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

★★★☆

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

★★★☆

WEBTOON REVIEW : CHEESE IN THE TRAP

Author: Sun Kki
Links
: LINE (You can read the webtoon here) |  Goodreads
Publisher: Naver
Genre: Young Adult; Contemporary; Romance; Webtoon; Manhwa; Graphic Novel;


synopsis

 


Having returned to college after a year long break, Hong Sul, a hard-working over-achiever, inadvertently got on the wrong side of a suspiciously perfect senior named Yoo Jung.

From then on her life took a turn for the worse and Sul was almost certain it was all Yoo Jung’s doing.

So why is he suddenly acting so friendly a year later?

 


review

So I’m on a reading spree of Webtoons and Mangas these days. So, for those who don’t know – Webtoons are digital graphic novels/comics in Korea. Sort of like Mangas (Japanese graphic novels/comics) and Manhwas (Korean graphic novels/comics), except you read it online. Interestingly, for reasons beyond my grasp, the volumes are called seasons and chapters are episodes. The webtoon has a total of 4 seasons, and 301 episodes.

A little backstory at first. Cheese in the Trap is perhaps the most popular webtoon till now. So popular in fact that it has both a movie and a drama adaptation. But none of them are as good as the webtoon. The drama aired back when the webtoon had not been completed, and although it had a promising start, it went haywire at the end. (The ending was so horrible that the  backlash was also of massive proportions. I watched the drama and the backlash was truly justified.)

Story

Junior year starts off on a weird note for Seol. A department senior she is wary of is suddenly being very friendly and wants to hang out with her. Jung Yoo is the popular senior that everyone wants to be close with. He’s handsome, rich and polite. A model student, he also happens to be the top of the department, and consequently the original contender for a scholarship that ultimately Seol got. He’s the one person girls want and guys want to be. He’s also extremely generous, always being the one paying for drinks and dinners.

But Seol has seen a side of him unlike anybody else. We see through flashbacks, their first meeting which got them off on a wrong foot, the eventual mishaps that keep happening to Seol. From stalkers to sabotage by jealous classmates, nothing went smooth for Seol in her sophomore year, so much so that she wanted to take a gap-year. While Seol has no evidence that Jung was behind it, her instincts tell her that it was him. Are her instincts right or is it just paranoia?

Narration

The narration of the story does wonders in making it even more compelling. Initially, we only see Seol’s point of view. The juxtaposition of the present timeline and her past is very fascinating. At first, we only see things from her perspective. It’s also interesting because we see Jung being the good Samaritan to Seol in the present time, but then we see his cold side in the past. We are left as confused as Seol. But then we see the same flashbacks from the perspective of other characters and the narrative totally changes. It’s even more fascinating in the later stages of the story when we slowly start to see things from Jung’s eyes.

Characters

The characters are the USP of the story. I have never read such complex, layered set of characters together. Characters that start off as minor or insignificant later turn out to become pivotal to the story. And there are many of them. A number of characters from Jung and Seol’s department play major parts.

The main characters are Seol, Jung and Inho. Make no mistake, this is no love triangle. Inho and his sister Inha are two orphans who were taken in by Jung’s father when they were young. Although, they were friends, somethings happened to sour them. Now, Inho and Jung can’t bear each other’s presence. And Inha has become a gold-digger of sorts, leeching off others.


Inho starts getting close to Seol after he returns to the city and sees her closeness with Jung. He’s childish, short-tempered and impulsive. But he has a good heart. His friendship with Seol was one of my favorite things to read. He has his demons, a broken that put a stop to his hopes of being a pianist. But he’s loyal to fault and protective of Seol.

Seol is an interesting protagonist. When we start off, she’s quiet, reticent and unassertive. She easily lets others walk over her. She also has been neglected by her parents in favor of a younger brother. She is smart, determined, observant and hard-working. But as the story progresses, we see her become assertive and and feisty if not a little manipulative thanks to Jung’s influence.

Jung is the most complex character I’ve ever read. He’s a mystery for 90% of the story. One moment, he makes you go ‘Aww’, and the next moment he creeps you out. You will love him but also be wary of him. I thought for a long time that he might be a sociopath. But as the story progressed, it became even more difficult to catalogue him into a box.

 


The characters that I genuinely adored are Bora and Eun Taek, who are the besties of Seol. They are better friends to her than she is to them. The best part about this webtoon is that the characters are all people we see around us. Even Inha who gives an initial impression of being a manipulative gold digger, has layers and layers of complexity. The depth in the delineation of all the characters – major and minor – makes it one of the best work of fiction I’ve read.

 

Setting

Although the story is set on Korea, it’s as relatable as it can get. Anyone who’s gone to college will be able to connect with the characters and the scenarios. Be it the group assignments, the part-time jobs, the competition or the obnoxious senior who always leeches off others’ hard work or the nerd who feels bitter and unappreciated. We’ve all seen it. While Seol gets a little too much of her end of the short stick, it never for a moment feels over the top.

Romance


The evolution of Jung and Seol’s relationship starts from an uncomfortable friendship, to awkward dating phase to a slower and deeper understanding of each other. I won’t deny that there were some instances that I felt that there were toxic elements in their relationship. But those were sort of addressed.  And I liked that while their relationship is a major storyline, it is not always at the forefront. It always comes down to the growth of Seol, Jung, Inho and all the other characters. I also like that there was no tangible love triangle, even though there were shipping wars.

A special mention for Eun Taek and Bora, who have the most adorable romance!

Art

Art is an important component of any graphic fiction. The art is beautiful here too. While it can be a little cartoonist with the expressions at first, but it gets better as the webtoon progresses. The maturity of the characters is visible through the art too as much as the story. I also like how each character has its own features. I’ve read mangas where most characters are drawn with same features, just different hairstyles. But every character has their own unique style. And I appreciated that.

Ending

There are so many arcs in the story which make you want to pull your hair in frustration. But they always culminate on a satisfying note. The ending of the whole story was also very satisfying. Almost every character gets a satisfying resolution.

Hello! Still with me?

I won’t be surprised if you skimmed through my review. It’s LONG, I know. But we’re talking about a 300-episode long webtoon here! All I can say is whoever starts it will have a hard time leaving it incomplete. It’s addictive as hell. Strongly recommended.


ratings

★★

BOOK REVIEW : THE TWO LIVES OF LYDIA BIRD

Author: Josie Silver
Links
: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Contemporary; Women’s fiction; Chick Lit: Romance
Release Date: January 1st 2020.


synopsis

Lydia Bird is living a happy, normal little life–she has a good job, a wonderful fiancé, Freddie, and the usual daily dramas of buying groceries and being in a relationship. And then everything stops: Freddie is killed in a car crash on his way to pick up his best friend, Jonas. Her world bottoms out.

Lydia retreats from the company of her sister, her mother, and from Jonas, the only other person who understands her loss. Alone and adrift, she seeks a small amount of solace in the sleeping pills her doctor prescribes for her, which give her relief in the form of abnormally deep sleep. But they also come with an increasingly complicated gift: Whenever she takes a pill, she emerges in another world. A world in which Freddie is still alive.

And so Lydia returns again and again to the doorway of her past, living two lives, impossibly, at once. In one, her relationship with Freddie and her friendship with Jonas move along as scheduled, and in the other, that same friendship begins to become something else, something very unexpected and yet thrillingly familiar.

Written with Josie Silver’s trademark warmth and wit, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird is a powerful love story, by turns joyous and devastating, about the questions of fate and chance that we find at life’s crossroads, and what happens when one woman is given the painful, miraculous chance to answer them.


review

Josie Silver remains a frustrating author just as she was in her debut One Day in December. That does not mean I did not like The Two Lives of Lydia Bird. Rather, I liked it very much so. But it suffers from the same problems as her first novel, if not more. Here’s my two cents the book.

 

The beginning is slow and sluggish

I struggled a lot when going through the beginning of the book. I was very close to DNF-ing. So I skimmed through much of it until a part came that did manage to grab my interest. The writing could have been better at first. I’ve read books where tragedy strikes very early in the book, and even then it is no less impactful. Maybe if we had seen a sweet scene between Freddie and Lydia right at the start, things would have been different. But here the death of Freddie wasn’t impactful. It did not keep me glued to the pages. Instead, the pacing suffered even more. Nothing happens for a long time.

Did Lydia really need an alternate life arc?

Although it does not start in a promising note, Lydia’s journey was beautiful to read. It was stirring to see her find her way through grief. But when she starts to take prescription medicine for sleeping during which she lives an alternate life with Freddie in it, one question kept recurring in my head – ‘Why? Why is this happening?’ I kept wondering what the purpose of this whole alternate life arc was. Is this for her healing? Couldn’t she heal all by herself without it? And as the story progresses, I could see events in this alternate life did affect her feelings and actions in the present tense.

By the end I still could not understand why this ‘alternate life arc’ was introduced. Sure, it did accelerate her healing process, but couldn’t she have done all this by herself? There is this particular event in the alternate life that is jarring for Lydia because it’s ugly, totally unlike the sweet escape that she expects to experience with the help of sleeping. I felt it was a lazily convenient approach to bring her to an epiphany about. I would have preferred an alternate version of this book without the parallel life arc where Lydia achieves the same things without that crutch, and we get a little more insight into the other characters.

Josie Silver sucks at endings and payoffs

Right now, I also want an alternate ending that is not abrupt. Yes, you read that right. Josie Silver yet again delivered an unsatisfying and abrupt ending to her book. Okay, not completely unsatisfying, because the final scene did give me butterflies. But the butterflies died a fast death at the abrupt ending. What would it take for her to give us an epilogue?

Romance? What romance?

The romance or what little there was of it was not satisfying. It was poignant and beautiful. But not satisfactory. I wouldn’t even call it a romance. It’s a love story between two friends and is more about them coming to terms with an unimaginable loss individually and together. I don’t want to give a spoiler even though it’s clear from the very beginning who’s the love interest. But we don’t see enough of him in my opinion. I loved him and longed for a deeper insight into his character. His point of view would have done wonders for me! Yet, I understand that this was Lydia’s journey. I rooted for her. I cheered for her. And I deserved a better payoff!


ratings

★★★☆☆

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 : YES NO MAYBE SO

Author: Becky Albertalli & Aisha Saeed
Links
: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository .
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: Young Adult ; Contemporary; Romance.
Release Date: February 4th 2020.


synopsis

New York Times bestselling authors Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed have crafted a resonant, funny, and memorable story about the power of love and resistance.

YES
Jamie Goldberg is cool with volunteering for his local state senate candidate—as long as he’s behind the scenes. When it comes to speaking to strangers (or, let’s face it, speaking at all to almost anyone), Jamie’s a choke artist. There’s no way he’d ever knock on doors to ask people for their votes…until he meets Maya.

NO
Maya Rehman’s having the worst Ramadan ever. Her best friend is too busy to hang out, her summer trip is canceled, and now her parents are separating. Why her mother thinks the solution to her problems is political canvassing—with some awkward dude she hardly knows—is beyond her.

MAYBE SO
Going door to door isn’t exactly glamorous, but maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world. After all, the polls are getting closer—and so are Maya and Jamie. Mastering local activism is one thing. Navigating the cross-cultural romance of the century is another thing entirely.


review

This is my first read of a book by both the authors. 3 things exciting me about the book are:

  1. Becky Albertalli, an author I’ve been meaning to read for some time now
  2. The cover
  3. A Muslim protagonist and the backdrop of Ramadan!

I was pleased to discover within the first few pages that the hero is Jewish. And the ethnicity of the both the characters play a large role in how the story plays out.

It’s a very political story. And it has to be because the story hinges on how politics affects the characters. There is a important message here too. That politics is everywhere around us, and everyone has a role to play.

Let’s talk about what what I liked about the book first :

Character evolution
I read a review about how expectations keep being subverted in the book. That couldn’t be truer. In more than one instance, both Jamie and Maya offend each other with their insensitivity and unawareness about the other’s life. James keeps making assumptions about Maya’s fasting in Ramadan, and she makes ill-judgements about his campaign.  There’s also the struggle they go through as minorities which is undermined by others, being nonchalantly told to ‘let it go’. It was beautiful to see both Jamie and Maya grow sensible about how everything they do carry bigger implications.

Realistic themes
Maya starts off political canvassing for selfish reasons after her mother promises her a car in return for this. But when she slowly learns about the intricacies and implications of the policy mandates of each of the candidates, and how it could personally affect her.  How relatable is that? People don’t simply care until they’re directly affected. Maya realizes that in politics it’s always about the lesser of two evils. Then there is the frustration and helplessness they feel because they are not of age to vote; while there are people around them who feel that voting is wasteful because no candidate is perfect. Little things like this rang so true to real life!

Now, on to things I disliked :

Romance
The personal equation between Jamie and Maya is perfectly reflected in that cover image. Their relationship slowly evolves from wary and shy acquaintances to close friends. Jamie is quiet and shy, with stage fright, even though he wants to join politics. Maya is outspoken and bolder, going through a personal crisis when her parents announce separation. While I liked their friendship, I could not grow fond of them as individual characters and the romance. A huge part of me wanted them to remain platonic friends. I don’t know why that is honestly.

Characters
I thought I’d be able to relate to Maya. But the book subverted my expectations with that too. She was a little too much of a teenager for my tolerance level. There was a some serious immaturity and self-righteousness going on there. I know where that is coming from. She’s a teenager, with family crisis. But tried as I might, I could not connect to her.  While I liked Jamie, I could not love him.

Writing
While the story deals with important themes, it could do with a stronger plot. The pacing was sluggish. I particularly struggled through the beginning. With a little better execution, this book could have been one of my favorite reads of the year. But it somehow misses the mark. I think I could not connect to the writing process.

This is honestly an otherwise 3-star read for me. But I am giving it an extra star because of the important message it carries.


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

★★★★☆

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 : 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
★★★★★