ARC REVIEW : WE MET IN DECEMBER

Following a year in the life of a twenty-something British woman who falls hard for her London flat mate, this clever, fun, and unforgettable romantic comedy is the perfect feel-good holiday read.

Two people. One house. A year that changes everything. 

Twenty-nine-year-old Jess is following her dream and moving to London. It’s December, and she’s taking a room in a crumbling, but grand, Notting Hill house-share with four virtual strangers. On her first night, Jess meets Alex, the guy sharing her floor, at a Christmas dinner hosted by her landlord. They don’t kiss, but as far as Jess is concerned the connection is clear. She starts planning how they will knock down the wall between them to spend more time together.

But when Jess returns from a two-week Christmas holiday, she finds Alex has started dating someone else—beautiful Emma, who lives on the floor above them. Now Jess faces a year of bumping into (hell, sharing a bathroom with) the man of her dreams…and the woman of his.


review

Okay. Look at that title and the synopsis. Can you blame me for having subconsciously compared it with my absolute favorite “One Day in December“? I’m unreasonably angry with this book as if it’s intentionally mislead me to compare the two.

Not that there are no similarities between the books. Both take place over a period of time. The characters are forced not to act on their feelings. There’s an involvement with a mutual friend. But that’s where the similarities end.

There’s no angst. No unresolved tension. No heartache. No sparks. No chemistry. Whatsoever.

Jess falls for Alex right off the bat. She can’t stop self-gushing over his handsome looks. And before we know it, she’s telling us about how she can’t stop herself from falling in love with him the more time they spend together. But that’s the thing. She’s telling us this. We don’t see these things happening. And there was nothing remotely convincing about her words.

On the other hand, the first time we get into Alex’s head, which is quite far in the book, he can only talk about his ‘friends with benefit’ thing with another housemate Emma, and his worry over how to navigate it, as he has no interest in starting a relationship  after a disastrous break-up with his ex Alice. His feelings for Jess simply don’t get enough breathing space to convincingly develop.

This book is supposed to be a romance, but we get more time spent on secondary characters and their stories than the central romance. Nothing interesting happens. We get excruciatingly minute details on Jess’s new life in Notting Hill, but not on her feelings for Jess, except for one line here and there. There’s no proper buildup of the romance. Even the character development is lacking. The author barely scratches the surface when it comes to developing the romance.

I simply wanted more from the book that has been compared to Richard Curtis romances. Are you freaking serious? If you want me to go into this book thinking it will be similar to Love Actually, Notting Hill and Bridget Jones, you better deliver on the awkward heroes, the amazing chemistry, great one-liners. At least give me some semblance of a romance!

The only good thing about the book was that it’s a fast read.


ratings

★★☆☆☆

Publication Date: 5th September, 2019.
Source: ARC from Publisher (via Netgalley)

Links –  AmazonGoodreads Book Depository

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ARC REVIEW : CARNEGIE HILL

Deception is just another day in the lives of the elite.

At age thirty-three, Penelope “Pepper” Bradford has no career, no passion and no children. Her intrusive parents still treat her like a child. Moving into the Chelmsford Arms with her fiancé Rick, an up-and-coming financier, and joining the co-op board give her some control over her life—until her parents take a gut dislike to Rick and urge Pepper to call off the wedding. When, the week before the wedding, she glimpses a trail of desperate text messages from Rick’s obsessed female client, Pepper realizes that her parents might be right.

She looks to her older neighbors in the building to help decide whether to stay with Rick, not realizing that their marriages are in crisis, too. Birdie and George’s bond frays after George is forced into retirement at sixty-two. And Francis alienates Carol, his wife of fifty years, and everyone else he knows, after being diagnosed with an inoperable heart condition. To her surprise, Pepper’s best model for love may be a clandestine romance between Caleb and Sergei, a porter and a doorman.

Jonathan Vatner’s Carnegie Hill is a belated-coming-of-age novel about sustaining a marriage—and knowing when to walk away. It chronicles the lives of wealthy New Yorkers and the staff who serve them, as they suffer together and rebound, struggle to free themselves from family entanglements, deceive each other out of love and weakness, and fumble their way to honesty.


review

It took me a long time to review this ARC even though I read it some time ago. The words just did not come effortlessly for this one. That happens when I’m really underwhelmed by a book.

Carnegie Hill follows Pepper as she tries to find meaning in her life. She joins a co-op board. But even if she’s the central character, the story is as much as about her neighbors as it is about her. And unfortunately for me, I didn’t find a single character worth rooting for.

Let’s start with Pepper. She’s a heiress, and her problems echo that of someone just out of college, not in their thirties. The only difference is that she has a fiance she’s very serious about. Not that I have any problem with the idea of what the synopsis labels ‘belated coming-of-age’. My problem lies with all the bark and the little bite Pepper has. She spends all her time being indignant and outraged about everything, and does very little to change things. I also found her to be very intrusive, with little respect for personal boundaries. Over the course of the book, she kept growing on my nerves.

There’s a fiance who Pepper seemed to be obstinately holding on to. The little I say about him, the better. He’s even more unlikable than Pepper.

We also get POV of other residents from Pepper’s building. The three couples that Pepper looks to for answers about marriage are Georg and Birdie – who are trying to navigate their lives after a sudden retirement for George; Francis and Carol – who are suffering due to Francis’s secrets about his health; Caleb and Sergei – the everyday life couple whose lives and views are a little too simplistic. The switch from one character to another took away from the writing. The story was disjointed. And it didn’t help that I found most of the characters to be tiresome caricatures, who only tested my patience.

Books like these make me want to be more selective about requesting for ARCs.


ratings

★★☆☆☆

Publication Date: 20th August, 2019.
Source: ARC from Publisher (via Netgalley)

Links –  Amazon Goodreads Book Depository

 

 

 

 

 

 

ARC REVIEW : 100 DAYS OF SUNLIGHT

When 16-year-old poetry blogger Tessa Dickinson is involved in a car accident and loses her eyesight for 100 days, she feels like her whole world has been turned upside-down.

Terrified that her vision might never return, Tessa feels like she has nothing left to be happy about. But when her grandparents place an ad in the local newspaper looking for a typist to help Tessa continue writing and blogging, an unlikely answer knocks at their door: Weston Ludovico, a boy her age with bright eyes, an optimistic smile…and no legs.

Knowing how angry and afraid Tessa is feeling, Weston thinks he can help her. But he has one condition — no one can tell Tessa about his disability. And because she can’t see him, she treats him with contempt: screaming at him to get out of her house and never come back. But for Weston, it’s the most amazing feeling: to be treated like a normal person, not just a sob story. So he comes back. Again and again and again.

Tessa spurns Weston’s “obnoxious optimism”, convinced that he has no idea what she’s going through. But Weston knows exactly how she feels and reaches into her darkness to show her that there is more than one way to experience the world. As Tessa grows closer to Weston, she finds it harder and harder to imagine life without him — and Weston can’t imagine life without her. But he still hasn’t told her the truth, and when Tessa’s sight returns he’ll have to make the hardest decision of his life: vanish from Tessa’s world…or overcome his fear of being seen.

100 Days of Sunlight is a poignant and heartfelt novel by author Abbie Emmons. If you like sweet contemporary romance and strong family themes then you’ll love this touching story of hope, healing, and getting back up when life knocks you down.


review

I really tried to like this book. And I failed.

I could compare my feelings towards this book to that of what I felt after The Fault in Our Stars. Two young teens, both with their own diseases (disabilities in this case), finding solace in each other. And here also, I struggled to connect or relate to either of the two.

Okay. Here’s the first thing that I was not impressed by – Weston suddenly out of nowhere deciding that he would be a friend to Tessa. We see him right off the bat decide to make Tessa see the beautiful things in life, even in her temporary blindness. Okay. But why? They didn’t know each other beforehand, and Tessa was horrible to him from the start. I get the idea that it’s supposed to be because Tessa is the first person who can’t look at him pity for his condition, because she’s blind, and he likes that. But the writer does not expand on these feelings, except maybe a line or two.

Second thing that I didn’t like was how quickly Tessa and Weston grew an attachment. I get that they’re forced by their proximity and in Tessa’s case, isolation from the rest of the world. But I still would’ve liked them to take some more time to build their connection towards each other. But this is not any major issue.

My major issue was not being able to connect Weston and Tessa. Weston came off as a little too self-righteous and self-assured on his decisions when it came to Tessa. That was a turn-off. Tessa, on the other hand, was just unlikable. I get that she has a lot of problems but her character development felt lacking to me. I just couldn’t bring myself to sympathize with her.

I commend the author for touching upon many difficult and serious themes in this book, particularly that of mental health, family, etc. but I think that the quality of the writing needed to be better for these themes to have more of an impact on me. There were some genuinely cute and funny moments. It brings me back to my first point. I wanted to like the book, because it had an important message. But the writing made that difficult.

definitely think that this book would appeal more to younger newer readers. But I’ve read too many YAs in my days to have found anything novel or unpredictable about this book.


ratings

★★★☆☆

Publication Date: 7th August, 2019.
Source: ARC from Publisher (via Netgalley)

Links –  Amazon Goodreads Book Depository

 

BOOK REVIEW : THE PRENUP

My name is Charlotte Spencer and, ten years ago, I married my brother’s best friend. I haven’t seen him since.

Charlotte Spencer grew up on the blue-blooded Upper East Side of Manhattan but she never wanted the sit-still-look-pretty future her parents dictated for her. Enter Colin Walsh, her brother’s quiet, brooding, man-bun-sporting best friend, and with him a chance to escape.

He’s far from Charlotte’s dream guy as but they need each other for one thing: marriage. One courthouse wedding later, Charlotte’s inheritance is hers to start a business in San Francisco and Irish-born Colin has a Green Card.

Ten years later, Colin drops a bombshell: the terms of their prenup state that before either can file for divorce, they have to live under the same roof for three months.

Suddenly this match made in practicality is about to take on whole new meaning…


review

To talk about why I disliked this book, I’ll have to discuss a tiny little spoiler. And lots of ranting. So steer clear, if you don’t want to be spoiled.

Yes, I disliked the book. And trust me when I say that nobody was more disappointed than me. Even though I didn’t like the author’s last release. Because Lauren Layne has always managed to bounce back from a mediocre releases. Not this time, though.

I liked where the book was headed initially. Although Colin came off as a stuck up and cold, I was optimistically looking forward to Charlotte slowly bringing him out of his shell. After all, broody and silent heroes are my kryptonite. But the author takes broody to a whole new level with Colin. And not the good kind of level, though.

Anyways, the two were slowly warming up to each other. I was happily anticipating happier times. But then bam. All the progress goes down the drain. Colin’s fiance drops by the apartment he happens to share with his ‘wife’ Charlotte who had no idea about this fiance whatsoever.

Dude, you asked this woman for a divorce, contacting her after ages. Not to mention, making her drop everything and the life as she knows it, to come live with you to tick some prenup condition. And she asks you point blank why the sudden interest in getting a divorce. And you don’t think to mention your fiance to her? Not even when you’ve been roomies for some time? Nope. That’s just not acceptable.

As if that’s not enough, he continues on being the emotionless wall he is, never letting his guard down, or owning up to his real feelings. Even the resolution at the end felt lackluster because of his there’s basically no groveling from him. None whatsoever. And there needed to be massive groveling for me to forget how pathetic he was.

Also, am I just supposed to believe that he suddenly decided that his feelings for Charlotte were enough to ditch his fiance at the very last moment? What actually made him fall for her? No, scratch that. What actually made her fall for him? I didn’t see any reason other than some ‘moments’ these two had. And I was super pissed at both of them. There’s no cheating. But it felt like Charlotte was holding out hope for something impossible. I mean, where’s your self-respect? I get that she has the hots for him. But he’s taken. Although, she comes to her senses at the last moment, she should’ve done it a long time ago. And I have nothing to say about the hero. There wasn’t anything remotely romantic about his forbidden feelings for her.

The only good thing about the book was Charlotte’s evolving relation with her parents. That’s it. But that did nothing to redeem this unromantic romance. This was my least favorite fare by an author who I could always count on to deliver decent if not great romances and solid heroes for every season.


ratings

★★☆☆☆

BOOK REVIEW: THE AUSTEN PLAYBOOK

Freddy Carlton knows she should be focusing on her lines for The Austen Playbook, a live-action TV event where viewers choose the outcome of each scene, but her concentration’s been blown. The palatial estate housing the endeavor is now run by the rude (brilliant) critic who’s consistently slammed her performances of late. James “Griff” Ford-Griffin has a penchant for sarcasm, a majestic nose and all the sensitivity of a sledgehammer.

She can’t take her eyes off him.

Griff can hardly focus with a contagious joy fairy flitting about near him, especially when Freddy looks at him like that. His only concern right now should be on shutting down his younger brother’s well-intentioned (disastrous) schemes—or at the very least on the production (not this one) that might save his family home from the banks.

Instead all he can think of is soft skin and vibrant curls.

As he’s reluctantly dragged into her quest to rediscover her passion for the stage and Freddy is drawn into his research on a legendary theater star, the adage about appearances being deceiving proves abundantly true. It’s the unlikely start of something enormous…but a single revelation about the past could derail it all.


review

I am a big fan of Lucy Parker’s London Celebrities series which focuses mostly on the stars from the West End Theater. The Austen Playbook is the fourth in the series and might have narrowly beaten Pretty Face as my favorite of the series. I give the credit mainly to the main couple.

Griff and Freddy (Frederica) make for a compelling pair of main characters. Griff is probably the most brooding and the grumpiest hero of the series, with a marshmallow for a heart. My favorite kind. It also helps that his hair was compared to Lucius Malfoy. He’s a reviewer of theater productions, a television presenter and a producer. Freddy is an actress, forever faced with a big legacy of a late grandmother who was a powerful theater actress herself.

I could relate to Freddy a lot. She is constantly torn between her own happiness and her life-long desire of making others happy. She wants to star in comedies and light-hearted productions, but has always put that behind to please her father who wants her career to be just like that of his mother who was a master at serious acting.

Griff is burdened with a dilapidated estate from his grandfather who was a producer himself. He could easily live his own life, but has time and again sold his own assets to make up for his parents’ lavish expenses, in order to maintain his family’s legacy.

In this way, Griff and Freddy are quite similar. Only been connected through his honest and scathing reviews of her productions, they finally get to explore these similarities when Freddy takes on the role of Lydia in a production of Austenland, a play with all of Austen’s characters, lively broadcast and subject to immediate twist in the plot according to live votes from the audience watching from their homes.

Griff and Freddy have sparks right from the beginning. I loved their chemistry.  It was my favorite part of the book. But there are a lot of secondary plot-lines connected to the their main story. For example, Griff’s grandfather and Freddy’s grandmother had an epic love affair which ended abruptly. Griff is looking for finances to make a film based on that affair, but Freddy’s father will stop at nothing to stop his plans.

Although I initially liked the whole family history, I slowly lost my interest as the story progressed. The climax also could’ve been better. I’d have liked a better resolution to the live play. But I’m ready to forgive it all because of my love for the main couple.


ratings★★★★☆


BOOK REVIEW: EVVIE DRAKE STARTS OVER

In a small town in Maine, recently widowed Eveleth “Evvie” Drake rarely leaves her house. Everyone in town, including her best friend, Andy, thinks grief keeps her locked inside, and she doesn’t correct them. In New York, Dean Tenney, former major-league pitcher and Andy’s childhood friend, is struggling with a case of the “yips”: he can’t throw straight anymore, and he can’t figure out why. An invitation from Andy to stay in Maine for a few months seems like the perfect chance to hit the reset button.

When Dean moves into an apartment at the back of Evvie’s house, the two make a deal: Dean won’t ask about Evvie’s late husband, and Evvie won’t ask about Dean’s baseball career. Rules, though, have a funny way of being broken–and what starts as an unexpected friendship soon turns into something more. But before they can find out what might lie ahead, they’ll have to wrestle a few demons: the bonds they’ve broken, the plans they’ve changed, and the secrets they’ve kept. They’ll need a lot of help, but in life, as in baseball, there’s always a chance–right up until the last out.


review

Evvie had an emotionally abusive husband, who never wasted an opportunity to put her down. The night she is about to leave him is the night her husband dies in an accident. She suffers from a weird guilt, and people in the town takes this guilt for grief.

Dean has loved baseball all his life. It’s given him everything until he just could not for mysterious reasons pitch straight anymore. It forces him to retire from the game that has been his life. He has tried everything to recover from his ‘Yips’ and nothing works. So he decides to take off for a year and leave all the conjectures of the media and fans in New York.

Andy is Evvie’s best friend. He’s a divorcee with two daughters. What they share is purely platonic, with Evvie being a big source of comfort and help to him in getting his life back since his wife left him. He’s also good friends with Dean and so when Dean decides to come to Andy’s town to take a break, Andy suggests him renting the downstairs apartment of Evvie’s place.

Dean and Evvie are quite similar. They are damaged in certain ways and are unwilling to face their own demons. Evvie uses Dean’s problems as a new mission in life, in Andy’s words ‘Dean is another project for her to save, like she took on Andy’. But Dean doesn’t want her to encourage him to go back to baseball.

I found Evvie to be a very flawed, complicated and yet interesting character. She never shared about her own problems with anyone, not even the issues in her marital life. She is non-confrontational in a way. She’s more intent on changing other people’s lives rather than her own.

Dean, on the other hand, is aggressively on denial about what he wants and wishes for. But thankfully his denial does not extend to his feelings for Evvie. The progress from friendship to a relationship is perhaps not too smooth, but it certainly felt organic. The romance was not too romantic. But it was a nice little story.

While the story has its charms and warmth, it suffers from a slowness of pace. It could use more energy and passion. I also think that the ending could have been better. But the overall journey of Evvie was satisfying to read.


ratings

★★★★☆

ARC REVIEW : SENECA LAKE


It’s 1944, and high school senior Meg Michaels has always obeyed her grandparents’ wishes, till now. They’re urging her to give up her dream of Cornell University and accept a ring from wealthy Hank Wickham before he deploys overseas.

But Meg has studied hard and yearns for something better than life in the rural Finger Lakes. Plus Meg’s suddenly fascinated with her childhood friend, Arthur Young, a handsome Seneca Indian farm worker. When Meg and Arthur nurse a sick puppy to health, their friendship transforms into love.

But locals look down on “injuns” and resent the fact that Arthur’s farm job exempts him from military duty. While the war rages in Europe, Meg and Arthur must fight their own battles at home…


review

This one was a short and fast read. I flew through the pages.

Meg is a teenager living with her grandparents. She grows a sudden interest towards Arthur who she claims has been like a brother all her life. Then there’s Hank, a guy she knows she should be interested in instead.

I liked Meg. She’s cute if not a little boring. But I liked Arthur more. It’s easy to feel for him when you have half the town looking down on him. But I feel that there was so much more to him that could be explored. I liked Meg and Arthur’s interactions. But I thought the whole love story happened too fast. I’d have liked more details and backstory.

I think this books started and ended too abruptly. It felt like this was part of a story than a whole story by itself. By the end, I wanted more from the story. More character development, more descriptions, more depth, more story-building, more backstory. Just more.

I felt the whole time that I was seeing the world through a lens. It lacked the depth that could get me invested in the story. And what was with that ending? I was just left hanging with that. There was no closure. It wasn’t even a cliffhanger. Just a weird way to end the story.

The writing was pretty straight-forward, without much pomp. And that’s necessarily not a bad thing. But it was also slightly bland. And I honestly felt that there was no rhyme or reason to many of the things that happened. I felt like I was missing out parts of the story. It certainly had a lot of potential. I think the debut author missed a trick here.


ratings