BOOK REVIEW: Book Lovers by Emily Henry

Title: Book Lovers

Author: Emily Henry

Book Length: 384 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

GenreFiction, Romance, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction

Read Start Date: August 27, 2022

Read Finish Date: September 4, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: One summer. Two rivals. A plot twist they didn’t see coming….

Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.

Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small-town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute.

If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.

My Review: I am not usually a romance novel reader, but have gotten into it recently because I’ve heard that you should read what you are currently writing to get you in the mindset. I also am not usually a fan of romance movies or rom coms. From my limited understanding, this book covers the small town romance trope. Emily Henry writes in the “Behind the Book” section at the end of the book:

“And having seen enough of these low-angst, made-for-TV delights (Hallmark and otherwise), I found myself fascinated with one particular iteration of the small-town romance. It goes like this: an uptight, joyless, career-obsessed main character gets shipped off from the big city they call home to conduct business in Middle America. They don’t want to go! They don’t even have the right shoes for this kind of setting! But once they’re there, not only do they manage to fall in love with one of the sweet, small-town locals, but they also manage to learn the true meaning of life. (Spoiler alert: it’s not a high-power career in a major metropolis. And everyone ends up happy. Well, everyone except for the ex. The woman (or man) left behind in the city, whose entire role is usually to call the lead character and bark at them over the phone, remind them that they went to Smalltown, USA for business–to conduct a mass layoff, or to crush the local toy emporium so Big Toy can open its 667th location in the heart of the town, while maybe bulldozing a gazebo or two on the way.”

Emily Henry goes on to say about the inspiration for Book Lovers: “I found myself asking, who is this woman? Where does her story go from here?”

Enter Nora Stephenson, the woman left behind in the big city. Nora, a high earning, workaholic, book agent, has been left behind THREE times! Nora loves her job, the city (a.k.a. Manhattan), and her life there. The City is where she grew up with her mother and sister Libby — where her mother died. The City for Nora is not only a place to live, but a place where her mother’s memory can be found on every corner. She couldn’t imagine anything worse than living in one of those small-towns from the romance novels she reads, or in general moving from the City to anyplace else.

We meet Charlie Lastra (a book editor) pretty early in the book, and it is obvious that this guy will be the love interest. Nora is late to her meeting with Charlie because she was being dumped, en route, by another guy who is leaving her for a small-town local girl. At this point, Nora is so used to this being her luck with men, that it doesn’t phase her. She really could care less. When she arrives at the table, to pitch her client’s new manuscript, which takes place in Sunshine Falls, a small town in North Carolina, Charlie turns down the book. Whatever, Charlie is a nightmare anyway (everyone says so).

The joke is on Charlie Lastra, because 2 years later, the book Nora was pitching is a best seller making tons of money.

Libby (Nora’s sister) is a mother of 2, with a 3rd on the way, and guilts Nora into taking a four-week relaxation vacation to Sunshine Falls. Nora, who gives Libby whatever she wants, agrees. There is a lot of baggage in the relationship between the sisters, stemming from the death of their mother when they were young. In short, Nora had to step into the mother role and gave up a lot of her dreams. Nora puts Libby first, but Libby is unhappy that Nora works too much and doesn’t seem to have time for Libby anymore, etc.

Anyway, they go to Sunshine Falls, and who should Nora see there, but Charlie. Turns out he is FROM Sunshine Falls, which is why he didn’t want to edit the book because it was clear from the manuscript that the author had never been to Sunshine Falls. Sparks fly, etc. Charlie and Nora are like the same person, except you know, Nora is a woman and Charlie is a man. Has Nora stepped into a small-town romance of her own?

I could go on about the plot, but I think you get the idea.

From the synopsis, I was afraid that this book was going to be too much like Beach Read, but I was pleasantly surprised that it was not. I really liked the main characters Charlie and Nora. Their characters were believable, with real problems. I felt that this was a “small-town romance”, but in real terms rather than movie terms. Nora was a smart, professional woman, who had a hard time finding a man who could handle that — which unfortunately is a very real problem. Charlie, also in love with the City, is stuck in Sunshine falls taking care of the family business and his ailing father. This is also a real life problem faced by many people. Aging parents, no one else to take care of them…etc.

I think that Bookshelf Fantasies says it best in saying that “[t]he plot has much more depth than you might expect. Emily Henry excels at creating funny, quirky, unusual characters, then giving them rich backstories that humanize them and expose the pains and sorrows behind their facades. The same is true here, and it makes Nora much more likable than she initially comes across, so much so that I became very invested in her happiness and well-being.”

I also loved how Charlie and Nora were not perfect, but perfect for each other. I agree with Ali’s Books, when she says “Charlie and Nora are perfection together. When they come together it’s HOT and not because the scenes are steamy, but because you feel their connection so deeply. The way Charlie worships and adores Nora is just everything. And watching the sisters heal and reconnect was beautiful, too.”

I also appreciated that the banter between the characters did not get tiresome as in most romance books I’ve read lately. They are both playfully sarcastic, but the conversations were not stupid or annoying, and did not seem contrived just for the sake of having a conversation to show how sarcastic the characters were — meaning that the conversation had purpose, depth, a certain realistic edge to it.

While the ending was predictably a happy one, it was also very realistic, which was great. I can’t stand sappy, ridiculous endings that just ruin an otherwise good book. I’m so glad that this didn’t happen here, because I would have been pretty annoyed.

All in all another great book from Emily Henry!

BOOK REVIEW: People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

54985743Title: People We Meet on Vacation

Author: Emily Henry

Audiobook Length: 10 hours and 46 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, 

Read Start Date: July 9, 2022

Read Finish Date: July 16, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart—she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown—but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.

Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since.

Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together—lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.

Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?

My Review: I read this book 2 times, the first time just after giving birth to my baby, and then again (for the purposes of reviewing it) about a year later. The first time I read the book, I gave it 3 stars, and honestly the year has not changed my opinion about it.

FYI: there are several spoilers in the review. SPOILER ALERT

Poppy is a travel blogger who lives in New York and works for a magazine where she writes about her trips. She enjoys traveling, meeting new people, and in general a flexible lifestyle. Her best friend Alex is the opposite. He is a teacher, lives in the small Ohio town where they both grew up, and wants a family.

The problem? They have been secretly in love with each other for 12 years. Each year they take a “summer trip” and each year they flirt with the line between friendship and romantic involvement. During the 12 years, they’ve both had relationships with other people, but it never seems to work out. At the beginning of the book we find out that one summer after a mysterious event which the reader is not privy to, their friendship explodes, sending them into a 2 year speaking hiatus.

One day Poppy sends Alex a message that just says “hey” and this reignites their friendship. They decide to go on one of their famous summer trips, after which Poppy will attend the wedding of Alex’s brother with Alex. Everything goes wrong, from broken AC in the Airbnb to flat tires on the ride share car. But it’s okay, because it all leads up to the “happy” ending we all know is coming.

The book goes back and forth between the past and the present and through the years we see the sexual tension mount until finally it culminates in one steamy scene on the balcony of their too hot Airbnb. This is all fine, but I found myself getting annoyed at the back and forth between the characters. The dialogue was a little annoying at times — like they were always snarking at each other. I read one review which said rightly that the “banter between the two main characters…tried to be witty but just came across like nails on a chalkboard.”

The storyline just seemed to drag. Like why 12 years? This is sooooo long. Each vacation the tension is the same, the storyline basically repeats just in different locations.

We wait for the reason why Poppy and Alex stopped speaking for the ENTIRE book and then the reason was SOOOO LAME! They made out and then just didn’t text each other afterward. What? Seriously? That’s it? They didn’t even SLEEP together??? There was nothing else? They were both single, “in love” for 10 years at that point, and making out made them STOP TALKING??? because they were too afraid of their emotions? I mean please. If they are THIS bad at communicating then their relationship is doomed big time.

And then when they finally get together, it should be all roses but it’s not because Poppy still wants her carefree life and Alex still wants his eventual family. Then there is also some weird thing where Alex’s mom died in childbirth and he’s afraid that the same thing will happen to Poppy and he couldn’t live without her…I don’t know this was strange to say the least. So they don’t talk again for a small amount of time until Poppy comes to the realization that she is willing to give up “everything” for Alex, snore. Why does it always seem to be the woman who has to compromise her career and desires for the man, family, etc? Sigh.

Anyway, I guess I want off the rails there for a little bit. Sorry! The above is just to say that while the book was entertaining, it definitely wasn’t fantastic. While I did enjoy it, I also was annoyed by several aspects. I find it strange that this book is on the NY times best seller’s list and was a Goodreads Choice winner in 2021, but has a rating on Goodreads of only 3.98 (as of the date of this review).

I think that if you go into this book without super high expectations and are just looking to be entertained (maybe while on vacation…ha!) this book would be a fast and easy read for you. It doesn’t require too much thought and can be read during a week at the beach.

Speaking of beach reading, you can also check out my review of Emily Henry’s other book, Beach Read, here.

BOOK REVIEW: Beach Read by Emily Henry

52867387._SY475_Title: Beach Read

Author: Emily Henry

Audiobook Length: 10 hours and 13 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, Women’s Fiction

Read Start Date: May 15, 2022

Read Finish Date: May 19, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They’re polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.anted. Unable to trust the police, he begins to suspect a cover-up. It’s only when he meets a young Inuit woman, Tupaarnaq, convicted of killing her parents and two small sisters, that Matt starts to realise how deep this story goes—and how much danger he is in.

My Review: This book was a fun and easy read. I listened to the audiobook version mostly while doing chores around the apartment, which made such mundane tasks seem almost delightful.

January Andrews (was it just me or was anyone else reminded of the poem from It by Stephen King “January embers, my heart burns there too”?) is a romance writer with writers block. In her personal life, she is dealing with the death of her father (who she finds out was cheating on her mom) and the break up of a long term relationship. These two failed relationships have her questioning whether romance exists in the world.

Enter Gus Elliot, her rival / arch nemesis / secret crush from college. He is also a writer, but his books are much darker.

They enter into a bet, where each has to write a book in the others’ normal genre. Each weekend they go on outings to learn about the others’ genre for research. E.g., January takes him out on “romantic” outings. And, duh, they fall in love. Who could have seen that coming??

Despite the obvious ending, the journey was fun. The only thing I didn’t like, however, was the bit about the father. It just got really sappy toward the end and made me want to barf. January finally reads the letters her father left for her (at the beginning of the book we find out he died suddenly) and we the readers have to endure the barftastic sap that are the contents of these letters.

Plus, did anyone else feel NOT sympathetic to the mistress or the father like, at all?? I felt that they were VERY selfish!

Mistress: Oh January, you must let me tell you / listen to the explanation of why your father and I were together. I feel so bad and you have to make me feel better.

Father: Please understand why I cheated and forgive me.

NOPE!

But anyway, despite this little part of the book coming mostly at the end, this was a delightful read that I think readers of the genre will like.