Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Review: The personal shopper (Carmen Reid)

The personal shopper is the first book in Carmen Reid's series about Annie Valentine, a single mum in London with two kids. Annie's a personal shopper, helping other people shop for a living, and it makes sense that with her fantastic discount she'll snag a couple of bargains for herself....

But unlike the heroine in the Shopaholic books (which I like and own), Annie's shopping isn't what lands her in a mess. It was surprising for me to read a book where the heroine is so mature and responsible, actually. Sure, she probably buys a bit (a lot) too much, and she has plenty of faults, but she works 24/7 to pay for her kids' private school; she's determined to give them the best of everything, and to me that's really admirable. Sure, she screws up, but she tries hard.

Let's be fair here. I don't like the writing style. For starters, I'm not a big fan of triple exclamation marks all over the place!!! I feel the words and quality of the writing should convey the emotion — not the exclamation points. Also, the writing style seemed obvious — it spelled things out that didn't need to be. I like when authors give me credit for a little intelligence.

It was pretty obvious who the hero would be, too, but I did like that he didn't tick all her superficial checkboxes. I liked that Mr Wrong wasn't evil in any way. He was an OK guy; he was just wrong for her. That seemed more realistic to me, instead of hauling in drama for the sake of drama.

I really liked Annie. She was down-to-earth, cheeky, loving and independent. I loved that independent streak — while she dreamed of having a man to provide for her, it's not what she'd actually choose: she'd rather be able to support herself. I didn't like her parenting, but I'm not a parent, so shouldn't judge.

The best thing about Annie was her honesty. She never lied, and she didn't put up with anyone else lying to her. Annie was beautifully honest and lovely with people; her London charm shone through the book and charmed me.

The book wasn't as funny as the Shopaholic series, and I didn't like Annie's fashion sense hugely, and it didn't make me feel like I was shopping, or make me want to go shopping, like the Shopaholic series does.

But The personal shopper was far more realistic. Everything felt completely believable, and I guess that's the subtle part of a writer's skill. If she can do that and make me love her characters — even the annoying ones — then despite annoyances like triple exclamation marks, I'm looking forward to buying and reading the next Annie Valentine book.

(And by Book 2 she might be down to single punctuation marks. I can but hope.)

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Why you do work experience

"What's that you say? You have review books lying around you don't want? In that huge box over there? Well, let me just have a look through and see if there are any I can help you get rid of... for your sake, obviously."

This is why you do work experience at a newspaper.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Train station romance

It's interesting seeing life unfolding around you, little stories and life adventures beginning everywhere, romances, partners for life enjoying their time together.

I see so many friendships, romances, reunions at the train station. This morning, a curly-haired blonde woman, wheeled suitcase in hand, a smile on her face as she walks up to her boyfriend or partner. The two talk for a minute, standing intimately close, smiling, and then she stands up on her tiptoes and he lowers his head and they kiss, brief but tender. There's something so romantic about it, so loving.

I feel like I should be resentful of them, bitter that they can be together and that I can't be with my boyfriend during the week, but I'm not. It's just happy to see couples together and in love, not making a display of it but not hiding it, just happy to be together.

And then I feel lucky because I feel that is what I have with my boyfriend, and I'm lucky I only live a couple of hours from him, I see him every weekend, and I'm so lucky to have the life I have.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Making old friends

I'm on a mission. Its objective? Make old friends.

New friends are easy to make. Old friends live in different cities or even countries. Old friends have different interests, have grown apart, have new friends and partners and careers. It's harder to start a conversation with old friends, because once you've got the "big" stuff out of the way, it's somehow harder to just do the small talk thing.

We're old friends, you think. What happened? We used to talk so easily about everything and anything.

But life happened. Life got in the way. Some people — like Old Friend Angela — are fantastic at keeping up with people. But more people are like me. I get lazy. I get busy. I get so bogged down in living life that I forget my old friends.

I'll be honest: I'm not a very nice person. I can be cold. If I don't care enough about an Old Friend, or they try my patience too hard — I'll drop them.

It's selfish, isn't it? I don't like this about me.

But that doesn't apply to some friends. I realise years after losing touch with some friends that I've done so, and I feel really, deeply sad. I want to meet up with them, do coffee, go shopping, hang out, talk about stupid little things. I want to have an awkward conversation where we move past the big things and have no small talk to fill in the gaps, the kind of conversation before you start to become real friends again.

And I'm on a mission to try to reclaim some of my Old Friends. Two, in particular.

The first is my best friend from childhood, Rachel, whose family lived overseas with my family. We were best friends — until my family moved back to New Zealand, and then we lost touch purely because I was lazy.

The other makes me really sad: my sister. I've only talked to her once this year. Life keeps getting in the way for both of us, but I don't want to let that be a reason any longer: my sister is far too important to me. I know what happens in her life, the big things, but we don't have that awesome sisterly bond any more, where we could discuss anything, where we acted stupid, where conversations ranged from the deep to the ridiculous to the awkwardly personal.

New friends are easy to make. But I want my old friends back.