Daily Archives: September 6, 2010

Mini Shopaholic – Paula’s Book Review

My sister is a ravenous reader and so when Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella arrived for me to read and review, Paula snatched it up immediately, sat down, and devoured it in a day. She has read all the previous books in this series and found this one to be “one of the best” of the lot. I don’t know when I will get to read this book, so I thought I would not make you all wait for a review…but, instead would allow Paula to share her thoughts with you in interview format. Enjoy!!

There’s no way on earth Minnie’s spoiled. No way.

OK, so she has her little moments. Like we all do. But she’s not spoiled. I would know if she was spoiled. I’m her mother. – from Mini Shopaholic, page 17 –

ME: Can you give us a short (non-spoiler) summary of the book?

PAULA: This book picks up where the last book left off with Becky, Luke and their two year old daughter Minnie living at her parents home in England. The story revolves around Becky parenting Minnie, shopping with Minnie and shaping the world to fit into her own reality.  Another plot point is the surprise party which Becky meticulously plans for her husband Luke – a surprise party he neither wants nor condones. The whole story is told hilariously from Becky’s point of view.

ME: What have you enjoyed most about the Shopaholic series? Why do you think this one is the best so far?

PAULA: I just love Becky. She is such an optimist who continually believes she can make anything happen while being a good mom and trying to keep Luke happy. The plot in this one is the most engaging and the ending is a total surprise that I didn’t see coming.

ME: What is it you enjoy so much about Kinsella’s writing?

PAULA: She has a unique way of revealing plot…for example I like how she inserts letters from individuals to Becky which are clever and show a lot of the plot with very little narration. I also think Kinsella is hysterical. I love her sense of humor, such as the little white lies which Becky invents to get herself out of trouble.

ME: Which character do you like BEST in the book? Why?

PAULA: Luke is a great character. He forgives Becky all her faults. And of course, I love Becky who I have already talked a lot about!

ME: Who do you think Kinsella is gearing her book towards? What kind of readers would most enjoy the book?

PAULA: Definitely women will be drawn to the book. People who are looking for a light, fun read will enjoy the book – and anyone who loves to shop and who has ever convinced themselves to buy something simply because it was a great deal!

ME: What about Kinsella’s characterization of women do you find the most accurate? The least accurate?

PAULA: Becky wanting to indulge her daughter is very accurate. Moms tend to rationalize giving something to their children that they don’t necessarily need, but that they want. Also, I think women want to give back to their husbands…wanting to do it all themselves, and to do something “over the top” strikes me as very real. Kinsella portrays several different types of women – all of them are individuals. I don’t think there are any characters who are inaccurate. Luke’s personal assistant, Bonnie, is a very strong woman who is more nontraditional. When she and Becky strike up a friendship there is a bit of tension that develops, specifically Becky involves Bonnie in the party-planning which has the potential to cause problems in Bonnie’s professional relationship with Luke.

ME: If Kinsella writes another novel in the series, will you read it?

PAULA: Absolutely!

ME: Is there anything else you think readers should know about the book?

PAULA: If you want to laugh, this is a great book to pick up. I love a book that makes me laugh out loud and want to share with others. There is a lot more going on in the book than first meets the eye – for example it explores the economic conditions of the times (cutting back, saving money, banks collapsing) and personalizes it through Becky’s eyes.

I’m in one of my zillion unworn white shirts, with a pair of black trousers and a waistcoat layered over a long cardigan. This is the only way I’m going to survive – by layering as many pieces of possible every day and getting through them that way. Even so, according to Jesse’s calculations, I won’t need to go shopping until October 23. And it’s still only January. I want to cry. Stupid, stupid banks. – from Mini Shopaholic, page 109 –

Paula’s Rating:

4.5 shopping bags

FTC Disclosure: This book was sent to me (and thus Paula!) for review on my blog.

By clicking on the link below you will be redirected to Indiebound to learn more about the book. If you chose to purchase Mini Shopaholic through an Indie Bookstore on their site via this link, I will receive a small commission based on the sale.


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The Wake of Forgiveness – Book Review

His eyes had cleared, the pain in his knee just a twinge of memory, but now he was seeing his father, the blood dark at the corner of his mouth, his body sucking into the mud of the land he’d tried the whole of his adult life to work toward his own ends, his tobacco-stained lips whispering to his one remaining son, the one to whom the land would fall now that he had fallen, the son he couldn’t lose because he’d never quite had him to begin with. – from the ARC of The Wake of Forgiveness, page 256 –

Karel Skala is the youngest son of Klara and Vaclav, born in 1895 on the same night his mother dies while struggling to birth him. Karel’s father, a Czech immigrant and a rough and violent man who has made a living off the Texas land of Lavaca County, only becomes more hardened after the death of his wife. He turns away from the son he blames for her death and immerses himself in the land. This is a man who harnesses his sons to a plow to work his fields (causing them to develop perpetually kinked necks), and accumulates his land by sitting Karel atop a horse to race against his nearest neighbor’s son.

The horses reared and surged, and the smoke from Lad’s gun flew up in a windswept whirl and circled itself like a confused spirit into the creekside trees. The boys got up fast in their stirrups, and by the time they urged their animals up to speed, hoof sod flying behind them as they tore past the cheering line of men and between the two fires and into the darkness, eleven-year-old Karel was laying it on thick with his whip. – from the ARC of The Wake of Forgiveness, page 20 –

Bruce Machart’s debut novel The Wake of Forgiveness is about Karel and his father, about the bonds of family and the crevices in sibling relationships, about the Texas land and the men and women who work it, and about love, loss and redemption. Machart writes in a non linear fashion, weaving back and forth from the late nineteenth century, to 1910 (when Karel is fifteen years old), to 1924 (when Karel is a  grown man, married with his own children). His prose is poetic and balanced, intense and captivating, violent and heartbreaking. This is a big, sprawling book like the Texas landscape itself.

I found myself enthralled by Machart’s book. I loved how he crafted his characters, adding layers to them as the novel progresses. When a rich Mexican arrives in Lavaca County with his three desirable, raven haired daughters, a horse race is organized between Karel and Graciela (one of the daughters) with either land or marriage at stake – depending on who wins the race. The interaction between these two characters on the eve of the race is just another fine example of Machart’s talent to create tension while unveiling another aspect of character.

“Well,” says Karel, “seems only fair that you tell me your name, don’t it? Before you leave me in the dust, I mean.”

She turns the horse back at him, her eyes so deep and full of their dark allure that Karel imagines she could pull him out of his boots and into the saddle with nothing more than a look. She curls a few strands of the horse’s mane around her finger and wets her lips with her tongue, and, before she gives her horse a heel and gallops him into the early morning fields, she leans down over Karel such that her hair brushes against his face and he breathes her in and she smells of lavender and of beeswax and of sweet feed, and then her voice is in his ear and she’s whispering: “Ask me Saturday, and I’ll tell you it’s Skala.” – from the ARC of The Wake of Forgiveness, page 35 –

Machart’s writing is some of the finest I have read in a long time. Dialogue, setting, plot, character…all are fully developed. Machart captures the wide open spaces of Texas, the hard work of farming and ranching, and the beauty of a horse running…all with gorgeous writing that takes the reader’s breath away.  This novel is about the troubled relationship between a boy and his father, and the sibling rivalry between brothers who suffer beneath the unrelenting hand of their father. It is also about the human heart’s capacity for love and forgiveness amid hardship.

I would not be at all surprised if The Wake of Forgiveness shows up on the literary prize lists in 2011. It is a gripping drama beautifully executed with unforgettable characters. This is one I highly recommend.

FTC Disclosure: I received this Advance Readers Edition from the publisher through the Barnes and Noble First Look Book Club.

By clicking on the link below you will be redirected to Indiebound to learn more about the book. If you chose to purchase The Wake of Forgiveness through an Indie Bookstore on their site via this link, I will receive a small commission based on the sale.


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Mailbox Monday – September 6, 2010

Welcome to this week’s edition of Mailbox Monday hosted this month by Kathy at BermudaOnion.

I’m in New Hampshire with my sister, so Kip is my helper with Mailbox Monday for the next few weeks – if books arrive, he lets me know so I can post them. What a guy, huh? I’m a lucky girl!

So this week, here is what arrived at my house in California…

Jocelyn from Kelley & Hall Book Publicity sent me an Advance Readers Edition of Chosen by Chandra Hoffman which was released last month through Harper Collins. I will admit, I decided to accept this book because of serendipity. You might remember that I stitched a quilt for a child living in a Romanian orphanage…so the fact that Hoffman worked as an orphanage relief worker in Romania seemed almost too coincidental. I just had to read her book! The novel centers around an adoption caseworker and three couples…and a missing baby. Hoffman’s writing is being compared to Jodi Picoult and Anna Quindlen – both writers whose work I’ve enjoyed – so I am looking forward to what this book has to offer.

Chandra Hoffman has led an interesting life. Not only has she worked in Romania, but she has been a horse trainer in the Caribbean, a short order cook in a third world hospital, the director of a U.S. adoption program and an event planner for Philadelphia’s Mainline elite. Hoffman graduated from Cornell University and earned an MFA from Antioch. he currently lives in Philadelphia with her husband and three children. Chosen is her debut novel. Learn more about Hoffman and her work by visiting the author’s website.

When the wonderful Lydia Hirt from Riverhead/Penguin learned I would be in New Hampshire helping my sister and her family, she sent me three great looking books (directly to New Hampshire),  one for my niece, but it also looks like a book I’d enjoy:

The Search by Nora Roberts is described as “a riveting novel in which a canine search and rescue volunteer fights danger and finds love in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest.” Read an excerpt from the book here.

Nora Roberts, the youngest of five children, grew up in Maryland and continues to find her home there. Her first book, Irish Thoroughbred, was published by Silhouette in 1981. Since then she has hundreds books, many of them best selling novels. Read more about Roberts and her work by visiting the author’s website.

You Had Me At Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness, by Julie Klam is the chronicle of one woman’s journey to learn the secrets of love, health, and happiness from her dogs. Author Daniel Menaker writes: “Beware of these dogs and their biographer!  They will steal your heart and bury it in this book and then dig it up and give it back to you, much fuller than it was before.” The book is due for release at the end of October.

Julie Klam grew up in Bedford, New York. She worked as an intern for David Letterman and has published her work in O: The Oprah Magazine, Rolling Stone, Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour, and the New York Times Magazine. She has earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Special Class Writing for the television show Pop-Up Video. Klam has one previously published memoir: Please Excuse My Daughter (Riverhead 2008). She  is married and lives with her husband, daughter, and three dogs in Manhattan. To learn more about Klam and her work, visit the author’s website.

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok centers around Kimberly Chang, an eleven year old who emigrates from China with her mother. They hope for a better life in New York City, but instead Kimberly finds herself working in a Brooklyn sweatshop in Chinatown. Undeterred by the challenges, she leads a double life as an excellent student by day, and a sweatshop worker at night. The book is described as a “remarkable novel, a deeply moving story of hardship and triumph, heartbreak and love, and all that gets lost in translation.

Jean Kwok was born in Hong Kong and immigrated to Brooklyn as a child where she worked with her family in a sweatshop. She received her bachelor’s degree from Harvard and completed her MFA in fiction at Columbia. Kwok currently lives in the Netherlands with her husband and two sons. Girl in Translation is her first novel. Read more about Kwok and her work on the author’s website.

Also arriving in New Hampshire from Alex at Dial Press/Random House is Sophie Kinsella’s latest book Mini Shopaholic which is due for release later this month in the United States (it is already out in the UK). Becky Bloomwood, the heroine of the Shopaholic series, is back in this newest novel which once again showcases Sophie Kinsella’s “impeccable comic timing and endless optimism” as Becky’s adorable daughter wreaks havoc everywhere she goes.

Sophie Kinsella is the bestselling author of not only the Shopaholic series, but four other stand alone novels. Kinsella also writes under the pseudonym Madeleine Wickham and has published seven novels under that name.  She lives in England with her family. To learn more about Kinsella and her work, visit the author’s website.