Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Comedy of Manners (The Univited Guests) and Rom-Com (When in Doubt Add Butter)

I confess...both these books let me wavering on ratings.  Despite the fact that I publish reviews regularly, I often find it a struggle to "rank" books and select a number of stars.  I make a decision to round out my posts on Amazon and Goodreads, but I much prefer writing a bit of my thoughts to settling on a numeric review.
The setting is Sterne, an estate in England in the early 1900s.  Sterne is inhabitted by a mother, her new husband, and her three children from her deceased first husband (an older boy and girl and one younger girl).  The family is in an uncertain financial state and the new husband has left to try and get money to save the house.  Meanwhile, a small gathering is being held to celebrate the twentieth birthday of one of the daughters.  The gathering is put off-track when a railway accident occurs and the household is asked to play host to displaced travelers until the rail personnel can retrieve them. There are a number of twists and turns, including gothic elements and a side story involving the unsupervised youngest daughter's adventure with a pony.

Much of this book (read as an advance edition supplied by Harper) is a comedy of manners and a study of class, both actual and percieved.  I felt a bit thrown at times by the plot shifts and it seemed like the author jammed multiple ideas into a single novel.  I enjoyed the social study aspects and watching the family interact with both the invited and uninvited guests. 

I'd prefer to give it 3.5 stars but will round to 4 because I was definitely interested in the book and in the twists in the characters.  I do, however, wish a sharper editorial knife had been taken to the book and that some matters...especially the random pony storyline...had been cut in favor of the class commentary.

I won a copy of this book through Goodreads. 

Gemma Craig is a woman in her thirties who earns her living as a personal chef for several families in the D.C. region.  She goes to different households each day of the week and provides her clients with homemade meals for the assigned night and ready-to-heat meals for the rest of the week.  Some of her clients tax her patience while others feel like friends.  She is also balancing her personal life, including a rare night out with a friend that leads to meeting a guy in what feels like fodder for a "Missed Connections" post on Craigslist. 

I often feel like the label "chick lit" is both overused and can have a bit of a negative connotation.  I find it useful, however, for distinguishing what I expect from a book.  I don't expect chick lit to have leave me with deep, meaningful thoughts or an urge to discuss the book and read others' thoughts.  I do, however, enjoy the occasional "reading candy," and this book fits in that realm for me.  It was an easy read and entertained me for a few days.  I didn't feel deeply involved with the characters, but I did enjoy them and a few made me smile.  I'd prefer to give it 3.5 stars but will round to 4 with the caveat that I'm rating it for what it is...a bit of fun fluff and entertainment, not something I'd call "literature" but a style of book that has its place in my reading world.  I can definitely see these book turned into a Romantic Comedy on Lifetime or maybe even in the movie theater.

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