SURPRISE ME, by Sophie Kinsella, The Dial Press/Penguin Random House

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After being together for ten years, Sylvie and Dan have all the trimmings of a happy life and marriage; they have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, beautiful twin girls, and communicate so seamlessly, they finish each other’s sentences. However, a trip to the doctor projects they will live another 68 years together and panic sets in. They never expected “until death do us part” to mean seven decades.

In the name of marriage survival, they quickly concoct a plan to keep their relationship fresh and exciting: they will create little surprises for each other so that their (extended) years together will never become boring. But in their pursuit to execute Project Surprise Me, mishaps arise and secrets are uncovered that start to threaten the very foundation of their unshakable bond. When a scandal from the past is revealed that question some important untold truths, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other after all.

6160Sophie Kinsella has sold over 40 million copies of her books in more than 60 countries, and she has been translated into over 40 languages.

Sophie Kinsella first hit the UK bestseller lists in September 2000 with her first novel in the Shopaholic series – The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic (also published as Confessions of a Shopaholic). The book’s heroine, Becky Bloomwood – a fun and feisty financial journalist who loves shopping but is hopeless with money – captured the hearts of readers worldwide. Becky has since featured in seven further bestselling books, Shopaholic Abroad (also published as Shopaholic Takes Manhattan), Shopaholic Ties the Knot, Shopaholic & Sister, Shopaholic & Baby, Mini Shopaholic, Shopaholic to the Stars and Shopaholic to the Rescue. Becky Bloomwood came to the big screen in 2009 with the hit Disney movie Confessions of a Shopaholic, starring Isla Fisher and Hugh Dancy.

Sophie has also written seven standalone novels which have all been bestsellers in the UK, USA and other countries around the world: Can You Keep A Secret?, The Undomestic Goddess, Remember Me?, Twenties Girl, I’ve Got Your Number, Wedding Night, and My Not So Perfect Life, which was a Goodreads Choice Awards finalist for Best Fiction in 2017.

In 2014 she published a Young Adult novel Finding Audrey about a teenage girl with social anxiety and her madcap family, and in January 2018, Sophie published her first illustrated book for young readers about the charming adventures of a mother-daughter fairy duo, Mummy Fairy and Me (also published as Fairy Mom and Me).

Sophie’s latest novel, Surprise Me, published in February 2018, presents a humorous yet moving portrait of a marriage—its intricacies, comforts, and complications. Surprise Me reveals that hidden layers in a close relationship are often yet to be discovered.

Sophie wrote her first novel under her real name, Madeleine Wickham, at the tender age of 24, whilst she was working as a financial journalist. The Tennis Party was immediately hailed as a success by critics and the public alike and became a top ten bestseller. She went on to publish six more novels as Madeleine Wickham: A Desirable Residence, Swimming Pool Sunday, The Gatecrasher, The Wedding Girl, Cocktails for Three and Sleeping Arrangements.

Sophie was born in London. She studied music at New College, Oxford, but after a year switched to Politics, Philosophy and Economics. She now lives in London, UK, with her husband and family.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

MY THOUGHTS:

I have to state first, that I am not a Sophie Kinsella reader.  I seldom read books like this unless the premises really, really catches my eyes.  I’ve been married a long time… a long, long time lol and found the premise of this book intriguing and I did have a few chuckles and giggles here and there.

This book is definitely a light, not too stressful book to read say, at the beach while basting on the lounger.  It starts off slow and a bit, well dull, then moves along a bit faster midway with a few surprising revelations and concludes successfully.

If you like romance with comedic relief, this book will suit you just fine.  The character development is absolutely interesting, intriguing and full of issues. They are flawed, complete and full of warts and you either like them or hate them.  I’ll refrain from what I felt. lol

I also think whether the reader is married or not will make a difference on liking this book. Should you decide to give it a try, keep in mind that this book doesn’t read as many fans claim Sophie Kinsella’s books usually do. There’s even a more serious, plot revelations midway that will possibly shock a new reader and surprise die-hard fans.

Sylvie, as a Protagonist developed fully as a strong, yet self-indulgent, self-doubting and somewhat ‘out there’ woman.  Dan reminds me of a man who’s been married a while and prefers to remain silent than stir the pot, but inwardly he cringes at some of the things Sylvie says.  It’s okay Dan, I cringed too.

I do have to admit that the more shocking moments in the story did give the book a more realistic feel. After all, marriage is not all grins and giggles.

The use of “mommy and daddy” by Sylvie, a grown woman, did take a peel of reality OFF of Sylvie’s character for me. You may find yourself rolling your eyes and groaning in places.  Some creepy, shivery moments of daddy and husband-comparing without really explaining why or where she was going with them left a bad feeling in me that I couldn’t shake. Spoilers:  She keeps her hair long… because daddy liked it that way…  Husband is good and all, but he isn’t daddy… She played her wedding video over and over that didn’t feature them so much as it did her daddy…ugh!

Although the beginning of the book was a bit scattered and not quite blending well for me, most of these scattered bits eventually did fit together flawlessly.  In the end, you do get a good vibe of loyalty, a sense of partnership in marriage and lots of giggles, mixed around family drama and deep, philosophical revelations on marriage.

You suffer through no real tension that drives the plot forward unless you count cringing, that’s tense isn’t it? I saw some mediocre conflict but really nothing shocking and motivating, except poor Sylvie was in need of serious therapy for her “daddy obsession.”  If I was married to her, that would be conflicting enough for me. lol

Did Sophie’s character grow, develop? Not really… Did the plot push forward and develop to a successful conclusion… ummm, maybe this is why I don’t read these books… I had heard so many wonderful things about Sophie Kinsella…  I  wanted to like her too.  I did like the neighbors in the story… I even laughed out loud because of their antics…

I guess if you want a light, fluffy, and funny at times read, then this one would be a good choice.  If you can get past the stereotyping of some character traits (although I knew of someone who also called her parents mommy and daddy and she was forty, ick!) then you’ll enjoy this book.  I just wish I could find a good romance with substance, a great story… ugh! I’m determined! I’ll keep searching!

I gave it:

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