Friday, May 20, 2011

Cotton Candy Reads

Right now on your night stand is a book (or e-book in your e-reader of choice) that you might not admit to anyone you’re reading. Or maybe it’s a book in your beach tote. Or a book tucked away in your purse for those random moments like waiting in line at the DMV, or your lunch hour, or the doctor’s office. It’s a book you’re reading for sheer entertainment. What I like to call my “Cotton Candy” reads.

Don’t get me wrong, my reading life doesn’t usually revolve around Cotton Candy reads. My favorite book happens to be The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak and I can talk until I’m blue in the face about the intricate plot, memorable characters, and the way I had to stay up until 3:00AM to finish it…sobbing, btw. But The Book Thief wasn’t an easy read. A great read, a thought-provoking read but not one I’d read in a bubble bath and yes, I tried. Something about Death and lavender scented bubbles didn’t really mix.

No, Cotton Candy reads are fun. Fluffy. Sugary. Not really good for you but fine in small doses. And you might even feel like you need to wash your hands after reading one. The Cotton Candy read that inspired this blog post is…don’t judge…pretty please…A Shore Thing by Nicole “Snooki” Pilozzi.

Yes, that Snooki.

I said don’t judge.

I’ll admit, even I JUDGED. I’m not a fan of Jersey Shore. Frankly, I’ve seen all of about five minutes of the show, and it sort of scared me. But the truth is I’m a Jersey girl and happen to LOVE the actual Jersey shore. I’ve stayed in a share house at Seaside before I knew better. I’ve ridden the Jet Star and imagined being throttled right out into the Atlantic on that first turn. I’ve had cheese steaks and fresh pressed lemonade from The Midway Steak House. Bruce. Bon Jovi. Need I say more?

And maybe that’s why I was so curious about it. Yea, yea, THAT’S IT. My novel out on submission also happens to be set in the Jersey shore, so I told myself reading it would be, um, research to suss out the competition. I never expected to actually enjoy it.

Odd thing is - I did.

As writers we need to read for many reasons. To study plot construction. To understand dialogue cadence. To see what works and what doesn’t. Reading helps us with our own writing in ways we’re probably not even completely aware. Sometimes the voices in my head are so loud when I read that it’s distracting. “Oh, here’s the inciting moment, there’s the first obstacle, here comes the point where everything goes really wrong and then only gets worse” You know what I mean because it happens to you too. (please say it does!)

Some of that even happened while I read A Shore Thing but not a whole lot. What I did find as I read it was I wasn’t really thinking about it at all. I was reading. Laughing. Being entertained. Is that really so awful? Nope. I don’t think so.*

Whenever anyone asks me to describe the book I say it was like Jackie Collins takes on the Jersey shore. Pure. Unadulterated. FUN. I completely got caught up in Gia Spumante’s search for the gorilla juice head of her dreams. I even had to Google some of the vocab like ‘gorilla juice head’ and ‘grenade’ and ‘smush’.

So wait, does that mean I learned something?

C’mon, fess up – what’s YOUR cotton candy read?

*In my defense, on the same weekend I read said book, I also saw the film “Barney’s Version” so I think the two sort of balanced my brain cells out.


  1. I have to say my Cotton Candy read would be My Fair Godmother. It was completely fun all the way through.

    Like you, I tend to dissect every novel I read and it can be distracting to the point that I don't get 'into' the books I read as much as when I was a teen or child. Now it's all about learning. Which is great, but I even do this to movies. Which drives my husband up the wall, I think. Because I can usually predict what is going to happen next just because of the tell-tale arc and certain rules any good writer must follow.

    So, it is entirely refreshing when book comes along that blows me away so thoroughly that I don't think about plot structure once (well maybe once, but that's usually it!) during the entire read. I love finding those gems. One would be The Hunger Games for me. I couldn't think about structure until after the fact.

  2. Robin:

    No need to feel guilty. Snookie's book was ghosted by Valerie Frankel who has authored about two dozen novels and a gazillion magazine articles.

    As for cotton candy reads, I just ordered up a glut of cheesy mysteries and will stuff them in my beach bag. I love to read up to the last twenty pages, close the book, figure out the ending, and then read to see how close I've come.

    And if it ever stops raining, i just might get to one of those books.

  3. Kathryn - I'm the same way at movies too!! I guess it's a job hazard.

    I've yet to read The Hunger Games -yep I'm THAT one person. Have it in hardcover - this summer definitely!

    Judy - You know THAT was the biggest question that popped up for me - did Snooki even write it -thanks for clearing that up. Obviously didn't think too hard about it or I may have googled that instead of juice head!

  4. Wow, Valerie Frank ghosted Snookie's book? I know her by-line well from the magazine biz, and she's a great writer. No wonder you were hooked, Robin.

    As for own my cotton candy addiction--true confession time--I feed it with my favorite gossip mag and reality TV show, not books. With books, I tend to stick to my "must read" list, which is so long I don't feel like I have the luxury to sneak in anything Snookie-like.

    I should probably give it a whirl, though, especially since today (5/21/11) could be my last day to read anyway, so what the heck!

  5. Hey - we're all still here, right?

    JL - I'm the same with gossip mags and reality TV. (hmm, maybe too much cotton candy in my diet!)

    Whenever I go on vacation I NEED to get US, People, and if I'm really letting go...OK! lol. Love it.

  6. I've read books others considered pure trash and enjoyed them very much. Even trashy books can be tough to write -- and get published.

    Once I had a boss who was really smart and sophisticated and a great reader of all sorts of good books. She quite happily read bodice rippers on the train and wasn't a bit embarrassed if you caught her out. I admired her so much for that.

    But I'm not going to read Snookie's.