Genre: Chick Lit

The Crocodile Club by Kaz Cooke

Posted December 14, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Chick Lit / 4 Comments

The Crocodile Club by Kaz CookeTitle: The Crocodile Club (Goodreads)
Author: Kaz Cooke
Published: Allen & Unwin, 1993
Pages: 240
Genres: Chick Lit
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

The Crocodile Club tells the story of Selina Plankton, an assistant to the magician The Great Salami, who finds herself out of a job. At the same time she receives an eviction notice. Her life becomes a little strange when she meets a Serbo-Scottish psychiatrist who offers her $10,000 for a first date. However a desperate phone call sends her to Darwin to help a life long friend where Selina is embroiled in a mystery that involves political corruption, mayhem and attempted murder.

Kaz Cooke is an Australian author, cartoonist and radio broadcaster. She is an experienced journalist, with over 30 years’ experience and now the author of advice books like Women’s Stuff, Girl Stuff: your full-on guide to the teen years and Up the Duff: the real guide to pregnancy. I would like to point out when viewing her website there is only one mention of her novel The Crocodile Club and I had to use the find option in my browser to actually find it.

This is a really strange book; on the surface it is this story of a modern Australian woman struggling through life, trying to make the most of her job and find romance. There is that question of etiquette when it comes to being offered $10,000 for a date that plays a role within the novel. There are the normal chick-lit tropes, a quirky protagonist who is hopeless with love, a destructive ex-boyfriend and the light hearted humour.

However Kaz Cooke’s journalistic style comes out every so often with the story and creates these really weird moments. The first time it was about thirty pages into the story and I was learning about the socio-economical make up of Darwin. Later there were moments heavily focused on small-town politics, political corruption and the relationship between government and mining companies. It doesn’t stop there; I was sent on a tangent about foreign relationships and trade between Australia and Asia and even going on about the United States of America. It is almost like Cooke wanted to give the reader all this information to show them what she was trying to do with the story. Though it was meant to be a quirky romance/adventure story and I am sure most readers would have been able to manage without all this information. This was such a strange experience to jump from chick-lit to journalistic research and back again constantly.

I picked up this novel because it was my wife’s favourite book when she was a teenager and putting aside all those heavy moments I can see why. The romantic elements of The Crocodile Club fall into the spectrum of what a teenager would class as romantic, it is the type of novel a young person would try to write. As an adult, I thought it was clichéd, the characters’ actions were juvenile and dialogue was clunky but besides all of that, there were some funny moments. Finally, I could never understand Selina’s obsession with hairpins. That was until she turned into the MacGyver of hairpins.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Posted September 11, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Chick Lit / 0 Comments

Landline by Rainbow RowellTitle: Landline (Goodreads)
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Narrator: Rebecca Lowman
Published: St. Martin's Griffin, 2014
Pages: 320
Genres: Chick Lit
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Georgie McCool is on the verge of getting her big break in TV. She and her writing partner, Seth have received the opportunity to pitch their show to a TV station, but this means there is a lot of writing to do in preparation for the meeting. Only problem is, she was about to fly to Omaha to spend Christmas with her husband, Neal’s parents. Their marriage is in trouble, not from the lack of love but from continuous tension and distance. Now her family is in a different state and things take a weird turn when Georgie picks up the landline and is able to talk to Neal, from before they were married.

First of all I must admit that I’m never going to be the target audience for a book like Landline and I don’t think I can ever enjoy a book like this. It just feels predictable and I know that Georgie and Neal will work things out before even starting the book. Being a literary explorer, I still feel the need to read book in the chick-lit genre and sometimes they surprise me. However for something like Landline, I felt the urge to yell at the characters to “use your words!” during the entire novel.

This is my first Rainbow Rowell book but I think I should have started with something nerdy like Eleanor & Park or Fangirl. I like the idea of nostalgic and nerdy references throughout a novel and while Landline did offer this, I was just too annoyed with the characters. The whole subject of relationships falling apart due to lack of communication doesn’t interest me too much; I just find myself getting frustrated with the characters and expect the plot to do something new and interesting. Landline didn’t give me anything I wanted.

This isn’t to say Landline was a bad novel; in fact it was entertaining, I just prefer some complexity. However this does bring up an interesting moral issue; there is a scene within the book where Georgie and past Neal are talking about her writing partner Seth. Georgie asks Neal not to make her choose between him and Seth, which brings up a fundamental problem in the relationship, she acknowledges that he is causing unease in the relationship but she is not willing to make an effort to solve the problem.

The idea of talking to Neal from fifteen years ago is an interesting plot device, it adds a little magical realism or science fiction into the novel but it does something more. This concept of holding onto the past seems to be a major problem, they don’t seem to understand people change over fifteen years and you have to evolve with them. It is also a really creepy plot device. Also the fact that Georgie has to try calling the landline because Neal is ignoring every call to his mobile from her is a whole other issue.

One last moral issue I found in the novel involved the relationship between Georgie and Seth. There was a point in Landline where I thought they should get together, they seem to be an easier more logical fit but then I realised what I was thinking. I would never want something like this to happen in real life; why would I want to characters in a novel to make this choice. This got me thinking about morality. As humans we expect people to do the right thing but in books, movies and TV we don’t have the same reaction when a character makes the wrong choice. We do react but I think we prefer to explore infidelity, murder and immorality via a work of fiction than in real life, but does this say something about humanity?

As soon as I finished the book I was angry and wanted to give the book a low rating but then I began thinking more about Landline. I don’t think it is a bad book, it has a nice and happy ending but I don’t think the underlining problems in Georgie and Neal’s marriage was actually solved. My initial impression to rate the novel with 2 stars ended up being the correct choice. Now I need to find a book in the chick-lit genre that I like; any suggestions?

The Suite Life by Suzanne Corso

Posted September 4, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Chick Lit / 0 Comments

The Suite Life by Suzanne CorsoTitle: The Suite Life (Goodreads)
Author: Suzanne Corso
Series: Brooklyn Story #2
Published: Gallery Books, 10 September 2013
Pages: 336
Genres: Chick Lit
My Copy: ARC from Netgalley

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Growing up in Brooklyn, Samantha Bonti dreams of one day being a writer. She found the courage to break free from her an abusive mobster and eventually finds the man of her dreams. Alec is a successful Wall Street broker, but things are not as they seem and when he makes a risky business move, Sam is left scrambling to pick up the pieces of her crumbling fairy tale.

This isn’t really the type of book I would read but I liked the idea a novel about a writer, a mobster and a crumbling life. That was enough to peek my interests and I thought it was enough of a risk for me to try. Unfortunately it wasn’t a book for me and I should have abandoned it but I persevered. This novel didn’t have enough to deal with the mobster ex-boyfriend, which was one of my first disappointments. I got a sense that Sam wasn’t really as damaged by the relationship as the author wanted us to believe and I really struggled with that. I actually thought Alec was more damaging than the ex, with his emotional blackmail and need for control.

Let’s look at the relationship between Sam and Alec for a moment. The relationship felt a little too much like Edward and Belle from Twilight; I know some people think that is romantic but I really have a problem with it. Ordering for your date can be romantic but when it is a first date and they hardly know each other, it just feel weird and out of place. Also Alec felt too controlling and I got the impression he would sulk if he didn’t get his own way. There were also times I thought Alec would turn into Christian Grey from Fifty Shades of Grey; that might have made things a little different but still not my type of book.

I must admit that Suzanne Corso has a decent writing style and with a bit of work she could become an interesting writer. The Suite Life could use with a good hard editing, removing all the repetitiveness and cutting anything that was just filler but then the book would be too short. Some parts felt rushed and some parts dragged on too much, Corso needed to work more on backstory and show the reader just what Sam has been through. The Chick Lit approach feels like any pain and suffering has been down played and this really didn’t do the novel any justice.

There was also not enough to do with Sam’s desire to make it as a writer and it felt like she quickly abandoned her passions when she got a taste of the high life. The synopsis for this book made me think that this book was set in the 1980’s but I turned out to be the 1990’s. There wasn’t much nostalgia about the 90’s; the only real reference was repetitive mentions of Alanis Morissette. Also if Alec is so rich and living the highlife, I wonder why he was driving such an old car?

Having read this book I have since found out that The Suite Life is a sequel to Brooklyn Story and all the backstory and information about her mobster ex-boyfriend would be covered in that book. I suppose this book could work as a stand-alone but I think it was missing too much information that must have been covered in the first book. Will I read book one? Maybe, but I’m not in a hurry to find out about Sam’s life before Alec and there are just too many other novels to read.

This was an interesting reading experiment. I probably should have done more research on a book before reading it but sometimes it is fun to go in blind. While this book wasn’t for me, I’m sure that some people will enjoy it. I am more interested in diving into the emotions and looking at what drives and motivates people but The Suite Life just glossed over that. I’m not a romance or Chick Lit reader so I don’t know if this is the norm; I really hope not.

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

Posted April 25, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Chick Lit / 0 Comments

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen FieldingTitle: Bridget Jones's Diary (Goodreads)
Author: Helen Fielding
Series: Bridget Jones #1
Published: Pan Macmillan, 1996
Pages: 310
Genres: Chick Lit
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Bridget Jones’s Diary is the year in the life of a thirty-something single working woman living in London. While she writes about her career, problems, family, friends, and a quest for a romantic relationship she is also on a quest for self improvement. To quit smoking, cut down on drinking, lose weight and develop Inner poise, this novel is a comical look at the modern woman.

First of all, I think of this book as a pseudo feminist novel; while there are plenty of elements in the novel that could be considered a critique of feminism; this is more satire than anything else. Bridget wants to be that kind of woman but she never gets there, she tries to come across as a strong independent working woman who does what she wants when she wants, but when it all comes down to it, what she wants is a man. Interesting enough the strongest feminist is the mother who has legitimate feminist ideals, but not portrayed in a very positive light.

There is this idea that Bridget Jones’s Diary is based on Pride and Prejudice but I have some issues with this and I will try to explore some of my basic thoughts on this. Firstly Bridget is not Elizabeth Bennett; she would like to be, but in the book her personality would be more like Lydia. Her goal is to become more like Lizzie but her relationship with Daniel Cleaver (possible the Wickham of the story) shows us that she is living a life of self gratification. If we are going to compare characters to those in Pride and Prejudice, then Bridget’s mother might start off as a Mrs Bennett but in the end turns into a Lydia as well. Mark Darcy is obviously Mr Darcy and probably the only character that closely resembles the original character. There is also the desire to find a husband (or mate) due to the pressures put on them by their mothers as well as the perception of running out of time. In Lizzie’s case, she was at the age where she needs to seriously consider getting married as it was expected of her and in Bridget’s case it was more to do with her biological clock.

Here is how I think the comparison was made; in the novel Bridget was obsessed with the BBC TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, she considered Lizzie and Darcy the idea of the a great romance and wanted to find her own Mr Darcy. She loves the lake scene with Colin Firth in the wet white shirt (not in the book), so when it come to moment where Bridget realises who’s the right man for her, the book tries to replicate the scene with the description of Mark Darcy coming in dirty and sweaty and her attraction to him at that moment. Obviously since the movie had Colin Firth playing Mark Darcy, they were able to replicate this scene a lot better and this is why the ending was changed.

I don’t know much about Chick Lit so it is hard to talk about the writing and how it compares to other books in this genre but I have some thoughts I want to explore. First of all, this novel is almost like a soliloquy; obviously being a diary she is expecting no one else to read her thoughts, so she can express feelings that she would never consider sharing with others. The diary takes the reader through the year with her, as it happens, not with the wisdom of hindsight or any wisdom at all. The only problem is that it blurs the line between a first person narrative and third; there are parts of the book where it would be obscure to think Bridget was writing down everything happening, minute by minute as it was happening. This is to help add to the comedy of the book but to me it added to the absurdity.

Lastly I want to talk about Bridget Jones; the modern woman, obsessed with romance but still wanting to appear as a strong independent woman. She starts the diary in an effort try to improve herself but it also suggests that she is self-absorbed. What really got me was her negative body image; each day she weighed herself and throughout the course of the entire book the most she ever weighed was 9.6 stone (just over 60kg or 132 pounds) and she considers herself overweight by that? I know she compares herself to people on TV but it’s just ridiculous. Also with the amount of calories, cigarettes and alcohol she drinks, I’m surprised she is so under weight and that is where the satire started to frustrate me.

Overall, I was entertained by this book; as a novel it did have its issues and is riddled with chick lit clichés. As a satirical novel, it worked on some levels but most of the time it had to rely on the chick lit elements to help push it through. I didn’t remember much about the movie, except for the fountain scene and Renée Zellweger putting on weight for the role. Which when comparing it to the book doesn’t make sense but on a personal level, I think it was an improvement; she looked fantastic. Overall the book was quirky but the real surprise for me was the wit and irony used throughout the novel; enough to entertain me.

Addition by Toni Jordan

Posted April 15, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Chick Lit / 0 Comments

Addition by Toni JordanTitle: Addition (Goodreads)
Author: Toni Jordan
Published: Sceptre, 2008
Pages: 243
Genres: Chick Lit
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Grace Lisa Vandenburg is obsessed with numbers; she counts everything. Her whole life is centred around numbers; how many banana’s to buy, how many bits of an orange cake to take, how many brushes to take for her hair or even teeth. Everything was organised but then something went wrong and now she survives on disability checks and tutoring. Here only real connection in the world was a portrait of Nikola Tesla; that is until she met Seamus Joseph O’Reilly who changed everything.

Addition is a quirky chick lit novel of predictability but still has a few elements I was not expecting. Firstly the obsession with Tesla meant that there was a lot of talk about this great twentieth-century inventor, which really was the main reason I enjoyed this book.  She talked a lot about Nikola Tesla and I found myself learning some interesting facts that lead to researching more about this great man. Honestly this might annoy people but I love a book that pushes me to explore more.

Grace’s OCD was also handled really well by the author; I was worried it would turn into something similar to The Silver Linings Playbook but I was wrong. Mental health is a difficult subject to write but I like the way Toni Jordan handled Grace’s obsession with numbers. There was a mix of emotions regarding Graces obsessive-compulsive disorder that were explored in the book from misunderstanding, accepting, desire to change, anger and hatred, as well as many more that I would expect Grace to experience while trying to live with an unusual compulsion. I could not imagine just what Grace would really be going through but I do think this might be a pretty faithful to what might happen.

The main focus of Addition is the quirks of Grace and the romance between her and Seamus; here is where everything starts to feel too much like everything I would expect from a chick lit novel. The romance blossoms in a typical funny and emotional way which I admit I was worried about. Seamus really does not understand this obsessive-compulsive disorder and tries to change Grace.  For a while there I thought he would succeed and this would have killed the book completely but then I realised that this was a chick lit novel and that meant there had to be a conflict to force the two characters to make a decision on if they should be together or not.

There was one major problem I had at the start of the book that forces me to wonder if I should bother continuing or not. This was the poor research, two facts in the book near the start of the book (maybe more) that really threw me. Both felt like really stupid mistakes that I don’t think were intentional that put a major dampener on my enjoyment. One was about the Big Ben using Roman numerals IIII instead of IV and the other was when she called Thomas Edison ‘the telephone guy’.

While I did have some issues with Addition, in the end I did end up really enjoying the story a lot more than I anticipated. It was quirky and funny, even if it was completely generic in all the other aspects. I really think the OCD helped this book the most, it was fascinating to see how Grace handled her situation, to the point where I thought there was nothing wrong with her and this wasn’t a mental health issue just a harmless obsession and quirk.

Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead

Posted April 6, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Chick Lit / 12 Comments

Seating Arrangements by Maggie ShipsteadTitle: Seating Arrangements (Goodreads)
Author: Maggie Shipstead
Published: Knopf Doubleday, 2012
Pages: 302
Genres: Chick Lit
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Winn Van Meter and his family head for a retreat on the New England island of Waskeke. While this is normally a haven of relaxation for Winn, now it’s overshadowed by the preparation of his daughter’s wedding. A weekend with his family and his daughter’s bridesmaids only days before the big event is never a recipe for the calmness or solitude he is accustomed to in this house.

Part social satire, part chick lit, this is surprisingly intelligent and humorous in between the relationship drama of the family and the women staying with them. I know many people will argue with me about this been classed as a chick lit novel (I know my wife did) but for me it very much is one. This genre normally explores the issues with modern womanhood in a light-hearted and humorous way, exploring the relationships, whether being romantic, family or friends. Seating Arrangements ticks all these books but as my wife tells me the protagonist has to be a woman; in this book, it is narrated by a man but the whole focus of the book is the relationships of his wife and his two daughters so in my opinion I think this book can still be classed as chick lit.

This book is very much character driven; from the family rivalry, past relationships and plenty of gin soaked shenanigans. I would have liked to learn more about Winn’s life; I feel like it is often glossed over and focusing too much on the women in the house. Winn’s wife Biddy is spending all her time organising the perfect wedding, his daughter Daphne pregnant and the bride-to-be is enjoying being treated like a princess leading up to her special day. Then there is Winn’s younger daughter Livia suffering from a heartbreak and also the target for the seduction from the best man, bridesmaid Agatha and reckless flirt who Winn lusts after, plus many other secondary characters that sometimes just feel like filler subplots.

Seating Arrangements borders on the cliché too many times throughout this book; it’s only the social satire elements that seem to help recover the story. I think without these elements this would just turn into a very generic chick lit novel, so I’m pleased to have read something witty and intelligent as well. I will admit there are some elements that could have been explored a little more, but most of them seem to be done perfectly. The heartbreak of Livia wasn’t explored enough for my liking and while I get that she discovered that she no longer loves Teddy, it never felt like a real resolution for that subplot. The relationship between Winn and Agatha is one of the best in the book, it hints at lust and scandal exploring the concept of fidelity, desire and even rejection. It offered a little relief from the overly cuteness of most of the relationships.

Maggie Shipstead manages to explore all different relationship types as well as New England society. Parts of this book really didn’t work for me and I was in constant fear of falling too much into the realm of the cliché but I’m surprised with the way this book turned out. Personally I would like a bit more scandal but in the end this was a light read with some very intelligent aspects that are worth exploring. For lovers of light reading, the satirical elements can be easily overlooked or missed but for people looking for them, you will be delighted with what you find within this book.

Guest Review: No Sex in the City

Posted September 27, 2012 by jus_de_fruit in Chick Lit, Guest Posts / 0 Comments

Guest Review: No Sex in the CityTitle: No Sex in the City (Goodreads)
Author: Randa Abdel-Fattah
Published: Pan Macmillan, 2012
Pages: 400
Genres: Chick Lit
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

Buy: Book Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

I read a bit of chick-lit in my early to late twenties. It was fun to read and didn’t require much brainpower. It was easy to relate to, as a young woman experiencing a similar, yet more toned down, sort of life. My tastes may have changed in recent years.  Apart from Stephanie Plum, I’m not sure the last time I read a book that fell into the chick-lit genre. Now I seem to go after historical time travelling romances. I think I lost the ability to relate with those young women trying to find Mr Right and it started to get a bit mundane, although I suppose I could still enjoy it.  My husband’s taste in books may have also redirected my attentions.

I heard about No Sex in the City when I heard an interview with Randa Abdel-Fattah on the radio. I was fascinated by her stories of parent arranged dating and was intrigued.  It’s something completely different to my own life experience.  I did once ask my dad who he would pick if arranged marriages were a thing of our culture, and after hearing his choice, I was pretty glad that wasn’t a thing.

Randa Abdel-Fattah is an Australian born Muslim of Palestinian and Egyptian heritage who seems to have achieved quite a bit in her life working as a human rights advocate and has an interest in interfaith dialogue. These interests come through in this book, as the characters are a mix of faiths.  The main character Esma is a Muslim and her best friends who form the No Sex in the City club are a Greek Orthodox, a Jew and a Hindu. An interesting combination.

Esma is trying to find the right man to settle down with, but at 28 her family are feeling a bit desperate, but Esma knows what she wants and doesn’t feel the need to settle for anything less.  Pressure from work colleagues tell her that perhaps she should just give up, play the field a bit and see what she likes but she’s pretty set on sharing her first kiss with her husband on their wedding day.

As a young Christian woman who was reading chick-lit back in the day, there was quite a bit of falling into bed with strangers that may or may not be Mr Right. I suppose it is a reflection of the society that we live in, and quite a few young women are able to relate, but I found this book so refreshing for not being afraid to illustrate the life of a young woman living a life of chastity.  The book isn’t completely prudish, as other characters choose different paths, but this is who Esma is, and she isn’t going to apologise for that. Even though the main character is a Muslim, I’d probably recommend this to Christian women as well, as they probably get disillusioned by the way certain media portrays sex.

The book is quite easy to read and completes the check list usually found in all the others of this genre. There are problems at work and within her family that she needs to overcome, and there is a bit of a love triangle that is developed. We also get to follow the stories of her three friends as they also have their own experience of dating.

It doesn’t finish with a typical happily ever after for all the characters but you can’t help but feel that it’s all for the best.  I really enjoyed journeying with this group of young women who all seemed to know what they wanted out of life and never felt the need to settle for less. I’d probably even read more if this book was turned into a series, as I found the characters to be very likeable.

This is a guest post by Mary; not only is she my wonderful wife, she is also my editor and helps moderate the Literary Exploration group on Goodreads. Big thanks to her for this post and everything she does to help me with this blog.