Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella
Published: February 2018
Genre: adult, contemporary
Summary: After being together for ten years, Sylvie and Dan have all the trimmings of a happy life and marriage; they have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, beautiful twin girls, and communicate so seamlessly, they finish each other’s sentences. However, a trip to the doctor projects they will live another 68 years together and panic sets in. In the name of marriage survival, they quickly concoct a plan to keep their relationship fresh and exciting: they will create little surprises for each other so that their (extended) years together will never become boring. But in their pursuit to execute Project Surprise Me, mishaps arise and secrets are uncovered that start to threaten the very foundation of their unshakable bond. When a scandal from the past is revealed that question some important untold truths, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other after all.
Mini Review: I enjoyed this to an extent. I wasn’t as enamored as I usually am with Kinsella’s work (here, here, here, and here). It was full of the classic mishaps and hilarity, with a twist at the end, but I simply wasn’t as entertained as I usually am. I’m not sure if it’s because I couldn’t completely relate with the drama (I’m not married, but also…duh, when you marry, that means you intend to be with the person for decades, so clearly I wasn’t on board with the premise) or because I couldn’t relate with the age of the characters (which sounds so bogus, so I don’t think it was that), but this doesn’t rank high on my Kinsella list of recommendations. If you want a light and funny read, give it a shot!
This qualifies as book 2 of 5 in my fun library books challenge.
Love and Other Train Wrecks by Leah Konen
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Published: January 2018
Genre: young adult, contemporary
Summary: After a train-wreck first encounter between Ammy and Noah, the Amtrak train suddenly breaks down due to a snowstorm. Desperate to make it to their destinations, Noah and Ammy have no other option but to travel together. What starts off as a minor detour turns into the whirlwind journey of a lifetime, and over the course of the night they fall in love. But come morning their adventure takes an unexpected turn for the worst. Can one night can really change how they feel about love…and the course of their lives forever?
Mini Review: If you’re looking for a book on overcoming broken relationships (familial or romantic) in a more healthy way, this would be a good book. I especially enjoy travel components in stories, because it forces the character — and the plot! — to move forward. With the train getting stuck, and all the mishaps that follow, you begin to wonder when these two can catch a break and finally make it to their destinations (worst nightmare!). However, I didn’t feel the drive in the plot the way I suppose I should have, and I thought it was a bit repetitious in the characters’ ruminations (this is a short book and it felt as if half of this was rumination). That said, these two really do resort to good and healthy ways of dealing with their heartbreak, stress, and sense of brokenness that I admire.
Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
Published: April 2009
Genre: adult, mystery, historical
Summary: Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce is an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison. It is the summer of 1950—and a dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath. For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. To Flavia the investigation is the stuff of science: full of possibilities, contradictions, and connections. Soon her father is seized and accused of murder. In a police cell, during a violent thunderstorm, Colonel de Luce tells his daughter an astounding story—of a schoolboy friendship turned ugly, of a priceless object that vanished in a bizarre and brazen act of thievery, of a Latin teacher who flung himself to his death from the school’s tower thirty years before. Now Flavia is armed with more than enough knowledge to tie two distant deaths together, to examine new suspects, and begin a search that will lead her all the way to the King of England himself. Of this much the girl is sure: her father is innocent of murder—but protecting her and her sisters from something even worse….
Mini Review: I listened to the audio of this novel and found the narrator’s voice painful to the ears, but the story itself absolutely delightful. Flavia is a precocious girl and incredibly imaginative. Combine these two things and you’re in the mind of a very clever, wild, eager person in the middle of a very serious case, right on the path to getting herself murdered as well if she’s not careful. Though this isn’t a heart-pounding, suspenseful mystery by any means (I could not care less about stamps — Grandpa would hate to hear me say that), the trail of clues and the roundabout way Flavia pieces everything together is a literary delight. Definitely plan on reading the next book of the series!
This qualifies as book 3 of 5 in my fun library books challenge.