Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Kajeet phone

This isn't my usual book review or author interview, but I thought I might take a brief break from books to write about this very cool (or as the kids say, kewl) new phone that was created just for kids ages 8-12.
It's called Kajeet, and the phone has a camera, games, text messaging and more on it, plus it's a pay-as-you-go phone, so there are no expensive contracts to enslave the parents and empty their wallets.
My son Nick, who is, he will tell you, 7-and-three-quarters years old, (his birthday is in November) took to the Kajeet like a duck to water. I was worried that he was too young to handle the responsibility of the phone, but other than a first day of school mishap,where he lost the phone on the playground and had to go to the office to pick it up (and the dean of students called me to explain that he's not allowed to take his cell phone out of his backpack while at school unless he gets an emergency phone call from his parents), he's been great about keeping track of his phone, watching that he doesn't use up all his minutes, and being careful when allowing his friends to look at or play with the phone.
Nick and his buddy who lives across the street, Abby, had a 'modeling' session where Abby posed in lots of silly ways and Nick took her pictures with the Kajeet. It was adorable watching them play 'executive' and pretend they were having a discussion with the president about allowing gum at school.
Nick is honing his spelling and language skills by text messaging our 13 year old neighbor, Mari, though he had to be told that there is a time limit to when she can recieve text messages and calls from him. She's a busy gal and has homework to do and friends to giggle with on her own cell.
Nick downloaded some fun ringtones and sounds, so now when his phone rings, the "Transformers" theme comes on, and a deep voice says "Incoming message from Cybertron!"
Several of my neighbors up the street have asked about the Kajeet for their 9 and 10 year olds, and have asked me about the safety of the phone, and I've told them that so far, it seems perfectly safe and easily understandable and programable for kids.
Nick also loves the graphics on the phone, and the fact that he can call his parents if he's hurt or lost. Kids encounter so many more frightening things these days, its comforting to know that he can call on us whenever he needs to.
I highly recommend Kajeet for anyone with a preteen or young teen at home. It has all the features they love, and it has a price that parents love.
Turns out that I was wrong about Andrea Rains Waggener and genre fiction. The publisher decided to put her book in the chick lit category because they felt it would sell better. I got an email from the author setting the record strait:

"And it would be lovely if you'd share my real view on genre fiction, which is that I love it and would happily publish a genre novel if allowed to do so. :) The book I wrote after Alternate Beauty was a "dreaded" cross-genre. It's a combo of sci fi, paranormal, and mystery. My editor at Bantam liked the story and characters but thought it would be too difficult to market and so insisted that I write another chick lit novel. Since I'd never set out to write chick lit and had been categorized into that niche quite without consent, I really struggled to write another book like it, but I did so. Probably because my heart wasn't in it, the book wasn't as good as it should have been, and my editor passed on it and then she stopped returning phone calls etc."

I sincerely wish Ms Waggener the best, and I hope some smart publisher picks up her next novel and puts it in the proper category!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Alternate Beauty by Andrea Rains Waggener

This blog has not delved much into my personal life, and I really prefer it that way, as I wanted to focus on books, authors and my passion for reading.
But this book, Alternate Beauty, attracted my attention because it deals with something that has been a part of my life since I started taking cortisone at age 5 for asthma and allergies--being a larger person. I dislike the terms 'fat' and 'obese' because they are used as epithets by ignorant and cruel people who don't know what its like to have no control over your body size.
Having been a larger person (I once weighed 300 pounds) who lost 100 pounds when I was in my 20s and became "normal" sized, I can honestly say that there is a great deal of truth to the idea that how you feel about yourself on the inside, your mindset and your heart, has a great deal to do with how the world percieves you and how attractive you are to the opposite sex. I was expecting to be propositioned constantly once I was in shape and svelte, but that didn't really happen. I did have more men notice me, and yes, I dated more, but a majority of the guys I dated turned out to be jerks and freaks, certainly not the kind of man I was looking to create a long term relationship with. Most of them were terrible lovers as well, interested only in what I could do for them sexually, and not at all interested in making me feel good or satisfied. The only man who ever bothered to ask me what I want and how I feel is now my husband.
So I could identify with the protagonist of Alternate Beauty, Veronica "Ronnie" Tremayne. (I could even identify, to some extent, with her having a mother who was thin and vain, as my mother never had a weight problem until she turned 65, and even then it was only an extra 20 pounds. My mother isn't cruel and nasty like Ronnie's however.) Ronnie works in a Queen Size Boutique in downtown Seattle (I also worked in a Queen size clothing boutique in downtown Seattle about 11 years ago, briefly) and is told that she's going to lose her job because her 300 pound size is making her customers "uncomfortable." She binge eats to fill the empty hole in her soul, and also as a means of revenge and control. She has a boyfriend who loves her as she is, but he looks like a chipmunk and she is dissatisfied with their sexual relationship, mainly due to her own loathing of her body. Ronnie ends up in a parallel universe by accident, and this universe is one in which fat is revered and desired, while the thin are discriminated against as the overweight are in our world. Ronnie revels, at first, in all the attention and adoration she recieves for being big and beautiful, and she moves in with a photographer who worships her avoirdupois. She soon discovers, though, that she doesn't feel the need to binge eat when she has the approval of her mother and her peers. Once Ronnie starts to lose weight, she experiences the same kind of discrimination that she felt in the 'real' world, being shunned by lovers and friends alike. Her old lover, however, still finds her attractive, no matter how saggy her skin becomes, and she renews her relationship with him. While all this is happening, Ronnie comes to realize that what she needs to do is to learn to love herself as she is, fat or thin, and esteem herself, realize her worth and move forward with her life, with or without her mothers approval. Once she's had that revelation, she ends up back in her own world, where she takes charge of her life and career once again in a classic Happily Ever After ending.
The prose in this novel seems a bit rough in spots, but the heart is there, and Waggener mentions in her bio that she's been there, done that with the whole weight issue, so I could forgive her a few rough spots because the message of the novel came through loud and clear. A vast majority of the prose is just fine, and her plot certainly moves along at a spritely pace. I was rather surprised that this novel was considered general fiction by the publisher when its clearly science fiction/romance, or fantasy/romance, complete with an explanation of different realities existing next to one another. I can only assume that Ms Waggener didn't want to be considered a genre fiction writer, because a number of people somehow assume that genre fiction isn't as good as regular fiction. Snobbish and silly as it is, there are writers who'd rather die than write genre novels, especially science fiction or romance. That attitude is ridiculous and I sincerely hope that Ms Waggener's publisher made the decision to house this fine novel in general fiction, where it got a chick lit cover and hopefully, some good marketing by Bantam. The honesty and emotion of the characters and the empathy I felt for Ronnie made me read through Alernate Beauty in two days. I plan on recommending it to my fellow SF/Romance bibliophiles.
I'd also recommend this book to any woman who has ever struggled with her weight and self image. I'd bet that qualifies most women to read Alternate Beauty, which is well worth the time. Its uplifting message of learning to love yourself as you are is not to be missed.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

RIP Madeleine L'Engle

I grew up reading A Wrinkle in Time (the series) and A Ring of Endless Light moved me to tears the first time I read it.
May Ms L'Engle forever reside in the "great ring of pure and endless light that dazzles the darkness in my heart."
Go with God, Madeleine.

'A Wrinkle in Time' author Madeleine L'Engle dies at 88
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Author Madeleine L'Engle, whose novel A Wrinkle in Time has been enjoyed by generations of schoolchildren and adults since the 1960s, has died, her publicist said Friday. She was 88. L'Engle died Thursday at a nursing home in Litchfield of natural causes, according to Jennifer Doerr, publicity manager for publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux.The Newbery Medal winner wrote more than 60 books, including fantasies, poetry and memoirs, often highlighting spiritual themes and her Christian faith. Although L'Engle was often labeled a children's author, she disliked that classification. In a 1993 Associated Press interview, she said she did not write down to children."In my dreams, I never have an age," she said. "I never write for any age group in mind. When people do, they tend to be tolerant and condescending and they don't write as well as they can write.""When you underestimate your audience, you're cutting yourself off from your best work."A Wrinkle in Time— which L'Engle said was rejected repeatedly before it found a publisher in 1962 — won the American Library Association's 1963 Newbery Medal for best American children's book. Her A Ring of Endless Light was a Newbery Honor Book, or medal runner-up, in 1981. In 2004, President Bush awarded her a National Humanities Medal.Wrinkle tells the story of adolescent Meg Murry, her genius little brother Charles Wallace, and their battle against evil as they search across the universe for their missing father, a scientist.L'Engle followed it up with further adventures of the Murry children, including A Wind in the Door, 1973; A Swiftly Tilting Planet, 1978, which won an American Book Award; and Many Waters, 1986. Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.