Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bright Lights, Big Ass

Author: Jen Lancaster
Published: May 1, 2007 (NAL)
Category: Memoir
Rating: 8/10

Jen Lancaster isn't perfect, but she's really funny. Yes, she's very confident, but also isn't afraid of criticizing herself too. In her first book, Bitter is the New Black, she documents her fall from a high-paying dotcom job and the drastic change in her lifestyle as a result. In this installment, Jen describes various incidents that counter Carrie Bradshaw's declarations about how life in a big city is oh-so-glamorous, all while she's anxiously awaiting the publication of Bitter.

This is a great read, not just for the beach, but beware: laughing aloud on the subway may occur when reading especially funny parts like the one where she was at her dreaded yearly gyno exam (I know that feeling - my heart races just thinking about it) and her paper gown exploded and she tried to staple it back together. I had to stop reading until I got home because I was starting to snort and didn't want the other subway riders to think I was crazy.

Bright Lights was just as funny as Bitter; Jen's sharp, smart humor is back with her hilarious asides stuck in footnotes and tons of stories about her dogs and husband (who likes Rachael Ray, but Jen has a whole chapter about why Rachael is NOT awesome - hurray!). Her third book, Such a Pretty Fat came out in May and I'm adding it to my TBR.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Chasing Harry Winston

Author: Lauren Weisberger
Published: May 2008 (Simon & Schuster)
Category: Chick Lit
Rating: 7/10

I've never read any Lauren Weisberger before this, although I did see the movie of The Devil Wears Prada.

Chasing Harry Winston is about three unlikely friends. Well, one is more unlikely than the other two, because she is Adriana, a Brazilian trust fund child of a former supermodel. Leigh and Emmy are the more "norma" of the trio, with Leigh working in publishing as a rising star in editorial and Emmy as the romantic (think Charlotte of SATC) of the bunch. She wants the white picket fence, smart and funny husband, and 2.5 kids.

Actually, Leigh reminds me of Carrie in her engaged-to-Aidan days, because Leigh has the perfect guy. He's the most sought-after bachelor in Manhattan (a sportscaster for ESPN) and happens to be sweet and considerate. When he proposes, Leigh says yes because it's what's expected of her, not because she's happy. Leigh's got a lot of personal space quirks, like all her friends and family know that Monday is off limits. She likes to sit in her apartment by herself. She inevitably has an affair with the married author she's editing and breaks up with her fiance, but winds up happy. I just didn't like her because she was a coward and kept being all quirky (not in a funny way), having anxiety attacks, and shutting people out. She could've avoided a lot of her so-called anxiety if she broke up with the sportscaster when she was feeling smothered before the engagement.

And Emmy? She lets her friends convince her to have sex with a bunch of random guys all over the world because she's always been in long-term relationships, and any new relationship opportunities that come up are immediately analyzed for future-husband potential. She even gets embarrassingly attached to a hot Israeli dude, thinking that he'll change all his plans for her after their one-night stand. You cringe a little reading that particular part; it's so awkward. And all this sleeping around? It didn't get her a Harry Winston ring.

I was surprised to find that the character I liked the most was the one I thought I'd dislike most: Adriana. She's spoiled and beautiful, but her character makes the most improvement, even adopting Emmy's parrot (leftover from another long-term boyfriend) and doing research to give him appropriate care. She reforms herself from a jobless trust fund baby to a successful magazine columnist, and becomes more responsible, finally moving out of her parents' penthouse.

The book isn't bad; it's pretty good for a summer beach read. Just don't expect to learn much from the characters.