This is my second Jen Lancaster book, and I enjoyed it even more than the first one (Bitter Is the New Black). A rollicking memoir by a very funny but bitchy lady, Bright Lights, Big Ass is a bit more free-wheeling than her first memoir, and I think it suits her material and style better. And what style is that? Smart-assessedness mixed with lots of footnotes combined with superiority and leavened with a smidge of humility. It amazes me that someone who was born in the same year as me (1967) has been able to churn out at least four memoirs, all of which have more than 300 pages. Jen Lancaster can seemingly write about anything—the thrills and horrors of riding public transportation, the travails of dog ownership, neighbors, house-hunting—and make it fun to read about. It is also fun to read a memoir that is light and funny and is not about sad and disturbing stories of alcoholism or child abuse. Consider it memoir lite.
Excerpt about the appeal of Ikea: I don’t care how rich or poor you are, the draw of purchasing twelve hundred tea lights for thirty-seven cents is too great for anyone to resist.
Rating: 4 stars
Where I Got It: Paperback Swap (and I’ve promised my copy to Rebecca at Lost In Books.)
Ellie Enderlin is a professional coffee buyer whose life is influenced by one event: the murder of her sister Lila twenty years earlier. After a chance encounter during a coffee buying trip, Ellie decides to conduct her own investigation into Lila’s death, which was never officially solved. However, doing so forces her to confront the truth of her family, her relationship with her sister, and her own isolation. Complicating matters is Ellie’s own guilt for unwittingly contributing to a true crime book written about her sister’s murder, which has unduly influenced Ellie’s own thinking about the event. Although this description might make the book sound like a straightforward “by the books” thriller, it really is more than that. Although Ellie does conduct her own investigation (as only people in novels seem to do), the book deals with the complicated emotions surrounding the murder of a loved one as much as it does with the “whodunit” aspect. I thought this elevated the book above your standard mystery/thriller, and Richmond does a great job of working in little details about coffee, math, music and writing that add interest to the story. Most of all, Richmond does a wonderful job making Ellie a fully rounded character, which is so often lacking in books of this ilk. The book is a solid and satisfying read, and I would recommend it without reservation. An added little bonus in my edition was the author’s No One You Know playlist, which includes songs either referenced in the book or that capture its spirit and setting. I think Michelle Richmond has pretty good taste in music!
Excerpt: Lila was like an unfinished novel—two hundred pages in, just when you’re really getting into the story, you realize the rest never got written. You’ll never know how the story ended. Instead, you’re left with an abrupt and unsatisfying non-end, all the threads of the plot hanging loose.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Where I Got It: Paperback Swap.