Chicklit Club
 

JEN LANCASTER

 

Stories I’d Tell in Bars (2017)

 

When editors told Jen Lancaster the world didn’t need another memoir, she very loudly begged to differ. She argued that the world absolutely needed another memoir and decided to self-published her latest book, Stories I’d Tell in Bars. Thank you for going with your gut, Ms. Lancaster! Memoirs are what put her on the bestseller map and her latest confirms she still has plenty of personal “you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up” stories which need to be told.
Whether it’s embarking on the Whole30 diet plan, attending the citizen police academy in her town, or inventing a new summer game complete with its own soundtrack (Poolyball, anyone?), you are guaranteed to laugh out loud at the antics and antidotes of Jen and Fletch. And speaking of Fletch, he responds to her stories at the end of each chapter and it’s hilarious. Even with typos (due to self-publishing, perhaps?), I’m pretty sure the world needs many more Jen Lancaster memoirs. And I, for one, say, “keep ’em coming!” (LEK)


 

By the Numbers (2016)

 

Penny Sinclair is ready to downsize and get on with her life as a divorced, empty nester. Once her daughter’s backyard wedding is over, she’s putting the family house she got in the divorce on the market and plans to start looking for a condo in downtown Chicago. Unfortunately, life intervenes. Soon after the wedding, Penny finds herself still in the house due to some additional house guests - her parents and her ex-husband. Having everyone move back in is not at all how Penny saw her immediate future playing out.
By the Numbers is an engaging, funny story about a “mature” woman who, despite having adult children and an ex-husband, still has dreams for herself after the path of her life abruptly shifts. I really enjoyed getting a glimpse into Penny’s life, with all of the generational differences among the characters and the funny instances of life that happen to us all. (LEK)


 

The Best of Enemies (2015)

 

Jacqueline and Kitty met in college through their mutual friend, Sarabeth. They were all good friends until Jack “accidentally” hooked up with Kitty’s boyfriend. Since then, Jack and Kitty have each remained best friends with Sarabeth but only tolerated each other when they absolutely had to. When Sarabeth’s husband is killed in a plane crash, they both rush to her side for support and end up working together to help solve the mystery surrounding his suspicious death.
The Best of Enemies took a little while to get to the good part – when Jack and Kitty start working together to figure out what happened to Sarabeth’s husband. However, once it got there, it was worth the wait. It’s funny, engaging, and endearing to see two known enemies with nothing in common work together for the sake of their friend. This story had a bit of a different twist than Jen Lancaster’s other works of fiction, which was a really nice change of pace. (LEK)


 

I Regret Nothing (2015)

 

In her latest memoir, I Regret Nothing, Jen Lancaster has decided to craft a bucket list in order to live life more fully and with no regrets. Now that she's over 40 (basically middle-aged), she reasons this is the perfect time to work towards all of the things we tell ourselves we want to do "someday". With her sharp sense of humour and stream-of-consciousness reasoning, she sets out to build, and begin checking items off, her bucket list; items which include learning to ride a bike, getting a passport, learning a new language, and having a conversation with an icon. Some of the items she is able to check off fairly easily, others take a bit more effort. All are accompanied with a large dose of the laugh-out-loud humour we've come to expect from Ms Lancaster.
I've enjoyed all of Jen Lancaster's memoirs but there was something different for me about I Regret Nothing. This particular book inspired me to write my own bucket list. At a certain point in one's life, it seems natural to take stock of what you've done and what you would still like to achieve, whether it's travelling to the homeland of your ancestors or learning something new just for your own enlightenment. When all is said and done, I'm sure we can agree that regretting nothing really is the new black. (LEK)


 

Twisted Sisters (2014)

 

Successful television psychologist Reagan Bishop cannot figure out why her sister, Geri, is the family favourite. After all, Reagan is an overachieving doctor who runs marathons and eats only organic foods while Geri, a hairdresser who still lives in their parents' basement, could stand to miss a takeout meal or two. When her cable show is bought by a national network, pressures mount even further for Reagan to succeed. With the help of Deva, the show's new age guru, Reagan resorts to some rather "unorthodox" methods of generating ratings. When her methods work, and the show's ratings soar, Reagan hatches the perfect plan to show her family that Geri isn't so great after all. As you might expect, her plan backfires and she is the one who ends up learning a lesson.
While her last foray into fiction (Here I Go Again) was a hit, Twisted Sisters is more of a miss. Most of the book is spent focused on whiney Reagan and her desire to be worshipped by her family. Unfortunately, she doesn't realise the issue is her, not her family, until the end of the book and by that time, it all wraps up rather hastily. The one redeeming part to the story is the reappearance of Deva, whom we first met in Here I Go Again. She is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise tedious story of an unlikable character. (LEK)


 

The Tao of Martha (2013)

 

In her latest memoir, Jen Lancaster is taking on the queen of all domesticity, Martha Stewart. Well, she's not so much "taking on" Martha as she is "incorporating" Martha's principles into her daily life. Jen spent a year following Martha's advice on organising, decorating and entertaining. Some of it worked (Happy Easter!) and some of it didn't (no organic zucchini this year), but all of it was hilarious. Whether she is carefully introducing two new cats into her menagerie, begrudgingly carving pumpkins with husband Fletch, or crafting home-made gifts for her friends (which, by the way, really aren't any cheaper than buying gifts when you do the math), the laugh-out-loud factor is once again huge.
This time around, we also get a glimpse of "serious Jen" as she deals with a couple of difficult issues in a most touching and heartfelt way, which was a nice balance to her sarcastic humour we are so fond of. The Tao of Martha is the perfect book to add to the top of your summer reading list. And if you are looking for a take away from Jen's search for the Tao of Martha, there are two. 1) If you can't live the Tao of Martha, then live the Tao of Maisy by being awesome, giving awesome, and getting awesome, and 2) There is no such thing as too much glitter! (LEK)


 

Here I Go Again (2013)

 

Lissy Ryder is a mean girl. In high school, she was the one you steered clear of lest she pick up on your weaknesses and make your life miserable. This behaviour carries into adulthood when, at 37, Lissy abruptly loses her job, her husband leaves her, and she finds herself back living with her parents, trying to figure out where things went so horribly wrong. While attending her 20th high school reunion, she meets up with former classmate Debbie (now known as Deva), who puts her mean-girl ways into perspective. Lissy finally begins to understand how her past behaviour has contributed to her present problems. With a bit of "new age" help from Deva, Lissy is given the opportunity to set things right in the past. She soon realises, however, that although she was able to right a few wrongs, she has also altered the lives of those she cares about, and not necessarily in a good way.
Unlike her first novel, If You Were Here, Jen Lancaster's second novel takes a giant step away from her memoirs and feels more like actual fiction, rather than one of her memoirs with the names changed. The story is entertaining, humorous and well-written and the characters are perfection; those of you who grew up in the 80s will be transported back there as if it was only yesterday. Like Lissy Ryder, Jen Lancaster has gotten a fiction do-over and she's nailed it. (LEK)


 

Jeneration X (2012)

 

Jen Lancaster is back with another hilarious account of her life and this time she's decided it's time to grow up. In the latest instalment of life with Jen, our reluctant adult tackles the world of volunteering, estate planning, and home buying (and subsequently hosting her first Thanksgiving), all with the help (and grounding) of her level-headed husband, Fletch. Some of these grown-up activities stick, while others are relegated to the "I see no reason to do that again" pile. However, each provides a valuable Adult Life Lesson that Jen is all too happy to pass along to her loyal readers.
As with her previous memoirs, Jeneration X will have you laughing out loud and shaking your head at Jen's crazy antics. We've come to expect a certain level of bitter, crazy, and skewed logic from her and Jeneration X does not disappoint. A fun and quick, yet satisfying read. (LEK)


 

If You Were Here (2011)

 

After city life gets to be too much for them, Mia and Mac decide it's time to move to the Chicago suburbs. They find the home of their dreams but for entirely different reasons. Mac loves the fact that it's a fixer-upper and has a panic room (seriously) and Mia because the house was featured prominently in a John Hughes movie (duh). They move into their idyllic neighbourhood only to discover the house is in way worse shape than they originally thought and when the neighbours effectively come after them like villagers with torches, they realise the remodelling is disrupting more than just their lives. With Mac insisting he can do the work himself and Mia facing a deadline for her latest Amish-zombie-teen romance, they begin to wonder if their marriage can withstand the chaos of home repairs, and more than one instance of someone (including pets) getting trapped during the construction.
Told with Jen Lancaster's trademark dry wit, this novel is a hilarious look at what happens when people watch too much HGTV. Being familiar with Lancaster's non-fiction work, it was hard for me to separate Jen and her husband, Fletch, from Mia and Mac. However, once I got into the story, the characters became more real and the comparisons to the author's life melted away. Fans of Lancaster will not be disappointed with her first foray into fiction. (LEK)


 

My Fair Lazy (2010)

 

In Jen Lancaster's fourth memoir, she attempts to gain some culture and expand her horizons beyond reality television. The memoir begins with novelist Candace Bushnell interviewing Jen. Bushnell mentions that she is into Baudelaire. Jen panics because she has no idea who or what Baudelaire even is. This is that catalyst for Jen deciding to throw herself into new cultural experiences. The reader watches Jen as she takes on plays, opera, poetry and a commitment to eating new cuisine.
The result is a hysterical laugh-out-loud book that readers will love. There are humorous anecdotes about reality TV shows throughout the book. If you love Ed Hardy, hate Lacoste and find reality TV to be the downfall of society, then this is probably not the book for you. For everyone else, you will love it. (AO)


 

Pretty in Plaid (2009)

 

In Pretty in Plaid: A Life, a Witch, and a Wardrobe, or, the Wonder Years Before the Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smart-Ass Phase, Jen Lancaster whisks us back (in a time-travelling DeLorean, perhaps?) to the defining moments in her life that made her the snarky, ambitious fashionista we have all grown to love. Whether she is scamming her way to a badge-filled Girl Scout sash, purchasing her very first designer handbag (Liz Claiborne, thank you very much), or modelling her first interview suit for Fletch ("Does Captain Stuebing know you're not on the Lido deck right now?"), we are again treated to the self-deprecating humour that is Jen's trademark. With fashion references that anyone who lived through the 80s will cringe at (can you say big hair, Gloria Vanderbilt and jelly shoes?) you will no doubtedly relate to all that Jen went through to become, well, Jen. (LEK)


 

Such a Pretty Fat (2008)

 

Atkins, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers. Jen Lancaster has tried them all and isn't afraid to tell you what she thinks of them. Not wanting to, "you know, die," Jen Lancaster accepts the challenge of chronicling her attempts at getting healthier in her third memoir, subtitled One Narcissist's Quest to Discover If Her Life Makes Her Ass Look Big, or Why Pie Is Not the Answer. Her escapades on various weight loss programs and with multiple exercise regimens, including a trainer named ... wait for it ... Barbie, will have you laughing out loud.
For everyone who has ever eaten pre-packaged diet food and wondered "is that all there is?" or religiously worked your butt off at the gym on a daily basis only to lose a measly pound that week, this book is for you. Jen captures dieting as only she can, with her usual wit, directness and sarcasm. You will lose weight just laughing. (LEK)


 

Bright Lights, Big Ass (2007)

 

Jen Lancaster is back and as sassy as ever in her laugh-out-loud follow-up to Bitter is the New Black. In Bright Lights, Big Ass: A Self-Indulgent, Surly, Ex-Sorority Girl's Guide to Why it Often Sucks in the City, or Who are These Idiots and Why Do They All Live Next Door to Me?, Jen lets us in on a little secret . . . big city life is not exactly as glamorous as Carrie Bradshaw would have us believe. Instead of spacious, trendy apartments, sexy, single neighbours, and nightly club hopping, city dwelling is more apt to consist of small apartments with paper-thin walls, caveman-hairy Neanderthals living downstairs, and Friday nights filled with Scrabble at home with your husband. So not cool. Still temping her way around Chicago while her first book awaits publication, Jen continues to delight us with real-life tales of the city as she attempts to navigate public transportation, make friends with her annoying neighbours, and take regular trips to her beloved Target (now with Starbucks and wine!). And when the craziness of city living gets a little out of control, she has her voice of reason, Fletch, to reel her back in. (LEK)


 

Bitter is the New Black (2006)

 

Former sorority girl Jen gets laid off as a company VP during the dotcom bust and has to move out of her flash apartment. This is a bitter pill for Jen to swallow, as she is designer labels all the way. In fact the subtitle says it all: Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smart-Ass, or Why You Should Never Carry a Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office. This memoir adapted from Jen's blog charts her search for a new job and a cheaper apartment. Should she marry depressed boyfriend Fletch to score all the gifts; will she ever escape the temp job market? Jen is so self-absorbed, obnoxious and snotty (you're glad to hear she has a weight problem), that you'd probably hate to have her as a friend but her over-the-top personality makes this story an engrossing read.

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