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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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Wolfy’s Favorites – Episode 3

April 30, 2016 3 comments

Hello my lovely readers!

My what a busy month April was over here. I’m afraid that reflected some on the blog, with less posts (particularly reviews) than I would have liked. I’m hoping that May will be a bit better planned around here. I’ve been very busy with work; I even had a trip to Pittsburgh for a conference. (If you follow me on Instagram or Snapchat (username: opinionsofawolf), you saw some of the fun details of the trip and probably learned a few things about Pittsburgh!) But I still found the time to stumble upon a few new favorite things.

Wolfy’s Favorites – Episode 3

Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

I had a small bit of free time from my conference, and when I googled what to do in Pittsburgh I found this. It’s an eclectic collection of various history exhibits to do with Pittsburgh, and one of the collections is all about Heinz the company, since the founder was from Pittsburgh. How cool is that? Part of the exhibit is this ketchup bottle made of ketchup bottles. I learned a lot about Pittsburgh from this history center, including: the liver transplant was invented there, Jehovah’s Witnesses started there, Andy Warhol and Heinz Ketchup were born there, and Fred Rogers (of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood) lived and died there. I really enjoyed this quirky museum and have had a lot of fun telling people about it.

Wolfy’s Favorites – Episode 3

Seeing Wild Belle in Concert

A few months ago I was moderately obsessed with the Major Lazer song featuring Wild Belle called “Be Together.” My husband noticed the band was coming to a venue near us, so he surprised me by getting us some tickets. This particular venue is nice because it’s rather small, so even if you’re in the back of the crowd you still get a great view. Both of us thought that the back-up singer/tambourine player and the tom-tom player were particularly impressive. They could so easily start their own group.

Wolfy’s Favorites – Episode 3

Hanging out on our new porch

Our apartment didn’t come with a porch, but our landlord chose to install one starting last fall. This month the workers finally finished it! Which means we get to grill at times when we’re not camping. But also, we’ve discovered our cat is totally willing to put up with being in her come with me kitty harness in order to hang out in the sunshine. What this means for book blogger/author truly is that I can hang out in the sunshine with my husband and a purring cat while I read and write, and you can’t ask for much more than that.

Wolfy’s Favorites – Episode 3

New Nintendo 3DS XL

After wanting one since I first heard of a Gameboy as a kid, I finally broke down and bought the newest 3DS, along with one game: Frogger 3D. I have some gaming systems, but I don’t use them much, because I like to hang out with my husband while he does things. I love how portable the 3DS is, and how easy it is to start and stop games. I don’t have to turn on a system and wait for things to boot up. I can just open and close it. On days when I really feel like I need to have a win in something, I’ll play a round of Frogger. Oh, and if you’re wondering, the XL has a larger screen, and I’m really glad I went for it over the regular sized screen.

And finally, my favorite book since the last episode.

 

Wolfy’s Favorites – Episode 3

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella

This humorous chick lit with a surprising heart of gold and inspiring message really hit me where I needed it this month. Basically, a high-powered lawyer has a freak-out and winds up working as the help in a wealthy home and falling for the gardener. It was the exact stress relief and encouragement I needed, both giving me laughter and helping me to refocus my priorities.

That’s it for April. Be sure to tune in next month for episode 4 of Wolfy’s Favorites!

What were some of your favorite things in the month of April? Did you have a favorite read? What’s the most entertaining museum you’ve ever visited? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

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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2015’s 5 Star Reads!

January 1, 2016 2 comments

Since 2011, I’ve been dedicating a separate post from my annual reading stats post to the 5 star reads of the year.  I not only thoroughly enjoy assembling the 5 star reads posts, but I also go back to them for reference periodically.  It’s just useful and fun simultaneously!  Plus it has the added bonus of giving an extra signal boost to the five star reads of the year.  You may view the 5 star reads for 2011, 2012, 2013 , and 2014 by clicking on the years.

With no further ado, presenting Opinions of a Wolf’s 5 Star Reads for 2015!

cover_dreamsnake

Dreamsnake
By: Vonda N. McIntyre
Publication Date: 1978
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Genre: Scifi, Post-apocalyptic
Themes: Healing, Prejudices, Adoption, Hubris
Summary:
In a far-future, post-apocalyptic Earth, all medical aid is brought by healers.  The healers use a trio of snakes to bring this healing.  One newly-minted healer first visits the desert people, but mistakes lead to the loss of her dreamsnake, the only snake that can bring pain relief to the dying.  She enters a journey to attempt to find a new dreamsnake.
Current Thoughts:
My full review of this book has yet to come, so I’ll keep my current thoughts short.  A 1970s work of scifi by a woman that intrigued me due to many reviews mentioning the positive depiction of snakes.  It wowed me. I read it via my Audible subscription, and I really am going to have to get a vintage paper copy for my female scifi collection.
Full review still to come.

Book Review: The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You by Dorothy Bryant

The Kin of Ata Are Waiting For You
By:
Dorothy Bryant
Publication Date: 1971
Publisher: Evan Press
Genre: Scifi
Themes: Redemption, Self-Actualization, Healing, Mindfulness, Community
Summary:
Running from his demons, a man crashes his car and wakes up being assisted by a deceptively primitive people–the kin of Ata. He discovers that he’s been mysteriously brought to an island inhabited only by these people.  As time passes, he comes to learn there is much more to them than first appears.
Current Thoughts:
This is a book I know I will revisit. The parable for self-actualization and the journey of mindfulness is something that rang so strongly with me.  When I think about it, I remember it as a beautiful, touching book.
Full review

cover_twentiesgirl

Twenties Girl
By:
Sophie Kinsella
Publication Date: 2009
Publisher: Bantam Press
Genre: Chick Lit
Themes: Living Fully, Living Authentically
Summary:
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 last request: Lara must find a missing necklace that had been in Sadie’s possession for more than seventy-five years, and Sadie cannot rest without it. Lara, on the other hand, has a number of ongoing distractions. Her best friend and business partner has run off to Goa, her start-up company is floundering, and she’s just been dumped by the “perfect” man.  Sadie isn’t having any of it. And soon the question winds up being, who is really helping who?
Current Thoughts:
A book that really shows how great chick lit can be.  What starts out light and ridiculous eventually hands over some real thought-provoking lessons about a life lived versus a life lived well.  It was just the light, humorous take on life and death I needed when I picked it up. Also, I actually laughed out loud while reading it.  A real complement.
Full review still to come.

Book Review: Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella

August 25, 2015 4 comments

Book Review: Remember Me? by Sophie KinsellaSummary:
The last thing Lexi remembers she’s a 24 year old in the year 2004 with bad teeth, a bad boyfriend, and at the bottom of the totem pole in a new job where she hasn’t been working long enough to be able to get the annual bonus.  When she wakes up in hospital, though, she’s told that the year is 2007, she’s 28, the boss of her department, and married to a millionaire!  She’s told she was in a car accident that gave her amnesia, and now she has to piece together just how she got to this place in her life, especially when not everything is as rosy as it seems at first.  Her millionaire husband is controlling, her once best friends give her the cold shoulder, and everyone at work seems to think that she’s a bitch.

Review:
True story. I spotted this sitting on top of a neighbor’s recycling bin and snatched it up as soon as I recognized the author’s name.  I was a big fan of Sophie Kinsella’s in high school, and I just couldn’t bear to see a perfectly nice condition hardcover of one of her books get recycled.  I wondered if I would enjoy her contemporary romance as much now as a late 20-something as I did as a teen.  I’m happy to say I certainly enjoyed this one just as much, although in a slightly different way than I used to.

I wonder how much I would have appreciated this book a few years ago.  As a late-20 something myself, I laughed out loud at how the 24 year old version of me would react if she was plunked into my current life.  A lot really does change in 4 years in your 20s, especially with regards to your career and your love life.  The plot kind of reminded me a bit of the plot of one of my favorite romcoms 13 Going On 30.  Someone who is (or perceives of themselves as) much younger and less experienced than the person whose life they are now living.  How that affects them and how they react to it is really interesting.  Both stories show how important actually going through the growing pains really are.  You can’t just suddenly handle a more adult life; you have to grow into it.

I also appreciated that, although Lexi’s husband is drop-dead gorgeous, both she and he believe she should not sleep with him until she is comfortable with him again.  She may be married to him, but she doesn’t remember who he is, and she shouldn’t do anything until she’s ready.  If she ever is.  Her husband is definitely controlling of her when it comes to how their household is run and how they spend money, but he is very respectful of her sexually.  He doesn’t touch her unless invited to, and he stops when she says to.  I was really happy to see this focus on positive, enthusiastic consent portrayed in the book.

The exploration of Lexi’s career path from lower level to high-powered boss is fascinating.  Lexi is torn up that now that she’s a boss those under her think she’s a bitch.  There’s a nuanced exploration of how women in power are often perceived of as bitches, even if they’re just being assertive.  However, there’s also a nice exploration of how to still be true to yourself when in power.  You don’t necessarily have to lead in the traditional “masculine” way if you don’t want to.  This combined with the exploration of aging gave a depth to the romance that kicked it up a notch for me.

It says a lot for how much the book made me like Lexi that I was able to get past one plot point that usually spoils romances for me.  However, that plot point did knock the book down from 5 to 4 stars for me.

*spoilers*
It turns out that 28 year old Lexi is cheating on her husband.  24 year old Lexi is just as horrified by this as I always am by cheating.  The exploration of how she wound up cheating on him didn’t make it ok to me, but I did appreciate that 24 year old Lexi took agency and addressed the situation, rather than lingering in married but cheating land.  I appreciated that Lexi was able to acknowledge her mistakes, forgive herself for them, and grow and change.
*end spoilers*

Overall, fans of contemporary romance will enjoy this fun take on the amnesia plot.  The plot doesn’t just cover a romance, it also covers the growing pains of being in your 20s, the challenges women face when they become the boss, and how to learn from your mistakes.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Rescued from a recycling bin

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Counts For:
Bottom of TBR Pile Challenge

5 Questions About Books

January 21, 2010 15 comments

I stumbled on this fun meme over at Readers and Reference, and I really liked the questions it asks, so I bookmarked it for future use.  I tweaked it a little bit to be in question format and to be a bit clearer.  If you decide to do the meme yourself, please post a link in the comments here so we can all check it out and get to know you better too!

What’s a book you most want to read again for the first time?:
Hmmm, there’s a lot of books that have meant so much to me in my life, but I think I’d have to say The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.  I had seen the movie and absolutely hated it.  My nerdier friends at university told me over and over again to read the “trilogy,” and I would love it.  I refused to for years, but then one day I decided to take a whack at it.  I can’t remember why.  Anyway, I was cracking up reading it, which hadn’t happened to me in years at the time.  It really reminded me why I love to read.

What was one of your favorite childhood books?:
Absolutely no doubt On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I loved the whole series growing up, but this was my favorite entry.  In it Laura lives next to a creek, and I lived next to three beaver ponds, so I felt a bit of camaraderie.  I also was completely obsessed with the sod house for some reason.  I wanted to live underground just like Laura in a house that plants grew out of and, best of all, that I could walk on.  I also enjoyed their problems with cows, since I was frequently sent out to chase cows back into their pastures.  Plus, Laura’s relationship with her father, Pa, I identified with as it reminded me of mine with my father.  Also, not gonna lie, I wished repeatedly that I had a mother like Ma.

What’s a book that you were assigned in school that you were expecting to be bad, but that turned out to be really good?:
I was a US History major in undergrad (my other major was English and American Literature).  We were required to take two courses that gave you an overview of all of US history.  I was dreading the Civil War portion, because I just don’t like that war.  Every historian has a time period within their specialty they don’t like.  Anywho, so this professor assigned us Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe to read, as it was one of the big stimuli for the Civil War.  She wanted us to see beyond the modern controversy and read it with historian’s eyes to see why it had such a big impact on the abolition movement.  I was expecting it to be fingernails-on-chalkboard bad, but, you guys, it is so good.  It really demonstrates how abolitionists saw African-Americans as equally human, just downtrodden as the victims of slavery.  It also shows the high expectations placed on Christian women at the time.  It’s a heart-wrenching book, and I encourage you to read it and judge it for what it is and not for the racist movies and plays that followed it.

What’s your “guilty pleasure” read?:
This is a tough question for me, because I don’t tend to feel guilty about anything that I read.  I’d have to say though that British chicklit books like Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella probably count.  The cheesey, romcom storylines annoy the heck out of me, but for some reason, I still read them periodically.  I guess it’s kind of like watching Teen Mom on MTV.  I can’t look away from the train wreck.

What’s a book you feel you should read, but haven’t yet?:
I’m not sure it quite counts as a book, but Beowulf.  I took this AMAZING class in undergrad on ancient mythology, and we mentioned it umpteen times, but didn’t have time to read it.  I absolutely love ancient myths, like The Odyssey is one of my favorite books of all time, so really there’s not much of an excuse for the fact that I have yet to read Beowulf.  Hm, except maybe that I’m not sure which translation is the best, and we all know how much translation matters in the ancient myths.

*waves* Hope you enjoyed the meme!