Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read Lately . . .

Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
This is a companion to Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. In this book, 19th century lady Jane Mansfield awakens in Courtney Stone's body - in 21st century Los Angeles! Naturally, modern L.A. is quite a shock and Jane wonders whether she's in hell, until she discovers her favorite author, Jane Austen, wrote six novels in her lifetime, then Jane wonders whether she's in heaven! Poor Jane has to deal with Courtney's opinionated friends, loser ex-fiance, and terrible job. Soon Jane/Courtney learns her way around the 21st century and discovers human nature is the same as ever, but learns that women have choices in the 21st century. Flashes from Courtney's past appear in Jane's head, confusing matters even more. Jane/Courtney seeks the help of a mysterious fortune teller who gives her some answers but creates more questions. Luckily, there's always the handsome Wes to lend a hand whenever needed. I don't want to give more away because though the plot is predictable, I couldn't put the book down because I needed to find out what happened! I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy this book. The author does a fabulous job of describing everything we take for granted through the eyes of someone who has never seen them before. Jane's language is a little stilted and contrived to show how she's a fish out of water and some of her realizations weren't necessary to explain. The reader could have easily made the same conclusions themselves. Wes is a dream hero - he's almost too good to be true and his one minor bad point is so minor, it's easy to forgive. He totally won my heart, especially at the end! I liked the way Jane learned to navigate the 21st century and think for herself and do what she's always dreamed of. The time travel nuances are still a little confusing but it doesn't really bother me too much because enough it explained and hinted at. A great read for fans of chick lit written by popular authors such as Sophie Kinsella and fans of sweet romances. I do think it is necessary to have read Confessions first though. One Amazon reviewer recommended reading them both at once, which I think is an excellent idea.

Frozen in Time: The Enduring Legacy of the 1961 U.S. Figure Skating Team by Nikki Nicholas -- Sports nonfiction

This book tells the story of the members of the U.S. Figure Skating World Team, friends and family who died in a plane crash en route to the Worlds in 1961. Nichols relates the struggles of the top athletes to get to the top spots that would earn them the right to be at the World Championships in Prague. A skater never skates alone and this book is also about the coaches who helped the skaters on their paths to glory and their family members who supported them. Nichols imagines what the skaters were thinking and feeling at crucial moments in their lives. She also interrupts the narrative to discuss other competitors, past, current and future. Nicholas attempts to explain how the legacy of the 1961 team affected all the skaters to come after them, from Peggy Fleming's glorious gold medal in 1968 to skaters in 2001 receiving scholarships from money left in memory of the 1961 team. This book is written from extensive research by a dedicated skater and skating fan and it shows. The stories of the 1961 team members are compelling but the writing isn't stellar. Nicholas interrupts her story to discuss skaters from the past (pre-1961) and present day (post-1961), which was a little jarring in the middle of the story of the 1961 U.S. Team. The imagined scenarios are also a little odd. I also feel that Nicholas rushed the legacy part though her book is subtitled The Enduring Legacy of the 1961 U.S. Figure Skating Team. I enjoyed learning about the lesser known people involved in the crash and learning more about what happened during the flight. The 1961 U.S. World Team is a subject that is infrequently discussed but should be known to all those who are interested in the sport. I would give this book 3 1/2 stars.

The Fortune Hunters by Carola Dunn -- Regency Romance
Miss Jessica Franklin has been minding her family's estate since her father's death and her brother left to fight in America. Now Sir Nathan has returned and Jessica has bad news for her brother - their beloved estate that has been leased by their family for centuries is up for a new lease and the amount is much more than they can afford. Nathan considers giving up their home but Jessica has a better idea - they will both go to Bath and seek out rich spouses. Mr. Matthew Walsingham, nephew and former heir to Lord Stone has just been disinherited due to youthful folly. Matthew also heads to Bath to seek out a rich wife to support him while he begins a career as an architect and/or convince his uncle to see that Matthew has reformed. Nathan, Jessica and Matthew quickly become friends and part of a close group of friends, but each of them has a secret they haven't revealed to the others. As the young people become closer, they must confront their own prejudices and learn the meaning of true love. The plot is pretty light and predictable and the writing is decent but not fabulous. The architectural details are wonderful and clearly well researched. The good characters are likable and Jessica and Matthew are perfect for each other. I liked this book well enough, but not enough to reread or keep.

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