Saturday, July 28, 2007

Princess Izzy and the E Street Shuffle

By : Beverly Bartlett
Genre : Fiksyen Inggeris
When Isabella Cordage marries Prince Raphael of Bisbania, everyone, including his parents, think it uis a poor match. “Dizzy Izzy” (as she’s called in the press) never fails to call attention to herself in un-princess-like ways. Take that shot in the newspaper of her laughing and shooting water out her nose, for instance. Or the gaffes she makes commenting about different things. But little does the press know that Isabella and Raphael are truly in love, and this overcomes a large amount of criticism.

Princess Izzy and the E Street Shuffle is a novel in the form of a tell-all book about the lives of royals. The “author” is obviously an insider, but the person’s identity is not known until almost the end of the book. We follow the prince and princess through their engagement, their struggles, and the fateful event that changes the lives of everyone in Bisbania forever.

It is difficult to provide a decent plot summary since Princess Izzy and the E Street Shuffle is mostly narrative and there’s not a great deal of character development. However, after you get used to the writing style, it’s actually a delightful love story written in a very unique style. A tongue-in-cheek sense of humor and abundant plot twists and turns add breadth to this chick lit novel.

The Nanny

By : Melissa Nathan
Genre : Fiksyen Inggeris

One of the things that bothered me about the popular (and, in many ways, quite good) book The Nanny Diaries is what unsympathetic cartoons the children's parents were. I'm sure there are many people like this in the world, but surely not all nannies work for such creeps. Many, I'm sure, would flee at the sight of them, rather than being almost totally at the mercy of their cruelly wielded power, like that book's heroine.

At first glance, the family in Melissa Nathan's charming The Nanny seems like a similar collection of gargoyles, but it's to the book's credit that all the characters turn out to be far more complex and sympathetic as the plot unfolds.

The story revolves around Jo Green, a bright but unfulfilled twenty-three-year-old nanny living in provincial England. She takes a job with an eccentric family in London. How eccentric? Mom and Dad always seem moments away from coming to blows; they have three kids, plus two more from the father's first marriage. The fact that one of those two boys is Jo's age, handsome and charming creates even more problems, especially considering Jo's tentative relationship with her boyfriend back home.

It's the usual chick-lit stuff, but Nathan cleverly gives all the characters enough shading and quirks to keep things interesting. Jo is a vastly likable heroine as she copes with being a good nanny and trying to make the right choices in her own life. Perhaps the book's best character is Pippa, a perceptive, good-hearted fellow nanny who is a combination buddy, therapist and cheerleader for Jo. Even Dick and Vanessa, the parents of Jo's charges, who at first appear to be jerks, turn out to be admirable people and caring, sympathetic employers. The Nanny is superficial froth, to be sure. But it's funny, sweet and full of surprises.

The Bachelorette Party

By : Karen McCullah Lutz
Genre: Fiksyen Inggeris
Karen McCullah Lutz has form: she's the co-author of the movies Legally Blonde and 10 Things I Hate About You, so if anyone should know how to appeal to a chick-lit, chick-flick lovin' audience, it's her. Her debut novel The Bachelorette Party is about Zadie, who was recently dumped by her soap opera star fiance on the day of her wedding and now has to cope with the fact that her best male friend is marrying her straight-laced cousin Helen- and Zadie's going on the Hen Night, the last place on earth she wants to be...

For starters, can I just say that Bachelorette Party is a much more glamourous term than Hen Party?! Although this one leaves a little something to be desired... after yoga and a vist to a juice bar, Zadie manages to persuade the girls to go a little wild, and soon she's learning that Helen might not be quite as uptight as she seems...

When I picked up this book, I thought "a whole novel about a hen night?!" and to some extent I stand by that- although it's well-written and very pacey, how much can you really say about one party? Good job the author is so skilled at action and dialogue (I guess that's the advantage of polishing your craft on scripts first). This is a fun read with several hard-to-predict plot twists, but there were a few things I didn't like about it...

For one, the main character is cynical almost to the point of clinical depression- rarely have you seen a blacker worldview from someone with a good job and all their limbs, living in sunny L.A. Not only is she coarse for no good reason (I'm not a prude, but this seemed forced) she's self-pitying and very judgemental (hating anyone who does yoga, sneering at girls with the wrong manicure... and if I saw the words 'slutty whore' or 'whory bitch' one more time I was going to throw the book across the room!) Through Zadie, the author promotes the idea that everyone should be getting drunk and having sex with strangers- or you're just no fun. (Make sure the strangers are single though, or you're a slutty... !) Sure enough, rather than therapy the answer to Zadie's problems turn out to be drink and meeting a new man. If only everything in life was this simple!

I think my main problem was the author was trying to hard to impress and make her book stand out by being outrageous- if she had a more relaxed style I might have warmed to the characters more. However, if you can take this book a little less seriously than me and accept that you have to let some of the book's 'lessons' sail straight over your head, then you could find this book good escapism, with moments of humour and zest. But in future I'll be sticking to authors who do this kind of stuff ten times better.