Happy Pub day to RomEantically Challenged by Marina Adair. I really liked this rom-com but probably not for the reasons you may think! Thanks to Goodreads and Kensington Books for this gifted ARC for an honest review!
Goodreads describes the story as Three Men and a Baby Meet 27 Dresses and I think it’s a pretty good interpretation. Here’s the main scoop: Physician Assistant Annie relocates to Rome, Rhode Island after her fiancé dumps her, immediately meets someone new, and then steals her wedding date/venue/etc. She moves into a quiet cabin in Rome and is adjusting to life in the new town when the cabin owner (Emmitt) suddenly shows up, back in town after being injured in his photojournalist job. The predictable sparks fly. Additionally, Emmitt’s daughter’s mom has just died, and he struggles to be emotionally available for her after traveling so much for his job. Along with his daughter’s step dad and uncle, Emmitt and company often struggle to rein in their girl and help her work through her emotions. So, there’s a lot going on!
Here’s what didn’t work for me:
Emmitt is the stereotypical macho “player” in Rome. This kind of character trait always makes me face palm a little but his womanizing ways were a little too in my face for my liking. Also, I don’t think their love story wasn’t anything special since it was mostly lust turned to love.
Emmitt’s relationship with his teenage daughter was a bright point in the book. It was pretty funny to see her run circles around her dads. I also liked how Adair explores how each man processes the grief over losing the lady who held them all together. Men grieving and processing their emotions was refreshing and something we need to see more of.
The climax of the book/ big problem and the solution felt a bit forced.
Here’s what I loved:
My favorite theme in this book focused on Annie’s past. Adopted from Vietnam as a baby by white parents, Annie never feels like she truly fits in. She struggles knowing she wasn’t wanted by her birth parents but was wanted by her adopted parents and it’s such a complex dichotomy. Adoption is close to my family so I really loved the complexities with adoption that Adair focused on. In a truly heartbreaking scene, Annie is asked to consult on a patient by a well respected doctor. When she arrives in the exam room, the doctor assumes that because she’s Asian, she can speak Chinese with the patient and wants her to translate. While difficult to read, these are things that I don’t experience as a white women. Being in Annie’s shoes in this humiliating experience is an important lesson.
While the romance of the book isn’t anything extraordinary, I think the themes of grief, adoption, loss of a parent, and realizing that others’ actions aren’t a reflection of you are such important themes.
I’m totally a sucker for a gorgeous book cover. I can’t resist. So when it was time to pick my July Book of the Month (see my Affiliates link for a discount on your first box!) I was drawn to “Mexican Gothic” by Sylvia Moreno- Garcia. I had also seen some buzz about this book, and I love a good thriller, so I immediately picked it.
Noemí Taboada is a socialite in Mexico City in the 1950s who lives a fast and fun lifestyle. Her father receives a very strange and frantic letter from her cousin, Catalina, who is a newlywed living in the countryside with her new husband and his family. Noemí’s father needs her to go to investigate Catalina’s situation and bring her home if needed. Once she arrives at Hill Place (the dark and ominous manor where Catalina lives), Noemí realizes something is definitely NOT RIGHT. Sounds like the beginning of a great thriller, right? Ehhh, sort of.
First of all, I really enjoyed Garcia’s writing style. She is a master at building the isolation of the manor, the past-it’s-prime- small town, the creepiness of the house, and the major sense of foreboding, which I loved. I’ve seen some people say they thought the first part of the book was slow and I do agree with that to a certain extent; but aren’t all thrillers going to give the reader a small sense of comfort and normalcy and then- WHAM! Something happens! This one is no different. Once the major events of the book start, buckle up for some really weird stuff.
I wasn’t expecting some of the twists and turns in this book. While that’s normally a good thing, many of them are truly disturbing and contain numerous potentially triggering subject matter (see below) especially for a mom of young kids like me. If you aren’t in the phase of life I’m in, it might not bother you as much. The end and final twist still has me scratching my head and wondering “What?!” I’d love you hear your opinion if you’ve read it!!
⭐️⭐️.⭐️/ 5 stars
Content warning: eugenics, racism, sexual assault, infanticide, incest, cannibalism
It’s #throwbackthursday to one of my favorite books of ALL time and one of the longest titles ever: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society 🥔🥧
Do you have a book or a movie that you love and could just revisit again and again? For me, it’s this book!🥰
It is adorable, heartbreaking, funny, quaint, and a must read! I first read it probably 10 years ago and I reread it every year or two.
Juliet is a writer living in post war London. One day she gets a letter from a man living on the island of Guernsey who finds her name written in a book. They begin a correspondence and he tells her his story of the German occupation on the island and the literary society members of his small village created. Juliet is soon drawn to visit them and it changes her life.
Written in letter form between characters, it is such a treat to read! ❤️ It will make you wish for simpler times when letter writing and correspondence was the main form of communication! Everyone loves mail, right?!
You will not regret reading this wonderful, charming book! There is a Netflix movie, but read the book first if possible!!! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Synopsis: Lucy Clairmont’s family treasured the magic of the past, and her childhood fascination with stories of the high seas led her to become a marine archaeologist. But when tragedy strikes, it’s Dashel, an American forensic astronomer, and his knowledge of the stars that may help her unearth the truth behind the puzzle she’s discovered in her family home. ✨ Two hundred years earlier, the seeds of love are sown between a boy and a girl who spend their days playing in a secret sea cave, while the privileged young son of the estate looks on, wishing to join. As the children grow and war leads to unthinkable heartbreak, a story of love, betrayal, sacrifice, and redemption unfolds, held secret by the passage of time. ✨ As Lucy and Dash journey to a mysterious old estate on the East Sussex coast, their search leads them to a community of souls and a long-hidden tale that may hold the answers–and the healing–they so desperately seek.
It’s a total work of art. Amanda Dykes’ novel is captivating, tragic, unexpected, satisfying, and it touches on the themes of both familial and sacrificial love. Her writing is so poetic and it’s been a long time since I have appreciated that kind of writing.
I loved the split time and you will cry and rejoice with each set of characters and believe the impossible that happens. Check out this book from @BethanyHouse I thought about this story for days after I finished! 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Daphne Berg is a plus sized Instagram influencer who has battled herself and the way the world sees her her whole life. Cue lots of heartbreaking flashbacks to her childhood where she was manipulated to think that her self worth equaled her clothing size. This includes a love/hate relationship with her childhood best friend, Drue. After realizing Drue isn’t the friend she appears to be, Daphne cuts her out of her life and doesn’t look back. Until several years later when Drue shows up needing an enormous favor. Disaster ensues.
What I loved:
⁃ All the real talk about self worth, image, and weight loss culture. I am trying to raise my daughter that loving herself (flaws and all) is just as important as loving those around you. Some of us are STILL learning this and I love that this book features a plus sized heroine.
⁃ Despite its modern setting, it’s a classic who-dun- it crime story.
⁃ It’s still a fun mystery book that is perfect for summer, but I loved the sprinkling of deeper and more meaningful themes of family relationships, body image, and the potential harms of social media.
If you need a good pool or backyard patio read, pick it up. You’ll love it. 😎
Murder/ murder victim being found
A few brief sex scenes
Gaslighting/ manipulation of a child into weight loss
My Book of the Month box came in last night. 🙌🏻 I picked Mexican Gothic because I’ve seen a ton of buzz about it and I’m kinda in a mood to get spooked! 😬 The other 2 are add ons that I needed! Also, 📚Happy Pub Day📚 to One to Watch! It looks so cute! . . What did you pick if you are in #BOTM If you aren’t in it yet, go to my Shop link and click it to get a discount on your first box!
In December I participated in a Jólabókaflóðið, an Icelandic tradition of gifting others books. It has a really neat background story that you can find here
So, in this book exchange I received the first book in the Throne of Glass series by Sarah Maas. Unfortunately I sometimes judge a book by its cover, and I totally did this with this book. I didn’t (and still don’t) love the covers but decided to give it a shot. I am so glad I did!
After enduring a year in the horrendous salt mines of Endovier, renowned assassin Celaena Sardothein is freed by Crown Prince Dorian. His father, the King of Adarlan, is hosting a competition for a chance to serve as his Champion and winning would gain Celaena her freedom after four years in service. Celaena quickly shows the fellow competitors and their sponsors why she was so famous as an assassin. She befriends Dorian, his best friend and Captain of the Guard, Chaol, and a princess from a neighboring country. But things start to unravel as competitors end up dead from mysterious and gruesome wounds. And Celaena must try to solve these mysteries, win the competition, and seek revenge on those her put her in the mines in the first place.
While that seems pretty straightforward, you may be wondering why this is a 7 book series. Celaena is not entirely who she claims to be and an EPIC story unfolds. On that I really can’t say much more!
Here’s what I loved about the series:
Sarah Maas has created a world that is as intricate and vast as Middle Earth or Narnia. Each book has a map of the world in the front and you just know a series is going to be amazing when there is a map involved!
The characters. While Celaena remains the central character of the series, Maas adds more and more as the series develops. All are deeply flawed but all are believable. Some are loveable and some you’ll love to hate. You’ll also have emotional whiplash from some of them (I can’t say who!). By the 7th book, I was so anxious about who would live and who would die. I had to know and hated to find out at the same time. And yes, there are deaths. And it’s heartbreaking.
I said it before but this series is EPIC. Battle after battle, war on multiple fronts, witches, magic wielders, saving the world, enchanted objects, blood oaths, swords that can detect if you are telling the truth….this series has all the makings for a movie. There is one battle scene from book #5 that was so suspenseful. My Apple Watch actually asked me if I was exercising since my heart rate was so high. Haha!
I love a suspenseful book and this series is FULL of suspense.
Here’s a few things I didn’t love as much:
1. Even though the series is YA fantasy, I wasn’t prepared for the teenage angst-y stuff. As she goes on, Maas writes less and less of that and the characters develop and mature.
2. Although Maas wraps up the series well there are a few some plot holes that aren’t resolved.
3. I got tired of all the characters having expert poker faces. Maas repeatedly describes each character’s surprise via just a blink….Ex. Celaena is scared and keeps her poker face but she blinks. Dorian is horrified; he keeps his face neutral but blinks. Chaol finds out something really bad; he has had years of practice keeping his face calm as Captain of the Guard but blinks his surprise. Etc, etc. It got repetitive.
Overall I give this series 4.5/ 5 ⭐️
It was entertaining and a SUPER fun way to pass a lot of the quarantine!
-Violence: this is a pretty violent series. It’s violent for a purpose but it never feels like it’s unnecessary. Just be prepared for lots of sword & knife type violence.
-There are some demon-like magic creatures the characters in the book fight. They possess human bodies. Some of the interactions with them are super creepy and disturbing. There are also terrifying creatures throughout the series that are something straight out of hell.
-Sex: yes there are sex scenes. They start out very tame and glossed over in book #2 and then there is lots of sexual tension until book #5. Then multiple characters start to get busy. It’s easy to skip over if you don’t want to read it.
Synopsis: Recently kicked out of her now famous band, Claire is a big failure in the Big Apple. She spends her days drinking to forget and blowing through her bank account. And it doesn’t help that her former band’s hit song is everywhere.
In hopes of pulling her out of her funk, Claire’s cousin gets her a job as a musician for a playgroup for wealthy moms and babies. Despite the mindless singing, this group is just what Claire needs. She starts to grow out of her misery and develop friendships with a few members. But it all comes to a halt when Claire discovers some illegal activity that the moms are participating in. Her decision to confront them spirals each mom into a choice- do I do the right thing or do what is easy?
I didn’t hate this book but I didn’t love it either. I picked it as my BOTM since I was a nanny in college so the story intrigued me. As I thought, some of the stories and things Claire experiences sounded very familiar- plastic surgery, luxury homes, fancy vacations, employer/ employee dynamics, women obsessed with image, etc. And now, as a mom of small kids, I can definitely identify with the Pinterest mom image that so many women think they should portray. The book does a good job of describing the difficulty of being a working mom and the feelings of loneliness, lack of self worth, and anxiety that many stay at home parents feel.
Last spring, my neighborhood’s Book Club chose “Happiness for Beginners” for the monthly pick. At the time, I was hugely pregnant and had a bad case of pregnancy insomnia. So, most of my reading occurred between the hours of 1am to 4am. Despite the lost sleep, those hours reading this book were ones I looked forward to!
Here’s the skinny: newly divorced, 32 year old Helen is convinced by her annoying younger brother to join a 3 week outdoor expedition in Wyoming to “find herself.” Helen’s serious and logical personality is at total odds with this leap of faith trip. To make matters worse, her brother’s best friend, Jake, is also going. He’s always had a crush on Helen and she is sure he will get in the way of her mission. She tolerates his presence but quickly realizes that he may be vital to her self discovery success- both physically and emotionally.
Childhood trauma, familial relationships, self love, being brave despite being fearful- these are all themes explored in “Happiness for Beginners” and I loved it! There are so many reasons to love this book, but here are a few of my favorites. (I promise, no spoilers!)
5 Reasons I love “Happiness for Beginners”
The character development! Helen is the typical type A personality and even if that isn’t you, the reader can totally identify with her. From past pain to her current struggle to figure out her life, we all experience trauma that shapes us and makes us who are. And we all experience that ebb and flow of loving ourselves and, at the same time, hating our quirks and traits. Jake was also such a great character. Wise beyond his years, Jake’s approach to life is one that I think all readers wish we could emulate- to squeeze out of life every experience you can. Each character was so relatable and grew in their own way. Katherine Center does such an amazing job developing each member on the wilderness trek and you grow to love them all, even the annoying ones!
The emotions! I realize not everyone loves an emotional story but this book really brought the feels! Helen and Jake are dealt some really tough hands and I didn’t expect to feel such empathy for these characters. I can’t say too much but expect a whole range of emotions in this book: I laughed a lot, I cried, I was inspired, I was mad as hell, and I marinated in some wonderful life lessons (see #5)!
The setting! 3 weeks in the wilderness, packing in and packing out, sleeping under the stars, deciphering maps, applying first aid while miles from civilization, etc. “Happiness for Beginners” is the perfect summer escape book…that you can read from the comfort of your own home! I think everyone has thought about doing something crazy (like a wilderness survival trek) but few do it. So we all get to live vicariously through Helen and still sleep in our cozy beds at night. Win win!
The writing! Katherine Center is an artist with the written word. I can’t wait to dive into her other books, especially her new one being published in July (What You Wish For)
The wisdom! This book is a surprising powerhouse of wise and profound life advice. Here are a few of my favorites:
“The more you register the good things, the more you will think about and remember good things. And since all you have left of the past is what you remember -it changes the story of your life.”
“It’s sadness that gives happiness its meaning.”
“The most important thing to remember is that getting what you want doesn’t make you happy. Happiness is more about appreciation than acquisition.”
Genre: Fiction, Chick-Lit
Violence: None. Mild descriptions of injuries that occur in the wilderness
Sex: There is some “almost sex” toward the beginning of the book.