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Tag Archives: Chick Lit

When It Happens To You by Molly Ringwald

You can probably imagine my surprise when I learned at book club that Molly Ringwald (of Pretty In Pink, Breakfast Club, and Sixteen Candles fame) has added ‘author’ to her resume.  I grew up watching and have a nostalgic appreciation for her movies, but truthfully, I didn’t expect much from her writing.  While When It Happens To You was not my favorite book, I have to give credit where credit is due… it was a lot better than I was expecting and it led to a book club discussion that (I felt) brought people who were mostly strangers a lot closer than any of the other monthly discussions have.

The author (above center) in one of my favorite movies from high school, Sixteen Candles.

The author (above center) in one of my favorite movies from high school, Sixteen Candles.

When It Happens To You is a novel told through a series of vignettes from the perspective of different, but loosely connected, characters (a lot like the movie Love Actually).  This part worked really well for me, and I thought Ringwald did an excellent job of subtly including the characters’ connections to each other in a way that was realistic, believable, and interesting.  The stories are all told from a female character’s perspective and cover such topics as a spouse’s death, a transgender child, and a straying spouse.  This is where I was disappointed – while the writing itself was surprisingly sophisticated at points, the interconnected plots were incredibly stale and predictable.  The idea of a book with so many character narrators – all of whom are females – is so cool.  It really disappointed me that each woman’s biggest concern seemed to be the main male in her life – whether he be dead, cheating, or questioning a gender identity.  While the novel shed light on issues that are very real and present (the chapter on a transgender child was undoubtedly my favorite), it did so in a way that every other medium does, and I would have loved to see a fresher perspective.

Nonetheless, I do appreciate a book that can get a more real conversation out of a book club of people who don’t know each other very well.  For the first time, the book club I discovered via goodreads had a much more personal discussion of our own experiences, as opposed to our typical “I liked the part where _______ happened.” discussions.  For that, Ms. Ringwald must be given credit.  If you have someone to discuss the book with, or are a huge Breakfast Club fan, give When It Happens To You a try.  Otherwise, watch another hour of Lifetime to get your “overdone and overly dramatic” fix, and keep your eye out for something a bit more novel.  (Hah, see what I did there?)  I give When It Happens To You 2.5 stars. ★★ 1/2

– Becca

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/softestthing/3796385095/”>bokeh burger</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Austenland, by Shannon Hale

I needed something light to read last week, and I found Austenland by Shannon Hale at my local library.  I’ve had my eye out for this book for ages, ever since Lauren Willig recommended it on her blog, but it was really hard to find!  And that’s a shame, because it is a very enjoyable book to read.

Jane Hayes is obsessed with Pride and Prejudice.  Specifically the BBC miniseries version of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth.  So much so, that she suspects it is keeping her from having a successful relationship of her own.  She’s beginning to think no modern man can measure up to Mr. Darcy.

Then her great aunt leaves Jane a vacation in Austenland in her will.  Austenland is a three-week Regency “experience” with costumed actors and strict Regency manners that culminates in a ball and probably a romance with one of the “characters.”  Jane hopes it will cure her Mr. Darcy obsession, but soon she is beginning to wonder.  Will living out her fantasy cure her or just make things worse?  And is it possible that while her character Miss Jane Erstwhile is being courted by the Darcy-like Mr. Nobley, the actor portraying him might actually be attracted to the real Jane?

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So, you might be thinking, “Elizabeth, didn’t you recently write a post about not liking romance novels?”  And yes, that was me.  For some reason, I still like chick lit.  (And I’m sorry if that term offends someone-I can see why it would, but I’ve never heard anyone suggest a viable alternative.  If you know of one, please tell me!)  I think it has a lot to do with humor-chick lit usually has plenty of it and romance just doesn’t have enough.  The plot lines also tend to include plenty of character development, at least for the heroine, something that romance novels often lack.

I am giving this book four stars.  I enjoyed reading it.  If you’re an Austen fan, this would be a good book to put on  your summer reading list!  ★★★★

-Elizabeth

Matches and Matrimony

Hello again, everyone.  It’s Elizabeth, newly back in DC after a trip home, with a review of the e-book I read on the plane rides back and forth.  I have owned a Kindle for about a year and a half, and I have really been enjoying the convenience of e-books.  Recently, I got an email from Amazon recommending a book called Matches and Matrimony.  I was intrigued by the description: a choose your own adventure novel inspired by Jane Austen.  It was on sale for ninety-nine cents, so I figured I should at least try it out and pass it on to you and my book club if it was good.  (Matches and Matrimony normally costs two dollars, and you can buy it for your e-reader here.)

It’s been years since I read a choose your own adventure story, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that this format translates really well to e-books.  You click options instead of flipping back and forth, and you can save your story at multiple points.  (I liked being able to do this when I was unsure what decision to make to get to the outcome I wanted.)  There was also a part at the beginning of each chapter where you chose activities so that your character would gain attribute points which would then affect the character’s responses to various situations in the novel, as well as which characters liked her.

Matches and Matrimony was set up a little differently than the choose your own adventure stories that I remember.  You are told at the beginning that there are nine different endings to unlock (endings correspond to which of Jane Austen’s heroes your heroine ends up marrying.)  The challenge of unlocking all nine endings made me approach the story a different way each time, which ultimately made the book much more entertaining.  It really helped me pass the time on the plane.

I was particularly impressed by the way that the plot managed to interweave and combine characters from almost all of Jane Austen’s novels.  The text, while definitely shorter, is very faithful to the original, so readers familiar with Austen will recognize many passages that follow the books, especially Pride and Prejudice, word for word. I feel confident that Jane Austen fans will enjoy this e-book.  I would also say that this e-book gives you a lot of entertainment hours for a very low price, so I can recommend it to anyone who is travelling or just on a tight budget.  I give this e-book four stars, because I definitely enjoyed it and read it several times.  ★★★★

Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

Welcome readers, it’s Becca here, with my first review of Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan.  This book is a summer beach read if there ever was one.   The novel is told from the point of view of four Kelleher women of a large Irish Catholic family as they converge on the family beach house in Maine.

The story’s main characters are: Alice, the proper, yet wine slugging, matriarch of the family, her daughter Kathleen, a recovering alcoholic, Kathleen’s daughter Maggie, recently pregnant and even more recently single, and Alice’s daughter-in-law Ann Marie, a classically repressed housewife.  Typical of any large family, each woman has her own conflicts and resentments with the other, but each are inexplicably drawn back to the family fold despite each new disappointment it brings.  Trust me readers, no matter how dysfunctional your family is, you’ll feel lucky to have them after reading this novel!

As far as technique, I really liked the author’s use of flashbacks.  It was fascinating that the same story was told four different ways through lens of each woman.  The characters were often predictable and somewhat stereotyped (the recovering alcoholic is into mantras and yoga, while the repressed housewife sleeps in a separate bedroom as her husband but still prepares all his meals for him).  Several of the examples are repetitive, such as the five anecdotes in a row that follow the same trajectory typical of Maggie’s relationship – an explosive fight, followed by abandonment, followed by a sexually fueled, tentative, make up.  Additionally, the ending was stitched up a little too cleanly and abruptly for my taste, giving it an unrealistic feel.

Nonetheless, some aspects of this book were really great.  The overall feeling is no matter how dysfunctional a family (and the Kellehers take the cake when it comes to dysfunction) at the end of the day, a family comes together and supports one another when it’s really needed.  Sullivan explores the role of motherhood and the sacrifices that go with it throughout three generations, which I think is always relevant to a female reader (everyone has a mother).  Though it won’t likely be a critically acclaimed work, it’s a diverting read.  ★★★

If you’re interested in checking this book out, it can be found here or, as always, at your local library!