"Do you have to say cheapskate?" Mom wants to know. "Couldn't you just say frugal?"

Fine. Frugal it is.

And can I just say that it is so good to be home? The air is crisp and cool, the leaves are starting to turn, Lucy and Molly and I made banana-raisin cookies in playgroup this morning, and there's a giant pumpkin on my doorstep. While on the road, I succumbed to one of the temptations of the book tour -- namely, acquiring way too many books (hard not to, when you're in and out of bookstores all day, being tempted by towering displays of the new and the latest; or when bookstores offer you the book of your choice as a thank-you gift for reading). So, here's some of what I read and enjoyed.

WAKING BEAUTY: Fat, ugly, self-loathing, trod-upon cleaning lady wakes up blond, stacked and gorgeous; takes revenge on her bitch of a roommate, absentee father, and alkie Mom. I started off worried that this was going to be one of those books that hinges on the fat = miserable, thin = happy dichotomy. And WAKING BEAUTY does, but author Elyse Friedman is so wickedly over-the-top about it -- the book is the essence of every before-and-after magazine story and plastic surgery TV show carried to its logical, grotesque extreme -- that readers can forgive (even though I was hoping that the reborn Allison would broaden her crusade on behalf of her oppressed sisters...although maybe now there's room for a sequel).

LADS: Skinny, self-loathing, trod-upon Ivy Leaguer wakes up employed at Maxim magazine; offers painfully funny behind-the-scenes look at the fight to get the bimbo of the moment on the cover, in a bikini and get himself laid at least once a year, while his soul quietly dies. This was not what you'd call an uplifting read, although if you've ever felt (and what woman hasn't?) like you're never going to live up to the thin/blond/beautiful feminine ideal, it's illustrative and heartening to look at the sick, twisted, desperately horny and frequently pathetic twenty-five-year-old guys who are shoving those images down our throats. If I were Dave Izkoff's editor, I would have told him to forget memoir and just go for broke and write a roman a clef about his time at a fictitious magazine. It could be sort of a Devil Wears Prada with balls. Who wouldn't want to read that?

SOMETHING BORROWED: Reasonably thin, unhappy lawyer Rachel wakes up with....her best friend's fiance. Oops. Will Dex stay with Darcy, his intended, or will he break all the rules to be with kind-hearted, level-headed Rachel, who's lived her life in her best friend's shadow and who might just be the One? Funny, realistic characters grappling with a dilemma that offers no easy solutions; this book kept me happy for an entire three-hour plane ride (needless to say, that was one of the rides where I didn't have Lucy along).

UNDEAD AND UNWED: Elizabeth Taylor (yes, that's really her name) wakes up in a coffin -- and, worse yet, in a cheap pink suit and tacky shoes from Payless! Turns out, she's the new Vampire Queen, and she's none too happy about it. A neat conceit, leavened with plenty of sex, shoe lust, and one-liners ("Forty-eight hours ago I was naked on a slab!" our heroine says to her best friend, who replies, "Oh, you finally had a date?"). The book is an ultra-affordable mass-market original that I'll admit I picked up only after reading an article about how paranormal romance is one of chick lit's new frontiers, and now I can't wait to track down the sequel.

More later. Must watch Survivor!

Jen