Pretty amusing and entertaining. The writing is on par with the other Shopaholic books. For me personally, though, it's a little harder to find Becky'...morePretty amusing and entertaining. The writing is on par with the other Shopaholic books. For me personally, though, it's a little harder to find Becky's attitude as funny when she's dragging around a child who screams "MIIIIIINE!" at everything. (less)
This book focuses on two major events in Susan Conley’s life: moving to China and dealing with cancer. They’re supposed to mirror one another: first S...moreThis book focuses on two major events in Susan Conley’s life: moving to China and dealing with cancer. They’re supposed to mirror one another: first Susan is a stranger in a new country, and then she becomes a stranger to her own body. It sounds cleverly put together with the promise of some sort of deep, inspired conclusion. Unfortunately, it never quite works. The connection never fully materialized for me.
The parts dealing with Conley’s cancer are my least favorite in the book. I think perhaps it is difficult to articulate this experience because it was so internal. Unlike being a foreigner a country, where there are constant anecdotes about culture shocks and language difficulties to illustrate the strangeness to the reader, the cancer is just cancer. So instead, we get stories about how her children react to the cancer. Mildly interesting, but for me, not relatable. I read this book at the same time as I read The Replacement Wife, another book about a woman dealing with cancer. Emotionally, this book fell so flat in comparison.
However, I did enjoy all of Conley’s stories about China, and I would have happily read more. Having returned from a trip to China not long before starting this book, I happily found myself transported back through the writing. Some might find her narration arrogant or irritating, but it didn’t strike me as such. I felt like she wrote honestly and had more tolerance and openness than most Americans would have if they suddenly moved to China. Of course, there are the obligatory complains about smog, toilets, and the language barrier, but this doesn’t prevent her from exploring and enjoying Beijing.
We get additional insight into the culture through characters she describes, such as Mao Ayi (her housekeeper/nanny), Rose (her English teacher), and Lao Wu (her driver). We learn that there are many “Mao Ayi”s in China because people would prove their patriotism with their choice of children’s names. We get a glimpse of the pressures put on young people in China through Rose’s struggle over her boyfriend and career choices.
If the whole book had focused on Conley’s experiences in China (and perhaps more about her husband’s previous adventures in rural areas of the country), it would have been a stronger, more interesting memoir.(less)
I won this book in a GoodReads First Read giveaway.
What Came First tells the story about three very different women whose lives become connected. The...moreI won this book in a GoodReads First Read giveaway.
What Came First tells the story about three very different women whose lives become connected. The one thing that all three of them share is the desire to have children, and the inability to have them the "traditional way." The author develops three characters with different, believable personalities and situations.
Laura is a career-driven, independent woman who decides she doesn't need a husband and has a son via sperm donor. Wendy and her husband are unable to conceive, so she uses a donor and gives birth to a set of rambunctious twins, but her husband feels like they aren't his children. Vanessa wants the traditional husband and children, but her boyfriend isn't interested in that life.
The book is an easy, engaging read. It's chick lit and doesn't present any earth shattering perspectives about relationships or parenting, but I did appreciate the fact that the situations of the characters were relatable and not cookie-cutter. The writing is contemporary, with many references to things like World of Warcraft and Twilight, which makes it seem like it's meant to be read now but not necessarily ten years down the line.
When reading books like this, it helps a lot if the problems that the central characters are struggling with are things that the reader cares about. Unfortunately, in this case, I don't care that much about having babies, and I'm already surrounded by people who care a lot about having babies. So a bit of a subject miss for me. However, I am interested to read some of Carol Snow's other books because she knows how to tell a good story.(less)
Disclaimer: I received an free e-galley of this book from NetGalley.
I listened to Austenland as an audiobook, and I enjoyed it as a guilty pleasure. I...moreDisclaimer: I received an free e-galley of this book from NetGalley.
I listened to Austenland as an audiobook, and I enjoyed it as a guilty pleasure. It employed the technique of injecting well-known phrases directly from Jane Austen’s writing that I find annoying, but I was able to overlook it because I liked the idea of Austenland so much – a place ladies could go to be transported into an Austen fantasyland, with costumes, balls, and swoonworthy gentlemen paid to be fallen in love with. I was really excited when I saw that there would be a return to Austenland in a second book with a main character that seemed quite different from young Austen-addict Jane Hayes from the first. Charlotte Kinder was an older woman with children and a failed marriage. Potential for self-discovery and a more complex love story, perhaps?
Because of my love for Rebecca, I’ve always had this idea that I enjoy gothic romances. However, with some of the books in the gothic romance genre that I’ve read in the last few years, I’m wondering if that’s actually true. I probably wouldn’t put this book into that genre, but it’s darker than I expected, with elements of mystery and thriller that I didn’t expect at all. It’s supposed to be a tribute to Austen’s Northanger Abbey, which I haven’t read and I suspect many Austen fans haven’t either. Maybe if I was more familiar with that story, I would have appreciated the mystery plotline in this one, but instead, I found it to be unnecessary and strange. If anything, it made Charlotte seem overly paranoid, and so many dark, "real life" things seeping into the story (like Mr. Wattlesbrook’s poor behavior) made it impossible to immerse into the fantasy. I thought the fantasy was the whole point of these types of books! As a story trying to be serious, it doesn’t have nearly enough substance.
On the other hand, Charlotte as a character is not a bad one. She’s pretty funny, makes interesting observations, and does seem "clever" as she is dubbed, though also somewhat naïve. It’s easy to sympathize with her because her problems are accessible: her husband left her for another woman, she loves her kids but worries that they’re happy without her, etc. She worries and feels sad without being overly whiny. And by the end of the story, she is a stronger, more confident woman, maybe someone suitable to be a Jane Austen heroine.
But seriously... I just want to be able to book a vacation at Pembrook Park. Why does this not exist for real?!(less)
You’ve got a woman with cancer in a loving relationship who decides to find a replacement wife for her gorgeous, successful husband. He’s not into the...moreYou’ve got a woman with cancer in a loving relationship who decides to find a replacement wife for her gorgeous, successful husband. He’s not into the idea, but once his mind opens to the thought of other women, he starts noticing other women. It’s clear pretty early on that there’s no way that this story is going to have a happy ending for everyone. And as the characters get more and more tangled into their stupid but well-meaning web, the reader can only wait for the inevitable train wreck.
This is a good book. But it’s also a tricky book. From the description and the genre, I expected it to be a mostly light, shallow read with some cheap emotional manipulation. This was not the case. Of course, in the many hundreds of pages, there are many that are easily skimmable, but I felt like it was hard-hitting and realistic in the issues that it explored. The reason why it’s tricky is because, despite being good, it’s a difficult book to like. I would compare this to Emily Giffin’s Heart of the Matter, which I actually stopped reading because I knew that there was no way the book was going to resolve itself in a manner that would make me happy. This book is the same way. I knew right away that it was going to make me mad.
As a reader of chick lit, I find myself expecting things to be a certain way. It doesn’t need to be a happy, tidy ending, but we expect to see people get what they deserve, both good and bad. In The Replacement Wife, it’s more like real life. People just get what they get. No one’s a real villain, and no one’s a real saint. It’s frustrating and sad to watch mostly well-intentioned people causing each other to suffer when it isn’t fair or for any noble purpose. Who do you cheer for, when one person’s happiness means an equally deserving person’s misery?
Viewing the novel as a whole, however, I see a theme. There are a lot of beginnings and endings that occur. Though it’s not satisfying to see good things unfairly come to an end, it’s relieving to see that bad deeds that people do aren’t punished forever, either. It seems like the whole idea is that there is no karma, that things happen randomly in life, and all we can do is hang on and make the most of it.
What can I say? How many chick lit books evoke that strong of a response? I think it speaks loudly for the strength of the author’s character development and writing. This would be an excellent book for a book club because everyone is bound to have something to say.(less)
This book tells the story of an affair -- or more specifically, a crucial week of an affair -- from the perspectives of the wife, the husband, and the...moreThis book tells the story of an affair -- or more specifically, a crucial week of an affair -- from the perspectives of the wife, the husband, and the mistress. It doesn't break any new ground, but the storytelling is still very satisfying to read. The different perspectives are believable and realistic, and I enjoyed seeing how things that would seem so clear from one perspective ended up being completely different from another. There are no true heroes or villains in this story, only people who love and hurt each other as years of choices reach a point where they can no longer be ignored.