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The 'B' List. A look at the beautiful things in life. This blog is devoted to that list. Join me on the journey, why don't you?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Kate's Wedding

Well, back to chick-lit. I finished Kate's Wedding yesterday; it was my first book by Chrissie Manby, and I'll tell ya, I could definitely read more from her. Witty, with that classic British humour that gets you laughing out loud when you least expect it - this book was a joy to read. I couldn't put it down and finish it fast enough. Our protagonist, Kate, has just gotten engaged and has it in her mind to have a simple wedding; but with the diagnosis of her mother having cancer, planning a big affair is just what the family needs to take their minds off of their troubles. Problem is, Kate's feeling less and less like she has any say in what is going on, not to mention the second thoughts she's having about the groom.

Contrast this to Diana. A genuine spoiled brat, used to getting her own way, she is also getting married the same day as Kate and will ensure that she gets the wedding she had always dreamed of as a child. At any cost.

Melanie is the owner of the bridal store; and as these brides come and go and prepare for their big day, she can't help but think of her own husband, though she's been widowed for thirteen years. Can she find what she is looking for, after all of this time?

Though Kate and Diana are 10 years apart and do not know each other, they each plan their wedding against the backdrop of the royal wedding (Will and Kate) which is the day before their own.

I found this book immensely entertaining, light and fun, though a bit heavy-handed with the Royal wedding references (especially Princess Diana's). However, as it was essential to the main theme of the book to include this, it did provide a good background and at times interesting comic relief. Apparently, Chrissie Manby has fifteen other books out, so I will look out for her the next time I am wandering through the bookstore shelves.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Sidetracked a bit...

I haven't started on my chick-lit book for this week; I've just gotten more and more sidetracked with day-to-day life. Proposal reference writing, choosing wedding flowers, writing thank-you cards (from the first bridal shower) and going to the gym are all competing for my time and attention. Then, one of the cats was a bit sick and had to go to the animal hospital :(

But actually I have been reading; it's just not one of the chick-lits, and it's on my Kobo (which I don't use enough) so I'm glad I'm getting some use out of it now. The book is The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (if you have a Kobo ereader, you can download it for free), and though it was published at the turn of the 20th century, it still hits home. Boy, if you thought you had a bad day, or were going through some hard times, read a bit of this book. It will put everything in perspective.

The Jungle follows the lives of working class Lithuanian immigrants in Chicago's meatpacking district in 1904. This is during a time of unions, but also rampant unemployment, corruption, crime and poverty. The class distinctions and gaps between the rich and the poor are far-reaching, and it is a time of broken dreams and ideals of what it means to live in a free country.

I'm about 70-75% through it, and it is really compelling. The sad thing is, although there has been great changes, some things have stayed the same, especially when it comes to unskilled labour. Even more weird, a book I read a few years ago - Fast food Nation - which came out in 2001, pretty much details the same working conditions when it comes to the meatpacking and fast-food industry. The parallels are uncanny (injuries, pay, the fast-pace of production, even the way the system operates). It seems like there has been little change in some respects in a century.

I'm sure I will get back to my chick lit, but this read is a nice change. And reading on the Kobo is not too bad; I'm going to have to do a post soon about ebooks v.s. paper.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Thin, Rich, Pretty

This week's book was a definite improvement over last week. Thin, Rich, Pretty by Beth Harbison is the story of three girls/women who met one year at summer camp. Two of the girls (Holly and Nicola) become good friends, and the third, Lexi, is part of the 'mean girls' group. The book goes back and forth between the present and the past (20 years before at summer camp), where these girls' insecurities are brought out - Holly thinks she's too fat; Nicola wants to be prettier, and Lexi knows that money can't buy affection from her mean stepmother. Fast forward to the present and these troubles still plague them - Holly's boyfriend wants her to lose weight before he will commit to marry her; Nicola finally decides to do something about her most hated feature, her nose, and Lexi finds herself down on her luck and broke when she is cut out of her father's will.

Eventually their lives will intersect again, but it is definitely the journey these women go through that makes for a fast and enjoyable read. The characters are likeable and relatable, and I like how Harbison writes quick dialogue to move the scenes forward. It is perfect for the summer - reading it up at a cottage - and if you've been to summer camp, this book will definitely take you back.

I have another one of Harbison's on the list this summer - Hope in a Jar, so now I am also looking forward to it. But I don't have any of her Shoe-a-holic books - anyone read them? Would you recommend them?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Be Careful What you Wish for...

Well, I've slogged through Alexandra Potter's - Be Careful What you Wish for, and here's what I have to say - it ain't good. I was thoroughly surprised what I sat down to read it; after all, she wrote one of my favorite chick-lit books - Who's that Girl?, and I tried to like this one, honest I did, but this book just had too many downfalls to its name.

First, I should have known something was up judging by my adversity to read the book once I started it. I literally finished it because I knew I would be blogging about it, and it's tough to blog about a half-read novel. There it sat, accusing me day after day of not opening its covers, as I blithely walked by and found other things to do ("Oh, the drain is clogged? Great, I'll fix it!" Well, maybe not that, but you get what I mean). Until finally I just forced myself to read it, which is not the feeling you want when approaching a novel for pleasure reading.

Second, the characters sucked. I could not 'identify' with the main character, Heather - she had a lot of weird quirks and always mentioning that she had 'heavy thighs' made me want to slap her. Another thing that bugged me are all the characters' names; I feel like they all had the wrong names throughout. Jess (Heather's best friend) should have been the main character's name and Heather the best friend's name. Lionel (her dad) should have switched names with her brother, Ed. And the guy she ends up with, Gabe - I know he's a Californian and all, but holy stereotyping! (I'm Gabe, the tanned beach dude. Nice to meet you.)

Finally, the storyline is where it all goes wrong. Heather seems a bit spoiled - she's always wishing for things (like finding an empty seat on the tube, losing five pounds, etc) but it never comes true. Then she gets some 'lucky heather' (pardon the pun) and now all her wishes come true. But it usually ends up with negative consequences (she wishes for no traffic on the roads and ends up getting a speeding ticket). This frivolity continues until her father has a heart attack and she realizes all that wishing was stupid - it's her family and friends she cares about. A nice redeeming feature, but overall it's too late and in the meantime the reader has to put up with a lot of everyday nonsense.

This book was published in 2006, and I believe Potter has grown as an author since then, but give this book a miss in the meantime.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Books...best places to buy?

I'm still slogging through my novel for the week - Be Careful What you Wish for by Alexandra Potter, so I thought in the meantime I'd post on the purchasing process. How do you tend to buy your books - wandering through bookstores and seeing what captures your eye? Making a beeline for a specific title and running for the exit afterwards? Searching online at Amazon or another bookstore site and letting the deliveryman come to you? Or do you tend to borrow books from friends, search thrift stores or check out your local library?

I basically fall under all of these categories; first of all, I LOVE to wander through bookstores (it's kind of like therapy for me) browse through the stacks and see what pops up. Lately, I've been doing this in used bookstores just because there always seems to be a gem or two waiting for me and the prices are much more wallet-friendly. My favorite used bookstore is BMV (Annex location) - they have a great chick-lit section, and it's right across from my favorite sushi place to boot!

Then sometimes, I just don't want to be bothered, don't want to have to deal with people or crowds and just get in, get out. Let me find the book in peace and then leave me alone! This usually happens when something else in my life has gone down the toilet - my research isn't going well, a fight with my fiancé, etc. My actions in the store directly correlates to how I'm feeling at the moment.

I personally love Amazon. Their wishlist function is a godsend - every time a book title catches my eye, I put it on my wishlist for future reference. And then at a later date when I want to treat myself, I just scroll through the list and add items to the cart. Simple and painless. And a present arrives in the mail a short time later! I just love presents through the post!

A few of my friends and I like to discuss and share books; when one finishes, another gets to borrow it. This is a great way to save money and create a mini-bookclub/discussion group all at the same time. For awhile I also used to go to the library, but the downside is I can't get to keep the book if I loved it and the most popular titles always have a HUGE waitlist (right now I'm on the waitlist for Summer and the City, and it's probably going to take months).

So there you have it. Books in all their manifestations. Well, except for e-books. That will require a whole other post just to talk about their pros and cons. I'll get to that another time - now it's back to the book.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Personally, I Blame my Fairy Godmother...

I've finished one book on the list - Personally, I Blame my Fairy Godmother... by Claudia Carroll. Now, I've been a huge fan of Carroll's for several years, having read Do you want to know a Secret? and Remind me again why I need a man. Those were both fabulous books, but this one really takes the cake. Personally, I Blame my Fairy Godmother stars Jessie Woods, an Irish t.v. presenter who "has it all", but gets everything taken away from her - her job, her boyfriend, her home. Broke and with no options left, she has to move back home with her stepmother and two "evil" stepsisters, who basically make her life a living hell. Until, things take an interesting turn...

Every time I read one of Carroll's books I cannot put it down, and this was no exception. I even dreamt about the characters one night! Even though it's a twist on the Cinderella story, it still held my interest and wasn't too predictable; I also love how Carroll crafts characters that stay with you long after you finish the book. I'm not sure why she isn't more well-known in North America, but I can certainly tell you, with her and Keyes, Irish chick-lit authors are fast moving to the top of my to-be-read pile!

Out of chick lit as a whole, I tended more towards British novels, as I loved the settings (London) and the characters seemed more interesting than the North American ones. This might just be because I love everything British, but what do you think? Do you notice a major difference between North American and U.K. chick lit? If so, which do you prefer?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Marian Keyes - This Charming Man

Even though this book technically isn't on my summer chick-lit reading list, I still wanted to say a few words about it, since it technically did kick off the 'summer', as I read it at a cottage on the May 24 long weekend, which is the unofficial start to the season - at least here in Toronto.

This Charming Man takes the reader through the world of 4 different women (well, really 3, as Alicia only has a tiny part in the narrative) who are all in some way connected to the infamous philandering politician, Paddy de Courcy. The story is presented through the eyes of each character in turn, and because of the sheer length of the story (almost 900 pages in paperback!) a backstory for each emerges quite clearly. My friend mentioned (when I told her I was reading this book) that only around page 350 the story really gets going, and takes twists and turns that make it almost impossible not to put down. I agree. So if you're on p. 200, 250 - don't fret. Noel from the Dole will surprise you!

One other thing that I think I can mention that doesn't give the plot away too much - I found it fascinating how Keyes describes how alcoholism is experienced from a first-person p.o.v. I never really thought about it that much, but when reading about just how serious it can get, I think I now view it in a totally new light - like it is a devastating, debilitating disorder to be reckoned with.

This was my first Keyes book and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I know I have more of hers on my list; the only thing I wish was that her books weren't so long! It can take weeks to get through it (and I'm trying for a book a week).

Right now I'm just finishing Personally, I blame my Fairy Godmother by Claudia Carroll (another great Irish novelist). I don't know what's in the beer in Ireland, but they sure do churn out great writers! ;)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I'm back!!!

Ok, so I basically took, 8, or 9 was it? months off from blogging. Not that I've had a lack of things to write about, oh no, the problem for me was that there was TOO much stuff going on, mainly with school (tutoring, TA-ing, coursework, writing my dissertation proposal, that kind of general nonsense ; ) Oh, the daily grind, how it interferes with REAL life :P Also, I've noticed that no followers (that I know of) = no impetus to write. (It's not like anyone was missing anything, right? Was anyone missing it?)

Well, now I've got a purpose to bring the blog back (at least for the summer). I'm doing a chick-lit challenge, as it were; basically, read a ton of chick-lit books and blog about them. Super-fun you say? Well, thank you. Although it's not my idea - check out this link - the Booklover's blog issued the challenge and I accepted. All my books have been doing is gathering dust on my shelves, and I have so much chick lit to catch up on!

My daunting list will be up there and I will be talking about my progress here and on that blog as well. So follow along if you're out there, and join in with your own novels if you want a reading challenge this summer!