BOOK REVIEW : WHAT I LIKE ABOUT YOU

Author: Marisa Kanter
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository.
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: Romance; Contemporary; Contemporary Romance.
Release Date: April 7th 2020.


synopsis

Is it still a love triangle if there are only two people in it?

There are a million things that Halle Levitt likes about her online best friend, Nash.

He’s an incredibly talented graphic novelist. He loves books almost as much as she does. And she never has to deal with the awkwardness of seeing him in real life. They can talk about anything…

Except who she really is.

Because online, Halle isn’t Halle—she’s Kels, the enigmatically cool creator of One True Pastry, a YA book blog that pairs epic custom cupcakes with covers and reviews. Kels has everything Halle doesn’t: friends, a growing platform, tons of confidence, and Nash.

That is, until Halle arrives to spend senior year in Gramps’s small town and finds herself face-to-face with real, human, not-behind-a-screen Nash. Nash, who is somehow everywhere she goes—in her classes, at the bakery, even at synagogue.

Nash who has no idea she’s actually Kels.

If Halle tells him who she is, it will ruin the non-awkward magic of their digital friendship. Not telling him though, means it can never be anything more. Because while she starts to fall for Nash as Halle…he’s in love with Kels.


review

“Because engaging with adults who think YA is for them? It’s exhausting.”

I almost took this comment by the protagonist personally. Because this book clearly conveys the message that YA is not meant for me. Since I’m and adult and all.

Okay, do I think that YA is meant for me? No. But do I still enjoy this genre? Yes. And although I am a huge consumer of YA books; these days, I do find it harder to relate to teenage characters from YA books. But I still feel that the author went at it in the wrong angle with the messaging of this book. While YA is marketed towards teenagers primarily, a large chunk of its readers do comprise of adults. And the messaging of the book would definitely alienate its adult readers.

The story follows Halle Levitt, a YA blogger who plans to be follow on the footsteps of her grandmother and be a Publicist in the future.

A significant portion of the story is centered around an online controversy about a YA book that Halle loves and hyped in her blog. The fictional author of the book referring to Halle’s review says in an interview that her book should not be boxed into a category, and should be enjoyed by people of all age and not only teenagers.

Outrage and hurt ensues. Halle is upset. Her teenager followers are upset.

But here is the thing. The fictional author with the supposed offensive comment? She did not say anything that I felt justified all that outrage. She did not insult her teenage readers but rather just requested that her book not be boxed within a certain age-group.

This book not only was disparaging towards adult readers of YA but I felt that it also carried a problematic message towards teenage readers too. I mean, teenage readers will one day become adult readers. So, you are basically saying that they can only read certain books for a small scope of time and then they are thrown out of the YA club? Hmm.

Anyways, let’s put aside me being an adult reader of YA. I do think that the outrage would have made more sense if the author had made a more insulting comment towards its teenagers. On the other hand, I did find this whole plotline a very interesting reflection of real life scenarios of this age where  a comment is taken out of context made a huge deal of in social media. Even if it was done unwillingly on the part of the author.

Believe it or not, if this plotline was the only problem I had with the book, I still would come out of this read a happy reader. That did not happen.

The book started on a promising note. I liked Halle’s family dynamics. I also found the details about the blogging very interesting. Halle incorporates her cupcake making skills into her YA reviewing. Being a blogger myself, the time and effort she invests into her blog struck a chord with me.

I liked her at the beginning too. I empathized with her lack of social skills due to moving around a lot with her parents who are Oscar nominated documentary filmmakers. I found the equation between her online persona Kels and Nash cute. I also really liked Nash. He was adorable. But when she meets Nash in real life, things start to go downhill.

The story suffers from the usual curse that books with this double-identity plots suffer from. It is stretched too thin. I could understand and empathize with Halle suffering from an identity crisis and not disclosing her online identity to Nash at the beginning.

But then her attitude gets worse. One day she is nice to Nash and his friends, the next day she is rude. Then suddenly she is ghosting her online friends. Her behavior and her lies got on my nerves. At one point, she starts dating Nash. And she still continues to feel insecure about him liking her online persona more. Umm, you two are the same person! And then she has the audacity to blame him for lying to you? I seriously got secondhand embarrassment for her.

The only character I could relate to by the end was Ollie, Halle’s younger brother who kept saying things from my mind. But Halle, sadly, was far too gone. I just wanted to shake her till I could bring some sense into her.

Honestly, these characters and this universe had a lot of potential.  But by stretching the lies too thin, the author lost her protagonist’s likeability and my patience as a reader.


ratings

★★

 

BOOK REVIEW : YOU DESERVE EACH OTHER

Author: Sarah Hogle
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository.
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Genre: Romance; Contemporary Romance.
Release Date: April 7th 2020.


synopsis


When your nemesis also happens to be your fiancé, happily ever after becomes a lot more complicated in this wickedly funny, lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers romantic comedy debut.

Naomi Westfield has the perfect fiancé: Nicholas Rose holds doors open for her, remembers her restaurant orders, and comes from the kind of upstanding society family any bride would love to be a part of. They never fight. They’re preparing for their lavish wedding that’s three months away. And she is miserably and utterly sick of him.

Naomi wants out, but there’s a catch: whoever ends the engagement will have to foot the nonrefundable wedding bill. When Naomi discovers that Nicholas, too, has been feigning contentment, the two of them go head-to-head in a battle of pranks, sabotage, and all-out emotional warfare.

But with the countdown looming to the wedding that may or may not come to pass, Naomi finds her resolve slipping. Because now that they have nothing to lose, they’re finally being themselves–and having fun with the last person they expect: each other.


review

Nicholas and Naomi have been in a relationship for almost 2 years now. But lately, she can’t remember what she saw in him in the first place or how they even met. She feels stuck in a relationship with an impending and doomed wedding with a man who she loves only 18% on a good day.

God knows how long I’d been waiting to read the book. While it did not deliver 100%, it also did not disappoint. My favorite thing about the book was the relationship between Nicholas and Naomi. Theirs is a classic example of what a lack of communication does to a relationship. Hogle kept it very realistic – their fights with each other, the relationship issues they have. Even their reasons for not ending the relationship struck a realistic chord with me.

I liked Naomi. Her insecurities, vulnerability and lack of self-confidence made her a relatable character. Nicholas is perfect by the books. But he is a geek from the inside, with his own insecurities and issues. At the beginning, we are only exposed to his flaws, thanks to Naomi’s narration. But slowly, it becomes clear that neither of them are perfect and they stopped making efforts a long time ago. And as Naomi starts to open up about her frustrations, a bridge is also opened between the two to fix their relationship. At first, it’s all about one-upping each other but before they know it, they are making efforts to be there for each other.

I liked the evolution of Naomi and Nicholas’s relationship. I was delighted with their banter and fights. I specially loved it when Nicholas or Naomi lost their cool. It was hilarious how matter-of-fact Naomi was at first, with her predictions of a divorce in the future and Nicholas’s possible adultery or his multiple marriages in the future. The transition from that to her jealousy at a very real possibility of an affair was very satisfactory to read.

Only thing I would have liked better was knowing where Nicholas’s head is at the beginning of the book. Was he also intent on ending the relationship like Naomi was? Also, there is a part at the end where Nicholas does something uncharacteristic towards his parents. That felt a little off-field to me.

But I really enjoyed this book. It’s by no means perfect but still was a highly satisfying read.


ratings

★★★☆

MARCH WRAP UP & A PERSONAL UPDATE

Hello, lovely people. I hope everyone is doing alright in these tough times. The last couple of weeks have been tough for me. My nan who I was very close to passed away 2 weeks ago. And then I fell sick myself. Suffice it to say, blogging has not been on the front of my mind

Thankfully, I now feel more like myself. So here I am.

Anyways, I just want you guys to know that it’s completely normal to not feel like yourself and want to run away from everything. You are not alone in this feeling.

monthly wrap up

Reviews:

ARC:

This Terrible Beauty ★★★★☆
House Rules★★★★☆
The Kissing Game ★☆☆☆☆

Non- ARCs :


The Shadow Between Us ★★☆☆☆
House of Earth and Blood ★★☆☆☆
Cheese In The Trap ★★★★★
The Help ★★★★★

 

Non – Review Posts

Top Ten Tuesday :
Favorite Books with Single-Word Titles
Last 10 Books that Gave Me Book Hangover
Spring-Summer TBR
Least to Most Favorite Romance Tropes

Tags:
The Prediction Book Tag

My Song of the Month:

Note: I’m adding this new theme to my month wrap-up. Because music does help! And this song helped me cope. Both the original song and its cover.


March was a good reading month until the last week. That last week makes me want to erase this month from my memory.

TOP TEN TUESDAY : LEAST TO MOST FAVORITE ROMANCE TROPES

Happy TTT! The theme this week is a genre freebie. So I thought of listing down romance tropes in the order of my least to most favorite romance tropes. Bear in mind, this order keeps changing for me, especially the most favorite ones. I’m keeping it simple this time.

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018.

 

  • Abduction or Kidnap: Stockholm syndrome is not my thing.

  • Love Triangle: I abhor love triangles, especially when a character strings two people around.

  • Instant love or love at first sight: Instant attraction – Yes. Instant love – No.

  • Cohabitation Romance: Love between the roomies? The storytelling is almost always predictable.

  • Forbidden Love: Who can deny the charm of a forbidden romance? Apparently me. I don’t necessarily hate it. But I won’t pick up a book solely because of this trope.

  • Second Chance: This trope has so much potential! But lately, books with this trope has been disappointing me with the poor and predictable quality of storytelling.

  • Arranged Marriage: Mix this trope with POC characters and you’ve got me convinced!

  • Fake Relationship: It’s an overused trope. But I find such giddiness when I find a rare story that uses it in a refreshing way!

  • Friends to lovers: When executed well, this trope brings me unbridled happiness.

  • Enemies to lovers: Oh yes! Bring me all that unresolved tension.

BOOK REVIEW : The Help

Author: Kathryn Stockett
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: February 10th 2009.


synopsis

Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women, mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends, view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.


review

I was watching Last Week Tonight with John Oliver the other day. It was on the subject of climbing Mount Everest. A major point of the discussion was how without the Sherpa – who have little choice but to risk their lives to earn their livelihood – it would be impossible for any climber to achieve this feat.

There was a clip included of a TV presenter who asks a Sherpa whether he thinks it’s wrong what they have to go through for the sake of the climbers. After a moment’s pause, the Sherpa humbly begins to say that they consider the climbers their family during expeditions. Before he can end his answer though, the presenter hugs him as if he got the answer he wanted.

So when at the beginning of The Help, Aibileen is asked by Miss Skeeter, her employer’s friend, whether she wishes things or rather the status quo could change, that clip of the Sherpa and the presenter came to my mind. Skeeter’s intentions are good when asking the question, as probably were that of the presenter’s. But the question sounds so laughably ignorant and naive when seen from the other’s point of view, you can’t help but shake your head.

The Other. Us and them. I learned about these terms and conditioned mentality while studying anthropology in college. We all have this sense of ethnocentrism – how we feel we are the better ones. What I loved most about The Help is how this conditioning is clearly present in both the parties. Even the black characters have a sense of moral superiority over their white employers. For the women working as the help, their white employers are the other. For the white community, the former are the other.

Another admirable aspect of the writing was that not for one moment you feel there is a white savior component, even though it is about a white woman interviewing and writing about the black women working as help. But it’s not the former doing the saving. No, it is about the black women doing their own saving. It is about all these people uniting to serve their own purposes.

There is no glorification here. It does not glorify the black women serving as the help. They are humans just like us. They make mistakes and bad choices too. The employers are not vilified either. They are humans too. And that is what makes this story stand out.

Going into this book, I was afraid of it being too preachy or perhaps boring. But instead, it was engaging to the point that I was glued to the pages and completed it without taking a break. The story and the main characters spoke to me and made me root for them.

I am sure I have not said anything that has not already been said about the book. I’ll just end it by saying that books like this are makes reading worth it at the end of the day.


ratings

★★★★

ARC REVIEW : THE KISSING GAME

Author: Marie Harte
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Romance; Contemporary; Contemporary Romance.
Release Date: February 4th 2020.


synopsis


“I bet you a kiss you can’t resist me.”

Game on.

Rena Jackson is ready. She’s worked her tail off to open up her own hair salon, and she’s almost ready to quit her job at the dive bar. Rena’s also a diehard romantic, and she’s had her eye on bar regular Axel Heller for a while. He’s got that tall-dark-and-handsome thing going big time. Problem is, he’s got that buttoned-up Germanic ice man thing going as well. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, Rena’s about ready to give up on Axel and find her own Mr. Right.

At six foot six, Axel knows he intimidates most people. He’s been crushing on the gorgeous waitress for months. But the muscled mechanic is no romantic, and his heart is buried so deep, he has no idea how to show Rena what he feels. He knows he’s way out of his depth and she’s slipping away. So, he makes one crazy, desperate play…


review

If there is anything I hate in a book, it’s when the author tells us what the characters are feeling, instead of showing. And The Kissing Game had that in spades.

This book got negative points right at the beginning, when in the very first page, we find out the the hero has still not recovered from the fresh wound of his mother’s death from six months. Then we go on to find out about his feelings about the heroine through his stream of consciousness, and get introduced to more characters than I care about.

Things only continue to go downhill from there. There is no real connection between the hero and the heroine. Unless you count them thinking to themselves or talking to other characters about what they find in attractive in each other. I do not simply know who was more annoying – the hero or heroine. The hero grated on my nerves right off the bat with his arrogant attitude. The heroine was flimsy with her mind changing every minute. One moment she is dazzled by him, and in the next she wants kids and decides he’s not for her.

One main reason I requested the ARC was because of the diversity and POC element. But I felt that this element was introduced to just tick a box, nothing more. Except her skin color, I did not find a single thing about her life that could throw relevance to her heritage. The hero is German, and the author makes him use German words randomly to show for it. Also, the synopsis calls him ‘tall, DARK and handsome’. But he is in actuality a pale blonde guy. Look at the cover? Yeah.

There were too many characters in the book. The main couple talk to them more than with each other. I found out later that on that this is a companion novel of sorts to the author’s books. Maybe if I had not read this as a standalone, I would have disliked it less… On second thought, maybe not.

I had expected to dislike this book and hoped for it to surprise me. It did not. I hate it when that happens!


ratings

☆☆☆☆

ARC REVIEW: HOUSE RULES

Author: Ruby Lang
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Romance; Contemporary; Contemporary Romance.
Release Date: February 10th 2020.


synopsis

Seventeen years ago, different dreams pulled Simon Mizrahi and Lana Kuo apart. But when Lana takes a position as a chef back in Manhattan, her apartment search puts her right in her ex-husband’s path. Music teacher Simon is also hunting for a new place to live, and when Lana proposes they be platonic roomies, well…it’s not the worst idea he’s ever heard.

A sunny uptown two-bedroom sounds far more appealing than the cramped, noisy space where he’s currently struggling to work. Still, Simon has seen firsthand that Lana’s a flight risk, so he agrees on a trial basis.

Three months. With strict boundaries.

Living together again feels wonderfully nostalgic, but when the ex-couple’s lingering feelings rise to the surface, the rules go out the window.

Of course, chemistry was never their problem. But while Simon’s career feels back on solid footing, Lana is still sorting out what she wants. With their trial period soon coming to an end, they’ll have to decide if their living arrangement was merely a sexy trip down memory lane or a reunion meant to last.


review

House Rules caught me by surprise. It was a pleasant read, which I honestly had not expected it to be.

I had definitely not expected to like the set-up of how the exes would come to live together. Because, a premise like that is hard to sell. But the author does a stellar job of making the set-up convincing. And she does that in a very effective way of the characters voicing the doubts that the readers might have with the whole arrangement. Of course, the state of the New York real estate helped make it more convincing too.

I had not expected the story to play out the way it did. There were no awkward encounters. That is to say, there was plenty of awkwardness in their interactions, but no silly or used tropes that we usually find in cohabiting romances. I also enjoyed the refreshing absence of any plot-device like jealousy or a third person’s involvement.

The lack of denial was also unexpected. Both Lana and Simon are very conscious of their lingering feelings and attraction towards each other. Simon more than Lana. Both in their forties, they are mature enough to make conscious efforts to not make the arrangement uncomfortable. There is no bitterness or efforts to one-up each other.

I could relate to Lana very much. She quit a career mid-way because she realized her happiness lied elsewhere. She is pragmatic and grounded. Simon, on the other hand, is more ambitious and stubborn. The author does a good job showing us their contrasting personalities through their actions, rather than just telling it to us.

There was no drawn-out angst. The main conflict was also resolved very quickly. A little too quickly if you ask me. It only takes a conversation with an elderly for Simon to realize his mistakes. It felt almost like a cop-out. And while I like that there was not too much focus on their past, I still would have liked a more layered look into their relationship and what led to its derailment in the first place.

Overall, it’s a short and sweet read. The writing is engaging, and the story is believable, aside from the want of a little more depth. I think I’ll definitely read more of this author in the future.


ratings

★★★☆