Sophie Kinsella’s books always make me smile and no matter what the heroine endures, I know I am guaranteed a happy ending with the tall handsome – most of the time rich – hero. Her latest book – My (not so) Perfect Life – met my expectations -a frothy romance with a hint of wisdom.
Katie, a country English girl leaves the farm for a career in the big city, but London life is not as easy or glamorous as she envisioned. She lives in a small apartment with a web designer roommate who stores boxes of whey in the living room for a side business. Although she has a degree in design, her job at a marketing firm is confined to low level data input. After she gets fired, she returns to the farm to help her father and step- mother start a glamping business with glamorous yurts and homemade scones.
When her former Cruella-like boss arrives to vacation with her “perfect” family, Katie takes her revenge in a hilarious series of bespoke activities. Of course, the handsome hero arrives later and the action turns into an office politics nightmare.
Katie saves the day, reforms her boss, and, of course, gets the guy. Despite the antics and ridiculous plot twists, the book has a message – no one’s life is as good it may seem. An enjoyable and fast read, My (not so) Perfect Life will have you laughing and reaffirming life as an unending tale of possibilities – Bridget Jones style.
Although heavy tomes can be thought provoking and force analytic thinking in our dusty brains, sometimes a book needs to be a mindless diversion. When we need an escape from reality, award winning books forcing us to acknowledge the dire consequences of the greenhouse effect or the misery of our fellow man can only drop us deeper into the abyss. Every now and then, a happy, fluffy, even ridiculous, book is the needed antidote.
In the spirit of the list giving season, here are a few authors I turn to for solace, smiles, and silliness:
Maria Semple (Today Will Be Different)
Sophie Kinsella (Remember Me?)
Alan Bradley (The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie)
Sarah Addison Allen (Garden Spells)
Jojo Moyes (One Plus One)
Mitch Albom (The Time Keeper)
Louise Miller (A City Baker’s Guide to Country Living)
Sophie Kinsella’s newest British escapade with Becky Brandon (this is the seventh) – Shopaholic to the Stars
The latest installment of the Maggie Hope mystery series by Susan Elia MacNeal – The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent
And when I feel serious, I thumb through Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal, as sobering as promised in his interview with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show – a book about the inevitability of death. Despite modern medicine, we all die. Just as Stewart balanced the interview with humor, I counter the heaviness by alternating with the escapades and adventures of Becky and Maggie.
Having laughed through Ruth Reichl’s adventures as the food critic for the New York Times in Garlic and Sapphires and empathized with her Not Becoming My Mother and Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way, I looked forward to this foodie’s first book of fiction. With the taste of Italy still fresh on my palate, Reichl’s Delicious ! was the perfect combination of food, mystery, and romance – topped off with a recipe at the end of the book.
Using her experiences as editor of Gourmet magazine, including the sad demise of that publication, Reichl created a story around Billie, who quits Berkeley in her senior year to take a job as assistant to the editor of Delicious magazine in New York City, with hopes of becoming a writer. Surrounded by a crew of Reichl’s food-loving characters, including “Mr. Complainer,” the handsome regular customer at the Italian deli where Billie moonlights on weekends, Billie explores a mystery involving letters from James Beard before he became the famous chef. Reichl uses the quest, with secret passages and coded letters, and Billie’s aversion to cooking, to add purpose to the rambling adventure.
Reichl includes the recipe for Billie’s mother’s gingerbread cake at the end of the book. Like my own mother, Billie’s mother refused to reveal the secrets of her baking. Billie and her sister guess at the ingredients and the cake is the catalyst to their successful Cake Sisters bakery. The recipe works; I tried it, changing it a little “to make it my own,” as James Beard suggests.
Like a Sophie Kinsella book for food-lovers, Delicious! is a delight and the perfect digestif after my week of sumptuous Italian eating. Bon appetit!
If you are in the mood for a light, funny romance – Sophie Kinsella style – try Kate Klise’s In the Bag. Two teenagers on vacation inadvertently pick up the other’s bag in Charles de Gaulle International Airport. They reconnect via email and arrange to exchange bags, not realizing their respective parents have already made a connection. The plot is silly; the characters have silly names – Coco Sprinkle; but the story is romantic and fun. Eventually, the two teens blossom into boyfriend/girlfriend, with her mother and his father dating – as they head back into the sunset – or rather the Chicago area – after a week of sightseeing and good eating.
La Sagrada Familia
The story is set in Spain, with descriptions of the Prada Museum in Madrid and La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona – places I’ve toured – and in Paris, with descriptions of the Rodin
Rodin Museum, Paris
Museum and shopping at Galleries Lafayette – also good travel memories for me. An added bonus: a reminder of one of the best restaurants in Paris – Le Petrelle. Klise’s description of duck breast salad and ravioli stuffed with crayfish had my mouth watering. In the Bag is book candy.
Although Kate Klise is a prolific writer of children’s books, In the Bag is her first book for adults. I plan to find her 43 Cemetery Road series targeted for middle grade readers (The Phantom of the Post Office), but I have read her most recent picture book – Grammy Lamby and the Secret Handshake – a touching and funny primer on grandparent/grandchild relationships.