Sunday, August 27, 2006

Shopaholic Ties the Knot by Sophie Kinsella

Kinsella continues her amusing Shopaholic series by putting Becky Bloomwood into a new situation. Luke and Becky are engaged, and Becky has the chance to have the wedding of her dreams. Only she's not too sure which dream to choose. Torn between her mother's elaborate plans for a homegrown wedding and the spare-no-expense Manhattan fete imposed on her by Luke's icy socialite mother, Becky finds herself getting deeper and deeper into trouble as the big day approaches and she has yet to make a decision. Of course, there is plenty of humor involved and quite a bit of shopping, but I think it was a smart move to shift the central conflict away from Becky's shopping habits and mounting debts with this book. The stage is set here for future books (such as Shopaholic and Sister, which got me started reading Kinsella's entire oeuvre!) and I look forward to seeing what else will happen to Becky as she moves into new phases of her life.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Hy Brasil by Margaret Elphinstone

Having enjoyed The Sea Road last fall, I was delighted to come across another Elphinstone book in a used bookstore not too long ago. With great anticipation, I packed it into my suitcase for some good holiday reading.

I have to admit that for quite a few chapters, I couldn't quite work out what type of novel I was reading. The Sea Road is a beautifully written piece of historical fiction; Hy Brasil is something quite different. Hy Brasil is a fictional mid-Atlantic island nation, populated with the descendents of pirates and shipwreck survivors. Sidony Redruth becomes fascinated with the place and manages to convince a publisher to give her an advance to write a travel guide. When she arrives in Hy Brasil, she meets Jared Honeyman, a young man obsessed with finding Spanish treasure amid the many shipwrecks surrounding his home country. The narrative switches back and forth between Sidony's and Jared's perspectives, as they both become caught up in a deadly series of political events that threaten to expose some secrets that have been hidden nearly as long as the treasure Jared seeks on the ocean floor.

Once I got caught up in this book, I found I couldn't put it down. The characters are well drawn and realistic, and the culture of Elphinstone's fictional nation is both believable and fascinating. I managed to pick up another of this author's elusive novels at a bookstore in York, so you can expect to read about it here very soon.

Shopaholic Takes Manhattan by Sophie Kinsella

Our heroine, Becky Bloomwood, has won the heart of PR whiz Luke Brandon, and she agrees to travel to New York City with him to investigate the possibility of moving there so he can open a branch of his company. With Luke frantically rushing from meeting to meeting, trying to woo investors, what else could Becky do but explore the possibilities of Manhattan shops? Alas, sinister forces are at work in Becky's life. A tabloid journalist's ill-timed expose of Becky's debts and shopping habits throws her plans into doubt.

Although this book follows the same formula as its predecessor, Confessions of a Shopaholic, it's a formula that works. Kinsella's knack for putting her appealing, slightly ditzy protagonists into hilariously dire situations doesn't fail her here. It's easy to get swept up into Becky's world, laughing at her predicaments with the certainty that everything will work out in the end.