‘MisAdventures of Miss Lilly’ #1 & #2 by Kalan Chapman Lloyd

Long time no chick lit for me… but BookBub happened, and here I was a few days ago, enjoying the cute Misadventures of Miss Lilly, ‘Home Is Where Your Boots Are’ and its sequel, ‘These Boots Are Made For Butt-Kickin’.

Home Is Where Your Boots Are

An easy read for a sunny spring, quite perfect for a break from your busy everyday life. The story introduces a successful big city lawyer, who has decided to drive back to her town and loving family, after a painful broken engagement. The moment she steps into Brooks and the home feeling settles, the ‘misadventures’ of Lilly and her army of friends begin. Her high-school crush, Cash, asks her to represent him as a divorce lawyer, only to later discover the dead body of his soon-to-be ex spouse. Not being able NOT to dig for the truth, Lilly becomes a private investigator and in her mission to reveal the killer, she gets into trouble, and almost gets herself killed. Oh! and ends up shooting Cash. (Where… I’m not gonna say, just in case you’ll decide to pick up this book from the shelf and see for yourself.) For the sweet revenge of letting her leave him a decade before to enrol to law school in Texas; she escapes jail though, becoming a town hero for ‘punishing’ the bad boy, Cash  🙂

These Boots Are Made For Butt-Kickin

Same lawyeresque-turned-into-detective spirit from Lilly and her powerful girl-friends. Same family bond assuring her that whatever she was up to, they would always be there for her. Same gun moments, jail visits, and unexpected discoveries. Different crime scene, though, as she is appointed as another divorce attorney by a wealthy wife, whom Lilly finds dead. Again, in her pursuit of finding the truth, she gets into trouble.. and even gets herself very close to being killed again. However, the happy ending that underlies the narrative almost begs for a heroic rescue and some very convenient appearances exactly when the protagonist is in danger. Well, a chick lit story needs its own Price Charming, or in this case, two, as Lilly is saved by Spencer, an ex FBI undercover agent turned lawyer. With Cash recovering in rehab after Lilly’s sweet revenge, she needs time to let the dust settle to give him the long awaited forgiveness for lying to her.

Personal Note

I am not a huge reader of the genre, as I generally aim for the books that address more complex issues and actually challenge the way I think (although I’m not saying chick lit cannot achieve that), but something tells me that sooner rather than later I will get to know what comes next for Lilly and her friends! In a few books’ time, I will probably open another Kalan Chapman piece of work. In the end, a little sass never hurt anyone. Nor a little glam or a dressing room full of designer clothes, stilettos and boots. Loads of boots.

What I loved about this series was the beauty and genuineness of Lilly’s family and friends. That kind of crazy, devoted, extended family living together, supporting each other unconditionally and spreading the assurance that each one is loved, cared for, cherished, and very fortunate of having been born an Atkins. Also, her army of funny, riotous, loyal and very independent friends, who would have each one’s back anytime, just makes you wish you were one of them.

Favourite Quotes

They say the first half of your life is spent trying to escape a small town and the other half is spent trying to get back there. I was apparently starting my mid-life crisis early.

And then it hit me. They wouldn’t. They wouldn’t be disappointed in me. They might yell; they might chastise. But most likely, they’d take me into their fold, stroke my hair and dry my tears. The whole town that has raised me might judge me, but they’d also love me anyway.

They all stood there, each arranged in their distinctive cocky pose, game faces on. The unnecessary troops called in to stand guard. My friends are just like yours. Only prettier. And scarier. Like a hormonal, big0haired, pistol-packing gang.

My Rating

MisAdventures of Miss Lilly - Kalan Chapman

 

 

 

 

‘Miramar’ (1967) – Naguib Mahfouz

Having started learning Arabic this year, I was curious about reading some Arabic literature to open a new doorway to the beauty of the Arab world. And what better way of getting to know the cultural aspect than delving into a book written by one of the most acclaimed Egyptian writers of all times and Nobel Prize winner, Naguib Mahfouz?

‘Miramar’ captures a period of change in Egypt, depicting the late 50’s Nasserite revolution through the eyes of four characters, each narrating the same story from their own perspective. The book presents the conflicting views on Egypt’s political and cultural landscapes during the unsettling post-revolutionary times. Miramar is an Alexandria-based pension, whose owner, Mariana, lodges five guests, and hires young and beautiful Zohra as a maid. Each of the four story-tellers are representative of one political ideology or social group, which provides the novel with a timeless stamp, as the social realities of any given period of time portray a similar amalgam of voices, drives, struggles, conflicts, and inequalities.

Amer Wagdi is the nostalgic, kind grandfather-figure, who lives out of his memories as a journalist and advocate of the old nationalist liberalist party. Sarhan al-Beheiry is the middle-class socialist, educated opportunist, current government employee, who seeks wealth at any cost. Hosny Allam is the uneducated rich land-owner, womanizer, who despises the new regime. Mansour Bahy is the young communist supporter, who fails his fellow Marxist advocates, as his beliefs and statements are stronger than his actions. Thus, Naguib Mahfouz offers a mixture of ideals, a diverse political stance, which can symbolise a dual interpretation of a revolution: an assumed liberty of speech and thought, as well as instability and vulnerability in the face of the unknown.

Zohra is emblematic of the then female destiny; although she is central to the plot, being fought over by the young men living at the pension, she has no voice in the novel’s structure. She might be seen, though, as a brave woman, who stands up to her family – when forced to get married without her consent, to the men at the pension – who desire her, and to the societal mentality as a whole – which is immune to women’s independence and intellectual development.

Personal Note

I have particularly enjoyed the pinch of rebellion that Naguib Mahfouz has given Zohra during such a time when storm clouds were boiling above Egypt’s cultural and political settings. She embodies a woman who is not only trying to surpass her social status, but also to hold the reins of her body and mind in a male-dominated society that conceptualises her as meat,  and as a defenceless and dependent person aimed purely at family nurturing. Thus, Zohra fights the traditional waves by becoming financially independent, deciding to become literate, and allowing herself to be the only decision taker of her own destiny.

Favourite Quotes

Remember that you haven’t wasted your time here. If you’ve come to know what is not good for you, you may also think of it all as having been a sort of magical way of finding out what is truly good for you.

Alexandria. At last Alexandria, Lady of the Dew. Bloom of white nimbus. Bosom of radiance, wet with sky water. Core of nostalgia steeped in honey and tears”

‘The Infinite Plan’ by Isabel Allende

A novel about love and despair in all their shapes; one by one, Allende’s characters go through life cherishing the good and leaving behind the bad – a friend’s unconditional love, the gratefulness of an adoptive mother, childhood memories, fiery and passionate flings, shallow romances, unattached parents-children relationships, consequences of narrow-minded mentalities, betrayals, shattered hearts, promises and dreams.

A novel about segregation and  political unrest. The rough lives of the Latin American communities in the USA are reflected through the unmet expectations of the ‘American dream’, a Nirvana state of mind that never reaches materialisation. There is an amalgam of injustices, from the Americans who discriminate and marginalise the Hispanics on the grounds of their immigrant status, to the Latin Americans, who belittle the Asians and the black communities in the barrio because of their skin colour. Depicting an endless circle of racial abuse and exclusion that populated the American society in the 20th century, Allende succeeds in building a narrative that resonates with each of us, be it for empathy, disgust or justice reasons. In this societal chaos, Greg finds his origins positioning himself as both the victim and the ‘favoured’; while in the Hispanic Californian barrio he first stands out as an outsider and a gringo, having been tormented, bullied and raped by the ‘machos’, he later experiences the advantages of being white by securing a place at university – as higher education was often denied to minority groups.

A story about dreams, possibilities and opportunities. In the library, a young Greg meets the communist lift-man, who instills in him the hunger for reading and the seed for knowledge that would further rise him above his condition. Travelling the world, the childhood barrio friend, Carmen, becomes a magnificent and powerful woman, who makes peace with her past (having been driven out of the village by her family after a terrifying, almost deadly experience of an illegal abortion) and rises like a Phoenix from her ashes.

Personal Note

I have always been a fan of the Latin American literature, which is as passionate, vivid and warm as their language and culture, and Isabel Allende’s ‘The Infinite Plan‘ is no exception. I particularly enjoyed how the novel walks you through the hurdles of life, as well as its little things that bring one joy and happiness. Life is never a straight line coloured in black and white, and I believe Allende managed to write a saga that has beautifully captured something very human and random: miserable childhoods, poverty, fruitful relationships, failed ones, dreams, love, ignorance, mistakes, pain, terror, redemption, life and death.

Favourite Quotes

“When a man’s earning his living doing things he doesn’t like, he feels like a slave; when he’s doing what he loves, he feels like a prince.”

“Don’t ever say that again.. even joking. You’re going to live out your life, no matter how much it hurts.“

‘The Elegance of the Hedgehog’ by Muriel Barbery

A well-crafted, sensitive and funny book that digs into the ambiguity of the living souls and minds of the two protagonists; Renee, a middle aged concierge (who enjoys reading Kant), and Paloma, a highly gifted 12-year old, who doesn’t seem to relate to the masses.

The way I’ve perceived this book is as an exploration of our lives’ layers, from their ordinary existence to their extraordinary meaning. While we’re too busy thinking about creating epic moments and living highly memorable ones, our existence actually flows into the meaningless void of the infinite human condition. (A bit too philosophical, I know, but this is my ‘translation’ of Muriel Burbery’s writing).

Paloma and Renee, initially purposefully isolating themselves from the world, in an attempt to escape the mediocracy and arrogance so often encountered around them, have managed to eventually find their own meaning of life, interpreted through each one’s views, feelings and expectations. Once they meet , they finally acknowledge they are not fighting the battle alone. They find a confident and an ‘intellectual partner’ in one another, a reflection of each one’s mind, rekindling their hope and curing their souls.

Personal Note

On a personal note, I’ve seen it as an introspection of what really is worth living for – the ordinary joys, the material world, or the more substantial essence of life. Probably the answer lays somewhere in the middle, where one can have the best of both worlds, between a Kantian approach towards exploring the limits of our knowledge and existence, and the trivial matters of our consumerist society that we become attached to, choosing things over ideas and ideals.

Favourite Quotes

“I thought: pity the poor in spirit who know neither the enchantment nor the beauty of language.”

“Personally I think that grammar is a way to attain beauty.”

“For the first time in my life I understood the meaning of the word ‘never’. And it’s really awful. You say the word a hundred times a day but you don’t really know what you’re saying until you’re faced with a real ‘never again’.”

My Goodreads rating of the Elegance of the Hedgehog.