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  • Tara Sonin 4:00 pm on 2018/02/12 Permalink
    Tags: , , , surprise me   

    A “Perfect” Marriage is Tested in Sophie Kinsella’s Surprise Me 

    Surprise Me is a new feel-good romance from Sophie Kinsella that touches on themes perfect for the new year: renewal, second chances, and remembering what’s most important in a chaotic, materialistic world.

    Sylvie and Dan have been together for a decade, and they’re happier than ever…or so they think. When a visit to the family doctor and a great health report card makes them realize they could be spending the next seven decades together, the quirky couple has a bit of a breakdown: it turns out happily ever after is an intimidatingly long time, and they’re terrified that their marriage has already failed before it, in the scheme of things, has even really taken flight. How will they keep up their sex life? Are they doomed to a life of picking up after their twins and petty arguments about taking money from Sylvie’s parents? Are their jobs satisfying enough…and what will retirement look like, if it’s twenty years long?

    All of these questions cause our heroine, Sylvie, to lose her grip in this caustically funny story of miscommunication and marriage revival attempts that go awry. She decides to make a deal with Dan that they surprise one another more…but of course, surprises are a double-edged sword, and when Sylvie finds herself getting surprised by more than just sexy escapades with the husband she thought she could trust—that perhaps Dan has real, possibly marriage-ending secrets he’s tried to protect throughout their life together—she wonders whether their relationship has been real all along, or just another unsatisfying surprise.

    Kinsella is at her best writing quirky, relatable women with self-aware, non-pretentious prose. Sylvie and Dan are a likable couple, and we believe their happiness at the start of the novel is genuine, even if it’s a little too perfect: they finish one another’s sentences, which is certainly a romantic notion, but definitely underscores a central part of Sylvie’s journey throughout the novel, which is that her marriage can only survive if she finds her own voice. Through her often misguided endeavors to “save” her already great marriage, Sylvie realizes there are things in her past—from her deeply flawed relationship with her wealthy and influential father, whom she revered, to Dan’s discomfort and her complacency with a job that doesn’t give her emotional satisfaction and checks her ambition—that she must save herself from in order to live a happy life. And of course, when family drama is unearthed from the past, all of Sylvie and Dan’s plans for fun and spontaneity go out the door, and they must fight to save the marriage they never thought would be in jeopardy.

    Life is a constant surprise, but the best one of all is finding a supportive, loving partner to share it with.

    Surprise Me is on B&N bookshelves now.

    The post A “Perfect” Marriage is Tested in Sophie Kinsella’s Surprise Me appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Sarah Skilton 5:00 pm on 2018/01/30 Permalink
    Tags: a long way from home, an american marriage, elizabeth crook, , house of impossible beauties, joseph cassara, , minrose gwin, only child, only killer and thieves, paul howarth, peter carey, promise, rhiannon navin, robin oliveira, , surprise me, tayari jones, , the which way tree, , winter sisters   

    The Best New Fiction in February 2018 

    Historical fiction fanatics are in for a Valentine’s treat this month, with seven historical novels to choose from. Pick a locale, and there’s something for everyone, from the wild west of Civil War-era Texas, to 1880s and 1950s Australia, to 1970s Alaska, to 1980s Harlem and the rise of ball culture at the House of Xtravaganza. Or pick a season and read about man vs nature, with a devastating blizzard in Albany, New York in 1879, or a once-in-a-lifetime tornado in Tupelo, Mississippi in 1936. Contemporary fans are in luck, too, with Sophie Kinsella’s latest romantic comedy about a marriage that’s stuck in a rut, and Rhiannon Navin’s debut novel written from the viewpoint of a first grader who survives a school shooting.

    The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah
    It’s 1974 and Ernt Allbright thinks he can escape the horrors of Vietnam by forcing his 13-year-old daughter Leni and tragically devoted wife Cora to move to Alaska, where a homestead in the wilderness of Kaneq awaits them. But Ernt’s struggles with violence and PTSD are just beginning, and his family is utterly unprepared to save him, or themselves. Isolated, off the grid, and surrounded by darkness in the unending wintertime, mother and daughter must find a way to survive. A chilling, worthy follow-up to Hannah’s 2015 smash The Nightingale.

    Surprise Me, by Sophie Kinsella
    Compared to the hapless heroine of last year’s delightful My Not So Perfect Life, which delved into the problems of a 20-something seeking career fulfillment and romance, the married couple in Surprise Me, Sylvie and Dan, appear stable and settled, happy to be raising their twin daughters together. But after it hits them that few, if any, surprises await them in life, they fight hard to keep the spark in their relationship alive. In the process, they uncover aspects of each other’s pasts that may not be so easily reconciled. Kinsella is always a cut above in her depiction of the wonderful, occasionally fragile joys of love and friendship.

    An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones
    Newlyweds Roy and Celestial find their marriage tested after a cruel twist of fate sends Roy to prison in another state for a crime he didn’t commit. As the years of separation drag on, Celestial turns to her friend since childhood, Andre, for comfort, and Andre’s perspective provides new insight into her painful situation. Letters sent between husband and wife further illuminate this incredible, contemporary study of marriage, loyalty, and racial injustice. A thoughtfully rendered, realistic drama that’s especially perfect for fans of the TV series Rectify.

    Only Killers and Thieves, by Paul Howarth
    In 1885, Colonial Australia (where the indigenous people were targeted by the Native Police Force) is as wild and untamed as it will ever be—and this debut novel fully immerses readers in that world. In an outback suffering from devastating drought, two young brothers become caught up in a manhunt for an aboriginal stockman whom they believe has murdered their parents and little sister. But the truth is elusive, and the killing spree against native tribesman that results from their misguided “vengeance” has far-reaching consequences, and may haunt Billy and Tommy the rest of their lives.

    Only Child, by Rhiannon Navin
    Written from the perspective of a first-grade boy, and reminiscent of Room, by Emma Donahue, Only Child depicts the emotionally devastating consequences of a school shooting. When his older brother Andy is killed, six-year-old Zach (who hid with a teacher during the slaughter) is thrust into a new world he doesn’t recognize. His parents are unable to cope with the enormity of their loss—or its circumstances—leaving Zach to come to terms with the situation largely on his own. He builds a secret hideout in Andy’s closet, where he finds solace in the Magic Treehouse series, by Mary Pope Osborne. Expect to see this debut dominate book club lists with its timely and sensitive portrayal of a family’s grief.

    The Which Way Tree, by Elizabeth Crook
    An award-winning author with an abiding love for Texas and the West, Crook sets her fifth novel in Civil War-era Texas, in which an orphaned brother and sister conscript a Tejano outlaw to help them seek revenge against the wild panther that killed the girl’s mother. Fans of True Grit, by Charlies Portis; Little Big Man, by Charles Berger; and Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy, will want to get their hands on it ASAP.

    Promise, by Minrose Gwin
    As with her acclaimed debut (Queen of Palmyra), in Promise, Gwin tackles the relationship between races in the south. It’s 1936, and Tupelo, Mississippi is hit with a colossal tornado that kills hundreds of people and upends even more lives. An older black woman, Dovey, barely survives the disaster, but manages to use what strength she has left to navigate the wreckage of the town with Jo, a white teenager whose family is violently linked to Dovey’s.

    House of Impossible Beauties, by Joseph Cassara
    This glamorous, gritty, and glittering debut based on real events deals with the highs and lows of the ball culture scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s in Harlem. Angel, a 17-year-old runaway trans girl, is without a family to call her own, so she helps create one—House of Xtravaganza—and eventually becomes its house mother. Within the first all-Latinx house in the Harlem ball circuit, gay and trans performers strut and vogue on the runway to compete for trophies and prizes, while behind the scenes they deal with AIDS-related illnesses, drug addiction, and family betrayals.

    A Long Way From Home, by Peter Carey
    With two Booker Prizes (Oscar and Lucinda in 1988, and True History of the Kelly Gang, in 2001), and several other awards under his belt, Carey continues to delight and educate his readers with books related to his native Australia. This time he tackles the 1954 Redex Reliablility Trial, in which car racers compete across 10,000 miles of outback while maintaining a particular speed. This unique venue provides the perfect backdrop for a humorous adventure. That Carey includes a subversive deep dive into the clearly-still-relevant realities of racism against the Indigenous population proves why he’s won so many awards for his work.

    Winter Sisters, by Robin Oliveira
    Doctor Mary Sutter is back! When two little girls become lost in a blizzard in 1879 Albany, New York, the no-nonsense but empathetic Civil War midwife-turned-surgeon takes up the daunting task of finding them. It’s not necessary to read Oliveira’s bestselling debut, My Name is Mary Sutter, about the good doctor’s life on the battlefield, but two historical novels are better than one, and Winter Sisters will make you cross your fingers for a third installment about Mary. A suspenseful, gripping tale that never loses its historical authenticity while illuminating present-day parallels.

    What new fiction are you excited to read this month?

    The post The Best New Fiction in February 2018 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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