Book Review: Mini Shopaholic, Sophie Kinsella

Posted by Judy Johnson On Thursday, 30 September 2010 17:56 0 comments
It's official. Becky Bloomwood is back and has gone absolutely barmy. It's been a while since we had a Bloomwood update, what with the film and various other books from Kinsella coming out - and either I have forgotten just how mental the shopaholic is, or she really has lost it (in a good way). 

I saved Mini Shopaholic for my brief holiday in Dorset this week, and finished it in two days - and I wasn't even reading the whole time. I couldn't put it down. Kinsella's wit is so addictive, I just couldn't get enough of the Bloomwood antics. In this book, Becky has her two year old daughter Minnie, and is living with gorgeous (in my head he is) husband Luke in her parents' house, while they try and sort out their own house-buying catastrophes. The apple does not fall far from the tree at all, with Minnie being able to flag down her own cabs, wanting everything in sight and repeatedly asking for a Starbucks. Poor Luke.

As per usual, Becky gets herself high-leg-boot-deep in trouble, and it is exasperating but hilarious to read. Much like watching a film and yelling at the television to say 'No! Go that way! Don't do that! Tell him the truth!' etc (Oh, is that just me?), I wanted to give Becky a shake and tell her where she was going wrong. Only I couldn't because I remembered it was a book and wanted to read more and see what else she got up to. 

One of my favourite parts in the book was early on where she thinks, in true Becky style, how wonderful the pony that Minnie has got her hands on is, and then decides that as they come as a set she needs to get them both. I love her trail of thought, and the scary fact that it's the kind of thing that goes through my head when shopping (I'm not Bloomwood-level though, promise). 

If it's even possible for Becky to get any more nutty... then I can't wait for the next book.

Sophie Kinsella - New Old Books

Posted by Judy Johnson On Wednesday, 22 September 2010 23:44 0 comments
Just a quickie for all the Sophie Kinsella fans out there. As well as her brand new Mini Shopaholic book that just came out this month, there are more books of hers out there than you may think. Before creating the well-loved Shopaholic series, Kinsella wrote a good few books under her real name, Madeleine Wickham

I found a couple of them at bargain prices on eBay some time ago and am yet to read them (I have an entire bookshelf full of books I am yet to read - I'm busy!), and when checking Amazon lately I noticed that she is now rebranding all those old ones to be under her better known name - a wise move! I am saving the Shopaholic one for my time off next week (you have no idea how hard it's been to wait!), and also bought Cocktails for Three, to add to my other bargain buys of Sleeping Arrangements and A Desirable Residence. 

Inside the cover of the newly marketed books, Kinsella does say that she wrote under different names because the earlier books are a different style of writing - but with writing as good as hers, I'm sure they'll still be too good to put down.

Any recommendations of her other books? I also highly recommend her 'Kinsella' ones which are outside of the Shopaholic series - the Undomestic Goddess, Remember Me?, Can You Keep a Secret and more recently Twenties Girl are laugh-out-loud, choke-on-your-drink funny.

You Know You Live in London When...

Posted by Judy Johnson On Sunday, 19 September 2010 19:28 5 comments
I've lived in London for five years. I love cities so it wasn't a drastic step for me, but I am from a small village in Sussex, near Brighton, where old people say hello when you walk past them and you can't go to a bar without bumping into, well, your entire tutor group from year seven. London has already changed me a bit - and it's most noticeable when I'm somewhere else. I'm not sure London will ever officially be home, but I'm definitely becoming a Londoner. Here are a few reasons why.

You know you live in London when...

  1. A two minute wait for a train or bus is a 'delay'
  2. You question someone's intentions if they smile at you
  3. Your highlight of the day is getting a seat on the train home
  4. You can't sleep when it's deadly quiet or pitch black
  5. You think there must be a massive crime going on that's keeping all the police busy if you haven't heard sirens for a while (or is that just Lewisham?)
  6. You leave for a night out at 11pm
  7. £8 is cheap for a cocktail
  8. You have to fight the urge to shout at slow people
  9. Paying to get into a club is just out of the question
  10. You debate wearing a coat even when it's snowing, because you know the tube will still be like an airless sauna regardless
What have I missed?


What's in a Name?

Posted by Judy Johnson On Saturday, 18 September 2010 23:03 4 comments
You know how you decide never to call your future child the same name as that girl in school who got pregnant aged 15, or the boy who was the class bully? Well, there's a lot in a name. Even if you don't have a great memory for names, you'll probably have connotations for certain names based on people you've met. 

I think the same applies to men and dating. If you've had a not-so-great relationship with someone called Dave, the idea of getting with another Dave might seem daunting. At least, that's what I feel about it. Every time I hear an ex's name I feel a little twinge of something, which I can't really explain other than being a memory of them which doesn't quite go away.

This happened recently when I wandered into online dating - I was emailing someone but I just couldn't get over the fact that he had the same name as someone else I'd dated, who I'd really rather forget. Then I realised - of all the guys I'd been interested in or met since the big break up (six in total), the same three names have come round twice. Isn't that a little bit odd? 

Turns out, not really. My friend has only dated Chris's (not on purpose, I might add) and another has a bit of a history with James's. But still, I think three names is quite specific and am wondering if it all means something or is pure crazy coincidence. 

So - how much is in a name? Was I right to avoid same-name guy in case he was as bad as the last or is it just complete fluke? And what names do you avoid? (I'm not telling you mine!).

Eat, Pray, Love... Live

Posted by Judy Johnson On Sunday, 12 September 2010 19:33 0 comments

"When a man who looks like Yoda hands you a prophecy, you have to respond."

Last week I was very lucky to get to go along to a special screening for bloggers of the new film Eat, Pray, Love, with my friend Sarah who was taking part in a panel discussion after (check out her dating blog here). I hadn't heard much about the film, only that it was based on a book which a few friends were already recommending to me. But I was so inspired by it (don't look at me like that, you will be too) that I felt a blog post coming on. And here we are.

Now I won't try and explain what it is about - instead, here is the synopsis:

Liz Gilbert (Julia Roberts) had everything a modern woman is supposed to dream of having – a husband, a house, a successful career – yet like so many others, she found herself lost, confused, and searching for what she really wanted in life. Newly divorced and at a crossroads, Gilbert steps out of her comfort zone, risking everything to change her life, embarking on a journey around the world that becomes a quest for  self-discovery.  In her travels, she discovers the true pleasure of nourishment by eating in Italy; the power of prayer in India, and, finally and unexpectedly, the inner peace and balance of true love in Bali. Based upon the bestselling memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love proves that there really is more than one way to let yourself go and see the world.

I don't know if it's just my current age, where I am or what, but it feels like this is film is so perfectly timed - I feel like myself and most of my friends are currently going through a 'What next?' phase which is slightly terrifying and liberating all at the same time, as we wide-eyedly make life-changing decisions, sit staring into space thinking about the next step and drunkenly claim that we're going to sort our lives out, every weekend. Everyone is trying to figure out what they want, where they're going and how they're going to weave their wobbly path there from whatever they're currently doing. Some of us haven't worked it out yet, but it's in the back of our minds, or in my case on post-its covering my bedroom walls (I have to brainstorm on paper to make sense of it all). So with this in mind, I was looking forward to being inspired by someone who'd worked it all out.

The film, for me, didn't disappoint. I loved it, to sum up. Julia Roberts can't do anything wrong in my eyes, but in this film I saw beyond her and really got into the story and its characters, despite having not read the book. The cinematography was beautiful - I made mental notes to visit Rome and forget about muffin tops, to read more about India and put Bali down on my travel wishlist, along with finding the guts to get back on a bicycle (despite the well-known saying, I swear that it's quite difficult to do when you haven't done it for years). This might be why I loved the film so much I think - I haven't travelled much, and am desperate to; I love exploring new places and ever since I've had a passport all I've wanted to do is use it. (If you're asking why I haven't yet, it's the penniless writer thing). I could relate to Liz's frustrations, even if I am many years younger; with so many choices and decisions yet so many limitations and the conformity of every day life, it's hard to know what you want, what you should be doing and how to do it.

In the film, Liz struggles with and eventually masters meditation. As a sufferer of anxiety, overthinking and an overactive imagination, it's something I now want to try (though I might try yoga first and ease in gently). The thought (there we go again) of being able to clear out my mind and  have control over my own thoughts is so attractive - and will probably help with the 'What next?' question too. The good news, as one of the panelists discussed, is that you don't need to fly off to Bali or India or anywhere else in order to do that - there are centres for it all over the city and UK (ahem, check Wahanda for more info - shameless plug).

When I was watching it, everything Liz was doing made me reflect on myself (self-indulgent, I know). For starters, I loved the advice from Richard at the Ashram on letting someone go:

    “But I love him.”

    “So love him.”

    “But I miss him.”

    “So miss him. Send him some love and light every time you think about him, then drop it. You’re just afraid to let go of the last bits of David because then you’ll be really alone, and Liz Gilbert is scared to death of what will happen if she’s really alone. But here’s what you gotta understand, Groceries. If you clear out all that space in your mind that you’re using right now to obsess about this guy, you’ll have a vacuum there, an open spot – a doorway. And guess what the universe will do with the doorway? It will rush in – God will rush in – and fill you with more love than you ever dreamed. So stop using David to block that door. Let it go.”

    “But I wish me and David could - "  

    He cuts me off. “See, now that’s your problem. You’re wishin’ too much, baby. You gotta stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone oughtta be.” (Thanks Dianisms for the quote)

I love that quote - it's so true that we give all this thinking space to things which we just need to drop and accept as complete, past, and right. We also sometimes need to drop the physical space-fillers, which is where I had a bit of a wake up call. She starts off on this journey because while her friend, happily a new mother, has a Box (ladies, we all have Boxes, I'm sure) under the bed filled with baby things which she has been collecting over time, Liz has her Box - only it's filled with clippings of places she's always wanted to travel to. I recently got rid of my Box as it was attached to a certain someone and slowly meant very little any more - I threw it away, save for a few keepsakes from places I'd visited, and started a new one, feeling better already.

The thing is - my Box is filled with bits from the past. I have old photos, old cards, letters, random little sentimental bits and pieces... which of course I'm going to hold onto for as long as they have meaning, but what am I looking forward to? Other than the post-its covering my wall and a sketchbook that I brainstorm in from time to time, I don't collect anything that might shape my future - and with travelling being top of my wishlist, I'm going to make a start on a new one.

Finally, after gawping at the screen in wonder for a good couple of hours, we had the panel discussion with a food blogger, travel editor, yoga teacher and of course Sarah for the love aspect. It turned out that some found it cheesy, a bit rose-tinted-glasses-esque and idealistic when it came to the destinations. It was also mentioned that, particularly those who had read the book, some thought Liz was a very selfish woman. Taking off and divorcing your husband out of the blue may seem selfish, as may ditching your new boyfriend to follow your dreams - but it's her life - so why the hell shouldn't she? Don't live someone else's life - live your own and enjoy it. At least, that's what I'm going to try and do. Wish me luck...

P.S. If you want to start figuring out what you want, check out Field of Dreams - a fab idea by @BangsandaBun.
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