Becky’s Two Hundred and Seventy-Fourth Book Review: “The Runaway Princess” by Hester Browne

“The Runaway Princess” by Hester Browne was a really fun read that kept a smile on my face for most of the book. Sometimes a lighthearted read is just what the doctor ordered after reading too many edge of your seat thrillers. My other reading experience with Hester Browne was The Little Lady Agency series. Books that I highly enjoyed, but overall felt a little frustrated with, not to mention slightly disgusted at the behavior of the main character’s family. I was hoping that “The Runaway Princess” would stand alone as a separate book and not follow a formula that so many authors seem to fall into these days. I was pleased that this book did not go in the direction I was expecting and that the main character’s parents were good people.

Amy Wilde was a fun main character that I felt myself relating to quite a bit. More of an introvert than her roommate, Amy is way outside her comfort zone at the heaven/hell party Jo throws at their London flat. After promising to not spend the whole party hiding in the kitchen, Amy reluctantly finds herself in the midst of the festivity being chatted up by a mysterious stranger. “I guessed this was how a rabbit felt, shortly before being swallowed whole by a boa constrictor, scared but oddly flattered at the same time.” (The Runaway Princess, pg 27) I liked this quote because it made me laugh and it gives a good sense of who Amy is; she’s the kind of girl that doesn’t expect to be the focus of a sexy stranger’s attention. This sexy stranger turns out to be Rolf – a prince that has sort of dated Jo. What Amy doesn’t realize at the time is that the guy who talked Rolf down and got him to behave (sort of) was Rolf’s brother, Leo who is also a prince. And thus, we move into the love story.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, it was a fun read. It isn’t one that is going to really stimulate your intellect, but it is nice to sometimes allow yourself to get lost in a junk food read and that is exactly what “The Runaway Princess” delivered. I’m glad that Hester Browne’s stand alone novel was a fun read and I will definitely continue to read her books!

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Becky’s Two Hundred and Thirty Ninth Book Review: “The Waitress” by Melissa Nathan

“The Waitress” by Melissa Nathan was a quirky chic-lit book that I just happened upon. I’m not certain where it came from, but it appeared on my bookshelf when I was looking for a light read, so I grabbed it. I was a little surprised at the different directions that the book went off in, but overall found myself interested in Katie. The book has a romantic side to it, but there is also a lot of focus on Katie trying to discover who she is and who she wants to be.

Part of what I enjoyed about “The Waitress” was just how relatable I found Katie to be – her indecisive nature, her attitude towards life, her ability to get super lost while driving, her extreme sarcastic nature – all attributes that I share. Her knack for becoming comfortable right before she has to wake up: “She rolled over. And then, oh joy, she was unable to move. She was, quite unexpectedly, more comfortable than she had ever been in her life. She focused on it so as not to forget the feeling. Yes, her body had chanced upon a position that made all other positions a nonsense. Her limbs felt light with the luxury of it. The spaced between them were perfection. There was probably an equation for it. Every feather in her duvet had found its optimum position, and as for her pillow, it was a cloud. Her head seemed to be cushioned in cotton wool. All thoughts were clear here. All emotions profound. Was this what heaven felt like? Why, she thought, had this not happened ten hours ago? Why had she spent an entire night trying to get this comfortable? Why had she not tried this position? It was hardly complicated. Her body almost hummed with happiness. She was the closest she’d ever come to purring. It felt as if time had stood still.” (The Waitress, pg 110/111). I thought this was pretty funny, and a good illustration of the way that Melissa Nathan writes.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, it was a fun read and it wasn’t overly predictable like many chic-lit novels tend to be. I liked that in addition to the perspective of Katie, we got a peak into the other character’s minds. I wouldn’t have minded a little more development with the other characters, but it was enjoyable. I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to read “The Waitress” again, but it was worth reading once. If I happened upon another novel by Melissa Nathan, I would read it.

 

 

Becky’s Two Hundred and Thirty-Second Book Review: “Shopaholic to the Rescue” by Sophie Kinsella

“Shopaholic to the Rescue” by Sophie Kinsella was amazing. I have always been a fan of Sophie Kinsella and I can relate so well to the main character in the shopaholic series – Becky Brandon nèe Bloomwood. I have to say, I think Kinsella outdid herself; I enjoyed this book so much.

SPOILER ALERT – Don’t read further if you haven’t read the previous Shopaholic books! (Unless of course you don’t care about spoilers.)

“Shopaholic to the Rescue” picks up right where “Shopaholic to the Stars” left off. Becky, Luke, Suze, Becky’s mom, Janice, Alicia-bitch-longlegs, and Minnie are in an RV on a mission to find Becky’s dad and Suze’s husband. The group believes that Tarquin (Suze’s husband) was brainwashed by Bryce and they don’t know what is going on with Becky’s dad beyond a mysterious message saying he had to put something right. Despite the serious situation that everyone believed themselves to be in, I was giggling into my book by page two. I love the way that Kinsella writes these novels. She breaks the narration up with letters and emails that add to the story in such a unique way. I was very pleased to see the return of her old bank manager in these email communications.

I love Becky, but I think that Minnie has become my favorite character in the Shopaholic books. She is just hilarious. I think that Sophie Kinsella has a real talent for capturing the behaviors of a two-year-old, and it is safe to say that Minnie is not your average child. “She doesn’t yell “Miiiiiiiine” anymore, which used to be her catchphrase. Instead, she says, “I like it.” We’ll walk around the supermarket and all she keeps saying is, “I like it, I like it, Mummy,” more and more earnestly, as thought she’s trying to convert me to some new religion.” (Shopaholic to the Rescue, pg 81). Every interaction with Minnie was cracking me up. I think that having a child has really matured the main character and made for a whole new level to the Shopaholic saga.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely!! I love the Shopaholic series and I think that the further into the series that we get, the better Sophie Kinsella’s writing gets. I was impressed with the diversity in her writing that I saw in “Shopaholic to the Rescue” and although I was a little angry that “Shopaholic to the Stars” was a bit of a cliffhanger rather than ending in a nice bow like the other Shopaholic books, this was an amazing second part. This latest book was probably the most well-written Becky Bloomwood book. I cannot wait to read the next book and I hope Sophie Kinsella keeps them coming.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Twenty-Fifth Book Review: “A Little Something Different” by Sandy Hall

“A Little Something Different” by Sandy Hall was a really fun read. By the seventh page I knew that this was a book I would connect with. “When I finish taking roll, I jump back into my spiel. “I’ve got a theory,” I say. / “That it’s a demon,” Lea says, so quietly I almost miss it, and I probably would have, but she slaps a surprised hand in front of her mouth. I see Gabe turn to her and smile. / “A dancing demon?” he says quietly. / And then in my finest Rupert Giles impression of all time I say, “No, something isn’t right there.” / No one else seems to get the joke, but it’s in that moment that I know my couple of the semester is going to be Gabe and Lea.” (A Little Something Different, pg 7). When I read this passage, I instantly knew that I would get along with the author. I am a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, and that quote was a reference to season 6, the episode called “Once More With Feeling,” which is an amazing episode. Throughout “A Little Something Different” I really enjoyed myself. It lived up to its title, it really was different.

“A Little Something Different” is a love story told from many different perspectives. When I learned about this book, I assumed that there would be several different people telling the story, and while that was true, there was also a park bench and a squirrel that chimed in during this tale. I really liked the idea behind this, sometimes you think about how animals would think or react to certain situations, so having a squirrel as one of the narrators wasn’t a huge stretch. The fact that there was also a park bench that narrated parts of “A Little Something Different,” well, that took the book to a whole new level of crazy. This was certainly not the most sophisticated writing, but it was entertaining.

One thing that I didn’t love about this book was the fact that someone did not do a good job copyediting it. There is one part in the book (page 88) where the word that was supposed to be used was ‘why’ and instead the word ‘way’ was used. That made me pretty angry. Whoever copyedited this book should be fired. But that was really the only issue I took with this book. It was entertaining and I think, especially considering how many different narrators there were, that Sandy Hall did a good job developing the characters as much as she did. I found myself cheering for Gabe and Lea as the book progressed.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, it was a really fun read and I think almost anyone looking for a light read would enjoy it. “A Little Something Different” could probably be put in the young adult genre; it was fun and light. It is a book that would be more likely to appeal to a female audience, but I think the quirkiness throughout the novel could make it interesting for anyone. I fully intend to read any more books that Sandy Hall decides to write.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Twenty-Fourth Book Review: “Hope in a Jar” by Beth Harbison

“Hope in a Jar” by Beth Harbison follows two women, Allie and Olivia, over the span of their friendship as kids, and into their adult lives. Early on we learn that these friends drifted apart after something cataclysmic occurred, but we are left wondering what that was. “She only remembered it as the night that changed the rest of her life. The night she learned that she was made of weak stuff and needed to live her life as safely as possible because she didn’t have the strength to go out and take on the world by herself.” (Hope in a Jar, pg 276). They reconnect after years during a high school reunion, which neither of them was planning on attending. I thought this novel was a serendipitous choice. I was unaware of there being a reunion in the book before I picked it up, but my own ten-year high school reunion is coming up in just a few weeks. I have high hopes that it goes better for me in real life than it did for the characters in “Hope in a Jar,” but we will just have to wait and see on that one.

When we meet Allie and Olivia as kids we learn that Olivia does not have a happy home life like Allie does and therefore she spends most of her time at Allie’s home. I felt that Harbison was able to capture the interactions of two teen girls very well, from talking about boys they like, to discussing the class mean girl, I was continually entertained. The jump between the two characters and the two timelines was definitely interesting. There were times when you were completely absorbed in what was going to happen in the past and then you found yourself catapulted into the adult lives of Allie and Olivia. It made for some interesting reading.

The biggest issue I had with this book was that it felt like the author spent a lot of time building up backstory around the main characters, and not a lot of time connecting part one to part two. There was also minimal development on other characters in the book. It seemed like she wrote the ending first and then had to backpedal to create enough content for a book. The way that the story ended was too neat, and a bit anticlimactic after all the build up throughout the book.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, it was a fun read. Beth Harbison’s books are definitely directed towards a female audience and this is not the kind of book that I would say could appeal to men as well, “Hope in a Jar” is right in that ‘chic-lit’ genre. It’s very light reading although there are some heavier issues that are addressed. It’s entertaining, but a book that I probably will not pick up again. I will continue to read anything else that Haribson writes. Her books are without fail entertaining, and something I can get lost in for a bit.

Becky’s Two Hundred and Sixth Book Review: “Finding Audrey” by Sophie Kinsella

“Finding Audrey” by Sophie Kinsella was so good. It’s her first young adult novel and I was a little apprehensive about it because of that, but I really enjoyed this book. So much so, that I was literally laughing aloud while reading it on the train on my way into work and I devoured it in one day. It was amusing and entertaining, but it also covered a much deeper issue and I think Sophie Kinsella did this well.

When we meet Audrey, she is suffering from an anxiety disorder that surfaced after an unpleasant incident at school. She had a complete breakdown and had to leave school and spend time in the hospital while she got over the worst of it. Now she is staying at home, working on her recovery, which is a very slow process. She cannot be around other people, and she wears dark glasses all the time. “Finding Audrey” is about her trying to pick herself back up again, and while she is doing that she is interacting for the most part only with her immediate family. I really enjoyed Audrey’s family. She has the overprotective mother that takes advice from the articles she reads in the newspaper a little too seriously, “She’s not talking to me. She’s talking to the Imaginary Daily Mail Judge, who constantly watches her life and gives it marks out of ten.” (Finding Audrey, pg 19). Her older brother Frank is moody and always playing video games, and Felix, her 4-year-old brother is just hilarious. ““I will fight the chicken pops with my sword,” he says importantly. “I’m a very strong fighter.”” (Finding Audrey, pg 53). Audrey’s dad is great, he’s supportive and sweet, and frequently living in his own world removed from the conversation.

Besides her family, Audrey goes to see her doctor on a regular basis, which is the only time she ever leaves the house. Her doctor gives her some homework: she asks Audrey to get a video camera and make a movie. Audrey is instructed to be a fly-on-the-wall and just observe for a few days and then to try to work up to interviewing her family, and then try interviewing someone outside of her family. What I found really neat about this was that once she was given this assignment, the book was split up between a narrative and a screenplay, which was a lot of fun.

I liked that Sophie Kinsella had Audrey wearing dark glasses to guard herself from the outside world. Audrey gives a bit of an explanation about the dark glasses, “…if you ask me, most people underestimate eyes. For a start, they’re powerful. They have range. You focus on someone a hundred feet away, through a whole bunch of people, and they know you’re looking at them. What other bit of human anatomy can do that? It’s practically being psychic, is what it is.

But they’re like vortexes too. They’re infinite. You look someone straight in the eye and your whole soul can be sucked out in a nanosecond. That’s what it feels like. Other people’s eyes are limitless and that’s what scares me.” (Finding Audrey, pg 27). I thought this was a pretty powerful and insightful statement.

Would I recommend this book? Definitely – it is something that would be especially enjoyable to the female readers out there, but that doesn’t mean that guys wouldn’t like it too. I almost feel like it would be a good book to share with any parents that find themselves in a similar boat as Audrey’s parents. It’s fictional, sure, but reading about Audrey’s illness from her perspective could help some parents better understand why some things work and other things don’t, and how it is a slow process to get better. I think it is a great book to read for entertainment’s sake, but it could also be used almost as an educational tool for anyone in a situation similar to Audrey’s.

Becky’s One Hundred and Eighty-Second Book Review: “Shopaholic to the Stars” by Sophie Kinsella

“Shopaholic to the Stars” by Sophie Kinsella is the latest in the Shopaholic series featuring the infamous Becky Brandon née Bloomwood. I was extremely excited when this book came out and couldn’t wait to start it. But I ended up putting off starting the book because I wanted to wait until I had time to devour the whole book in one sitting. After having the book in my possession for weeks I finally broke down and dove back into Becky’s world.

The premise for “Shopaholic to the Stars” involves Luke, Becky, and Minnie moving to L.A. for a few months so Luke can expand Brandon Communications to cater to celebrities. Becky takes quickly to the L.A. scene and soon finds herself shopping for exercise outfits and of course hilarity ensues when she finds herself stuck in an outfit. Instead of taking it back off, she decides to wear it home. “As soon as I get back to the hotel room, I’ll cut the whole thing off myself with a pair of nail scissors and dispose of the remains in a public bin so Luke doesn’t find them and say What’s this? or You mean you bought it even though you knew it didn’t fit? or something else really annoying.” (Shopaholic to the Stars, pg 9). I thought this was very typical Becky-behavior. Her interactions with Luke are one of the most ridiculous parts of the Shopaholic series. Becky’s imagination frequently runs away from her and she tends to get frustrated when Luke inevitably reels her back into reality. “This is typical. Luke always lets practical plans get in the way of creative inspiration.” (Shopaholic to the Stars, pg 57).

As a wife Becky is pretty ridiculous, but as a mother…she’s something else. Minnie has proven that she has a strong personality in the previous book in the series “Mini Shopaholic” and she continues to exhibit hilarious behavior. “For a long time, my daughter’s favorite word was “mine.” Now, after intensive training, we’ve got her on to the word “please.” Which you’d think would be an improvement.
I swivel around wildly and finally spot Minnie. She’s balanced on a stone bench, tussling with Suze’s son Wilfrid over a red plastic truck.
“Pleeease!” she’s yelling crossly. “Pleeease!” Now, to my horror, she starts hitting Wilfrid with the truck, yelling with each blow: “Please! Please! Please!”
The trouble is, Minnie hasn’t really absorbed the spirit of the word “please.”” (Shopaholic to the Stars, pg 78). I loved this; Minnie is such a funny character.

Becky’s interactions in L.A. are intriguing. Because of what Luke is trying to accomplish, Becky finds herself in a position where she is able to meet celebrities and attend red carpet events. Suze and Tarquin come out to the West Coast to visit with Becky and Luke and end up tagging along for some of these events. It was pretty ridiculous reading about Tarquin meeting and chatting with some of the Hollywood personalities. “Luke has been bursting into laughter a lot – especially when some studio executive asked Tarkie what was his view of the American Pie franchise and Tarkie said, gosh, he wasn’t sure – was it similar to Starbucks?” (Shopaholic to the Stars, pg 206). In “Shopaholic to the Stars” a lot was happening including Becky’s old rival Alicia Bitch Long-Legs comes back into the picture. Although there is a lot that happened, especially in the second half of the book, I don’t want to give away the whole book. I will say that one things built upon the other and it made for a very exciting second half.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, although I was disappointed with the fact that things were not wrapped up as neatly as the previous Shopaholic books have been. I always enjoy reading about the many adventures of Becky Brandon née Bloomwood and I usually find myself laughing aloud throughout the book. That wasn’t the case right away with “Shopaholic to the Stars”. There were some moments that I thought were funny, but I didn’t find myself laughing aloud the same way that I have in the past. I’m still very much looking forward to the next book in the series, especially because I cannot wait to see what happens! Sophie Kinsella has assured me that she is working on the next book, so hopefully it will be out soon.