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Jo Barrett

REVIEW: This is How It Happened by Jo Barrett

REVIEW: This is How It Happened by Jo Barrett

Dear Ms Barrett,

thisishow_cover_small.jpgA notation on the cover of “This is How It Happened” states it’s “Not a Love Story” and that’s the truth. Even for a Chick Lit book this novel has almost no romance in it. Most of the story is Maddy and her endless need for revenge against the man who done her wrong.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned but Maddy has to take some responsibility for acting like a moron. Sure I can understand that initially she’s dazzled by Carlton, his great looks, his romantic gestures and the envy of other women that he’s dating her. But since you set her up as being so smart I began to wonder at her gullibility. She’s so intelligent yet she keeps making dumb moves over and over. Love must be blind because how else would she continue to trust and believe Carlton as he screws her again and again.

And it’s not just in their private life. She makes dumb business moves like not working out a business contract before living and breathing the company they start. She accepts her reduced role in the company and the fact that she has to earn her shares. She believes that her business portfolios were lost. She let’s Carlton kick her out of a business she thought up and got going. She still sleeps with him after he didn’t tell her about his STD. She tries to keep him even after he cheats on her. And then his reaction to the pregnancy… It’s hard to feel sorry for Maddy after a while. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, or in Maddy’s case, fifteen times, and shame should be dumped on her head.

At this point, I could understand that it takes her months to, as her friend Heather urged her, get over it. The enormity of what Carlton has done to her, personally and professionally, finally sinks in and she needs to wallow a bit before dragging herself out for her revenge. At first that was kind of funny even though I kept thinking that Maddy shouldn’t be researching methods of killing on her home computer. Hasn’t she watched any A&E or Court TV shows in which the police use a criminal’s searches recorded on his/her hard drive as evidence for an arrest warrant?

Then there’s the bit about Dick the hit man and how he brings out Maddy’s inner marketing skills. I’m guessing that this is supposed to be funny to balance out the seriousness of what Maddy’s doing. Unfortunately that whole part overshot farce. Then there’s Heather’s inability to master being Jewish. Was this supposed to be a joke? All it did was make Heather look like a blonde idiot. The slightly silly tacked on subplot with Nick, and the even briefer romance – all of 2 pages – wasn’t fleshed out enough for me. Maddy goes from having to be bashed over the head to see how bad Carlton is to easily accepting the fact that Nick thought what he did about her then dating him anyway.

I liked the interaction between Maddy and her brother Ronnie. These are two siblings who really seem to care for each other and be there for each other when the going gets tough. I breezed through reading it in record time and wanted to know what would happen next. I like your writing style even if maybe I don’t like how you make your heroine act most of the time. In the end, Maddy’s revenge was inspired, tailored to fit the villain and intelligently done. So…did she really need the hit man? Was he the deus ex machina who got her creative juices flowing?

I know that one of the standard elements of Chick Lit is a heroine who does some dumb things and gets done over by a villain guy. And that she doesn’t recognize the good guy hero, who’s often not prominently featured, for a lot of the book. But this book takes these to extremes. I just got tired of watching her make stupid moves, get snowed by Carlton, and come up short over and over for most of the length of the book. Despite some things I liked, overall I’d have to give it a C-

~Jayne

This book can be purchased in mass market from Powells or ebook format.

REVIEW:  Men’s Guide to the Women’s Bathroom by Jo Barrett

REVIEW: Men’s Guide to the Women’s Bathroom by Jo Barrett

Dear Ms Barrett,

When I read the pitch for your book The Men’s Guide to the Women’s Bathroom, I was intrigued by the slight weirdness of it. Okay, who hasn’t laughed at bathroom humor at one point in their lives. But I wondered if the concept of what really goes on when women head to the loo/toilet/washroom/bagno/Ladies/Sheila’s/WC would be enough to carry an entire book. The answer? Yes, when the book is really a Texas Chick Lit.

Claire St John has returned to her hometown of Austin, TX to lick her recent divorce wounds and decide what to do with her life. Being a lawyer no longer appeals to her now that she’s broken from the NYC “my life is making partner” rat race yet there’s not much else she’s qualified to do. Not much, she realizes, until the breakthrough moment when it hits her that much of the best advice she’s ever gotten or overheard has been while in that place in which total strangers seek and offer pearls of wisdom, The Ladies Room, the place to which woman go in pairs while they dissect their lives and pick apart the men in it. Now Claire has a plan. She’ll write a book that lays out the mysteries of the Inner Sanctum to all the clueless men who think women are merely answering nature’s call. And maybe, while doing so, she’ll get past the “waiting to exhale” stage with her current man Jake and help her many female friends through their own dating crisis moments.

While this book doesn’t really offer up anything really new and inspiring in the world of Chick Lit, it’s a well done, slightly improved example of the genre. Claire is not quite as silly as some CL heroines and does come with a wicked sense of humor. Her antics aren’t cringe worthy and rarely make her look like an idiot. Her friends are also more real life than caricatures with problems we’ve all had at one time or another. Perhaps this is because you’ve made most of them be more mature and in their early 30s but it was a nice change. One character I would like to have seen done differently was Claire’s gay friend Aaron. He’s funny and has moments of depth yet ultimately ends up coming off as a cipher, at least to me, a straight woman. If a character can come off as too gay, Aaron does.

The chapters Claire writes on what really goes on in the bathroom are quite funny. I think any woman has probably experienced, at one time or another, a lot of what she includes. I also laughed when Claire recalled how her husband talked her into touring Civil War battlefields for their honeymoon instead of flying out to Hawaii. Thirty years after her own similar honeymoon, a dear friend of mine still entertains people with tales of tramping through Andersonville and across hell and half of Georgia for her own Civil War buff husband. The “Booze Cruise” taken by Claire, her boyfriend and his parents was hysterical and I think that the rivalry between graduates of “University of” schools and “A&T” schools is never ending and universal.

I did think the ultimate reunion between Claire and Jake kind of came out of nowhere though I was happy to see them back together again. I also wondered how Claire could afford to go to all the Austin eateries you mentioned though their mention does give the book a wonderful “flavor.” Sorry, couldn’t resist that!

Readers who aren’t totally Chick-Lit’ed out or who want a break from vampires and Regency Dukes should think about reading this book. It’s fast and funny and kept me entertained until the end. The post book examples of worldwide bathroom behavior (real or imagined) were a scream although the scene between the two French women, while funny, had real life French living author Laura Florand racking her brains to think of any bathroom she’d ever been in in which this might have taken place. B for “Men’s Guide to the Women’s Bathroom.”

~Jayne .