Book Review: My Not So Perfect Life

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Image: Goodreads

Every time I read another Sophie Kinsella novel, I think that she can’t possibly get any better, and then she simply does. And what’s even more amazing than her writing is the journey it took to hone her craft.

Before she was the pseudonymous author of the bestselling Shopaholic series, she was known as Madeleine Wickham.

If that name doesn’t ring any bells, that’s probably for the best. Wickham is the writer of 40 Love, one of the lowest rated novels on Goodreads.

But over 20 years after the publication of that flop, Kinsella is now considered the queen of chick lit. Her latest novel My Not So Perfect Life tells the story of Katie Brenner, a young marketing professional from the English countryside just trying to make it in London and live up to her Instagram feed.

While her social media posts feature fancy meals and luxe locations, her real life is much bleaker with an entry-level salary, tiny apartment, and eccentric roommates. And just when she thinks she might be getting a big break at work, she’s fired by her uber-posh boss who can’t even remember her name.

Tucking her tail between her legs, she returns to her hometown to help her family launch a glamping resort and nurse her bruised ego. That is, until Demeter books a reservation and doesn’t recognize her own staff in farmgirl clothes. What’s a burned employee to do?

What starts off as a juicy revenge tale morphs into something with much more substance. There are humor and romance, of course, but there’s also insightful commentary on  Millennial social issues, like the fear of missing out and the urge to present your ideal self online.

As someone who left a rural town to navigate a marketing career in the big city, this book was especially relatable. If you’ve ever been frustrated by professional setbacks or envious of seemingly more successful colleagues, this story is a great reminder that everyone is struggling in some way. As the cliche goes, don’t compare your behind-the-scenes to someone else’s highlight reel!

I highly recommend My Not So Perfect Life as the oh-so-perfect lighthearted read. If you love it and want to check out more of Sophie Kinsella’s hits, read my reviews of Wedding Night and I’ve Got Your Number.

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Meet the Book Club Cats!

Hi everyone!

Last July, I shared some big news: I had adopted twins! Now before you get ahead of yourself, these twins are of the feline variety, and they go by the names Lyra (after the protagonist in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy) and Pippin (after the hobbit in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings).

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The Book Club Cats: Lyra (left) and Pippin (right)

Since then, the kittens have evolved into fully grown cats and are turning one year old on Monday. To celebrate their birthday, I created their very own Instagram account. Granted, I should have done this much earlier, while they were still young and tiny, but it’s never too late to live vicariously through their cuteness!

You can follow the lives of Lyra and Pippin on Instagram at @bookclubcats. I just got started as their momager, so there’s only a small handful of photos and videos right now, but trust me–they are crazy adorable.

Lyra and Pippin will be sharing their experiences with me as I read and blog my Book Club Babe reviews. Here’s little Lyra posing next to the most recent book that I finally crossed off my to-read list: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.

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If you love cats as much as you love books, then go follow @bookclubcats right meow and tell everyone you know about them!

When Grammar Nazis Attack!

Image via Jezebel

If there’s one type of story that makes waves in the literary world, it’s one about someone who has done J.K. Rowling wrong. The beloved author of the Harry Potter series is like Beyoncé: everybody just bows down in her presence.

Or should I say, almost everybody. There have been a few misguided souls who have attempted sticking it to Rowling, like that writer who was just jealous her spotlight was being ‘stolen.’

This week it was James Cook, contributing editor of The Daily Dot, an online publication. When Rowling asked her Twitter followers to “re-tweet” her support for Scotland’s rugby team in exchange for Pottermore content, Cook took the opportunity to tell her, “It’s ‘retweet’.”

Cue the outrage of Dumbledore’s Army! Due that unnecessary comment, Cook was harassed by many fans and felt obligated to offer a half-assed apology on The Daily Dot. Because it was categorized under “LOL” and featured condescending comments like, “For some unknown reason, Harry Potter is still a very big deal in France,” it’s obvious that Cook enjoyed his temporary infamy and seemed smug that he could gain his 15 minutes over a hyphen.

It’s jerks like Cook who give grammarians a bad name. I joke about being a ‘Grammar Nazi,’ but I would never in a million years correct a stranger over something as insignificant as hyphen usage. We all knew what Rowling meant, and if we’re getting technical here, either form can be correct.

Who cares if it’s e-mail or email? Cybersecurity or cyber-security? Sure, there are rules when the prefix affects meaning (release versus re-lease, for example), but I’m not about to get my panties in a twist over a personal punctuation preference.

Would Cook have been justified if Rowling used ‘your’ when she meant ‘you’re?’ I guess, but when his victim is a famous billionaire, then he better decide whether the backlash is worth the effort.

So while I’ve never attempted to take on someone of that scale, I have corrected people’s grammar on social media. Most notably, several years ago I told an acquaintance on Facebook that she was ‘lactose intolerant,’ not ‘lactose and tolerant,’ like she stated. Turns out her friends were just as clueless and commented their surprise. After what probably felt like humiliation to her, she promptly unfriended me.

Probably not what she meant 😉

Was I wrong to correct her? My tone was definitely lighthearted rather than vicious, but one could certainly argue that it wasn’t my place. It’s pretty clear that she wasn’t a close friend due to her response, so maybe I should have let it slide. But honestly, if you’re going to start deleting online relationships over silly mistakes like that, then maybe you should develop a thicker skin.

I’m not perfect, and my loved ones revel when they can catch me making grammatical mistakes during a conversation. Do I get butt-hurt? Nope, I brush it off and learn from it. Trust me, I bet that girl never labeled herself as ‘lactose and tolerant’ ever again, but if nobody pointed it out to her, she–and her friends–would sound like idiots for the rest of their lives.

But let me get your opinion: at what point does correcting someone’s grammar go from educational to annoying? Have you ever been the corrector or the corrected, and what happened? Do you stay silent in front of superiors or is nobody off-limits?

Share your stories in the comments!

Amen!

Welcome to the new Book Club Babe! (And why my brother is better than yours)

Book Club Babe is back and better than ever! Take a look around! I’ve got a new logo and look, as well as an official Terms & Conditions and an updated About Me page. I’ve also purchased the domain bookclubbabe.net, so remember to add it to your bookmarks! A few tweaks are still in the works in regards to expanding on social media (like my new Facebook fan page!), but I was too excited to wait any longer!

Another way I’m working to effectively and cohesively professionalize my personal brand is to “come out” and reveal my identity. I’m obviously not off the grid or anything, so goodness knows I’m no secret agent, but I’ve never directly gone by my real name.

It’s Alyssa Jarrett, by the way, and it’s a pleasure to re-make your acquaintance! As someone just out of grad school and adjusting to the working world, I don’t have a huge online presence, but I encourage you to check out my About.Me website and follow me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest.

I owe all these awesome blog changes to my only, and therefore, favorite sibling Nick Jarrett. Before I jump back into book blogging, I thought I would repay the favor by sharing just a few of the reasons why my brother is the best!

Looking like the pro he is!

Looking like the pro he is!

1. My brother is a kick-ass artist.

This one’s a given, considering the wonders he’s done for Book Club Babe. But just like I’ve always had literary inclinations, Nick’s been the artistic one in the family. He’s currently a graphic design student at Fresno State who does freelance work in his free time. With tattoos, gauges, and a morbid sense of humor, “creative” is a total understatement for this hardcore kid.

Nick with his friend Erik and girlfriend Bri.

Nick with his friend Erik and girlfriend Bri.

2. My brother created his own clothing company.

Over two years ago, Nick founded his clothing line I Scream Clothing, which specializes in colorful T-shirts for the hardcore scene. If you’re looking to wear fun, energetic, unique designs, look no further!

Nick in action!

Nick in action!

3. My brother is an awesome paintballer.

Nick’s also the captain of a paintball team called Genesis, which he formed in 2009 with his friends. He’s a snake player who’s helped Genesis win 1st place in their RPL division at Fresno in 2010 and at Oceanside in 2011. They’ve currently advanced to Division 3 in WCPPL. With my father as coach, paintball is a huge part of my family.

4. My brother will always be a geeky kid at heart.

Between his addiction to Pokemon and the latest tech gadgets, Nick’s a self-professed geek. His most recent hobby is live-streaming video games, so it’s only a matter of time before he’s a YouTube sensation! We’ve bonded over horror games like Slender and Amnesia, so check out us above, where he gives me a  Book Club Babe shout-out!

So that’s why my brother is better than yours! You can get a hold of him on his Facebook and Twitter, but please let him know what you think of the blog redesign in the comments! And even though you know my real name now, I’ll always be Book Club Babe!

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.

Calling all bloggers! I need homework help!

So my first week of school has finished, and my professor loved the idea that my friend/colleague  and I had for our independent study. We want to create a print magazine about social media, but we’re still in the brainstorming stage. We need to narrow down the topic a bit, by having a certain theme for this debut issue.

I’d like to structure it like any other women’s magazine, possibly with an upside-down structure, one side covering the good aspects of social media, and the other side covering the evil. Social media includes social networking sites like Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn, as well as blogging/micro-blogging sites like WordPress, Blogger, and Twitter.

Here’s some possible ideas:

GOOD

  1. Connecting with friends and family
  2. Long distance relationships
  3. 24 hour news access
  4. Networking and job searching
  5. Expanding start-up businesses
  6. Sharing niche interests
EVIL
  1. Social networking narcissism
  2. Cyber-bullying
  3. Stress and depression over upkeeping profile and friends lists
  4. Lack of interpersonal communication
  5. Intruding advertisements
  6. Stalking and addiction

Throw out ideas if you have them, as well as topics you’d like to be covered in a social media magazine, because I’m sure I left a lot out! We’ll also be conducting interviews, so if you’d like to volunteer and get the word out about your blog or business, let me know!

Thanks!