Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Led astray once again

Browsing around the audio book shelves in the local library, a work by a new (to me) author, Katie Fforde, caught my eye. I quickly read the overview of the story on the back of the container for Stately Pursuits and it sounded promising: "look after a relative's stately home," "dilapidated house," "quirky, ever-present neighbors," "absurdities of every day life," and "wit and charm" were some of the phrases used to describe it. The story was also set in the English countryside, so it sounded right up my alley. Unfortunately, somehow I missed the fact that this is a romance novel {shudder}. Now, I have read some decent romance novels in my time (I used to be quite taken with Kathleen Woodiwiss), but this one is just dreadful. It has the requisite brooding hero, but unfortunately he is given to such eye-rolling, cringe-inducing dialogue as, "I promised my Uncle Samuel that I wouldn't seduce you." The heroine, Hattie, is a sympathetic enough character, but as she is generally described as wearing "filthy" jeans and "grubby" t-shirts, it's a bit puzzling as to what is supposed to make her romance heroine material. I did persist throughout the whole book, hoping it would improve, but it was predictable, bland, and (despite the blurb on the back) not at all funny. Give this one a miss and pick up something by Sophie Kinsella or Marian Keyes instead. Now they can write "romantic comedy!"

In Entertainment Weekly's list of the top 20 films of the week, inexplicably they noted about the film Happy-Go-Lucky, "This quirky dramedy from British director Mike Leigh finally made its way onto the chart after seven weeks in theaters." I highlighted the "finally" because that makes it sound as if everyone is puzzled as to why such a masterpiece has struggled at the box office. Um, could it be because it's one of the worst, most pointless films ever made? We should be asking ourselves instead how the theaters showing it avoided riots in the streets. EW somehow gave this film a grade of A-. A relative of someone in the cast must have been the reviewer -- or else the reviewer didn't actually sit through the film. Those are the only possible explanations for an even lukewarm review, let alone a positive one.

Also in EW this week, Stephen King gives his Top 10 books of the year, and coming in at #3 is When Will There Be Good News? Well, I'm not sure if I would have listed it as one of the top books of the year, but it's nice to know that Uncle Stevie and I share similar tastes in leisure reading material.

Final Verdict for Stately Pursuits: One Gherkin, for some interesting plot ideas (such as opening a stately home to the public), but an overall weak story

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