Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Learning Writer's Review ... Her Sexiest Mistake

Yesterday, I was pretty mad at myself for writing a formulaic and boring story. Today, I swore to dig deep and do much better. Today, I knew and loved my characters. They were so alive, and the story was a story. A real story. I thought I said something special, and I was feeling quite proud of myself.

Wouldn't you know, when I asked DH which story he liked better, he said they were the same? Outrageous! The same?? No! One said something emotional! One just ... played at writing. One had well-developed and growing characters! One didn't. *sigh*

Her Sexiest Mistake, by Jill Shalvis. She's an author I discovered through her blog. I pop by every day, because even when she has a horrid day, she manages to make me laugh. I don't know how people get to be like that, but they have my admiration, that's for sure.

I wanted to write a review from the perspective of learning something about our craft. I'd absolutely love to hear your opinions! And let me know anything else I should observe or notice, while reading the next book. Thanks!

My Favorite Line:

"Her answer was the universal gaze teenagers all over the country had perfected, the one which said Fuck off and die, but before you do, please take care of me."

Coolest Writing: The heroine, Mia, is a together and polished marketing queen with a kick ass career. The only thing she doesn't have, is a past to match. Instead, she's spent years erasing her trailer trash beginnings, along with her southern accent.

Her niece, Hope, runs away to her Aunt Mia, with similar hopes for her future. Hope is a sulky and needy teenager. (See above favorite line ... it says it all.)

In this scene, Mia takes Hope to a teen center to spend the day, but is having trouble getting through the receptionist. Hope is awestruck by the receptionist's perfect and put together exterior.

The woman narrowed her eyes at Hope. "Didn't your mother ever teach you it's rude to stare?"

Mia stopped on the spot, one heel and all, drawing herself up even taller as she put her hand on Hope's arm. "And didn't your momma ever teach you it's rude to talk to a kid that way?"

I love the way she shows so much character in this exchange. You can just hear Mia's upbringing compared to the woman's with "mother" versus "momma." And although Mia has been, so far, inconvenienced by Hope, we see that even though she doesn't stay connected with her family, she still carries with her the sense of family. We learn that even though she may put down her family's roots, she won't have anyone else saying anything.

Number of Times I Laughed Out Loud: 5

Things I Learned:
1.) Stay true to your character: All the characters remained themselves. They grew and changed, which is great, but they never strayed from their real selves. Each character was well-developed and exceptionally interesting. Very original! Some changed, some remained static, but they never stepped out of their true nature.

2.) Turn cliches on their head: Mia is commitment-phobic. Kevin is a male, great with kids. Kevin is a great role model and teacher who drives a Harley. Mia is a big time marketing chic who drools at the sight of the bad boy type on a Harley. Just the setup is crackling with energy!

3.) That fabulous setup of contrasting characters really drives the whole novel. Sparks and conflicts fly everywhere, with five main characters who have multiple conflicts with each other. Much of the conflict is rooted in personality, and it provides plenty of fodder for characters to force each other to grow.

It makes me wonder if Jill Shalvis starts first with her characters, develops them, and then watches them go? I know that that is my experience as a reader!

4.) Making the internal thoughts interesting: It's a novel, so naturally we get to see the character's inner lives. I'm too much dialogue, so it was great to read, in the first three chapters, how much thinking they did. At times, when I stepped out of my experience to analyze, I felt like I was reading a Harlequin romance (I love them; I'm not putting them down), and I also wondered if this is something needed?

I once read a "rule" that said if the main characters are not in the same room, then they should be thinking about each other. Okay, so I haven't been reading much romance lately, outside of Nora, Harlequin Intrigues, and Evanovich. I wasn't sure if the amount, in this book, was normal or more than normal.

I do like how Evanovich makes Morelli and Ranger so attractive, by completely understating them. You only read a few sentences at a time about them, and there's never time to obsess about feelings, between her cars getting stolen and blown up.

But that's a different genre. How do you guys feel about characters thinking about each other throughout the book?

One Disappointment:
Warning: Spoiler Ahead:
Hope. I loved Hope. Her ending was only kind of happy, and I felt a little short-cheated. Her subplot seemed to point all the way to a forever-stay with her Aunt Mia and Kevin. I wanted all three of them to live happily ever after, together.

But Hope got what she didn't want: sent home to her mother. Okay, she kinda missed her mom in the last couple pages. Her mom hadn't wanted her when she was too busy with her boyfriend to deal with her daughter, but since the mom (Sugar's) boyfriend dumped her, she wanted Hope back.

True to Sugar's character. And it's normal that Hope would, deep down, want to go back to her mom. Also true to her character.

But for the whole book, the subplot was driving towards Mia allowing and welcoming Hope to stay with her, and not send Hope back home. So it was a bit of a surprise for the opposite to happen, in the end.

However, if Hope had stayed with Kevin and Mia, it would have been a tad cliche and predictable. And unrealistic. Her mom wanted her back, and a daughter is meant to grow up with her mother. I don't see Jill Shalvis could've ended it any other way.

Still, I loved Hope, and I didn't want her to leave.

Things I Loved:
1.) Ribbon-Tied Ending: I love how she wraps up each thread and ties everything up in a nice, neat bow. If I hadn't been a little disappointed in Hope's ending, it would have been hugely satisfying. As it was, it was still satisfying, and I enjoyed the neatness.
2.) Fast Pace: I never felt the need to put the book down. In fact, one night I couldn't stop reading it. At about one in the morning, I could only keep one eye open, I was so tired, but I couldn't put the book down. At about two in the morning, I noticed that I kept falling asleep for about five minutes between paragraphs (and only because I'd been working for twelve - thirteen hours that day!). Eventually sleep won, but the book's pace was always lively, fun, and interesting.
3.) Characters: She can really create characters. I want to meet them all in real life, and short of that, I want to be them. I found them all inspiring and interesting.
4.) I laughed. Boy, I needed some laughs, when I read this book. I drank up the author's optimistic voice like a ... hmmm, what was that cliche I wrote yesterday? *grins*

She has some romantic suspense out. Our bookstore only had one, and I think it's a set of three. I'm dying to read them ... I just can't wait to find out how Shalvis's upbeat and funny voice reads when combined with suspense. I bet it's going to be awesome. Her fast pace promises to be a natural at suspense. Has anyone out there read them?

1 bonus scribbles:

Jill,  11/08/2006 12:51:00 AM  

I'm so glad you enjoyed the book! Thanks for talking about it!w