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: The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

56732449Title: The Love Hypothesis

Author: Ali Hazelwood

Audiobook Length: 11 hours and 8 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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

Read Start Date: August 22, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 25, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn’t believe in lasting romantic relationships–but her best friend does, and that’s what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.

That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor–and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford’s reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive’s career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding… six-pack abs.

Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.

My Review: Apparently this is another “booktok” recommendation — I checked it out of the library as it was on the list of “global popular books”. I went into this not knowing anything about the book, or having any expectations.

I was torn between giving this book 3 or 4 stars. 3 stars because the banter between the characters annoyed me, as did the ridiculous conversation subject matters. It also generally annoys me when characters have very poor communication skills and hold back their true feelings or don’t discuss topics because of “misunderstandings” which could be cleared up in a matter of a few seconds but aren’t just to create tension.

Maybe this is just how rom coms are formulaically, but it just seems so contrived. Additionally, poor communication is a horrible foundation for a relationship. 

My Book Joy summed up the issue pretty nicely: “What kiiiiilled me though, was the reliance on the idiotic thing I often find myself screaming during these kinds of stories: JUST TALK TO EACH OTHER!!! STOP ASSUMING YOU KNOW WHAT THEY THINK AND WANT AND DID! GOOD LORD! COMMUNICATION, PEOPLE! It was particularly frustrating in this book for two reasons. The first is that they’re not high school age — 26 and 34 if I recall correctly — so I would kiiiind of expect them to be better with handling this. To be fair, it did mostly come from 26-year-old Olive who has very little romantic relationship experience. Still, with the other friendships she has, I’d think honest communication would have been a skill she picked up by now.”

It also got tiresome how Adam kept being described as “large”, “big”…if I heard about his “large hands” once, it was 30 times. We get it. He’s a big guy. By big I guess the author meant tall? Because we are also told he has a six pack so he can’t be overweight or bulky. Also, if I heard the words “fake dating” once, I heard it 100 times. I am NOT a fan of repetitive word usage. 

If I only gave ratings on the endings of books, I might have been persuaded to give the book 4 stars, because despite myself, by the end of the book I was listening to it because it was finally grabbing my attention. I won’t say too much here otherwise it would give away the story, but let’s just say things started to finally get interesting.

Would I recommend this book? Eh, I guess? If you are the type of person who really loves the fake dating to real relationship rom com trope and can handle a lot of bad dialogue, then I would say go for it!

BOOK REVIEW: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

55404546Title: Malibu Rising

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Audiobook Length: 11 hours and 5 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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

Read Start Date: August 2, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 4, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Four famous siblings throw an epic party to celebrate the end of the summer. But over the course of twenty-four hours, their lives will change forever.

Malibu: August, 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together, the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over—especially as the offspring of the legendary singer, Mick Riva.

The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud—because it is long past time to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth.

Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there.

And Kit has a couple secrets of her own—including a guest she invited without consulting anyone.

By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come bubbling to the surface.

Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them… and what they will leave behind.

My Review: I first listened to the audiobook when my baby was 1 month old during night time feedings and so didn’t have enough of a recollection to write a proper review (not because the book was bad, but because I was so damn tired all the time). Since I have also read 2 of Reid’s other books (Daisy Jones & the Six (see my review here) and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (see my review here)), I wanted to give a review of this book as well. This was a book that I did not mind reading twice.

As many women do, I unfortunately gained weight during my pregnancy which I have, to date, not been able to take off. Additionally, I have always had the goal of running longer distances, so I have recently decided to start working toward a 5k, something which I haven’t ever done. I am normally not much of a runner (I usually walk instead). This book was a fantastic listen during running, and kept my mind occupied the entire time.

The book centers on the Riva family, who live in Malibu. The story takes place from the 1950s through the 1980s.

The father, Mick Riva, is a famous singer. Interestingly, Mick Riva is one of Evelyn Hugo’s husbands! There is also mention in this book that Celia St. James attended one of the famous Riva parties. I love how the author connected the two books — it was very subtle and unless you had read Evelyn Hugo recently, you might not have picked up on it at all.

Mick is an all around dog, we cheats on his wife June multiple times. They are divorced, remarried and divorced again, all the while June holds a candle to him, always hoping he will come back. She becomes an alcoholic and is not capable of carrying for her children. Mick never sends money, birthday cards — he never comes to see the children. Basically, he’s a jerk.

The story mainly follows the lives of the children Nina, Jay and Kit (June’s kids) and Hud (their half-brother, who has taken in by June when his biological mother basically dropped him off at the Riva’s doorstep). Each character is developed fantastically and I really like how all the stories are interwoven together. The book alternates between “present day” (in the 1980s) and the past.

I read some other blogs reviews about this book and Read and Review It makes a point that I had not considered: “I also really appreciated how big a theme family was in Malibu Rising. There was a really big emphasis on the importance of it and looking out for each other, which was a really lovely message. I also really liked how despite making some mistakes they all really cared about each other and would do anything for each other – I loved how tightly knit the siblings were, especially after everything that they’d been through.”

Out of all the Rivas introduced in the book, Nina is the main one. At the beginning of the book we find out that her famous, tennis star husband has left her after only a year of marriage. With a deadbeat father and alcoholic mother, Nina has been the de facto parent for her 3 younger siblings since she can remember. One day Nina is discovered while surfing and she becomes an overnight modeling sensation — this is not what she would have wanted for herself, but she did it in order to pay the bills and support her family. Nina has always put everyone before herself — it is her one and only flaw. Will she finally be able to put herself first and start living the life she always wanted?

Sarah Collins Bookworm describes Nina as the “ultimate people pleaser.” She goes on to say that: “As a reader, you very quickly a sense that Nina is simply going through the motions, she’s unsatisfied but won’t allow herself to consider what she actually wants to do with her life. That’s what Malibu Rising is about, Nina figuring out who she is and learning to let go of the past.”

I couldn’t agree more.

I really love how the culmination of the book took place at a raucous party. The family dirt was spilled and reconciled in the backdrop of the most looked forward to celebrity party of the year. Stuff was said, secrets revealed, an unexpected reunion took place — meanwhile all hell was breaking loose at the party, eventually ending in Malibu burning. Celebrities were high, drunk, and were basically just going crazy — breaking stuff, having public sex / threesomes, etc.

For all the reasons above, I would definitely recommend this book.

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: One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

58438583Title: One Italian Summer

Author: Rebecca Serle

Audiobook Length: 6 hours and 21 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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

Read Start Date: July 1, 2022

Read Finish Date: July 3, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: When Katy’s mother dies, she is left reeling. Carol wasn’t just Katy’s mom, but her best friend and first phone call. She had all the answers and now, when Katy needs her the most, she is gone. To make matters worse, their planned mother-daughter trip of a lifetime looms: two weeks in Positano, the magical town Carol spent the summer right before she met Katy’s father. Katy has been waiting years for Carol to take her, and now she is faced with embarking on the adventure alone.

But as soon as she steps foot on the Amalfi Coast, Katy begins to feel her mother’s spirit. Buoyed by the stunning waters, beautiful cliffsides, delightful residents, and, of course, delectable food, Katy feels herself coming back to life.

And then Carol appears—in the flesh, healthy, sun-tanned, and thirty years old. Katy doesn’t understand what is happening, or how—all she can focus on is that she has somehow, impossibly, gotten her mother back. Over the course of one Italian summer, Katy gets to know Carol, not as her mother, but as the young woman before her. She is not exactly who Katy imagined she might be, however, and soon Katy must reconcile the mother who knew everything with the young woman who does not yet have a clue .

My Review: “If your mother is the love of your life, what does that make your husband?”

The above quote is pretty much the reason why Katy is such an unrelatable character. After Katy’s mother dies, Katy is left heartbroken, so much so, that she contemplates leaving her loving, devoted, supportive husband. I was a little turned off by Katy’s treatment of her husband. She is so mean to him — he seems like a very sympathetic character and she just comes off as a total jerk. I don’t understand why the death of her mother would make her question whether she loved her husband AT ALL…there didn’t seem to be any issues in the marriage. It was just weird.

I mean look, I’ve been there. My brother died and I started to question why I bothered to stay married, but that was because I had a bad marriage and my thinking was, you can be snatched from this world at a moments notice, why spend any day unhappy? So I understand the concept that the author is trying to get at, but the execution just fell flat.

At only 30% through the book, I was already annoyed at the author’s repetitiveness. We get it, Katy loved her mother. It’s literally like the ONLY thing Katy talks about. Maybe this is “true to life”, but a book editor once told me in a critique of the book I am currently writing — works of fiction are NOT real life. Maybe it would really happen that way in real life, but this is not real life, this is FICTION! Katy’s one emotion gets REALLY boring and honestly it takes away from the storyline.

SPOILER ALERT:

Okay, so after Katy tells her husband she might want a divorce, she goes on the Italian vacation that she and her mother already had booked before her mother’s death. While in Italy she RUNS INTO HER MOTHER (not a look alike, but her actual mother)…………………….seriously? So what, Katy time traveled back to when her mother was 30 years old? But how does that work? Does the Mom not realize there are things such as cell phones now…does Katy not have access to these electronics? Is this woman just a figment of her imagination? I’m so confused and not in a good way. By the end of the book we realize that Katy has stepped back 30 years into the past, but sorry, how does she not notice this? The hair, the clothing styles…there is nothing similar between 1992 and 2022!!

And conveniently Katy leaves her cell phone in the safe for the ENTIRE VACATION, so she doesn’t notice that it isn’t working because cell towers / phone etc haven’t been invented yet.

After having finished the book, I did not like it anymore than I had at 30%. The whole time traveling thing just doesn’t make sense. Katy clearly screws with the timeline, but this is not addressed in the book. I guess the author meant it not to be sci-fi or whatever, and instead meant for Katy to have this vacation with her mother and discover things about her mother and herself, etc…but come on. As a sci-fi reader, there was just too much wrong with this premise for me to enjoy it.

Also, Katy seems to just be annoyed that her mother was, I don’t know, a PERSON? Katy expected that her mother’s “true love” would also be Katy and that her mother was as obsessed with Katy as Katy was with her mother — but it seems more like Katy just has an unhealthy attachment and her mother is normal. And of course Katy cheats on her husband — but does it count since technically her husband was a baby at the time (she did it 30 years in the past?). Sigh.

Other than the above, the book was entertaining at least, and the writing wasn’t bad. It just could have been so much better. So, I can in good conscious give it 3 stars.

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.

BOOK REVIEW: Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

Title: Wish You Were Here

Author: Jodi Picoult

Book Length (Audiobook) 11 hours 47 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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

Read Start Date: February 4, 2022

Read Finish Date: February 8, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57701764-wish-you-were-here

Diana O’Toole is perfectly on track. She will be married by thirty, done having kids by thirty-five, and move out to the New York City suburbs, all while climbing the professional ladder in the cutthroat art auction world. She’s not engaged just yet, but she knows her boyfriend, Finn, a surgical resident, is about to propose on their romantic getaway to the Galápagos—days before her thirtieth birthday. Right on time.

But then a virus that felt worlds away has appeared in the city, and on the eve of their departure, Finn breaks the news: It’s all hands on deck at the hospital. He has to stay behind. You should still go, he assures her, since it would be a shame for all of their nonrefundable trip to go to waste. And so, reluctantly, she goes.

Almost immediately, Diana’s dream vacation goes awry. The whole island is now under quarantine, and she is stranded until the borders reopen. Completely isolated, she must venture beyond her comfort zone. Slowly, she carves out a connection with a local family when a teenager with a secret opens up to Diana, despite her father’s suspicion of outsiders.

Diana finds herself examining her relationships, her choices, and herself—and wondering if when she goes home, she too will have evolved into someone completely different.

My Review: Right off the bat, I will notify you that I will include spoilers in this review because there is just no way to express my disappointment otherwise. As the summary above states, Diana heads to the Galapagos and gets stuck there due to the lockdown. While she is there, her boyfriend Finn, a resident in a NYC hospital, comes face to face with COVID-19 and battles daily to save his patients from dying, often times not succeeding. These situations / scenarios are spelled out in great detail and I have to be honest, it was a bit much for me and detracted from the story.

During Diana’s time on the island, her boyfriend Finn is writing her emails about his experiences in the ICU. There was no mention of this in the book summary, so it came as a unwanted surprise. Finn goes into great detailed about how sick people are, how scared people are, how people are dying and how many. Why do I want to read about this in a fiction book? This has been REALITY for 2+ years!

I had COVID-19, alpha version, in November 2020. I was sick for 2 weeks, and had brain fog for 4 weeks. I was terrified of being one of those people who’s oxygen level drops but you don’t know it. Therefore, I regularly checked my oxygen levels with a pulseox device I bought on Amazon. I do not need to be reminded of how shitty COVID-19 is while reading something for entertainment. I want to be taken from my reality, not have it hammered into my brain with tons of detail, of which I already knew since I follow the news rather closely.

Despite the emails Diana received from Finn, I really enjoyed reading about Diana’s escape from the pandemic by living as a local on the island. Therefore, I was really disappointed when it came to light in Part 2 of the book, that the life Diana was living on the island was only a hallucination brought on by having COVID and being on a ventilator. Seriously? WTF. It honestly really ruined the book for me. Back in reality, Diana is facing a deteriorating relationship and of course COVID. Why couldn’t the island storyline have been the reality? Why did Diana have to have COVID, and why was it the version of COVID that almost made her die? I mean in the book the author made it seem like ALL COVID positive people die and die horribly. This was definitely not the case.

Would I recommend this book? Eh, probably not. Unless you like reading about the very pandemic you are going through right now. In my opinion this book was too soon and probably would have been better 10 years from now when (hopefully) all this shit is just a memory.

BOOK REVIEW: Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

39280445Title: Nine Perfect Strangers

Author: Liane Moriarty

Book Length (Audiobook): 16 hours 28 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction

Read Start Date: July 2, 2019

Read Finish Date: July 8, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Could ten days at a health resort really change you forever? In Liane Moriarty’s latest page-turner, nine perfect strangers are about to find out…

Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.

Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can?

It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question.

Combining all of the hallmarks that have made her writing a go-to for anyone looking for wickedly smart, page-turning fiction that will make you laugh and gasp, Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers once again shows why she is a master of her craft.

My Review: At about 2/3 of the way in, I really liked this book. The characters are very interesting and well developed, and the overall storyline is captivating. During the time that the nine strangers are at the health resort and receiving “treatment”, we learn about their pasts and what secrets brought them to the resort for “healing”. We even learn about the history of the people running / owning the resort, which is just as sordid and interesting as the guests.

Now that I’ve finished the book, my opinion has not changed. I really liked this book! It was fun, easy to read, the characters were well developed and the pace of the book was on target. I also just in general really like Liane Moriarty as a writer.

I have read some pretty bad / mixed reviews of this book, but I don’t really understand them to be honest. A lot of people said that the changing perspectives (of the 9 guests and the 3 hotel staff) was confusing, which I did not find at all. I was able to keep everyone straight. The characters were unique enough that it was possible.

Other people said that the story did not have a theme or a purpose — not everything I read needs to have some preachy message, so if this is true, who cares! I usually read this book (audiobook) while bike riding, driving in the car, doing chores around the house, etc. Despite what other people said, I recommend this book!

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger

36373647Title: When Life Gives You Lululemons

Author: Lauren Weisberger

Book Length (Audiobook): 10 hours 14 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Women’s Fiction

Read Start Date: April 6, 2019

Read Finish Date: April 8, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads:
Welcome to Greenwich, CT, where the lawns and the women are perfectly manicured, the Tito’s and sodas are extra strong, and everyone has something to say about the infamous new neighbor. Let’s be clear: Emily Charlton, Miranda Priestly’s ex-assistant, does not do the suburbs. She’s working in Hollywood as an image consultant to the stars, but recently, Emily’s lost a few clients. She’s hopeless with social media. The new guard is nipping at her heels. She needs a big opportunity, and she needs it now.

Karolina Hartwell is as A-list as they come. She’s the former face of L’Oreal. A mega-supermodel recognized the world over. And now, the gorgeous wife of the newly elected senator from New York, Graham, who also has his eye on the presidency. It’s all very Kennedy-esque, right down to the public philandering and Karolina’s arrest for a DUI—with a Suburban full of other people’s children.

Miriam is the link between them. Until recently she was a partner at one of Manhattan’s most prestigious law firms. But when Miriam moves to Greenwich and takes time off to spend with her children, she never could have predicted that being stay-at-home mom in an uber-wealthy town could have more pitfalls than a stressful legal career.

Emily, Karolina, and Miriam make an unlikely trio, but they desperately need each other. Together, they’ll navigate the social landmines of life in America’s favorite suburb on steroids, revealing the truths—and the lies—that simmer just below the glittering surface. With her signature biting style, Lauren Weisberger offers a dazzling look into another sexy, over-the-top world, where nothing is as it appears.

My Review: This book was SO FUN to read! This book is the 3rd installment of the Devil Wears Prada series, but I haven’t read either of the first 2 books, which I have to say I am majorly regretting. My TBR list is already too long, but what can I say, I added the first 2 books–it just had to be done. I grew up a stone’s throw away from Greenwich, so these characters really brought back some memories of growing up in the suburban areas of New York City. Since I did not read the first two books, the characters were unknown to me, but this didn’t hurt the story at all.

It’s fun because the subject matter is light, and the satirical stories Weisberger tells in the book about living in the suburban shadow of the City rings so true and reminiscent of my childhood. I mean, in what place other than in suburbia Connecticut, would women sit around at a party and talk about bespoke vaginas? In case you have never heard of that, essentially, after giving birth, some women have plastic surgery on their lady bits to “tighten” things back up, and while they are at it, they custom fit said lady bits to their husbands man bits. I do not know if this is really a thing — but if it is, I do not have any doubts that it exists in Greenwich!

I also really liked the spunkiness and the tenacity of the characters, and they were just too funny! What else can I say other than this book is great, and a strong recommendation from my end! I am only giving it 4 stars because a 5 star rating from me is very coveted and is reserved for books which stay with me for a long time (like EducatedGame of Thrones, etc.)