Tuesday, September 20, 2011

REVIEW: Mad Love (is tons of mad fun!--but maybe a little too chaotic)

Selfors, S.  (2011).  Mad Love.  New York:  Walker & Company.

323 pages.

Appetizer:  Alice has been telling a lot of lies lately.  She's had to.  The biggest lie is that her mom, a semi-famous romance author, is "overseas," researching her next book.  The reality is far less glamorous, and despite being tired of the lies, Alice does everything she can to maintain her family's secrets.  This becomes almost impossible though, when the family savings are close to gone, her mom's publisher is demanding the next book and Alice speaks on her mother's behalf at a book event and a strange young man in the audience insists Alice tell his story.

The possibly crazy/super attractive/vaguely stalkery guy always wears a black hoodie and claims to be Cupid.  Yes, The Cupid.  But he goes by Errol now.

When Alice refuses to write "Errol's" story, he begins to make her romantic life (or lack there of) complicated.  The skateboarding boy--Tony--who Alice has been admiring from afar is suddenly in her life adding just enough stress that Alice might go crazy (one of her biggest fears).

I know it may seem like it took me over a month to read this book, but don't take that as a judgment on Mad Love.  Blame moving across the country and starting a new job.

I wanted to sit around and read this book.

What a breath of fresh air!

If you may remember, few but dear readers, I complained during my Starcrossed review that I was stuck reading a string of mediocre books that were related to Dudley the Dissertation's topic, the gods and creatures of myth.  Mad Love has cut the string!  It felt sooooo good to dip into a book by someone who can string a bunch of words together in a way that is clever, amusing and tells an engaging story.

This book is well-written and funny.  I liked the exploration of Alice struggling to write a romance novel.  I actually wound up reading a portion aloud to my writing class (When Alice looks at writing guides and lists the rules for writing a romance:  pp. 82-85.)

Although, by mid-novel, I did wish things would speed up plot-wise and that there'd be a little less random craziness and some more clear direction of where the story was going (and that Alice would make more progress on her goals).  That feeling didn't leave as I continued to read.  (Random horrible storm that Alice must go out in to rescue someone at the end?  Whattheheck?!)  In the Author's Note, Suzanne Selfors noted that she had to revise this story extensively.  Frankly, I thought it could have used another revision or two.  It felt like there were a lot of wonderful pieces that just didn't quite fit together.  My  head was left feeling a little crowded by the book's end.  Crowded, but also amused.

Dinner Conversation:

"When you're sixteen, summer is supposed to spread before you like a magic carpet, waiting to carry you to new, exciting places.  Paperback novel in hand, bare feet buried in speckled sand, long kisses with a boy in a kayak--that's what it's supposed to be about.  Summer, with its coconut and pineapple flavors, with its reggae rhythms, with its endless possibilities for adventure and romance.
But if you asked me on that Monday in July, I'd tell you that there was nothing exciting about my summer forecast.  My magic carpet looked more like a plain, beige indoor-outdoor kind of thing and it was nailed solidly to the ground" (p. 3).

"It's easier to tell lies when there are no loving eyes staring back at you.
I told lots of lies.
Deception had become my life.  It wasn't a compulsion.  I didn't do it for some sort of thrill.  I lied constantly because I'd promised my mother that I'd never tell anyone the truth about our situation.  Lie upon lie upon lie, heaped into a great big pile.  Like a dung beetle, I maneuvered that pile everywhere I went.  And I was sick of it" (p. 9).

"The guy stood.  "I have a question for Alice."
I tapped my flip-flops against the floor.  Though his eyes were somewhat shaded by the rim of his hood, his gaze was intense.  "Yes?" I asked.
"I have a love story to tell," he said.  "And I need you to write it for me.  When can you get started?"
A few women chuckled, then a long span of silence followed as the guy continued to stare at me.  Was this a joke?
Tom cleared his throat.  "You mean you want Alice's mother to write it?  Alice is the Queen of Romance's daughter.  Maybe you didn't hear my introduction."
"I know who Alice is," the guy said.  "I want her to write my story."
The word "want hung in the air, adding an eerie note to the atmosphere.  I shifted in my seat.  "Well, that's very nice and everything, but it's your story so you should write it yourself."
"I'm not a writer," he said.  "But I lived the story, so I remember every single detail.  All you have to do is read through my notes, then write it" (p. 15).

"My name is Errol, but I used to be called Eros.  Most know me as Cupid."  He continued to stare out the window.  "I wasn't named after Cupid.  I am Cupid.  The original, one and only Cupid."
Music and customer chatter competed with his statement, so no one turned to gawk or snicker.  But I'd heard him.  A pained smile spread across my face as I pretended to be interested.  My suspicions were proven.  Something was wrong with him and the last thing I needed was to be on his radar.
"There's only on thing I want," he continued.  "And that is to tell my love story to the world.  Not the version you find in mythology books, but the real story.  The true story.  I'm the only person who can tell  it and I want you to write it" (p. 55).

"Why couldn't I write Untitled Work in Progress for my mother?
Being the Queen of Romance's daughter made me the Princess of Romance.  I may not have inherited her Nordic bone structure, her sexy figure, or her naturally plump lips, but surely I'd inherited something.  And maybe that something was the knack for storytelling.  I'd gotten Bs in English.  I'd been raised on the romance genre.  It was such an obvious answer.  And what else was I doing with my summer?
I could devote every minute of every day to the project.  It didn't have to be a Pulitzer Prize winner, just something that Heartstrings Publishers would accept.  This could work.  It would work.  It had to work."  (pp. 81-82)

"Someone was watching me.
He stood across the street, looking right at me.  Foreboding rolled over me, dark and sinister.  If ever there was a time to run, it was then.  But I didn't run.  I couldn't.  Like in a nightmare I stood rooted to the spot.
"Alice?" Tony touched my arm.
Errol's hood concealed most of his face, but his mouth was tight with determination.  He held his left arm  straight out.  Then he pulled his right hand to his chest.  Something was going to happen.  Something bad.  I felt as helpless as a small creature caught in headlights.
And then, BAM!
Something collided with my chest.  A jolt shot through my body, electrifying the tips of my fingers and toes" (pp. 87-88).

"In an odd way I suddenly felt better, because of the two of us standing in that bedroom, Errol was clearly the crazier.  He thought he was the Roman god Cupid.  Sure, I might have heard a voice in my head; sure, I might have gone a bit wacko for a few hours, but I had no delusions about my identity.  I wasn't Isis, or Supergirl, or Bella Swan.  I was Alice Amorous, daughter of a semifamous, mentally ill romance writer, who would soon be getting food stamps if her mother didn't turn in another book.  Which I was supposed to be writing." (p. 137)

Tasty Rating:  !!!!

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