Welcome to Rosie Hopkins’ Sweet Shop of Dreams and Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweet Shop of Dreams – Jenny Colgan

rosehopkins1I picked up Welcome to Rosie Hopkins’ Sweet Shop of Dreams at the annual Norwegian bookblogger meetup last year and finally read it before Christmas. I then promptly ordered Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweet Shop of Dreams, which arrived in time for the holidays, but I didn’t get around to it until the new year. It didn’t really matter, though the book is christmassy enough. There’s a third book in the series, which I will be ordering, which also has Christmas in the title. I might save that for December. Then again, I might not, because I’d rather like to know what happens to Rosie next.

You can probably gather from all that that I rather enjoyed the books. And I did, to the extent of staying up much later than planned in order to finish them in both cases. Granted, they are mostly fluff, but they are an appealing sort of fluff. And though some of the fundamentals seem a bit over-tired (the agonizing over whether or not He will propose in the second one, for example), Jenny Colgan avoids most of the worst pit-falls. True, Rosie is hopelessly unequipped clothes-wise for the country and there is a rather disastrous attempt at riding a bike, but she is also demonstrably capable of handling a crisis (stepping in to assist in an operation on a dog) and learns to handle the bike fast enough once given the chance. To be fair, the bike-thing also serves a more important purpose in highlighting the difference between growing up under-priveleged in the big city versus in a small community in the country, and is not just a «oh, look at this helpless city female trying to survive in the rough, masquline ruralness» which we often get.

rosehopkins2I hardly ever read chicklit anymore, but I’m glad I made an exception for Rosie Hopkins and her sweet shop.

The Night Before Christmas – Scarlett Bailey

baileyI felt like a light read around the holidays, preferably one with a little holiday cheer thrown in, and when I read about Scarlett Bailey’s The Night Before Christmas on some blog or other (I really need to get better at noting down WHERE I find these tips) it seemed like the perfect sort of thing.

And it would have been too, except for my «I don’t really read chiclit anymore» hang-up.

Because it is chicklit. Not that there is anything wrong with that, per se, but well, I don’t know.

However, this is a perfectly charming book, as these things go. The Christmas cheer is present and correct, the tangled love-life of Lydia, our heroine, just as complicated as it needs to be to fill a couple of hundred pages, and the plot is not utterly predictable. So I did read it all the way through, and rather enjoyed it, too.

Though next year I think I’ll just reread Comfort and Joy. Which is probably chicklit, too, but it has that little something extra that makes it worth reading and rereading.

The Secret Life of a Slummy Mummy – Fiona Neill

The Secret Life of a Slummy Mummy by Fiona Neill turned out to be rather different from what I expected (though I’d be hard put to pinpoint what I expected, so don’t ask), but very engaging, quite charming in it’s way and a bit of a pageturner, really. Not really laugh-out-loud funny, it has its moments, the style is approprately light without being too fluffy, it’s free from cringe-inducing lingustical fudging and I was even quite happy with the plotline and most importantly: How the story ended. A pretty good read, all in all.

April, May and much of June

I swear I meant to write proper posts on some of these. However:

Police at the Funeral – Margery Allingham
Showed up in my mailbox as a sort of birthday present – bookcrossing style. A quirky and charming read and definitely an author to look out for later. I still haven’t quite decided who next to «inflict» this on, I think it takes a certain kind of reader… Hm.

Portnoy’s Complaint – Philip Roth
A little dreary, but good in its way – I think its supposed to be a little dreary, to be honest. Recognisable and not so recognisable themes of guilt and shame, religion and upbringing.

The Chronicles of Prydain – Lloyd Alexander
A reread occasioned by finding the first three books in Norwegian second-hand by chance.

Sputnik Sweetheart – Haruki Murakami
Also a bookcrossing copy, my suspicions that I’d like Murakami in novel-form was confirmed. A perfectly beautiful – though quite sinister – book, and very hard to put down once you’ve started.

Under the Duvet, Angels and The Other Side of the Story – Marian Keyes 
A three for one sale on Marian Keyes paperbacks, and these are the ones I came away with. Under the Duvet was entertaining, but possibly a little too light-hearted for my taste (even the pieces dealing with serious issues such as alchoholism somehow felt light-hearted, something Rachel’s Holiday – the novel dealing with the same issue – doesn’t). I realised, shortly after having started it, that I’ve read Angels before. Nevermind, I didn’t remember how it would all end and it was worth a reread (even if I still don’t really like the ending. Bah). The Other Side of the Story was, uhm, not quite up to Keys’ usual standard, I don’t think. I think partly it was the narrative form I didn’t like, it was slightly too disjointed to suit the overall style of the novel (or me, possibly).

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox – Maggie O’Farrell
Received from Tonbel, who grabbed the chance to get rid of some books while I was there. Most of them ended up bookcrossed, but this one she suggested I read, and I’m glad she did. The main problem with this book was that it was at least 400 pages too short. I wanted to know more, much more, and it left me (internally, I was on the bus) shouting «But what happened next?» Not that the story is unfinished as such, just that the characters were compelling enough to make me want to read more. I think I will have to put the books O’Farrell mentions as helpful when researching on my tbr list.

I’ve probably forgotten something here, oh well.

Since the middle of February

The Tale of Desperaux – Di Collofello
Very sweet. Not exceptionally good, though, and with an underlying sort of morality which bothered me. Since I rather like rats I objected to the description of them being so nasty to look at and touch (especially in comparison with mice, which are, apparently, not nasty at all), but I can understand how it might be necessary for the story. However, I can’t quite excuse the idea that a rat is a rat and can never change his nature, it smacks – to me – a little of the I’m-trying-to-be-politically-correct-but-I’m-a-racist-really premise that all, say, negroes are lazy, but it’s in their nature and they can’t really help it. Balderdash.

Small Wars Permitting – Christina Lamb
Very interesting, highly readable. My father just finished this when I was trying to get through Sorting Out Billy (see below) and there was no competition, really, I jumped at the chance to read something else. Lamb manages to be both informative, profound and thought-provoking and at the same time laugh-out-loud funny in places. The book contains both newly written context material and quite a few of Lambs articles from various papers and both are equally readable and absorbing. Highly recommended.

Then, a bit of a Durrell reread going on – in between all the other stuff – if I find the time and energy I might write a more detailed post on Durrell, but for now, here’s a list:
The Bafut Beagles – Gerald Durrell
Fillets of Plaice – Gerald Durrell
The Stationary Ark – Gerald Durrell
A Zoo in my Luggage – Gerald Durrell
Catch me a Colobus – Gerald Durrell
The Dunken Forest – Gerald Durrell
Himself and Other Animals – David Hughes (biography)

Sorting Out Billy – Jo Brand
I read only the first half, or thereabouts and then gave it up in disgust. Abysmally bad, actually.

The Book of Lost Things – John Connolly
Entertaining, slightly scary in parts. Well worth the time.

Anybody Out There? – Marian Keyes
Excellent. I was a little worried, not being a great fan of spiritualism and trying to speak to the dead, however, Keyes managed the issue beautifully, I think, and I didn’t cringe even once.

Slam – Nick Hornby
Hornby’s first «young adult» novel, which probably should be compulsory reading for most British teenagers as a sort of literary contraception. Not Hornby’s best book – by far – from an adult point of view, but then that’s hardly the right point of view for judging it.

American Gods – Neil Gaiman

A Ramble Round the Globe – Thomas Dewar
Disappointingly unoccupied with whisky or with advertising, the two main reasons I am interested in Tommy Dewar, but a rather interesting read nonetheless.

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid – Bill Bryson
Just what you’d expect from Bill Bryson: Very good.

The Undomestic Godess – Sophie Kinsella

Yet another bookcrossing copy – can you tell I’m trying to work my way through mt tbr? I read this last night – though that’s not entirely true: I read the first and last hundred pages or so, I skipped the middle part once I realised where the story was going – and I guess I was reminded why I concluded a while back that I’ve grown out of chicklit. Parts of the book are certainly very funny, I had enough lol-moments to make the husband accuse me of being drunk, especially concerning **spoiler warning** the media hoo-ha towards the end. However, I didn’t quite believe in the basic premise and felt the conclusion was a bit strained. Still, I’m sure I can find a new reader for this.

The Baby Trail and The Perfect Match – Sinead Moriarty

While we were trying to get me pregnant, The Baby Trail was recommended to me, and I rather enjoyed it. It captures a lot of the frustration and anxiety of trying to conceive while being a light and engaging read. We didn’t have to go through all the harrowing stuff Emma and James faced, luckily, but it’s comforting to have someone who’s worse off than yourself to read about.

Having read The Baby Trail, going on to A Perfect Match was inevitable. Highly enjoyable, though sobering at the same time, especially for someone who has seriously considered adoption.

Wedding Season (Bryllupsfeber) – Darcy Cosper

In which we follow through on a whim

In what can only be classified as a moment of pure madness, I picked up Darcy Cosper’s Wedding Season in the Norwegian translation – Bryllupsfeber – at the local supermarket. There are several reasons why «madness» is the correct classification. Firstly, I don’t read English books translated into Norwegian (comic books excluded, though I prefer the original there, too). This has to be the first time I’ve contemplated doing so for well over 10 years. Secondly, I no longer read chick-lit. There is no good reason for this, it just doesn’t appeal to me anymore.

However, for a few mad seconds it obviously seemed like a good idea. And having spent the money, I thought I might as well spend the time, and read it in order to get rid of the book again.

It’s pretty much what you’d expect. It had a somewhat surprising ending, though not the «surprise ending» I started fearing half-way through, which cheered me up. I had my moments of trying to translate the Norwegian back to English to figure out what the author could possibly have meant – as expected – but not so many as to make it tedious. I enjoyed the friendly banter of Joy and her circle of friends, I thought Cosper did a pretty good job at capturing that common history/common language thing that people who know each other well develop.

And it reminded me how excessively annoying it can be when people try to push their views on how to best live your life on you. I try to avoid doing so myself, but I’m sure I forget occasionally, and even occasionally is too often.