Tag Archives: fiction

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

Screen Shot 2018-12-09 at 1.47.34 PMThe Proposal by Jasmine Guillory is delightful and charming … and hits almost exactly every single note of her debut The Wedding Date. Is that a problem? You decide. 

The entire plot has all of the same markers as Guillory’s debut (see my previous review to compare) — two adorable characters are attracted to each other, but don’t think they’re ready for a relationship so they lightly enjoy each other’s company under the guise of not becoming too attached until… suddenly! they are too attached and maybe they actually do want to be in a relationship and love each other, et cetera. 

Guillory packages the same story nicely with darling characters that I enjoy — I loved all of the auxiliary characters and their personalities just as much as the main characters (and maybe they’ll even be the central character in a future book? The kickboxing instructor alone made me want to quit my current kickboxing gym to seek her out as my trainer). The book opens on our two main characters who meet during a botched, public proposal. We follow Carlos, the best friend of one of the leads from The Wedding Date who is a pediatrician and helms his Mexican-American family, and Nikole, a freelance writer who is black and has a gaggle of cute girlfriends that she adventures with in the city. 

The book is perfectly packaged sweetness that delivers the same story and vibe as The Wedding Date. In the same way that romcoms often hit the same notes and can be exactly what you’re seeking, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you’re wanting to recreate reading Guillory’s debut. However, for me, The Wedding Date was too fresh in my mind and I couldn’t stop comparing their similarities. If I hadn’t read both of Guillory’s novels in the same year, I might have felt differently. But could I see myself picking up her next book when I need something cute, cozy, and familiar to read? Definitely. 

Publication Date: 30 October 2018 by Berkley BooksFormat: Paperback.

Author: Jasmine Guillory web/@twitter/@instagram/facebook

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Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

image1 (19)Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler follows Tess, a 22-year-old white woman who flees her old life in favor of starting afresh in New York City and “discovering” herself. Within days of arriving in the city, she lands a job at a very in demand restaurant in Manhattan, despite only having barista experience in whatever town she was in before. The book is all about the whirlwind, yet very contained life this job lands her in.

The lead character, Tess, perpetually whines and wants people to take her seriously as a “real person”, fitting the stereotype of many people I met at this age in NYC. While Tess’s own actions are annoying, you’re not met to necessarily be rooting for her — she moves to New York to be a more exciting person than she used to be, but she spends all of her time working in a restaurant without exploring the city or her own interests while living in the city. Tess throws herself into the restaurant world, with all of the learning about fine dining and the hooking up and the drugs and alcohol that follow restaurant workers into the early hours of the morning. 

The story is mostly about a young woman who immediately gets usurped into a specific restaurant’s world and the strange rules and practices of those who have been at the restaurant for years and view it as the center of the universe. These characters are pretentious and I found the story absolutely delectable. I’m looking forward to watching the TV adaptation soon.

Publication Date: 24 May 2016 by KnopfFormat: Hardcover.

Author: Stephanie Danler web/@instagram/@twitter

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

Screen Shot 2018-11-25 at 1.04.42 PMThe Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald was passed down to me via my best friend’s mom who is very into libraries and book clubs, which once you know the contents of this plot, somehow totally makes sense.

The story centers around a visitor from Sweden coming to stay with her bookish penpal in a slow moving town in Iowa. The visitor, Sara, stays for a few months and decides to open a bookstore in the town as a way to rally the community together. She falls in love with the the bookstore, the town, and its inhabitants along the way. The entire book was charming and fluffy and had absolutely no drama. Aka when you’re wanting to get away from the terrifying news cycle, this is a perfect way to zap your brain into a cozy little town that won’t stress you out. 

The entire novel is incredibly book-centric. Sara finds her penpal from selling books internationally and starting a message chain about books with another book lover. Sara is constantly talking about books in her inner monologues and with others, even those who aren’t typical readers, sometimes giving away major plot lines of classics that you may not have read yet yourself (this didn’t bother me, but it may bother some readers). Everything is about books books books and I could see many readers wanting to get swept away with a protagonist who is just reading reading reading all of the time.

While the story was cozy, pieces of it did feel very heavy handed — there are bits about racism, queerness, etc. that feel very pointed and proud, but also strangely forced. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a story about a small town, but really mostly about a visiting reader and her constant bookish comparisons. If you’re looking for something with a bit of charm and no harm, this is a book for you.  

Publication Date: 19 January 2016 by SourcebooksFormat: Paperback.

Author: Katarina Bivald web/@twitter

 

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 12.01.41 PMThis book is one of the rare books on my to-read list that a ton of the people I follow have already read and rated it extremely favorably, so when I was scrounging for a new book to read it was an obvious fit.

In All the Light We Cannot See, a historical fiction book about multiple characters in Europe during World War II, the sentences are absolutely beautiful. The characters are nuanced, and the plot mainly revolving around two adolescents: one is the French Marie-Laure who is blind and must move around and rely on others to help her live during the treacherous times, but is also shielded from how severe some things are because of her lack of sight, and one is the German Werner who is an orphan and is plucked up to join a school that funnels boys into the German military because of his keen interest and intelligence about circuitry and radios.

The stories of the two adolescents, and those who touch their lives is brilliant. I loved the details of nearly every character that was introduced as they all navigate their very different lives, yet move forward in parallel with the war being a steady, terrible event that unifies each of their lives. A theme of mysticism runs throughout one of the storylines and adds some interesting, dramatic turns to the story as well.

The chapters of All the Light We Cannot See are short, which makes it feel like you can control the pacing of this 500+ page book and not feel like you need to push through to finish an idea. In a huge book, this can (and did for me!) make the novel more enjoyable because it’s easy to pick up and put down, without feeling lost the next time you pick it up again. However, the length is what causes this to not be 5 stars for me. Did I enjoy this book thoroughly while I was reading it? Absolutely. Did I enjoy it enough to foist upon another person to read 500+ pages without mentioning the length as a caveat? Unfortunately, no. But if the book already sounds intriguing to you, you should definitely add it to your list for 500+ pages of captivating story.

Publication Date: 6 May 2014 by ScribnerFormat: E-book.

Author: Anthony Doerr web/facebook

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

image1 (18)I’m not typically a fan of thrillers, mostly because I don’t need an excuse to be anxious about more things, but I scooped up Sharp Objects to prepare me for watching HBO’s television adaptation. I did the same before I watched Gone Girl (also by author Gillian Flynn) and it made watching the movie much less nerve wracking because I knew exactly what to expect.

I picked up Sharp Objects for the same experience and while it was definitely a page turner that I read incredibly quickly, the entire time I was reading, I just wanted the whole story to be over. I probably wouldn’t have pushed through the novel if I wasn’t planning on watching the TV series, but I am… so I did.

Sharp Objects is a thriller mystery that revolves around a Chicago journalist returning to her hometown after two similar murders are committed (the victims are young girls). The journalist has to return to her toxic home that she had distanced herself away from in adulthood and finds herself reverting to her previous mindset and habits along the way, whilst trying to gather details about the unsolved murder cases. While I loved the details put into the main character and her depth, I would’ve preferred reading about her within another story that didn’t completely creep me out the entire time I was reading it.

Publication Date: 26 September 2006 by Broadway BooksFormat: Paperback.

Author: Gillian Flynn web/@facebook/@twitter/@instagram

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

image1 (17)Okay, okay, I know I didn’t really like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, but as I said in that review, I knew I would eventually end up picking up the sequel. Why? I need fluff sometimes, others I care about wanted to talk more about this series, and who didn’t fall a little in love with Peter Kavinsky in the film version of the movie and desperately want to read more moments about this fictional beau?

In this book, teen protagonist Lara Jean picks up where she left off with her high school, fake boyfriend Peter Kavinsky… on the path of becoming her real boyfriend because ~feelings emerged~. The plot mostly revolves around drama with his previous girlfriend and with a boy, John Ambrose McClaren, from Lara Jean’s past re-entering the picture. There’s some typical high school drama, crushes spinning every which way for all of the characters, until finally the main couple in the series must decide how and if to move forward together (though to be honestly while Peter Kavinsky is an adorable soft jock who seems fantastic for Lara Jean in the film version, John Ambrose McClaren’s compatibility with Lara Jean fair outshines Peter in the books).

Overall, I found P.S. I Still Love You to be more enjoyable than its predecessor. A lot of the bits that annoyed me with the first novel (Kitty being grating, Peter not being that desirable and actively being someone I would not want to have a crush on) were smoothed over with the sequel… or I have rose colored lenses from watching the movie-version of the characters and was more forgiving of their book counterparts. I honestly can’t tell you which of those it actually is.

I expect to pick up the third novel (Always and Forever, Lara Jean) when I need a break from the dense, academic reads I’m returning to as the school year picks up again.

Publication Date: 26 May 2015 by Simon & SchusterFormat: E-book.

Author: Jenny Han web/@twitter/@instagram

This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz

IMG_8894I read my first Junot Díaz book seven years ago and wasn’t feeling it in the same way that others seemed to, so I took a while for me to find my way to This is How You Lose Her. This book is broken into separate short stories that mostly follow the life of Yunior and sometimes follows those in his orbit. The stories mostly revolve around Yunior’s own and his older brother’s escapades with women, including hairy details. 

I think Díaz is a talented writer and I found “The Pura Principle” to be a 5 star short story all on its own. However, I didn’t jive with all of the short stories and often found myself annoyed at the tales, curious about when the narrator alone had misogynist views about women and when the narrator was really articulating how the author valued (or didn’t rather) women in their own life. That said, I read This is How You Lose Her after allegations against Díaz were revealed, and while I know some internal investigations have found insubstantial evidence and Díaz himself has discussed his own experiences of sexual assault and how that affected his subsequent sexual relations, I found it impossible to objectively read this, knowing what I knew, and wondering how much of these stories revealed real beliefs and how much were purely fiction. 

Publication Date: 11 September 2012 by Riverhead BooksFormat: Hardcover.

Author: Junot Díaz web