two million dollar worth sixty-five foot Hatteras Convertible (Happy Hooker). The fact is that Bill was supposed to steer Hooker’s boat for him over his vacation. But Bill “borrowed” Hooker’s boat in spite of being denied. Bill has now disappeared with his new steamy love – a young Cuban woman, Maria Raffles. Barney also gets to know that a security guard at the marina from which Wild Bill departed was murdered around the time Bill took off.

Sam Hooker tags up with Barney to look for her brother and his boat.

Maria’s grandfather was killed when a boat smuggling a lost treasure (of gold) and a warhead, out of Cuba, was sunk at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Maria’s father had managed to find the location of the boat underwater when he recovered his father’s remains. He kept it a secret because he was thrown into a Cuban prison where he still was held captive. Maria’s mother revealed this information to her while breathing her last. So Maria was abducted, for the information she now knew, by a Cuban mobster – Luis Salzar and Bill had somehow rescued her. Salzar’s boss Puke Face was behind this all.

Also, a super secret US agency was also hot on the trail of the gold and warhead.

Maria wanted to recover the gold and use it to rescue her father from prison. She had planned to turn in the dangerous war head to the US authorities.

Salzar, on the other hand, sought the gold to seal a lucrative Cuban real estate deal and planned to use the deadly warhead as “military leverage” to overthrow Castro and gain political control of Cuba.

Things are super complicated and scary. And it seems like a race against time and a bunch of monstrous men.

Sam is everything a NASCAR driver should be- handsome, hot, arrogant, suave and sexy. Barney is cute, spunky, tomboyish and hilarious. At times I found myself comparing her to Stephanie Plum. They are similar but unique in their own way. Fun, silly and clever when required.

The budding love between Barney and Hooker (wish he had a different surname) is quite “cute”. The plot and the characterization are filled with a good dose of humor, mystery, adventure, action and sex.

Yes, there are quite a few glitches but overall this one accounts for an energetic, fast-paced plot that thickens, stretches, and manages to keep you hooked till the very last line.
You might find a lot of similarity in this series as compared to Evanovich’s Plum series. Though this is high on action and a little low on humor. Overall, a fun read.

 

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Book Review of “Eleven On Top” By Janet Evanovich

Eleven On Top

By Janet Evanovich

 

Another hilarious madcap adventure of Stephanie Plum that is absolutely entertaining, snappy and engaging.

Given Stephanie’s job as a bounty hunter, she feels she has been through a “hell-lot” – of course who could stand being spat on, cursed, shot, stalked, fire-bombed, chased/attacked by dogs, and even rolled in garbage for long? So Stephanie tries her hand at other “normal” jobs- like working in a button factory; at the dry cleaners; even at a fast food restaurant – only to be fired before the end of her first day on the job. Surprised? Not me! I knew she was capable of inexplicable feats!

Ranger offers her a position in his office Rangeman but cannot stop her stalker who seems to have risen from his grave to make place for Stephanie in there. She keeps receiving threat notes while her cars keep exploding and people keep getting injured.

Did I mention that Steph is living with her “on-n-off” boyfriend Joe Morelli? Yeah, they are together in this one – along with her flirty way with Ranger. So the love triangle lives.

But the real danger seems to trace Stephanie anywhere anyhow, every time.

Ranger, Joe and Steph are also on the look-out for four Trenton men who have disappeared with their cars on the same day. The mystery is taut and gripping. It will keep you guessing till the end.

Talking about the rich cast – Ranger is his usual self – the hot, bad boy. Joe, the hot cop, seems to be the quieter one in this book. It feels like Steph is taking advantage of both the men while they willingly let her do so.

Steph’s previous job as a bounty hunter is now taken over by Lula (her best friend, an ex-hooker) who seems to be keeping Steph busy with her worries.

Also, Steph’s sister Valerie is about to walk down the aisle and Steph is expected to be dressed in a weird vegetable dress and play the cello – an instrument she claims to know how to play (without having seen one in her life!) Steph decides to go on a sugar detox turning into a sex-hungry maniac somewhere in the middle. And you thought this one couldn’t get any hilarious!

Oh, and Grandma Mazur (the eighty year old teenager) and her fight with Grandma Bella end up having a fight in the funeral parlor (of course!)

Janet Evanovich does churn up hilarious mystery novels and “Eleven on Top” is no less. The laughter just doesn’t stop at any point. The plot is full of twists and turns and exploding cars and criminals on the rise and flirtatious moves and silly fights. There are some instances that look lifted from the previous ten books but none-the-less it is worth a read.

 

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