Amanda Reads: Surprise Me

Hello, internet people! We’re almost to February already, so I’m bringing you a review of Sophie Kinsella’s forthcoming novel, Surprise Me, which comes out February 13th, 2018.

(Full disclosure: I received an eGalley of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my Surprise Me Sophie Kinsellahonest review.)

When I got the email inviting me to read a new Sophie Kinsella novel, I was ecstatic. I adore Kinsella’s writing and couldn’t wait to dig in with another book. When I opened it up and started reading, though, I was a little surprised–the book opens with the main character already married!

If I recall correctly, some of the later Shopaholic books also feature non-meet-cute plots, so this may be less surprising to more robustly read Kinsella fans than myself. But personally, I don’t often read about married couples, so I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue.

Surprise Me wasn’t quite the typical romantic comedy I’m usually looking for when I read Sophie Kinsella, but I did enjoy the story.  The main character has a nice arc and changes by the end, which was a relief because I was a bit annoyed with her at times. I was equally in-the-dark about the biggest surprise of all as Princess Sylvie herself was, so the curiosity momentum definitely kept me reading. It was nice to read a love story that didn’t have as predictable a plot, even if picking up in the middle of a marriage robbed me of my beloved meet-cute.

I suspect I’d have enjoyed this book a lot more if I was seeking stories about how married people’s love lives can still have surprises, too. As it was, I enjoyed the book but don’t know that I’d have picked it up on my own based on the synopsis. So, I recommend this book for anyone looking for a love story that isn’t boy meets girl so much as it is man and woman with kids try to keep the spark in their marriage alive and surprise one another along the way.

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Amanda Reads: Perfect Match

One of the most relatable things a character can do these days, as far as I’m concerned, is get overwhelmed by and exhausted with online dating. As someone who’s done the OKCupid rounds more times than I can count, I was completely on board with Sophia’s feelings as she enters date number 71 at the start of Zoe May’s Perfect Match. (Full disclosure: I received an advanced digital copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review).

One note before we jump in here. I generally try to avoid spoilers when I review a book, but I had a lot of opinions and feelings about this one, so I just kind of went for it. So if Perfect Match Zoe Mayyou’re a no-spoilers type of person, consider this your warning:

Here, there be spoilers.

Okay, let’s get on with it, shall we? Online dating can start to feel like a massive chore or a full time job, so I was with Sophia when she decided to give it all up after date 71 didn’t go as planned, with “noodle-nerd” Chris treating their date a little bit more like trivia hour. I was less enthused with her friend (and roommate) Kate when she insisted that Sophia try just one more site. But of course, if Kate hadn’t, we wouldn’t have plot, so… I guess I’ll allow it.

Deciding to have a laugh, Sophia makes the most ridiculous, blunt profile, which includes exact specifications as to the measurement of a certain piece of anatomy one probably shouldn’t specify preferences about online. I was a little confused at the motivation here, since the onslaught of horrific messages that come in later could only be expected, but… plot, I guess?

Enter the character who made me most uncomfortable: Daniel, aka R-Patz because he’s constantly being confused for Robert Pattinson. The moment he entered, I knew we were going to watch this whole thing blow up in Sophia’s face. As the story went on and his possessive behavior became more prominent, I got really uncomfortable with their relationship and I was glad when it became clear he wouldn’t be our HEA (happily-ever-after) focus.

While totally on board with a woman leaving a man who’s treating her like property, I was a bit miffed that nothing more came out about Daniel. Why? Because it seemed like we were being led to a more dramatic revelation, with the frequent framing of Dream Dates as a sinister site. We see the subway ad defaced with devil horns, Sophia gets a message warning about “scammers” on the site from another girl, and…. all of that leads up to a pretty normal break up? Maybe the red herrings were intentionally planted, but I couldn’t help but feel let down when the main issue with the guy was just that he wanted to date broke girls so he could experience his luxe lifestyle through them… or something?

On the other hand, the reappearance of Date 71, noodle-nerd Chris, was a surprise that I loved. When we opened there, I just assumed the date was setting the stage for why Sophia was done with online dating–but no! Chris comes back, adorably nerdy and sweet, and completely wins the reader over. I loved that surprise, and the trajectory of their whole deal felt real to me. Also, who can say no to a man who can bake cakes basically professionally? Sign me up, noodle facts and all.

All said and done, I enjoyed this book even though I was frustrated at being mislead with the Dream Dates situation. Certain aspects–like the fact that someone was going to end up dating Ted since we focused on him so much–were a little predictable, but others were a pleasant surprise. I thought the side characters were well-developed and that the way in which Sophia and Chris ended up getting together was fairly realistic, as far as love stories go. I was especially pleased to see that Sophia’s happy ending wasn’t just about dating a nice guy, but also about personal growth in terms of finding a new job and a new home–on her own. I definitely recommend this one if you like romantic comedies.