Saturday, April 25, 2015

Just One of The Guys

Just One of the Guys
by Kristan Higgins

Paperback, 376 pages
Published: August 01, 2008
Publisher:  Harlequin Books
ISBN:  9780373772995

Blurb: Being one of the guys isn't all it's cracked up to be...So when journalist Chastity O'Neill returns to her hometown, she decides it's time to start working on some of those feminine wiles. Two tiny problems: #1--she's five feet eleven inches of rock-solid girl power, and #2--she's cursed with four alpha male older brothers.

While doing a story on local heroes, she meets a hunky doctor and things start to look up. Now there's only one problem: Trevor Meade, her first love and the one man she's never quite gotten over--although he seems to have gotten over her just fine.

Yet the more time she spends with Dr. Perfect, the better Trevor looks. But even with the in-your-face competition, the irresistible Trevor just can't seem to see Chastity as anything more than just one of the guys...

This was recommended to me by a bibliophile friend and she said that it was amazing after I told her that I quite love reading chick-lit. It had been on my to-read list for about two years when I finally picked it up a couple of weeks ago. It was my first Kristan Higgins book and my expectations were real high with this one. Ah, read on…

The book starts out quite nice, in a way. With our protagonist – Chastity- being dumped by a guy at a restaurant is a starting scene written brilliantly by Kristan Higgins. Just perfect to grab the reader’s attention when the guy admits that he is dumping Chastity because she is too manly- in looks as well as actions. We’re told many a time through the book that she is broad-shouldered, athletic, five feet eleven inches and three-quarters. The monologues, the descriptions, the details are just perfect for the reader to connect to Chastity.

Chastity has come down to Eaton Falls giving up her amazing job in a big city to work at the local newspaper, Eaton Falls Gazette, and to be near her family in the town she has grown up. Moreover, Chastity is thirty and plans to settle down, and of course, she seems to have no great luck.

One of the strong points in this book is the grand character formation. Higgins might seem to have created a village of characters, but you won’t feel lost in them. She makes them alive, you see them living right before your eyes. Creating and successfully sustaining the huge family of Chastity in the reader’s hear right up to the end from the very beginning is a commendable job done by the author. It won’t have been as easy as it seems.

Rest, I don’t think there was much great to the book. It was supposed to be a laugh out loud kind of a read, but it failed miserably at that. I found it droning and droning and droning on and on and on. Even if the character formation is great, there is at times too much of the ‘family thing’ going on. An overdose, as you may call it. There are troubles in marriage and relationships all over this book which gives it a tinge of hopelessness. Higgins has also tried to as a spicy mystery to the plot by adding a fine number of twists, but she has failed at them too. Chasity seems to struggle too much with trivialities. Much more than she or the readers can handle. And that is what drove me to edge.

If I am to compare this with a Sophie Kinsella read, the act itself would be extremely absurd. I have read much better in chick-lit than Just One of the Guys and it doesn’t even remotely match their standards. It would be appropriate to say that if you want to see how a chick-lit can torture a lover of the genre, read this one. Otherwise, you know what to do, right? Yes, do yourself a favour and spare yourself the headache it could give you. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

J : A Novel

J: A Novel
by Howard Jacobson

Paperback, 327 pages
Published: 2014
Publisher:  Random House India
ISBN:  9780224102056

Blurb: Set in the future - a world where the past is a dangerous country, not to be talked about or visited - J is a love story of incomparable strangeness, both tender and terrifying.

Two people fall in love, not yet knowing where they have come from or where they are going. Kevern doesn't know why his father always drew two fingers across his lips when he said a world starting with a J. It wasn't then, and isn't now, the time or place to be asking questions. Ailinn too has grown up in the dark about who she was or where she came from. On their first date Kevern kisses the bruises under her eyes. He doesn't ask who hurt her. Brutality has grown commonplace. They aren't sure if they have fallen in love of their own accord, or whether they've been pushed into each other's arms. But who would have pushed them, and why?

Hanging over the lives of all the characters in this novel is a momentous catastrophe - a past event shrouded in suspicion, denial and apology, now referred to as What Happened, If It Happened.

J is a novel to be talked about in the same breath as Nineteen Eighty-Fourand Brave New World, thought-provoking and life-changing. It is like no other novel that Howard Jacobson has written.

I am not much of a high-brow reader. Sophie Kinsella and Jodi Picoult are enough to make me get titillated when I am to pick up a new book. But this time, I wanted to read something really ‘good.’ My senses were instantly perked up when they said I could read J.
All I knew about it was that Howard Jacobson had won the Man Booker Prize for one of his books in 2010 and that J was long listed for the Booker this year too. It had to be awesome. Another thing I knew about it was that it was a dystopian novel, so I was really very interested.
J is basically a book on the holocaust survivors and is set somewhere in the post-apocalyptic era. The setting is something that resembles England. It could be England, but you never know. Jacobson has put in a lot of references to German words in between, which gives a good deal of ambiguity to the reader for the setting. The book says that the place is Port Reuben. It is one of many renamed towns where many rechristened people live.
Jacobson’s novel tells us of a generation that you found find hard to identify with in this present of yours. He tells of their terror and past that is unbelievably ghastly.  The time of which Jacobson talks, nostalgia is a taboo and even a bigger one is to seek knowledge. The world is again under the claws of the powers like the ones we can never imagine could exist ever again. Media is totally controlled, some events and incidents are never talked about, and some are totally nullified by the official reports. All people are left with the liberty of saying ‘WHAT HAPPENED, IF IT HAPPENED’ – the phrase repeated multitude of times in the book.

I believe, the one who has written the blurb was slightly mistaken. You can’t compare J to Brave New World and 1984.  In a lot of places while reading J, I found it bland. Almost a torment to continue. And things didn’t seem to fall into place until after more than half the book is done. I was like, ‘I do not understand a damn thing that’s going on!’

I don’t want to sound prejudiced, but J seems to be a book typically written for the Booker-types. Tailor made for accolades and nominations at the awards. For an average light-reader like me, it is like climbing a rocky hill. The prose is too pompous for me, the characters didn’t make sense, a really vague plot until half the book- there doesn’t have to be a longer list why I didn’t quite like J. I might even have given it up just in the first fifty pages had it not been a review copy.
For the ones who think they would like this real ‘high brow’ thing, go for it. For the light readers, I would give you a red sign. Stay away.

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