This is a catch up post, but includes all ten books I read in December 2021.
The Paid Bridesmaid, by Sariah Wilson: Rachel runs a bridesmaid-for-hire business, and she’s working on a wedding for a famous Instagram influencer when she finds herself wanting to break one of her cardinal rules of business: never date someone you meet on the job. This was a really fun rom com that shed an interesting light on the bridesmaid-for-hire business as well as what it’s like behind the scenes of influencer events, and I found it well done and not TOO over the top (though some scenes at the end flirted with that line). I thought this was really fun, and exactly what I wanted to take my mind off my own stress and give me a happily ever after 🙂
Donut Fall in Love, by Jackie Lau: In this light rom com, Hollywood megastar Ryan knocks into Lindsay at the bakery she owns, dumping donuts all over the place. It’s a fun meet cute, and I enjoyed seeing the relationship blossom as Ryan ends up asking Lindsay for baking lessons to prep for a reality cooking show. I loved the behind the scenes of the Hollywood world as well as the bakery business (and the intersection between the two), and appreciated that the book touched on some “real” issues (grief / loss, cyberbullying) rather than being too saccharine.
The Devil Wears Black, by L.J. Shen: Maddie is shocked when her ex Chase shows up on her doorstep… and asks her to pretend to be his fiancee, to fulfill his dad’s dying wish. It’s a bizarre plot conceit, and I’m disappointed in Maddie for going along with it, but the characters are really endearing and I found myself rooting for Chase and Maddie to make it work. I loved the banter between the two, and the supporting characters were really lovable too. I read this in two days, and while it wasn’t groundbreaking, it was really fun!
Good Girl Complex, by Elle Kennedy: Mackenzie (Mac) is a wealthy young adult who’s being forced by her parents to go to college, even though she already has a successful career thanks to the multi-million dollar website she launched in high school. She’s expected to graduate, marry her high school boyfriend (from the same upperclass social set), and then spend her time focusing on charity work and being a stay at home wife. Instead, she arrives at college and immediately meets the local bad boy, Cooper, and finds herself drawn to him. This is a fairly predictable romance, but I really enjoyed it nonetheless. I loved the central plot point of a young woman standing up for her independence, and the vivid setting of a coastal college town was a lot of fun.
Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus: This novel takes place in the 1960s, when Elizabeth Zott is a brilliant scientist who isn’t respected at her job simply because she’s a woman (and an unmarried mother at that); she ends up taking on a new job as an afternoon cooking show host on TV, where she defies all the norms and uses the show to empower her female viewers to stand up against the patriarchy by teaching the chemistry of cooking. Elizabeth is incredibly quirky, but her quirks remind me of someone on the autism / Asperger’s spectrum – they seem odd and out of touch, but they’re actually quite logical when you stop to think about them. (For example, her dog is named “Six Thirty” because that’s the time when she adopted him.) I absolutely loved Elizabeth’s personality – she’s an inspiring hero to root for – and my only complaint about the book was that there wasn’t one central plot point to be resolved, so it meandered a little bit. I still found it hard to put down! “Lessons in Chemistry” is quirky, delightful, and an unexpected breath of fresh air – I highly recommend it.
Love Your Life, by Sophie Kinsella: When Ava goes on a writing retreat to get over her ex-boyfriend, she doesn’t expect to fall in love – but she immediately does, with a cute guy who inadvertently joins the retreat as well. It’s all well and good while they’re away from the real world, but then they realize they are both from London – and try to figure out if they can work outside of a vacation. This particular novel didn’t have quite the set-your-common-sense-aside hijinks of Sophie Kinsella’s usual novels (a good thing!), but Ava was a bit over the top in how much of a hot mess she was, and she got on my nerves a little bit. However, it was still a fun and sweet read that made for some good, light distraction reading – and as a bonus, the secondary characters were interesting as well.
The Husbands, by Chandler Baker: This creepy novel is a modern take on The Stepford Wives. Nina is a successful lawyer trying to go up for partner while balancing motherhood and the purchase of a new home, and she finds what seems to be the perfect home in Dynasty Ranch. She’s amazed to find Dynasty Ranch full of women at the top of their careers, and men falling all over themselves to support their wives – but soon starts to think there’s more to this than first meets the eye. While I realize the novel is not supposed to be entirely realistic, I found myself getting really caught up in how far fetched it was, and the many things that didn’t make sense, which made it hard for me to enjoy.
Greenwich Park, by Katherine Faulkner: After years of trying, Helen is pregnant, and on her first day of prenatal classes, she meets Rachel – a single mother-to-be who ignores what people think and does whatever she wants (e.g., drinking wine at the class). Helen is alternately attracted and repelled by Rachel, but the friendship is extremely dysfunctional, and it honestly made me pretty uncomfortable / disappointed with Helen for being so gullible and malleable. Very few of the characters were really likeable, and some (like Daniel, Helen’s husband), were completely flat for most of the book. About a third of the way through, some twists and turns happened, and then things started getting interesting; the second half of the book was much more interesting than the first, where I kind of wanted to just give up. I was glad I stuck with it, but the slow start made it tough to give a good rating, even though I enjoyed the ending.
The Nantucket Beachfront Inn, by Ainsling Delaney: Right when Ava loses her job as a high-powered attorney, she also learns one of her former clients has bequeathed her a house on Nantucket, where her daughter lives, with a stipulation that she must live there herself and can’t sell it for a year. With no other immediate plans, Ava heads out to Sconset to attempt to turn the house into a bed and breakfast, bringing her two best friends with her. I liked this novel, but didn’t love it – the characters and plotlines weren’t quite as well-developed or engrossing as in Elin Hilderbrand’s novels, but the Nantucket setting forced me to make that comparison. It felt like there were too many storylines to follow (ranging from witches, to medical issues, to romance), and I would have preferred a focus on just a few characters and stories. This is supposed to be the first book in a series anyway, so it seemed like a lot more content could have been saved and explored in later books.
The Guncle, by Steven Rowley: Patrick is a movie star whose brother, Greg, is married to his best friend from college, Sara – so it’s extra hard emotionally when Sara dies from cancer. But with Greg going into rehab for a pill addiction, Patrick takes his niece and nephew to his Palm Springs home and learns how to take care of them – with some signature “Guncle” (gay uncle) rules for life. I would describe this as a sweet book, but not particularly compelling. Patrick grows a bit in the book, but his schtick of constantly assuming the kids will understand Hollywood references from decades before they were born goes on far too long. While this had a few witty lines, I didn’t find this to be hilarious, as it’s billed by many others, and only mildly heartwarming. Bit of a miss for me.
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