Monday, June 7, 2010

What I've Been Reading

I've had an incredibly productive reading week, which reflects the fact that I've had a pretty slow week otherwise (in other words, all the work on my to-do list has been effectively pushed back to this week as I enjoyed sticking my nose in book after book).

After finishing Pride and Prejudice, I decided to read the other books I had listed in the first poll while anxiously awaiting results of the second Book-To-Read-Next Poll (which is up and running in the left-hand sidebar). First, I read Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding.

It was rather fitting to read Bridget Jones after having finished Pride and Prejudice, as the core of the first book's plot (Bridget Jones's Diary) is based on Pride and Prejudice. The second book focuses on what happens after our modern-day Elizabeth Bennet (Bridget Jones) gets her Mr. Darcy (Mark Darcy). I found that with both the Bridget Jones's books, it took me a while to get into a reading groove--I think the diary-style writing presents a shift in writing style that takes my brain a bit to catch on to--but by around page 50, I had found my groove and immensely enjoyed the book. I might go so far as to say that I like Edge of Reason better than the first book, which I find interesting because I didn't like the movie based on the second book as much as I liked the movie based on the first book. Just another argument for reading the books that movies are based on instead of relying solely on the movie version...

The second book, like the first, is filled with instances that had me laughing and my son asking, "What's so funny? Can I see?" I would show my son the page and explain that the words were funny, but he'd just shake his head at me, probably thinking I'm a bit over the edge of reason. One of my favorite snippets from Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason is when Bridget realizes that she accidentally threw her friend Tom's phone into one of the dumpsters (dustbins, in British English) when she took her trash out, but she doesn't know which dumpster it's in:

Ended up flinging long leather jacket on top of bra and knickers and going out into street to wait till Tom rang the phone so could find out which it was in. Was just standing on wall peering into the dustbins when a familiar voice said, "Hello."
Turned round and there was Mark Darcy.
He glanced down and I realized was standing with--fortunately coordinated--underwear on full display.
"What are you doing?" he said.
"I'm waiting for the dustbin to ring," I replied with dignity, pulling jacket around self.
"I see." There was a pause. "Have you been waiting . . . long?"
"No," I said carefully. "A normal amount of time."
Just then one of the dustbins started to ring. "Ah, that'll be for me," I said... (224)
I love the laid-back sense of humor Helen Fielding uses in her Bridget Jones's books; the scenarios Bridget gets herself into are over the top but believable at the same time.

Once I finished reading Bridget Jones, I moved straight into another Pride and Prejudice-themed book: According to Jane by Marilyn Brant.

I thought the book looked cute--definitely chick lit--making it an appropriate read for summer break. Unfortunately, it bored me. I couldn't get into it, and I found myself skimming more often than not and counting down the pages until the story wrapped up. The premise of the story is that one day Jane Austen's spirit/ghost/voice pops into a modern girl's head, giving her advice on life--specifically on her love life. The modern-day girl is appropriately named Ellie Barnett and is dealing with situations with men in her life that resemble some love themes from Pride and Prejudice. I didn't find the characters believable, which made it difficult for me to make any sort of connection with the book. Not only did I not like Ellie Barnett by the end of the story, I also didn't like Brant's version of Jane Austen by the end of the story.

After being disappointed by According to Jane, I was looking forward to the next book on my list, which I thought held a lot of promise: One Week in December by Holly Chamberlin.

One Week in December is based on a woman (Becca) in her early 30s who, when she was sixteen, had a daughter (Rain) and let her brother and his wife (James and Naomi) adopt her daughter. Now that Becca is in her 30s, though, and completely alone in life, she has decided that she is ready to tell her niece/daughter Rain the truth about her parentage. Rain is 16 and has no idea that the two people who raised her are not her birth parents. The rest of the family is appalled, and so the story focuses on the shifting relationships among the family during their week together for Christmas. I started the book with so much hope for it but ended up doing more skimming in this book than I had done with According to Jane. Chamberlin spends far too much time expanding details that don't matter (I don't care what the characters are wearing!) and attempts to create cliff hangers, but the outcomes to those hangers are obvious, so they failed. And felt cheesy. At one point, Becca thinks to herself that the week with her family wouldn't be "worthy of the Hallmark Channel." That's a bit of planted irony, I suppose, since the story ends up being exactly what you'd expect for a Hallmark Channel movie--including a rushed new love forming between Becca and the good-looking, mysterious neighbor.

And so after reading two disappointing books, one right after the other, I'm moving forward with another book that I hope won't disappoint: Dial Me for Murder by Amanda Matetsky, the fifth book in the Paige Turner mysteries.

What have you been reading lately?

Happy reading!

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