Working in finance has made me slightly obsessed with the global financial crisis that started in 2008. How the hell did things get so messed up, and how did this world become so broken? Reading financial documents every year for more than four years allowed me to better understand the ins and outs of the industry and the domino effect that culminated in the crisis.
Even more so, I’m fascinated by the people who seriously lacked morals while possessing immense greed. My curiosity with the matter has led me to read many books that take place during this time, including most recently The Widow of Wall Street. According to the book’s backstory, the author, Randy Susan Meyers, has the same questions as I do.
In this current climate, though, I also needed some fun, intoxicating chick lit (perhaps of the Emily Giffin variety). My preceding read filled me with hopelessness, and I needed a change that surely The Widow of Wall Street would give me. Welp, let’s just say the novel depressed me far more than I had imagined. That’s not a bad thing by any means, and Meyers certainly piqued my interest, especially toward the end. Her writing, though, possessed incongruent pacing and unfulfilling descriptions, which didn’t do justice to the narrative. This left me not quite fulfilled and still, well, kind of sad.
In terms of literature, I haven’t had the best start to 2020. I’ve read some meh books, some I didn’t like, and also quite depressing ones. I vowed to change that about a month ago. With my birthday and a trip to San Diego on the horizon, I needed something fun.
Elizabeth Gilbert met my needs. I mean, how could she not? In her latest book, Gilbert combines two of my favorite genres with my favorite city to produce effervescent characters, stellar voice, a captivating story and plot, and wit beyond belief — and relief. I can’t tell you how many times I laughed out loud while reading of City of Girls, and I really was smiling throughout this entire book. Now that is some high praise and exactly I what I needed.
- What: The Proposal
- Who: Jasmine Guillory
- Pages: 325, soft cover
- Genres: Contemporary fiction and chick lit
- Published: 2018
- The lit: of 5 flames
Sometimes you need a pick-me-up. In July and August, I read some great books (see here, here, and here), but there was a lot of death and sadness. It was prime-time summer reading mode, so why was I depressing myself before Labor Day? I desperately needed and wanted something fun, fast, and maybe even a little sexy (not too different from what our main characters in this review desire).
Insert The Proposal: the perfect remedy for summertime blues.
Yes, it’s classic chick lit: Boy meets girl; they have a fun fling; and you fly through their whirlwind romance with many laughs.
But Jasmine Guillory also gives us realistic sex scenes, some very tasty meals (I was craving tacos for days), cultural awareness and diversity, and zero eye-rolling over clichés. This is more than your typical summer beach read. To put it simply, it’s a really good book, of which I thoroughly enjoyed every page. Sometimes that’s all you need in a recommendation, especially in the steamy months of summer.
(And don’t read too much into this title; I have so many ideas now that T.Swift has new music.)
You know those annoying movies and TV shows: the ones where no words have to be spoken or facial gestures have to be made, not even one little eyebrow kink or twitch of the lips. It’s just one glance between two people, and it says it all.
Well, it’s supposed to tell all, but as a viewer and a realist, you’re calling the bluff. To us, it’s a straight-up poker face.
I kept coming back to this ineffective visual while reading Rebecca Serle’s The Dinner List. Too much of this book contains those unspoken moments that must mean something to the characters but leave us outsiders blinded. A lot is left unsaid and poorly hinted at in the book until it quickly comes to an end. It’s as if we’re expected to read the characters’ minds and predict what’s coming without any type of foreshadowing. There’s something to be said about a book in which you can literally read through the lines. You can’t do that with The Dinner List, and even though it’s been praised by celebs and friends alike, it frustrated me more than thrilled.
You know the ole saying, “[Insert model name] could make a potato sack look good.” The same thing applies to literature. The oddest and most boring plots can be sexy if they’re accompanied by solid writing. The opposite is also true though, and the sexiest ideas can come across as “meh” when coupled with inadequate writing.
That’s where Michelle Miller’s mix of Silicon Valley and Wall Street has a problem. The Underwriting has a certain seduction that powers you to the finish (despite a painfully slow start) because there is so much talk (as well as the act and thinking) of sex, as well as a lot of cash money. But something’s amiss. The writing lacks vigor that’s a disappointment to a rather interesting and original plot and some provocative topics.
We all know wine gets better with age. Emily Giffin’s following that mantra. Don’t get me wrong, the OG, Something Borrowed, still ranks high on my list of Giffin greats, but there’s no denying that her writing has become more skilled — and her themes deeper — over time. Her newest novel, All We Ever Wanted, illustrates that point, and it’s something she echoed in a Q&A on June 26 to celebrate the release of her new book (also the place where I committed some massive fangirling while meeting her).
In her latest, Giffin tackles the most pressing matters that families face in today’s world. By broaching issues such as rape, sexual assault, social media, technology, etc., she demonstrates that they’re all related and can exacerbate one another. All We Ever Wanted gives us a world where everyone carefully documents their lives through a lens, aka 2018, and where that can have detrimental consequences.
Give me some historical fiction, a strong heroine, and some Italia, and, really, nothing can go wrong. Am I right? Or am I right?
Although being in Italy this past February was the best nine days of my life, it had some consequences: a serious post-vacation funk. Yes, my vacation to this beautiful country was so fabulous that it left me feeling depressed that I ever left. My friend Dana knew the cure.
Thank goodness she brought Sarah Dunant’s 2003 hit, The Birth of Venus, into my life three months after returning to the States. I might still be in a post-Italy funk (honestly, it’ll never end), but this novel allowed me to indulge in a few of my favorite things. Now that’s amore.
- What: Still Me
- Who: Jojo Moyes
- Pages: 388
- Genres: Contemporary fiction; chick lit
- Published: 2018
- The lit: of 5 flames
If you’ve been following Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You series, by now you know the premise surrounds a brilliant and quirky young woman, Louisa, who is trying to maintain her spunky personality through love, loss, and unfathomable decisions. (PSA: If you haven’t read the series, I advise you start now.) Moyes’ threequel, Still Me, doesn’t wander far from this theme, but it does introduce a caveat with new complications. The book isn’t just about finding yourself or staying true to that person. It’s also about the unique challenges women face in this scenario. In the words of Ruth Dewitt Bukater, “Of course, it’s unfair. We’re women. Our choices are never easy.”
Quality is the most subjective characteristic when it comes to literature. Sure, every reader loves great symbolism, those masterpieces that speak to cultural moments, thorough and exact research about a time or place, those books that really hit home and move you. Sometimes, though, you need a break from the real world. You need something that will make you laugh or cry irrationally and believe that fairy tale love actually exists.
As someone who reads about overcollateralization, subordination, and tranching all day, while trying to parse legalese that makes you want to stab out your eyes, I know firsthand the importance of a feel-good and easy read. So it’s with great honor that I present to you my case for the novels that give you the best of feels (despite some of the harshest criticisms): chick lit.
- What: Miss You
- Who: Kate Eberlen
- Pages: 433
- Genre: Chick lit; romance
- Published: 2016
- The lit: of 5 flames
Let’s get one thing straight: A happy ending isn’t always sunshine and daisies. Sometimes they don’t end up together; sometimes the person with the terminal disease doesn’t miraculously pull through; sometimes questions are left unanswered. For me, a happy ending doesn’t mean being overjoyed; it simply means it’s powerful. It proves that sometimes a story ends with a little roughness around the edges because not everything in life is so cut and dry, perfect and jubilant. As long as the storytelling ends on a solid note, I’m a content reader.
I’m not sure Miss You got that memo. Because I read this 2016 novel en route from Florence to Rome and then to New York, I had a lot of uninterrupted time to become acquainted with the characters, to really dive into their lives. I felt a connection, like I was walking through life with them. That says a lot about the writer, Kate Eberlen, and that’s also why the ending seemed to serve such an injustice to 400 pages of beautiful writing and character development. I’d spent 16 wonderful years with these characters before a too-perfect finish skewed my opinion of the book.