Book Review: Wedding Night

Image via Goodreads

Rating: 4 out of 5

Sophie Kinsella, author of the beloved Confessions of a Shopaholic series, has done it again with her latest stand-alone novel Wedding Night.

This chick-lit story begins much like the movie “Legally Blonde:” 33-year-old Lottie is out to dinner with her boyfriend Richard, assuming that he’s finally going to propose. Of course, this is just a miscommunication, and Lottie finds herself deeply saddened and embarrassed when he doesn’t get down on one knee.

It just so happens that an old flame contacts Lottie right afterward: Ben, her teenage fling during her gap year in Ikonos, Greece. After a night of reminiscing, they impulsively decide to get married and honeymoon where they met 15 years ago.

The chapters swap between the points of view between Lottie, and her older, recently divorced sister Fliss, who is determined to prevent Lottie from making what she sees as the biggest mistake of her sibling’s life.

This book is hilarious, but it also addresses serious issues like love, marriage, divorce, and overall compatibility. Lottie feels such an insane urge to get married that she jumps into a relationship without so much as asking what Ben does for a living.

That societal pressure is something that I see among many girls my age; they believe that marriage is the Holy Grail of “having it all,” feeling so rushed to settle down in their 20s regardless of whether they’ve met the right person.

But Wedding Night also brings up the idea of intervention, whether it’s better to let someone make their own mistakes, even if the consequences could be dire. And although the interventions in this novel are often absurd, it’s fun nonetheless to see what lengths Fliss will go to in order to sabotage Lottie’s plans.

If you’re looking for a light read that will be sure to make an excellent rom-com one day, then Wedding Night is a great way to start off your 2014!

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The Reading Phases of My Life (So Far)

I’m half-way done with The Last Guardian, the finale of Artemis Fowl, and I’ve been reflecting on my experience with the series as a whole. I started reading Eoin Colfer’s best-selling saga since the first novel was published in 2001. I was about 12-years-old at the time, so eight books later, the Artemis Fowl series has spanned half my life.

Thus, Artemis Fowl has meant almost as much to me as Harry Potter, in terms of how many years I’ve spent reading the books. And what’s funny to me, is that young-adult fantasy has not always been a favorite genre of mine. In fact, I find it interesting to see how my reading habits have evolved over time, so I thought that I would share them in a quasi-timeline, if you will…

Early Childhood (ages 5-8)

When I was a kid, I loved educational stories. I remember two of my favorites were The Magic School Bus and Kratt’s Creatures. Many of my classmates attributed my love for learning to my mother, who’s a 3rd-grade teacher, and although she contributed so much to my intellectual development, I was also very self-motivated. To this day, much of what I can recall about the human body or the ocean, I learned from Mrs. Frizzle. And that’s not a bad thing at all!

Middle Childhood (ages 9-11)

During this time, I dreamed of becoming a veterinarian. I’m a huge animal lover, so I gravitated toward stories about them. I enjoyed Island of the Blue Dolphins, Where the Red Fern Grows, and Because of Winn-Dixie. Toward middle school, I had an obsession with wolves, and Jack London became one of my favorite authors after I read The Call of the Wild and White Fang. I no longer want to be a vet, since I’d rather play with pets than treat their ailments; it’s similar to how I now avoid reading sob-fests like Marley and Me–why is it that I’ll mourn a human character’s death for a day, but when the dog goes, it’s a full-blown depression?

Young Adult (ages 12-17)

Originally, I scoffed at the idea of reading Harry Potter. A book about a school for wizards? Balderdash! I was knee-deep in tales about Alaskan sled-dogs. But after the persistent nagging of a good friend, I became just as hooked as everybody else. It was one of those, “Where have you been all my life?!” moments, and it unlocked the gate to some great literature. I fell in love with His Dark Materials, The Lord of the Rings, A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Lost Years of Merlin, the Bartimaeus trilogy, The Young Wizards series, and–of course, Artemis Fowl. After experiencing fantasy like that, the real world never looked the same again.

The College Years (ages 18-22)

I know that I haven’t addressed required reading for the very fact that it was required. Every high school student was forced to read A Tale of Two Cities, so even though I loved it, the chances of me picking it up myself were slim. However, my tastes matured in college, and I sought out classics because I wanted to. Wuthering Heights, The Age of Innocence, and 1984 were all examples of me reading for reading’s sake. It’s no wonder that some of my favorite novels ever were read during a time when I could truly appreciate them.

That’s not to say all my reading was sophisticated. I had always passed by the romance section in the bookstore, but it wasn’t until a good friend of mine from UC Santa Cruz recommended some, that I actually got the guts to dive in. Because of my friend, I became a big fan of Vicki Lewis Thompson’s Nerd series. Now I balance out the literary with the lusty by swapping between classics and romances. I like switching it up!

The Future

Now I’d say that my reading comfort zone consists of classics, fantasy, sci-fi, chick-lit, romance, historical fiction, and memoir. There’s some genres I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole, such as horror or spiritual, but my blog has made me more open to recommendations. I’ve realized how much fun audio-books can be, and once I can no longer fit anything on my bookshelves, I’ll have to invest in a tablet. I like jumping on bandwagons, as well as discovering hidden gems. Many book blogs have a niche, but I’m not the type to limit what I read. Life’s too short! Who knows what books we’ll obsess over and where our reading will take us!

Audiobook Review: Secrets of a Shoe Addict

Cover of "Secrets of a Shoe Addict"

Image via Amazon

Rating: 4 out of 5

Well, silly me, it looks like I dropped the ball on a couple of things. First off, I was told that “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is indeed playing at an indie theater near me, so I’ll be checking it out tomorrow! Keep an eye out for that upcoming review!

Secondly, I didn’t take into account the audiobook I’ve been listening to when I asked for votes on my last five books of the year (I also forgot that I could create polls in WordPress, but that’s besides the point).

Thus, this review discusses book #21, and based on your input, the other four choices will be Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian, My Week with Marilyn, The House of Mirth, and The Sandcastle Girls (reading order, however, is still tentative). Of course, I’d love to include a celebratory re-read of The Hobbit before its film release on December 14.

Anyways, Secrets of a Shoe Addict is Beth Harbison’s 2008 sequel to Shoe Addicts AnonymousWhile Sandra and her friends began the series with a meetup group for female shopaholics, it’s Sandra’s sister Tiffany’s turn to get a group of women out of financial trouble.

During a chaotic PTA trip to Vegas, Tiffany accidentally purchases thousands of dollars worth of clothes, while her friends run into money mayhem of their own–Loreen by inadvertently hiring a male prostitute and Abbey by being blackmailed by an ex-boyfriend fresh out of prison.

For those who read Shoe Addicts Anonymous, their solution is unsurprising: Sandra reveals that her previous job as a sex operator was a great way to earn cash fast, so the women decide to create an adult phone service called “Happy Housewives” to get them out of debt.

This book was an excellent sequel; it was funny, outlandish, and not shy at all regarding the dirty talk. As I’ve said before, I only wish there were multiple readers on an audiobook, as if it were a theater production, so the dialogue feels more natural.

However, what Harbison does well in chick-lit is writing characters for every possible stage in a person’s life. Single, married, separated–she covers it all with finesse. She also balances the realistic with the escapist nicely. Even if you’ve never gone on a date with a puppeteer or hired an escort, you’ll have a blast hearing about these characters who do.

My only complaint would be the pacing, since once the conflict felt resolved, it took quite a while for the ends to get tied up. It took me over eight hours to finish the 26 chapters of this audiobook, and although the majority of it was entertaining, I felt the last few chapters were anticlimactic.

I know that most of you don’t read chick-lit, but if you ever want to step outside your comfort zone, Harbison’s a good author to try. Secrets of a Shoe Addict was a fun story of female friendship, and as an audiobook, a great way to pass the time–whether you’re battling morning rush hour, cooking dinner, or relaxing in bed. Perfect for sneaking more books into your busy schedule!

Vote for My Last 5 Books of the Year!

Tonight I’m going to finish the final two chapters of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, and I’m anticipating a very positive review because it’s been an excellent read so far. That means if you’ve been paying attention, I’m down to my last five books of the year! I read 20 books in 2011, and my goal this year was to read 25 (with The Hobbit as a bonus re-read before the movie release in December, if I can squeeze it in!).

I always love including my followers, so I’d like you to pick five books from my to-read list below, and the novels that receive the most votes will make up the rest of my 2012 reading! I’ll even label them by genre to make your decision-making a bit easier…

Romance/Chick-Lit

  • Deeply, Desperately by Heather Webber (sequel to Truly, Madly)
  • A Lot Like Love by Julie James (another novel in her FBI series)
  • Gilded Age by Claire McMillan

Literary/Historical Fiction

  • The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker
  • The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

Young Adult Fiction

  • Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer (final book in the series!)

Memoir

  • My Week with Marilyn by Colin Clark

Classics

  • The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

So that’s eight books total, but you can only choose five! No additions, please, as I have already purchased all these books (or were given as birthday gifts) , and cannot afford to go broke on more! Hopefully, I’ll get around to your favorites eventually!

Book Review: Wife 22

Image via Goodreads

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

I’m certainly not new to the “chick-lit” genre, but Melanie Gideon’s Wife 22 was not the kind of book I usually read. I’m used to the courtship stories, the romances of 20 and 30-somethings way before reality sets in. But reviews for Gideon’s novel this year convinced me to take a chance. The result? Eh…

Even though the book clocked in at 400 pages, reading it was a breeze considering that the majority of it takes place in emails, Facebook messages, and Google searches. Alice Buckle is approaching many important milestones: her 20th anniversary with her husband William and her 45th birthday, the very age at which her own mother passed away in an accident.

Coping with her loss, Alice is going through the cliche mid-life crisis. Her career as an elementary drama teacher is flat-lining in this current recession. She’s dissatisfied with her marriage, in which she’s lucky if they’re intimate once a month. She’s also struggling with two teenage children: her 12-year-old son Peter, whom Alice is convinced is gay, and her 15-year-old daughter Zoe, who’s possibly suffering from an eating disorder.

And as if all of this wasn’t enough, Alice is recruited to participate in a research study on marriage. She becomes “Wife 22” and quickly becomes addicted to her online conversations with “Researcher 101.” But what happens when a professional relationship evolves into a very personal one? Who is Researcher 101, and is Alice willing to sacrifice everything she’s ever known and leave her husband for him?

First off, this was a fascinating story that I believe many spouses can relate to. I enjoyed all the Internet chats, and the overall message that social networking is simultaneously alluring and dangerous. I don’t blame Alice for flirting with temptation, because anonymous confession is a rush that practically everyone has experienced.

What I do blame Alice for, however, is her disconnect. It’s easy to point fingers at smartphones and social media for creating a society of attention-deficit robots, but I don’t think that it’s the medium’s fault. Alice’s personality encourages her to ignore the needs of her husband and children, and she simply uses Facebook as an excuse to shut down.

I’m not saying that I have to like everything a protagonist does, but Alice is just lazy. She expects her life to magically turn around, and doesn’t want to put the effort into fixing it. Teenagers get accused of demanding instant gratification, but Peter and Zoe are light-years ahead of their mom in maturity.

There is a twist, and most readers won’t be surprised by it (I’m just really gullible), but whether you’re fooled or not, it doesn’t matter. I felt that the ending was anticlimactic, and it didn’t better my opinion of Alice. Maybe I’ll be more sympathetic in twenty years, but for now, I’m not impressed by these so-called mid-life crises.

‘Tis the Season! My 3 Favorite Books About Weddings

I just got back from a bridal shower of a friend who’s practically family. I’m one of her bridesmaids, and it was great to spend such a special day with her…which, of course, got me thinking about literary weddings. I decided to make a list of my three favorite books which deal with the chaos, stress, but also fun of planning a wedding:

Queen of Babble Gets Hitched by Meg Cabot (2009). This finale of the Queen of Babble trilogy follows Lizzie Nichols as she makes the difficult decision between Luke, the man to whom she’s engaged, or Chaz, Luke’s best friend, with whom she’s also in love. The twist here is that Lizzie happens to work in wedding gown restoration, so how does a woman who’s already knee deep in bridal manage to get to the altar? If you’ve read the series up until now, you’ll know who Lizzie ultimately chooses, but this book’s so entertaining that you won’t care. Another gem by Cabot!

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The Little Lady Agency and the Prince by Hester Browne (2008). Another end to another great trilogy, this novel tells the tale of Melissa Romney-Jones, a curvy bombshell who dons a blonde wig and calls herself “Honey”–all for the sake of turning fixer-upper men into marriage material. Her current project is prince Nicolas von Helsing-Alexandros, who can’t seem to blind his wandering eye. And what happens when her fiance Jonathan Riley starts acting controlling? Can they work it out, or will she fall for her best friend Nelson? Clearly, there’s no shortage of love triangles in chick-lit!

I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella (2012). This book published on Valentine’s Day of this year has got to be one of the cutest stories I’ve ever read. Poppy Wyatt has just lost her engagement ring, an antique that’s been in her fiance Magnus’ family for three generations. So when she comes along a lost cell phone, what better thing to do than to enlist the phone owner’s employer to help find the ring? But when that boss turns out to be a sexy businessman named Sam Roxton, Poppy’s happily ever after just got way more complicated. The perfect book for the 21st-century reader, full of text talk, emails, and footnotes! Check out my full review here!

So there you have it! Three adorable stories if you can’t get enough of dresses, rings, cakes, and true love! I’m currently reading Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon, about a woman decades into her marriage, but it’s always nice to remind yourself of the newlywed stage! And for any of my readers attending weddings left and right, please share your own wedding reads!

Book Review: I’ve Got Your Number

Rating: 5 out of 5

Well, I’m on a roll so far, blogging yesterday, twice today, and of course tomorrow to review “The Hunger Games.” I was planning on saving this review for next week, but I loved the book so much that I have to recommend it to you all right now!

There’s a reason that Sophie Kinsella is the queen of chick-lit: she’s good at what she does. I’ve Got Your Number is her fifth stand-alone novel under her pen name, which rose to fame with her Shopaholic series. She also has written seven novels under her actual name Madeleine Wickham [Read my reviews for A Desirable Residence and The Wedding Girl]. I would say that she has definitely gotten better with time, as this is probably my favorite book of hers yet.

I’ve Got Your Number tells the story of Poppy Wyatt, a physiotherapist who’s lost her engagement ring days before her wedding. Not to mention, as she’s frantically looking for it in her hotel, her phone is stolen. Luckily, she spots a phone dumped in a trash can and can continue her search. However, big-time PR businessman Sam Roxton is not too pleased that his personal assistant Violet has abandoned her post–and the company phone.

You can probably fill in the rest, but Poppy and Sam cross paths through their texts and emails, all while dealing with in-law drama and rumors of corporate corruption, respectively. Yes, the novel is predictable, but it still contains enough twists and turns to keep you entertained.

So entertained in fact, that I finished the book in just a few days. The whole time I kept thinking how it would make the cutest chick-flick. I fell in love with these characters, and their messages felt so fitting in this technological age. There’s even footnotes! What’s not to love?

If you’re not a fan of bodice-ripping romances or depressing “real life” women’s fiction, then you’ll adore this piece–and everything else–by Kinsella. It’s the happy medium with just enough pop culture and profanity, sexiness and sweetness to satisfy her readers.

I highly, highly recommend this novel, and I bet that if the film rights haven’t been sold already, they will be very soon! So Ms. Kinsella, please keep on doing what you’re doing, and do it quickly because I’m already having withdrawals!

In the words of Poppy…xxxxxxxx BCB 🙂