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Review: The Undomestic Goddess

I picked up this Sophie Kinsella novel at one of those mall book sale fundraisers.

You know the ones: donated books weigh down several folding tables, often so many books that just the spines are visible for browsing. The cash register is presided over by two or more elderly women or men, and proceeds go to the charity advertised on the paper signs that are hang off the edge of the table by two pieces of tape.

I chose this particular book mostly because of its bright yellow jacket and blue lettering in a fun font. Then, reading the summary, I was intrigued and decided to give it a try.

Samantha Sweeting is young, high-powered lawyer who has spent years building her reputation and career. Then, on the brink of an important promotion, she makes an irreparable mistake. Dazed, she finds herself out of the city and accidentally applying for a job as a housekeeper – although she has absolutely no cooking or cleaning skills. She works hard to learn, though, and surprises herself in more ways than one as she also learns how to relax and have fun.

This was a light, fun read. If I wasn’t working I suspect it would have taken me just a day (maybe two) to get through. The story was enjoyable, the characters lively, and Samantha’s worldview very entertaining:

“I can’t bring myself to meet his eye. I feel I could be losing my grip on sanity here. I”m standing in a kitchen in the middle of nowhere. In a blue nylon uniform. Masquerading as a housekeeper who can magically make sandwiches out of thin air.”

Despite accepting a job with a long list of duties she cannot perform, Samantha is resourceful. She trained as a lawyer, after all. Kinsella gives a great picture of a woman with grit, who finds herself in a ridiculous situation and still doesn’t give up.

Books like this make me want to write.


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Lightening review: My Side of the Mountain

It’s always a pleasure to revisit an old favourite, and this is exactly what I did when I reread My Side of the Mountain by Jean George. It was one of my favourites as a kid; I read it many times, so it was nice to go back.

The story follows Sam, young teen from New York City, who has decided he will run away from home and live off the land. He makes his way to his great-grandfather’s land in the Catskill Mountains, determined to survive free of dependence on electricity and machines. Throughout the book he comes a long way from the first night – when he can’t get a fire started and is convinced he will freeze and starve – to making a home for himself, finding a plethora of food sources, and even making new clothes.

My Side of the Mountain is an interesting examination of survival and solitude. It was a fairly short read (I finished it in less than a day) but it’s well-crafted, interesting, and different from what I’ve been reading lately. Still holds up, all these years after publication (1959). Recommended for all from children to adults.

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Lightening review: P.S. I Love You

When I picked up P.S. I Love You from the TV stand in the bedroom where I was staying, I didn’t know it was set in Ireland. It was kind of cool, though, to read a book in the same country where it happens.

The book, published in 2014, is a sweetly sad story of a young widow, Holly, as she learns to cope with being alone after her husband’s death. But months after he’s gone, still drowning in grief, she receives a package from him. It contains a letter for her to open each month, and as she works through them she begins to grow, to change, and most importantly to heal. He seems to have known exactly what she would need each month, and issues challenges for her.

It’s a unique premise, which was obviously romantic enough to capture people’s hearts and garner a film contract (I still haven’t seen the movie). And it’s an easy read – almost too easy.

On the down side, first-time novelist Cecelia Ahern‘s writing is what one should expect from a first-time novelist. The writing is overly descriptive, especially the characters. They are explained rather than shown, which is frustrating. The characters want to have life, they want to jump off the page, but instead they are described and told. The author is telling the story rather than opening the pages and inviting us into her world. And this is forgivable because the story is an easy one; the story is likeable. But an adult reader can’t help but want something more. I would be interested in reading Ahern’s later novels to learn how her writing style has changed.

Like I said, an easy read. One I don’t regret. But this one also won’t be on my list of most memorable books or novels I have to get back to again sometime. When I eventually watch the movie, I’ll let you know how that is!