Tag Archives: chick lit

Review: My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

not-so-perfect-lifeLength: 368 pages

Publication: February 7th, 2017 by Bantam Press

Source: Random House

What it’s about:
Katie Brenner has the perfect life: a flat in London, a glamorous job, and a super-cool Instagram feed.

Ok, so the real truth is that she rents a tiny room with no space for a wardrobe, has a hideous commute to a lowly admin job, and the life she shares on Instagram isn’t really hers.

But one day her dreams are bound to come true, aren’t they?

Until her not-so perfect life comes crashing down when her mega-successful boss Demeter gives her the sack. All Katie’s hopes are shattered. She has to move home to Somerset, where she helps her dad with his new glamping business.

Then Demeter and her family book in for a holiday, and Katie sees her chance. But should she get revenge on the woman who ruined her dreams? Or try to get her job back? Does Demeter – the woman with everything – have such an idyllic life herself? Maybe they have more in common than it seems.

And what’s wrong with not-so-perfect, anyway?

What I thought:
I have a weakness for Sophie Kinsella novels, mainly because of their spunky main characters, comical scenarios, and light touch with romance. However, the last one I had read (Wedding Night) was a bust for me, so this upcoming one wasn’t even on my radar until I received a free review copy from Random House. I started reading it over Thanksgiving break and it was exactly the kind of book I needed–fun and zippy and satisfying.

I particularly liked the way the book skewers our social media culture, which encourages people to depict their lives through a rosy filter. In reality, no one’s life is perfect, and Katie learns this is true not only for herself but for those she has put on a pedestal as well. The scenes where Katie gets revenge on her oh-so-perfect boss by using her own worship of the latest fads and buzzwords against her are pure poetic justic.

There were certain fairy-tale elements to Katie’s happy ending that stretched belief, but overall the story shows us that if you work hard, treat others fairly, and stand up for yourself, you can make your own dreams come true. The book doesn’t take itself too seriously, though, and it’s laugh outloud funny at times. Recommended.

Thanks so much to Random House for providing me with a copy of this book.


Paris, Three Ways

I considered calling this post something much more French that indicates a relationship between three things, but I thought I might be setting myself up for a whole lot of unwanted spam (ahem). I’ve not been very good about posting for Paris in July, but for once I actually did read almost all of the books I had planned for this month. The two below both feature Paris as the main setting, although during three different time periods. I read these two back to back and really enjoyed getting in the Parisian mood.

Honeymoon in Paris by Jojo Moyes

15837724Format: E-book galley

Length: 75 pages

Publisher: Penguin

Source: NetGalley

From the publisher:

At the heart of Jojo Moyes’ heartbreaking new novel, The Girl You Left Behind, are two haunting love stories – that of Sophie and Edouard Lefevre in France during the First World War, and, nearly a century later, Liv Halston and her husband David.

Honeymoon in Paris takes place several years before the events to come in The Girl You Left Behind when both couples have just married. Sophie, a provincial girl, is swept up in the glamour of Belle poque Paris but discovers that loving a feted artist like Edouard brings undreamt of complications. Following in Sophie’s footsteps a hundred years later, Liv, after a whirlwind romance, finds her Parisian honeymoon is not quite the romantic getaway she had been hoping for…

Here’s what I thought:

This is a prequel novella to Jojo Moyes’ upcoming The Girl You Left Behind, which I’m hoping to be able to read soon. It sets up the stories of Sophie and Edouard in WWI Paris and Liv and David in modern day Paris. I enjoyed the writing and thought it was a great ‘teaser’ to get the reader interested in the upcoming book, although I found that Liz and David’s storyline fell a bit flat. The more interesting part of the book dealt with the characters of Sophie and Edouard, and I definitely want to know more about them and what happens in their lives. Of the two views of Paris, I also preferred the historical setting, and I look forward to learning more about Paris during this time.

The Bones of Paris by Laurie King

17262138Format: E-book galley

Length: 432 pages

Publisher: Bantam

Source: NetGalley

From the publisher:

Paris, France: September 1929. For Harris Stuyvesant, the assignment is a private investigator’s dream—he’s getting paid to troll the cafés and bars of Montparnasse, looking for a pretty young woman. The American agent has a healthy appreciation for la vie de bohème, despite having worked for years at the U.S. Bureau of Investigation. The missing person in question is Philippa Crosby, a twenty-two year old from Boston who has been living in Paris, modeling and acting. Her family became alarmed when she stopped all communications, and Stuyvesant agreed to track her down. He wholly expects to find her in the arms of some up-and-coming artist, perhaps experimenting with the decadent lifestyle that is suddenly available on every rue and boulevard.

As Stuyvesant follows Philippa’s trail through the expatriate community of artists and writers, he finds that she is known to many of its famous—and infamous—inhabitants, from Shakespeare and Company’s Sylvia Beach to Ernest Hemingway to the Surrealist photographer Man Ray. But when the evidence leads Stuyvesant to the Théâtre du Grand-Guignol in Montmartre, his investigation takes a sharp, disturbing turn. At the Grand-Guignol, murder, insanity, and sexual perversion are all staged to shocking, brutal effect: depravity as art, savage human nature on stage.

Soon it becomes clear that one missing girl is a drop in the bucket. Here, amid the glittering lights of the cabarets, hides a monster whose artistic coup de grâce is to be rendered in blood. And Stuyvesant will have to descend into the darkest depths of perversion to find a killer . . . sifting through The Bones of Paris.

Here’s what I thought:

I’d never read anything by King before, and I really enjoyed her writing style and, especially, the setting of 1920’s Paris and the artistic scene. The main character of Harris Stuyvesant is a bit of an cliché–the hard living detective with a heart–but the plot was fast-paced and easy to follow, albeit with a few too many détours into bars and clubs with very little result. There are lots of generic female characters (I lost track of all the 20-something blonds) but the female character of Sarah was an interesting one, and I wish that I had read the previous book in the series (Touchstone) to have understood her backstory a bit better.

The mystery itself is not too difficult to unravel, but the events that happen along the way shed light on a side of 1920’s Paris that I didn’t know anything about–that of the Surrealists and the more avant-garde forms of artistic expression. The connection between the recent history of WWI and the art that was  produced as a result was interesting if a bit disturbing. I found myself looking up names of people and places to learn more.

This was a fascinating read from a cultural point of view, and I’m definitely going to look for more of King’s mysteries. Recommended.

Thanks so much to NetGalley and the respective publishers for providing me with a copy of these books.

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Paris In July

Two Great Beach Reads

I was lucky to receive an email from NetGalley about these two books before I left on vacation, as they ended up being exactly what I needed–great beach reads. Although they’re different in style, I enjoyed them both and zipped through them, completely absorbed in the stories they tell.

Finding Colin Firth by Mia March

16058650Format: E-book galley

Length: 336 pages

Publisher: Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books

Source: NetGalley

From the publisher:

After losing her job and leaving the husband she dearly loves, twenty-nine-year-old journalist Gemma Hendricks is desperate to save her career by scoring an interview with Colin Firth. But a much more local story steals her heart—and just may save her rocky marriage too. Thirty-eight-year-old waitress Veronica Russo, shocked by the unannounced arrival of the daughter she gave up for adoption two decades ago, becomes an extra on the movie set, wondering if happy endings—and a real life Mr. Darcy—are even possible. Twenty-two-year-old student Bea Crane, alone and adrift, longs to connect with Veronica, her birth mother, but she’ll discover more than she ever imagined in this coastal Maine town. And just when they least expect it in a summer full of surprises, all three women may find what they’re looking for most of all…

Here’s what I thought:

This is the story of three women who are each, for different reasons, going through a period of personal crisis. Although there is emotional drama, nothing really bad happens and all the main characters are likeable. While this might sound a little boring, the setting of small town coastal Maine is fun and inviting, and there’s even a bit of romance thrown in to keep it interesting.  My favorite character was Veronica, the town pie-maker extraordinaire, and reading about all the different pies made me alternately hungry and inspired to get into the kitchen (I’ve even since bought a pie cookbook, although I haven’t tried to make anything yet). The ending of the book was predictable but it didn’t keep me from enjoying the story. Recommended beach reading.

The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler

16058645Format: E-book galley

Length: 352 pages

Publisher: Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books

Source: NetGalley

From the publisher:

Impressionable and idealistic, Esme Garland is a young British woman who finds herself studying art history in New York. She loves her apartment and is passionate about the city and her boyfriend; her future couldn’t look brighter. Until she finds out that she’s pregnant.  

Esme’s boyfriend, Mitchell van Leuven, is old-money rich, handsome, successful, and irretrievably damaged. When he dumps Esme—just before she tries to tell him about the baby—she resolves to manage alone. She will keep the child and her scholarship, while finding a part-time job to make ends meet. But that is easier said than done, especially on a student visa.  

The Owl is a shabby, second-hand bookstore on the Upper West Side, an all-day, all-night haven for a colorful crew of characters: handsome and taciturn guitar player Luke; Chester, who hyperventilates at the mention of Lolita; George, the owner, who lives on protein shakes and idealism; and a motley company of the timeless, the tactless, and the homeless. The Owl becomes a nexus of good in a difficult world for Esme—but will it be enough to sustain her? Even when Mitchell, repentant and charming, comes back on the scene?

Here’s what I thought:

It’s fair to say that this book was not what I expected. It starts off reading like chick lit (and I really enjoy well-written chick lit and don’t use the term in a derogatory way), but then it surprised me by becoming something else. What, exactly, it becomes is hard to define. Although Esme is in general a positive person, the story is not particularly “light”, with a lot of very real emotional angst and touching on deeper subjects. As a PhD student in art history, the character of Esme is the essence of an enlightened woman, yet she makes choices that fly in the face of logic and reason. I had a really hard time with this, even as I admired the way Meyler portrays her. There is also a lot of clever writing, and I found myself highlighting lines throughout my reading of the book. The story did not go at all in the direction that I expected, and although I would have liked more closure by the end of the novel, I have to be impressed by the way Meyler doesn’t write the story the way you think she will (or even should). I think the story will stay with me longer because of it, and because of the unexpected realism in what I thought would be a light-hearted beach read. Recommended.

Thanks so much to NetGalley and Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books for providing me with a copy of these books.

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Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

12649718Format: E-book (review copy)

Length: 384 pages

Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books

Source: Edelweiss

From Goodreads:

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

Here’s what I thought:

I had heard a lot of good things about this book before I started it, although I honestly didn’t know anything about the plot, other than one friend telling me it was a tear-jerker. I think in a way this was a good thing, as it’s a pretty intense situation that is presented, and I might have had preconceived notions or opinions that could have colored my reading of the book. Instead, I really got to know the main characters, Louisa and Will, before the central problem of the book is revealed.

Louisa (Lou) is in her mid-20’s, somewhat naive, and has lived a fairly sheltered life in the bosom of her working-class family. She’s never really been anywhere or done anything, having suffered a personal trauma that has made her skittish of life. At the same time, she has an unconventional fashion sense and loves bright and colorful things, she’s chatty and generally upbeat and positive.

Will has suffered his own trauma, a dramatic accident that leaves him a quadraplegic. After having lived as a privileged high-flying businessman as well as an active sportsman and ladies’ man, the transition to a small life, confined to a chair, is devastating to him. After she loses her job as a local cafe, Lou is hired by Will’s family to be his companion, to basically cheer him up and to make him see that life can still be worth living.

And so it begins–a relationship that will change both Lou and Will forever. Most of the book is devoted to the development of this relationship, as it affects the principle characters as well as their other relationships and their general situations in life. There are lots of ups and downs in the story, and I thought that the way it was presented was realistic and quite gripping, despite their being little in the way of action or major plot developments. It’s a quiet story, but one that is well worth reading for the bigger questions it explores about what it means to love someone and how we choose to live our lives.

My one complaint about the book would be with the character of Lou, who I didn’t really ever connect with on a personal level. She is in many ways a contradiction, supposedly this sort of bohemian free spirit and yet actually very passive when it comes to her own life. She seems to have a hard time making any choices for herself, rather letting herself be swept along by other people’s wants and needs. Will, on the other hand, comes across as much more mature and believable as a character, and I liked him a lot. I was never really sure what he saw in Lou, other than a sort of prodigy that he could mold by exposing her to a bit of culture and the wider world.

Overall though, Me Before You is a well-written and thought-provoking book, and I would definitely recommend it.

Thanks so much to Edelweiss and Pamela Dorman Books for providing me with a review copy of this book.

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Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

This was the only standalone book by Kinsella that I hadn’t read, and as I loved I’ve Got Your Number, I was excited to finally get this one from the library.  I read most of it this weekend during Dewey’s Read-a-Thon, and although it took me longer than I expected to get into the story, in the end I really enjoyed it.

From Goodreads:

Lara Lington has always had an overactive imagination, but suddenly that imagination seems to be in overdrive. Normal professional twenty-something young women don’t get visited by ghosts. Or do they?

When the spirit of Lara’s great-aunt Sadie—a feisty, demanding girl with firm ideas about fashion, love, and the right way to dance—mysteriously appears, she has one request: Lara must find a missing necklace that had been in Sadie’s possession for more than seventy-five years, because Sadie cannot rest without it. 

Lara and Sadie make a hilarious sparring duo, and at first it seems as though they have nothing in common. But as the mission to find Sadie’s necklace leads to intrigue and a new romance for Lara, these very different “twenties” girls learn some surprising truths from and about each other. Written with all the irrepressible charm and humor that have made Sophie Kinsella’s books beloved by millions, Twenties Girl is also a deeply moving testament to the transcendent bonds of friendship and family.

The premise of the book, that Lara is suddenly visited by the ghost of her dead great-aunt Sadie, took me a while to buy into.  Plus, Sadie is a bit of a flake–she comes across as very self-absorbed at the beginning of the novel, and I found her presence more annoying than anything.  I mean, Lara has enough problems without this ghost coming around to cause more trouble.  In the first third of the book, I found it difficult to like either of them, and Lara’s life is such a mess that you can’t help wondering if there’s anyway she can turn it around.

Things start to look up, however, when she stops letting herself be so controlled by Sadie’s wishes and begins to embrace being a Twenties Girl for herself.  There are some funny scenes, particularly Lara’s first date with Ed, and I liked the fact that she really started to care about Sadie as a person.  I think it showed a lot about how society tends to think of elderly people as being no longer relevant or having nothing interesting to share, but Sadie’s life story turns out to be fascinating and she ends up making a lasting impact, and not just on Lara.

I can’t say that I liked the book as much as some of Kinsella’s others, but the last half of the book is particularly good and it’s definitely a fun read.

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I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

Poppy Wyatt is a lucky woman.  She’s got a career that she enjoys, a brilliant and sexy fiancé, and her wedding is only days away.   Unfortunately, her luck seems to turn when she unexpectedly loses her antique, family-heirloom engagement ring and has her cell phone stolen–all in the same afternoon.  In a fit of panic at the thought of being out-of-touch (could anything be more devastating for a modern woman than being without a mobile phone?  Horrors!), Poppy sees a phone in the trash and scoops it up, claiming it for her own.  She gives her new number to everyone and starts playing secretary to the former owner of the phone, a flaky PA to an important businessman, Sam Roxton.

When she and Sam finally meet face-to-face, Poppy promises to fill in for his missing PA by passing on any messages that arrive for him via the phone.  Thus begins a relationship that will immerse Poppy in Sam’s world and vice-versa, as they begin to depend on each other for support, advice, friendship, and maybe more…

I’ve read most of Sophie Kinsella’s books, from her popular Shopaholic series to her stand-alone novels.  I tend to prefer the latter, and this book was no exception.  The writing is quick, fun, and full of humor.  Kinsella creates a likeable heroine in Poppy, a quirky young woman with a good heart.  You can’t help but shake your head at the problems she creates for herself by trying to manage Sam’s life, but she has hidden depths as well.  She is insecure in her role as fiancée to an academic with an equally erudite family, and the loss of her own parents at a young age shows her vulnerability as well.

One thing I really like about Kinsella’s books is that she takes the time to develop the relationship between the two main romantic characters in a way that makes it believable.  The characters may show some attraction from the beginning, but they get to know one another as people, too–both the good and the bad. The slow build of romantic tension makes the chemistry between the characters even stronger, and when they do get their happy ending, it feels deserved.

Two rather unique aspects that characterized the book were the use of texting and footnotes.  Poppy loves her phone and text messages, and she and Sam get to know each other through their back and forth texting.  It gives them a way to say things to each other that might not be possible in person.  In a particularly memorable part of the book, Sam is outside a hotel at night, and he and Poppy text back and forth to find each other, and in the process confess how much they admire and appreciate one another–something that Poppy admits she never could have done to Sam’s face at that time.

The footnotes are used by Poppy to further explain or give details of particular points she makes as the narrator, and they are a tip of the hat to her fiancé’s academic background.  I found it interesting that Kinsella chose to use such different methods of communication–one very modern and informal and the other quite archaic and formal–that to me highlighted the difference in her relationships with the two male characters of Magnus and Sam.

The one problem I had with the footnotes was due to the fact that I was reading a galley, e-book version of the text, and the footnotes didn’t match up to the pages on my Kindle.  I kept having to page forward to find the footnoted text that corresponded to the number.  This is something that I assume will be fixed by the official release of the book.

All in all, I really enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Kinsella, chick lit, or just well-written, fun romantic fiction.

Thanks so much to NetGalley, Random House Publishing Group and The Dial Press for providing me with a review copy of this book.

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Spying in High Heels by Gemma Halliday

My first book of the new year, and it was a free one I downloaded on my shiny new Christmas present–a Kindle Fire (more on that later)!  As it was a freebie I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised.  Judging by her website, Gemma Halliday is a prolific writer of chick lit mysteries, and her High Heels series centers around a late-twenties children’s shoe designer with a penchant for fast food and trouble.

Maddie Springer is a bit of dumb blonde.  As the series begins, she is presented as a fairly traditional chick lit heroine.  She loves beauty and fashion, has insecurities about herself and men, and has a wacky cast of friends and family.  However, she has a good heart, and most of the mayhem that ensues springs out of trying to help others or do the right thing.  In this first installment, the plot revolves around a situation with her current boyfriend, an anal-retentive lawyer named Richard, who goes missing.  In the process of trying to find out what has happened to him, Maddie unwittingly uncovers crimes of embezzlement and murder that lead her into some dangerous situations.  She also comes up against Ramirez, a Mexican alpha-male homicide detective who is trying to find Richard as well, albeit with less kindly intentions.

Throw in baby drama, sexual tension, and a lot of fun, and you have the High Heel mysteries.  I really enjoyed how light and fun the book was, and the chemistry between Maddie and Ramirez is great.  Halliday is a good plotter, with no lag time in the story and plenty of fun adventures.  Although there are quite a few stereotypical elements to the book, it still reads as fresh thanks to the skillful, witty writing.

In short, this book was exactly what I was looking for from a “vacation” read, and I’ve already got the next book in the series queued up on my Kindle.

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