One-Minute Book Reviews

October 2, 2009

Backscratching in Our Time – Nora Roberts and Sarah Wendell

Filed under: Backscratching in Our Time — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:33 am
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The latest in a series of posts on authors who praise each other’s work

Nora Roberts on Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan’s Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels:

“Funny, irreverent, insightful, and thorough, this guide zeroes in on the joys and woes of the romance genre.”

Sarah Wendell on Ethan Quinn, the hero of Nora Roberts’s Rising Tides, in Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels:

“Another Roberts hero. I love them. A quiet yet deeply intense man who hides turbulent and overwhelming emotions, Ethan is ferocious about a very specific group: those people he considers his family. Again, that intensity, plus healing and recovery from deep emotional harm, creates a deeply memorable hero.”

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved
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September 25, 2009

Backscratching in Our Time – Lisa Kleypas and Candy Tan

The latest in an occasional series of posts on authors who praise each other’s work

Lisa Kleypas on Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan’s Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels:

“A high-octane, hilarious, and revelatory look at the romance genre … This sparkling book is required reading. It’s too much fun to be missed!”

Candy Tan on the hero of Lisa Kleypas’s Only With Your Love, in Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels:

“Justin is my favorite guilty pleasure. … He’s my ultimate fantasy hero, and by that I mean he’s someone I desire strictly as a fantasy.”

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.twitter.com/janiceharayda

September 16, 2009

Bella the Doormat – Another Reason to Say Goodnight to ‘Twilight’?

Filed under: News,Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:03 am
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Need a reason to skip the “Twilight” vampire-romance series beyond that Stephenie Meyer writes at a fourth-grade reading level … and that’s in her adult novel, The Host? You’ve gotten your excuse from the authors of Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels (Free Press, 2009), a new guide from the creators of a lively Web site.

Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan have identified ten heroine-archetypes in romance novels, such as the Airhead, the Smart-Mouthed Cynic and the Spoiled Hoyden of Historical Inaccuracy. Then there’s the “Doormat: Still out there, waiting for you to wipe your shoes on her.”

Here’s how Wendell and Tan describe this throwback, whom they see as exemplified by Bella Swan, the American teenager who falls in love with a vampire in the first novel in the “Twilight” series:

“She’s malleable, weak, and an utter bore. She doesn’t stand up to anything, much less her own desires, and can be found swooning on the nearest sofa, or lying on the bed while she’s ravished with pleasure she so does not deserve. Might be seen swooning, wringing her hands, whining, or otherwise worrying about something. Any resistance she might mount against the hero is ineffectual, and she couldn’t find her backbone if you showed her an X-ray … “

July 31, 2009

Backscratching in Our Time – Nora Roberts and Janet Evanovich

The latest in an occasional series of posts on authors who praise each other’s books

Janet Evanovich on Nora Roberts’s new Tribute:
“Nora Roberts is amazing.”

Nora Roberts on Janet Evanovich’s One for the Money:
“Stephanie Plum is destined to join ranks with Kinsey Millhone and Carlotta Carlyle. Janet Evanovich has crafted a heroine for today, tough, vulnerable, resourceful, and impulsive.”

You’ll find other examples of logrolling in the Backscratching in Our Time category on this site.

The fascinating question here is: Why did Tribute need a blurb? Roberts was the first author inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame and has more than 250 million copies of her books in print.  Danielle Steel started publishing earlier and may have the edge in copies sold, but she isn’t a traditional romance novelist. If you take Steel out of the equation, Roberts may be the bestselling romance novelist in America. She is also one of the bestselling of all time.  Is the blurb from Evanovich likely to make a difference when Roberts  has spent hundreds of weeks on  New York Times bestseller lists and her sales figures have been over the moon for years? Does somebody think that in the Great Recession, even Roberts needs all the help she can get?

June 25, 2009

What’s the Difference Between Historical and Romance Novels? Quote of the Day – Philippa Gregory on Anya Seton

Filed under: Historical Novels,Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:26 am
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Philippa Gregory introduces Anya Seton's "Katherine."

I haven’t read the novels of Philippa Gregory, a superstar in historical fiction particularly known for her books about the Tudor era, such as The Other Boleyn Girl. But I found my way to Gregory’s Web site after picking up a 1958 edition of Anya Seton’s The Winthrop Woman at library giveaway. The book had blurbs that called it “the famous story of a passionate woman who scandalized her Puritan world” and who “shocked the bigoted colonists by daring to love one man while married to another.” I read a few chapters and found that – those racy lines aside – the book was much better written than many contemporary historical novels. What had happened to Seton? Why was she so little known today?

Gregory seems to have had similar questions. In the past decade she has written introductions for new editions of five of Seton’s books, including The Winthrop Woman. She argues on her Web site that Seton was one of a group of historical novelists who had critical and popular acclaim until literary fashions changed in the late 1950s:

“Quite wrongly, critics came to regard historical fiction and romantic fiction as one and the same genre; and condemned both for being fantastical, escapist vehicles for predictable love stories suitable only for women readers who required entertainment but no intellectual challenge.

“But a good historical novel has characters whose basic humanity engages our empathy and whose convincing circumstances remind us that the past is, indeed, another country. This is the opposite of romance fiction which is drawn to historical settings: not because it aims to explore how people are affected by the society in which they live; but because it depends on the imaginary glamour of the past: the long frocks and big hats, horse drawn transport, and high jeopardy. Romance fiction has no interest in different times and cultures, in the worst examples, its stories are told in a vacuum.

“All but the very best romance fiction tends to deploy a limited number of character types: the heroine: vulnerable, pure, loving, the female villain: manipulative, sexual, heartless, the male villain: aggressive, uncontrolled, cruel, and the hero: loving, but often mistaken. The cardboard characters come ready-made, they are not forged by their particular experiences, by their history or by their society; nothing interrupts them working their way through their story to the happy ending.

“High quality historical fiction is not like this. A good historical novel tells of characters who are entirely congruent with the known conditions of their time, and yet sufficiently independent in thought and action to stand out from the crowd, and for the modern reader to identify with them. They are rounded characters because they exist in a recognizable time and place and these circumstances work on them. A good historical novel is always conscious of the shared humanity that we all inherit …”

Gregory makes these provocative comments in her preface to Seton’s Katherine, posted on her Web site and worth reading if you like Gregory’s novels and are looking for similar authors. I would add that if critics tend to conflate historical and romantic fiction, it’s often because publishers encourage the trend with their packaging. Toni Morrison writes historical novels that have covers that make clear that they aren’t romance novels. Other authors aren’t so lucky.

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August 23, 2007

What’s the Difference Between a Romance Novel and a Romantic Novel? Quote of the Day (Anita Brookner)

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:47 am
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Edith Hope, the heroine of Anita Brookner’s Booker Prize–winning Hotel du Lac, writes romance novels of the Harlequin or Barbara Cartland sort. That occupation led Shusha Guppy to ask: “What is the difference between that kind of romantic novel and the genuine article? Is it just the invariably happy ending? Or simply the quality of writing and the mind behind it?” Brookner replied:

“Both. Romance novels are formula novels. I have read some and they seem to be writing about a different species. The true Romantic novel is about delayed happiness. The pilgrimage you go through to get to that imagined happiness. In the genuine Romantic novel there is a confrontation with truth and in the ‘romance’ novel a similar confrontation with a surrogate, plastic version of the truth. Romantic writers are characterized by absolute longing – perhaps for something that is not there and cannot be there. And they go along with all the hurt and embarrassment of identifying the real thing and wanting it. In that sense Edith Hope is not a twentieth-century writer, she belongs to the nineteenth century. What I can’t understand is the radical inauthenticity of some women’s novels which are written to a formula: from the peatbogs of Killarney to the penthouses of Manhattan: orgasms all the way! Pornography for ladies. It is not only untrue artistically, it is untrue and unfeminine. To remain pure a novel has to cast a moral puzzle. Anything else is mere negation.”

Anita Brookner in an interview with Shusha Guppy in Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews Eighth Series (Viking , 1988), edited by George Plimpton. Introduction by Joyce Carol Oates. The inteview also appeared in the Fall 1987 issue of the magazine. You can find another quote from it at www.parisreview.com. Search for the site for “Anita Brookner.” On this site you’ll also find the full text or portions of other interviews in this distinguished series.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

March 15, 2007

Grand Prize Winner 2007 Delete Key Awards: ‘Toxic Bachelors’ by Danielle Steel

The grand prize winner of the 2007 Delete Key Awards competition for the year’s worst writing in books is …

Toxic Bachelors by Danielle Steel

C’mon, you’re probably saying, this one was too easy. Sure, Danielle Steel writes at a fourth-grade level (technically, grade 4. 8), according to the readability statistics that are part of the spell-checker on Microsoft Word. But don’t we all know how bad her writing is? Not if you haven’t read Toxic Bachelors. You may not be surprised to hear that this novel has plenty of unintentionally comic lines like: “‘Yes,’ he said succinctly.” But it’s worse than you think.

Nobody expects social realism from Steel, but it’s still shocking to find Jews portrayed as monsters in this novel. Toxic Bachelors is about three men single men, each of whom represents a spiritual as well as social type. Charlie is WASP-y, Gray makes a religion of art, and Adam is Jewish. Guess which one has a weak father, a mother who is “a nagging bitch” and a spoiled sister? That’s right, Adam. His parents are cruel enough to make the Portnoys look like candidates for a lifetime achievement award from Parents magazine. And he has a special contempt for a sister who committed the ultimate sin: “She had never done anything with her life except get married and have children.”

Steel gets away with this because most critics have written her off and no longer review her. Why review somebody, the thinking goes, who writes only mindless romances? Toxic Bachelors presents an answer: If nobody holds her accountable, she’ll keep serving up nasty stereotypes, masquerading as a fairy tale.

Original review on One-Minute Book Reviews: Oct. 28, 2007, “Danielle Steel Gets Toxic,” archived with the October posts and in the “Novels” category.

The first and second runners-up were announced earlier today. The full short list appeared on Feb. 28 and the titles of books that received Honorable Mentions for the list on March 2. A list of questions and answers about the Delete Key Awards appeared on Feb. 27. All of these posts are archived with those of the month in which they appeared on One-Minute Book Reviews. Thank you for visiting this site.

Visit www.janiceharayda.com for information about the creator of the Delete Key Awards, Janice Harayda, a novelist and award-winning journalist has been the book columnist for Glamour, the book editor of the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, and a vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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