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Book Review: Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

March 28, 2016 2 comments

Book Review: Twenties Girl by Sophie KinsellaSummary:
Lara Lington’s boyfriend – the one she’s sure is The One – just broke up with her. But that’s ok. She’ll soldier on. He’ll realize his mistake soon enough. And her business partner (in her small business of three people – the two of them plus one secretary) ran off on holiday and just isn’t coming back, but she just needs to keep the place afloat until she gets back. Everything is going to be just fine. That is…it would be if the ghost of her great-aunt Sadie hadn’t decided to start haunting her at her funeral. Now she just won’t leave her alone until Lara finds her precious dragonfly necklace. How exactly is she supposed to do that, keep her business going, win back her boyfriend, and not let anyone think she’s lost her mind?

Review:
I know this may seem like it was an odd read to pick up in the month following my father’s passing. (Yes, I read this eons ago…in December). I was in the mood for a light-hearted chick lit. Something to cheer me up. I knew I liked Sophie Kinsella, and honestly the thought of a loved one haunting you in ghost form sounded kind of nice to me for once. So I picked it up, and I’m glad I did. I think this might be my new favorite Sophie Kinsella.

There’s a lot here that makes this different among chick lit. First there’s the focus on a relationship with the member of a far-flung previous generation of your family. Chick lit often focuses on the heroine’s children, parents, or friends, but a great-aunt is a new one. (For me anyway). Things start out awkward and funny. Lara feels weird being at the funeral for a great-aunt she didn’t really know, and when Sadie shows up, it’s as herself in her 20s in the 1920s…how she continued to imagine herself even in her old age. Since Lara hadn’t previously had a relationship with her, she gets to know her basically as just another 20-something in ghost form. But she also has to inform her of how she’s passed on, and Sadie has to start to come to terms with what her life was.

The ghost looking for her missing necklace plot very quickly turns into a romcom mystery. There’s more to Lara’s family than meets the eye! And while I had my suspicions, how things ultimately work out was still enough of a surprise that I enjoyed seeing how we got there.

There of course also is a love interest and a love triangle that for one didn’t drive me batty (probably because it’s hard to be a real love triangle when one of the sides is a ghost). The book was humorous, the romance fun, and the plot engaging. But what shot it up to 5 stars for me was two themes.

First there’s Sadie coming to terms with what her life was, and Lara realizing that there’s more to the elderly than originally meets the eye. The book says a lot of good stuff about both how we treat the elderly in Western cultures and the process of aging and living your life to its fullest. It also touches upon taking the time to listen to your elders and learn from their success and mistakes. Lara’s life improves once she treats Sadie as a person, rather than just an elderly relic. And Sadie learns to let go once she comes to terms with how she lived her life.

The book also fights against the trope of a heroine being certain that someone is The One and then being proved she is right when she wins him back. Sadie teaches Lara a lot about being brave enough to be on your own. About the value of learning to be alone before finding someone. About how important it is to know who you are before you can find the right match for yourself. It’s only when Lara grows as a person (and a career woman) and actualizes more into who she really is that she’s able to find true romance, and I really liked seeing that theme in a chick lit.

Overall, if you want some gut laughs watching a 1920s-era ghost with her great-grand-niece cavorting around England, you won’t be disappointed in this book. But be prepared to find yourself fighting back tears to as you watch the inter-generational relationship blossom and everyone learn a little more about being true to themselves.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Library

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Book Review: Blonde Bombshell by Tom Holt (Bottom of TBR Pile Challenge)

February 27, 2013 2 comments

Image of white bomb on blue background headed toward Earth.Summary:
A sentient bomb is hurtling through outer space toward Earth, better known to the bomb creators as Dirt.  You see, Dirt’s music is making the inhabitants of Ostar (a canine species) completely loony.  But the bomb stops in its tracks and orbits around Dirt to try to figure out whatever happened to the *first* bomb that the Ostars sent out.  Dirt doesn’t seem to have any sophisticated defense system to speak of, so what gives?  Meanwhile, Lucy Pavlov, the creator of new computer programming protocols that led to a leap in technology, is seeing unicorns in her forest.  Also a bank security executive is trying to figure out just how, exactly, money is teleporting out of banks.  In between getting very drunk and trying to forget about that one time aliens stole his dog.

Review:
This made it onto my TBR pile thanks to multiple comparisons to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, which is one of my favorite series.  I can completely understand why the comparison is made.  The book is witty, zany, and consists of a hilarious imagining of outer space and aliens.

The plot is complex without being confusing.  It revolves around three people (well, one is a bomb) who are connected in mysterious ways they just don’t know yet.  It kept me guessing, managed to surprise me a few times, and had some delightfully creative elements, such as the fact that the bomb can create probes to send down to Earth that appear to humans like organic matter.  Or even the fact that the bomb can sit there and slowly decide whether or not to go off.  Clever.

I also appreciated an imagined future where people have handheld devices that are given a simple name rather than compounding a bunch of words together.  The former makes more sense since in reality that is what companies do.  (For instance, Google Glass or iPad as opposed to handheldpersonaldevice.  Don’t laugh. I’ve seen something very similar to that in scifi).  In this book the iPhone device is the Warthog.  With no further explanation given.  This is scifi done well.  The reader can tell what a Warthog is from how the characters use it.  Holt never over-explains.

The characters were rather two-dimensional, but that works well for the humor, not to mention for the fact that one of them is a bomb.  If a character has a good heart but is a lazy drunk because aliens stole his dog, well that’s enough for the reader to know in a book like this.  Motivation enough is present for the characters to be recognizable as people and to move the plot forward.

As for the humor, I found it quite witty, although not quite as gut-wrenching as Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  It plays on slapstick, situational humor, and pop culture references for the most part, with a dash of insight into human nature, romantic relationships, and dogs.  I particularly enjoyed the unicorn probe who takes a nasty turn for the violent and insists that there is data in human records showing unicorns exist.  I also really enjoyed the scenes where a couple first starts to fall in love, hilariously so.  All of which is to say, if you generally enjoy a Douglas Adams style of humor, you won’t be disappointed.

Now, I was a bit let-down by the ending.  I didn’t really like the final plot twist.  It kind of….creeped me out a bit and left me on a bit of a down note instead of the delightful upswing I felt throughout the rest of the book.  I think other people might enjoy it more than me.  It really depends on your feelings about people and pets and having pets.  It’s not enough of a let-down to keep me from recommending or enjoying the book.  It was just enough to keep it from 5 stars.

Overall, this is a delightfully witty piece of scifi with a unique plot.  Recommended to scifi humor fans, particularly those who enjoy Douglas Adams.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

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Movie Review: Dr. Strangelove (1964)

February 3, 2010 3 comments

Black and white poster of an old man wearing sunglasses.Summary:
The Cold War between Russia and the US is going along swimmingly until a US General goes off his rocker, convinced that commie fluids are secretly infiltrating Americans’ fluids.  He issues the Wing 9 order, designed as a fail-safe in case the President is incapacitated, thereby sending the US and Russia flying toward a nuclear holocaust.

Review:
One of my first questions when watching this film was if they’d made it black and white intentionally.  Apparently, in the 1960s, making a film black and white was the equivalent of the modern day mockumentary.  Dr. Strangelove takes a tongue in cheek look at the Cold War’s nuclear stand-off.  To a certain extent, this works.  Everyone in the movie thinks they’re doing what’s best for their country when in reality they’re about to destroy the entire world as we know it.

The film sets out to be funny, and parts of it are.  The stand-off between the general who’s lost his mind and his British subcommander are witty.  On the other hand, the whole character of Dr. Strangelove read as ridiculous and over-acted to me.  Thankfully, the presence of Dr. Strangelove is wonderfully off-set by the acting abilities of George C. Scott who perfectly plays the all-American military man.  Overall, the movie is funny, but not hilarious.

The special effects are good but not stunning for the decade.  Most of the film doesn’t need any special effects though, so this is barely noticeable.

If you’ve got 94 minutes to spare and enjoy dark humor, give Dr. Strangelove a chance.  You won’t be disappointed.  Plus you’ll get to check out the snazzy argyle underwear worn by a general’s secretary.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Netflix

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