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Check It Out

Courier Article by Kate Linderman
Saturday, February 7, 2010

Settle In for Winter Nights with Quick, Easy Reads

I've got a lot of time to read in the winter, and I love curling up on the couch with a good book, some cherry Hershey Kisses and the fuzzy blanket my kids gave me for my birthday. Here's what I've been reading lately.

Over the summer, one of my librarian friends recently introduced me to a great chick-lit author, Harriet Evans. I promptly wrote down her name and the titles of her books on my winter reading list. Since then, I've read two of Evans' three books, and they're delightful, engrossing and engaging. If you like British chick lit in the vein of Sophie Kinsella and Marian Keyes, you'll really enjoy Evans' books.

"Going Home" is about Lizzy Walker, a young Londoner whose family still inhabits a 16th century English manor house that they find they must sell. All the secrets of Lizzy's love and family life are revealed at a family wedding literally days before the sale of the house is final.

"Going Home" is charming and full of surprises. I loved it.

"A Hopeless Romantic", also by Evans, is a similarly engaging tale about Laura Foster, an overly romantic 30-something who has repeatedly and completely immersed herself in 'nowhere' relationships. Her latest failure has plunged her into the depths of despair. On holiday with her parents, she meets Nick, someone with whom she instantly connects and subsequently rejects because of her past troubles.

Finding out whether Nick is the one and what his story is drives the plot of this novel and makes you root not just for Laura, but for Laura and Nick.

"Jane Austen Ruined My Life" by Beth Patillo, is the first inspirational chick-lit book I've read, and I liked its fast-paced plot and uplifting tone.

The story revolves around Emma, an esteemed Jane Austen scholar who finds her husband in a clinch with another woman. She divorces her husband, endures professional disgrace and subsequently loses her faith in Austen's "happily ever after" endings.

She travels to England in search of ultimate secrets about Austen that finally will expose the author for the romantic fraud she was. On her journey, Emma uncovers startling secrets about Austen and learns a lot about herself in this uplifting, quick read.

Bridie Clark is a relatively new author whose second novel is "The Overnight Socialite".

A reworking of George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion, it's the story of blue-blood anthropologist Wyatt Hayes IV (in the Henry Higgins role) and Lucy Jo Ellis (in the Eliza Doolittle role). Wyatt, looking for a way to boost his intellectual credibility, bets his friend he can "make" Lucy, the daughter of a Minnesota manicurist, into a Manhattan socialite in a matter of months. If you know the story of Pygmalion, or if youOve ever see the movie "My Fair Lady", you can pretty much guess the rest. Still, the story is conveyed through a number of characters, it moves quickly, and is well-written. It is a fun read overall.

The premise of Marian Keyes' new book "The Brightest Star in the Sky" seems a little odd, but it works. It's the story of a nameless spirit wafting through the rooms of a Dublin apartment building, picking up on and relaying the stories of the tenants who live there. The spirit has a vital reason for being there, which is part of the story, and which the reader will not discover until the end of the book.

In the meantime, finding out about the various characters of Lydia, Katie, Jemima, Matt and Maeve is heartwarming, funny and poignant all at the same time. I love Keyes' books, and this time she doesn't disappoint.

Kate Linderman is a reader's adviser for Central Library Reference Services.