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Book Review: The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella

July 11, 2016 1 comment

Book Review: The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie KinsellaSummary:
Workaholic attorney Samantha Sweeting has just done the unthinkable. She’s made a mistake so huge, it’ll wreck any chance of a partnership.

Going into utter meltdown, she walks out of her London office, gets on a train, and ends up in the middle of nowhere. Asking for directions at a big, beautiful house, she’s mistaken for an interviewee and finds herself being offered a job as housekeeper. Her employers have no idea they’ve hired a lawyer–and Samantha has no idea how to work the oven. She can’t sew on a button, bake a potato, or get the #@%# ironing board to open. How she takes a deep breath and begins to cope–and finds love–is a story as delicious as the bread she learns to bake.

But will her old life ever catch up with her? And if it does…will she want it back?

Review:
Long-time readers of this blog will know that I’m a Sophie Kinsella fan, so it should come as no surprise that I liked this book. But let me say I love love loved this book. It’s my favorite Kinsella book I’ve read so far. It was funny but also a beautiful love story and also great commentary on life and priorities. It gave me the warm fuzzies, you guys.

I think one of the things I like best about Kinsella books is how they present all of women’s life options as totally valid ones, even if the heroine herself doesn’t realize that at first. What matters most is the heroine doing what makes her happy, and often the drama comes from the heroine forcing herself to be something she’s not or align herself with life values she doesn’t have. In any case, this book walks a great line of neither demonizing career women nor women who stay at home. It also doesn’t present doing a high-powered, high-education track as better than doing a traditionally blue collar job like housekeeping or cooking. Yes, at first Samantha thinks one of them is better and looks down on the other, but ultimately she realizes the pluses and minuses of both types of jobs, and I really like seeing that in chick lit. A lot.  I also really enjoyed seeing the struggle Samantha has between part of herself wanting the high-powered career and part wanting the quiet life at home. I think that’s a feeling many modern women can relate to.

The romance is also quite sweet. The early on playing between Samantha and her man and how that progresses made me feel like I was cozied up in a just the right temperature bath. But I also really liked that the book shows that compromise in a relationship is necessary. Both of them have to adjust their perceptions to fit the new reality of each other and both are willing to make compromises and meet in the middle.

Of course it’s also funny. What’s not funny about a lawyer trying to keep house when she doesn’t know anything about cleaning or cooking? At some point though the humor transitions into scenes that I can only describe as warm and glowing. That focus in on what really matters in life.

I was entertained. My life goals and ambitions were strengthened and validated. And I (maybe) (ok, definitely) cried happy-ever-after tears at the end of the book. I suppose if you’re a reader who doesn’t understand people who want to work a job they at least moderately enjoy and live life at a reasonable pace with lots of time with those they love then you might not enjoy this book. But I’d also say you need to read it and take a hard look at Samantha’s life before and after her lessons.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Library

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Book Review: A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby (Bottom of TBR Pile Challenge)

Four sets of feet in a circle with the sky in the background.Summary:
On New Year’s Eve, four incredibly different strangers accidentally meet on Topper’s House a popular local spot for suicides.  Somehow running into each other leads to them taking the long way down that night instead of the quick one.  What happens after is a continuance of their life stories that no one could have predicted.

Review:
I distinctly remember that this book made it into my tbr pile because of the suicide theme.  What makes these four different people want to kill themselves, and what makes them not do it.  Clearly this is a book about depression and suicidality.  But it is not a depressing book. Not by far.

Without revealing too much, since the revelations are part of the fun of the read, I will just say that the four suicidal people span different generations, reasons, and nations of origin.  Different levels of conservatism and liberalism.  But what makes them come to understand each other is their universal depression and suicidal thoughts.  This fact that someone out there gets them….well oftentimes that can help get a profoundly depressed or mentally unwell person over the hump.  Feeling less alone.

Her past was in the past, but our past, I don’t know…Our past was still all over the place. We could see it every day when we woke up.  (page 253)

In spite of this being a book about depressed people bonding over their depression, it doesn’t read as such.  I was reading it on an airplane and found myself literally laughing out loud at sections.  Because these people are brilliant.  They have a great understanding of the world. Of art. Of relationships.  Even of themselves.

I had that terrible feeling you get when you realize that you’re stuck with who you are, and there’s nothing you can do about it. (page 208)

That is, after all, frequently what depression can be all about. A profoundly clear understanding of how royally fucked up you are or your life is.  What’s hard is seeing past that moment.  The book is kind of a snapshot of the process of them learning to do that.  And that’s what makes it so eloquent and poignant.  Nothing is done melodramatically. Things are just presented as they are.  Even down to the four being able to laugh together periodically (and make you laugh in the process).  Depression isn’t just oh everything sucks nonstop.  There are moments of laughter.  It’s just that those moments are outweighed by the weight of the depression.  Getting rid of that weight is a cleansing, uplifting process, and that’s how it feels to read this book.  You bond and you laugh and you maybe even cry (if you have more susceptible tear ducts than this reader).  And in the end you come to an understanding of that suicidal dark place without being abandoned in it.

Overall this book manages to eloquently present depression without being a depressing book.  It is compelling to any reader who has ever struggled with a depressed period of life.  Highly recommended to the depressed and the sympathetic.  Both will be left feeling lighter and less alone.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

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Book Review: The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

March 3, 2011 1 comment

People with red eyes on green background pursued by plants.Summary:
Bill wakes up in the hospital the day after a worldwide comet show with his eyes still bandaged from a triffid accident.  His regular nurse doesn’t show up and all is quieter than it should be except for some distraught murmurings.  Shortly he finds out that everyone who saw the comet show has lost their sight, leaving a random bunch of people who just so happened to miss it the only sighted humans left in the world.  A hybrid plant created years ago for its highly useful oil, the triffid, is able to walk and eats meat.  Swarms of them are now wreaking full havoc on the people struggling to save the human race.

Review:
This book reads like the novelization of a 1950s horror film.  Man-eating plants!  Dangerous satellite weapons of mass destruction!  Humanity being reduced to the countryside!  Classic morals versus new morals!  This is not a bad thing, and Wyndham seems to be conscious of the innate ridiculousness of his tale, as it possess a certain self-aware wittiness not often present in apocalyptic tales.

Bill is a well-drawn character who is enjoyable as a hero precisely because he is an everyman who is simultaneously not devoid of personality.  He is not the strongest or the smartest survivor, but he is just strong and smart enough to survive.  Similarly, his love interest, Josella, impressively adapts and changes over time, and their love story is actually quite believable, unlike those in many apocalyptic tales.  In fact, all of the characters are swiftly developed in such a way that they are easy to recognize and tell apart.  This is important in a tale with so much going on.

On the other hand, the action is stuttering.  It never successfully builds to an intense, breaking point.  Multiple opportunities present themselves, but Wyndham always pulls the story back just before a true climax.  After this has been done a few times, the reader loses the ability to feel excitement or interest in the characters and simply wants the tale to be over.  In a way it is almost as if Wyndha couldn’t quite decide which direction to take the action, so took it briefly in all directions instead.  This makes for a non-cohesive story that pulls away from the investment in the rich characters.

Additionally, I do not believe the whole concept of the triffids was used to its fullest extent.  The name of the book has triffids in it, for goodness sake.  I expect them to feature more prominently and fearfully than they do.  Perhaps I’ve just read too many zombie books, but the triffids just seem more like a pest than a real threat.  The concept of man-eating plants taking over the world is a keen one, and I wish Wyndham had invested more into it.

Overall, the book is a quick, entertaining, one-shot read that could have been much more if Wyndham had made better choices as an author.  I recommend it to kitschy scifi and horror fans looking for a quick piece of entertainment.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

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