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Sarah’s Book Review
Romance Trope: Enemies to Lovers
Spice Level: There is at least one VERY spicy chapter. And then maybe a few scenes after that. I did squirm a little over her descriptions, but I think if you wanted to skip you could and not miss much. Although, I think it is very well balanced!
Ali Hazelwood writes romantic STEM novels where the main character is a woman with a career in STEM. I think I liked this book more than her others because I loved getting to see what working a career in academia was like. I even cried at one point because I was so frustrated with what the main character went through. As will all of Ali’s novels, there is still the weird tiny. main character and huge love interest. Page after page of metaphors of how big and tall the love interest is. It was different than her other two novels and I did like the story, so I still rated it highly.
Official book summary:
The many lives of theoretical physicist Elsie Hannaway have finally caught up with her. By day, she’s an adjunct professor, toiling away at grading labs and teaching thermodynamics in the hopes of landing tenure. By other day, Elsie makes up for her non-existent paycheck by offering her services as a fake girlfriend, tapping into her expertly honed people-pleasing skills to embody whichever version of herself the client needs.
Honestly, it’s a pretty sweet gig—until her carefully constructed Elsie-verse comes crashing down. Because Jack Smith, the annoyingly attractive and arrogant older brother of her favorite client, turns out to be the cold-hearted experimental physicist who ruined her mentor’s career and undermined the reputation of theorists everywhere. And he’s the same Jack Smith who rules over the physics department at MIT, standing right between Elsie and her dream job.
Elsie is prepared for an all-out war of scholarly sabotage but…those long, penetrating looks? Not having to be anything other than her true self when she’s with him? Will falling into an experimentalist’s orbit finally tempt her to put her most guarded theories on love into practice?
Sarah’s book review
Romance trope: Instant love connection/Re-connection
Spice Level: There are a few spicy scenes that do get graphic, but not in a smut kind of way.
I listened to Fortune’s last book, Every Summer After. with Missy in the car after our flight was cancelled from Savannah so we drove home. I remember not really loving it because the main character annoyed me and made dumb decisions. But I liked the love interest.
In Meet Me at the Lake, Fern, the main character, is dealing with the recent and unexpected death of her mom, the manager of a lake resort in Canada. It is explained several times it is like the resort in “Dirty Dancing,” which did help me picture the setting better. The problem with the book for me is Fern. I did not like her that much. I also did not love Will. And I generally do not love “instant love connection stories.” I listened to the book at 1.7x speed because I just did not care that much. It took me a solid three weeks to finish, because I would forget about it. I think it was too long or something. I think the saving grace for me was that we learn more about her late mom through reading her journal entries. Honestly, I was much more interested in that.
I ended up finishing because I am behind in my Goodreads Reading challenge for the year, but not sure I would have finished if it were not for that. It just wasn’t for me. However, Fortune did a great job setting up the resort. I pictured it perfectly in my head and wanted to visit.
Happy Place by Emily Henry – Audiobook
Romance trope: Forced proximity, Miscommunication
I have read all of Emily Henry’s books, and by that, I mean I have listened to every book. I love Julia Whelan as a narrator and find that these books are easy to listen to as an audible book because she brings the characters to life. While Henry is mainly known for romance books, I think this book is her least spicy one.
Long summary short – Harriet and Wyn met in college through mutual friends and have dated through college, medical school and Harriet’s residency. Until they breakup for an unknown reason. However, their close-knit group of friends meet every summer at a lake house in Maine, so they decide to not tell their friends they are broken up until after the trip. They pretend to be together the entire trip and it switches from present day to flashbacks of their relationship.
I thought the book was a little slow, but I ended up really liking it by the end because I thought that Henry did a great job with character development. You end up getting to know four other characters, and I wished we would have gotten more of their stories.
I love people watching, so books with great character development are one of my favorite things to read. However, they are not everyone’s cup of tea because they can be so slow and it feels like not a lot happens. The character development saves this book for me because I do not usually like the miscommunication trope.
Romance trope: Celebrity/non-celebrity
This was the first book I have read of Curtis Sittenfeld. It follows a late-night sketch comedy writer, Sally Millz. Sally is in her late 30s and is married to her job. She works crazy, long hours and is not interested in a relationship, except for the casual hookup. Then Noah Brewster, a mega popstar guest hosts and performs on the late-night show and there is a connection.
I really liked this book. It is SLOW at first, but I liked the slowness because I felt like I was getting a behind-the-scenes look at how SNL is made – well besides what I saw on 30 Rock. it is apparent that Sittenfeld did a lot of research on SNL and based this story off of that research.
A lot of people do not like this book because it starts in 2018 and then a lot of it takes place during the pandemic. I actually loved that part. I did not think I would and was nervous about it because it was such a hard time. I forget how hard the pandemic was — teaching and taking care of a kindergartner, while also taking care of my sick dad and trying to protect him from the virus. However, I had never read a more realistic representation of what it is like to take care of a loved one while they are sick than what I read. And it brought me a lot of peace to see that represented.
I loved the love story and I also loved the love story between Sally and her step-father. It was such a sweet and loving relationship and just made me so happy.
This book is about the Stockton family, a family with generational wealth that lives in Brooklyn Heights. Each chapter alternates between the three main characters and their point of views — the eldest daughter, youngest daughter and the wife of the brother.
I am a people watcher. When I was reading this book, I was like what is it even about? Why am I reading it? Then I realized I was hooked because I loved reading about the lives of wealthy people in NYC. The character development was so good that after I was done reading it, I forgot they weren’t real people. I am not good at explaining what this book is about – but trust me – if you like people watching, you will enjoy this book.
Romance trope: Celebrity/non-celebrity
I read this book on vacation and loved how easy and entertaining it was. Nothing complex, I did not even get a little sad. It was refreshing and exactly what I needed in vacation read. I also loved that it was short — it did not go on too long and everything wrapped up nicely.
The official book summary:
Nora Hamilton knows the formula for love better than anyone. As a romance channel screenwriter, it’s her job. But when her too-good-to work husband leaves her and their two kids, Nora turns her marriage’s collapse into cash and writes the best script of her life. No one is more surprised than her when it’s picked up for the big screen and set to film on location at her 100-year-old-home. When former Sexiest Man Alive, Leo Vance, is cast as her ne’er do well husband Nora’s life will never be the same.
The morning after shooting wraps and the crew leaves, Nora finds Leo on her porch with a half-empty bottle of tequila and a proposition. He’ll pay a thousand dollars a day to stay for a week. The extra seven grand would give Nora breathing room, but it’s the need in his eyes that makes her say yes. Seven days: it’s the blink of an eye or an eternity depending on how you look at it. Enough time to fall in love. Enough time to break your heart.
Oh this book. It is beautiful. It is told via present day by the main character, Eleanor Bennet who recently passed away, and left a recording for her two kids to listen to. The story alternates between the mom’s story, the son’s point of view and the daughter’s point of view. I went through a book hangover after I finished this one. I loved learning about the island and its history and meeting all of the different characters. Wilkerson does a great job building a world where you can imagine the setting — just as if it is a movie. I loved this book!
Official book summary:
In present-day California, Eleanor Bennett’s death leaves behind a puzzling inheritance for her two children, Byron and Benny: a black cake, made from a family recipe with a long history, and a voice recording. In her message, Eleanor shares a tumultuous story about a headstrong young swimmer who escapes her island home under suspicion of murder. The heartbreaking tale Eleanor unfolds, the secrets she still holds back, and the mystery of a long-lost child challenge everything the siblings thought they knew about their lineage and themselves.
Can Byron and Benny reclaim their once-close relationship, piece together Eleanor’s true history, and fulfill her final request to “share the black cake when the time is right”? Will their mother’s revelations bring them back together or leave them feeling more lost than ever?
Sarah’s Book Review
I listened to the audio version of this book, which was narrated by Julia Whelan. She always does a great job of narrating books. I think I would have probably quit reading the book if I had to physically read it, but Julia brought the characters to life.
Overall, it kept my attention but I was bored through some parts of it. It was interesting to read about tennis because I do not know anything about it, but I also think that made it a little boring for me because I did not understand the jargon. It did make me want to be “gritty” about something and try to have just an ounce of devotion that Carrie has in the book. I think this is a book that you could listen to with a significant other or parent if you are on a long road trip.
Official book summary:
Carrie Soto is fierce, and her determination to win at any cost has not made her popular. But by the time she retires from tennis, she is the best player the world has ever seen. She has shattered every record and claimed twenty Grand Slam titles. And if you ask Carrie, she is entitled to every one. She sacrificed nearly everything to become the best, with her father, Javier, as her coach. A former champion himself, Javier has trained her since the age of two.
But six years after her retirement, Carrie finds herself sitting in the stands of the 1994 US Open, watching her record be taken from her by a brutal, stunning player named Nicki Chan.
At thirty-seven years old, Carrie makes the monumental decision to come out of retirement and be coached by her father for one last year in an attempt to reclaim her record. Even if the sports media says that they never liked “the Battle-Axe” anyway. Even if her body doesn’t move as fast as it did. And even if it means swallowing her pride to train with a man she once almost opened her heart to: Bowe Huntley. Like her, he has something to prove before he gives up the game forever.
Romance trope: Hidden Identity and Instant Connection/Lost Connection
I love Julia Whelan as a narrator and had no idea she was also an author. I listened to this book and it was definitely too long for my liking. I felt myself listening at 2X at some points. Overall, I did like it and it was a good story. It was entertaining. You just might have to listen at 2x speeds at some parts to get through them without being bored.
Official book summary:
For Sewanee Chester, being an audiobook narrator is a long way from her old dreams, but the days of being a star on film sets are long behind her. She’s found success and satisfaction from the inside of a sound booth and it allows her to care for her beloved, ailing grandmother. When she arrives in Las Vegas last-minute for a book convention, Sewanee unexpectedly spends a whirlwind night with a charming stranger.
On her return home, Sewanee discovers one of the world’s most beloved romance novelists wanted her to perform her last book—with Brock McNight, the industry’s hottest, most secretive voice. Sewanee doesn’t buy what romance novels are selling—not after her own dreams were tragically cut short—and she stopped narrating them years ago. But her admiration of the late author, and the opportunity to get her grandmother more help, makes her decision for her.
As Sewanee begins work on the book, resurrecting her old romance pseudonym, she and Brock forge a real connection, hidden behind the comfort of anonymity. Soon, she is dreaming again, but secrets are revealed, and the realities of life come crashing down around her once more.
One time I put up a story asking for book recommendations and this book was one of the top recommendations. They all said the same thing “Not something I would usually read, but I LOVED it.” So I picked it up at the local bookstore when I was there browsing for new books. It definitely did not sound like something I was interested in – I did not like Greek Mythology in school.
I started reading during Christmas break and I could not put it down. It was engrossing. I love when I am reading books and feel like I am learning so much and then have to take time to research more into the subjects. That is how this book was for me — I found myself understanding the history behind so many different sayings that are rooted in Greek Mythology. It ended up being so interesting and a great story. Even though it was fantasy, I found it pretty easy to read and finished in a day. I also loved how I pictured everything in my mind — it really played out like a movie. Highly recommend giving this book a chance!
Official book summary:
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child — not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power — the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.
Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.
But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.
Romance trope: Enemies to Lovers
This was the second Ali Hazelwood book I have read — and it is pretty spicy in the parts where it is spicy. However, it is not just all about the spice. Hazelwood writes her novels based off of women in stem as the main characters. And the women are also always described as tiny, which is very weird to me. Anywayyyy. Even though it was a different trope than The Love Hypothesis, it still felt very similar to me. I liked the book, but it felt a little too long at times and there was a weird subplot towards the end that really threw me for a loop. So if you like twists that come out of nowhere, you will probably like it.
Overall, it was entertaining and I did not feel like I wasted my time reading it.
Official book summary:
Like an avenging, purple-haired Jedi bringing balance to the mansplained universe, Bee Königswasser lives by a simple code: What would Marie Curie do? If NASA offered her the lead on a neuroengineering project—a literal dream come true after years scraping by on the crumbs of academia—Marie would accept without hesitation. Duh. But the mother of modern physics never had to co-lead with Levi Ward.
Sure, Levi is attractive in a tall, dark, and piercing-eyes kind of way. And sure, he caught her in his powerfully corded arms like a romance novel hero when she accidentally damseled in distress on her first day in the lab. But Levi made his feelings toward Bee very clear in grad school—archenemies work best employed in their own galaxies far, far away.
Now, her equipment is missing, the staff is ignoring her, and Bee finds her floundering career in somewhat of a pickle. Perhaps it’s her occipital cortex playing tricks on her, but Bee could swear she can see Levi softening into an ally, backing her plays, seconding her ideas…devouring her with those eyes. And the possibilities have all her neurons firing. But when it comes time to actually make a move and put her heart on the line, there’s only one question that matters: What will Bee Königswasser do?
Jenette McCurdy narrates this audiobook and does an amazing job with it.I cannot recommend the audiobook enough. This book put me into a two months long book slump. Definitely some trigger warnings with emotional and physical abuse and eating disorders. Somehow Jenette tells her stories with such a dry wit, that some parts are even humorous? It is definitely a dark book about her upbringing as a child star, but she is such a great writer and story teller that it did not feel depressing. I did not know anything about iCarly or Jenette before this book and still enjoyed it.
Official book summary:
A heartbreaking and hilarious memoir by iCarly and Sam & Cat star Jennette McCurdy about her struggles as a former child actor—including eating disorders, addiction, and a complicated relationship with her overbearing mother—and how she retook control of her life.
Jennette McCurdy was six years old when she had her first acting audition. Her mother’s dream was for her only daughter to become a star, and Jennette would do anything to make her mother happy. So she went along with what Mom called “calorie restriction,” eating little and weighing herself five times a day. She endured extensive at-home makeovers while Mom chided, “Your eyelashes are invisible, okay? You think Dakota Fanning doesn’t tint hers?” She was even showered by Mom until age sixteen while sharing her diaries, email, and all her income.
In I’m Glad My Mom Died, Jennette recounts all this in unflinching detail—just as she chronicles what happens when the dream finally comes true. Cast in a new Nickelodeon series called iCarly, she is thrust into fame. Though Mom is ecstatic, emailing fan club moderators and getting on a first-name basis with the paparazzi (“Hi Gale!”), Jennette is riddled with anxiety, shame, and self-loathing, which manifest into eating disorders, addiction, and a series of unhealthy relationships. These issues only get worse when, soon after taking the lead in the iCarly spinoff Sam & Cat alongside Ariana Grande, her mother dies of cancer. Finally, after discovering therapy and quitting acting, Jennette embarks on recovery and decides for the first time in her life what she really wants.
Told with refreshing candor and dark humor, I’m Glad My Mom Died is an inspiring story of resilience, independence, and the joy of shampooing your own hair.
I want to first say that James and I listened to this as an audiobook and I think I would have had a different experience had I read it. Zavin does an incredible job of creating a world within a world. I have no interest in video games, but her talent to build these video games that become their own world inside this book was awe-inspiring. I admire her creativity and the story she told between the two main characters.
However – it was really hard for me to read. So sad. and long. Like sooo long – especially for an audiobook. I usually save audiobooks for lighter books or memoirs/self-help books. I do not think it was meant for this book. That said, I do like the story, but also kind of hated the characters? But I also felt terrible for them and all of the different tragedies they have all endured. This book has some triggers – health issues, including amputation (which reminded me a lot of the issues we went through with my dad), and gun violence. I think it is worth a read, but I would not read it on vacation. It is bummer central and maybe it is because I am a highly sensitive person, but it definitely brought down my mood and made me feel depressed.
Official Book Summary:
From the best-selling author of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn’t heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom.
These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won’t protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.
Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow examines the multifarious nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love.