Book Review: Finding Audrey

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finding audrey by sophie kinsella

Sophie Kinsella’s latest novel, Finding Audrey, is everything you wouldn’t expect from the queen of chick lit. Not only is it an entirely different genre, but it also deals with far heavier issues than the typical ‘but does he really like me?’ dilemmas that Kinsella usually writes about. The result? Well, let’s just say that one does not become one of the highest-selling authors of the 21st century without being a great writer…regardless of the subject material or genre.

Finding Audrey tells the story of Audrey, a 14-year old with a lovably dysfunctional family. Audrey would know exactly what her family gets up to after all – she has trouble leaving the house and interacting with others, and suffers from anxiety and depression after a series of bullying incidents at school left her hospitalised. Yet while Audrey has difficulty talking to strangers or looking people in the eye, the arrival of her brother’s friend Linus gets Audrey excited about the possibilities in life again.

Despite being incredibly easy to read, I would imagine that the young adult category would be bloody tricky to write for, so Sophie Kinsella immediately deserves a clap for pulling off Finding Audrey in a genre she has never attempted before. It can be far too easy to come across as insincere, bogus, or, worst of all, out of touch when writing for, and about, teenagers, yet Kinsella successfully creates dialogue and interaction between her characters that seems fairly on point. More impressively again, she does so with her usual flair for comedic timing and bravado.

Furthermore, considering that Kinsella usually writes slapstick chick lit where the protagonist inevitably digs themselves a hole so deep largely thanks to something stupid and inconsequential, it was quite an achievement that she chose a weighty topic that was neither too over-the-top (particularly considering the target market) nor cloying. And though Kinsella definitely skirts over the harsher realities of the debilitating illnesses of depression and anxiety, she successfully captures how someone like Audrey must be feeling. Though a series of terrible incidents are frequently referred to, we’re never told explicitly what actually occurred. I must admit the curious part of me (ALL of me) wanted to know what had happened, in truth it was a deliberate ploy to emphasis, just like Audrey does, that anxiety and depression doesn’t necessarily stem from a single incident – and that it isn’t what someone should be focusing on if they want to get better.

The charm in Finding Audrey largely lies with Audrey herself – a neurotic teenager yes, but a very human, lovable one. While Audrey fits many of the characteristics of Kinsella’s usually characters – pretty, interested in a boy, a bit neurotic about said boy etc – I think that’s quite wonderful. Yes, Audrey is unwell and has a lot of issues she has to deal with, but she’s still human, and she’s still like you and I – having a mental illness doesn’t automatically make you crazy after all.

Finding Audrey is definitely something new and different for Sophie Kinsella, but I really loved it. It still has the attitude, humour and easy-to-read qualities of her other novels, while also portraying a heavier issue and a stronger protagonist. There’s a reason why Kinsella is such a successful, well-liked author and Finding Audrey just reinforces this. Plus, how much does the cover suit the storyline?

Have you read Finding Audrey? Are you a fan of Sophie Kinsella? Do you think YA just for teenagers? Let me know!

Book Review: The Little Paris Bookshop

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Oh! Take me back to Paris! Lethe little paris bookstore by nina georget me waste my days in the French countryside! Feed me traditional French home cooking! All this and more is what you should expect to feel during and after you’ve read The Little Paris Bookshop.

An ode to love, France and the power of books, The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George follows Jean Perdu, a 50 year old man who has wasted half of his life because he’s too afraid to love (again). He spends his days working on his book barge, where he treats books like medicine and believes they can solve everyone’s problems…everyone’s but his.

When he has to face a 20+ year old letter from his ex-lover Manon, Jean is riled into action, where he sets off in his book barge, alongside eccentric writer Max, in search of the truth, his past and his demons.

This book is part love story, part epic. As Jean and Max set off down the Seine, there is definitely a spirit of journey amongst them – as each have to face their fears, discover who they want to be and how far they are willing to travel (literally) to achieve their dreams. Along the way, like all good adventure stories, Jean and Max encounter obstacles, fellow travellers (who join their book barge) and the truth. Conveniently, it is all set in the wondrous backdrop of the French countryside, which could not have been better described had I actually be in France at the time.

Of course, The Little Paris Bookshop is also a romance, but in more ways than I initially expected. There is the main romance is that of Jean and Manon’s, which ended over two decades ago and which has led to Jean undertaking his journey, and acts as the backbone of the novel. But there is also the romance between Jean and his neighbour, Catherine, as well as the equally important love that Jean has for his country and his books. Like I said, France is described in loving, attentive detail, and the entire time I kept thinking to myself ‘WHHHYYYY aren’t I going to France?’ (Bit of context – I leave for Europe this month, but decided to skip France this time around.) The food, the countryside, the beautiful descriptions of the smells in the air and the sunlight hitting the water – truly, The Little Paris Bookshop was a love story written by Nina George about her adoration for her country.

Really, the best way to describe this novel is charming. The characters are lovely, while flawed, the setting is truly magnificent and the storyline is both heart-wrenching and heart-warming. As a lover of books I appreciated the importance that was placed on them, as well as the humour that resulted from Jean’s love of them. Nina George has successfully created a whimsical, charming love story that is neither boring nor sentimental, but just really, truly, touching.

Have you read The Little Paris Bookshop? Have you been to France? Let me know!

Book Review: Air Kisses

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air kisses by zoe fosterZoe Foster is one of my favourite chick lit authors – and not just because she has an adorable baby and is married to the hilarious Hamish Blake (which means that in real life she must also have a wicked sense of humour). So while I’ve read her newer stuff, I thought I’d delve into the ol’ Zoe Foster archives and try out her very first novel, Air Kisses.

Told from the perspective of Hannah (love when characters have the same name as me), a newly hired beauty editor who has no idea about makeup, Air Kisses is an inside look at the magazine world and all of the drama that comes with it. When Hannah discovers her boyfriend of five years is cheating on her, she throws herself into work – not only will she master liquid eyeliner and look fabulous all the time, but she’ll also manage to turn a career into it.

Of course, being a delicious light and fluffy chick lit, Air Kisses has not one, not two, but THREE suitably cute boys for Hannah to begin flings with. After all, what man can resist perfectly applied lipgloss?

The premise of Air Kisses unfortunately had all the makings of a terrible chick lit novel, and while I would love to tell you that Zoe Foster managed to rise above them all, sadly that was not the case. The biggest issue I had with this novel was that it utterly lacked any substance at all. While I realise that seems a tad unfair considering we are dealing with a chick lit about a girl who works as a beauty editor, please hear me out. What was missing in Air Kisses was any conflict. While Hannah definitely had issues in her life – terrible ex-boyfriend, terrifying new job, inability to apply winged eyeliner etc etc – they all either went away or were resolved rather simply. For example, considering the premise of the novel is that Hannah is useless at applying makeup, it becomes a non-issue in the novel from about page five. And while there is a bit of bitchy bitchy amongst her colleagues, that too doesn’t really become a major issue, but rather the type of thing you’d mention to a friend over lunch. And lastly, while there are multiple romances in this novel, none of them were gratifying enough or, for that matter, realistic enough. While each fit into their stereotype a little too easily, each of the males were competing for page space, so to speak, and since they weren’t getting enough (it’s hard to fit three male leads into a 300-page novel), all three ended up a bit two-dimensional.

The other big issue I had with this novel was that there lacked any sense of sister solidarity. By ‘sister solidarity’ I mean the type of friendship that we all aspire to have, and which, let’s be honest, is why so many of us go back time and again to watch re-runs of Sex and the City (because to be frank, Mr Big is a bit blah). While Hannah does have a best friend, Izzy, and she makes girlfriends in her new job, all of them seemed, well, a bit shit. It just blew my mind that her best friend of many, many years would tell her that she should go on another date with her sleazy, cheating, useless ex-boyfriend because ‘what if he is The One’. Now, I know everyone’s friendships are different, but the friends I have would make sure that I didn’t go ten feet near a guy who treated me that badly…unless it was to egg his car. Fictional it may be, but I can’t condone a friendship that encourages woman to continue to be used and not viewed for her worth (I am woman, hear me roar etc).

I don’t want to be too harsh on Zoe Foster, because I really love her later novels (she even read one of my reviews!), but unfortunately Air Kisses fell a bit short. Thankfully, I think that Zoe has really grown as a writer since this one was written, and so I’d recommend trying some of those before picking up this one!

Have you read Air Kisses or anything by Zoe Foster? Are you a fan of chick lit? Let me know!