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 : THE LOVE SOLUTION

It’s all in the chemistry…

Sisters Sarah and Molly are close, but they couldn’t be more different. Sarah runs a craft business and is obsessed with all things shiny and glam, whilst Molly is much more at home in her white coat and goggles, working in a science lab.

When Molly is put onto a new assignment, she’s over the moon. It’s a high-profile, top secret project – and she has a handsome new boss to ogle at when she’s not bending over a petri dish…

But when Sarah finds herself on the painful end of a disastrous break-up, no amount of Ben & Jerry’s or trashy rom-coms can cheer her up. She wants to take a more drastic approach to dealing with her heartbreak, and one that only her sister – and perhaps a sprinkle of science – can help with . . .

Will Sarah find love where she least expects it, or is it really all in the chemistry?


reviewI never rule out a book just because of the morality of the characters. Even if I don’t agree with their decisions, as long as I can understand where they’re coming from, I can bear with the questionable morality. But that never happened in this book. Not only the way the author plays with morality and ethics in this story is hugely problematic; But I also could not make sense of any of their actions.

Take Molly for example. She’s a scientist working on an important project which has to stay confidential. It’s top-secret. And she discloses it to her sister Sarah without any qualms. That was the first strike for me.

The second strike was Sarah using the secret project to get back her ex. Here’s where the morality of the characters come into question. I was confounded by the utter disregard of the characters for all the ethical aspects of this action and ignorance of a concept as important as consent.

Look, if you want to sell a story about characters doing questionable things, at least take some time to justify their actions. But no, for the life of me, I couldn’t understand what was so special about Sarah’s ex that drove her so crazy in love. All the love interests were unimpressive. And where was the hell was the romance that the synopsis promises? The focus was on all the wrong things. I would’ve at least liked the bonding between the sisters, if not for my irritation at the two of them and their absurd stupidity.

This was just a very problematic story with little to offer.


ratings

★☆☆☆☆

Publication Date: 15th August, 2019.
Source: ARC from Publisher (via Netgalley)

Links –  AmazonGoodreads | Kobo

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

★★☆☆☆

ARC REVIEW : DISCRETION

The Riviera means indulgence—if you’ve got money. For Sadie Reynolds, a down-on-her-luck student, the Riviera means dingy hostels and back streets. When a wrong turn puts her in jeopardy, the last thing she expects is to be saved by the most handsome stranger she’s ever locked eyes with. When she later wakes up in a luxury suite with a Mediterranean view, she’s in the tender care of her rescuer: Olivier Dumont, France’s most eligible bachelor, billionaire hotelier, and heir to the Dumont fashion fortune.

Olivier also owns his reputation for scandal. But Sadie is unlike any woman he’s ever met. Her humble persona and wild innocence promise real passion. He’s promising Sadie something too: anything she wants. From Bordeaux to Cannes to Paris, Sadie’s past in America is swept away and replaced with a fantasy too good to be true.

Pulled into Olivier’s orbit of wealth, glamour, and excess, Sadie discovers that the Dumont dynasty comes with a legacy of wicked secrets. And Olivier’s secrets may be the most damning of all…


review

So, there’s a reason I should never wait too long to post a review for a book. I read this one a little more than a week ago and the details are already fuzzy in my head. But in my defense, this one has less to do with my memory and more to do with the story. The book wasn’t half as interesting as the blurb made it out to be.

First things first. I didn’t feel the romance at all.  It was a case of insta-love. But I could forgive insta-love if the build-up from there is written well. Sure, there’s a lot of sex between the main characters. But there was more sex than actual talking and connecting. I’d have loved something simmering within before they actually started doing the dirty. But nothing like that. It goes from zero to hundred pretty fast.

There’s a part where the heroine decides at the last moment to stay back and spend some more time with the hero, a big effing decision. But the way she goes ahead with it, and the way the hero reacts? They might as well have decided to stay back at home instead of going to a party. I did not feel any excitement. If you want to sell the story of a girl being taken on the ride of her life and make some big decisions for the sake of a guy within a few days of meeting him, you don’t rush it like that. You gotta make every moment between the couple count. But it was too rushed.

The whole premise kind of felt stupid to me. How the hero is forced to give up everything because of one ‘discretion’. The prologue made it out to be a momentous thing. But when the whole thing came out, I just found the whole reason stupid. I felt incredulous at the series of things that kept happening. The plot was predictable, suspense element was dull, and villains unconvincing. And that ending just came off as a cop-out. There was no real resolution or closure.

I think ultimately, the story lacked any real meat. There was nothing new about the setup. So it all had to come down to the writing. But the author let me down. I’ve read her books before and I know she can do much better. That’s a big reason I requested the ARC. But this was a forgettable fare by her. Another series I don’t think I’ll continue with.


ratings

★★☆☆☆

Publication Date: 6th August, 2019.
Source: ARC from Publisher (via Netgalley)

Links –  Amazon Goodreads Book Depository

ARC REVIEW : REDESIGNING HAPPINESS


It wasn’t easy for Yvonne Cable to get over a heartbreaking relationship and revamp her life. But now the once-broke single mom is Atlanta’s most sought-after interior designer–and one-half of the media’s hottest power couple. She and her celebrity fianc�, Nathan, are a perfect, practical match, on–and off–camera. And with their new home improvement reality show the object of a fierce network bidding war, there’s no limit to how far they can go . . .

But Yvonne is stunned when mogul Richard Barrington III unexpectedly makes an offer for their program. He’s the man she thought left her for a more successful woman. And he’s the father of her son–though he didn’t know it until now. Richard wants to get to know their boy, and Yvonne agrees, though she’s wary. Yet little by little, she’s finding it hard to resist the responsible, caring man Richard has become. But when a scandalous leak puts everything Yvonne’s worked for at risk, she’ll have to look beyond surfaces to come to terms with who she is–and discover what she truly wants.


review

I have very little to say about this book.

I requested this because I found the whole interior designer bit interesting. And who doesn’t like a good second-chance romance?

Sadly, there was very little on Yvonne’s job as an interior designing. Rather, it was used as some sort of a plot device to set up the romance. But this is a protagonist who’s supposed to be a popular interior designer with a TV show on the pipeline. So I was hoping to see her do more interior designing.

Yvonne’s a single mother engaged to Nathan. But Richard, her ex and the father of her son re-enters the scene and causes complications. For one, he didn’t know he had a son. To make matters worse, Yvonne still has feelings for him.

I’m not someone who actually doesn’t mind the whole trope of ‘guy finding out that he had a child all along’. But only if the writer can actually sell it well. And to sell it well, both the reasoning for him having not known and the aftermath of him knowing about it, should be convincing. The author failed on both parts in this one. I was really underwhelmed by Richard’s interactions with the son after the big revelations.

There were some big twists and secrets come out in the end, all of which turned the story even more unbelievable to me. I also was not sold on the romance. I did not feel any connection between the main couple. There was no organic development.

The ending made it look like there would be a sequel. I’ll take a pass on that.


ratings

★★☆☆☆


Publication Date: 31st July, 2019.
Source: ARC from Publisher (via Netgalley)

Links –  Amazon | Goodreads | Book Depository

BOOK REVIEW : SPIN THE DAWN

 

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.



review

Normally, the word ‘Mulan’ is enough to tempt me to start a book. But then you add ‘Project Runway’ to it? Color me intrigued. Besides Mulan, I could also find elements from stories of ‘Aladdin’ to ‘Spirited Away’. There are other myths explored in this novel, mainly from Chinese origins. I particularly liked the re-imagination of the silk road.

The beginning was promising. I found myself invested in Maia and her family very fast. Her family slowly descends towards its ruins, after she loses her mother, and her brothers to the war. It’s the same war that forces the emperor to marry the enemy’s daughter as a truce. And to please his bride, he arranges a competition for her to choose her master tailor.

Maia’s father is also summoned to participate in the competition or send his son to represent him. But her father is a mere shadow of his former self from a series of emotional loss, and her brother unskilled in the family business. It had long before fallen upon Maia to take on the reins as the main tailor in the family business.

We move to the castle when Maia goes to the castle disguised as her brother, a capital crime. I enjoyed the competition with all the mysteries, the competitors, the politics, and the details of all the dressmaking. I was also torn between feeling sympathy and suspicion towards the princess who’s forced to wed her enemy and does everything in her capacity to delay the wedding. The best part of the book came at the end of the first part where the author totally subverted my expectations by doing the unexpected.

The pace slowed down a lot in the second part, with Maia going on an unimaginable journey in order to collect the materials to make an impossible wedding gown for the future empress. I found my attention wavering from here on. I also could not find myself invested in the romance between Maia and Edan. It’s probably because I just could not find Edan’s whole character arc to be unconvincing from the start. But my loyalty towards Maia remained constant throughout the book. I loved her courage, vulnerabilities and mostly the conviction of following her heart.

Although the pace picked up in the third and final part, and there were some very unpredictable twists, my interest could not be restored to what it was at the beginning.  I also have qualms about how someof the plot unfolded. Some resolutions felt unearned. I’d really like to vent about them but can’t because of the spoilers. But I’m hoping that the second book will give us better explanations to, though. And I’m certainly interested in reading the sequel because of how the book ended.

It’s interesting if you look at my breakdown of rating for the three parts of the book –
5- stars for the first part, 3-stars for the second part, and 4 stars for the third part. Heh.


ratings

★★★★☆