Sophie Kinsella’s I Owe You One – Her Best of Late

After my return from the UK, I have picked up Sophie Kinsella’s new standalone novel I Owe You One from a local library in Singapore. The book is almost perfect. Except for the color of the book – um pink? – which even with my metrosexually thickskin personality, I do find it a little bit uncomfortable reading a pink covered supersized book in public. I read it in public nonetheless.

Sophie Kinsella is famous for the Shopaholic series, which kind of lost me lately. She is also very good at standalone novels like this one. She wrote under the pen name of Madeleine Wickham in the past as well. Yes, I am a fan. I don’t particularly think I dig the chick-lit genre per se. But I have read almost all her books.

Most of her books start with a flawed female character. And through character development, readers get to fall in love and relate to the main character. Her books come with tons of humor. I Owe You One is funny. Yet, I don’t think the main character Fixie is flawed, which is refreshing. She just loves to fix things. Compulsively so.

A pageturner. There are bits that moved me deeply and there are bits that make me laugh. A high recommendation from me.

Wedding Night By Sophie Kinsella – A Double Dose Of Chick Lit In One Volume

A new novel by Kinsella!

Oh.  I am such a Kinsella fan.  I have read every book of hers.  Good or bad I … take it like a man.  OK.  Her books are mostly good.  Always a hilarious read.  One time, while reading Wedding Night inside a Starbucks, I have to squeeze myself real hard so as not to laugh out too loud in public.

Typically, her books start out with a flawed female character going through some girl crisis.  Much of the limelight would be on the girl characters and there is little character development on the male counterpart.  But, these are chick lit.  You know what you are in for.

Wedding Night is different.  It is still a Kinsella book.  Lots of emotional moments making it a page turner aside, there is something special about her latest novel.  First, the narration is told not from one female character but two.  The switching between the two main characters is seamless and not predictable.  It is like a double dose of chick lit in one volume.  Second, there is character development for the male characters.  Third, it is not some trivial crisis that the characters are going through.  It is about real life dating, marriage, and career and the struggle like we may have experienced in our lives.  The moral of the story is that at times when we are stuck, the best foot forward may be to let go, be free and lifted, and open to new possibilities.

Back to the story, Lottie is very certain that her boyfriend Richard is going to propose one evening inside a restaurant.  But instead of a wedding proposal, his big question involves a trip abroad.  Lottie is totally crushed and has decided to walk away from the relationship.  Out of nowhere, one of her ex-boyfriends Ben turns up.  Following a pack that they have made in their teenage years, they have decided to get married immediately since they have both hit thirties and are still single.  To avoid falling into the same relationship mishap like in the past, Lottie wants to go the old fashion way – no consummation of marriage before the wedding night.

Meanwhile, Fliss – Lottie’s elder sister – is undergoing a bitter divorce.  She is furious that her little sister is again rushing into something crazy after yet another breakup.  So, Fliss is going all out to stop this wedding night from happening, which is going to be in a Greek island, a place where Ben and Lottie first met.  At the same time, Lorcan – Ben’s colleague – also comes into the picture as he fears that his friend’s hasty decision would ruin his career.  An unlikely collaboration between the bridesmaid and best man, Fliss and Lorcan fly all the way to Greece and intend to talk some sense into this new couple.  To top it up, there is always Richard in the background who may have a regret or two.

An overall entertaining read, a must for the Kinsella fans.

I’ve Got Your Number By Sophie Kinsella – You Know What To Expect, Don’t You?

Chick-lit can be extremely entertaining, even for guys.  None of my guy friends seems to believe me though.  Oh, whatever.  When I saw Kinsella’s new book selling at the airport during my Malaysia business trip, I almost impulsively grabbed a copy.  Almost.  I resisted and reserved a copy at my library online instead.  My patience has been handsomely rewarded and I’ve Got Your Number arrived right before my trip to Bandung, Indonesia.  Hooray!

Note: As you can see, this entry has been written quite some time ago.

At times I wonder: how many different plots one can spin out of women crisis, wedding and engagement, issues with guys and guys’ family, and falling in and out of love.  Surprisingly, the Sophie Kinsella formula still sells.

Poppy, a physiotherapist, loses her engagement ring at a charity party.  To make things worse, she loses her phone too.  How can one live without a phone these days?  Out of nowhere, she has found a phone in a bin, still in working condition.  She then shares this new number with the hotel staff, in case someone finds her ring.  Just when Poppy thinks that she can now focus on recovering her ring, the phone rings.  The phone belongs to the PA of a businessman called Sam and he wants it back.

Poppy does not want to return the phone, yet.  And she makes a bargain to forward any corporate emails and messages to Sam as soon as they arrive.  On several counts, Poppy has proven to be quite a helpful assistant and Sam tolerates this temporary arrangement until Poppy’s ring is found.  Needless to say, this situation turns out to be quite a mess with Poppy’s personal messages mixed with Sam’s corporate messages and the correspondence between the two.  How far can one resist not reading into other people’s messages?  (Not far)  How much can one know about a person by reading others responses about him or her?  (Not much in fact)

I’ve Got Your Number is a fun and light read.  There is a contrast between Poppy’s warm and helpful character to Sam’s curt and business-like character.  Sophie Kinsella’s secret recipe, I believe, is her ability to create an intelligent plot and characters and yet bring it down to a level whereby everyone can relate and laugh about.  This book is slightly different from her previous standalone books in a way that it is full of emails and messages going to and fro between the characters.  It is certainly relevant to our current mode of communication.  I wonder how the readers in the future – say 100 years from now – would react when texts and emails are no longer the norm of communication.  Sophie Kinsella has not fully embraced social networking in her stories yet.  It is going to be a matter of time, I reckon, now that she is pretty active in Facebook.  One of my previous comments about Kinsella’s works is that there is hardly any character development on the male characters.  This book seems to have done a better job in that regard.

While the bulk of I’ve Got Your Number is fun and light, I must admit there is a high dosage of melodramatic moments that only girls can fully appreciate, especially towards the end.  My brain was literally fried with an overwhelming amount of sweetness.  Knowing what genre I am getting myself into, I am not going to complain, not even the slightest.  If you like any of her previous books, especially the standalone ones, this one is not to be missed.  As always, I am looking forward to reading her next book.

PS. What’s up with the footnotes appearing everywhere in the book?  I actually quite like it. Cynthia is having a headache reading them though.  Ha ha ha.

Mini Shopaholic By Sophie Kinsella – Hilarious!

I have a little confession to make.  I have read all of Sophie Kinsella‘s books.  The entire Shopaholic series and the rest of the non-Shopaholic series.  The only books of hers I have not read are her earlier works written under her real name Madeleine Wickham.  I have been doing some soul searching lately.  Does that make me a fan of chick lits?  I think I am more a fan of chick flicks than chick lits, more a fan of  Sophie Kinsella than chick lits.  In fact, I don’t recall reading other click lit writers.  Perhaps I haven’t opened my eyes wide enough.

Onto the 10 years running of the Shopaholic series and onto the 6th book in the series, the heroine of the story Becky Brandon née Bloomwood is back.  And it should come with no surprise that it is a story of Becky’s motherhood.  The development of the entire series has been predictable thus far.  For those who have finished reading the book, we can guess with certainty what the next book is about.

Back to “Mini Shopaholic”.  If you have found the character Becky irritating, you are not going to fall in love with her in this 6th installment.  If you have been accepting her misguided, unpolished, impulsive, and foolish attributes but yet warmed by her tenacity and her refusal to give in no matter how insurmountable the situation seems, you would continue loving her in this book.

I would not divulge too much of the story here.  It is as usual drama filled.  I found myself laughing out loud while reading the book – very often.  That rules out the possibility of reading the book in public or when Cynthia was sleeping.  Sophie Kinsella is gifted as a storyteller.  This book is a page turner.  The characters and down to the clearly chosen company names are memorable.  New to this book are the references to the online technology such as YouTube, Facebook, and Google.  Even down to the modern word usage of unfriend and un-anything (by the way, I find her choice of word “disinvite” strange compares to the more commonly used “uninvite”).  The main character Becky has grown up too.  The center theme is less on the drama caused by the shopping addiction like time and time in the past but on something else.  And I would say the story is more about anti-shopping, more about developing relationship with families and friends.  Sure, Becky still gets herself into unthinkable situations.  Overall, I still enjoy reading Becky’s story no less, looking forward to the next installment.

I suspect for those who take things quite seriously in life may find this book silly and ridiculous.  To me, there are books written for more serious readers.  As for “Mini Shopaholic”, let out a little bit of laughter, loosen up, and the end game is to have fun!  Now, for those who are new to the Shopaholic series, should you start with this one or to start from the beginning?  In theory, you could read “Mini Shopaholic” first because Sophie Kinsella has done a decent job in re-introducing the existing characters as well as recapping on some of the past key events.  However, coming from a fan of the series, one ought to start from the very beginning.

Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella – Similar Formula, But Connecting In A Different Dimension

Yes, it is the new Sophie Kinsella book - Twenties Girl

Personally, I don’t think there is anything wrong per se for a dude like me to read books like “Twenties Girl”, though many friends often get a little shock when they learn that I am a fan of Sophie Kinsella.  Her books are fun read.  And I have read them all.  The only complain I have … erm … if I could put it that way, would be the book cover.  I mean, yes these are chick-lits.  But must the covers look so, girlie?  One time, I was carrying a complete stack of the Shopaholic series to the Times Bookstore counter, and there were people l-o-o-k-i-n-g.  Or at least that was how I imagined so.  The moment “Twenties Girl” was out, I was hitting our National Library’s website everyday trying to be amongst the first to place a reservation.  Bad news was, I was at queue number seventy-something.  Good news was, our library in Singapore has stocked up sixty over “Twenties Girl” in anticipation of the demand.  Well done NLB!

I remember vividly the day I collected the book from the library.  We had a Spanish examination in the afternoon.  During our late lunch celebration with some of the classmates, I have received an email on my N97 (the text message reminder came much later, while we were watching a movie at night).  Yes, the book was ready for collection.  Hooray!  The library was just opposite to where we had our lunch.  When I reached the counter, it was empty.  I secretly let out a sigh of relief.  But you know what life is like.  Just when you think everything is going OK, I saw a queue starting to form, as the librarian was trying to locate the book.  With a crisp clear, relatively loud voice given the fact that we were inside a library, she showed me the book cover and asked, “Is this the book you are looking for?”.  I swear I saw the queue of library visitors looked at me, then the book, then at me again.  Gosh!

The legendary Shopaholic series aside, I enjoy reading Sophie Kinsella’s standalone novels a lot.  Like “The Undomestic Goddess”, “Can You Keep A Secret”, and “Remember Me?”.  As for “Twenties Girl”, it is still a fun read.  I laughed-out-loud while reading the book in Starbucks, and at home.  The formula is similar: lots of dramas, centered to a girl.  And the lack of character development for the male species is still prevalence.  Maybe this is how girls see the world; maybe such is the genre of chick-lit.  What is different though is that the center character, Lara, is not as flawed as the rest of Sophie Kinsella’s heroines.  Also, the concept of the constant interaction with Lara’s great aunt’s ghost adds a new dimension to the story development.  “Twenties Girl” touches at the emotional level too.  It is less so on the triumph at the personal level, but rather a shift in a focus onto the linkage and importance of the family heritage.  It is also less as a predictable happy ending, but one that leaves a melancholy kind of after taste.

Certainly an entertaining book to read.  Could the storyline be tighter and tidier?  Perhaps.  But if you are already a fan, what are you waiting for?