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.)

No comments: