Tag Archives: London

I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

14th February 2012

*I received an egalley of this book from The Dial Press through NetGalley.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Looking for a bit of romance today? I’ve got your number. No, really. The book I’ve Got Your Number is perfect for today, whether this is your first Sophie Kinsella or not.

Poppy is in big trouble: she lost her engagement ring, the engagement ring that has been in her fiance’s family for about a generation. How? Well, you know. When your girlfriends want to try on your ring and everyone passes it around the table and suddenly the fire alarm goes off, things get crazy. Especially when your cell phone is swiped as you’re trying to get help and you’ve given that number to everyone in case they find the ring. Poppy spies a phone in the trash bin, and hey – finders keepers. The only problem is the phone belonged to Sam Roxton’s assistant before she ditched him in the middle of a business transaction, and Sam needs help urgently. In exchange for hanging on to the phone until she can find the engagement ring, Poppy agrees to help Sam out, forwarding texts, voicemails, and emails to Sam. So what if she reads some of these emails and texts and thinks she can help Sam out? Sam is curt, and he doesn’t always respond to emails. Poppy thinks that an email or text here and there won’t hurt….right?

Sophie Kinsella writes such fun books, and this one is no exception in that the more Poppy interferes with Sam’s business, the more I cringed and wanted to peek between my eyes…in a fun way. I also love that Sophie Kinsella doesn’t try to insult my intelligence like some writers of chick lit. Very often, writers of chick lit make the guy the girl is dating the totally wrong guy, so that when Mr. Right comes along, it’s so clear and obvious that she should be with him. No, in I’ve Got Your Number, Poppy’s fiance Magnus is a great guy, an academic who loves her and is thoughtful and kind. They are clearly attracted to one another and in love. Is he perfect? Of course not. No one is, but I liked that (until the end) the fiance is a good guy. I’m not sure if I buy the there’s-only-one-person-out-there-for-each-of-us business, and this book is a perfect example of how you can be attracted to more than one person and have to figure out the messy stuff. Poppy has to make some tough decisions, even with all the silliness.

And Sam. I liked him immediately. He’s intelligent and business savvy. He’s loyal to the man who began the business for which he works. He’s attractive and flirty. He’s kind of the antithesis of any rom-com movie you see, which is great because those shows often drive me crazy. Sam Roxton doesn’t fall all over Poppy, but he grows to enjoy her company and her lighter side.

So whether or not you have a hot date tonight or your hot date is a book and a glass of champers, consider making this your V-Day companion. Cheers!

Buy your copy now from Indiebound or download it for your Nook.

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

29th September 2011

*I received a signed copy of this book from the author at BEA. She inscribed it “For Jennifer, the discerning girl.” 🙂

Transcript: “London. An American girl new to the city meets a boy whose father possesses a powerful book full of ancient spells and magical potions which might just be what they need to save the world.”

With a bit of spywork, a lot of adventure, and a good dose of Cold-War-era history, The Apothecary was just a really fun book. I love the premise: the apothecary has a real potion book that the Soviet Union is trying to get its hands on, and after Benjamin’s father disappears, it’s up to Jane and Benjamin to use the spell book and protect it in order to figure out who the good guys and the bad guys are. Along the way, they meet Pip who helps them outwit the double agent out to get the Pharmacoepia, Benjamin’s father’s book. Pip was actually my favorite character because he brought a bit of grit and a whole lot of humor to the novel.

I’ve waited until closer to its publication date to review it, but my enthusiasm hasn’t diminished. It isn’t a perfect book. There were some unanswered questions, and I think the characterization could have been a bit stronger, but I’m hopeful this is (maybe) the first in a series, and I would definitely pick up a sequel.

Plus, this is an absolutely beautiful book. Illustrated by Ian Schoenherr, I absolutely prize this book above many of the others I got at BEA, even though some of the pages are unfinished.

Run out and grab it, or order it from Indiebound.


Calling Mr. King by Ronald De Feo

29th August 2011

*I received this book at BEA from the great folks at Other Press. Buy it now from Indiebound.

What happens when a hit man is tired of being a hit man? He turns to architecture, of course. At least that’s what Mr. King does after he becomes increasingly distracted on the job. Mr. King is the go-to guy if you need someone hunted down and pegged, quickly and in a professional manner, but his latest target bothers him. The target seems cheerful, almost toying with his executioner, and when he buys a white carnation and places it in his lapel, taunting King, it’s game over. But King is thrown.

For a man who, for obvious reasons, has such difficulty in building a stable life, Mr. King suddenly wants one desperately, buying book after heavy book full of Georgian homes and their histories, seeking not just an abode but an area of interest. He knows how to hunt. He knows how to kill. He realizes, almost too late, he wants something more than either of those things.

The book isn’t action packed, which is not at all what you expect when the premise includes a hit man. Instead, King’s obsession takes control of everything, and there were several moments when I wanted to snap him out of it, but De Feo doesn’t let King – or the reader – off that easily, and King travels deeper into himself, unwilling to answer the phone call with his order to kill.

In the end, the symmetry of this novel was perfect. And it’s something I JUST CAN’T GIVE AWAY. And that drives me crazy. Because I totally want to sit and tell you how cool the ending is, but I can’t. And won’t.

This won’t be a book for everyone. In fact, if you are looking for a James Bond-style narrative, please do not pick this up. This novel’s intricacies lie in its exploration of obsession but also in structure and writing, and though not everyone will like that, I really did.

P.S. Read the first chapter here.

Review: What Came Before He Shot Her by Elizabeth George

6th August 2010

It should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone here that I am extremely picky about audiobook narrators. I can’t even remember which book it was now, but a couple weeks ago, I turned one on, and within five minutes, I punched the eject button. The woman was an overachiever when it came to character intonations: her “kid” voice was so grating, I couldn’t stand it a second longer. Charles Keating, on the other hand, is superb. Let me just get that out of the way; he is perfection. I’m already on another audiobook narrated by him, and it is fabulous as well.

What Came Before He Shot Her is written by Elizabeth George. Mystery readers may recognize her name, but do not be fooled: This novel is no mystery. Mysteries do not divulge what happens in the title. Mysteries do not (typically) focus on the perpetrator of the crime. Instead, this book is a sociological, psychological exploration of a cast of characters I won’t soon forget.

The book opens with three children of mixed race – Ness, Joel, and Toby – being shuffled off to the stoop of their Auntie Kendra’s house in South Kensington, London. Their Gran is going back to Jamaica with her boyfriend, George, and the children are not part of the picture. Ness is a teenager, angry and bitter; Joel is kind and compassionate and ever-watchful of his brother; Toby has developmental problems and is totally devoted to his older brother. The three have been shuffled around since the murder of their father, who was shot in the street, and the institutionalization of their mother. Kendra comes home to find the boys waiting for her; Ness has already run off looking for drugs. What follows is a tale so wrenching, I felt my chest tighten at several points throughout the book.

While Kendra deals with this sudden alteration to her life, Ness finds a dealer, Blade, and offers herself to him in exchange for a steady supply of drugs. Naive and foolish, Ness doesn’t understand the full extent of Blade’s enterprise or power. When she finds out Blade has other girlfriends, there is an ugly brawl – and Blade is shown up by Kendra’s boyfriend Dix.

Joel is on the straight and narrow. He knows how best to mollify Toby and watches out for him constantly. A gang of boys, on the lookout for the newbie – the one with the weird brother – quickly target Joel and Toby. Neal Wyatt and his gang are out to get them, and no amount of “sorting” will deter Neal’s determination to get to Toby and through Toby, Joel. As the pranks become more and more deadly, Joel knows what he has to do in order to save his small, patched-together family.

Watching, or rather, listening to this story filled me with dread. I knew exactly what would happen. I knew Blade would not live and let live after being shown up. I knew Joel would go to him for help, and I knew Joel was innocent enough to believe the Blade would help. The buildup was excruciating, but the interplay between the characters hooked me. It is horrific on many levels, no less so because of the outside forces trying to do good but failing miserably. These children don’t live in the type of world where poetry and art can lift them above violence. Adults don’t always equal safety, and sometimes your worst enemy is the only symbol of safety.