Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Update + The Best Man by Kristan Higgins

My poor blog! I'm afraid that real life is kicking my butt and my time is limited at the moment. I'm actually doing most of my reading during my commutes in and out of work and right before bedtime. But, I am still also suffering a bit from "reader's block," which is not good. Sigh... Anyway, here are a few blog-related updates.


Since Google decided to discontinue the much loved and nifty Google Reader in July, (Why? Does that make sense to anyone but Google?) I took the time to look around this last Saturday and signed up with The Old Reader. I'm liking it so far because it sort of works like the old Google Reader used to before they upgraded it (just in time to discontinue it). So, I'm all set up and following all my favorite blogs there already. However, I'm not married to it yet, so if anyone has a better recommendation for a FREE reader, please let me know in this post!

I also found the whole "Amazon Buys Goodreads! extra, extra read all about it" piece of news a bit disturbing. I'm hoping that Goodreads policies won't change. I do love keeping track of my books, updates and notes on what I'm currently reading there. Plus, I love interacting with friends at Goodreads. It would be a shame if all that changed. Additionally, linking Goodreads and Amazon accounts (reviews) would be a total deal breaker for me, so I'm going to "wait and see" how this develops.

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The Best Man
by Kristan Higgins
But going back to reading, I decided to give "romance" a shot and picked up a couple of books, one of them was Kristan Higgins' latest contemporary romance, The Best Man. Now, this is only the second book I have read by this author, the first one didn't necessarily work for me because although Higgins' portrayal of relationships between family and friends was highly enjoyable, I did not enjoy her style of writing in the first-person point of view perspective and the 'chick-lit' flavor that overwhelmed the story. Additionally I found the romance in that book to be more of a side story. However, I heard some great things about Higgins' latest books, and the fact that she switched to the third person point of view perspective encouraged me to pick up this romance.

There are a few aspects of The Best Man that I liked. It is true that Higgins excels when writing from the third person point of view. The premise of this story drew me to it. Small town girl Faith falls in love with her high school sweetheart Jeremy, the perfect man and after eight years, during their wedding, the best man Levi encourages Jeremy to tell Faith the truth about himself. Jeremy comes out of the closet and tells her that he is gay. Three years later Jeremy is the small town's doctor, Levi the Chief of Police and Faith lives in San Francisco. But all that changes when after many personal romantic failures, Faith is called home by her sister to save their widowed father from an "unscrupulous woman." Faith will have to deal with seeing the "love of her life" Jeremy, with townspeople who still feel sorry for "poor Faithie," and worst of all with that "stiff hemorrhoid" Levi.

It sounds interesting, doesn't it? Well, it is and it isn't. Faith and Levi's romance begins with an antagonistic edge that grows before it changes to passion and love. Higgins binds all the characters in this contemporary romance, Jeremy, Levi, Faith, their families as secondary characters, and periphery characters by providing a deeper and detailed background for the central characters and a general history of the town and its social structure, including how this social structure deeply affects its citizens or featured characters. This is all quite relevant and well done, as is the slow development of the relationship that ensues between Faith and Levi and the strong and true friendship between Levi and Jeremy.

Family relationships and humor are also quite important to the plot and, from my previous experience, this aspect of the story is usually well done by Higgins. Unfortunately in The Best Man, I found Faith's family members and friends to be an extremely unlikable lot (this includes the highly unlovable grandparents who can't stop arguing and calling each other names!), and the overall humor is in poor taste. For example: I didn't find this scene funny at all. Faith is obliviously on a date with a married man when his wife shows up with her toddler to confront her, and both this woman (and the toddler) proceed to call Faith a whore over a dozen times. What is that? This made me uncomfortable while reading it, but in addition I really disliked the way the women related to each other and others in this story. This was a problem for me, but there is more.

I always look for LGBTQ characters when reading mainstream books: romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction... whatever! When well done, it makes for a more realistic and well rounded read. However, in my opinion, the author should at least do his/her homework in order to develop or to incorporate LGBTQ characters successfully into their stories. Making one of them the butt of jokes as Higgins does with a trans character in this book is a major fail and doesn't work. Making the one gay character (Jeremy, the perfectly gorgeous, perfect man) into the town's lovable mascot and Faith's faithful puppy-like, adoring BFF, but giving him no love life to speak of is stereotypical and just down right unrealistic. Additionally, for me, the overall dialog between various characters when discussing Jeremy and Faith's situation is more than disappointing, and Faith's general attitude about her botched wedding is highly frustrating.

Levi is an interesting and strong male protagonist with an excellent backstory that gives him depth. His feelings for Faith are believable in the end. I also enjoyed Levi's close relationship with his sister and thought his strong, loyal friendship with Jeremy as one of the best of this book. However, the negatives outweighed the positives for me. It is unfortunate that I chose to read this particular romance by Higgins. The Best Man began with a good premise, but unfortunately the execution was not to my taste. Grade: D+

16 comments:

  1. I pretty much agree with all you said. I found some parts of the book highly offensive, and they ruined a book that was otherwise quite enjoyable.

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    1. Brie, "offensive" is the perfect word to describe parts of the book -- I also felt that way. I don't know that other readers will agree, but I'm glad I wasn't the only one! *g* And yes! This was such a strange book, because overall I also enjoyed chunks of it... again, I think the overall execution of a good premise was poor, but the good stuff was lying underneath and that's what I/we(?) enjoyed. I wish I could explain it better than that.

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  2. I've been using feedly (as the reader replacement), it's been very easy so far to use. I'll check out The Old Reader to compare.

    I've already imported my books into LibraryThing, although it's been somewhat of a pain. And the social aspect is certainly not the same as goodreads, but I wanted to be prepared in case goodreads got too crazy.

    Hope all is well with you. Hugs :)

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    1. Mariana, I will check out feedly to compare against The Old Reader. Thanks for the recommendation.

      You know? I think I'm already a member at LibraryThing, but haven't been there in years! That is an alternative to Goodreads, but as you say not quite the same. :(

      Thanks Mariana, I'm hanging in there. Hugs!

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    2. Mariana, I checked out Feedly and am definitely LOVING IT! I'm going to test both, but will probably settle for Feedly. Thanks!

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  3. I've tried 2 Kristin Higgins books and didn't like either of them. Since they were two of her most popular and often recommended ones, I figure she's just not for me. My problem in both books was with the heroines, whom I found to be whiny and TSTL - that's my beef with chick-lit in general and the reason I rarely read it.

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    1. JenM, I know what you mean. This is my second book by Higgins I read and is not a winner either! As you say, maybe this author is not for me? I may try one more book in the 3rd POV just to make sure... I don't know... this was a strange book.

      The problem you have with her "whiny heroines" is one that I have with the majority of the 1st POV chick-lit sub-genre because if it is not well done, the story turns into (what I call) the "me, me, me syndrome" where the women come off as self-centered -- in other words there is a lack of balance in the story.

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  4. OMG!! SO TRUE!!
    I didn't like this book all that much for all the reasons you said. I think I liked it a bit more than you but I knew what I was getting myself into since I've read pretty much all of Higgins' books (to no one's bigger surprise than my own) and yeah, she kind of enjoys totally humiliating her heroines to a point that sometimes it makes it hard to like them.

    I often find Higgin's humor in poor taste and, also, like her research into the various topics she addresses is superficial at best and non-existing most of the time.

    Now, I did like some part of the book -like the dog - but over all it wasn't great.

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    1. Alex, your statement that "Higgins kind of enjoys totally himiliating her heroines... etc." is VERY interesting. I had a huge problem with Faith's character for just that reason. Her attitude towards the botched wedding with Jeremy boggled the mind! Her obsession and lack of understanding after THREE years! Even with her personal baggage about her mother, that whole thing just... frustrated me about Faith. But there were humiliating instances for other women and characters in this story too that were just not funny or frankly, necessary to make this romance work. I didn't get it.

      PS: The dog was adorable. Just not adorable enough for me. :D

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    2. PS: BTW, I love that Faith is an epileptic and that Higgins uses that in her story. Another example of an element I enjoyed in the middle of what I did not. *g*

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  5. Okay, let see. I hope life gets into a more reasonable rhythm for you, hils! Have missed you!

    You are so right. Google says it's because they are not getting enough subscriber or something... but if that was the case, why is everyone freaking out because Google Reader is closing. Just doesn`t make sense.

    Awwww, too bad about The Best Man. My only hope though is that you`ve read only one book and thought it was so-so. I`ve read most of her releases and some are better than others. I hope this is going to be somewhere in the C-range for me LOL.

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    1. Thank you Nath, I miss you too! And, isn't that interesting about Google? I agree with your assessment. But I'm really liking Feedly right now, let's see how that works out. :)

      RE: Higgins. I've now read two books by her and one was so-so and this one just didn't work out for me? I mean with a D+ I can't really recommend it, right? I hope you enjoy it more than I did. I know you like her style, this story though? I don't know. I will wait for your review. LOL!

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  6. Bummer about The Best Man. I usually adore her books for a quick, funny romantic escape, but I might just skip this one..

    I do this really old-fashioned thing in my browser to follow blogs by bookmarking the rss feed thingy for a website and then I just click on the bookmark when it indicates a new post. It's worked for me for years.. until apple stopped the support for rss feed bookmarks on the iphone. Ugh. Basically this means I can't click on these feeds and blog hop on my iphone anymore. Once you all figure out which feed reader you all like I might just join the bandwagon.

    I don't know what to make of the amazon-goodreads crap. I love goodreads but don't love that they're now owned and operated by a commercial corporation. Boo!

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    1. Christine, I know you love Higgins! As I said above I think it's unfortunate that I chose this book as my second read by her. I will give her one more try. :D

      I'm loving Feedly! I got the App for my Mac and am loving the App for my iPhone too. Try them on your iPad and iPhone, it's free, and see how you like it. :)

      And Goodreads/Amazon? I waiting for the other shoe to drop. :(

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  7. I started using Feedly this afternoon, Hils. I first played with it on my iphone and when I saw how easy it was, I went ahead and installed it in Safari. It's just taking me a while to get all the blogs I follow in there.. since I didn't have google reader set up already. So far I really like it!

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    1. Great, Christine! For me, it was a snap to download all the blogs directly from GR, unlike The Old Reader. Enjoy!

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