The “What?!” Moment: When a Book Jumps the Shark

We’ve all been there. You’re reading a book and then boom! Out of nowhere comes something totally jarring that makes you stop and exclaim, “What?!” You reread it several times because it’s so confusing and/or because it’s so ridiculous that you can’t believe it’s there. But no matter how many times you read it, it doesn’t change. Can you get past it? Does it annoy you so much that you can’t continue reading the book? In television, when a show reaches the point of no return and becomes so outlandish that it should probably be canceled, it’s referred to as “jumping the shark.” This phrase stems from an episode of Happy Days when Fonzie literally jumps over a shark while water skiing during a trip to California. See what I mean?

Sadly, a “what?!” moment happened while I was reading Sophie Kinsella’s new novel, Wedding Night. Let me preface what I’m about to say by making it clear that I’m a fan of her stand-alone novels. Twenties Girl is one of my favorite books of all-time, and I've Got Your Number is brilliant. I’ve never read the Shopaholic series. (I know, I know.) I saw the movie and loved it, though. But from what I hear, the movie is very different from the books.

Anyway, I was all revved up to read Wedding Night, had been counting down for months, pre-ordered it, and tweeted and posted on Facebook with glee when it finally arrived. To my utter disappointment, it didn't take long for me to become really frustrated. While at her son’s school, Fliss must make a hot air balloon project with him because her forgetful ex-husband failed to do so. She searches for something to make it with, and well, let’s just say that her choice is incredibly inappropriate. It’s ironic because she’s so upset with her ex and constantly trying to prove what a negligent parent he is and in general what a bad person he is, and then she does this. What a way to show how much better you are…humiliate yourself and your young son. When something is too idiotic and too unrealistic, it loses the comedy. I know Kinsella was going for funny with this scene, but comedy is grounded in reality. Ninety nine percent of parents wouldn’t do what Fliss did. That’s the problem. Unrealistic = unfunny. And that was all it took. I was out of the story. I had a lot of trouble getting past that, but I pushed on…and then boom! Fliss is having drinks with Lorcan and more “balloons” fly out of her purse for a repeat appearance. Please. Again, unrealistic. A contrived attempt at getting a laugh from readers.

I was also turned off by how over-the-top flaky Lottie is, and by how late into the book her marriage to Ben happens…I think 160 pages in or so. The book’s description already tells us that they get married and her sister tries to stop the honeymoon, so the build up to something we already know will happen is incredibly long. By page 300, I skipped to the end to confirm my prediction for the outcome, which was right. I can forgive a predictable story and actually quite enjoy them if they’re engaging. Unfortunately, this is not Kinsella’s best work. But that’s just my opinion. I’m still a fan of hers, and I’ll buy her next book, but my hopes won’t be quite as high. Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised. I’ll have to wait and see…

Note: This post isn’t meant to be hurtful or disrespectful toward Kinsella at all. Please don’t misinterpret it. I respect her and have said many times that she is one of the best chick lit writers out there. I know how much time, effort, and hard work goes into writing and publishing a book, so I know this was no small feat. I appreciate her dedication to the genre we all love so much. However, chick lit has evolved and moved past the bumbling heroines, or at least I want it to, and I know she can write a much better story with much better characters than Wedding Night. I look forward to what she comes up with next.
Did you read Wedding Night? What did you think of it? Can you continue reading a book after it jumps the shark? Which books have you read that have a "what?!" moment?

Book Review: Ten Girls to Watch

The Beeline
Twenty-three-year-old Dawn West was going to be a lawyer, but her dream of being a writer was stronger, and now, she's unemployed and living in New York City. She recently found out that the man she once thought she was going to marry, Robert, has moved on with the perfect girl, Lily, who inexplicably keeps inviting Dawn to parties. At one such party, Lily introduces Dawn to the editor of the magazine Charm, and Dawn ends up with a job that gives her the responsibility of tracking down the previous winners of Charm's "Ten Girls to Watch" for a retrospective, fifty years after the contest was first started.

The Honey
Dawn is a great person who is funny, sweet, and nice. Her situation describes a majority of recent college graduates, so she's really easy to relate to. The pictures of the past winners at the start of each chapter are intriguing and impressive, making the winners and the contest seem all the more real, which added depth to the story. And the opening chapter is killer. After starting to read this book, it was hard to put it down. There are a number of twists in the story that are unexpected, but great, and there’s just the right mix of comedy and drama. The story is inspirational too, and not just for Dawn. As Dawn interacts with these amazing women, she slowly begins to learn from their experiences, especially that not everything happens as expected, and that she is ultimately responsible for her own happiness. 

The Bumble
The only thing that would make this book better is a happily ever after.

The Buzz
When the reader finishes the book, she will likely have a longing to do something, to be like Dawn or the women who won the title of “Ten Girls to Watch.” With such an amazing debut, Charity Shumway is an author to keep an eye out for in the future!

About the Author
Ten Girls to Watch is Charity Shumway's first novel. It was inspired by her work for Glamour's "Top Ten College Women" contest. She spent nine months working on this project for the 50th anniversary of the article. Charity's writing has been published by a wide variety of magazines like Fitness, Ladies Home Journal, and Garden Design. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband. For more information, please visit

Book Review: Gold Coast Wives

Who doesn’t love a rags-to-riches story? In Gold Coast Wives, it’s riches-to-rags-to-riches. Kate Ryan’s life was turned upside down: she lost her job, her husband, her financial security – everything she knew and loved was no more. But then, opportunity knocked. When she opened that door, she found herself to be a part of a reality television show. All hell broke loose from then onwards. Kate is then a witness to bickering, scheming and backstabbing, diva-like behavior, and everything else one could imagine would happen on a reality show about housewives of the high society circle.

Kate’s character is strong – though at times she doesn’t believe in herself – and throughout the book, she manages to endure the endless drama between the wives without losing herself. She actually manages to find the humor in things and has all the clear attributes of a likable character. If you’re a fan of all the Housewives reality television shows, then this one is definitely for you. And even if you’re not, it’s the perfect read with a glass (or two) of wine by the pool this summer.

Bernadette Walsh is a native New Yorker. When she isn't busy practicing law, she enjoys reading novels and now writing them too. She also loves indulging in her not-so-secret obsession with reality TV. Bernadette has won several writing contests. She is the author of Gold Coast Wives, The House on Prospect, and Devil's Mountain. Her forthcoming novels, Devil's Shore and Devil's Daughter, will be published by Lyrical Press in late 2012. For more information, please visit Bernadette's website

Book Review: Jan of Cleveland

Jan is a brilliant girl who was raised by her parents to excel at everything she does.  She manages to find a way to go back in time, and she decides to go back to the time of King Edward III of England in the Middle Ages.  In the meantime, Simon Peter and his son, Ethelred, who live in the Middle Ages, are introduced.  They are told by a Gypsy that Ethelred's life will be forever changed by somebody from a land called Ohio.  Jan arrives, just as the Gypsy foretells, and has very little trouble convincing Ethelred, King Edward III and his court of who she is and her mission, which is to modernize the science and medicine of the time.  And she is off to change the world as they know it.  

It took a very long time to get absorbed into the story.  It wasn't very funny, and since it's subtitled "a time travel comedy," it was a bit of a let down.  Not being a Medieval scholar, it was a little hard to believe that Jan would be so easily and readily accepted and not burned at the stake as a heretic and witch, as was the case in those times.  The story isn't very long, but it dragged on. It's broken into many small chapters, seeming choppy.  The chapters jumped from one place to the next, more like anecdotes rather than complete chapters. However, the use of show tunes was a pleasant surprise. 

Liz Kingsbury McKeown is from Minnesota. She began her career as a writer for Shockwave, a science fiction comedy radio show on KFAI, Minneapolis-Saint Paul. Liz interviews independent authors for Mobius. To learn more, connect with her on Twitter

Book Review: Jackpot!

Jackpot! follows the story lines of Frankie and her children, Jamie and Danny. All Frankie really wants in life are grandchildren, but she can’t seem to convince her two selfish children to produce them.  Jamie has been hurt in the past, so she’s given up on men and relies on her upscale wardrobe to make her feel worthy. Danny isn’t much better. He wants to be an actor and pick up women. Children never enter into the equation for either of them, but things are about to change. Frankie hits the lottery and comes up with a scheme to get her kids to start cranking out offspring. She gets her lawyer involved and has a contract drawn up stating that she will give $8 million to the child that can produce a grandbaby in the next twelve months. 

What follows is a crazy race between the two to see who can get pregnant the fastest. Jamie attempts to seduce a man she never gave the time of day to and Danny attempts to seduce anyone he can get his hands on. When both meet people they know they can fall in love with, they have to make a tough decision. Do they go with their hearts or do they take the money?

This novel will appeal to lovers of chick lit and fun, lighthearted romances. Although Danny and Jamie aren’t very likeable sometimes, their appeal lies in their humanity and how they make terrible mistakes when attempting to produce something they don’t want to get something they do. Both begin to realize that maybe money isn’t what they really need after all.

Jackpot! is the sophomore novel from Jackie Pilossoph. She graduated from Boston University with a master's degree in communication and is hard at work on another novel. She resides with her family in Chicago.