Married ladies can have crushes, too

. . . Well — book crushes, that is.

My earliest relationships weren’t with actual boys, friends. I didn’t manage to catch the eye of the cute kid in math class or Peter Brady or even Daniel, the first boy to earn a sappy valentine in second grade.

They were with book characters.

LoveI fell for bookish leading men long before I dared to express my feelings to any real-life ones. Relationships in my favorite novels taught me about relationships in general, especially in those impressionable teen years, and I feel like I’m a better reader — and person — because of it.

Though I am, in fact, a happily married lady, my devotion to my flesh-and-blood husband does not negate the underlying passion I can feel for literary men. We’ve all been there, right? Sometimes you can’t help but fall into a bottomless pit of yearning for some bookish dude who just pushes all the right buttons.

It’s easy to lust after someone two-dimensional. We don’t have to rinse out their dirty coffee cups or throw their crusty socks in the hamper or deal with ambiguous text messages at 2 a.m. It’s fun to pine for an unavailable guy sometimes, right?

And being fictional and all, these men definitely qualify.

Now, it’s very easy for me to become enamored with a leading man in the moment. As in reality, bookish gentlemen are appealing at different times for different reasons. But I’m going to highlight the lasting crushes — the ones that come to mind immediately, even a decade-plus since I was introduced to them.

So grab a fan, ladies. It’s about to get hot in here.

Michael MoscovitzMichael Moscovitz
Of Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries series

Michael was easily my first major book crush — and for that reason, I find it impossible to deny his allure. First loves, right?

I loved how Michael and Mia’s relationship evolved over time, culminating in the unexpected magic that was Forever Princess . . . a book I’m pretty sure I need to re-read, like, now. The perfect blend of sweet, thoughtful, sexy and smart, Michael was pretty much my ideal dude growing up.

Just mentioning the tenth installment in that series makes me giddy because true story: Meg Cabot actually saw that review and mentioned me on her blog back in 2009. It was my first taste of blogging notoriety, and it tasted delicious. Better than any cupcake.

I’m pretty sure I ran around the house screaming like a lunatic, getting proof that a favorite author had read my little words. I didn’t even know that was possible.

But I digress.

Portrayed by Robert Schwartzman in the 2001 “Princess Diaries” film, Michael was the everyman who loved Mia before she morphed into a sleek royal. He played a musical instrument, didn’t care what others thought, cleaned up real nice. You know, the epitome of awesome to a teen girl.

Loved it. Loved him.

I’m having a hard time wrapping my old brain around the fact that “The Princess Diaries” film I adored came out 13 years ago — and Robert is 31 now. And also a successful musician.

Way to go, Michael.

Garrett as MarcusMarcus Flutie
Of Megan McCafferty’s Jessica Darling series

I’ve documented my eternal love for Marcus before, but it really bears repeating — especially because the flame still burns, friends. It burns.

And anyway, I wrote that post four years ago. I think it’s safe to revisit the topic.

So. McCafferty’s beloved series is like the bolder, sassier, tawdrier big sister to Cabot’s, and some of the more memorable Jess/Marcus scenes are . . . well, they’re rather racy. But in a good way. It’s been a while since I finished the final book, but it’s not the sort of thing you forget.

Though rumors of a Jessica Darling film have floated around for years, nothing has come of it — so I’m left to form my own visual representation of Marcus. Another fan nominated actor Garrett Hedlund . . . and though he lacks Marcus’ signature red dreadlocks, I’m okay with the idea of Marcus growing and changing. And he does eventually cut his hair, so we’re going to rock it.

Also, I could totally see Marcus rocking a manly scarf.

Michael PittHarry Delancy
In Eva Rice’s The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets

Probably the least-known of my top four crushes, Harry is an aspiring magician and rich society boy who falls surprisingly in love with the protagonist in Rice’s historical novel.

I read The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets in 2009 and haven’t really shut up about it since, mostly because it was freakin’ awesome and I’ve had so few people to talk about it with.

So go read it. Then we can talk about it.

Actor Michael Pitt seems like a solid choice for cool, disaffected Harry — a decent guy with an edge who exudes the couldn’t-give-a-care attitude that belies his actual compassion.

I could work with that.

James McAvoyFitzwilliam Darcy
In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

. . . We don’t really need an explanation, do we?

I didn’t think so.

There are lots of Darcy portrayals floating around in cinema, and I am now going to totally cheat and possibly enrage Janeites everywhere by doing something completely crazy, because sometimes that’s how I roll:

I’m going to showcase James McAvoy, who portrayed alleged-by-some-but-not-ever-proven paramour Thomas Lefroy in “Becoming Jane,” which happens to be one of my favorite movies ever.

With many Darcy-like characteristics, some claim an ill-fated flirtation with Lefroy was the inspiration for Darcy — and McAvoy is incredibly easy on the eyes, so I’m going to go ahead and splash his mug here.

But because I don’t want y’all to be mad at me, we can also bring in the Firth.


Colin Firth as Darcy

Okay. So we’re good?

literary love

I’m participating in Literary Love this week — a celebration of all things lovely and bookish! Feel free to play along by checking out other links at Estella’s Revenge, Doing Dewey, Love At First Book and From Isi, and check out posts under #LiteraryLove14.

Book review: ‘The Bride Wore Size 12’ by Meg Cabot

The Bride Wore Size 12Heather Wells was hoping for a banner year at New York College, where she works with undergrads and sees to their needs in a busy — now infamous — residence hall. A former pop star now sporting a sparkly engagement ring courtesy of her PI fiance, Cooper, Heather’s hope for a quiet semester vanishes when an RA turns up dead and the son of a prominent international politician stirs up controversy in her building. With many students as possible suspects and the stakes getting ever-higher before her big day, Heather just hopes to get out of this one . . . alive.

Meg Cabot’s The Bride Wore Size 12, the fifth book in her Heather Wells mysteries series, is a fun story that may not have had me reading compulsively, but did serve as an entertaining distraction during a busy month. I read the first book — Size 12 is Not Fat — back in 2009, but never felt compelled to pick up the books that came after. I chose to reunite with Heather as a bride-to-be myself, and . . . well, it turns out I didn’t miss much.

But I don’t mean that in a super mean way. Just that Heather is still the Heather I remember: assertive but kindhearted, interesting but not ridiculously compelling as a narrator. She’s engaged to a private investigator, works with an assortment of unusual coworkers. I remember the first book being fun but not life-altering, though the details did come back to me all these years later. (Always a good sign.)

The “mystery” aspect — centering on the death of Jasmine, a popular coed — was . . . well, it was. I was curious about what happened to her, but we didn’t know enough (or anything, really) about Jasmine to make her death matter to us. Rashid, the son of a prominent Middle Eastern leader, comes with baggage — and it’s his partying and involvement on campus that bring the circumstances surrounding Jasmine’s death more attention. I was interested in Rashid and his story with Ameera, a fellow student, but I wished they’d gotten more screen time.

There was just . . . so much happening here. We have Cooper and Heather’s upcoming wedding; the mystery surrounding the student death; the popularity of a student news blog breaking stories Heather would rather not be breaking; the reappearance of Heather’s long-lost, no-good mom and former manager; Cooper’s interactions that ultimately turn unpleasant; and . . . well, now I have whiplash.

But I can’t say this book wasn’t a fun read. Despite some of its heavy subject matter, Cabot writes with humor and a light touch — all qualities I’ve always loved about her. If you’re new to the series, you could certainly start with The Bride Wore Size 12 and work your way back . . . but I’d recommend starting at the beginning. If you’ve spent time with Heather in the past but aren’t sure you want to scamper back into her world, your return will probably be an enjoyable one.

3.5 out of 5!

Pub: Sept. 24, 2013 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for my honest review

Book review: ‘Insatiable’ by Meg Cabot

I have a writer crush on Meg Cabot. She’s fun and quippy, erudite and interesting — the blend of humorous chick lit I find so intoxicating. I began reading her Princess Diaries series as a teen and have followed her devoutly since, gamely picking up anything she scribbles.

Some have been hits; others have been misses. As I get older, my reactions to Cabot’s novels have gotten spotty and unpredictable. Despite going into Insatiable eager and excited to see her take on the recent cult of vampires, this book is going to flounder in the in-between category for me.

Television writer Meena Harper has her hands full. When she’s not unwillingly getting a glimpse of how others are going to die or picking up after her slacker brother in the apartment they share in New York City, she’s fighting off backstabbing coworkers and struggling to incorporate a campy new vampire plotline on “Insatiable,” the TV soap to which she contributes. Life gets a bit more interesting when she’s introduced to Lucien Antonescu, a charismatic European professor, and survives a near-death collision with a swarm of bats. Confused but thankful for Lucien’s heroics that save her life, Meena falls for the debonair Romanian.

Her love balloon is soon popped, however, by the arrival of Alaric Wulf, a man who has some startling accusations to level against Lucien. That he’s a vampire, for one — and that Alaric, a member of a secret Vatican guard, has been sent to kill him. And Lucien’s fate suddenly rests with Meena.

Sounds crazy, right? Well, it totally is. And at first I thought that was a good thing, you know, because Meena seemed like a normal, sane person. Even with the whole psychic powers thing. But as Meena became completely obsessed with a dude she met days ago and seemed to value his life more than her own, I got frustrated. And disinterested.

The weak beginnings of a love triangle form in Insatiable, but I didn’t really see how there was any contest between Alaric and Lucien. It’s the whole Edward/Jacob thing all over again — but I guess that, once I grew up and saw Edward’s stalker-like tendencies for what they really were, I got over the whole vamp thing. So I was Team Alaric, if you will, if only because Lucien seemed like a weirdo.

There’s a disturbing trend in literature that really gets under my skin, and I’m not sure we’ve coined a term for it. As such, let’s go with this:

The Undeserving Heroine.
• A female lead who, in mindboggling fashion, attracts the devout love of multiple men while seeming dull, boring, vapid or otherwise uninteresting. See also: Bella Swan.

Now, this is not to say that Meena was a total wreck. She wasn’t as brainwashed as Bella, that’s for sure, though her intense “love” for Lucien was eyeroll-inducing. Despite all this, I don’t mean to be a hater. I gotz the emotions, I swear, and know how ridiculous and squee-like we can all get during those heady early days of infatuation. But I guess I just don’t want to read about it.

Characters falling “in love” too quickly is a major pet peeve of mine, and sort of a literary deal breaker. It’s something I can rarely circumvent in my reading. Once I find both The Undeserving Heroine and a plot involving a too-quick-to-be-even-remotely-realistic love affair, I’m out. And that’s what happened here.

Fans of Cabot who have a penchant for humorous vampire tales might enjoy this one more than I did. Insatiable absolutely does tackle the whole vamp thing in a very light, tongue-in-cheek way, and Cabot never takes herself too seriously. The plot is a little trite but still compelling enough for me to finish, though I can’t see myself continuing with the series. Take that as you will.

3 out of 5!

ISBN: 0061735086 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Audio copy borrowed from my local library

Cover art: The pinker, the better

Standing in a bookstore with shelves of paperbacks lined up neatly before me, I can tell you something with absolute certainty: my eye is professionally (er, habitually?) trained to seek out pink.

During yesterday’s LitChat, a Twitter-based chat for book lovers happening at 4 p.m. EST on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the subject was chick lit — that occasionally controversial, usually light and fun genre. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of chick lit — or women’s fiction, a term which is sometimes used interchangeably, sometimes not — and spend a good deal of my time reading authors like Jennifer Weiner, Emily Giffin and Meg Cabot.

Getting into what defines “chick lit” is a topic unto itself, and I’m not here to get up on my literary soapbox and debate the general merits of a subgenre I really enjoy. Some folks dig it; others don’t. That’s perfectly fine. Should those who enjoy chick lit novels be derided? Of course not — just as those who enjoy graphic novels, romance, science fiction or any other type of literature shouldn’t be criticized. We like what we like, and I don’t judge. (Too much.) We’re all reading, and that’s what’s really important here.

No, friends, I’m here today to talk about pink books — and, specifically, how quickly my eye falls to them. During LitChat, some folks mentioned a book having a pink cover is actually a major deterrent — and that they might miss a great book simply because it has a silly or “frothy” cover. I can definitely relate and see where they’re coming from, though I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum: I tend to shy away from books without pink covers. Or ones with “boring” covers, at least.

And I’m sure I’m not alone in that. Some really fun stories I’ve read had very “girly,” chick-lit covers — the ones you can spot a mile away. As readers mentioned on Twitter yesterday, the types of covers you can spot immediately: maybe with a giant, overflowing purse, or a spike-heel shoe, or a gaggle of cartoonish women gathered together. Usually the colors are bright with a healthy dash of pink thrown in there. And who do they attract? Ladies like me, apparently.

Want some pink, girly book eye candy? I have plenty to share. And I know that for every book with a “frothy” cover I love, someone else will dislike the look of a novel for just that reason. Again, no worries — I can see both sides of the issue! And just because a novel features my favorite hue doesn’t mean it’s pure froth — quite the opposite, usually. Many of the books with seemingly innocent covers have some pretty heavy content, which is another criticism of some of the cover art. False advertising, if you will.

But for me? The pinker, the better.

Something Borrowedalong_for_the_rideafter_youperfect_fifthssweet_loveartichokes_heartmilkrun

Miami Book Fair happening this week

miami_book_fair_posterWere I not in sunny California right now, what I wouldn’t give to be in another awesome, tropical place — the Sunshine State! The Miami Book Fair International is happening Nov. 8-15 at Miami Dade College in Miami, Fla., and check out this line-up:

• Sherman Alexie
• Margaret Atwood
• Roy Blount Jr.
• Robert Olen Butler
• Meg Cabot
• Alan Cheuse
• Susie Essman
• Mike Farrell
• Al Gore
• Dr. Sanjay Gupta
• Barbara Kingsolver
• Jonathan Lethem
• Peter Mayle
• Jacquelyn Mitchard
• Ralph Nader
• Todd Oldham
• Richard Powers
• Francine Prose
• Jeannette Walls
• Plus more than 300 other authors from around the world . . .

And OK — you had me at Meg Cabot. But with all those other awesome folks, too? Yeah, if it were feasible for me to say, be in Miami right now, it would take a pack of wolves surrounding the college to keep me away from this event!

Friday, Nov. 13 – Sunday, Nov. 15 is the Street Fair, where more than 250 publishers will exhibit and sell their work and authors will read from and discuss their books. Admission is free for everyone on Friday; ticket prices vary the other days of the fair. Check out the website for all that information!

If anyone is planning on going, I expect a full report — complete with photos. And say hi to Meg for me!

Literary Megs, volume two

meg_cabotOh, Meg Cabot — my idol! A woman whose talents I have absolutely no problem talking about endlessly! I’ve been crazy about her Princess Diaries series since I grabbed the first novel in high school, and I actually got teary-eyed when I finished the tenth and final book in the series in January. Meg’s novels are always entertaining and full of fun, interesting characters. Even when they don’t all score an immediate home run for me (see Size 12 Is Not Fat), my overall enthusiasm for such an amazing and prolific author can’t wane.

According to her Web site, Cabot was raised in Indiana, attended college there and eventually moved to New York City, where she originally hoped to be an illustrator. She worked as assistant manager of a 700 bed freshmen dormitory at NYU for ten years while she pursued her favorite “hobby” — writing novels. 

be_popularNow Meg is the author of almost 50 books that have sold more than 15 million copies worldwide, earning both she and her characters a place in the hearts of teen and adult readers everywhere. The aforementioned awesome Princess Diaries series has been published in 38 countries and is the basis for two Disney movies (which I also love). Other popular young adult books include 1-800-Where-R-U and Mediator series, the All-American Girl books, Airhead, Jinx, How To Be Popular and Pants On Fire. Novels for kids include the Allie Finkel books, and her contemporary fiction includes Every Boy’s Gone One, the Queen of Babble series and mystery novels Size 12 Is Not Fat, Size 14 Is Not Fat Either and Big Boned.

I’ve made it my mission in life to try and be half as authentically Meg and Meg Cabot — and that’s not just because we share a first name! I love her writing style, enthusiasm and dedication to causes like Greenpeace (proceeds from her novel Ransom My Heart, “co-authored” by Princess Diaries lead Mia Thermopolis, were given to the charity). You can follow along with the fabulous Ms. Cabot’s thought on life and pop culture by peeking into the pages of her own diary. You know I’m there!

Book review: ‘Size 12 Is Not Fat’ by Meg Cabot

size_12_not_fatI have to admit — the title of this one intrigued me. And as a size 12 — the size of the “average American woman,” as we’re reminded frequently — and one of Meg Cabot’s biggest fans, I wasn’t sure how I could go wrong with this one!

And, well, I didn’t go wrong exactly. I’m just not exactly sure I went completely right.

In Size 12 Is Not Fat, trouble is certainly afoot for former teen pop star (and, yes, size 12) Heather Wells. Newly separated from her philandering boy band boyfriend and starting a job as assistant director of a residence hall at New York College, Heather is determined to get in good with her coworkers as she readies herself to get on the med school track and put her teen sensation days behind her. She’s even sharing a home with Cooper, a handsome and suave private eye — and her ex’s brother. Still, you know, things could happen . . . and Heather is determined to string more than two syllables together in his presence.

But Cooper — and everything else — gets put on the back-burner when girls at the dorm begin to appear at the bottom of elevator shafts. Officials want to write off the deaths as accidental, but Heather knows that foul play is involved. With the help of Coop and her cadre of well-meaning friends, she puts on her girlie sleuth cap and begins to investigate. And what finds definitely surprises her.

Size 12 Is Not Fat is campy, light, over-the-top and entertaining — but not really one of the books you’re going to pick up again and again, or pass along to friends while crying, “You’ve got to read this!” (Or, you know, giving the book a starring role on my blog. Or something.) Did it change my life? No. And that’s okay, because it is just a lot of fun.

Cabot writes with her trademark wit and natural dialogue. Heather is snarky, funny and self-effacing — a strong female character with plenty of gumption. I loved her interactions with friend and cafeteria worker Magda, who adores her residence hall “movie stars” more than anyone else, as well as her relationship (twisty though it may be) with ex Jordan.

I guess I just couldn’t really wrap my head around the mystery . . . and I had a hard time joining Heather on her adventures while trying to snoop out the culprit. Which — I know — sounds silly, considering I knew this was a “mystery” when I got it. Still, I love Cabot and I poured through this one quickly. I was more interested in Heather’s past stardom — and fledgling music career — than any solving crimes, though.

3.5 out of 5!

ISBN: 0060525118 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor’s Website
Personal copy purchased by Meg