Monday, April 19, 2010

Laughter Reviews & Giveaway: MY OWN PERSONAL SOAP OPERA

MY OWN PERSONAL SOAP OPERA: Looking for Reality in All the Wrong Places
by Libby Malin
Humorous Women's Fiction
Sourcebooks, April 2010

Premise: Personal and professional life starts to merge for newly promoted head script writer of longlived but threatened-with-cancellation soap opera.

Cover: Title - Perfectly captures content, subtitle a nice (and accurate) touch. Art - Delightful. The white-on-blue bubble background, redhead in a tub foreground, mix of block and cursive text set great anticipatory tone. Anyone looking at this knows they are in for a light, fun, happily-ever-after-in-some-way-or-other story.

What Works: Apprentice Writer is not of an overly patient nature. Perhaps for this reason she never got into soaps. If she is impatient with a two-hour movie that takes too long to resolve whodunit, how can she tolerate waiting months upon months to find out who tampered with the mail that fell into the evil twin's hands who blackmailed the prince-in-disguise who offered marriage by proxy to the amnesiac seretary?

AW did have a university roommate, though, who followed four or so soaps devotedly and a few others peripherally, much to the detriment of the roomate's grades and satisfaction of her need for emotional stories grafted onto goodlooking actors. Her devotion was such that AW suspected she was missing something, and chose a soap to follow according to the following criteria: 1. Not in roommate's stable (one must have some originality, after all) and 2. Airing before she left for the day's classes. Whether due to destiny or inferior selection criteria, that soap soon bit the dust. AW took it as a sign that she was not meant to be a soap viewer.

Imagine her surprise, therefore, when she took to this story and most especially it's heroine, Frankie, from page 1. Was it because it was in written rather than visual form? Was it because of the sometimes very funny situations and purple prose in the soap scenes studded throughout? Was it because of recognition of the incredible liberation posed by characters in the stories delivering the perfect comebacks and setdowns at exactly the right time, a luxury very few of us enjoy (unless AW is in the minority when she swallows her feelings or thinks of a great retort only when the opportunity is long gone)?

Whatever the reason - she was swept up into the story of Frankie's battle to stay on top of the heaving creative ship, protect the citizens of her town, keep to the high road post-divorce with her ex, chart a course in confusing love life, and grow her career amid a sea of colleagues with various intensities of secrets and ambitions for the next It showbiz thing.

One doesn't have to live or work in Hollywood to develop fellow feeling for a young woman who is smart but needs to prove it, creative but derided for her choice of artistic outlet, yearning for love but hesitant to accept it when it appears to come along. Welcome to the new milenium, when it seems we are constantly called upon to make a rapid, far-reaching choice among multiple shifting possibilities.

What Doesn't: There was one off note. Since it is mildly spoilerish AW will only say that it was a staff management decision that made no sense to her given employee behavior up to that point coupled with Frankie's relentless desire to be seen as worthy of her executive position. The choice made was in conflict with both those elements, and consequently seemed to fit in less with natural character behavior and more with authorly plot purposes.

This was however quickly forgiven when AW realized that the second aspect that at first made her say 'Oh no!' was actually the cleverest joke of them all: she reached 'The End' and sputtered " can't be the end yet! I have to know what happened to X's relationship! And Y's career! And Z's health crisis! And..."

This was when it struck her - Duh! THIS is why soap viewers keep coming back. That masterful tease, that expertly measured portion of clue which is just enough to tantalize them with the promise that return will be worthwhile and not enough that they will guess what happens or else whom it happens to. Non-soap watcher though she may be, AW engaged with Frankie and her crew enough to cherish the hope that there may be a follow-up story to quench her burning desire to know what exactly happened to that relationship, and that career, and health crisis, and...

Overall: If the test of a book is whether it makes the reader want to search out the author's backlist as well as read future titles, MOPSO is a success. The perfect light-hearted novel to buy now for immediate enjoyment of rainy spring evenings, or delayed gratification of sunny beach days.

But does it make you laugh? YES
'Zany', 'fast-moving' and 'multi-layered' are not rhetoric when applied to the 'Lust for Life' crowd. This is not a book readers would accuse of dragging middle - or beginning, or end.

The publisher, Sourcebooks, has generously provided two copies of MOPSO for AW's readers For a chance to win, share your thoughts on the question:

What soap opera plot development would you most like to see?

The come back tomorrow to double your chances by commenting on the author's GUEST POST.

The Fine Print:
1. U.S. and Canadian addresses only, please. No P.O. Boxes.
2. Follow Apprentice Writer here or on Twitter (MayaWriter) and let her know, for up to 2 bonus entries.
3. Please leave a non-spammable way to get in touch in case your profile doesn't lead back to an active blog.
4. Contest ends 27 April 2010.

Good luck!



Rachel said...

Hi M! Sorry to say that I have no idea on a soap plot development because a) I don't watch them either and b) I was under the impression they'd all been done. :) However, I did swing by to say that I just watched Soapdish last night which was a fave movie of mine when I was younger and the comedy still held up for me. Since I don't watch soaps I have no idea if it's a good spoof but it sure makes me laugh!

Great review as always!

Jenners said...

I've never been a soap opera person myself either ... but I have felt like I lived in one at times!

Shawn said...

Just dropped in to let you know I have your giveaway posted at

Good luck :)

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

No need to enter me (although this sounds like my kind of beach read). I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book for you.

M. said...

@Rachel: I watched Soapdish too, years ago, and thought it was hilarious! Not to mention the bonus of young Robert Downey Jr. I should really watch it again.

@Jenners: I hear you. Any parent of young children, right?

@shawn: thanks! I'll come visit.

@SHG: thanks, as always, for your supportive goodness

Stephanie said...

This sounds like such fun! I've definitely felt as though I've lived in a soap opera before (especially with my ex husband!). stephaniedekeyser AT

Kristen said...

Soap opera plot development that I'd most like to see? Hmmm. maybe see the nice girl not only get the guy but not get squashed by anyone else nasty for the duration of the run of the series. Yeah, definitely not going to happen since no one would tune in, right? I don't watch them myself so the demise of soaps wouldn't be a terrible thing in my world. ;-) But this book sounds like a lot of fun.

whitreidsmama at yahoo dot com

M. said...

@Stephanie - that sounds like you have something in common with the main character, Frankie!

@Kristin - Maybe your plot development could happen, but there would probably have to be a lot of twists and turns along the way first!

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