New to me author and getting a life

I have surprised myself in that I have managed to read yet another novel! What is this new life of mine? I’m liking how being liberated from being a student feels. Unemployed for the while, I am listening to podcasts, reading, watching TV and attempting to clean the house. Reading is still super-slow as I had a whole lot of administrative things to do around the thesis as well as finally sinking my teeth into some research that I have had on hold for a while (now to get some funding!). Meanwhile, it’s SuperWendy’s TBR challenge once again and this month’s theme is a new-to-me author and as is my usual way – there are some vague spoilers.

Book: Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

Blurb: Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?

• Enjoy a drunken night out.
• Ride a motorcycle.
• Go camping.
• Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
• Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
• And… do something bad.

But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.

Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.

But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…

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The Prenup: a happy read

It has been several years since I have felt motivated to read novels back to back. Yet here I am, finally with two books in one week! Time for cake! I want to point out before I go any further that 1. I absolutely loved reading this book and 2. SPOILERS ABOUND. If you hate spoilers (’cause these ones are not subtle), maybe just bookmark this post and come back once you too have read the book.

The cover of The Prenup includes a byline "Love wasn't part of the deal"

Book: The Prenup by Lauren Layne

Blurb: 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…

How did I find this book: I loved Lauren Layne’s The Walk of Shame so I went searching for her and borrowed her only two books my library held.

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Love Lettering and Comfort Reading

Having barely read for pleasure in 2020, I wanted to start 2021 by reading in my favourite genre as well as take part in SuperWendy’s TBR challenge with this month’s theme being Comfort Reads. New Year reverting to old readerly me! I do want to point out that this review has a MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!

Book: Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn

Book cover for Love Lettering

Blurb: Meg Mackworth’s hand-lettering skill has made her famous as the Planner of Park Slope, designing beautiful custom journals for New York City’s elite. She has another skill too: reading signs that other people miss. Like the time she sat across from Reid Sutherland and his gorgeous fiancée, and knew their upcoming marriage was doomed to fail. Weaving a secret word into their wedding program was a little unprofessional, but she was sure no one else would spot it. She hadn’t counted on sharp-eyed, pattern-obsessed Reid . .. A year later, Reid has tracked Meg down to find out—before he leaves New York for good—how she knew that his meticulously planned future was about to implode. But with a looming deadline, a fractured friendship, and a bad case of creative block, Meg doesn’t have time for Reid’s questions—unless he can help her find her missing inspiration. As they gradually open up to each other about their lives, work, and regrets, both try to ignore the fact that their unlikely connection is growing deeper. But the signs are there—irresistible, indisputable, urging Meg to heed the messages Reid is sending her, before it’s too late …

How did I find this book: Twitter conversations

Meet Cute: Meg did the calligraphy for Reid and his former fiancee’s wedding invitations. They met when he turned up to approve the design. Their own story starts a year after this event, with Reid approaching Meg to ask why she encrypted the message “Mistake” into the invite. Meg doesn’t really have an answer to this but when Reid tells her that he is leaving New York City because he hates it, she feels that she needs to show him the New York she loves so he can understand the city better.

This inexplicable and kinda weird insistence for Reid to see the beauty of New York City left me feeling confused and I kept reading back over her proposal to find hand written signs across the city to try to understand 1) what’s in it for her and 2) what’s in it for him. I just couldn’t work it out or why he would agree to take part. But this doesn’t really matter because what happens next were these lovely walks through New York City, part game and part tour, where Meg and Reid searching for hand-drawn signs and colours and letters. These regular rendezvous allowed them to build a relationship where they talked and had fun searching for the textual rhythms of the city. These walks were incredibly endearing and were instrumental in revealing Meg and Reid’s selves to each other. These walks become the backdrop to Meg’s relationships with her friends,  employers and clients, and Meg hopes that they help her to resolve her artistic block that was keeping her from meeting her work commitments. I liked the way their walking builds up to Meg and Reid’s friendship, and then builds up to Meg and Reid’s intimacy where they both revealed their vulnerabilities. I especially like that when they realised that they were going to be having sex, their is a long break involving walking and catching transport with “no self-respecting New Yorker PDAs on the subway” intimating their restraint until they reached his apartment. The walking allowing them space for reflection and thought, a way for consent to be reached through the clarity that time and thinking while walking can give you, and the loveliness of walking through their city to their amatory destiny.

Meg’s problem however is that she is a not a confrontationist. She would rather friendships and relationships peter out than confront problems and grapple with possible arguments or fights that need to be resolved. Throughout the book, this becomes a major issue which she needs to overcome with her best-friend Sibby and then with Reid too. She slowly builds up to being able to argue with them and resolving these arguments. Which was fine. It was lovely. It showed care. But it made me a tad bored. Not bored enough to stop reading, but still, bored.

And then the very odd end of the book happened when all of a sudden, instead of reading a romance (THIS PART IS THE SPOILER)…. I’m reading a fraud case, and Reid is an informant (still waters run deep!) and is now in witness protection, and Meg has to decode coordinates??? Just. Really? Why did this just happen? I feel confused again. I feel cheated. I know that I was bored in parts but this wasn’t a change of pace as much as a change of book. So this was a romantic suspense novel and I didn’t even realise it. Switch and bait. I grumbled, I did. This ending really annoyed the shit out of me because of this. It felt fabricated and orchestrated due to not enough tensions being available in the relationship. I don’t mind a story that goes from no drama to high drama in a flash but it felt out of kilter with this particular story and its conciliatory strengths.

I do want to point out one that I stuck with the book because it was beautifully written. The turn of phrase, the loveliness of the narrative. The lettering and planner details gave a rich experience of the text, and though I personally don’t pay lots of attention to details (I just buy whatever is on offer), their description in this book kept me engaged. I also absolutely adored the city walking. I am an urban bunny, I cannot bear bushwalking as I find nature rather boring (oh look – there’s a tree. And just beyond it another tree just like it). I’m glad nature exists and all, but I’m happy to protect it by not going to it. In the city though, the thrill of noises and sirens, the smells, and the crowds (this books is written in a pre-Covid world). Ah! I just loved the city as character in this book and it worked its magic on me.

Will they last: I’m undecided on this one. Do I think that Meg and Reid have a relationship that they can sustain for all their lives – Yes. Do I think that Reid can live 25/40/60 years in a city he once hated? I’m unsure. Which is the whole crux of their relationship. Meg loves the city and somehow Reid claims that he now loves it too because he saw it through her eyes but I remain unconvinced. No doubt they love each other. But I doubt Reid loves NYC. They’re really going to have to think carefully about which neighbourhood they choose to live in if they want to ensure that city living doesn’t become their insurmountable problem.

Feelings: Overwhelmingly though, this book was heavy with sadness. Both Reid and Meg carry their worries on the page. From Meg’s inability to vocalise her problems to Reid’s skin flares making it impossible to hide the stress he wished he could internalise. Though there are some funny exchanges and witty repartee, sadness was stronger in this book as an emotion. And perhaps this is why I did not enjoy the book as much as I would have wanted. With the sadness of living in plague times, with the political zeitgeist being one of oppression and obfuscation across the world, and all the other usual personal problems I carry in my soul, I was really wanting a lighter book to read. I needed a light breeze and Love Lettering was certainly not that for me. Would I recommend it to others? Yes. But it definitely was not the right book for me. I sought a comfort read but I didn’t find comfort.

This book was borrowed from a NSW public library.

The Wedding Date: Same(ish) titles; different books

I was a slacker last year for the TBR Challenge and only posted the one time. This year, I plan to post monthly even if my posts are short. So seeing that the topic for January is We Love Short Shorts  I have added two short(ish) reviews rich with spoilers of two books with The Wedding Date  in their title for my first SuperWendy 2019 TBR Challenge.

2 people standing on either side of a door.The Wedding Date Bargain by Mira Lyn Kelly

When Sarah Cole finds herself in Chicago with two months to kill before her New York promotion goes through, she decides it’s time to take care of a few things—like the inconvenient issue of her virginity. Sarah knows the right guy for the job too: Max, the notorious lady’s man she’s been crushing on since college.

Max Brandt is all for a fling, just not with Sarah. She’s way too good for him. He walked away from her once, but it wasn’t easy.

Things are different now, and the plan is so simple. There’s no way either of them would do something as silly as fall in love…

I read/listened to this book 2 months ago. It was pleasant but infinitely forgettable. I can’t remember that much about the plot (other than what is outlined in the blurb above). It was very much a “The one that got away” plotline with the heroine regretting not having her chance at the hero long ago. She makes a decision to sleep with him before she leaves Chicago for a job in New York. There is a whole lot of navel gazing with questions of “should I” , “do I”, “does my career matter or love matter” etc etc. Continue reading

One Big Huge TBR 2018 post

I have had a shockingly bad year in the review stakes. And I haven’t posted a single time for SuperWendy’s TBR challenge for 2018. And I think the only way I will be able to get back in her TBR good books so as to take part in TBR 2019 is to do one big TBR post to cover the whole of 2018. So here goes!

January 17 – We Love Short Shorts! (shorter reads)

This is not necessarily a romance, however it is about the love and broken hearts and breakups and wonderful couples separated due to someone dying. The Museum of Broken Relationships: Modern Love in 203 Everyday Objects by Olinka Vistica and Drazen Grubisic. Using one of my favourite writing styles, the epistolary nature of this book with a few pages and photographs of objects held now at two permanent museums – on in Zagreb, Croatia and one in Los Angeles, California. There is also a touring collection. I adored this book. And I really hope that there is a sequel for unbroken relationships.

February 21 – Backlist Glom (author with multiple books in your TBR)

Molly O'Keefe covers with naked headless men showing pecs and abs.

Molly O’Keefe’ You Can’t Hurry Love and You Can’t Buy Me Love

I adore Molly O’Keefe but I rarely stumble upon her books so when I do find them, I read them straightaway. Though I don’t consider 2 books a glom, I am sneaking O’Keefe in here.

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Rome and a cracking romance novel

I adore Mediterranean holiday romance fiction (oh the absolute joy of rewatching Come Semptember or Gidget goes to Rome) and I really enjoyed Alice Clayton’s Wallbanger (the sole novel – I ignored the rest of the series) so when I saw Roman Crazy  on the New Book display stand at the library, it was an auto borrow. To add to that, the cover art is all levels of awesomeness. This mashup of chick-lit (meh), Sex in the City lit (bleh) and romance (yeah) worked on many levels for me though there is some nitpicking to be had. But first, the blurb:

Roman Crazy by Alice Clayton and Nina BocciRoman Crazy by Alice Clayton and Nina Bocci

Avery Bardot steps off the plane in Rome, looking for a fresh start. She’s left behind a soon-to-be ex-husband in Boston and plans to spend the summer with her best friend Daisy, licking her wounds—and perhaps a gelato or two. But when her American-expat friend throws her a welcome party on her first night, Avery’s thrown for a loop when she sees a man she never thought she’d see again: Italian architect Marcello Bianchi.

Marcello was the man—the one who got away. And now her past is colliding with her present, a present where she should be mourning the loss of her marriage and—hey, that fettuccine is delicious! And so is Marcello…

Slipping easily into the good life of summertime in Rome, Avery spends her days exploring a city that makes art historians swoon, and her nights swooning over her unexpected what was old is new again romance. It’s heady, it’s fevered, it’s wanton, and it’s crazy. But could this really be her new life? Or is it just a temporary reprieve before returning to the land of twin-set cardigans and crustless sandwiches?

So the book opens with Avery discovering her husband Daniel “balls deep” in his secretary. Despite an intervention by Daniel’s mother for her to just accept his infidelity, Avery chooses to no longer be a part of the twin-set-and-pearls-country-club-set and flies off to Rome to hide out in her best friend’s apartment. Continue reading

I wish I liked Rachel Gibson’s latest book

I loved Rachel Gibson’s writing when I first discovered her. At one point I binge read 15 of her books in the one short month. I loved her tone and voice so much that, despite her last 3 books feeling flat, I continue to read her novels just to refind that magic reading feeling. This novel was slightly better than the last lot I read, however, I still had certain aspects that I found unlikeable in this story… but first, let’s start with the (problematic) blurb:

Rachel Gibson Just Kiss me

Just Kiss Me

by Rachel Gibson

“Hello, Ms. Vivian . . . it’s been a long time.”

And with those words, Vivian Leigh Rochet nearly melted. It’s been years since she last saw Harrison Whitley-Shuler. She was a teenager scrubbing houses for a living. He was the gorgeous son of rich parents, not fit for the likes of her.

Vivian had vowed to get out of Charleston, become a big Hollywood star, and stick it to the snooty girls who made her cry.

She got what she wanted—and more—but why does her glamorous life seem so trivial?

Harrison got out too . . . making it all the way to Wall Street, until a heart attack forced him to trade in his cufflinks for a good set of hand tools.

Making furniture soothes his soul, but escaping the Whitley-Shuler heritage is nearly impossible. And now he’s come face-to-face with the one who got away. He’s not looking for love. He’s not even looking for sex . . . so why is resisting her the hardest thing he’s ever done?

A rose by any other name…

So yeah. I start reading the (print) book and there is no Harrison. Nope. Not even a Harry. The hero in this book is a Henry. Sure. The first letter is an H but at no stage is he called/revealed to be a Harrison. Continue reading

Wildflower Bay

This month’s SuperWendy’s TBR challenge is for a random pick. I read Rachael Lucas’s Wildflower Bay. Firstly, here is the blurb and be warned that I discuss spoilers beyond it including my opinion of the love declaration:

Wildflower Bay by Rachael LucasThis little island has some big secrets…

Isla’s got her dream job as head stylist at the most exclusive salon in Edinburgh. The fact that she’s been so single-minded in her career that she’s forgotten to have a life has completely passed her by – until disaster strikes.

Out of options, she heads to the remote island of Auchenmor to help out her aunt who is in desperate need of an extra pair of scissors at her salon.

A native to the island, Finn is thirty-five and reality has just hit him hard. His best friends are about to have a baby and everything is changing. When into his life walks Isla . . .

Earlier in the year, I read both Rachael Lucas’s Sealed With a Kiss and Coming up Roses. Neither book set the world on fire for me in the romance corner but I did enjoy the overall stories. Her books are romances but they lean heavily toward the community and friendship, Aga-saga, small-town/village stories. Continue reading

ShallowreaderBingo! August edition!

It’s the end of August and for the THIRD time this year, Willaful from A Willful Woman has won the Bingo call! Woooooot! There was some fierce competition this month so a big congrats to all who have played and to a whole lot of new players this month too! Yay to more Bingo players! For a few tasters Valancy and Keira Soleore already have awesome reading wrap ups for this month.

Jim Carrey running around like a madman hugging audience members

As for my own Bingo! reading this month…..

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I blame it on the name

So I have been trying to read a book called Tribal Law whose heroine is named Vassiliki Verity. I am not on an ego trip when I claim that this character is named for me. She is. I know this because I was told by both the author and Kat Mayo of Bookthingo.

Tribal Law by Shannon B. CurtisSo here is the story: Tribal Law is a crowdsourced story. Author Shannon B Curtis (full disclosure: Shannon and I have twittered together, supped together and presented on a panel at a library event together so are on pretty friendly terms) wrote a story whose plot and main characters were given to her by members of the Australian Romance Readers Association (another full disclosure: I am not a member of ARRA though I have attended all their conventions to date). There was a big meeting, I was told it was rather raucous and fun and I was also told that Kat Mayo – friend, borrower and romance reading mastermind – insisted that the heroine be named for me. Because she loves me. Or should that be loves torturing me.

I am up to Chapter 7 of this book and though it is well-written, interesting and funny I just cannot continue (at least at this point) because  of the heroine being called Vassiliki and there are sex scenes and I just can’t stay in the story because I keep seeing my own name and I have no idea how all you “normal” named people can cope with reading books where you constantly see your own names.

Especially when I see the phrases such as “Vassiliki is a vamp” before my eyes.

I purchased my own copy of Tribal Law.

PS This book has a hatchback driving hero. I will return to read it just for this one reason!