Tag: 3.5 stars

Surprise Me

Author: Sophie Kinsella
To Be Published: Tomorrow, February 13, 2018
432 pages

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: January 25, 2018- February 5, 2018
Jessica’s Rating: 3.5 stars

Book Description:

After ten years together, Sylvie and Dan have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, and beautiful twin girls, and they communicate so seamlessly they finish each other’s sentences. They have a happy marriage and believe they know everything there is to know about each other. Until it’s casually mentioned to them that they could be together for another sixty-eight years . . . and panic sets in.

They decide to bring surprises into their marriage to keep it fresh and fun. But in their pursuit of Project Surprise Me—from unexpected gifts to restaurant dates to sexy photo shoots—mishaps arise, with disastrous and comical results. Gradually, surprises turn to shocking truths. And when a scandal from the past is uncovered, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other at all.

With a colorful cast of eccentric characters, razor-sharp observations, and her signature wit and charm, Sophie Kinsella presents a humorous yet moving portrait of a marriage—its intricacies, comforts, and complications. Surprise Me reveals that hidden layers in a close relationship are often yet to be discovered.

Jessica’s Review:

Sophie Kinsella is one of my ‘go to’ authors. In fact, her novel Can You Keep a Secret is the book that got me reading again.  It was laugh out loud funny.  So much so a coworker asked if she could borrow it.  Many thanks to my aunt for giving it to me all those years ago!

I have enjoyed most of Kinsella’s books that I have read.  If you want an entertaining chick lit read, she is an author I recommend. Sadly, Surprise Me will not be a favorite. Surprise Me starts out promising, but failed the mark with me.  It starts out with our couple Sylvie and Dan(who have been married 10 years and have twin girls) finding out that they could live another 68 years together. Instead of joy and excitement that would be expected they have the opposite reaction: Panic.

They work on surprising each other in order to spice up the marriage. It becomes like a Bridget Jones or Becky Bloomwood type of novel with some hilarious results.   Then here come secrets and the novel takes on a more serious unexpected direction.  When I read a Kinsella novel I expect lighthearted fun, but this was not.  In the end everything is fine and the message about marriage is clear. There is also light hearted humor again at the end, but the middle just doesn’t come across as a Kinsella novel.  It is not her worst novel, but it is far from the best. I will keep reading Kinsella and hope her next one is better  for me.

Thank you to the publisher for sending an e-arc via NetGalley for me to review.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

Anatomy of a Scandal

Author: Sarah Vaughan
To Be Published: January 23, 2018
400 pages

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: November 25-December 9, 2017
Jessica’s Rating: 3.5 stars

Book Description from Amazon:

An astonishingly incisive and suspenseful novel about a scandal amongst Britain’s privileged elite and the women caught up in its wake.

Sophie’s husband James is a loving father, a handsome man, a charismatic and successful public figure. And yet he stands accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is convinced he is innocent and desperate to protect her precious family from the lies that threaten to rip them apart.

Kate is the lawyer hired to prosecute the case: an experienced professional who knows that the law is all about winning the argument. And yet Kate seeks the truth at all times. She is certain James is guilty and is determined he will pay for his crimes.

Who is right about James? Sophie or Kate? And is either of them informed by anything more than instinct and personal experience? Despite her privileged upbringing, Sophie is well aware that her beautiful life is not inviolable. She has known it since she and James were first lovers, at Oxford, and she witnessed how easily pleasure could tip into tragedy.

Most people would prefer not to try to understand what passes between a man and a woman when they are alone: alone in bed, alone in an embrace, alone in an elevator… Or alone in the moonlit courtyard of an Oxford college, where a girl once stood before a boy, heart pounding with excitement, then fear. Sophie never understood why her tutorial partner Holly left Oxford so abruptly. What would she think, if she knew the truth?

Jessica’s Review:

It seems like we are hearing daily now of sex scandals and the issue of consent in the entertainment and political arenas.  Anatomy of a Scandal deals with this issue as well in the political field in Britain. It is told through multiple points of view: James, Sophie, and Kate. Scandal also moves between past and present.  It is clearly shown who the narrator is and when, so it prevents reader confusion.

It is a character driven novel and we find out how the past affects who people become.  It was intriguing to read how one event can shape a whole person’s life.  It is a slow moving novel but I found myself interested in the court case.  You wonder throughout the novel if James is guilty or not. We do get the answer to this question.

I felt for Sophie throughout the novel as she tries to decide what she is going to do: Support her husband or not?   She wonders did he do this or not? I liked Kate a lot. She is a very tough barrister that I would like to see more of.  She did have to grow on me but she became my favorite character.

Though slow moving, the plot twists keep you going. I had difficultly reading it because it was almost too glacial for me, but then we would get a twist and it would keep me wanting to read it. I absolutely loved the end!  I wanted more when I was finished. The ending was very satisfying for me.

Anatomy of a Scandal is recommended. Special thanks to Atria Books and Emily Bestler Books for sending me a print arc copy!

Pre-Order Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK


The Magnolia Story

Authors: Chip and Joanna Gaines
Published: October 18, 2016

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: November 5-8, 2017
Jessica’s Rating: 3.5 stars

Book Description from Amazon:

Are you ready to see your fixer upper?

These famous words are now synonymous with the dynamic husband-and-wife team Chip and Joanna Gaines, stars of HGTV’s Fixer Upper. As this question fills the airwaves with anticipation, their legions of fans continue to multiply and ask a different series of questions, like—Who are these people? What’s the secret to their success? And is Chip actually that funny in real life? By renovating homes in Waco, Texas, and changing lives in such a winsome and engaging way, Chip and Joanna have become more than just the stars of Fixer Upper, they have become America’s new best friends.

The Magnolia Story is the first book from Chip and Joanna, offering their fans a detailed look at their life together. From the very first renovation project they ever tackled together, to the project that nearly cost them everything; from the childhood memories that shaped them, to the twists and turns that led them to the life they share on the farm today.

They both attended Baylor University in Waco. However, their paths did not cross until Chip checked his car into the local Firestone tire shop where Joanna worked behind the counter. Even back then Chip was a serial entrepreneur who, among other things, ran a lawn care company, sold fireworks, and flipped houses. Soon they were married and living in their first fixer upper. Four children and countless renovations later, Joanna garners the attention of a television producer who notices her work on a blog one day.

In The Magnolia Story fans will finally get to join the Gaines behind the scenes and discover:

  • The time Chip ran to the grocery store and forgot to take their new, sleeping baby
  • Joanna’s agonizing decision to close her dream business to focus on raising their children
  • When Chip buys a houseboat, sight-unseen, and it turns out to be a leaky wreck
  • Joanna’s breakthrough moment of discovering the secret to creating a beautiful home
  • Harrowing stories of the financial ups and downs as an entrepreneurial couple
  • Memories and photos from Chip and Jo’s wedding
  • The significance of the word magnolia and why it permeates everything they do
  • The way the couple pays the popularity of Fixer Upper forward, sharing the success with others, and bolstering the city of Waco along the way

And yet there is still one lingering question for fans of the show: Is Chip really that funny? “Oh yeah,” says Joanna. “He was, and still is, my first fixer upper.”

Jessica’s Review:

I will admit I knew almost nothing about Chip and Joanna Gaines before I listened to the audiobook of The Magnolia Story. I had only seen the show once while my car was being serviced about two years ago.  All I knew is that they flipped houses and are Christians. I chose to listen to The Magnolia Story as I am waiting on another audiobook to arrive from the library. The Magnolia Story is a short narration of only five hours.

Both Chip and Joanna narrate, but Chip is the better narrator.  To me it sounded like Joanna was reading a report in school that she had to write for class.  If she had been the sole narrator I would not have finished the memoir.  I did enjoy The Magnolia Story as I liked hearing how they met and their life together.  Hearing about some of the financial difficulties they had and how God brought them through it helped me personally.  Even though some of the difficulties were through their choices it helped me to hear about them and their faith.  I am interested in watching their show. They could do wonders on my house. Hmmm…. Maybe Chip will buy it and Joanna will go along with it….  😉

Both Chip and Joanna are far from perfect people. In fact no one is perfect, but Chip does seem very impulsive, almost recklessly.  Buying houses without consulting Joanna and refusing to pay tickets to the point where your wife almost goes to jail after just having a baby!?!? They were fortunate that they were able to get the name on the tickets switched to Chip’s name. Then he says he had a pleasant experience in jail… What?!?

Chip definitely has some growing up to do.  He left his infant child home alone… twice!  Then he drove a four-wheeler with his infant.  What!?!? I’ve never been around babies much, but even I know you don’t do those kinds of things!

For me, it was a good introduction to Chip and Joanna Gaines.  I would like to see their show after listening to the audio book to see more of what they are about.  The Magnolia Story is recommended. I would suggest reading the book versus listening to the audio due to the narration issues I had.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK