- Diary of a Mad Bride by Laura Wolf
Often you hear that a person, book, or show is witty, but it's loosely bandied praise. True wit is always a bit surprising. It's the uncommon perception, the bull's-eye shot that makes you pause and marvel for a moment. It makes you content and gleeful that someone has gotten it just so - a communion of minds with words. Laura Wolf is witty. Amy, her first person narrator channels Bridget Jones, albeit with a higher IQ. Having never been party to the inner workings of a wedding, disaster or otherwise, I don't know how likely it is for plans to go this insane, but the author creates a creditable progression of bridal events and subsequent mental disintegration.
Amy is hilarious. She's by turns snide, wise, paranoid, sensible, and sarcastic. Most of the humor doesn't come from things or situations that warrant passive, observant humor, but from her own particularly bizarre thoughts on the mundane that are always unexpectedly funny and perfectly apt. The sharpness that goes with being witty balances out with the acceptably sweet bits about her fiancé and why she is getting married. Her friends and family provide the bride-to-be with challenges and support, tears and laughter, Valium and insomnia. LW skillfully, believably captures the extreme dichotomy and stable equilibrium that co-exist in real life. Mad Bride is a diamond (or should it be an emerald?) in the chicklit rough. Fluff was never so good.
Sunday, September 26, 2004
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Sunday, September 19, 2004
- The Borrowers Afloat by Mary Norton
I'm compulsive about continuing series and while the Borrowers are still charming, the stories seem to be written just so another can follow it up. Not much happens in this book that couldn't have been condensed into the first half or even third of a livelier plot. I also don't feel one way or the other about the characters besides Spiller. That is probably the greatest crime. When a book makes you indifferent to the players, what is the point? This still gets three stars for being well-written and imaginative in details, if not scope, but I'll be dragging my feet to get to the next one of the series, which is the penultimate one, thank goodness.
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
Monday, September 13, 2004
- Last Chance Saloon by Marian Keyes
I'm taking a break from MK's books for a bit. Not that this book wasn't good, but the plots are feeling repetitive. I am also predicting what will happen and I'm right - too right - and that's no fun.
As a stand-alone without a trail of finished MK books in its wake, this might deserve another half-star. What I admire most about all these books are the characters and this one doesn't disappoint. In fact, there are more characters than usual, with a whole cast of loosely connected people around the best-buddy core of Katherine, Tara, and Fintan. This is also not in first-person like most of her previous books. It creates a not unpleasing sense of detachment, which matched my lukewarmth (I know it's not a word, but doesn't it make sense?) toward the characters.
I'm not being contradictory, though. I enjoy the diversity and detailedness of the people and they all feel very real. The development of relationships and establishing of old ones are excellent, which is none too easy given the great dearth of it in contemporary fiction. I like how MK always draw you in and then knocks everyone for a loop with a disaster or crisis. I appreciate her insight into human nature and its awesome resiliency, but I didn't find myself feeling like one of the characters. A good book, especially if you do get into Marian Keyes, but not her best.
Saturday, September 11, 2004
Friday, September 10, 2004
- Rachel's Holiday by Marian Keyes
This book has the distinction of making me cry for the first time in ages. Rachel isn't my favorite Keyesian heroine, but she is certainly the most fascinating one so far - and not just because she's a crackhead. Truly. Rachel's titular holiday is only one in her drug-enfeebled mind. She's actually in a rehab center for any and all addictions, peopled with fellow drug addicts, overeaters, smokers, alcoholics, and gamblers. Her journey from the enabler that is NYC back to the land of quiet desperation (at least according to Rachel, whose word usually means the opposite of whatever she says) that is Ireland. It would all be pretty depressing, but Rachel's quirky point of view and her eccentric, sweet family create moments of lightness. The inhabitants of Cloisters, the treatment facility, are also an endearing motley crew. Keyes is always impressive in the characterization department, but what really makes this book a superior read is the portrayal of addiction. I wondered if the author had been an addict or worked with them, she wrote so minutely and scarily of the recovery process. While I didn't love Rachel uneqivocally, her struggles capture the bitterness (and necessity sometimes) of setbacks, but also the unparalleled achievement of making a comeback. It's a good thing to be able to root for a character.
Monday, September 06, 2004
Saturday, September 04, 2004
- The Proposition by Judith Ivory
- The Proposition by Judith Ivory
Call me a believer and cue the Monkees music. In the great juggernaut that is the romance novel business, there are a few great writers among a lot of merely overactive imaginations. Judith Ivory, fortunately, has both. Her command of language is excellent and offers a story between the introspective, emotional Julia Quinn and the adventurous suspense of Amanda Quick (and most romance authors). There is a dilemma, quandry, impediment, but it neither takes over the crux of the novel, nor turns the heroines into simpering misses. The action is rational and the characters original.
This novel is a spin on the George Bernard Shaw's take on Pygmalion albeit with a gender role-reversal. The linguist here is a confirmed bachelorette who has two months to pass off a ratcatcher as a duke at an upcoming gala. Ivory peoples her world with vivid characters, from the cook and butler to the dowager ladies. The ending stretched even my willing credulity a bit, but this is a romance and happy endings are de rigueur, so don't think about it too much. Like they say, it's not the destination, but the ride.
Thursday, September 02, 2004
- Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married by Marian Keyes
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It has its obvious moments, but is very sweet. MK's books all revolve around a young woman's fairly good situation that reaches a crisis. She presents a convincing picture of what life is like during those trying times, with a particularly knowing hand when it comes to writing about depression. Actually, it's a motif in her work. That and writing exquisite drunken dialogue. Let's not forget, though, that these are romantic comedies we are talking about, so naturally life and love and ladies triumph.
The lady of the moment is the eponymous Lucy Sullivan. She's a Light Young Thing with minimal ambition or grand plans. Her immediate concerns revolve around showing up sober-ish for work, finding a new young man, and waiting for the weekend (rather similar to Ashling in Sushi for Beginners). A trip to the psychic has her married in a year and a half, along with a few lesser predictions. When these latter prophecies appear to come true, Lucy starts to panic. In her attempt to embrace her destiny, she latches onto the charming, broke Gus. There is some drama with her nutsy diva roommate, her superlatively dysfunctional parents, and her womanizing best friend. I like to think that the plot isn't completely foregone from page one, but maybe that's just me in denial. I want to be surprised and charmed, which hardly ever happens together in any one book. However, I am not blind, deaf, and mute, so I pretty well knew how the tale of Lucy Sullivan was going to conclude. I wasn't disappointed one whit for noticing, though. Tickled pink.