My (not so) Perfect Life

Screenshot_2017-06-28-10-58-43-1-1

My (not so) Perfect Life

by Sophie Kinsella

Spring 2017

I was so excited when I saw My (not so) Perfect Life on the new shelf (because I had recently added it to my Goodreads TBR list), so of course I grabbed it. And then I read it in two sittings. It was so good – heartfelt, funny, and brilliant. I loved every second and laughed out loud on multiple occasions. Kinsella is amazing. I want to read more of her books and thankfully I have plenty to choose from.

The thing I loved most about My (not so) Perfect Life was how Kinsella deals with the concept of “perfection” and how it doesn’t really exist. Katie’s stepmom, Biddy, tells it straight to Katie: “Don’t put so much pressure on yourself, love. Whoever started the rumor that life has to be perfect is a very wicked person, if you ask me. Of course it’s not!” I love her enthusiasm. Later, Katie puts it together. She says, “I think I’ve finally worked out how to feel good about life. Every time you see someone’s bright-and-shiny, remember: They have their own crappy truths too. Of course they do. And every time you see your own crappy truth and feel despair and think, Is this my life, remember: It’s not. Everyone’s got a bright-and-shiny, even if it’s hard to find sometimes.” There’s so much truth in these quotes and I love that Kinsella brings it out in her novel, along with all the humor and laughs.

Katie is an aspiring branding associate. She’s worked hard to become a research associate at a major London branding firm, but is not quite living the life. Her apartment is small, roommates are weird, commute long, and budget small. Her boss, Demeter, has it all: perfect husband and kids, clothes, job, lifestyle, etc. All Katie wants is to be given a chance. She wants Demeter to see her and recognize her work, but Demeter is oblivious. On top of it all, Katie feels pressure to display the perfect life to everyone around her, including her dad and stepmom. She has a great relationship with them, but she knows how badly her father wants her to come home, and that is a lot of pressure. Spoilers: Just when Katie starts feeling like she might be making headway, she gets fired, and the worst of it is that Demeter thought she had already fired her before she actually did. Katie is crushed, but determined to find another job before telling her parents. At the same time, her dad and stepmom inform her that they are opening up a B&B of sorts, using fancy tents on their gorgeous country property. Katie’s stepmom has a talent for hospitality and baking (including the most delicious jam), and her dad has a knack for drawing people in and giving them a fun time. Their business takes off and they ask Katie to help them with branding and a focus. Katie agrees to “take an extended holiday from work” to help out, not telling them the truth that she’s jobless. Hilarity ensues as she changes her sleek city look into a softer country style, causing her to be unrecognizable as the business takes off (due to her branding skills) and her old boss comes for a stay with her family. Katie takes the opportunity to get revenge, making Demeter do awful things in the name of getting closer to nature, etc. She slowly softens though as Demeter’s shell cracks and Katie sees that her “perfect life” is actually a life of difficulty and challenges with her family. Demeter’s biggest struggle is at work where she is repeatedly forgetting things and messing things up with customers (very unlike her), to the point where she thinks she’s going crazy and is about to be fired. Her boss, Alex, is a young man who previously hit it off with Katie in the city. He comes to the B&B to fire Demeter, but Katie steps in to help Demeter keep her job. They continue to hit it off and he decides to listen to Katie, who has realized that Demeter is being undermined and set up by a younger, jealous colleague (her assistant who has been using her access to destroy Demeter’s career). They form a plan to get proof, using Katie, who is able to get on record that Demeter’s assistant was ruining Demeter’s reputation. The truth comes out and Katie is given her dream branding job with Demeter. Alex and Katie fall in love as well and officially get together. Her parents’ business continues to thrive and it’s the happiest ending!

Summing it up: this book was light, funny, heartwarming and awesome! I loved it and I highly recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

Happy Father’s Day!

IMG_1258

This Father’s Day is the fifth we’ve celebrated and it’s crazy to realize. Lemon is five years old and Lime is three. (Side note, in case you don’t know, Lemon and Lime are our codes names for the boys . . .heaven help us when they figure it out!) We had a lot of fun today celebrating and taking it easy. This last week has been a little rough as the boys had fevers, so we really needed the family time.

IMG_1270

We did some organizing, including moving a bookshelf. I’d already organized it by color, which made it easy to unload and reload. This bookshelf is one of my favorite things. I love seeing the colors blend into each other and it just makes me happy. Thank you Pinterest for the inspiration!

IMG_1268

We finished the day with making homemade whole wheat pizza. Our toppings were yummy veggies: broccoli, peppers, mushrooms and marinated artichoke hearts.

IMG_1276

IMG_1283

img_1287.jpg

My current parenting read is this gem: How to Talk to Little Kids Will Listen. Oh. My. Goodness. It is spot on and hilarious so far. I’ve only just started, but I have a feeling it’s a good one.

img_1288.jpg

I hope it’s been a happy Father’s Day for you. I’d love to hear about it!

All the best, Abbey

Firefly Lane

20170615_144436-1

Firefly Lane

by Kristin Hannah

June 2017

Firefly Lane is the second Kristen Hannah book I’ve read and I really wanted to like it. I liked Home Front (even though it made me cry like a baby) and expected to enjoy this one as well. However, I was disappointed. One of the main characters was a totally narcissist and it basically ruined the book for me. She never changes, which was so unfortunate! The story is of two girls, Kate and Tully, who become best friends in high school and stay friends through ups and downs over the years. The book chronicles their years by the decade. Tully is always only concerned about herself and puts what she wants above everything and everyone. Spoilers: in the end Kate dies of breast cancer and still, Tully is so concerned about herself that she doesn’t even go into the church for the funeral!

Honestly, if it weren’t for Tully’s extreme selfishness, I would have enjoyed this book. I like Hannah’s writing and her plot was moving. I appreciated her drawing awareness to cancer and how that was an incredibly personal aspect to her story. I really wanted to like this one, so I’m sad I didn’t.

Summing it up: As much as I enjoy Hannah’s writing, I don’t recommend this book. The one “friend” was too self-obsessed and that was challenging to read. Did anyone else feel the same, or did that not bother you? I’d love to know!!

All the best, Abbey

Life On Mars

20170615_133012-1

Life On Mars

by Jon Agee

June 2017

This. Book. It’s amazing, hilarious and clever. My older son, Lemon (side note, that’s not his real name, but I wanted to preserve some privacy for the boy, and my husband and I actually use it as a code name), picked this book out at the library. I’d never heard of it and didn’t read it before checking it out, so I got the best surprise when I read it. This book is a must read. It is fun for children and downright hilarious for the adult reading it. I’m an instant fan of Agee and I really hope he’s written other books (just looked it up . . .he’s written a ton . . .awesome). The illustrations are simple and pleasing, yet dynamic, enhancing the story and giving it a layer of complexity which adds to it’s humor.

Life On Mars is about an adventurous little boy who flies to Mars hoping to find life. He knows he’s right and he’s determined to prove it.

20170615_133047-1

Before long he realizes he was wrong after all and that there is no life on Mars. And even worse, he’s lost his spaceship. But is he wrong?

20170615_133142

There is life (more than he thinks)! He happily returns to earth to show the flower as proof of life on Mars. There’s also a clever side story about a chocolate cupcake which is amazing!

20170615_133216-1

Summing it up: I highly recommend this book for young and old and hope you can get a copy to read really soon!

All the best, Abbey

Letters from Paris

20170311_164151-1.jpg

Letters from Paris

by Juliet Blackwell

March 2017

I was beside myself with excitement when I saw Blackwell’s second book, Letters From Paris, on the bookshelf! I adored her first book, The Paris Key (my review here – https://twentyninewillowlane.wordpress.com/2016/11/02/the-paris-key/). Seriously, anything French draws me in and this one was just spectacular. I love Blackwell’s writing and her plots. Once again, I got swept up in Blackwell’s story; wrapped up in her characters’ journeys.

Claire is a successful business woman, but returns home when her grandmother gets sick. There she finds a beautiful plaster mask that she adored as a child. Her mother died in a tragic accident, so her grandmother raised her. Her grandmother’s dying wish is that Claire would go to Paris to find out about the woman behind the mask. Claire agrees and after her grandmother’s passing, she makes plans to go. Once in Paris, Claire quickly finds the shop where the mask, L’Inconnue, was made. She is overwhelmed by the quantity of plaster masks and the abrupt nature the of rugged man running the shop. There’s a young woman translating who helps Claire. When she realizes Claire speaks French, she begs her to stay at the shop and translate while she runs out (since her brother is rather abrupt with customers). Claire agrees as she has nothing else to do and quickly gets caught up in shop life, as well as life in Paris. Spoilers: Claire ends up moving to the shop where Armand, the plasterer, also lives. They start off with a turbulent relationship, which slowly evolves into love as they get to know each other and spend more time together. They share loss of loved ones; Claire, her mother and grandmother and Armand, his daughter. By the end of the book they are a solid couple, strong and secure, not just infatuated with each other. The story of L’Inconnue is woven throughout the book. Sabine is a young girl whose only hope of survival in Paris is by becoming a model for artists (and becoming their lovers). The one artist she models for turns violent over time. She is unhappy, but has some hope as she has fallen in love with another artist, a plasterer. He is determined to free her, so they concoct a crazy plan: Sabine fakes her death and her lover makes her death mask. She is unclaimed, so is forever known as L’Inconnue and is remembered in mystery. In fact, she runs off with her lover, changes her name, and lives a long, respected life as the wife of the plasterer (and that same family has run the shop Claire is working in for years). When Claire discovers that Sabine drowned and later figures out that she faked her death, a few things click into place about her own mother’s death and she finds out that her mother faked her death to get out of a violent relationship. Claire is crushed that her mother would leave her and disappointed that her mother continues to keep her distance. She’s found her new home though and is able to work through the emotional side of things and find happiness!

Summing it up: I adored this book and I absolutely recommend it! I hope you read Blackwell’s books and then tell me what you think!

All the best, Abbey

When I Grow Up

20170214_120332-1

When I Grow Up

by Emma Dodd

June 2017

Emma Dodd is swiftly becoming one of my favorite authors. Her stories are simple, sweet and always have a beautiful message for little ones. This one is about growing up.

20170214_120357-1

The little bear wants to be just like his dad and talks about all the wonderful things he’ll be when he grows up, like wild and free. Dodd’s words are endearing and uplifting.

20170214_120445-1

Her illustrations are just as sweet and beautiful! They are simple and there are delightful textures and layers like the shimmery sun above. My boys love these books: reading them over and over!

20170214_120501-1

Summing it up: I love this book and highly recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe

20170605_095356-1.jpg

Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe

by Jenny Colgan

June 2017

I heard about one of Jenny Colgan’s books (having to do with Paris) and quickly added it to my ‘to be read’ list on Goodreads. Doing so, I realized that it wasn’t her first book in this series. I have a thing about reading in order, so I looked up book one, which was Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe, and dove right in. Well, this book was cute, sweet and funny. It would make the perfect summer read. I really loved this book and just adored Issy, the main character. One aspect of Colgan’s writing that I enjoyed was that she tells the reader what each character is thinking throughout the whole book. So, two characters might be talking and she shares both of their thoughts in the same paragraph. It’s different, but nice. Sometimes I thought the story was a little wordy, but it didn’t taint my opinion that I loved this book!

Issy is 31 years old. She has a boring, but steady desk job, a great flatmate and she’s shagging her boss (quietly, as it’s not good for his image). Life is fine and Graeme might just be getting more serious about her. Then, one day Issy gets fired. They offer her a really good package, but it’s crushing. Especially since Graeme cuts off all contact, dumping her when she got fired. After a little while, Issy gets an idea. By her old bus stop, there is a vacant store. She always imagined a little cupcake bakery there and she starts wondering if that could be a reality. Her grandfather was a baker and taught her everything. Issy is a gifted baker and after lots of thought and planning, she decides to go for it, convincing first the landlord and then the bank (care of a rather handsome banker, Austin) that she has a viable shop. Austin takes a particular interest, helping Issy at length with all the details of what she’s getting into and how to navigate paperwork, etc. Issy hires a young, single mom, Pearl to help get the shop (the Cupcake Cafe) up and running. They bond quickly and before long it’s opening day! At first business is very slow, but after a road accident outside the shop (no one getting injured), they get flooded. Spoilers: business steadily builds from that day on, and they even need to hire another person. Issy decides on Caroline (a rich, rather snobbish woman who tried to rent the shop when Issy was going for it. She is great at marketing and keeping things running, even if she can rub people the wrong way, including Pearl. But she is a good fit for the shop.). Issy has an odd relationship with Austin (who has a ten year old brother he has looked after since both their parents died). They like each other, but they have a professional relationship because he is her banker and weighs in on financial decisions. They get close to being together, but then Graeme comes back and Issy goes back to him. She realizes it’s a mistake after a little while and leaves him (he’s selfish and doesn’t get why Issy loves her shop). Then there is a huge misunderstanding. Graeme is secretly planning to force Issy out of her shop in order to develop a new apartment complex. Austin finds out because Graeme comes to his bank to get a loan for the project. Austin assumes Issy knows because she’s dating Graeme, and thinks it’s a big plot by the two of them. Of course, Issy knows nothing and this all comes out at her shop on a crazy day. Issy is already not with Graeme anymore and she’s furious about Graeme’s scheme. She’s also hurt by Austin’s assumption. Austin realizes his huge mistake and does what he can to help stop Graeme. He denies the loan and helps get Issy an opportunity to extend her lease (of course it’s ending while all of this is going on). Issy gets an extension for 18 months and the business is so successful that she expands next door. She and Austin finally hash things out and get together. This whole time her grandfather has been battling dementia. He has been writing down his old recipes and encouraging Issy every step of the way, even to the end when it looked like the shop would close. He loves long enough to know she saves the store.

Summing it up: this whole book was so sweet and very clever. It was such a fun read and so heartwarming. It’s the perfect light read and I definitely recommend it!

All the best, Abbey