Posts filed under ‘Romance and Chick Lit’
I know what you’re thinking. Cute dog on the cover, sort of cutesy title, a font that screams, “Hey, I’m a book for women, but not one of those books for women.” But A Hundred Pieces of Me by Lucy Dillon is a damn good book.
It starts with our hero, Gina Bellamy, who discovers her husband is having an affair. Not only is he having an affair, it’s Christmas, her first Christmas in the perfect house they have renovated together, and she’s wondering what will be the next big project to bring them together. Nothing, apparently, as he is sleeping with a younger blonde.
Flash forward, and Gina is in her new apartment, boxes and boxes of stuff from her old life crowding her new one. Overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of things, she decides that she’s going to only keep 100 crucial things. She also nails a sweet new job restoring her dream home, which happens to be inhabited by a very handsome (though married) photographer. And yeah, there’s a dog.
But this book is more than the sum of its parts. (more…)
Mamen Sánchez’s The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman (what a great title!) tells the story of one Atticus Craftsman, heir to a British publishing house, who is sent to Spain to shut down the publisher’s failing Spanish literary magazine. This magazine is run by five women, one of whom has rather more to hide than the other four, and, in the course of closing the magazine, Atticus (altogether unexpectedly!) disappears. Or so his British father back in London thinks.
For whatever reason, I went into Disappearance expecting a bookish novel, along the lines of A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé or Tom Rachman’s The Rise and Fall of Great Powers (or maybe even more like Rachman’s first novel, The Imperfectionists). The book was recommended in the August edition of the IndieBound Next List, a usually reputable source of good reads, so maybe that’s where I got the notion.
In any event, Disappearance is many things — including fun, madcap, and sweet — but it is not particularly literary. It is pure fluffy goodness, something light and downright goofy that would have been a perfect beach read earlier in the summer. (Who releases a book like this at the end of August?!) (more…)
I could write a book unto itself about dodgy books I’ve read merely because of a passing relation to Egypt of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. On this list, I would include:
- Kate Pullinger’s Mistress of Nothing
- Bram Stoker’s The Jewel of the Seven Stars
- Pat Shipman’s To the Heart of the Nile
- Elizabeth Peters’ The Laughter of Dead Kings (and dare I add all books in her much-beloved Amelia Peabody series after He Shall Thunder in the Sky)
And now, with great fanfare, let us add Kate Furnivall’s Shadows on the Nile to their esteemed company!
Basically, the book tells the story of our Fearless Heroine (Jessie) as she tries to track down her missing Egyptologist brother. Of course, this almost immediately throws her in the path of “dashing and impoverished aristocrat, Sir Montague Chamford,” who inexplicably joins her on her quest all the way to the bloody deserts outside of Luxor.
Oh, and she has a secret autistic brother who has been locked away and forgotten in some asylum by her almost impossibly cruel parents. Oh, and she’s an artist who lives with a lady saxophonist. Oh, and fascism’s on the rise. Also, there’s social unrest at home and abroad. And workers are rioting and subsequently being brutally attacked by police. And, just for some good old-fashioned character development, she has a cat. (Because, obviously, a cat = character development.) Also, she has inexplicably picked up expert-level Egyptological expertise from her brother, evidently through some kind of osmosis.
Needless to say, this book is trying to be a great many things and, I regret to say, fails on most fronts. (more…)
You guys must think all I read is trash, at this point. Nothing could be further from the truth. I came to Nora Roberts’ The Collector after whipping through Margaret Atwood’s entire ‘MaddAddam’ trilogy within two weeks. I was desperate for a compelling story that I could enjoy without having to think too much about it, and the premise of this one seemed intriguing.
The story starts with Lila Emerson, a professional house-sitter and writer of young adult novels, who is watching a New York City penthouse when she witnesses a murder outside her window. The woman who is pushed out a plate glass window to her death turns out to be a model and the girlfriend of antiquities dealer Oliver Archer, who is also found dead. After giving a statement to the police, Lila encounters Oliver’s brother Ashton, a brooding artist determined to find his brother’s killer. The pair team up to solve the crime, falling in love in the process.
See? Compelling. (more…)
I was relatively new to New York when I first read Daphne Uviller’s Super in the City. I had only been there four months or so and was still feeling like a sore thumb in that throbbing metropolis.
I read Super for work and while I liked it well enough, once I finished it, I remember thinking it was really fluffy. Like, how and why was I even reading something so unabashedly silly? It made my teeth hurt with sweetness. I had every intention of never reading it again. I’d probably donate it to the Strand.
Imagine my surprise when, a week later, I was still thinking about it. I ended up reading it again two more times within the month and a few more times over the next year as I tried to find my way in my new urban home. Super in the City stuck with me. It resonated, striking a chord I hadn’t known I wanted to hear, and made me feel just a little less like I didn’t belong. And it hasn’t been off my shelf since.
Super in the City tells the story of Zephyr Zuckerman, a young woman who doesn’t know what to do with her life who moves back home to Greenwich village and takes on the role of super in her parents’ brownstone. In her new “job” as super, she becomes entangled in mysterious and possibly criminal events beyond her control, meets a studly exterminator, and generally finds her way in life. It’s a pretty basic story, but Uviller is a zippy and funny writer, so the book flies by.
But there’s something beyond the book’s basic plot and Uviller’s enjoyable writing style that has kept me coming back over the years. And I’m pretty sure it’s Zephyr herself.
Zephyr Zuckerman is probably the most real person-ish fictional character I’ve ever read. Every time I read this book, I newly appreciate how genuine she feels. She doesn’t come across as a harried chick lit heroine. She feels like a human woman. She’s allowed to be herself, her own imaginative, crazy, hopeful, obsessive, morose, self-conscious, confident, wacky self. She’s a thousand things, many of them not necessarily positive — like a real person — and I think that realness is what resonated with me about Super after all these years. (more…)
It’s also a great many other adjectives, but, overwhelmingly, it’s adorkable. Telling the story of a very particular scientist named Dr. Don Tillman, The Rosie Projects relates what happens when he abruptly decides it is time he found a wife (or “female life partner”) and creates a scientific questionnaire to help him find his ideal mate. Inevitably, this fail-proof plan fails in pretty short order when he meets the titular Rosie, who, of course, aligns with none of his criteria, but who, of course, he can’t seem to stop thinking about.
It’s a cute story and one very much in the same mold as James Collins’ Beginner’s Greek: romantic comedy novels approaching the subject of modern love with an immovable faith in romance. The Rosie Project tilts more on the side of comedy than Beginner’s Greek (which tilted more on the side of romance), but, if you’ll forgive the science pun, they share the same DNA. (more…)
Upon moving to Nantucket, I quickly became aware of the rich history of remarkable women on the island. Perhaps more so than most places, Nantucket’s history is women’s history. With most of the male population gone for years on end whaling in the Pacific Ocean throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Nantucket was left a veritable Herland. Given this unusual freedom for the women of the island, it isn’t surprising that some extraordinary characters emerged.
One of the most notable by any measure was Maria Mitchell, lady-astronomer extraordinaire who famously won a metal from the King of Denmark after discovering a comet one night in 1847. She discovered her comet from the roof of the Pacific National Bank in the town of Nantucket and ever since pretty much everyone on the island has been justifiably proud of her.
It was not an islander, however, who decided to take up her story and inject it with a bit of modern fictional flair. Instead, New Yorker Amy Brill was inspired by Maria Mitchell’s story after a short trip to the island back in the 1990s and began writing the novel which would become The Movement of Stars.
In Movement, Brill borrows liberally from Mitchell’s life, but infuses the basic story with all the fixings of a great beach read. There’s our heroine’s feeling of differentness from the rest of her community, the requisite illicit romance, and even the bittersweet, but overall happy, ending. It’s all there, plus more historic details than you can shake a stick at. (more…)