I Owe You One

 

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Thank you to Random House Publishing Group for providing me with an advance copy of Sophie Kinsella’s novel, I Owe You One, in exchange for an honest review.

Fixie Farr has lived her life always putting her family first. After the passing of her beloved father, Fixie began to help her mother run their family store, which sells everything from small kitchen appliances to wrapping paper. Fixie’s mom has the opportunity to travel throughout Europe with her sister and she decides to leave the store in the capable hands of her three adult children.

Unfortunately, Fixie’s siblings do not share her passion for the family business and they have other ideas on how to improve the store. Fixie’s sister, Nicole, wants to push aside the merchandise to hold Yoga lessons, and her brother, Jake, thinks that the store should become more upscale. To make matters worse, Fixie’s mom has put faith in Uncle Ned to guide her children and he is content to hold business meetings at lavish London restaurants, soaking up profits. No one seems to understand the family store or its loyal customers. Fixie’s mission statement of putting family first is ruining the family business and she must figure out how to communicate with them, without becoming a doormat.

To further complicate her life, Ryan, Fixie’s teenage crush has come back to town. He uses her for sex and a place to crash, but Fixie is so smitten, that she constantly excuses his behavior. Fixie’s love life changes, when she helps a dashing stranger in a coffee shop and sparks fly.

I’ve enjoyed many of Kinsella’s previous novels, including her Shopaholic series, which was turned into a film starring Isla Fischer. While I would not consider her novels to be profound or life-changing, they are entertaining. Her novels are the perfect beach-read. Kinsella always creates memorable, relatable characters and I love getting swept away by her stories. She has a knack for writing humor too.

I Owe You One fits the mold of Kinsella’s previous novels. It’s light-hearted, but not without heart. Kinsella has given Fixie plenty of drama to contend with, including an exceptionally bitchy antagonist in Briony, the ex-girlfriend of Fixie’s romantic interest. I wish Briony has been given a larger role in the story, just because her clash with Fixie is epic.

As someone, who like Fixie, has a high-tolerance for putting up with other people’s bad behavior, I felt a sense of joy, as Fixie grows her courage and begins to push back. I think it’s easy to stay quiet and not make waves, especially when family is concerned, but Fixie figures out how to stand up for herself and fight for her family, without ripping them apart. Family is the biggest theme of the novel, with romance as a secondary theme.

I do not buy into Fixie’s relationship with Seb, the man that she meets in the coffee shop. It’s rushed and awkward. Their chemistry does not leap off of the page. They are an odd match. The family element resonates much stronger, than the romance parts of the story.

If you’re heading on a holiday, I recommend I Owe You One or any other Kinsella novels for a fun vacation read. Her stories are quick-paced, humorous and will often strike an emotional chord.

My (Not So) Perfect Life

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Thank You to Random House Publishing Group for providing me with an advanced copy of Sophie Kinsella’s novel, My Not So Perfect Life, in exchange for an honest review.

PLOT – Country girl, Katie Brenner has followed her dreams of moving to London to begin her career at a prestigious branding agency. She loves the excitement of London and the potential opportunity for creativity at her new job, but things are less than perfect. She struggles to make rent for a tiny flat that she shares with difficult roommates, and Katie’s boss, Demeter, is a tyrant. Katie tries to reinvent herself as “Cat” and uses social media to create a fictitious life of fabulous events and dining in amazing restaurants. When Katie is downsized at her firm, both her real and imaginary worlds start falling apart. Can Katie manage to keep it together or will she find a new way to reinvent herself?

LIKE – I’ve read many of Kinsella’s novels and I usually find her stories light-hearted and charming, classic chic-lit. My Not So Perfect Life, isn’t her best novel,  but it was a nice read for a rainy afternoon.

What I thought worked best, is the way Kinsella captured office politics and the “mean girls” attitude that unfortunately doesn’t get left behind in adolescence. I’ve seen the same cliquish behavior in every job I’ve ever had, and it gives me anxiety, especially as I’ve previously been a target. I felt anxious reading these parts of My Not So Perfect Life, which although not pleasant, was affecting. If a story is affecting, I know the writer is doing their job!

I liked Katie as a protagonist. It’s easy to root for the plucky heroine, who is chasing her dreams. Katie is smart and creative. She may be a bit in-over-her-head, but she’s also not a push-over. I liked that Kinsella took the story in a different direction than I was anticipating, making Demeter a fully realized character, rather than just the “evil boss”. At one point, I thought the story was heading in the direction of giving Demeter early on-set Alzheimer’s, which would have made for a dramatic turn, possibly a stronger story. It would have been a less obvious twist. My Not So Perfect Life has a bold message about not judging someone’s life based on their social media accounts. It’s relevant.

I liked how the title ties with Katie’s social media. It’s creative and an extra play on the theme of the story.

I read Kinsella’s books long before I married a Brit, but now I can read them and understand geographical references and British terminology. I don’t know how I felt previously, but now I feel much more clued in, “I’ve been to Somerset” and “I know what Limsip is”. et…there many examples, but now that I’m married to a Brit and have become somewhat immersed in his culture, I have clarity when reading British authors. I think there was a lot that I previously glossed over.

DISLIKE– You must have a huge suspension of disbelief while reading My Not So Perfect Life, the coincidences are outlandish. I did not like the love story between Katie and Alex. It felt rushed and didn’t enhance the story, which is really about staying true to yourself and sticking up for others. The story between Katie and Demeter is the real heart of My Not So Perfect Life, it didn’t need a love story. Plus, I just didn’t like Alex. He seemed slimy and not right for Katie.

RECOMMEND– Maybe. I like Kinsella and would recommend her books, like the Shopaholic series. She’s the perfect vacation-read author with her comedic, fun stories. My Not So Perfect Life, was enjoyable, but not memorable.