In So Five Minutes Ago, Hilary de Vries showed readers that although a career as a publicist can be very unrewarding and quite taxing, it certainly has its moments. Her protagonist, Alex Davidson, is back in The Gift Bag Chronicles, dishing out wit and wisdom about the crazy and outrageous lives of Hollywood stars and others in the entertainment industry. It’s been three years since Alex struggled against the forces of evil (namely a company takeover) and has risen to become one of the vice presidents at her public relations agency. She and Charles Evers, another vice president of the company, are still together as well.
Of course, life is just as crazy, and Alex never seems to get a break. The Los Angeles lifestyle can at best be described as fast-paced. What’s a normal one-hour stretch of time to the rest of us can manifest itself as an entire day or week in this business. Alex has to constantly fight to be up-to-date and on top of the most recent trends and expectations for her clients. Event producing, the latest trend, essentially means throwing fantastic parties, making sure all the “cool people” show up. No party is complete without a gift bag, and what goes into a gift bag can be the deciding factor on the success of the party. Alex, thus, finds herself launching parties and attending to the needs of her high maintenance clients.
In the course of creating one of these events, Alex finds herself butting heads with a rather picky and annoying woman, Patrice, who can’t make up her mind - and when she does, her expectations usually far exceed her budget. If that’s not enough to send Alex over the edge, Patrice’s continual attachment to Charles is causing some very serious issues for her.
In this sequel, de Vries gives Alex a bit more complexity, including her brief family visit to contrast the various issues she has at home and at work. Her struggling relationship with Charles can seem a bit extreme from the end of the last novel, but de Vries makes strives to show that the nature of their relationship has not really developed.
Laura Hamilton narrates this audiobook, delivering a vibrant first-person rendition of Alex. Hamilton crafts Alex with an upbeat voice that, even when down and depressed, manages a good dose of liveliness. She executes other voices, such as the young man painting Alex’s apartment, with an almost perfect translation to the caricature created by de Vries. Her conversations flow smoothly without confusion as to the speaker, and her pace provides an even flow to the story.
Readers of So Five Minutes Ago will certainly enjoy this sequel, and even those unfamiliar with the previous novel will find that the exposition gives one enough background to appreciate this novel on its own. Laura Hamilton provides a fantastic voice for this piece that will certainly keep any listener engaged from start to finish.