Review// People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

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Author: Emily Henry
Series: Standalone
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: May 11, 2021
Book Length: 364
Publisher: Berkley Books
Review: 4/5

My Review:

I was today years old when I realized that the best friends to lovers trope is actually top tier and I’ve been missing out on it for years.

Poppy and Alex have been best friends since College. Every year, they take a summer vacation together, until one year something unbeknownst to the reader happens that causes them to drift apart and stop their trips. This year, however, Poppy has a plan to save their friendship with one last getaway for old times sake. Will it be like nothing has changed, or is it better to have let the past be the past?

This was like if Gordo and Lizzie had the spin off they deserved after the Lizzie McGuire Movie, including more trips together, minus Ms. Ungermeyer. At the beginning, I loved it and could not put it down; when I did put it down, it’s all I could think about. What initially drew me in was that Alex loves to read and he seems like a total nerd – and what can I say, I think being nerdy is hot. From the very first few pages where he was described as sitting at a bar reading a book, I knew I was going to be hooked. Their dynamic was fun too because they were sort of opposites in that Poppy was more free spirited, go with the flow, while Alex was more by the books, and I thought their personalities played off of each other well.

However, if there was one thing that I wasn’t a big fan of, it was near the end when there was a little bit of miscommunication between the two that turned into the most unnecessary argument. By that point, it was really obvious they liked each other, and I feel like that immaturity was just inserted in the story just for the sake of it rather than actually needing to be there. That was a really minor thing for me though; other than that, I thought the story was fun and hard to put down!

This was a really good read to get me into that summer vacation vibe without actually having to take a vacation, and I’m happy I found a new trope that I enjoy too! Emily Henry is my next new auto-buy author after how much I enjoyed this one.

– Catherine

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Review// You Love Me by Caroline Kepnes

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Author: Caroline Kepnes
Series: You #3
Genre: Thriller
Release Date: April 6, 2021
Book Length: 385
Publisher: Random House
Review: 1/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Joe is done with the cities. He’s done with the muck and the posers, done with Love. Now, he’s saying hello to nature, to simple pleasures on a cozy island in the Pacific Northwest. For the first time in a long time, he can just breathe.

He gets a job at the local library—he does know a thing or two about books—and that’s where he meets her: Mary Kay DiMarco. Librarian. Joe won’t meddle; he will not obsess. He’ll win her the old-fashioned way: by providing a shoulder to cry on, a helping hand. Over time, they’ll both heal their wounds and begin their happily ever after in this sleepy town.

The trouble is, Mary Kay already has a life. She’s a mother. She’s a friend. She’s busy.

True love can only triumph if both people are willing to make room for the real thing. Joe cleared his decks. He’s ready. And hopefully, with his encouragement and undying support, Mary Kay will do the right thing and make room for him.

My Review:

If I could sum this book up in one word, it would be: disappointing, which actually shocks me because You is on my favourites shelf, and I enjoyed Hidden Bodies too. But oh boy, this was Not It™.

Joe was insufferable in this book. Between his “Meercats”, “Murakami’s”, “Mothballs” “RIPs”, and “Rats”, I wanted to pull my hair out. Just call people by their regular names, please. It felt like he was going around in circles bringing up the same made-up nicknames for people and things and its like we get it! The first few times it was okay, but it kept happening in literally every chapter and it really irked me; it did not seem authentic, it just seemed like he was trying way too hard.

In the other 2 books, but especially You, I loved being inside Joe’s mind. I thought his character was so well written that I actually wanted him to kill Beck, and Love, and Peach, and everybody else who crossed his path (I know, it sounds bad), but this time, I didn’t – I just wanted him to stop talking. What made him such a good character to me was that he had this affect on me before where I knew he was a bad guy, but I somehow still wanted him to succeed, and that was not the case here. I just felt annoyed the entire time and I’m honestly so sad about it!

Also, the way he and Mary Kay met and were instantly in love felt so random and forced upon the reader. I guess I’m just used to Joe kind of chasing the woman a bit, like a cat and mouse game, but there was none of that suspense involved in their meet. It was kind of just like, ‘well, she’s married so I guess I have to convince her to not have any morals about this affair I’m trying to get her into’. However, I hated how hot and cold she was too – honestly just make up your mind already! And do not get me started on Melanda. Not only did her dialogue annoy the heck out of me, but the way he was texting from her phone gave me second-hand embarrassment; it felt extremely animated, as if he were trying to type like a 16-year-old girl, even though she’s probably like a 30-something year old woman. Her dialogue made me think she was in her 50s, his texting pretending to be her made me think she was 16; it was so strange.

Anyway, as upset as I feel to have to say this, I think it might be time for me to retire Joe and his narrative from my rotation of insta-pickups; I just can’t take another one like this, and I would rather not continue to taint the image of one of my favourite books by reading something that I’m no longer enjoying the direction of.

– Catherine

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Review// Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Series: Standalone
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: May 27, 2021
Book Length: 384
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Review: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Four famous siblings throw an epic party to celebrate the end of the summer. But over the course of twenty-four hours, their lives will change forever.

Malibu: August, 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together, the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over—especially as the offspring of the legendary singer, Mick Riva.

The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud—because it is long past time to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth.

Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there.

And Kit has a couple secrets of her own—including a guest she invited without consulting anyone.

By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come bubbling to the surface.

Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them… and what they will leave behind. 

My Review:

I have always had reliable experiences with Taylor Jenkins Reid’s work, and this book solidified why. In pursuit of a perfect novel, the main thing I look for are quality characters, and TJR consistently delivers on that front.

That being said, it’s hard to rate this book when you compare it to The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, or Daisy Jones and the Six, because while in my opinion it was amazing at face value, there was something missing here in comparison that I can’t quite put my finger on. With the other two, I felt like the barrier between fiction and reality blurred, and I almost found myself searching for the characters in real life because they felt so believable to me; I just needed more of them. In Malibu Rising, I still felt the barrier I usually feel when I’m reading a book but not quite a part of it. And while there is nothing wrong with that, and I think it’s quite normal, it’s just so hard to properly rate the book for what it is without unfairly comparing. Plainly speaking, is this my favourite book by this author? No. Is this an great book for what it is? Yes.

Nina was my favourite character by a landslide; she exudes first born daughter energy if I’ve ever seen it, and I can relate to that. Her character development by the end was something I didn’t really expect, but I enjoyed the direction it took. I really liked the other Riva siblings too, and I was so invested in each of their dramas and points of view. I also loved the back and forth timelines between their parents childhood’s to theirs, and each hour leading up to and during the party; it kind of gave me a sense of why each sibling turned out to be how they were in adulthood, and I liked how that built the characters from the ground up.

I really enjoyed this book; it made me feel like I was on the beach in 70s/80s Malibu. If you’re looking for the perfect summer beach read, add this to your list!

– Catherine

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Review// A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

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Author: Fredrik Backman
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Book Length: 339 pages 
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Review: 5/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

My Review:

This book!!! It has had me on the verge of tears 98% of the time, my heart was being broken and mended about a thousand times over from beginning to end, and I had to put the book down and gather my thoughts more times than I have with any other book. I loved this – and if there was a word more powerful than love, that would be how I felt about it.

The book is about a grumpy old man, or at least, that’s the impression you get at the beginning. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like Ove back then, but slowly he grew on me. Ove had a lot of traumatic things happen to him in his life, and a lot of sad loss, and when I understood his past, I sympathized a lot more with him.

Six months prior to the start of the book, Ove’s wife passed away, and as you go through the story, you realize she is the most important person in the world to him, and the only person he really has a soft spot for. At the beginning of the book, Ove has a plan to kill himself because he wants to be back with his wife, but then he meets his new neighbors – Parvaneh and Patrick, along with their two young daughters – who, day-by-day unbeknownst to them, and among other strangers he befriends, keep giving him reasons to live.

This is about friends turning to family and how to cope with the grief that comes from loss. It is honestly one of the most touching books I’ve ever read, and I highly recommend it.

– Catherine

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Review// Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

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Author: Akwaeke Emezi
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: February 13, 2018
Book Length: 229 pages 
Publisher: Grove Press
Review: 4/5

My Review:

This is definitely one of the more interesting books I’ve read this year, and not only did I enjoy it in general, but I learned a lot while doing so.

Freshwater is about a girl named Ada born in Nigeria. In Igbo traditional belief, Ada is an ogbanje – a spirit child who dies and reincarnates over and over to the same parents, often causing them a lot of grief and trouble.

However, Ada does not die as a child, but makes it through to adulthood, though it is not without behaviour – self destructive or otherwise – which allows her to flirt with death: turbulent, mentally and physically abusive relationships; self harm; suicide attempts; an eating disorder; and binge drinking to name a few.

The trauma Ada faces awakens an ogbanje which she names Asughara. Asughara takes over most of the narration after Ada finds out she is being sexually assaulted by her boyfriend in her sleep. Though at times, Asughara insists that they are protecting Ada, they are also the driving force for many future self-destructive decisions Ada makes. Another spirit within Ada, Saint Vincent, encourages her to date women and explore her non-binary identity. It is very difficult for Ada to focus in on which ogbanje she should listen to, because they are often swaying her in different directions.

This was a great book about self discovery; it was very well written and thought provoking, and I can not recommend it enough.

– Catherine

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