Monday, October 12, 2009

Smart Chic(k): This Charming Man by Marian Keyes

I've read my fair share of Chick Lit and have come across the whole shabang. Things can be bad ("Oh my God! I need to buy that Gucci purse/top/watch/etc, and that boy won't go out with me!") to worse ("Hello, I am a self-obsessed, mean-spirited woman that you like because you want to be me and this is the story of my self-obsessed life.").

But things can be good in Chick Lit World. In fact, they can be really good as I found out with Marian Keyes' novel,
This Charming Man.

This Charming Man is a story told from the perspective of 4 different characters, each with their own distinct voice and style. I don't want to give away the story, so I'm not going to tell you guys too much about them.

What I can tell you though is that each of the characters has the potential to become your new very best make-believe/invisible friend, since Marian Keyes develops them so fully. In fact, the characters are so believable that you'll find yourself having to dry your eyes because something unbelievably hilarious happened (or the exact opposite).

The basic premise of the novel is that a man (isn't there always one?), Paddy, has gotten engaged. This is apparently really big news since he's the most eligible (but unavailable) bachelor in Ireland. He also happens to be a very in-the-spotlight politician. What ensues after his engagement is announced is a number of very interesting trips down memory lane that tell a tale darker than you usually find in chick lit.

In a way, that's kind of why I don't want to call this novel a Chick Lit book. It's too smart to fall under the same umbrella as some of the poor excuses for fiction/literature that are called Chick Lit. And yet, at the same time, I can't help but feeling that giving This Charming Man the label of Chick Lit will help uplift the genre itself.

Moving on. The book itself is paced fairly evenly. It's not too slow, it's not too fast. It's a good moderate pace, and it's got plenty of cliffhangers that make you almost want to curse at Marian for having left you in suspense for so long (almost being the key word there).

The novel isn't rocket science, but it's not at a grade five reading level either. So if you're looking to be entertained, would like to be meaningfully entertained, and are into "Chick Lit", be sure to pick this charming book up.

This Charming Man is not for anyone:
  • who hates all that feely shmeely talk that girls go through all the time
  • who needs, requires, or lives on High Culture/Art and needs a hot mess of literature
  • is looking for poetry in their prose
  • is looking for an excuse to think about designers, jewelry, high-end vacations and lifestyles in a book
This Charming Man is for anyone:
  • thoroughly enjoys intelligent reads about real women in real life situations (i.e. women who have lives and careers apart from being rich heiresses in need of yet another manicure)
  • looking for a read that doesn't require too much effort to get interested and isn't too heavy/depressing
  • looking for a read that will make them feel good even though life sucks
  • who is looking for a peek into how to get over a man very quickly

Friday, October 9, 2009

Strangely Enough: Life, Love and Reading!

I don't know about you guys, but I seem to have reading cycles. In summer, I tend to go for lighter fare when it comes to reading. You can find me picking up chick-lit more often than not. Come fall, I start craving something a little more substantial.

October, my birth month (yay!) is usually when I pick up mysteries. I guess it's my nod to the end of the month and Halloween.

Come winter, I have a steady tradition of always reading all the
Harry Potter books at some point in time during that month prior to Christmas. After Christmas, I like to read something that helps calm one down after the stresses of the season. My usual choice? Miss Austen and her lovely leading ladies.

Spring time brings with it a sense of freshness, and the novel of choice for that time is ALWAYS
Our Lady of the Lost and Found by Diane Schoemperlen. It's a story about a woman who gets a visit from the Virgin Mary. No, it's not a diabolical tome, or depressing, or even chick-lit. It's just the most interesting story that makes you really think about things.

This year, I plan to add Charles Dickens'
A Christmas Carol to my pre-Christmas reading list. I think it'll be interesting, to say the least.

What about you guys out there? Do you have reading cycles? Are there special books that you always read at certain times of the year? An inquiring mind wants to know!

Doubtful or Delightful? The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

I've been dreading doing this review for a few weeks now. I'm not the type of person where I enjoy leaving a book unfinished. In fact, many a time, I will just plow through my own feelings of boredom constantly hoping that the end of the book will prove me wrong.

However, I find myself unable or unwilling to do so with Elizabeth Kostova's epic,
The Historian. I hate to say this but for the first time in my life, an historical, supernatural thriller has got me giving up! I'm rather confused at this outcome. The Historian seemed to offer everything that could have possibly interested me in a book in the first place.

To begin, there's a mystery involved. There's history, there's travel, there's interesting dialogue, there's a plot that thickens with each chapter, there are unexplained events. So what went wrong?

Well... It might have something to do with the unendurable repetitiveness of the story. I feel as though the very first mysterious story is re-written every 50 pages or so. Every new character that enters the story is retold the whole story from beginning to end, and the poor reader has to re-read it as well!

There are phrases, and patterns that just keep being repeated. If it had been repeated once or twice, I would've enjoyed it. But halfway through the book, I wondered if there was any story to this story at all, or if at the last page, I'd find myself re-re-re-re-re-re... reading the original story again.

And so... I had no choice but to give up.

The sad thing is that this novel received just wonderful, glowing reviews on How could so many people be wrong?

Maybe it's just me. I've decided to go back and pick up the pieces. Maybe I'll get through it eventually. But not until AFTER some other books are read. You'll get the reviews of those soon. As for the completed review of
The Historian? Don't hold your breath for it. I might never go there.

Delving Into the Classics: "The Moonstone" by Wilkie Collins

After a very long time, I found myself in the mood for a good ole' British mystery novel. Having read Agatha Christie's novels in the past repeatedly, I was on the hunt for something different this time around. Enter Mr. Collins with what was apparently one of the first detective/mystery novels written in the English language.

To begin,
The Moonstone is a story about the mysterious disappearance of an Indian diamond in colonial England. The story is told through the narratives of a number of different characters who witness events that lead to solving the crime. Each chapter works to further the plot in a different manner, and there are multiple stories within the larger story, and all of them are interesting. There are a number of red herrings, and an intensely satisfying explanation to all occurrences at the end.

The plot moves fairly quickly although the time elapsed in the book itself isn't quite as fast, due mainly to the fact that the novel takes place in the late 1840's. Reading the novel reminded me strangely enough of just how fast we move from place to place, idea to idea in this day and age.

The writing isn't super complicated or dense. At the same time, each narrator of the story comes across exceptionally well. You really get a feel for the personality, and cognitive process behind each narrator. It's fantastic stuff!

One of my favourite characters in the novel is Gabriel Betteredge. His narrative takes up most of the novel, and for a good reason too. I will never hear of
The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe without thinking of him. To find out why, read the book!

And without further ado, here are my recommendations for readers. Enjoy!

The Moonstone is for people:

  • who are looking for a jolly old English whodunit
  • who are looking for a mystery set in the English countryside
  • enjoyed reading Jane Austen
  • who think they'd like to see what would happen if Jane Austen was crossed with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Moonstone is not for people:
  • who are looking for intense, fast-paced thrillers
  • who don't enjoy reading about colonial England or cultural misappropriation
  • who can't fathom reading older English works