November 21, 2009

A Book RevieweiveretnI – ‘Mucho Caliente!’ by Francesca Prescott

Ziggy Nixon takes a first-time crack at the exciting world of book reviewing!
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I recently read a pal o’ mine’s – namely the one and only
Francesca Prescott – book ‘Mucho Caliente!’, which roughly translated for the family and folks I know from back ‘home’ means ‘good golly Miss Molly but that boy sure am fine!!!’ Pretty self-explanatory really (guys just think about meeting a girl with her own truck AND gun-rack ...).

Noting though that Francesca had somehow in the past days broken into my house and stolen my pet snake, threatening to have it permanently straightened in carbonite unless I gave her an honest assessment (that’s just a joke)(it was an iguana), we exchanged a few niceties and even some not-so-niceties about her literary offeratations.

On her agreement then, I have turned our e-conversation into this week’s episode of ‘Fresh Ziggy’. Don’t worry though, Francesca was as nice as she could be and I’m only pushing her ‘attitude’ a bit here to liven the conversation.

If you aren’t quite able to follow all of this, well, then buy the book silly ones! Just make sure and have plenty of nice cold water on stand-by …

FP: So Zigs, did you finish my book? (oh yeah, your iguana says ‘hi’!)
I have indeed. In fact, I just finished ‘Mucho Caliente!’ about 2 hours ago on the train. I confess, I got hooked into the final scenes and tried my best to make it to the disco ‘Purple Banana’ last night before my eyes just gave out (wow, talk about your double entendres!! Or is that just for poor schlubs like me that, quote, ‘ain’t gettin’ much these – or any other – days?’).

Anywho (or is that anywhom?), despite being the macho guy that I am (ha!), I said ‘damn the torpedoes’ (okay, we should stop with the male-appendage puns) and brought the book with me this morning for my commute.

Emilio Caliente would look sexy riding a donkey along a hillside track. So it’s hardly surprising that when he pulls up... I almost have an orgasm.

Again you should be flattered, as I was definitely risking the advances of the scores of, um, nice-boys-that-tend-to-love-their-mothers-very-much that ride in on the train and even curious glares from the wide assortment of cantankerous oldies that make up my regular train companions. Funny crowd really: one stop we pick up dozens of sashaying ‘dudes’ heading for an exciting day in the high-risk world of wholesale perfume, then a few miles later pick up what appears to be a group from a branch-off of some odd Texan cult. Sorry, that was redundant, wasn’t it?

FP: But you made it through the last pages okay, no?
Oh definitely and thank goodness for Nordic cold fronts, too! Otherwise, I might have melted through my nylon winter-proof boxer-shorts.

Yes, despite the inkling of my misgivings (ooh, that’d make a good song title), I did survive, even if I did manage to share a seat once again with the same poor woman as last week. This dear sweet ‘oh I really want to strangle her’ matron of moaning apparently can’t open up about her life to anyone until she boards a damn train (leading me as well to decide that ‘noise reduction headphones’ go right to the top of my wish list for the coming holiday season). I can tell you that I had to really bite my tongue to avoid shouting out, ‘Good gods, woman, if you’re so damned frustrated about everything in your staid little existence, do something about it!’

But no, who am I kidding? What would she have to talk about then if all were fixed? I do confess though to having been quite pleased to surreptitiously catch her victim, I mean, pal rolling her eyes and sighing to herself more than once!

Once Miss Sweden, not only can Kirsten cause fatal accidents when she walks down the street, she’s also one of the kindest, sweetest people I’ve ever met.

FP: Uh, can we get back to the book, please?
Ah yes, the book, back to the book! Listen to me; I’m starting to even pick up the mental muse-anational (word?) characteristics of your main character Gemma. Then again, I guess if we couldn’t have literally been able to read her thoughts, it wouldn’t have much of a book, would it?

FP: Zigs…
Okay, okay! First, foremost and for evermore, I really enjoyed the book! It met my one true requirement in terms of literature, cinema or anything else that I can find time for these days in that it provided a fun few hours of escape and even made me think about other aspects of my life as well.

Well done and thank you!

FP: All right now, you can remove your lips from my derriere please. What did you REALLY think? And remember, be nice … or the iguana swims with the fishies!
Wait wait, please don’t be rash!! (Wait a minute, can’t iguanas swim anyway?)(FP: sh, keep going)(Okay…)

You do have to promise though to accept the coming comments as coming truly from my heart. I am not going to necessarily hold anything back but before you pull a ‘handbag in the helicopter’ (ZN: in her book, this implies getting loudly sick into someone ELSE’S very expensive designer label purse) or any other kind of wobbly wobbler actions, I think ultimately that you’ll be happy with me after this is done:

To begin, I have to admit that reading the book was awkward at first for two reasons.

FP: Go on.
One, of course, is that I know you albeit in a platonic, electronic way: Granted, we have shared tales of bodily fluidations (the gross kind versus the sexy kind) and body fat issues with one another … but chatting is somehow a weak substitute for the real ‘hang out with my buds’ kind of thing. Sure, I know you think your feet are big and you know that my, uh, belly is on the large side, too, but you know...

It’s just that I sometimes had the feeling that I was intruding on things that maybe I hadn’t been cleared for in terms of having the needed security passes or something. Like walking in ‘accidentally’ into the women’s shower for like the two dozenth time in one week (which doesn’t count anyway if you don’t get caught and / or are not convicted).

FP: Fair enough, please continue.
Plus, I got the feeling sometimes that you were standing behind me, nervously pacing back and forth and asking, ‘Well? What do you think? Jennifer Aniston as Celeste or Gemma? Your call!’

Hm, that makes me think I COULD be a book publisher. Get to read at work, hot writer babes like you hanging out and getting all worked up in my office… hm, indeed.

The question I can’t seem to stop asking myself is: why me? He could have anyone. Surely, a voyage through Gisele Bundchen’s taught typography would deliver more of a frisson than a potter around my squidgy bits?

FP: (sighs loudly)
And speaking of looking over someone’s shoulder, I couldn’t shake the feeling either of somehow being an invisible albeit concerned and even curious angel glancing about. I kept thinking I had jumped out of the screen from
Wim Wender’s original ‘Wings of Desire’ sans Peter Falk. Definitely sans Peter Falk.

I think this is because, well, because I am a man of the male persuasion. Yes, it’s true, sorry to drop that on you like that. I’m (gasp) a guy … straight even (just look at me: unfashionably dressed, I don’t use any facial care products at all and I’m not the slightest bit in shape) … always have been, too. But honestly, this has to be the first ‘as told from a woman’s perspective per se’ book I’ve ever read. Not that it made me feel feminine, it’s just... well, to be honest I haven’t ‘listened’ to a woman for that long at one sitting in a LONG time (my marriage having reached that 'comfortable' point where we communicate primarily via grunts and notes left taped on the television or the fridge to make sure the other sees it).

Sure, I’ve read books by plenty of women authors, most notably in my mind perhaps being Anne Rice and Ursula K. Le Guin. There have even been others that perhaps best said ‘dwelt’ on various women’s thoughts, but more so from a distant third person perspective. Rather than writing ‘oh why did he fall in love with me of all people?’ it’s been more ‘and she thought to herself ‘oh why did he fall in love with me of all people’…’

Does that make sense?

FP: Probably not, but let’s push ahead.
Another way of putting it would be that I often felt like I was ‘spying’ in some way on the girls. That I had stumbled into the kitchen during the chat hour (guys out on the patio of course scratching, burping and farting to the beat of some unheard native drums [it’s important to have hobbies that you enjoy and are good at]). It just felt that I was included on an intimate ride with the various characters as they journeyed through their fears, joys, insecurities, orgasms, insecurities, insecurities and even quite often insecurities.

Aïe, que passa aqui? Why are you crying Gemma?’ Aagghh. Why indeed? Because I’m a confused, pathetic woman who in the past 24 hours has developed an insane crush on a twenty-something-year-old pop star with swivel hips.

Granted I was a spy that didn’t have the suave charm of a James Bond, as I often would notice that I had become slack-jawed during various scenes, again, referencing my question about ‘do women really have that much going through their heads when they have sex … or go to the bathroom, or cook breakfast?’ etc. I even chuckled once out loud and said under my breath ‘no wonder it’s so bloody difficult to please them sometimes!’ Yes, indeed, so much to get distracted about, it’s a wonder they can even wait until the guy is finished before they jump up and have to telephone their friends again.

I mean be fair! Men’s thoughts at that time run along the lines of either ‘oh man, I can’t wait to tell the guys about this’ or even ‘no wait, think about fat soccer players, not too quick, oh fiddlesticks, oh what was his name, the ugly one, oh shit, it’s not working, I can’t stop it, oh well, here I go aaaaaaaaarrrrrrhhhh! Oh god oh god oh god… zzzzz’ Blonk (cue deeeeep sleep).

Guys are just not complicated like that. Again, maybe a surprise for you after reading about your own romance on your web-site, but still. I did find myself sometimes going ‘well, duh’ or even ‘jeez, woman, just call him already!!’ Or even more often than not, ‘no way! Do ‘they’ really do that’, they being pronounced as if I’ve discovered a new species deep in the jungles of Brazil (even though in retrospect, I wish I had read this back when I was 16, it might have made the next decade a little less confusing). So there was that.

What’s wrong? Nothing is wrong. Nothing is wrong right now. Everything is perfect. Too perfect. This bubble in which I’m living is going to burst. Reality threatens. Reality beckons. He’s not in love with me! He can’t possibly be!

FP: This is an odd book review if you don’t mind me…
Wait, don’t interrupt me, I’m on a roll: in terms of book reviewing (I have that statement on a Post It on my computer screen so that I don’t lose track here), I am going to risk having my worker’s permit cancelled by providing a couple of comments:

One: If this is indeed your first significant writing effort (sorry don’t have your CV and despite your fears, I have not carried out an extensive search into your background), then wow, you have real potential.

FP: Look, lay off or I’m going to call my husband in here!
No joke!! And I just wanted to make that statement as short and direct as I could, professionally speaking.

Two: But another thing I did notice that your style changed slightly throughout the course of the book. I don’t know if that came more from the forced editing you had to eventually conduct or what, but as ‘time’ went on, the styling definitely became much more refined and the flow much smoother. Maybe that was necessitated by the story to get things set up, but I almost got the impression that the first 50 to 60 pages or so were from one summer’s ‘go at it’ and the rest from a few months later.

If anything, I would say your style ‘matured’ as the book progressed. Which I hope you understand is indeed a compliment (do women want to be told they’re maturing? Oh gosh, I’m so insecure now, I need to call my friends to see what they would do. Aaargh, see what you’ve done?).

FP: Wow, that was very close to being insightful.
I’ll ignore that, thankyouverymuch.

Three: By far though, you have a clear strength in terms of your character building. Only one other author in recent memory has involved my interest in a group of people, animals, and fantasy beings with long or whatever like you and your team did. You truly have a gift for creating a sense of … well, not really ‘sympathy’ per se (it makes them sound too soppy that way) … but I found myself liking them – or even say being interested in them in case of the different rat-finks present.

Richard sulked in his office with Dow Jones. My eccentric, spontaneous nature – now in serious jeopardy due to my desire to please him and do the right thing – no longer amused him. It just drove him mad.

I guess that pretty much means Gemma’s ex-husband, Richard, noting that at least I found his new girlfriend – Billie’s – ‘acting’ to be very strong for her part for often very different reasons. You know, it’s like seeing someone from Hollywood that you’ve watched play a really horrible person in a film and you realize during a later interview that you still have a bad taste in your mouth for them personally, even though they were just acting for godssake!

Even brief forays into such characterizations as the Spanish macho man that worked on the boat and played in the band, Jorge (pronounced ‘Steve’) or DJ Bonk (I kid you not fans: he’s more pierced than Angelina Jolie AND he gets perhaps the hottest babe present in the end) were fun. And even with this – all done lickety split where and when needed – again nothing was taken away from the story-line nor the overall rhythm to the events.

“No way!” spits Billie, her acid blue eyes detonating into his. “I give you an opportunity to impress people with your new material. And what do you do? You attack my boyfriend and then run off with his old goat of an ex-wife in front of the entire world! You’re not even intelligent enough to have an affair with someone who looks good in the tabloids!”

FP: Okay, I’m going as far now as to give the iguana a piece of lettuce. But tell me truthfully; was there anything you did NOT like so much?
If I had to point out any one ‘issue’ with your writing that I found … how do I say this? … distracting, it would be your use of metaphors. Granted it got a little better as the story went on, but I found myself wondering sometimes if every audience you COULD be reaching would understand bits.

Just as an example, this morning you referred to Kevin striking a ‘Johnny Bravo’ pose as he sidled up all macho like as part of Gemma’s take-over posse when they head off for the final face-down with her ex’s girl (+/-) friend. Okay, as a huge fan of Cartoon Network, I got it (‘no honey, I’m only watching so that the kids’ English gets better!’). Well, at least that’s how I understood it (or is one of your pals really named Johnny Bravo? Or is this some kind of European 80’s trivia I don’t know about?).

I wanted my first time to be perfect. I wanted candles, love songs in the tape deck and the three magic words whispered over and over in my ear. Kevin came through for me on all these aspects. His performance was flawless and he forever established himself in my heart as the yardstick to which all men must measure up... and yardsticks the size of Kevin’s are hard to come by.

Also, with friends from all over the Queen’s fair lands to the West (including as far West as Ireland, whoa), I got some of the general British bits as well. My question really then is more for you as someone SELLING your story.

It’s kind of like asking yourself: what about the little Southern belle from Charlotte, North Carolina that is looking to live vicariously through Gemma, even though her biggest fantasy rests with the youth minister at her church who’s probably gay anyway, who she dreams about as her four kids scurry around making noise and untold mess at the annual Myrtle Beach ‘vacation’ with her fat arse of a cigar-smoking husband (‘…ye gods’, she thinks, ‘why did I get married and pregnant right away at age 18?’)?

So you see, if you’re kind of going ‘huh?’ to that analogy, maybe you can see how others might react to some of your own ‘oh, that reminds of me of…’ moments.

The effect of his voice on my body is like the sun on chocolate. It’s disgusting. It’s delicious. I melt into the mattress.

FP: That’s funny really. You know one of my best buddies and biggest fans is actually from Myrtle Beach! But I understand completely what you mean!
Look, no pouting, it’s not a major deal, honest! And I think the only reason it even occurred to me is through my background in preparing technically oriented promotional materials for use in a global environment.

Yes, everything we had to do was in English, but we even had an exercise where we’d shut the doors (tightly!!) and read bits out loud in faux Indian or Japanese or Chinese or other accents. Even the slightest misplaced adjective can lead to real issues down the road. And you learn real quickly, too, when and where to use such phrases as ‘Fried Rice’ (transposing then into ‘flied lice’) and the such.

FP: Um, you wanna start wrapping this up?
Here goes, my absolute, bottom-let’s-put-three-lines-under-it summary: ‘Cesca: thank you for sharing this with me! An incredibly solid effort and a fun read to boot!

You are obviously not only a very talented and gifted writer, but a very caring, fun-loving and passionate person. And it shows in what you’ve brought to us all! Your book just makes me glad that I’ve met you and makes me want to meet even more of your friends besides just Roseline (see bio for details).

I’m also in an interesting way feeling really proud of what you’ve accomplished … and yes, more than a little envious that you had the ‘balls’ to go for it in the first place!! I will leave you with my continuing honesty and say that I can’t wait for your next jaunt into the literary realms and wish you all the luck in the world!!!

FP: Thanks Zigs. You’re the best.
Aw shucks, I bet you say that to all the ego-centric blog writers you meet via Facebook…

All kidding aside sports fans, Francesca Prescott is a lovely person both outside and particularly inside. It has been a real pleasure getting to know her. If you must know, we met electronically after I featured an Ibizian pal of hers, Roseline de Thelin, in my usual design oriented rantings.

Born in London, Francesca has lived in the beautiful lake and Alpine surroundings of Switzerland near Geneva since an early age. She is surrounded by her equally lovely family, several horses and at least one mud-seeking dog (we’ve lost count), which is akin to a heat-seeking missile only the dog(s) cause more damage. Her book ‘Mucho Caliente!’ is a great voyage (said naturally with a French accent) into the world of a young woman’s escape into a new future. We can not wait until Francesca is ready to go ‘live’ with her next offering and wish her all the best in her future endeavours!

Now, please, fair is fair!! Can I have my iguana back?