Books I didn’t read

In or out (Photo by Tseen Khoo)
In or out (Photo by Tseen Khoo)

This post is about books I didn’t read, and books I wish I hadn’t read.

I’d say they’re all in the chick lit. genre.

They were gifts, and I chose to read them because I like female protagonists in chatty, contemporary contexts.

I read a lot of genre fiction, usually crime thrillers, science fiction/fantasy, and occasionally romance.

What I should’ve remembered was that I swore off chick lit. years ago because reading it tended to send me into Berserker rages.

Here’s a window into the Berserker rages that happened recently (consider yourself warned for copious ranting):

1. Naomi Neale – Calendar Girl

I’ve never read Neale before, and I didn’t even get far enough in this book to have a handle on the overall narrative. The opening scene was enough to drive me to abandon it. Being annoyed within five pages of the cover is a very bad sign (cf. Twilight, where I only got to p.13).

The humour was vacuous and the protagonist managed to showcase her obsession with fashion, looks, and landing a man within a few paragraphs.

The set-up for the opening chapter is a department store Christmas grotto, where Nan Cloutier is employed as a scantily dressed Who (a la Dr Seuss’ Grinch, where there was a whole town of Who-ville, populated by people all surnamed Who, who love Christmas).

After a series of limp vignettes about the others she’s working with (where Neale uses people’s real first names and just inserting “Who” as their surname), she drops in an “Asian Who”. ASIAN WHO. This person is not named “Asian”, and Neale is not just adding “Who” as their surname. The author is ‘naming’ the character through race. Would Neale have used “Black Who” or “Hispanic Who” as a character? Would she have used “Caucasian Who” or “White Who”? It was so stupid.

Coupled with the shallow writing that showed no signs of improving, I flounced out of this book ASAP. That’s about half an hour of my life I won’t be getting back.

2. Not wanting to throw the entire genre out just yet, I had a go at Sophie Kinsella’s I’ve Got Your Number.

I made it through this one. Some sequences and the heroine’s daffy behaviour made me simmer, but the narrative had enough momentum to get by.

Kinsella’s much more readable and slightly less irritating than Neale, but I’m starting to think that chick lit. in its current form is not for me. I knew there would be an emphasis on the lead character hankering for true love, etc, but the dumb factor of much of the dialogue and characters’ motivations got to me. Internal dialogue while reading this book: “Really? Are they that stupid? Can they only be thinking about that?” x 100.

Having got through one book, I read another of Kinsella’s, Mini-Shopaholic.

I should’ve stopped at one book.

This 2nd book made my head explode. Yet I finished it.

Why? Because I wanted to see whether chick lit. would reward lying, annoying, snobby Becky with a happy ending. (I realise there are many, many reasons why I should quit chick lit. for the foreseeable future.)

3. Laura Bennett – Didn’t I Feed You Yesterday?

I should’ve known straight away that this non-fiction book was not my bag. I read it as an e-book and never noticed the subtitle: “A mother’s guide to sanity in stilettos”.

*shudder*

Not knowing about the subtitle (until now), I was almost on board with this one when Bennett wrote about how women must give themselves oxygen (i.e. be healthy, have own interests) before they can be effective mothers. Immersing yourself in the child isn’t the way to go, says Bennett.

Then she lost me. Big time. Why? Because Bennett also writes things like this:

“As if I needed another reason, every package of eight-pound baby comes with a special toy surprise – a designer handbag, an art deco bracelet, or a pair of fabulous shoes. My husband’s gifts are incentive enough to endure nine months of pregnancy. . . . faced with the added expense [of another baby], I figure there will be no more gifts.”

I was definitely out. That was within the first chapter, I think.

Bennett’s smug writing style, especially when talking about her New York parenting, was hard to stomach. It wasn’t hard to drop this book.

————————

Given I’m ranting so much about chick lit., I should flag that I read various streams of romance, and enjoy the occasional bodice-ripper. I don’t usually arc up about stereotypes or narrative clichés. Most times, I read + calibrate within the genres I’m reading.

These books, though, pretend they’re telling stories of female empowerment (thank you, Inger), but indulge in the worst kinds of portrayals of daft, shallow women. In addition, the narratives hinge on motivations that are foreign to me (e.g. having to have the ultimate wedding/surprise birthday party/baby). The heroines are the kind of people I would hate to be around, let alone spend several hundred pages with.

I’m giving up on chick lit. Remind me of this if I ever show signs of straying.

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7 thoughts on “Books I didn’t read

  1. oanh 21/01/2013 / 3:28 pm

    I’m with you, although my kryptonite are terrible rvom com movies…

    Some great smart chick lit has been written by Anita Heiss, should you stray…

    • Tseen Khoo 21/01/2013 / 3:58 pm

      There was a discussion going on in Twitter, and Anita Heiss weighed in with her opinion that chick lit. can feature shopping and shoes, as well as politics and social issues. She’s been recced to me a few times now…hmmm…

      • oanh 21/01/2013 / 4:39 pm

        Well, I’ve only read the one (started another; changed my mind as I did not feel like reading it at the time – no ranty reasons :D) and I would not necessarily unreservedly recommend.

        Here’s my goodreads review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/287078965

        I need longer to chat about it, but there’s lack of engagement with the underlying assumptions in chick lit that a man/love and looking good are necessary for happiness. I don’t know why I read these either, but I do.

  2. Som 22/01/2013 / 8:26 pm

    So I take it you’re not reviewing Shades of Grey next? 😉

    • Tseen Khoo 23/01/2013 / 10:19 pm

      That series sounds dismal. And I keep seeing Twilight chick as the be-paddled character, which really doesn’t help.

      • FoodFloozy 04/02/2013 / 11:10 am

        Don’t do it Tseen! As you know, I wadded through to the third book and hadn’t realised how furious I was getting with the characters until I hit ‘delete’ from my ebook list. Infuriating, controlling and patronising. Mr Grey can go jump. 😉

        • Tseen Khoo 04/02/2013 / 1:47 pm

          I think we can all sleep safe in the knowledge that I won’t be reading that particular trilogy…! 😉

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