4

Beach Bag Read: Other People’s Houses

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.

We’re getting to the time of year where we all start dreaming about uninterrupted reading time in the sunshine, preferably near a body of water.

Which means that we need to start thinking about what titles are going to be included in said time.

I think I have a good one for you today: Abbi Waxman’s Other People’s Houses.

From Goodreads:

As the longtime local carpool mom, Frances Bloom is sometimes an unwilling witness to her neighbors’ private lives. She knows her cousin is hiding her desire for another baby from her spouse, Bill Horton’s wife is mysteriously missing, and now this…

After the shock of seeing Anne Porter in all her extramarital glory, Frances vows to stay in her own lane. But that’s a notion easier said than done when Anne’s husband throws her out a couple of days later. The repercussions of the affair reverberate through the four carpool families–and Frances finds herself navigating a moral minefield that could make or break a marriage.

other people

This is the kind of book that’s all about the things we don’t know about other people’s lives and relationships. Waxman has created a neighbourhood cast of characters that all have things going on that they don’t necessarily share with each other. Nothing bad or nefarious or life-destroying, just things that they aren’t totally comfortable bringing out into the light.

I liked how easy this was to read, how realistic it was about it’s portrayals of relationships without depressing the sh*t out of you. Other People’s Houses admits that life isn’t always what you think it will be but you will come out on the other side of whatever crap it throws at you.

I was charmed by Frances and her neighbourhood, how with all the residents’ foibles they still all pitched in and helped each other out when it was needed. I laughed out loud a few times at the situations that they all got into – not like Lucy and Ethel level shenanigans, more like Mad About You level misunderstandings.

This was a book I devoured in a couple of sittings and I think it would make for entertaining airplane reading, a great companion on a road trip or tucked into a beach bag for a glorious summer day of doing nothing.

My copy is about to be loaned out, potentially for some combination of all three.

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2

A sexy romp: The Wedding Date

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.

I first heard about Jasmine Guillory’s The Wedding Date from Roxane Gay. She was the first to tweet about her enjoyment of this book, which put it on my radar. I kept seeing it after that (one of those cases where awareness suddenly shows you something everywhere) and finally, I got the chance to read it.

wedding date

The premise of The Wedding Date is a simple one. Sexy Drew Nichols is dreading being a groomsman at his ex and best friend’s wedding. The night he checks into his hotel, he ends up getting stuck in an elevator with Alexa Monroe and decides to ask her if she’d be his pretend girlfriend at the rehearsal dinner and the wedding. Uncharacteristically, she says yes.

Their chemistry is insane and what begins as a pretend relationship, turns into something more as they find ways to spend more time with each other. Each are juggling their own baggage, their careers, but can’t deny that there’s something special here. However, because of the way things started, both continue to question whether what they have is actually real or just playing the part. Does Drew do this with lots of women? Is Alexa just a fetish for him?

I really enjoyed this book. It was a fun, sexy romp through California that made me smile. Is this book going to change your life? Probably not. But it’s so fun and right now that’s sometimes all I need from a book.

I appreciated so much about The Wedding Date. I liked that she’s black and he’s white, that they kind of have to address that without that being the focus of the book. I really appreciated that the sex was actually hot and not just cringey and kind of gross. It was empowering in its way.

I also appreciated that Drew and Alexa are fully formed characters. They both have their own baggage (he has maybe not been completely honest about the state of his relationship with the bride, she tends to overthink everything and not allow herself to fully enjoy anything), they are both successful professionals who have their sh*t together, and they have to figure out how a life together might work.

I liked that The Wedding Date didn’t ask very much of me. It’s confident in its ability to be a charming, sexy, fun read. I’ve already loaned this book out and am getting more positive feedback. I think if you go in prepared to accept this book for what it is, you’re going to enjoy the ride.

2

Chick lit with edge: The Singles Game

The last time I read Lauren Wesiberger I was bitterly disappointed. 

But she’d never let me down before so I was still interested in reading The Singles Game.

I bought a copy last summer and by the time I read it (it was my last read of 2017), I had completely forgotten anything about it except it was about tennis.

From Goodreads:

singles game

Charlotte “Charlie” Silver has always been a good girl. She excelled at tennis early, coached by her father, a former player himself, and soon became one of the top juniors in the world. When she leaves UCLA—and breaks her boyfriend’s heart—to turn pro, Charlie joins the world’s best athletes who travel eleven months a year, competing without mercy for Grand Slam titles and Page Six headlines.

After Charlie suffers a disastrous loss and injury on Wimbledon’s Centre Court, she fires her longtime coach and hires Todd Feltner, a legend of the men’s tour, who is famous for grooming champions. Charlie is his first-ever female player, and he will not let her forget it. He is determined to change her good-girl image—both on the court and off—and transform her into a ruthless competitor who will not only win matches and climb the rankings, but also score magazine covers and seven-figure endorsement deals. Her not-so-secret affair with the hottest male player in the world, sexy Spaniard Marco Vallejo, has people whispering, and it seems like only a matter of time before the tabloids and gossip blogs close in on all the juicy details. Charlie’s ascension to the social throne parallels her rising rank on the women’s tour—but at a major price.

To be honest, none of the summaries of this book do it justice. It makes it sound like it’s all about the tabloids and hot people and glamorous parties and clothes.

This book is much more about Charlie’s journey of self-discovery, of a woman who thought her life was going to look a certain way, only to have to re-evaluate what she wants due to a devastating injury. It’s about perceptions and how things that work for men don’t work well for women.

From the summaries, I assumed we were going to watch Charlie become a self-absorbed jerk and she’d have to find her way back. But Charlie’s focus the whole time is winning and I have to say, it was refreshing to read a book about a heroine so unapologetic about that. She wants to be #1, she wants to get a Grand Slam win, and she knows that she has to make certain changes in her life if she’s going to achieve that.

I was really surprised by the depth of this book. It’s also not written in first person which I cannot tell you how much I appreciated. It allowed some distance but it also gives readers the chance to see the whole picture. And I learned so much about tennis! And the tour! About how hard it is to be a woman on the tour, to have to focus everything on your sport, leaving no room for any distractions, maybe putting off one’s dreams of having a family. About how that’s not the reality for the man AT ALL.

This book ended up being a great way to finish a not-great reading year. I learned a lot and it restored my faith in an author I’d come to depend on. A light read with a little edge.

7

She’s back: The Break

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.

The last time I read a book by Marian Keyes, it did not go well. And that was a shame because she’s one of my favourites. An author I can count on to make me laugh, probably make me cry and definitely reset my mojo.

But that didn’t happen with the last one.

So I was apprehensive about reading her new book, The Break.

the-break

Amy and Hugh have been mostly happily married for years. But the last 18 months or so have been difficult. Hugh’s father passed away and now Hugh is thinking about the finiteness of time. When his best friend dies suddenly not long after, Hugh goes to a dark place where Amy can’t reach him. She engages in a bit of a harmless work flirtation to help her deal with what’s going on at home.

And then Hugh announces that he’s taking a break from their marriage for six months and traveling, doing the things that he always wanted to and didn’t. He’s leaving Amy and their girls, Neeve, Amy’s daughter from a previous marriage who is in the early stages of a YouTube empire, Kiara, Amy and Hugh’s sweet daughter who always knows the right thing to say and do, and sensitive, ethereal Sophie, who is actually Amy’s niece but they adopted and now lives with them.

Without Hugh, Amy wants to feel sorry for herself and lie in bed and cry. But her friends and family tell her she has to live her own life. If Hugh’s on a break from their marriage, doesn’t it also mean that Amy is?

The Break is classic Marian Keyes. Classic Walsh sisters Marian Keyes! I was delighted to read this book. It was the exact mix of hilarity and seriousness that I have come to expect from Keyes. In The Break, Keyes explores fidelity and the crises that come from the deaths of those close to us. She’s also come up with an incredible cast of characters that I really hope we see more of! I can absolutely see Amy’s family members starring in their own books a la the Walshes.

It’s a bit of a doorstopper at 568 pages but it’s such a delight I’m not sure you’ll notice. The Break is an excellent book to tuck in your bag for a long flight or a weekend away. It’ll also do nicely on a rainy weekend with a cup of tea.

If you read The Woman Who Stole My Life and swore off Marian Keyes, you need to change your mind. The Break is a classic.

8

Chick Lit Win: Fitness Junkie

Early last year, I read and loved The Knock-Off by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza. It was deliciously chick-lity (no bad thing in these parts) with a decidedly adult outlook on life, love and work. In many ways, this was the book that reignited my love for the genre.

But I completely forgot to keep an eye out for any follow-up novels from this delightful duo.

So when Fitness Junkie appeared on my radar (thanks in large part to Catherine @ The Gilmore Guide to Books), I was very excited.

And it delivered in so many ways!

fitness

Janey Sweet and her childhood best friend, Beau, have started a couture wedding gown business, B. Janey’s the business brains behind the operation, while Beau comes up with the incredible designs that make their gowns the champagne standard for brides. Beau has become increasingly obsessed with size – his gowns no longer come in sizes bigger than a 6. After a tumultuous year, Janey is a little heavier than she used to be and Beau is horrified when she is photographed enjoying a bruffin (a brioche muffin) in the front row at Fashion Week. Beau is blunt: lose 30lbs or Janey is out at B.

Janey finds herself with all the time in the world to follow every crazy health and fitness fad out there: eating nothing but clay, a barre fitness class where tiny ballerinas hurl abuse at you, water with a single stem of broccoli in it. The list goes on. Her quest for wellness brings her into the orbit of Stella, an actual shaman, and Sara Strong, who has come up with the most perfect solution called simply The Workout.

As Janey comes to terms with her own body, she has to decide what to do about her friendship with Beau and what that could mean for her business.

Listen, I recently went to cancel my gym membership and found that the location had moved and I didn’t even know it. So one might say that I’m not leading a super active lifestyle. I wondered if this book would have anything for me, besides some serious eye rolling.

Oh but it did!

For one thing, I will always get behind a heroine who is in charge of her own destiny. A woman who is in love with her work, who has built something of worth, and doesn’t necessarily know who she is without this work to define her. I’m always about a book where the main relationship isn’t necessarily romantic but no less serious. Often friend breakups are more devastating than romantic ones and Sykes and Piazza lean in on this angle HARD.

I also really appreciate a book that doesn’t take itself too seriously. This book is definitely glossy – there is the fashion angle of course, and Janey herself comes from money (her family has a chocolate empire!). But that allows the book to have fun – to throw in a thinly veiled Gwyneth Paltrow and Tracy Anderson dynamic that had me turning page after page.

For a book about fitness, I found that this book had a positive body message. There’s one point where Janey’s other best friend, CJ, a woman completely obsessed with maintaining a certain body, sighs that she thinks women just want to be told that they are acceptable:

You know…I think it’s a lie that all women want to be skinny. I think we just want to be told its okay to look the way we look.

Ultimately, Sykes and Piazza have given us another introspective, self-aware heroine intent on defining herself by her own terms and I am here for it.

Thanks to Penguin Random House of Canada for providing me with an ARC of this book. Any errors in quoting are due to coming from an unfinished copy.

14

Batch reviews: Chick Lit

We all know that books categorized as “chick lit” get a bad rep.

They aren’t taken seriously, written off as fluff or easy reading, relegated to beach totes or justified as guilty pleasures.

But I think these books are great. Often they are about the emotional lives of women, of the struggles to find a partner, or trouble within romantic relationships, how difficult it can be to navigate life at the office, or falling out with a good friend. These books are necessary to showcase these facets of female lives!

So.

Here are some “chick lit” titles I read recently that I really enjoyed.

After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

after i do

Laura and Ryan have been together for over 11 years and are sniping at each other about everything. They decide to take a break for one year, no contact and after that, re-evaluate. Laura stays in their house and starts trying to live her own life, figure out what’s important to her, talk to her friends and family about life and marriage. As time goes on, she finds it difficult to be apart from Ryan and rethinks her ideas about love and marriage.

This book packed an emotional punch I wasn’t expecting. Really quickly, you get caught up in the lives of Laura and her entire family – her sister who is starting up her own business, her younger brother who has catapulted into marriage and family at a dizzying speed, her mother who is in a new relationship. And while all this happens, Laura misses that one person she used to share all this with. After I Do was honest, and funny and when I finished it, I was sad to leave Laura et al behind.

After You by Jojo Moyes

after you

So I wasn’t going to read this follow up to the devastation of Me Before You. I was of the opinion that the story was complete and I wasn’t super interested in what came next. I was wrong. Louisa Clark has taken the money that Will Trainor left her and bought an apartment for herself. But she hasn’t done anything to make it hers, she works in a terrible job at an airport bar, and spends her evenings alone and tipsy, until she has a fairly serious accident of her own. In the aftermath of her own injury, Lou moves home for a bit, where everyone but her seems to be moving forward. And when an unexpected relation of Will’s shows up, Lou’s life is turned upside down again.

Moyes does a great job with this portrait of grief, of a young woman coming to grips with her new reality. Lou is taking baby steps away from Will and the life she imagined she might have, while also taking on complications from that former life. She’s never been someone that’s able to think about herself before others and this new stage in her life is challenging the belief that she doesn’t matter. If you read and loved Me Before You, don’t hesitate in reading After You.

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

hating

After a merger brought two competing publishers together, Lucy is forced to work near Joshua. Each is the assistant to the CEO from their respective publisher and spend their days finding ways of tormenting each other. When a new restructuring creates a new role, both of them want it. Their games escalate and suddenly, Lucy starts to see Josh with new eyes.

The Hating Game is a delightful old school romantic comedy. It’s like a book of The Proposal crossed with Ten Things I Hate About You. I loved that it was set in the workplace, that Lucy has ambitions for herself but is also kind of flailing around in her personal life. I didn’t expect this little book to be quite as steamy as it was! Nice little bonus if you ask me! I totally went into The Hating Game with certain expectations and it turned out way better than I thought it would be!

18

Sophie Kinsella strikes again

When I started reading Sophie Kinsella’s latest, My Not So Perfect Life, I took a second to look through the list of Kinsella’s other books.

I have read every. Single. One. So I guess you could say that Kinsella is one of my favourite authors.

But even though she’s a favourite, I wouldn’t say that I had unnaturally high expectations for this book. I’ve read all of her work, but I haven’t loved it unconditionally across the board. There were some misses in the middle of the Shopaholic series, Wedding Night was pretty terrible actually and I remember being underwhelmed by The Undomestic Goddess.

So when I tell you that I loved My Not So Perfect Life, know that I mean it and it’s totally worth your time!

kinsella

Cat Brenner is trying to make a go of her London life. Ever since she can remember, it’s been her dream to live and work in London, despite the fact that it’s kind of breaking her Somerset farmer dad’s heart. So even though she has no money, lives in a terrible flat with heinous roommates, and has a shaky hold on a job at a branding agency that comes with a vile commute, she would never admit that her life isn’t going exactly how she planned. She can’t even remember to answer to her chic new name and constantly introduces herself as Katie.

But then, Katie gets fired and she can’t find another job. She finds herself back home at the family farm, to the delight of her father and stepmother. And they actually have a  great idea – to turn the farm into a glamping vacation destination. Katie decides to help get them up and running while she keeps up the search  – and doesn’t tell them that she lost her job. She’s on a sabbatical!

When her former boss, Demeter, shows up with her family and starts to divulge personal information to Katie, her perspective on everything changes.

If you’re familiar with Kinsella’s work, you should be able to see that it has classic Kinsella elements. There’s also a tall, dark and handsome successful man for Katie to maybe get involved in. But right now, the fact that this book is classic Kinsella, is exactly what I needed. I needed to laugh about crazy roommates, misunderstandings and hi jinx, even some physical comedy.

And in the end, Kinsella rewarded me with a different kind of love story. One where our plucky heroine comes to admire a strong, clever, ambitious woman and finds some of those same elements in herself. A book where the goal is to get a career on track, to fall in love with the work that she’s doing, and to constantly learn from the other brilliant women she works with.

After reading about orphans, backstabbing queens, difficult women and sexual assault, My Not So Perfect Life was just what the bibliotherapist ordered.

(What? That’s a real thing)