BOOK REVIEW : IF I NEVER MET YOU

Author: Mhairi McFarlane
Links
: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary; Romance; Women’s fiction/
Release Date: January 1st 2020.

synopsis


When her partner of over a decade suddenly ends things, Laurie is left reeling—not only because they work at the same law firm and she has to see him every day. Her once perfect life is in shambles and the thought of dating again in the age of Tinder is nothing short of horrifying. When news of her ex’s pregnant girlfriend hits the office grapevine, taking the humiliation lying down is not an option. Then a chance encounter in a broken-down elevator with the office playboy opens up a new possibility.

Jamie Carter doesn’t believe in love, but he needs a respectable, steady girlfriend to impress their bosses. Laurie wants a hot new man to give the rumor mill something else to talk about. It’s the perfect proposition: a fauxmance played out on social media, with strategically staged photographs and a specific end date in mind. With the plan hatched, Laurie and Jamie begin to flaunt their new couple status, to the astonishment—and jealousy—of their friends and colleagues. But there’s a fine line between pretending to be in love and actually falling for your charming, handsome fake boyfriend..


review.

Brace yourselves, people. I’ll be pinging this book every chance I get from here on. This book was everything it could be. Bear with me while I try to articulate my incoherent feelings of adoration for this book into words. Let me try that by listing down some of the things I loved about the book :


The best and most realistic portrayal of a breakup I’ve read
The protagonist is blindsided at the very beginning when her boyfriend of 18 years breaks up with her. We see Laurie go through all the feelings – disbelief, shock, denial, betrayal, anger, sadness and acceptance. I felt like I was going through the stages with her. I also wanted him to want her back when she did. And when she realized that he’s no longer important, I was right there with her too. That more than anything else is telling of the conviction in the writing.


The heroine and her satisfying journey
This book is above all about Laurie and her journey. And how beautifully is it written! Laurie is incredibly likeable. She’s also smart, self-aware and outspoken. The only flaw she has? She doesn’t know her own charm. You’d think her journey would be difficult. But more than anything, it was satisfying and believable. To see her evolution and development was perhaps the most satisfying reading experience for me so far in this year.

The best execution of a fake-relationship trope
This is the best fake-relationship romance I’ve read in a long time if not ever. Every little encounter that leads the couple to having a fake relationship is as organic as it gets. Not for a moment did I find the reasoning illogical as is usual with me. And that is because, the characters themselves debate all these things. The heroine is very self-aware of why she’s doing this. She also has her best friend cautioning her about the repercussions. There are no loopholes here. This is very smart writing, I must say.


The conversations
The conversations in this book are just so hard hitting and relevant! Every conversation is meaningful and engaging. It often happens while reading romances that I lose focus when reading casual conversations between the main couple. But when Jamie and Laurie talk, they talk about their views about relationships, work and even ethnicity. Every conversation they have helps unearth their inner layers and forge a very believable connection between the two. And the conversations between Laurie and Emily about women and relationships are oh so relatable! Actually, majority of the conversations in this book are meaningful and satisfying to read about!


The friendships
There are three friendships in this book that I absolutely loved. The friendship between the main couple Laurie and Jamie, and their individual friendships with their best friend. Laurie and Jamie are each others champions in more than one occasion. But Laurie’s friendship with Emily, was just on another level. They are friendship goals. And while we see very little of Hattie, her friendship with Jamie is equally special too.

The Hero who’s respectful, earnest, funny and honest
Jamie Carter is a conventional playboy at a glance. Laure initially is very judgemental about him, thanks to workplace gossip, until the fated day they get stuck on an elevator. That’s when she and we realize how unconventional he is. He calls himself a communist in relationships. He has an unbeatable logic when it comes to his views on monogamy. But then at the end, he’s also smart enough to realize his own ignorance.

To add to it all, Jamie is respectful of Laurie unlike the other men in her life. He has an earnestness which shines in many an instances, for example, there is a part where he is talking to Laurie about the correct terminology about her mixed race won me over at an early stage. He’s also hilarious!

The themes of feminism and gender politics in workplace
The themes of feminism are prevalent throughout the book. Despite being one of the best lawyers in the firm, Laurie also deals with gender politics multiple times in the male-dominated profession of law.

This book made me think
It’s a rarity when romances make you think. I knew I’d like this book, but just as a run-of-the-mill romances. But it made me think of so many things – relationships, power play in relationships, love, gender roles, gender politics, feminism and what not.

If I haven’t already made it clear already, I love this book. The synopsis does little justice to this gem of a book. It’s just a very satisfying read.


ratings

★★★★★

 

ARC REVIEW : CHASING LUCKY

Author: Jean Bennett
Links
: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: Young Adult; Contemporary; Romance.
Release Date: May 5th 2020.


synopsis

In this coming-of-age romance perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen, scandal and romance collide when an ambitious teen returns to her hometown only to have her plans interrupted after falling for the town’s “bad boy”—a.k.a. her childhood best friend.

Sometimes to find the good, you have to embrace the bad.

Budding photographer Josie Saint-Martin has spent half her life with her single mother, moving from city to city. When they return to her historical New England hometown years later to run the family bookstore, Josie knows it’s not forever. Her dreams are on the opposite coast, and she has a plan to get there.

What she doesn’t plan for is a run-in with the town bad boy, Lucky Karras. Outsider, rebel…and her former childhood best friend. Lucky makes it clear he wants nothing to do with the newly returned Josie. But everything changes after a disastrous pool party, and a poorly executed act of revenge lands Josie in some big-time trouble—with Lucky unexpectedly taking the blame.

Determined to understand why Lucky was so quick to cover for her, Josie discovers that both of them have changed, and that the good boy she once knew now has a dark sense of humor and a smile that makes her heart race. And maybe, just maybe, he’s not quite the brooding bad boy everyone thinks he is…


review

This is the second Jean Bennett book I read. It’s also the second book with ‘Lucky’ on its title (the other being Lucky Caller). Incidentally both made it to the list of my favorite YAs of the year so far.

There is so much to love about this book! Josie is moving back to her hometown with her flighty single mother. It’s supposed to be only for a year, as she keeps reminding her mother, before her grandmother returns from a trip to Nepal. But Josie has plans of her own that her mother doesn’t know her. She wants to graduate her high school and move to LA to be apprentice to her famous photographer father. Her life has been a blur of one city after another, when at 12 years of age, her mother took her and left town after a fight with her grandmother. So she wants stability for once, even if it means breaking her mother’s heart. But she didn’t foresee Lucky.

Lucky was Josie’s best friend until she suddenly left town. Now he’s a mystery with danger written all over him. Josie goes through wariness, annoyance, guilt, and fascination towards him. I, however, was fascinated from the start, and became more and more besotted with each page. Much of the book is spent on Josie and us getting to see the layers of his character get peeled slowly. And that kept me glued to the pages all along. Josie can be a little impulsive and selfish, but her heart is in the right place. And I adored her. But Lucky is the real scene stealer for me. He has my heart, okay?

Now, what else did I love about the book? Josie’s relationships with her mother and cousin Evie, for starters. Lack of communication runs in the family. There is love between Josie and her mother, but the latter’s unwillingness to communicate has turned Josie bitter. Evie has her own problems – a toxic relationship with the town’s golden boy. But this is a family that simply doesn’t talk with each other. I also loved Lucky’s family, who are polar opposite to Josie’s, but just as lovely. Most of all, though, I loved Josie and Lucky, and their relationship.

If I have a complaint about this book, it’s that it could be longer. I wanted to see certain characters like Josie’s mom and Evie being explored. Their arcs felt unfinished. Also, there is this whole thing about their family being cursed in love, which is mentioned a lot, but not explained enough in my opinion.

Despite these flaws, I loved the writing, the characters and this universe. It’s only a good thing when you don’t want a book to end. But it’s a bad thing when you can’t have a Lucky of your own! Be back bawling.


ratings

★★★★★

 

BOOK REVIEW : MARRIAGE ON MADISON AVENUE

Author: Lauren Layne
Series: Central Park Pact # 3
Links
: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Contemporary; Romance.
Release Date: January 28th 2020.


synopsis

Marriage on Madison Avenue (Central Park Pact, #3)From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne, comes the final installment of the Central Park Pact series, a heartfelt and laugh-out-loud romantic comedy that’s perfect for fans of Sally Thorne and Christina Lauren.

Can guys and girls ever be just friends? According to Audrey Tate and Clarke West, absolutely. After all, they’ve been best friends since childhood without a single romantic entanglement. Clarke is the charming playboy Audrey can always count on, and he knows that the ever-loyal Audrey will never not play along with his strategy for dodging his matchmaking mother—announcing he’s already engaged…to Audrey.

But what starts out as a playful game between two best friends turns into something infinitely more complicated, as just-for-show kisses begin to stir up forbidden feelings. As the faux wedding date looms closer, Audrey and Clarke realize that they can never go back to the way things were, but deep down, do they really want to?


review

This book delivered exactly what I expected it to. No more. No less.

Friends-to-lovers romances are my favorites. This one had another of my favorite tropes of fake-marriages, which was like a cherry on the top for me.

This wasn’t a path-breaking romance. There were some very predictable elements. And yet I loved it. That’s because of Clarke and Audrey. These two characters and their chemistry elevated the romance to the become the most enjoyable read ofthe series for me. I was hoping for exactly that after reading about them in the first two romances. Audrey was the perfect mix of sweet and sassy, while Clarke, the charming hunk with vulnerabilities and insecurities that I expected them to be.

I absolutely adored Audrey and Clarke’s relationship who were completely different people with each other, equally protective and soft for each other, and yet knowing when to keep distance. They were also quite similar in their opinions about each of their love lives too. Clarke feels that he can keep no woman happy. And Audrey considers herself safely doomed for relationships.

She still blames herself for jumping on a serious relationship with a guy who claimed to be separated, without verifying his status for herself. Add to that, guy who she recently dumped after finding his fetishes for videotaping sexual encounters, turns out to have been married. And this gets leaked by gossip sites, making things even worse for this social media influencer.

Clarke is perfectly happy with his life. He has Audrey, who he has claimed as his fiance more than once before to get away from sticky situations. This time when he does to escape his mother pushing his ex back into his life, Audrey suggests that they continue to pretend, to use it to stave off some heat because of the rumors regarding her doomed love life. Except, these reasons get stacked up, and the pretension goes long enough for some complicated feelings to be added to the mix. The evolution of their relationship was beautifully written. The pacing was also tight, with rarely any boring or unnecessary moments. These are characters that I felt personally invested in.

My biggest problem with the story was the conflict and misunderstanding at the end that I saw from a mile away. The climax was just too predictable. And while I could subtract another star for that, I really genuinely loved the main couple a little too much. It’s the perfect read to meet your craving for a cute romance.


ratings

★★★★☆

BOOK REVIEW : TWEET CUTE

Author: Emma Lord
Links
: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Young Adult; Contemporary; High School; Romance.
Release Date: January 21st 2020.


synopsis

A fresh, irresistible rom-com from debut author Emma Lord about the chances we take, the paths life can lead us on, and how love can be found in the opposite place you expected.

Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming ― mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.

Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.

All’s fair in love and cheese ― that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life ― on an anonymous chat app Jack built.

As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate ― people on the internet are shipping them?? ― their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.


review

Tweet Cute is a one of those books that you read and go ‘That was cute’. I didn’t really have anything to say about it except that I like it. But that’s not how reviews work, do they? So, here goes nothing.

Story

This is a very cute and modern take on “You’ve got mail” (a movie I love) where the main characters Jack and Pepper exchange texts in an anonymous messaging app for their school. They also feud on twitter through their family business accounts.  Both Pepper and Jack’s families own food joints. Except, Pepper’s mother has turned it into a corporate franchise while Jack’s family has still kept the foodplace his grandparents started a small family affair. Ring a bell? There is a lot of cuteness, with misunderstandings, angst and family drama.

There were many layers to the story.  Both Pepper and Jack have their own demons to fight. At a young age, Pepper has not only had to deal with her parent’s divorce but also uprooting her life when her mother decided to move from Nashville with her to New York to expand the family business. As a result, Pepper is somewhat serious and upright. She has no friends to speak for. Jack, on the other hand, appears cheerful and cocksure. But even he has issues of his own, with a twin brother Ethan who’s much more popular and ambitious than he. They both have low opinions of each other.

Characters

Almost every character had some part to play. Pepper and Jack are likeable characters. Their problems are relatable. Pepper is non-confrontational. She is a worrier and the peace-keeper in the family, especially since her college-going elder sister is not on good terms with their mother. So Pepper takes everything upon herself and wants to keep her mother proud and happy. Even if her mother’s decisions go against her judgements.

Jack on the other hand, is overshadowed by his brother at everything. While he has great app developing skills – having himself created the app where he anonymously exchanges texts with Pepper – he keeps it hidden. His parents expect him to stay back and continue the family legacy while Ethan can go do whatever he wants. So he keeps his dreams on the down-low.

I really liked the realistic portrayal of both sets of parents. While we don’t see much of Pepper’s father but the mother plays a huge role. She’s sort of the unintended villain for much of the book, with her over-the-top competitiveness – the reason for which is later explained. Neither she nor Jack’s parents are perfect parents. And that makes them more believable.

I also loved the sibling equations in the book. Particularly he competitiveness and insecurities between Ethan and Jack appealed to me a lot. It was very realistic and sort of hilarious in hindsight.

Writing

Emma Lord has done an exemplary job on her debut. The writing is engaging and effortless. It’s really difficult to keep a conflict interesting while keeping characters realistic in fiction. I think what she did well was not make any of the characters stereotypical, and yet kept them believable. I felt like these were real people. The plot is also tight. Every little action is given a reason. There are no loopholes.

The only complaint I have with the writing is that I was not very invested on the romance. I liked the characters individually and together as friends. But the romance part of it felt slightly lackluster. I would have liked a little more time spent on introspection from the characters after  they find the other’s identity. And this is the only reason I am subtracting one star.

Altogether, a strong debut from the author. We need more YAs like this. And when you are invested so much on the characters’ personal growth, a less than satisfactory romance doesn’t really leave that big of a hole in your overall satisfaction with the book.


ratings

★★★★☆

ARC REVIEW: WHERE THE LOST WANDER

Author: Amy Harmon
Links
: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Historical; Romance.
Release Date: April 28th 2020.

synopsis

ARC REVIEW : HEADLINERS (LONDON CELEBRITIES #5)

Author: Lucy Parker
Links
: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Contemporary; Romance.
Release Date: January 20th 2020.

synopsis

Sparks fly when two feuding TV presenters are thrown together to host a live morning show in Lucy Parker’s latest enemies-to-lovers contemporary romance.

He might be the sexiest man in London, according to his fan site (which he definitely writes himself), but he’s also the most arrogant man she’s ever met.

She might have the longest legs he’s ever seen, but she also has the sharpest tongue.

For years, rival TV presenters Sabrina Carlton and Nick Davenport have traded barbs on their respective shows. The public can’t get enough of their feud, but after Nick airs Sabrina’s family scandals to all of Britain, the gloves are off. They can barely be in the same room together—but these longtime enemies are about to become the unlikeliest of cohosts.

With their reputations on the rocks, Sabrina and Nick have one last chance to save their careers. If they can resurrect a sinking morning show, they’ll still have a future in television. But with ratings at an all-time low and a Christmas Eve deadline to win back the nation’s favor, the clock is ticking—and someone on their staff doesn’t want them to succeed.

Small mishaps on set start adding up, and Sabrina and Nick find themselves—quelle horreur—working together to hunt down the saboteur…and discovering they might have more in common than they thought. When a fiery encounter is caught on camera, the public is convinced that the reluctant cohosts are secretly lusting after one another.

The public might not be wrong.

Their chemistry has always been explosive, but with hate turning to love, the stakes are rising and everything is on the line. Neither is sure if they can trust these new feelings…or if they’ll still have a job in the New Year.


review

Lucy Parker yet again delivers a winsome addition in what has become one of my favorite contemporary romance series.

It’s  always a delight revisiting the world of London Celebrities that I’ve come to adore. This time we move to the world of television. And although this book can be read as a standalone, the protagonists are still suffering the aftermath from the incidents from the previous book The Austen Playbook.

Rival presenters Nick and Sabrina are forced to work on a morning show. This is a last resort for both of them to bring their careers back into track, after a scandalous year for each of them. Nick was caught saying some very harsh things about a media mogul on video, and Sabrina punched her cheating ex and an actor by profession on live TV. Suffice it to say, they have to make this morning show work. But the problem is – they can’t stand each other. It became worse when in the previous Nick broke the news about a big family secret of Sabrina to the world that affected not only Sabrina but her sister Freddie too. Nick has since felt remorseful but Sabrina will have none of that.

No trope gets me as excited as enemies-to-lovers. And adding workplace romance to that works like cherry on the top! But none of that matters if it’s not executed well. And how well does Lucy Parker execute it? Sabrina and Nick had sparks even in the previous book. And I’d been excited about their book ever since. Also, I loved Sabrina. She’s a hot headed mess but also fiercely protective over those who she cares about. Nick is my favorite kind of hero. He’s charming and handsome. And he is aware of it too.. That gives him a self-confidence that is adorable and annoying at the same time.

The thing that always that end up disappointing me about enemies-to-lovers is how often the characters act immaturely and go way of out line in their self righteousness. But here there’s no such thing. Both Sabrina and Nick are mature and professional. They also respect each other. And while the previous books in the serious have had sub-plots of some mystery or intrigue that I felt unnecessarily got out of hand, that wasn’t the case here.

This book also had a suspense element to it about an mysterious crew member sabotaging things for the show. And although it created for some hilarious mix-ups, nothing was outlandish or over-the-top about it. The pace and the sub-plot did not drag down the story, which was one of my issues with the last book.

The focus throughout the book is very much on the two characters. I loved the progression of the relationship between the two from unresolved sexual tension to a conscious acknowledgement of their attraction that evolves into mature relationship. I particularly loved how these two always communicated with each other and respected each other’s individuality. A healthy relationship and oodles of chemistry made this my favorite book of the series!


review★★★★★

BOOK REVIEW : THE SILENT PATIENT

Author: Alex Michaelides
Links
: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Celadon Books.
Genre: Mystery; Thriller; Suspense.
Warnings: Violence, Mental sickness, Mentions of suicide.
Release Date: February 5th 2019.

synopsis

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him…


review

So I finally rode what I’d like to call the hype-train, almost a YEAR after its release. Yes. But there’s a reason that I was late to the party. I’d found the premise very intriguing, and yet I was wary after seeing all the hype. I mean, I can’t be the only one who’s been betrayed by the hype more often than not. And while I’m not on board with the idea that this book is perfect, I do understand the reason behind the raving reviews.

It’s the BIG TWIST. And right now I’m annoyed about it because I can’t actually go into details about my feelings about the book. That would just spoil the BIG TWIST. But the thing is, I didn’t find it to be a huge twist. Did it make me go WTF when I read the reveal? Of course. But, was it completely unexpected? Uh, no. See, I have this bad habit of trying to think of all possible scenarios that the story could lead to, when I start a book, especially a suspense. And the big twist did come to my mind among other possibilities. But I had definitely not expected it to go down the way it did. And the author sure deserves to be commended for that.

The story follows Psychotherapist Theo Faber as he takes up a job at an institution just so that he could personally treat Alicia Berenson, a popular painter who went silent after allegedly killing her husband, and is residing in the same facility Theo joins. This story had quite a few things working against it right from the start. First was my inability to get on board with the motives of the characters. I kept constantly questioning the logic of the plot. Second was again my inability to connect with any of the characters. Third was the pacing. The pace is slow at first and the plot takes time to pick up. And finally, that ending… I felt that the while the twist took the story to a whole another level, it also forced the author to compromise a little with the storytelling. There were little questions still nagging me after the end. I would have liked the author taking a few more pages to wrap things up nicely.

As far as thrillers go, The Silent Patient delivers. Quite an impressive debut from the new writer. I liked it a lot, but it had potential to have had a higher impact on me. That’s where I feel that the story let me down. But I’d still recommend everyone to read it.


ratings

★★★☆☆

BOOK REVIEW : LUCKY CALLER

Author: Emma Mills
Links
: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company.
Genre: Young Adult; High School; Contemporary; Romance.
Warnings: None.
Release Date: January 14th 2020.

synopsis

Lucky Caller

When Nina decides to take a radio broadcasting class her senior year, she expects it to be a walk in the park. Instead, it’s a complete disaster.

The members of Nina’s haphazardly formed radio team have approximately nothing in common. And to maximize the awkwardness her group includes Jamie, a childhood friend she’d hoped to basically avoid for the rest of her life.

The show is a mess, internet rumors threaten to bring the wrath of two fandoms down on their heads, and to top it all off Nina’s family is on the brink of some major upheaval.

Everything feels like it’s spiraling out of control―but maybe control is overrated?

With the warmth, wit, intimate friendships, and heart-melting romance she brings to all her books, Emma Mills crafts a story about believing in yourself, owning your mistakes, and trusting in human connection in Lucky Caller


review

Emma Mills has somehow decoded the art of writing consistently good Young Adult books, because she keeps doling them out year after year, never compromising on the quality. And Lucky Caller might just be my favorite book by her. Honestly, this is how every story about high school life should be like. Lots of warmth, some teenage angst, family drama, romance and humor. 

Nina’s mother is getting married. And although she genuinely likes Dan, the guy her mom is marrying, she’s still on the fence over how to take the new changes coming her way. She’s also starting her final semester and decides to take the elective class on radio broadcasting, where she is forced to be in a group with Sasha, Joydeep and Jamie (her ex-best friend who she has some history with).

I loved every bit about their radio broadcasting course. The course is basically about every group coming up with their own radio show for the school radio, which would air in hourly slots on every school-day. Although Nina and co. treat it as a walk in the park at first, but after some hilarious hijinks it’s clear that they need to step up their game. And desperate times call for desperate actions. Which leads to even more hijinks. It’s just too entertaining and somewhat realistic.

Even though the parts with the radio assignment were my favorite, I enjoyed the bits with Nina’s family no less. The author created a relatable family, particularly the equation between the sisters resonating with me. And I liked how each of the 3 sisters – Rose, Nina and Sidney had their own colors and their own arcs even if small. The author uses flashbacks to show us the small cracks between them and their dad who’s a radio show host living in LA. It’s also through flashbacks that we see what exactly transpired between Nina and Jamie.

Emma Mills is a great writer of the Young Adult genre, because she can write teenage characters well. Joydeep, for instance is as teenager highschooler as you can get. He is also the most hilarious character I’ve read in a long time and made me laugh out loud too many times. Sasha also won me over with her no-nonsense attitude. But it was Jamie who melted my heart – just as he did Nina’s – at every opportunity he got. He’s just the sweetest and most adorable hero, his personality perfectly complementary to that of Nina’s sarcastic and reticent nature. Theirs is a friends-to-lovers romance. It’s a slow burn and I enjoyed it very much.

If I had to talk of any issues I had with the story, it would be how little the character of Nina’s dad was explored, his history unexplained, and how some plot points were not wrapped up neatly. This made for an ending which wasn’t tight and has me wishing for a sequel. But ultimately, the story and the characters resonated with me, despite some minor flaws. The writing was impeccable and the storytelling was solid, albeit a little loose. My love for Emma Mills’ writing has only increased, as has my love for her habit of leaving references to her other stories in every book, like Easter eggs to be spotted by her regular readers. Anyways, I definitely plan to revisit this story and this world in the near future.


ratings
★★★★★

BOOK REVIEW: THE MOST FUN WE EVER HAD

A dazzling, multigenerational novel in which the four adult daughters of a Chicago couple—still madly in love after forty years—recklessly ignite old rivalries until a long-buried secret threatens to shatter the lives they’ve built.

When Marilyn Connolly and David Sorenson fall in love in the 1970s, they are blithely ignorant of all that’s to come. By 2016, their four radically different daughters are each in a state of unrest: Wendy, widowed young, soothes herself with booze and younger men; Violet, a litigator-turned-stay-at-home-mom, battles anxiety and self-doubt when the darkest part of her past resurfaces; Liza, a neurotic and newly tenured professor, finds herself pregnant with a baby she’s not sure she wants by a man she’s not sure she loves; and Grace, the dawdling youngest daughter, begins living a lie that no one in her family even suspects. Above it all, the daughters share the lingering fear that they will never find a love quite like their parents’.

As the novel moves through the tumultuous year following the arrival of Jonah Bendt—given up by one of the daughters in a closed adoption fifteen years before—we are shown the rich and varied tapestry of the Sorensons’ past: years marred by adolescence, infidelity, and resentment, but also the transcendent moments of joy that make everything else worthwhile.

Spanning nearly half a century, and set against the quintessential American backdrop of Chicago and its prospering suburbs, Lombardo’s debut explores the triumphs and burdens of love, the fraught tethers of parenthood and sisterhood, and the baffling mixture of affection, abhorrence, resistance, and submission we feel for those closest to us. In painting this luminous portrait of a family’s becoming, Lombardo joins the ranks of writers such as Celeste Ng, Elizabeth Strout, and Jonathan Franzen as visionary chroniclers of our modern lives.


review
I have a hard time as it is to make my reviews short. Even when the books are short and sweet, with only a couple of main characters, and spanning a few months. The Most Fun We Ever Had is a 532 page book, about 6 main characters and spanning half a century. A piece of cake, right?

So, yeah. I’ll just diverge from my usual approach of writing reviews, to ensure that I don’t end up writing a novella myself while reviewing the book. Here I go.

Story

The novel is centered on a dysfunctional family. The story alternates between past and present. The past chronicles the whole history of the family, from the first meeting of Marilyn and David – the parents – to all the important events that shape up their family. This is a character-driven story. It’s the characters’ complex decisions and actions that take the story forward. I found parts of it gripping, and others hard to get by.

Characters

There’s only one word for describing each of the characters here – flawed. They have all at one point or another behaved selfishly, done terrible things and hurt others. I found David and Marilyn to be careless and irresponsible more than once. Wendy, the eldest sister, is the brashest and doesn’t hold back from punches. But she’s been dealt the worst among them all. And that made me dislike her the least among the characters. I found Liza horrible for the way she treated her boyfriend suffering from depression. Grace also annoyed me with her lies and immaturity

But it was Violet that I despised. This is a character who’s the most selfish and inconsiderate throughout the book. The way she treats Jonah – the son who she had given up for adoption right after his birth 15 years ago, and is again now back in her life – is just awful. Her insecurities about him hurting her family of a husband and two sons drive her to do some horrible things. The author does her best to redeem her in the end, but it didn’t work for me. In fact, it was only Jonah who I cared about and probably read the whole book for. If it wasn’t for him, I’d probably have DNF’d it.

Writing

Even though I wasn’t a fan of the characters, I did like the very realistic portrayal of sisterhood. The complicated feelings between sisters – love, loyalty, jealousy, entitlement, and above all forgiveness – are all very convincingly conveyed in the story. The writing was engaging but it wasn’t perfect by any stretch. The story touches upon some very serious issues like infidelity, mental health, alcohol abuse, grief. But the author treats them with very little respect and only uses them as plot devices or an afterthought.  And that was a big let down.

I find it commendable how the book is unapologetic about how realistic and humane its characters and their actions are. It’s not perfect. Real life hardly ever is. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it, does it?

P.S. I failed in my attempt to keep it concise. But I know myself well enough to be happy that the review wasn’t even bigger.


ratings

★★★☆☆

BOOK REVIEW: THE MAP FROM HERE TO THERE

Acclaimed author Emery Lord crafts a gorgeous story of friendship and identity, daring to ask: What happens after happily ever after?

It’s senior year, and Paige Hancock is finally living her best life. She has a fun summer job, great friends, and a super charming boyfriend who totally gets her. But senior year also means big decisions. Weighing “the rest of her life,” Paige feels her anxiety begin to pervade every decision she makes. Everything is exactly how she always wanted it to be–how can she leave it all behind next year? In her head, she knows there is so much more to experience after high school. But in her heart, is it so terrible to want everything to stay the same forever?

Emery Lord’s award-winning storytelling shines with lovable characters and heartfelt exploration of life’s most important questions.


review

I wasn’t surprised when I heard some mixed reactions about this book before starting it. Because it would be difficult to attain the perfection that The Start of Me and You did for me. And my excitement for this book was more to do with my wish of revisiting this universe and the group of characters who I came to love.

And ironically, it was the characterization that was one of my main problems with this book. One of my favorite things about the first book was how every character got the chance to shine. But I felt that we don’t get that enough here. For example, I’d been rooting for Paige’s bestie Tessa and Max’s cousin Ryan, because of their flirty equation and Ryan’s obvious interest in her, in the last book. I mean, a main part of that book was how Paige and Max were like Jane and Bingley, while Tessa and Ryan were like Elizabeth and Darcy.

But we find out at the very beginning that Tessa got herself a girlfriend over the Summer. I didn’t know whether to be happy that this was introduced so naturally and not made a big deal of (a big yay for LGBT); or be disappointed that we didn’t get more details about how a character who gave no signs of being homosexual in the first book, just suddenly went through such an important transformation over a span of 2 months and we didn’t get to be a party to this character development.

Speaking of Ryan, a character who we got to see have some major moments in the first book, doesn’t have that big of a role to play. I also felt that we didn’t get enough of Morgan and Kayleigh here. There is a part where Morgan drops a big bomb on Tessa about herself drunkenly, and that’s it. There’s no more discussion on it,

Almost everything takes a backseat in this book to Paige. We spend half the book on Paige overthinking every little thing. While I found that endearing in the first book, this time the author just took it too far. Yes, she’s a teenager. She’s right to be flawed and be indecisive and self-involved. But we already saw her doing this in the previous book and overcome it to a large extent. And when we see her doing the same things again, and regressing on her own, what was all that character growth from the first book for?

It also didn’t help that a whole lot of the plot is reliant on Tessa’s overthinking. She has decided over the Summer that she wants to study script-writing in New York or LA. She’s worried that this will cause friction between her divorced and currently dating parents. She’s worried about how it will impact her relationship with Max. Then when Max tells her he’s also applying to the same areas, she’s worried of the pressure it puts on her. And all that’s fine and realistic. But the main conflict was stretched too thin and at one point, the charm was lost.

For all my complaining, I still loved the friendship between Paige, Tessa, Kayleigh, Morgan and Ryan. Paige and Max were really cute initially (when they weren’t being stupid). Their relationship was also realistic. I loved Paige’s family again too. And I’d have been happier had the ending been satisfactory. But that ending was abrupt with one major plot point still being unresolved.


ratings★★★☆☆