Tag Archives: CLC10

Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

It’s time to review another book for the Chick Lit Challenge. This time I’m discussing Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella.

From goodreads.com

 Mini Shopaholic (Shopaholic #6) by Sophie Kinsella Nothing comes between Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood) and her bargains. Neither act of God nor budget crunch can shatter her dreams of wall-to-wall Prada. Every milestone in her well-shopped life (travel, long-lost sister, marriage, pregnancy) inspires new vistas to explore in the name of retail therapy. But now she faces her greatest little challenge yet: Becky’s two-year-old daughter, Minnie.

While motherhood has been everything Becky dreamed it would be—Baby Dior, Little Marc Jacobs, and Dolce & Gabbana for toddlers—adorable Minnie is wreaking havoc everywhere she goes, from Harrods to her own christening. Her favorite word is “MINE!” and her penchant for Balenciaga bags, Chanel sunglasses, and online purchases has no rival under age five.

Becky is at her wits end. On top of this, she and her husband Luke are still living with her parents. Thankfully it appears house buying attempt number four is a go! Until a huge financial crisis causes panic everywhere, and nobody wants to shop—not Becky’s personal shopping clientele, not her friends, nobody. And with Luke in the doldrums, it’s time for Becky to step in—with a party: A surprise birthday party for Luke (on a budget) is the perfect antidote to everyone’s woes. At first.

Will Becky manage to keep the party of the year a surprise? Can she hire jugglers, fire-eaters, and acrobats at a discount? Will enlisting the help of Luke’s unflappable assistant to convince him to have another baby realize her dream of matching pom-poms? Will Minnie find a new outlet for her energetic and spirited nature (perhaps one with sixty percent markdowns)? She is, after all, a chip off the old shopping block. And everyone knows a committed shopper always finds a way.

Sophie Kinsella has written six books in her Shopaholic Series. The first three books were cute and endearing. Becky’s various dramas and inability to save money were amusing. Her skill at finding a way to fix everything at the last minute had you rooting for her throughout the story. I found these books to be quite enjoyable.

The last two books in the series were a different story. Becky showed little growth as a character. Her antics–which started off as funny–became repetitive. When I’m reading a story, I hope to see the main character grow and change; something Becky seems unable to do. Her lack of growth led to books that felt repetitive and formulaic.

This disappointing pattern is not broken in Mini Shopaholic. The only difference in Becky’s latest adventure is the addition of a two-year-old accomplice. Becky is now able to excuse her shopping habits by passing them off as her daughter’s. This small addition is not enough to make the plot interesting. I struggled to get through the first half of the book. I kept hoping that the “How does Becky get herself out of trouble this time” storyline was enough to continue reading. Luckily it was worth the wait.

The first half of this book was mostly a tale of self-indulgence and reckless behavior. By contrast, the second half was interesting and moving. I enjoyed how the relationship between Luke and his estranged mother was explored. This story grabbed my attention and made me want to keep reading. The storyline did not entirely save the book, but made me glad I stuck with it.

As always, the book ended as a setup for another addition in the Shopaholic series. I would be interested in reading this next book to see what is in store for Luke and his mother. Unfortunately I feel this followup story will again focus primarily on Becky and her flighty tendencies. I would have hoped by now that she had learned something, but clearly not. Perhaps the next tale will be the one in which we finally see Becky grow as a character.

Review: I feel as if this book would be more enjoyable to someone unfamiliar with the series. As a standalone story, the plot is interesting. As part of a series, it feels recycled. There are only so many times I can read about Becky’s repeated mistakes before I start wondering why she has yet to learn anything. For fans of the series, I suggest this as a library read. It is OK but not worth the $13.50 purchase price.

Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin

Even though I was eagerly anticipating this book’s release, it sat on my bookshelf for four months. I finally got some inspiration to pick it up this weekend. Although this is not a banned book, it does help me cross of another book on my Chick Lit Challenge list. Here is my review of Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin.

Heart Of The Matter book coverTessa Russo is the mother of two young children and the wife of a renowned pediatric surgeon. Despite her own mother’s warnings, Tessa has recently given up her career to focus on her family and the pursuit of domestic happiness. From the outside, she seems destined to live a charmed life.

Valerie Anderson is an attorney and single mother to six-year-old Charlie–a boy who has never known his father. After too many disappointments, she has given up on romance–and even to some degree, friendships–believing that it is always safer not to expect too much.

Although both women live in the same Boston suburb, the two have relatively little in common aside from a fierce love for their children. But one night, a tragic accident causes their lives to converge in ways no one could have imagined.

In alternating, pitch-perfect points of view, Emily Giffin creates a moving, luminous story of good people caught in untenable circumstances. Each being tested in ways they never thought possible. Each questioning everything they once believed. And each ultimately discovering what truly matters most.

Heart of the Matter was one of the Books of Summer that I was eagerly anticipating. In that post I talked about two reasons I loved Giffin’s work. The first is her skill at depicting interpersonal relationships. The second is the characters she creates. Both of these skills were well represented in her latest novel.

The main thing that stuck with me after I finished this book was the realness of it. I believe this feeling was a result of the characters Giffin created. Often I find characters to be either “too perfect” or “too flawed.” When this happens, I find it difficult to become interested in the plot due to the lack of reality in the characters. In this story each character is believable due to their good mix of strengths and flaws. Each character is balanced enough to make them feel like real people instead of plot points.

The credibility of the characters lead to a quality of realism to the story. At some points the story was so personal that I felt like I was snooping into a neighbor’s life. I felt guilty enough to want to put the book down; however, my curiosity got the better of me. While this book could have easily been predictable, I never wondered what came next. I think this was due to the fact I was riveted by what I was reading and didn’t want the experience to end.

Review: I was a bit reserved in my excitement about this book due to the fact I had not enjoyed Griffin’s last two releases as much as her first two. This book ended up being perhaps my favorite of her novels. Giffin again demonstrated her great storytelling ability, creating great characters whose experiences will stay with me.

Promises to Keep by Jane Green

Another of my Books of Summer has been released, and read. This time I’m reviewing Promises to Keep by Jane Green.

From Goodreads.com

Promised to Keep by Jane Green
Callie Perry is a successful family photographer living in upstate New York. She adores her two daughters, has great friends, and actually doesn’t mind that her workaholic husband gets home at 9 p.m. every night-that is, when he’s not traveling six months out of the year.

Callie’s younger sister, Steff, on the other hand, has never grown up. She’s a free spirit, living in downtown Manhattan and bouncing between jobs and boyfriends. Lately, she’s been working as a vegan chef, even though she can’t cook.

Lila Grossman is Callie’s best friend and has finally met the man of her dreams. Eddie has two wonderful children, but also a drama queen ex-wife who hates Lila. And then there are Callie and Steff’s parents, Walter Cutler and Honor Pitman. Divorced for thirty years, they rarely speak to each other.

The lives of these colorful characters intersect when they each receive a shocking note that summons them together for one extraordinary summer in Maine and changes their lives forever. This novel is about the hard choices we have to face, about having to be your parents’ child long after you’ve grown up, and about the enduring nature of love.

In my “Books of Summer” post I talked about how I loved Green’s books because I can relate to her characters. No matter if she was writing about a single girl, newlywed, or happily married woman, I found bits of the character that I enjoyed. In “Promises to Keep,” the author writes about three women. One a happily unattached girl, one happily committed, and one happily married. I was not able to relate to any one of them.

In this story it felt like Green forgot what made real, interesting women, and instead turned to stereotypes to create her leading ladies. Steffi meets every “single girl” stereotype there is. She’s unable to keep a job for long, dates guys that are horrible for her, and floats along in life. Lila, who has given up on having children [spoiler alert]suddenly finds herself unexpectedly pregnant[/spoiler alert]. Green talks so often about how happy Callie’s perfect relationship is that I start to roll my eyes. I just couldn’t get behind these ladies like I had in Green’s previous stories.

Although it was hard for me to get behind the female characters, I did find the peripheral characters enjoyable. The story of Walter and Honor–Steffi and Callie’s parents–was adorable to watch unfold. The character of Mason–a book publisher and client of Steffi’s restaurant–has an interesting story that kept me guessing throughout the book. Even though these characters played minor roles, I kept reading to find out how their subplots ended.

While I found some of Green’s characters a bit off, the story she told was powerful. Once the plot started going–about halfway through the book–I was unable to put it down. The emotional highs and lows of the characters’ journey grabbed me. I kept a box of tissues next to me and needed to use it frequently. Even though I often found myself unable to connect with the characters, the story was so powerful that I did end up enjoying it a great deal.

Review: I expected this book to be another fantastic Jane Green read, but that was not the case. The disconnect I felt with the main characters meant it took longer for me to get into the story. Once I connected with the plot, I found the book to be an pleasurable read.

Insatiable by Meg Cabot

As the summer has now started, three of the five books on my Books of Summer post have been released. First up for review is Insatiable.

From Goodreads.com

Insatiable Book CoverSick of vampires? So is Meena Harper.But her boss is making her write about them anyway, even though Meena doesn’t believe in them.

Not that Meena isn’t familiar with the supernatural. See, Meena Harper knows how you’re going to die (not that you’re going to believe her; no one ever does).

But not even Meena’s precognition can prepare her for what happens when she meets—then makes the mistake of falling in love with—Lucien Antonescu, a modern-day prince with a bit of a dark side . . . a dark side a lot of people, like an ancient society of vampire-hunters, would prefer to see him dead for.

The problem is, he already is dead. Maybe that’s why he’s the first guy Meena’s ever met that she could see herself having a future with. See, while Meena’s always been able to see everyone else’s future, she’s never been able look into her own.

And while Lucien seems like everything Meena has ever dreamed of in a boyfriend, he might turn out to be more like a nightmare.

Now might be a good time for Meena to start learning to predict her own future . . .

If she even has one.

It took me no time at all to reach 48 books read this year. Getting to 49 has proved to be tricky. Despite the fact I have a great pile of new books sitting next to my bed, none of them have really grabbed my attention. Once I purchased Insatiable the opposite was true. I could not wait for some free time to start reading! I picked up the book and was immediately hooked. I devoured the book in a day.

As a person who is over the whole “Vampire” craze, I was interested to read Meg Cabot’s take on the subject. In the first half of the book she seemed to discuss many of the issues that I have with the vampire novels. I was excited by this because I thought it meant she would avoid these pitfalls. However as the book progressed, the opposite occurred. Does the main character find out that her boyfriend is a vampire yet still need to be with him? Yes! Is the main character just an “ordinary everyday woman” yet the two main men fall in love with her? Yup! Do these two men have a need to kill each other? Of course! These are just a few of the things Cabot had spent the first 100 pages complaining about, and here she was committing the same sins.

Despite the fact that the author hit so many of these plot pitfalls that I despise, I still ended up enjoying the book; perhaps it was due to the great overall plot. Cabot’s great storytelling ability may have won me over. The interesting characters may have been the factor that added to my enjoyment. Of course it was probably all of these great things combined that led to a tale I found interesting and engaging, despite the few issues I had with the story.

Review: While I was hesitant to read another vampire drama, my love for Meg Cabot’s work made me pick up this book. Once I started the novel I could not put it down. Although I did roll my eyes at some of the plot points, I found the completed product to be a great read.

Hollywood Is like High School with Money by Zoey Dean

Next up is a book that helps me cross off a book for the 2010 Chick Lit Challenge.

From Amazon.com

Hollywood Is High School With MoneyDean delivers another pop artifact in her latest riff on the Gossip Girl generation, this time dressing up the goings-on with a very Devil Wears Prada vibe. Landing a job as second assistant to Iris Whitaker, a Metronome Studios hotshot, sounds like a dream come true for Ohio native Taylor Henning, who naturally wants to make it big in Hollywood. But this fish out of water needs to learn quickly how to swim with the sharks, as Iris’s first assistant, Kylie Arthur, would prefer she drowns. Thankfully, a fairy godmother appears in the fierce form of Quinn, Iris’s 16-year-old daughter, who suggests Taylor follow her surefire high school rules: fake it till you make it; speak up in class; make one cool friend; and realize lunch is a battleground. But there are unforeseen consequences for Taylor, who remembers some age-old advice just in time. It’s a slick little novel: catty, glitzy and just mean enough.

I discovered Zoey Dean while browsing the book section at Target. I noticed her A-list series in the store and purchased the first story. Over the next few years, I read many of the books in the series. I was excited to find out that Dean had published a non-YA novel, How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls, which I read and enjoyed.

I kept purchasing new works by Dean because I found each new story entertaining and original. The plot of each book was unexpected and enjoyable. As a result, I was excited to see that Dean had published a second novel, Hollywood Is like High School with Money. I expected the same great story telling in this latest release, however I was largely disappointed.

The main problem with this story was that I felt as if I had read it before. The story line was largely predictable with its “20-something relocating from Middle America to a big city” tale. Taylor, the main character, hits a rough time at first, but starts to be able to maneuver the difficult world of working with celebrities. With the help of a surprising ally, she falls into the classic pitfall of becoming overconfident, which leads to her hitting a road block. In the end her ability to stick with it leads to a happy ending.

There was one plot-line in the story that I did find original. This was the fact that Taylor’s ally was her boss’s 16-year-old daughter Quinn. While this had the opportunity to make the story more creative, it just ended up not being believable. The fact that such an integral part of the story didn’t feel real dampened my enjoyment of the story.

Review: The combination of predictable plot and forgettable characters led to a book that was just OK. This book would be a good vacation or beach read: entertaining but not really memorable.

2010 Chick Lit Challenge

I recently stumbled across a great concept on a fellow book review blog. Debi of Journey to the End of the TBR Pile started a 2010 Chick Lit Challenge. What does this mean?

2010 Chick Lit Challenge
The Chick Lit Challenge 2010 runs from January 1 – December 31st. The goal is to read at least 8 chick lit books during the year. Books can be listed ahead of time or as you go along. Books can also be used for multiple challenges.

So here is a list of books that I may potentially use to fulfill this challenge. This list is only a first cut at books so I may add or remove books throughout the year. As I finish a book I will update this list to include a link to the review.

1. Nanny ReturnsReview
2. Hollywood Is like High School with MoneyReview
3. Insatiable by Meg Cabot Review
4. Promises to Keep by Jane Green Review
5. Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin Review
6. Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella Review
7. Thin, Rich, Pretty by Beth Harbison (Release Date: July 6th 2010)
8. Fly Away Home: A Novel by Jennifer Weiner (Release Date: July 13th 2010)
9. The Divorce Party: A Novel by Laura Dave
10. A Bump in the Road: From Happy Hour to Baby Shower by Maureen Lipinski

Nanny Returns: A Novel by Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus

Next up on my list is Nanny Returns: A Novel by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. This book is a sequel to The Nanny Diaries, which the pair released in 2002.

From Goodreads.com

Ten years after her original misadventures in babysitting, Nan returns to NYC in this saucy sequel to the phenomenal bestseller The Nanny Diaries. Now married and pondering motherhood herself, the recovering caregiver is about to get a whole new perspective on childrearing. Her trouble former charge bursts back into her life and her new consulting business introduces her to nannying’s sophisticated older sister: private school. With the same biting wit and tender heart that marked the original, this long-awaited follow-up skewers the elite culture of “outsourced parenting” on the razor-sharp tip of a 21st-century Mary Poppins umbrella. It’s as funny as it is affecting: call it chicklit with a conscience.

The end of the The Nanny Diaries left me heartbroken. The “X’s” had just fired Nan as Grayer’s nanny. Poor Nan was left baring her soul into a hidden Nanny Cam. Grayer just lost the one person in his life who cared about him. I was excited to hear that there was going to be a sequel to this story and I hoped this book would mean a happier ending for Nan and Grayer.

Usually I buy a book and read it quickly after. I picked up this book right after it was released, however it sat on my shelf for two months. As someone who usually buys a book and starts it immediately this was very uncharacteristic for me. Even though I wanted to know what happened, I was terrified I would again be heartbroken.

Once I overcame this fear and started the book, I found it to be a great read. I did very much enjoy the main plot centering around the relationship between Grayer and Nan. We were able to see that Grayer had suffered from his parents’ neglect, as Nan had warned. Now Grayer was trying to make sure that his younger brother, Stilton, did not suffer the same way. I wanted to know if Nan could make a difference in the boys’ lives this time around.

The one down side of this book was that sometimes there was too much going on. Between Nan’s new job, her house renovations, her husband’s constant traveling and need for a baby, and the attempts to reconnect with an old classmate, there was a lot of story. This sometimes left me feeling a bit overwhelmed. Since the authors were able to use each of these side stories to push the main plot, they did not detract too much from the overall story

Review: I felt the relationships and characters were as entertaining as they were very true to life. This book helped give me the closure I lacked after reading The Nanny Diaries. A recommended read, especially for those of you read its prequel!