Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “chick lit”

Krista’s #CBR4 Reviews #70 – 72

Keeping myself caught up, here are three more reviews. I am so close to my personal goal of 75 books!

70. A Time to Embrace by Karen Kingsbury
Karen Kingsbury’s novel A Time to Embrace is the second in a two-book series (I reviewed A Time to Dance, the first book in the series, almost two years ago). This was available at my library and while I liked the first one, I received it for free in return for a review and didn’t enjoy it enough to by the second. So free from the library = a good way to finish out the series!

This book picks up right where Dance leaves off — the Reynolds are newly in love after coming incredibly close to getting divorced. They are still dancing together, taking the cheesy metaphor from the first book to a new dorky level (they literally dance together by taking lessons that involve lots of ridiculous laughter from Abby). Life is going great until a tragic accident (how seriously cheesy of me to write that cliche!) almost undoes all of the restoration God has brought. [You can read the rest of my review by clicking the link to my review blog!]

71. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

The Age of Miracles is the story of Julia, who is a young girl when “the slowing” starts. Suddenly, and without any reason given or able to be found by scientists, the world is turning more and more slowly each day. By the end of the book, the natural day (period of light) and natural night (period of dark) are weeks long. This is a book of what happens to one young girl as her world is thrown into chaos — literally. Okay, so… when I shut the book after I finished it, the first thought I had was “I can’t tell if I love or hate this book.” [You can read the rest of my review by clicking the link to my review blog!]

72. Son by Lois Lowry
In Son, we meet Claire, who is a few years older than Jonas (remember him from The Giver?) in the same community. At 12, she is chosen to be a birthmother, the least honorable but very much needed of jobs. Something goes wrong with her delivery and she is reassigned from birthmother to work at the fish hatchery. Claire feels compelled to know her son, though, and volunteers at the center where children are kept until the Ceremony of the Ones. Her son, Gabe, is the baby from The Giver who has a hard time adjusting and goes home each night to sleep at Jonas’s family’s house. When she finds out that Jonas and the baby have escaped the community, Claire boards a supply ship and escapes, too, in hopes that she can find her son, but the boat she is on capsizes and she washes up on the shores of a distance village. What happens next is her search to find her son before it’s too late. [You can read the rest of my review by clicking the link to my review blog!]

— Krista

Krista’s #CBR4 #61-69

If you read some of these reviews, you will see I am clearly at the end of my intelligent reviewing capability, but here you go. This OFFICIALLY catches me up with all of the books that I’ve read this year — hard to believe, I know! Good thing the year is nearly over and I won’t have as many reviews to catch up on.

61. Lineage of Grace, Francine Rivers

62. I’d Know You Anywhere, Laura Lippman

63. The Kill Order, James Dashner

64. The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth, Alexandra Robbins

65. Basic Christian Leadership, John Stott

66. Fly Away Home, Jennifer Weiner

67 & 68. ImpulsePerfect, Ellen Hopkins

69. Then Came You, Jennifer Weiner

Happy reading, you guys!
And if you’re an American, don’t forget to vote today!

— Krista

Amurph11’s CBR4 Review #24, The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes

“What doesn’t kill us makes us funnier.”  –Marian Keyes

Marian Keyes, it’s safe to say, is not considered a serious author. She writes what is known as “chick lit,” an amorphous genre of contemporary fiction that, like “chick flick” is used almost universally negatively. Serious women do not read Marian Keyes, obviously.

Which I guess makes me an unserious woman, because I like Marian Keyes. Her writing is witty and charming, as perfect an antidote to a bad day as a glass of wine and a bath (two things I usually have/am doing while reading Marian Keyes books). I read most books the way you might plow through a bowl of pasta if you forgot to eat lunch. But at the risk of belaboring the old “chick lit=dessert” trope, I approach her books more like a stash of chocolate; I ration it out for when I need it. Such was the case with this book – I read in bits, usually after I’d had a bad day, and it would cheer me up.

Here’s the thing about Marian Keyes, though – her books might be on the fluffier side, but she’s Irish, and therefore cannot usually resist the impulse to add a dash of tragedy to even her lightest of fare. Sometimes it’s a small side note; sometimes, as in Anybody Out There?, it’s the twist on which the whole story hinges. The latter example was one of her more controversial novels – her longtime readers felt cheated into reading a tragedy, because it wasn’t what they’d bargained for. I felt the opposite: it certainly wasn’t what I’d bargained for, but I appreciated it all the more for it’s humorously poignant take on the grieving process. Nonetheless, it garnered a lot of criticism for trying to take on a more serious subject than chick lit writers are supposed to take on, aka anything other than weight issues and shoes.

Happily, the criticism seems to have slid right off of her. The Brightest Star in the Sky is another example of Keyes’ particular brand of seriocomedy. Much like her last book, the story of a serial abuser as told by four women who knew him, this one starts out seeming like a standard single-gal comedy. Also similar to her last novel, it is told from a variety of perspectives. I’m not a fan of this kind of variegated storytelling, and unfortunately this was no exception. The characters, connected only by their address (they all live in the same apartment building) are all dealing with a host of individual issues, some more serious than others. The constant bouncing back and forth is a bit jarring especially when towards the end of the book, we are introduced to the twist (spoilers ahead, for those that care): as it turns out, one of the main characters has been affected by rape.

Full disclosure: I volunteer at a rape crisis center, which means I can’t read or listen to people talk about rape like a normal person. My over-familiarity with the subject tends to manifest in two ways: 1) a virulently negative response to an unexpected rape in a book or movie; and 2) an immediate need to critically parse the ways in which that rape was represented. In this case, I had just gotten off a particularly difficult shift at the rape crisis center, and was unwinding with a book and a glass (read: many glasses) of wine when I realized that the explanation for one of the main characters’ behavior was that she had been raped.

My first reaction was to throw the book across the room and yell loudly, “Rape is everywhere!” This understandably aroused the concern of my boyfriend, who came in to investigate that the omnipresence of rape didn’t include our bedroom at that particular moment. In my defense, it had really been a tremendously shitty week, one in which I didn’t feel like I could pick up a paper or turn on the TV without “RAPE” standing out in big block letters. Its inclusion in a novel I’d read specifically to get away from thinking about rape felt like a grievous betrayal. My boyfriend sympathized, and then suggested I put it down, rather in the way one might suggest an unbalanced inmate remove a firearm from his or her person. I refused, making what I felt was the reasonable argument that “now I have to finish it, because it’s already out there.” I did this because, like Keyes, I am Irish, and we are a people that insist on poking our fingers into wounds repeatedly just to make sure that they do in fact still hurt.

I stayed up until 2AM finishing the book, and when I finished it, a very peculiar thing happened. I laughed.

Now obviously, I’m not Daniel Tosh. I don’t find rape hilarious, as a general rule. And though there are many funny things about Marian Keyes’ book, her portrayal of the rape wasn’t one of them. Just the opposite, in fact: it was so indicative of cases we often see in the rape crisis field that it started to feel like a PSA (I was entirely unsurprised to read a special thank you to the Dublin Rape Crisis Center in the acknowledgments). Her symptoms of trauma were lifted straight from the 1987 version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. But though they were at times cringeworthy, they weren’t funny. No, what was funny was the poetic justice the rapist receives in the epilogue of the book. Similar to the ending of her last book, the villain gets his comeuppance. In and of itself that is unrealistic enough in our society, but in this book, the poetic justice is so impossibly over-the-top that it’s almost intentionally comedic.

The thing is, though? It made me laugh. And laughing about it made me feel better. In my line of work, most rapists don’t ever receive any kind of punishment, whether legal or otherwise. They see no negative consequences for their actions, much less a (spoiler) conveniently placed block of ice falling on and crushing them while their victim happens to be looking on. We live in a world where closure regarding one’s rapist is often impossible, but for some reason, reading this completely implausible version of closure made me feel a little bit better, a little more able to let go of some of the more disturbing aspects of my work.

There’s a lot that can and must be said about the ghetto-ization of women’s literature, and the perceived difference between commercial literature and “actual” literature, but sometimes as an author you have to forget all that and just consider whether or not your writing is making a difference to your reader. Marian Keyes has written about serial abuse and rape in a (mostly) responsible way for an audience of people who are used to seeing both portrayed in only the most irresponsible of ways. She exposed a whole swath of the female population to extremely tricky concepts like victim-blaming and post-traumatic stress disorder in a way that was probably a lot more palatable than the way my colleagues and I do, with our buzzwords and highly researched curricula. And most importantly, to me anyway, she made me feel better about a subject that usually makes me feel horrible. There’s something to be said for that. There’s a lot to be said for that.

Recommended for: recommended broadly for rape crisis workers who are too exhausted to perform a critical exegesis on the pros and cons of the portrayal of rape in media after a long day at work.

Read when: You’ve just gotten home from a crappy shift at the rape crisis center, apparently.

Listen with: Something relaxing yet upbeat, with very low stakes. So basically, your local soft rock station.

Amanda6′s #CBR4 Review 32: Messy by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

Amazon: “After a rocky start in Spoiled, Brooke Berlin and her newly discovered half sister, Molly Dix, have settled into something like sisterly love, but the drama is far from over.

Now that Brooke’s caught a taste of fame and her movie star father’s attention, she wants to launch a blog that will position her as the ultimate Hollywood insider. But between schoolwork, party-planning committee meetings, and spa treatments, she hardly has the time to write it herself…

Enter Max McCormack, an aspiring author with a terrible after-school job pushing faux meat on the macrobiotic masses of La-La Land. Max reluctantly agrees to play Brooke’s ghost-blogger for an impressive salary, and the site takes off, but how long can their lie last? In person, Brooke can’t live up to the intellectual wit of, and Max soon begins to resent hiding her genius behind a bandage dress-wearing blonde. Can the girls work together to stay on top, or will the truth come out and ruin everything they’ve built?”
After having a lukewarm opinion about Spoiled, the book that precedes this one, I am happy to say that I genuinely enjoyed Messy and found myself grinning or laughing out loud at several points as I read. It seems that the Fug Girls, Heather and Jessica, got into a nice groove with this one, possibly from tackling very topical subject matter (celebrity gossip blogging), but more likely — in my opinion — because they got to flex their trademark snark more often through returning character and new protagonist Max. I think I may have also enjoyed the story itself more because it was less of a girls-at-war story (does anyone remember the show Popular?  Spoiled is basically that) and more about growth and discovery of common ground.
Messy is more a spin-off than a sequel of Spoiled, so you don’t need to have read the latter to enjoy the former. If you’re in need, then, of a quick, funny read, this is a good one to check out!

HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #41: Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner

My love of Jennifer Weiner as an author, and cool human being, is well documented. I bought her most recent book during one of those epic delays at an airport, and it was fine. Honestly, “fine” is kind of disappointing for an author who’s books I usually love. In Her Shoes and Good in Bed are two books I read over, and over, like comfort food.

Then Came You is the story of a baby, from the perspective of all the people who took part in creating its life. The egg donor at Princeton who sells her eggs to pay for her father’s rehab. The surrogate mother who’s military husband is frustrating she’s selling her body because he can’t provide for them. The infertile woman who waited her whole life to land a husband who could provide for her, who finds out her body can’t have children. Her stepdaughter, who fears the infertile woman is a gold digger.


Amanda6′s #CBR4 Review 23: Spoiled by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

Amazon: Sixteen-year-old Molly Dix has just discovered that her biological father is Brick Berlin, world-famous movie star and red-carpet regular. Intrigued (and a little) terrified by her Hollywood lineage, Molly moves to Los Angeles and plunges headfirst into the deep of Beverly Hills celebrity life. Just as Molly thinks her life couldn’t get any stranger, she meets Brooke Berlin, her gorgeous, spoiled half sister, who welcomes Molly to la-la land with a smothering dose “sisterly love”…but in this town, nothing is ever what it seems.

This was a snappy, short read, and good fun. A devotee of GoFugYourself, I had wanted to pick this one up for awhile, and it was pretty much what I expected — chock full of witty one-liners and good-natured jabs at celebrity culture. I think, though, I was hoping for a bit more. GoFugYourself is, of course, ultimately just about making fun of celebrities’ horrible outfits, but the writing itself is intelligent and clever. The Fug Girls’ voice in Spoiled definitely comes through clearly, but the novel never quite rises above its shallow premise the way that GFY does.

As I said earlier, the Girls’ trademarks are there: hilarious commentary on outfits and witty pop-culture references, snarky take-downs of gross Hollywood caricatures, and quotable one-liners make this overall a very quick and entertaining read. Part of the reason it reads so quickly, though, is because we race through the plot without much description of the scenery, which may not seem important in a book like this, but to me it stuck out. I’ve read in interviews that the Girls really wanted this to be an “Only in LA” type story, and that they wanted to use their experiences and lives in LA to influence the setting. Despite this, other than throwaway references to the sunshine and obvious Hollywood stereotyping, LA wasn’t really that much of a character.

Taking a bit more time with setting the scene and improving the character depth a bit more could have really added some meat to the story, and I’m really not talking about trying to transform a beach read into War and Peace. I think you’d see what I mean if you read it. It’s fast and funny, moreso than many other entries in this category of summer reads, but it relies on the same stock characters and weak story as we’ve seen before in many other YA chick-lit. I’ll still probably pick up the sequel, because at the end of the day it made me laugh, and that’s not a bad way to spend a few hours!

Katie’s #CBR4 Review #27: I Never Fancied Him Anyway by Claudia Carroll

After reading the rather depressing classic, The House of Mirth, I needed something light and I Never Fancied Him Anyway was just the thing.  Set in Dublin, I Never Fancied Him Anyway follows Cassandra as she tries to avoid falling for her best friend’s crush although her never-before-wrong psychic abilities tell her he’s the one.  Complicating matters, she is offered a position as a talk show psychic working for her crush.  This situation is made even more awkward when Cassandra realizes that her psychic powers take a vacation whenever her crush is around!

Read more here…

HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #29: Peyton Place by Grace Metalious

Peyton Place is a classic soap opera set in an uptight New England town. It’s closely tied to Valley of the Dolls in my mind – both were groundbreaking, trashy novels about the scandalous realities of a community.  This book infuriated New England because one of their own, Metalious, born and raised in Manchester, New Hampshire, dared to write about the imperfections and scandals brewing beneath New England’s perfect surface. This book has become an enduring part of pop culture through both film and television adaptations.

There has long been speculation about how true this book actually is. There are many similarities between Metalious and the protagonist Allison – both grow up in New England, both end up writing about their pasts, etc. All I know is, when the screenwriter for the movie asked Metalious if the book was based on her own life, she asked him to repeat the question. And when he did, she threw her drink at him.  I’m going to take that as a definitive no.

I can’t put my finger on what’s so satisfying about this book. There’s something  stereotypically “New England” about it – characters are supposed to hide their ambition, never flaunt what they’ve earned, and lead a simple, moral life. It’s frustrating, because almost all of the tragedies could have been avoided if someone did something. Did anything. But the characters staunchly refuse to interfere in each others lives, preferring to whisper behind each others backs. And by refusing to meddle – they are refusing to save each other.

Plot details and the wonderfully soapy television series trailer after the jump….

Figgy’s #CBR4 Review #8: “The Devil Wears Prada” by Lauren Weisberger

“Think of the worst boss you ever had. Think of every ridiculous habit, every ridiculous demand, ever time you wanted to set the building on fire because of them. Now multiply that by, oh, a thousand, and you’ll end up with Miranda Priestly, the villain of this book and one of the most hilariously evil characters I’ve ever read.”


Read the rest of the review here!

Figgy’s #CBR4 Review #5: “Something Borrowed” by Emily Giffin

Ugh, I hated this one. So much.

Read the review here.

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