Catching up and panicking

I was at a Hot Key bloggers brunch on Saturday (at which I met Heather Morris and Rebecca Adlington, and thoroughly enjoyed their chat about historical writing, and got all the goss on the sequel to The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Cilka’s Journey), and having a chat with two other bloggers about how you keep it all going. My answer at the time was that I try not to pressure myself and just accept if I miss a few days of scheduled posting. But, funnily enough, that coincided with my missing two posting days, and now I’m starting to feel bad about it.

I try to post every Tuesday and Thursday, so that’s two posts a week, which is a very minor commitment. But I don’t always manage it, because there’s so much else going on in life. And although I tell myself that it doesn’t matter, and it’s fine if I miss a few posts, because really, life is more important than blogging, but that doesn’t stop my heart from going ninety, feeling like I’m a failure as a blogger, and guilt weighing down on me. But I’m trying to shrug that off, and remember that this is supposed to be fun, not stressful.

So today’s post is a couple of one-liner reviews, to catch up with what I’ve read in the last few weeks, and see if I can shrug off some of the guilt!

The Day We Met – Roxie Cooper
Four Stars ****

The strapline on this book says ‘the perfect epic love story to read this Valentine’s day’, and I have to say I don’t agree with that, but I still enjoyed this ten-year will-they/won’t-they story of two people who feel an instant connection, but are both already in relationships. What an ending, though!

The Valley of Fear – Arthur Conan Doyle
Three Stars ***

This is actually the last Sherlock Holmes story I read, so now I can say I’ve read all 56 short stories and four novels. I don’t think this was the greatest, though. Quite disjointed in terms of how the story played out, with two disparate sections, one of which had NO Sherlock at all. Disappointing.

The Marble Collector – Cecelia Ahern
Three Stars ***

It was unusual to listen to an audiobook by an Irish author, read by Irish voice artists. Unusual, but very refreshing. Interesting story, but I’m not sure I really loved it. It felt very crammed into an artificial timescale.

A Spark of Light – Jodi Picoult
Three Stars ***

I normally love Picoult, but I don’t think this was her greatest book. I didn’t like the timescale, and the way it played out by going back through a single day. I’d have liked more about what happened after the point at which the book opened!

Those Other Women – Nicola Moriarty
Four Stars ****

I had had this on my kindle for months before I actually picked it up, and once I did I didn’t regret it. Filled with intrigue and accurate analysis of female friendships and rivalry, the ending was a little melodramatic, but no harm.

The Hound of the Baskervilles – Arthur Conan Doyle
Four Stars ****

The second last Sherlock Holmes I read, this was definitely better than the Valley of Fear. More cohesive, and probably a better story overall.

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One Minute Later – Susan Lewis

I kind of think of Susan Lewis as a British Jodi Picoult, with sweeping, family-driven, issues-laden stories that focus on human emotion and are generally written from multiple perspectives. I don’t mean that as a criticism at all. I really like those kinds of books. They’re meaty, but not gory – focused on human emotions and human lives, and full of relatable characters. So when I saw that Susan Lewis’s latest book was available for request on NetGalley, I clicked the request button, and was even more delighted to be approved.

One Minute Later – Susan Lewis

41210703.jpgYour life can change in a heartbeat…

Brilliantly emotional, suspenseful and page-turning, One Minute Later is the stunning new novel from the Sunday Timesbestselling author, Susan Lewis.

Susan Lewis – behind every secret lies a story.

The new novel from Sunday Times bestselling author, Susan Lewis.

It’s takes one minute to change everything…

Vivienne Shager has it all. A highflying job. A beautiful apartment. Friends whose lives are as perfect as her own. But on the afternoon of her 27th birthday, Vivi has a heart attack.

Now Vivi’s life shrinks back to how it begun, as she moves back to the small seaside town she grew up in. With her time running out, there is one thing she wants to know the truth about.

Some secrets are best left in the past…

Thirty years earlier, Shelley’s family home, Deerwood farm, bursts full of love and happiness. But one family member has hidden a secret for all these years. Until Vivi comes home demanding answers, and it takes just a moment to unravel the lie at their heart of their lives…

I enjoyed this book a lot. At its heart a romance, the story of Vivi learning to adapt to her new life and how things have changed when she suffers a major cardiac incident is by turns swoonworthy and heartbreaking, and intertwined with Shelley’s story thirty years earlier, there’s plenty going on here to keep you entertained.

From the beginning of the book, I had my suspicions about how things would turn out, and although I got some aspects right, I got some aspects very wrong, and was delighted to see how the past intertwined with the present. Having thought about how the plot played out, I can totally see that there were hints there that I should have picked up on, which is testament to Lewis’ style of writing. I feel a bit like someone being held by the hand and explained something gently after the fact, and then feeling really impressed that there were hints of it laid out throughout the book.

The ending, however, felt a little rushed and a little disappointing, because it could easily have been the best part of the book. Sadly, I didn’t feel like it was given enough time to really land, and resonate, but I can understand as well why that decision was made.

An important theme through the book is the need for people to register as organ donors. Without being preachy, it’s interesting to see how a real-life campaign and person – Jim Lynskey and Save9Lives.com – can be intertwined with the fictional story of Vivi and finding her heart. I’m already signed up to be an organ donor, and have made my wishes known to my parents, but if even one person comes away from this book and decides to sign up to be a donor, that’s the potential for nine more lives to be saved.

Packed with emotion and enough twists and turns to keep anyone entertained, this was a great addition to Susan Lewis’s huge body of work, and well worth the time.

Four Stars
****

One Minute Later is released on 21st February (next Thursday!) and should be available in all good bookshops from then.

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Review: King of Scars – Leigh Bardugo

I’ve been looking forward to the release of King of Scars pretty much since the day I finished Crooked Kingdom. A return to the Grishaverse! More stories! More Grisha! More Nikolai!

King of Scars was published last week, and I got the audiobook and read it (listened to it?) over the course of the next few days. It’s a very good book, very engaging, and filled with great characters, but it rests very heavily on the shoulders of its predecessors, which makes it that little bit less impressive.

King of Scars (Nikolai Duology #1) – Leigh Bardugo

36307634Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war—and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried—and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.

There is no doubting that this is an excellent book. With several intertwining narratives, from Nina in Fjerda to Nikolai in Os Alta, with Zoya leading the armies and plenty of court intrigue to keep us going, there’s no shortage of storylines going on. Seeing how Nina is coping after the events at the end of Crooked Kingdom is great, because she was one of my favourite characters, and returning to Ravka to see how the aftermath of the civil war is playing out is also thrilling. There’s plenty of new intrigue in the form of diplomatic relations between different nations, as well as Nikolai’s search for a bride to continue to (putative) Lantsov line. Plenty going on here.

There is also an expansion of some of the mythology of the world, some of which I didn’t quite understand. Towards the middle of the book, we begin to learn more about the Saints, and what happened to them – as well as some explanation of how to become a Saint (is Alina a saint? Well, who knows?) and the powers they possess. We return to the Fold, the dead area still splitting the east and west of Ravka, and learn more about the impact of the Darkling’s actions in the original Grisha trilogy.

But that’s actually something I didn’t really like about this book – yes, it’s really interesting to see what’s happened after the Grisha trilogy, but it feels to me like it’s too much of a follow on to that plot, and not enough of its own story. Nikolai’s inner demon, a remnant of the merzost that the Darkling forced inside him late in the third book of the Grisha trilogy, is surprisingly disappointing in how it works out. And how many times are characters going to die but not die? Also, this obsession with the Darkling is growing dull. I know he’s many people’s favourite villain, but I just don’t find him compelling at all. I’d rather we move on to new problems, please.

For Nina, also, the main villain of her story is no different to before – both Nikolai’s demon and Nina’s crusade are continuations of stories that were started in other series, and I’m a bit disappointed that their expansion is a large part of the focus of this new series. It feels lazy, like already created villains and plots are being repurposed to prop up a new series. But really, why not just continue the old series if that’s the case? Don’t make it sound like we’re going somewhere completely new when really we’re just continuing what we’ve already started.

That’s really my only complaint, though – a little bit tired in terms of who the villains are for two of the main plots. But the third main plot, of Nikolai’s court intrigue and Isaak’s part in that, as he works with Genya and David, together with Tolya and Tamar, was great – old characters, but in new roles, doing new things, tackling new problems.

This book finished on a huge cliffhanger, but having read Six of Crows, I was totally expecting that, and given that it’s a duology, but the third linked series, I don’t think that’s a major problem for me. My only problem is that we don’t have a title or a publication date for the second half of the series.

Four very pleasurable stars
****

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A Danger to Herself and Others – Alyssa Sheinmel

I really loved Faceless, which I won in a competition a few years ago, and so when I saw on twitter that Sheinmel’s next book, A Danger to Herself and Others, was on NetGalley, I was requesting it very shortly after. Approved a few days later, I started this, left it, then came back and consumed most of it within a single night. Compelling and thoughtful, it is entirely not what I expected – I was thinking of a thriller, of toxic female friendships, and of a self-interested protagonist manipulating all those around her. There were elements of this in the book, but it was much more than that as well.

A Danger to Herself and Others – Alyssa Sheinmel

43207753.jpgOnly when she’s locked away does the truth begin to escape…

Seventeen-year-old Hannah Gold has always been treated like a grown up. As the only child of two New York professionals, she’s been traveling the world and functioning as a miniature adult since the day she was born. But that was then. Now, Hannah has been checked into a remote treatment facility, stripped of all autonomy and confined to a single room.

Hannah knows there’s been a mistake. What happened to her roommate that summer was an accident. As soon as the doctor and judge figure out that she isn’t a danger to herself or others, she can get back to her life of promise and start her final year at school. Until then, she’s determined to win over the staff and earn some privileges so she doesn’t lose her mind to boredom.

But then she’s assigned a new roommate. At first, Lucy is the perfect project to keep Hannah’s focus off all she is missing at home. But Lucy may be the one person who can make Hannah confront the secrets she’s avoiding – and the dangerous games that landed her in confinement in the first place.

Gripping, heartwrenching and powerful, A Danger to Herself and Others is Girl, Interrupted meets We Were Liars in this new novel from New York Times bestselling author Alyssa Sheinmel.

Very different to the first book of hers that I read, Faceless, this thoughtful piece on mental illness and unreliable narrators is poignantly drawn.
Hannah Gold is clever, independent, and has been grown up since she was four or five years old. Locked up in a secure facility, she’s convinced that all she has to do is convince the doctors that she’s perfectly fine and this is all a misunderstanding, and she’ll be allowed out in time to start the first semester of senior year in high school.
But the arrival of new roommate Lucy might just be the catalyst which leads to Hannah discovering far more about herself than she ever thought would be true.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Hannah is arrogant, self-satisfied, and frankly, quite unlikeable. Superior and manipulative, she’s convinced she knows better than everyone, and that she knows exactly how to get them to do what she wants. Starting the book, I was aware that we were dealing with an unreliable narrator, so I took everything that Hannah said with a pinch of salt, especially about what happened to land her inside. But as the book went on, what I thought would be a reveal on a par with, say, Dangerous Girls or Black Cairn Point was much more subtle than that, and thus much more rewarding.

Lacking the emotional heft of Faceless, if I wasn’t comparing this book to Sheinmel’s last offering, I think I would be much more enthusiastic about this book. As it is, my opinion is that it’s very good – but it’s not as good as Faceless. If I wasn’t aware that they were the same author, I probably wouldn’t feel the need to put the same caveats on it.
Ah, the perils of becoming a victim of one’s own success.

Let me try again.
This nuanced and delicate look at mental health and self-perception is really very good, and highly recommended.

Four Stars
****

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January Roundup

I can’t believe it’s the last day of January. I swear it was only just New Year. I am apparently losing all ability to keep track of time, and therefore slipping into a terrible mire of constant panic as deadlines pass by. But let’s be cheerful about it. I’m still finding time to do the things I love, and my gorgeous nieces and nephew are getting bigger every month. It’s wonderful to see them grow! Reading-wise, it’s been a struggle this month. I’ve been super, super busy at work, and am strugglignt o fidn the time to even wash my clothes. But I’ll get back on the wagon soon. Hopefully.

Books

  1. His Christmas Bride – Lara Van Hulzen
  2. Circe – Madeleine Miller
  3. Fierce Fragile Hearts (Beautiful Broken Things #2) – Sara Barnard
  4. The Songbird – Marcia Willett
  5. I Owe You One – Sophie Kinsella
  6. The Hound of the Baskervilles – Arthur Conan Doyle
  7. Traitor’s Blade (Greatcoats #1) – Sebastien de Castell
  8. In the Frame – Dick Francis
  9. Descendant of the Crane – Joan He
  10. Those Other Women – Nicola Moriarty
  11. The Book of Love – Fionnuala Kearney

Cover Art

 

Favourite Book This Month

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Easy one this month. I absolutely adored Sara Barnard’s followup to her debut novel, and positively devoured it. The Brighton atmosphere is so vivid, the characters so real, the experiences of Suzanne and her friends so believable, and the emotion just seeps off the pages. Sara Barnard is an artist, a poet, and an incredible author.

Least Favourite Book This Month

His Christmas Bride – there was nothing wrong with it, it was just the one I liked the least of this month’s reads. It was a fluffy Christmas freebie I read on the plane home, and it had no real depth, but I didn’t really want it to have depth either. It did exactly what it was supposed to, and I have no complaints about it – it just wasn’t my favourite.

Favourite cover art

This was really tough this month. There are so many great covers in my relatively small month of reading – FFH is absolutely stunning in person, with foiled birds and text. Circe is also fab, and catches the eye in a stunning way. Descendant of the Crane is breathtaking and so evocative of the culture that the book is steeped in. But in the end I went for Traitor’s Blade, partially because of the stark colour contrasts, but also because of the consistency of covers within the series. Is that cheating? I’m not sure. It probably is. But I’m doing it anyways. Looking forward to picking up Falcio’s next adventure already.

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Other…

I definitely think I’m getting old, because every time I look at the date, I think ‘no, that can’t possibly be right!’. Time passes at the same rate as it ever did, yet I’m constantly stunned by it. I used to think that was something old people did, and now I’m doing it, which means I must be old. That’s a bit of a depressing thought.

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I Can’t Hear You

I’m having an audiobook slump. I’m actually having a general reading slump, but it’s more profound in the audiobooks specifically.

I don’t really know why. I just don’t seem to be listening to any audiobooks. When I’m in the car, I listen to the radio. When I’m at home, I put music on spotify instead of playing an audiobook.

Something is off at the moment – I just don’t have any inclination to hear stories. Every time I think about putting on an audiobook, my immediate reaction is just ‘nah…’

And it’s strange, because I have loads of audiobooks lined up that I really want to read, and I got a new phone mount for my car, so I’ll be able to hit play without doing anything illegal, and I recently got an Amazon Echo Dot, so I can play Audible books just with my voice. So really, all these things should add up to audiobook city.

But since I went home for Christmas, six weeks ago, I’ve only listened to three audiobooks. That might seem like a lot, but it’s actually only one every two weeks, which is absurdly slow for me.

Who knows. I downloaded King of Scars yesterday, and I’m definitely interested in that, so perhaps it’ll kick me out of my slump. Then I can start working my way through that backlist which is piling up.

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Top Ten Thursday – Books I Meant to Read in 2018 but, uh, didn’t.

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I’m two days late with this Top Ten Tuesday tag from That Artsy Reader Girl, but I don’t care. After I saw that Aoife and Jenn had both done it, I knew this is a bandwagon I wanted to get on.

Those Other Women – Nicola Moriarty

Currently reading – feeling good about ticking this one. off the list!

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Watermelon – Marian Keyes

Currently reading – but have been doing so since before the end of 2018. Not feeling so good about this one.

35105833The Girl King – Mimi Yu

Been carrying it around in my bag for a week now. Still has not seen the light of day.

Have Sword, Will Travel – Garth Nix & Sean Williams42920849

How could I not read something by my favourite author and another author I really like? I don’t know, but it’s still sitting on my shelf, judging me.

Nightblood – Elly Blake

51dgyRxjU4L._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_

The third in a trilogy, I keep meaning to read it, but I keep just… not. Even though I really liked the first two, and definitely do want to read this!

51lTQrSlBBL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

The Towering Sky – Katharine McGee

The third in a trilogy, I keep meaning to read it, but I keep just… not this either. Even though I really liked the first two and want to find out how the story ends. Apparently I have a type.

37901428A Reaper At The Gates – Sabaa Tahir

The third in a quadrilogy, I keep meaning to read it – I even preordered it! – but it hasn’t made it off my shelf. Awks.

Even more awks because I totally LOVED the first two books in this series, so there’s literally no reason for me not to have actually picked this up and read this. My brain just refused to be in the mood to read it.

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Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken – The Secret Barrister

Bought because I thought it might be relevant to my life of work, it has sat staring balefully at me from my shelf for, oh, six months now.

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Devoted – Jennifer Mathieu

A YALC ARC, I was really excited for this, and definitely intended to read it. And here we are, long after publication, and it’s still untouched. Rats.

The Smoke Thieves – Sally Green

I love the sound of this! So exciting! And the book itself is BEAUTIFUL, with gorgeous purple sprayed edges and a supremely gorgeous cover. Yet I have barely looked at it.

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So that’s my (small) snippet of my TBR from last year that’s been carried over. Maybe one or two of them will be done by the end of 2019… Maybe.

Argh! I really do want to read all of these books! Why do I not do it? It’s some kind of useless gene in my brain maybe? It tells me to buy more books because I don’t have enough, conveniently glossing over the mountains of backlist I have to catch up on. That’s why I set myself this year’s challenge!

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Descendant of the Crane – Joan He

I received a copy of this book from the publisher on NetGalley.

My introduction to this book was actually through Leigh Bardugo’s Goodreads interview to promote King of Scars. Given how much I loved the Six of Crows duology, I thought anything that Bardugo was recommending was definitely worth a look, so I requested this on NetGalley and was chuffed to be approved.

Descendant of the Crane – Joan He

36430989.jpg“Deep world-building, magical family secrets, and intricate palace politics—Descendant of the Crane soars from page one. Its twists and treacheries kept me guessing until the very end.”

—Rachel Hartman, New York Times bestselling author of Seraphina
Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own.

Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, dreaming of an unremarkable life. But when her beloved father is found dead, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of a surprisingly unstable kingdom. What’s more, Hesina believes that her father was murdered—and that the killer is someone close to her.

Hesina’s court is packed full of dissemblers and deceivers eager to use the king’s death for political gain, each as plausibly guilty as the next. Her advisers would like her to blame the neighboring kingdom of Kendi’a, whose ruler has been mustering for war. Determined to find her father’s actual killer, Hesina does something desperate: she enlists the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by
death, since magic was outlawed centuries ago.

Using the information provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of Yan at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?

There is so much great stuff going on in this book – Joan He draws a richly detailed world based on Chinese culture, seen through the eyes of newly crowned queen Hesina. Packed with court intrigue and banned magic, the atmosphere really oozes out of the pages of this book, and the imagery is rich with evocative scenery and sumptuous descriptions.
The pacing is a little choppy and uneven – some scenes rocket by, months passing as we gallop across the country on horseback, and some plod ponderously past, lingering on seemingly unimportant details. Hesina also has a lot of siblings, for reasons I can’t quite understand – one full brother, also an Imperial royal sibling and a general of the army, two adopted siblings, twins, who she seems closest to, and one half-brother, child of the Imperial consort and with whom Hesina has a fraught relationship. All these different elements mean that her family relationships are massively fractured – and this isn’t to even mention her mother, who hates her for completely inexplicable reasons, and her dead father, whose murder is the catalyst for the whole story.

There were elements of this book that I wasn’t so keen on – I know that YA is based around teen characters, but the fact that Hesina’s whole team of investigators is made up of her siblings and a convict, and they’re all under the age of twenty, is stretching the bounds of imagination a little, especially when you think that this is an investigation into the murder of a king.
As well as that, the final chapters of the book – and especially the epilogue – were choppy and unfinished, and didn’t actually wrap up the story. The author pegs this as a standalone, but by the end of the book, nothing has been resolved, which I hate. The characters are poised on the brink of great change, but that change isn’t coming in this book.
I knew that was going to happen as I sped towards the climactic ending, because there just wasn’t enough time left to resolve everything satisfactorily. I can see why the author did it, and definitely the action cuts off at a natural breaking point, but there is just so much unresolved in this book I can’t in all honesty see it as a fulfilling ending.

I did really like the style of writing, thought Hesina was a great main character, and loved the depiction of sooths and their magic system. I also really liked the blind hatred of the populace and Hesina’s slow unpicking of her long-held beliefs. Nothing in this book was resolved easily, and there was court intrigue to beat the band. And with so many siblings running around, Hesina had a whole host of complex relationships to unpick. But the book as a whole left me slightly unsatisfied.
I’ll definitely read a sequel, if there is one, but I don’t know how much I can really classify this one as a standalone.
That cover, though? Stunning.

Three Stars (Three and a half, probably)
***

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2019 Reading Plans

It’s hard to believe it, but we’re already more than halfway through January – this year is starting to fly by just as fast as the one before. I need the world to just slow down so I can catch my breath and figure out what’s going on, because I feel like I’m falling behind, and I’m not even sure what I’ve fallen behind on!

In any case, I’ve thought about what challenges I want to set myself for 2019, and I’ve settled on this one: I want to clear at least 30 books off my backlist.

Part of the problem of being a bookworm with relatively free access to money is that I spend a huge amount of time browsing amazon and ibooks, as well as bricks and mortar bookstores, and I end up with far more books at hand than I ever have time to read.

So while I’m not committing to not buying any more books – that would be ridiculous! – I am going to try this year to tick a good few books off my list which I’ve been meaning to read for years. Plus it will mean I can actually hand back the ones I’ve borrowed from my sister, clearing space on my shelves for me to buy more books – win/win!

These images are by no means ALL of the books on my TBR – they’re just a selection of books on my kindle, bookshelves, and ibooks account. I thought about listing all of my owned-but-unread books, but decided that, actually, I need to do some real work today (I have stacks of essays to mark…), and listing out probably upwards of a hundred books wouldn’t be the best way to do that.

 

This is almost 80 books currently owned but unread, and I haven’t even looked at my iBooks, and the physical books are mostly from memory… I can definitely do 30 of these, right?

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I Owe You One – Sophie Kinsella

I delayed Tuesday’s blog post by a day so that I could make this point at the beginning of it – my blog is ten years old today! Happy Birthday, blog!

I was delighted to be approved on NetGalley for Sophie Kinsella’s latest novel. I love Kinsella, and think her trademark wit and awkwardly hilarious protagonists never fail to make for a great story. This standalone story of Fixie Farr and her incorrigible need to fix things was a solid – but not inspiring – entry into Kinsella’s catalogue.

43462784.jpgThe irresistible new standalone from Sophie Kinsella is a story of love, empowerment and an IOU that changes everything . . .

Fixie Farr can’t help herself. Straightening a crooked object, removing a barely-there stain, helping out a friend . . . she just has to put things right. It’s how she got her nickname, after all.

So when a handsome stranger in a coffee shop asks her to watch his laptop for a moment, Fixie not only agrees, she ends up saving it from certain disaster. To thank her, the computer’s owner, Sebastian, scribbles her an IOU – but of course Fixie never intends to call in the favour.

That is, until her teenage crush, Ryan, comes back into her life and needs her help – and Fixie turns to Seb. But things don’t go according to plan, and now Fixie owes Seb: big time.

Soon the pair are caught up in a series of IOUs – from small favours to life-changing debts – and Fixie is torn between the past she’s used to and the future she deserves.

Does she have the courage to fix things for herself and fight for the life, and love, she really wants?

***** EVERYBODY LOVES SOPHIE KINSELLA: *****

‘A shot of pure joy.’ JENNY COLGAN

‘Left me giddy with laughter. I loved it’ JOJO MOYES

‘Life doesn’t get much better than a new Sophie Kinsella novel’ RED

I love Kinsella, and think her trademark wit and awkwardly hilarious protagonists never fail to make for a great story. This standalone story of Fixie Farr and her incorrigible need to fix things was a solid – but not inspiring – entry into Kinsella’s catalogue.
Fixie is a fairly normal protagonist by Kinsella’s standards. She’s actually unusual in that she actually really likes her job, although she has some career skeletons in the closet, and she has a tendency to end up in the most overwrought and awkward situations which are, to be fair, highly entertaining. The story here was good too, with a focus not on romance, but rather on family, and finding your voice, which was refreshingly honest. Fixie has a poor relationship with her siblings, and when she’s suddenly left to deal with them both alone, her anxiety about being the youngest makes it hard for her to speak up. But her growth over the course of the book is endearing, and very satisfying to watch.
I don’t know what it was about this book which failed to make it brilliant. Perhaps it was the lack of Kinsella’s humour? There were very few laugh out loud moments in this book, which is something I normally expect in a Kinsella novel, so this was a little disappointing. As well as that, Fixie in the beginning was, well, a bit wet. She’s seriously bad at standing up for herself, and lets her siblings walk all over her. And this goes on for so long, I actually got kind of annoyed at her. She did grow as a person, but very late in the book, and I had almost lost hope in her entirely by then.

Nonetheless, these criticisms are only possible because I expect such great things from Kinsella. As an entry in the chick lit canon, this is a thoroughly entertaining, and heartwarming experience, and definitely worth reading. I thoroughly enjoyed I Owe You One, and Fixie’s journey, and would definitely recommend it.

Four Stars
****

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