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Swept Off Her Feet by Hester Browne

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Now, chic lit is often used with great disdain to dismiss a book. Well, I proudly enjoy most stories that would probably be considered chic lit except I just call them fiction. Although, I do wish we could get away from some of the covers (Hello Publishers!) that are typically Barbie pink or feature women in uncomfortable, but beautiful, shoes.  These covers effectively pigeonhole a variety of books related to modern womanhood into one neat subcategory. Girlfriend here on this cover looks like she is using the potty or selling Poo Pourri.

But, crack it open.  This book is a delight.  And, I argue that if this story featured a male protagonist with Encyclopedic knowledge of antiques who travels into the country as a favor to his brother and finds romance and history it would be just regular fiction. But, since this features a woman and there is some kissing, it is automatically chic lit.  Which means they have to use a “girly” cover.

I bought this book because I have loved the author Hester Browne since first reading her Little Lady Agency (pink cover and all).  She has written a couple of other books and I have enjoyed each and every one of them.  Recently, I found there was one I had missed.  Oh, the joy!  To find a book by a personally vetted author is a gift.

Side note: I extra love fiction written by British women set anywhere in England.  Perhaps it is because all the trivialities of life are just so much more iteresting when you incorporate British slang. I mean, ‘loo’ instead of ‘restroom’ or ‘mini-break’ rather than ‘vacation’ is just fancier for me.  I love all of it.  The added benefit is that I (who rarely get to travel) get a free cultural lesson while reading what is, at its heart, a romance book. In the end, I feel smart and charmed which is always a winning combination.

So, I dove into Swept Off Her Feet. I found it extra enjoyable because in addition to being set in London there are prolonged jaunts into Scotland. Yum. Scottish reeling, English antiques and several love interests made for a sweet and fun book that just hits the spot.

Now, the synopsis of this book will tell you that it is about two very different sisters, Evie and Alice, and their intertwining romances and opportunity for true love at a Scottish ball. Really, this story is all from Evie’s perspective. While you get to hear about Alice’s love life, it is Evie and her love of antiques and the history that they tell that guides this story. If you enjoy books with smart, kind women who are brave in the face of social trials and tribulations then go ahead and give this fiction book a go (give it a go being British slang for try it.)

 

 

 

 

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The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

oneandonlyivanThis book was published in 2012. It is the captivating story of Ivan, a silverback gorilla that lives on display in a shopping mall. Katherine Applegate’s Ivan was inspired by the real Ivan, the Shopping Mall Gorilla. This book is told from Ivan’s perspective during a period of dramatic changes in his life.

I failed this book the first time I read it. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the book after the first read. But, the first time I read it, I zipped right through it. I wanted to find out as quickly as possible what was going to happen. I erroneous though that it is”children’s literature” and therefore shouldn’t take too much of my time. “Children’s literature,” is really just another place I, as an adult, tend to marginalize the feelings and experiences of young people.

In my haste I missed savoring the poetic word choices that were skillfully used to bring us into Ivan’s world during that pivotal change. This was powerful stuff. I had to go back and read it again. So I did, much more slowly. And I savored the moments. Even the hard ones.

You should know, I cannot stand movies or books that make me cry. I especially despise contrived stories that end in heartbreak. (I’m looking at you Nicholas Sparks!!). But, there are times when I am so moved by a story that I am tearful in a happy/sad way. The One and Only Ivan affected me in such a way. There were tears but they were purposeful and from a place of joy.

When Katherine Applegate accepted her Newberry Medal for The One and Only Ivan she remarked how moved she was by the classic talking-animal book Charlotte’s Web.  She said that she was, “enchanted and heartbroken, in equal measure.” This is precisely how I felt after reading The One and Only Ivan. Both times.

humor · nonfiction

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

why-not-meI read (and was very entertained by) Mindy Kaling’s first book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and Other Concerns). Her second book Why Not Me? was a delightful and hilarious look at the developing woman that is Mindy. I really enjoyed that she recognized that we can continue to grow and change as people even after we leave college and get our first jobs if we are introspective and willing to work. Plus, some of that growing is hilarious.

I laughed (really really hard) at some of the essays especially the one highlighting her Hollywood grooming tips and tricks. To quote the fantastic Micah McCain, “I told you it was a wig!” Side note: have you seen his parody of Beauty and the Beast? Watch it here at Bonjour Girl.

And, of course, she created an immediate kinship between the two of us when she talked about some of her insomnia inducing concerns.  Don’t worry Mindy, absolutely no one knows how much natural gas actually costs.  You can attempt to use the Apples to Apples comparison chart but it will just raise more questions than it gives answers. In the end we all get overwhelmed and just pay the damn thing before they take our heat away.

Beyond being hilarious and willing to show her readers some snippets of her life, this book asks an important question, “Why not me?” When I first saw the cover I thought she was asking, “Why is everyone else getting a turn and not me?” And this might be because she is posed half way in the door like everyone’s sibling interrupting an activity. But what she really is asking is more like, “Why the hell not me you dumb lazy jerk?” while she closes the door to her office and gets back to work on one of her many jobs.

Her final essay bears the same title as the book and it is that piece that will probably stick with me forever.  I will forget about her faux pregnancy Spanx (Nope. I won’t. That was amazing.) and I might not remember which is her favorite McDonald’s value meal, but I will remember the importance of that question. When challenged to grow as a person and change something about your life we are encouraged to ask “Why not?” instead of “Why?” Mindy Kaling takes this question one step further. When a job needs to be done or an opportunity arises it is not “Why me?” but “Why not me?”

From now on, I think this will be my rally cry. Continue reading “Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling”