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Showing posts from January, 2009

Book 16 of 52: My Little Red Book

I've been in two car accidents in my life -- the first the summer I turned 13. My dad and I were driving to the Jersey Shore in his 1988 dark blue Oldsmobile, a company car he liked so much that he bought it when the lease was up. I didn't mind waiting to ride with him -- the other option was to go in my mom's big blue Dodge Caravan, which was loaded up with supplies and my siblings. Since dad and I left late, we took the backroads, which cut through miles of farms, road side stands and tiny towns I'd never visit otherwise. I knew we were half way there when we passed through Buena, a dusty, lonely town with what I thought was an odd name in a state where most towns were named after European-sounding families and Native American tribes. We stopped at a red light in Buena, and I turned my head to look at my dad in time to see him scream "Hold on!" He jerked the steering wheel to the right, and we were jolted violently in our seats, and my head hit the dashboa

For She's a Jolly Good Fellow

Happy Birthday Harlequin ! At 60, you still look ravishing, worth ravaging, and we're sure your long locks are still blowing in the wind. To celebrate, Harlequin is giving out free ebooks. Check out for details. Harlequin started during the Great Depression -- flourished from the start and hasn't slowed down since. I don't think they'll be hurt by the recession, either, because more people will be looking for escape. At least that's what these chicks told me , and I agree.

They Like Me! They Really Like Me!

" Author Jen A. Miller reads it all, without the snobbery." That, readers, is the kudos given to this blog by AM New York . Thanks for the compliment! And thank you to reader Maureen for spotting it and mailing me a copy. I have another good piece of news: The fine folks at The St. Petersburg Times have asked me to review health, fitness and beauty books for a new -- well -- health, fitness and beauty section they're launching at the end of February. So expect some nonfiction books to be popping up on the blog soon.

Book 15 of 52: The Forbidden Daughter by Shobhan Bantwal

What a wonderful, WONDERFUL book. If you've ever mocked romance novels or the people who read them, give The Forbidden Daughter by Shobhan Bantwal a whirl. It'll knock the socks off your stereotype. I interviewed Bantwal, who writes Indian-American romance novels, for an upcoming article, so of course I had to read one of her books. It's an example of a romance novel that is not heavy on the sex but focuses on a love story and, as it must have to be categorized a romance novel, ends happily. It deals with some heavy issues, too, specifically selective abortion. When Isha and Nikhil Tilak find out that they are going to have a girl, the doctor recommends an abortion. Nikhil's parents insist on it. Seem far fetched? Hardly. In 2006, the Lancet reported that nearly 10 million fetuses could have been aborted in India (where the book is set) over the last 20 years -- COULD. Many think that those numbers are far too low. And even though this kind of selective abortio

Book 14 of 52: Doomed Queens: Royal Women Who Met Bad Ends

While caught in the land of lurrrrrve's sweet embrace , a friend joked that I'd have to read a book about kicking puppies to balance my brain out. He was right. Doomed Queens: Royal Women Who Met Bad Ends, From Cleopatra to Princess Di by Kris Waldherr is that book. Nothing wipes the bloom from the rose like tales of murder, suicide and a lot of head chopping. Doomed Queens is exactly what you think it would be about: queens done wrong. Waldherr starts with Athaliah, daughter of Queen Jezebel, who was executed in 835 BC, runs right through Henry VIII's wives and ends with Princes Di, covering 50 queens in all. It's an interesting book, but about too many people. That 50 is an albatross -- some queens are only given a page or two, and we learn so little about them that I got them confused and was left thinking "What's the point?" Plus, the book is set up chronologically, but is about queens around the world, so interconnecting stories are interrupted.

Recommendation: Shakespeare Retold

Welcome, AM New York readers! A few people alerted me that this blog was mentioned in your morning paper, so I hope you like what you see. Tired of the romance novels yet? It's not that I'm tired of them, but I need a change of pace (and boy, is the book I'm reading now a big change of pace). But until I get to that review, chew on this: Shakespeare Retold . I'm a bit of a Shakespeare fan. I studied the Bard while at Oxford University (just one semester...I'm not that much of a smarty pants) and am not ashamed to admit that I keep a Complete Works in my nightstand. Around the holidays (right around the time I fell on my rear and could do little more than whine about the welt on my bum), I Netflixed a slew of movie versions of his plays, and Netflix, being the smart folks they are, said I might like Shakespeare Retold , a 2005 BBC project that took four plays ( Much Ado About Nothing , Macbeth , Taming of the Shrew and Midsummer Night's Dream ) and remade

Book 13 of 52: Seduced by Magic

I have been known to blush easily. I finished Stephanie Julian's Seduced by Magic last night and my cheeks are still burning. Holy heck, that's one saucy novel! Just look at the cover! I've read saucy romances before, but this is straight up erotic romance (the publisher calls it Romantica ), and it starts with a bang. Of course, the subject of this book is tame compared to some of the video porn you'll find online, but the romances I've read haven't been so descriptive. Seduced by Magic also falls into the paranormal genre, which I didn't mind as much as I thought I would. The story's about Scarlata, a folletta (a fairy -- with wings!) who lives in the woods of Pennsylvania. Justin Johannson is a scientist on assignment holed up in said woods to track migration patterns of birds, but he's really looking for proof that fairies exist. Scarlata wants to kill him for invading her space and, so she thinks, trying to trap her. He wakes up with Scarla

Book 12 of 52: Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches' Guide to Romance Novels

Over the last week or so, I have been working on two features about the romance novel industry (as regular readers well know). One thing these stories must have is the all knowing 'expert opinion' from someone who is not biased (e.g. doesn't work at a publishing house) and critical (e.g. doesn't run Romance Writers of America). Imagine how lucky I got with Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches' Guide to Romance Novels (pub date April 14) by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan -- luckier still because the book is everything I hoped it would be. It's a history and overview of the romance novel industry written by the women behind . The book covers e v e r y t h i n g from the old stereotypes of readers that no longer apply (the cat lady/fanny pack drawings are priceless) to genres within the genre to what the heck is up with all those Fabio covers. It's also incredibly funny. If you've poked around their website, you can guess

Meet the Author

Today I met Beth Ciotta , author of Book 11 of 52: All About Evie . What a lovely woman! We had a great conversation about romance writing, romance reading and the Jersey Shore. You'll read all about it in the article I'm writing that'll come out around Valentine's Day. You can read more about my shore trip today on my other blog, too. Beth's got a blog, too, which I've now added to my blog roll. Check it out!

Book 11 of 52: All About Evie

Ain't love grand? Well, it isn't in All About Evie by Beth Ciotta , the first romance novel I'm tackling for my two assignments about the industry. This one starts out not at the "I just got dumped" point but a year after the fact. Evie, an Atlantic City performer, isn't having the best time of it lately. Not only is she having a tough time finding work, but her husband left her for a younger woman -- a husband who also happens to be her manager. She reaches her wit's end when she flashes a group of casino executives who didn't really hide the fact that they were looking to hire someone with more boobs than experience (e.g. a 41 year old has no place in even teensy tiny AC show biz). That's when the ex/manager get her a last minute gig on a cruise ship playing a giggly newly wed. Except this isn't a stage performance. It's a 24 hour act. Her partner? A dashing Scotsman with a lot to hide. You can imagine that it gets zanier from there

Lurrrrrve is in the Air

Put this youtube video at 3:05, play and read while it continues: I'm about to travel a barely touched route here at Book a Week with Jen, one lined in bare chests, billowing hair and Fabio: I'm going to read a few romance novels. I say that, of course, in jest -- well, the chests, hair and Fabio bit. Romance novels aren't your grandmom's smut anymore, as I hope to show. But why the romantic bent? Because I'm writing not one but two articles about the Romance novel industry, which sells over a billion dollars worth of books a year. In fact, one of every four books bought is a romance title. And I'm not lying about those numbers -- I wouldn't make that up even if I were the bad guy who broke the heroine's heart at the start of a book that ends in lots of sex and a ring by the final chapter. So while I finish the first title on my list, let me ask you: What do you think of romance novels? Do you read them? If so? If not, why not? Or do you have a fav

Book 10 of 52: My Life on the Run: The Wit, Wisdom, and Insights of a Road Racing Icon

The timing of this book is right, eh? The galley (e.g. preview copy) of Bart Yasso's My Life on the Run: The Wit, Wisdom, and Insights of a Road Racing Icon was handed to me by someone who knew I was a journalist at the running expo for last year's Ocean Drive 10 Miler/Marathon (which I blogged about at length ). Cool! A book about running! But I never quite found the time to fit it in. And like the last book in this series, it sat on my 'to use' book shelf, just waiting for the call and narrowly escaping the donation bin dozens of times. I'm going to start training for the 2009 Ocean Drive 10 miler soon, so why not now? It was the perfect book to kick off my efforts (plus I read it quickly). Bart Yasso is a running icon. He's Runner's World magazine's "Chief Running Officer." As such, he heads up Runner's Worlds efforts at races and, before Lyme's Disease limited his running ability, ran crazy races. I mean stuff I would never

Book 9 of 52: Utopia, New Jersey: Travels in the Nearest Eden

I've had Utopia, New Jersey: Travels in the Nearest Eden by Perdita Buchan for a while now -- I believe for over a year. Before Frank Wilson left the Philadelphia Inquirer as book editor , I picked out a lot of books from the book room, all of them marked with a colored star for what I would believe to be their filing system. This book has a blue one. I could never quite bring myself to donate the book, even when I'd get rid of just about everything not nailed down in my office book wise. Why? Because of the title. How interesting does a book about New Jersey utopias sound? And it was interesting to read, if uneven. That's not a knock against Buchan, but some of these utopias were more interesting than others. Take, for example, the case of Free Acres, a colony set up in 1910 in Berkley Heights. It was a single tax community with a heavy focus on keeping the land as is (with houses in between, of course). How fascinating! Then there's Upton Sinclair's Helicon H