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Posts Tagged ‘Chicklit’

I’ve read this book before, but it was several years ago, after reading Bridget Jones’ Diary. I admit that when I reread the first book, I felt somewhat disappointed and wondered if I would feel the same way after rereading this one, the first sequel.

Bridget starts off this book in a good place. Happy relationship, good friendships etc etc, but naturally she can’t help screwing things up. Through a colossal and somewhat unbelievable series of misunderstandings, she and Mark end up splitting up (don’t these people ever actually just sit and TALK to each other).

As before, her friends Shazzer and Jude feature heavily and while they are both well meaning and loyal, they are also full of ridiculous advice. This books takes Bridget to such far flung shores as Rome and Thailand, sees her life threatened, and her having to live through several embarrassing and cringeworthy situations.

On the positive side, it’s an undemanding read – perfect for that strange week between Christmas and New Year when you have no idea what day it is, or what’s going on (which is when I read it) and Helen Fielding definitely knows how to write humour. I did on several occasions burst into giggles.

On the other hand, Bridget herself is – let’s face it – a hot mess. Living her life according to self-help books which usually contradict each other and only having herself to blame for lots of the problems that arise just made me frustrated. For example, at one point she gets the chance to fly to Italy and interview her favourite actor. Instead of preparing her questions beforehand, packing in advance and getting an early night the evening before she is due to fly, she fails to prepare anything, gets drunk the night before, doesn’t pack and therefore misses her flight, causing everything to need to be rearranged. She is always late for work and it’s always her own fault. So when people say that Bridget is relatable, I have to say – to WHO exactly?

So overall, a slightly frustrating experience rereading this. But not altogether unenjoyable. Maybe I’ll pick it up again in another 15 years and see what I think then.

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This audiobook was narrated by Colleen Prendergast, who I have previously enjoyed listening to as a narrator. She did a great job here too, but unfortunately I did not particularly enjoy listening to this book.

The story is narrated by Nina Penhaligon, an actress on the brink of making it big in television. After making a massive blunder and embarrassing her agent, she decides to get away from it all and goes to stay with her brother in Devon. There she meets up with an old friend named Theo, who has problems of his own. Theo and his wife Kate’s marriage is floundering after they struggle to get over a traffic loss. Nina gets involved with helping Theo set up his holiday let business and falls for the quieter pace of life in Devon, as opposed to the hustle and bustle of London.

In between trying to help Theo and Kate mend their marriage, Nina also has to find out the truth about her own family history, help her brother see that too much work is not good for him, get involved with trying to save a local landmark, and of course, there’s a big dollop of romance in there too.

I’ve long ago come to the conclusion that chicklit is not a genre which really works for me, but when listening to audiobooks, I can sometimes enjoy it. This one started out fairly well, but it went on for so SO long. I felt that a few of the storylines could have been cut out completely and the book would have been better for it (I’m not going to be too specific here, as I don’t want to give away spoilers). It seemed to be about twice as long as it needed to be. The other thing was that the way the holiday let business got set up was just unrealistic. Nina basically happens upon Theo’s rundown, unkempt and completely unfurnished holiday cottages, and transforms them in ONE AFTERNOON!!

I appreciate that we are meant to be rooting for Nina, but I found her quite annoying by the end of it. They should have just called her a fairy godmother, given her a magic wand and have done with it. She managed to solve the problems of practically everyone in the village, and it felt like she was going around sprinkling her fairy dust everywhere. The other problem was that some of the plot points were so obviously signposted that it seemed incredible that Nina didn’t spot what was coming herself.

On the positive side (yes, there is one!) I thought the Devon setting was lovely and it did  make me think that I too would love to live in a place like that.

I should mention again that this is not really a genre I read a lot, because I generally find it very predictable, which was one of my niggles with this book. I’ve read several other reviews of this book, most of which rate it really highly, so if you do enjoy chicklit, then don’t be put off giving it a go. Unfortunately it just wasn’t really for me.

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Emma George has a job in TV, which is less exciting than it sounds, and a long term boyfriend Ned, who is less reliable than a boyfriend should be. And then she finds herself accidentally pregnant in the same week that she loses her job, and breaks up with Ned.

She is lucky enough to inherit a cottage and find temporary work, and an accidental lodger, but she still realises that soon she is going to be wholly responsible for another person, and things are going to have to change…

SPOILERS CONTAINED BELOW!!

I listened to the audiobook of this novel, narrated by Rosie Jones. I would have to say that the narration was excellent; unfortunately that’s the only thing that I *can* say was excellent. My main issue is that clearly the reader/listener is supposed to identify with Emma and root for her, and…well, she is just a terribly selfish, judgemental and spiteful human being. Horrible human beings can make for interesting main characters but the reader/listener is supposed to be well aware that they are horrible characters; we are not supposed to be expected to support their behaviour!

This started out quite amusing in parts, but what ruined it for me was when Emma constantly fat-shamed another character. Martha’s size and eating habits were completely irrelevant to the story, yet literally every sentence that mentioned her (and there were a LOT) made an unkind reference to the character’s weight. Furthermore, when Martha correctly chastised Emma for not doing her job properly, Emma videoed Martha after she had had sex with someone, and then blackmailed her with the footage top stop Martha reporting Emma’s behaviour. And we were supposed to think this was hilarious!

Additionally, Ned was just the most feckless and unreliable boyfriend, who stole Emma’s money after sponging off her for years, had not contributed any money towards rent or living costs, and preferred dreaming up ultimately unsuccessful get-rich-schemes with his mate. When one such scheme accidentally works out, all of a sudden Ned is painted as a wonderful character and an example to us all not to give up on your dreams.

I listened to the end, because I was too far in to give up before I realised what a truly selfish character Emma was and because of the narration. However, although I would certainly listen to more books narrated by Rosie Jones, I won’t be checking out any more books written by this author.

 

 

 

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Another audiobook to accompany me while running.

Emma is six months away from her 30th birthday when she finds the wish list she made with her friends at the age of 15 (actually I’d call it more of a bucket list than a wish list) showing all the things they hope to achieve by the time they were 30. To her disappointment, Emma realises that she has not managed to even achieve one item – not even grow her hair long!

So with half a year to go, she decides to complete the list, and along the way she discovers a few things about herself and a few things about her closest friends. It’s typical chick-lit, so of course there is a heavy emphasis on romance and female friendships, with her closest friends Cally and Asha playing fairly large roles in the book.

On the good side, Jane Costello does throw in some good one-liners; it’s an undemanding read/listen  and it kept my attention – I certainly did not find myself drifting off. On the bad side, it’s very predictable – there are sub-plots and I correctly guessed the outcome of all of them (as well as the outcome of the main plot). This is a fairly common thing with chick-lit though, and you always know what to expect when you read a book like this – for a lot of readers, that’s the attraction which is absolutely understandable – so maybe my gripe is not entirely fair.

I felt that Alex Tregear did a reasonable job of narrating the story, even if some of the accents were a bit over the top. I preferred Girl On The Run by the same author, but I would probably listen to another book by Jane Costello and would recommend her to chick-lit fans.

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After being dumped six times in a row, 28 year old Sass decides that dating and relationships aren’t worth the trouble and goes on a dating sabbatical, which means that she can’t date (obviously), kiss or flirt with men.  To her surprise she finds it enjoyable, and becomes more assertive and proactive in her life.  The only problem is the rather gorgeous and funny Jake, who Sass keeps running into and against all her own rules, finds very sexy.

Now, chicklit is not really my favourite genre, but I like it sometimes if I fancy a nice easy read.  However, this is the second book I’ve read by Gemma Burgess (although The Dating Detox was the first one to be published), and I have really enjoyed both of them.

Sass’s experience was less about waiting for any half-decent man to come along, and more about growing as a person and deciding what she wants from life.  The story is told in first-person present-tense, and Sass is an engaging and likeable narrator.  I also loved her totally believable friendships with best mates Bloomie and Kate, who are dealing with their own personal and professional problems.  The characters – Sass particularly – are very relatable.  We all know people like Bloomie and Kate.  (And yes, Jake is rather lovely!)

The story moves along nicely, with some genuinely funny moments.  It makes a pleasant change to read a book about dating and relationships, that also focuses on the positive side of being single and learning to stand on your own two feet.  It’s definitely aimed at female readers, and yes it is very ‘chicklitty’ but it’s fresh and pacy, and gave me lots to smile at.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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Shirley and Kate Winters may be sisters, but they are about as alike as chalk and cheese.  Shirley loves vintage outfits and dreams about falling in love (with the divine Declan Greenwood), and she wants to make the world a better place. Kate is glamorous and flirtatious, never able to stick with any relationship for long.  She’s a designer label addict and selfish in the extreme.  Both girls are hoping the make their way in the world, and certain men feature heavily in their plans, although for Shirley true love is all that matters, whereas in Kate’s case, she just wants to find a rich husband.  

Meanwhile, Johnny Hogan, the owner of the Ballroom on Magnolia Street – the only nightspot in the area – is rethinking his life and planning to move to America – temporarily at first, but maybe permanently.  After all, he lost the love his life to another man many years before, and having given most of his life to making the ballroom a success, he now feels ready to move on.  

But secrets from the past are about to resurface and it won’t be long before circumstances cause everyone’s life to irrevocably change…will anything ever be the same again?   While chick-lit is not a favourite genre of mine, when it’s done well, it can be very enjoyable.  Unfortunately, I did not think it was done well here.  The characters are cliched (Shirley might as well wear a halo, and Kate should have little horns coming out of the side of her head) and hard to care about.  Declan Greenwood – the object of Shirley’s affection – is just too good to be true and in the case of Johnny Hogan, I ended up confused about whether the author was trying to portray him as someone we should like, dislike or just feel plain sorry for.  

The storylines were also just not believeable, with unrealistic turns of events happening all the time, and certain characters seeming to have unexplained personality transplants for the sake of plot.  The plot itself also seemed to promote the idea that all any woman really wants is a man to take care of her. Any single or independent women in the book are portrayed particularly unfavourably.  

Finally, there were some very long stretches of dialogue which served no purpose for the plot.  The chapter where the two sisters are introduced into the storyline features a heavily drawn out exchange between the two of them, which was boring and unnecessary.  

Are there any good parts?  Well – a couple of the stories had potential and certainly a book which concentrated on Shirley and Declan – leaving out many of the peripheral characters – might have been more enjoyable.  There are also some amusing parts when describing the actions of certain characters – in particular, Shirley and Kate’s parents.   It was also an undemanding read, and I finished it quite quickly (although I only finished it at all because I hate to give up on any book once I’ve started it).   Unfortunately, not one I’d recommend.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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Chicklit is not a favourite genre of mine, but I’m glad I picked this book up.  It is set in Churchminster, an affluent village in the Cotswolds, and we follow a number of the residents as they go about their lives.  Caro Belmont is married to the arrogant Sebastian and is worried that he might be having an affair (he is, as we find out within the first few pages).  Meanwhile her sister Camilla is feeling unfulfilled in her relationship with beer swilling farmer Angus, and both girls are worried at the news that their youngest sister, the outrageous Calypso, is returning to the village.  Their grandmother Clementine Standington-Fulthrope is the matriarch of the family, and watches over her brood with equal mixtures of strictness and love.

Other residents in the village have their own problems – at the age of thirty, Camilla’s best friend Harriet is despairing of ever losing her virginity, and Freddie Fox-Titt just can’t understand why he is feeling so lethargic and wanting to eat huge amounts of chocolate!

The whole village is excited when former pop star Devon Cornwall moves into the area, but an even bigger shock awaits them, as an evil land developer wants to buy part of their hometown and build a huge building estate on it.  All of a sudden, everyone pulls together in an effort to thwart his efforts…will the Save Churchminster Ball and Auction be enough to raise the money they need to buy the threatened land themselves?  Will Mick Jagger turn up at the ball?  And will certain members of the community find the strength within themselves that they need to make themselves happy?

I really enjoyed this book.  It’s very light-hearted, and moves quickly. Characterisation is not particularly deep (Sebastian for example, is practically a cardboard cut out character), but Jo Carnegie’s quick wit and perceptive sense of humour makes this a pleasure to read.  (I giggled all the way through one excruciating dinner party scene, and the book often made me laugh out loud.)

It’s unself-consciously outrageous in parts, with some of the most over-the-top character names imaginable, but it’s easy to lose yourself in Churchminster life even if this depiction of wealthy rural life is often verging on satirical.

Overall, the book was an enjoyable read, and I would definitely be interested in reading more by Jo Carnegie.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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