As you know I have an ambivalent relationship with Jodi Picoult‘s books. But I confess I had a bit of a revival of interest when I read House Rules (reviewed on this blog back in February). Super book about autism.
So, when I was deciding which books to sample on the Kindle – just to check whether I really really did want to leap into the twenty-first century – one of the first on my list was Sing you Home. I read it ages ago but it’s taken me till now to get around to posting my comments. Which probably says a lot about my rating of the book.
The story revolves around Zoe and Max Baxter whose marriage is on the rocks after a number of failed attempts to have a baby. (Yeah, yeah, I know. I do bang on about these issues.) Anyway, Zoe finds comfort in Vanessa whose work as a school counsellor overlaps with her own music therapy. They go on to ‘marry’ and decide they want children.
Zoe already has frozen embryos left over from her IVF with Max. Using them seems like a no-brainer. But Max is now a born-again religious zealot, vigorously opposed to same sex unions, and he fights Zoe’s claims through the courts.
OK, some of the issues are my territory but that doesn’t mean I’m bound to like books on these subjects. Indeed, I can be super critical of the way authors deal with medicine and ethics. So, what was my verdict on Sing you Home? Hmm.
It’s the usual Picoult formula:
Major social issues
Multiple voices speaking in the first person.
Lots of amateur psychology.
Big social issues.
A courtroom drama
It has one unique feature:
Accompanying songs, the lyrics of which were composed by Picoult herself. An interesting ‘gimmick’, entirely fitting with the story line about a music therapist who reaches troubled people through songs.
A few amusing/thoughtful quotes to make you smile/wonder:
Max on the effect of infertility on their marriage
‘Our sex life had become like Thanksgiving dinner with a dysfunctional family – something you have to show up for, even though you’re not really having a good time … want had become need and then obsession … There was no room in my marriage for me anymore, except as genetic material.’
Vanessa on society’s attitude to homosexuality
‘I remember my mother telling me that, when she was a little girl in Catholic school, the nuns used to hit her left hand every time she wrote with it. Nowadays, if a teacher did that, she’d probably be arrested for child abuse. The optimist in me wants to believe sexuality will eventually become like handwriting: there’s no right way and wrong way to do it. We’re all just wired differently.
It’s also worth noting that, when you meet someone, you never bother to ask if he’s right- or left-handed.
After all: Does it really matter to anyone other than the person holding the pen?’
Zoe’s on school canteen
‘It looks like every other school cafeteria I’ve ever seen – a life-size petri dish breeding social discontent, students sorting themselves into individual genuses: the Popular Kids, the Geeks, the Jocks, The Emos.’
Vanessa’s on court protocol
‘The clerk scrambles forward to make his announcement as Judge O’Neill strides off the bench, so that we all rise, too, like some magnetic after-effect of his anger.’
The stereotypical portrayal of bigoted right-wing Christianity.
The pseudo-psychology everybody seems to indulge in.
The occasional misuse of medical terms (or maybe it’s simply American shorthand).
The anomalies in the formatting that crept in during conversion.
So, a mixed bag. Not a patch on House Rules.
Oh, just before I go, if you’re weighed down by the stress of Christmas preparations, or feeling jaded by lack of daylight hours, or in anyway down in the dumps, I recommend you go to dovergreyreader‘s post for Saturday December 10. It’s called Security knitting alert …start casting on everyone and it’s sure to bring a smile to your face.
Wahey! It’s official. McHaffie novels have now launched into the ether!
Yes, as promised, an update on the ebook saga. (For any newcomers to this site I’m in the process of converting books from my backlist into electronic versions, and some of my visitors have requested information on the nitty gritty of a writer’s life.)
The first stage was surprisingly painless. Following advice from various people in the Society of Authors, I (with DJ’s invaluable assistance) duly researched Smashwords and set about applying their format to my Word documents. Everything went swimmingly and the three books duly went through the vetting process with flying colours. Here’s the evidence. So far so encouraging.
Then … of course, there was bound to be a ‘then’. Smashwords informed us that they wouldn’t be able to issue the Kindle version until December at the earliest. So readers who use Sony or Apple or Kobo or Barnes & Noble or Diesel or Aldiko or Stanza machines can access them, but not Kindle people. Ahhhh. Pretty much every e-reader I know uses a Kindle.
OK. Never say die. We’ll convert it ourselves via Amazon. More careful research, and off we go, full of confidence after our breeze through Smashwords.
Except that the theory didn’t quite match the practice. Most things worked in the main, but weird illogical aberrations cropped up without rhyme or reason – with indentation and formatting and pictures. Only detectable in the downloaded version too, not on preview. (So what exactly is the point of a preview facility, then?) DJ, bless his cotton socks and unlimited patience, spent many solid hours plumbing the depths of each problem, and putting it right. And this week we’ve FINALLY cracked it. Vacant Possession, Paternity and Double Trouble are all now available to Kindle users.
We’ve learned a lot in the process, and hopefully future conversions will be less troublesome. And there’s a silver lining: I shan’t now be so sniffy about errors in the books I download in future, but spare a passing sympathetic thought for the poor unfortunate who had neither the time nor inclination to check every last page.
Oh, and if you find an error in one of mine, do let me know. One of the advantages of having the process in my control.
Have you heard of Super Thursday? Nor me. A least I hadn’t until this week.
This year Super Thursday fell on September 29th. And on that day a raft of books were launched onto a unsuspecting public, books that the publishers (and authors) hope will become Christmas bestsellers. Titles by folk like Robert Harris, Joanna Lumley, Alan Sugar, Lee Child. Hmm. Three months early. But apparently these contenders need to build up a head of steam, and be seen in bookshops, on coffee tables, on trains and planes, etc. ‘Seep into the public consciousness.’ Seep, not zoom, because if they fly off the shelves too quickly the book’s in danger of dying prematurely. Riiight.
Anyway on Super Thursday this year, more than 225 books were published. And more big names are on the way in the next few weeks, to stagger the impact. Again a fair smattering of famous faces from the small screen rather than literary giants. Jeremy Paxman, Rob Brydon alongside Claire Tomalin. You can find the whole list at the link above. What does that say about people and Christmas, eh? Hey ho.
No prizes for guessing that my new novel is not among them. But then McHaffie is not a household name – in case it had slipped your busy notice. I do not appear in quiz games or political rallies. I do not grace the front pages of the glossies or make a double page splurge in Saga magazine. Yet.
However, Saving Sebastian is scheduled for January, when I hope lots of people have Christmas-gift vouchers and money to splurge out on lesser known authors. Hey, come on! A girl can dream, can’t she?
But I’m not just dreaming. I’m actually being diligently proactive at the moment. What am I up to? I’m converting my back-list into ebooks. Yep, really, truly, I am. And having a lot of pleasure in the process. It feels good. At last I’m taking back some kind of control over my novels. But I’m anxious to get them right – I hate muddled formatting and missing capitals and all the other errors that creep in when conversion isn’t done efficiently. So there’s a lot of browsing through how-to texts and consulting experts and editing and generally pfaffing about going on. It’s almost as compulsive as writing the books in the first place.
I’ll keep you posted.