January was full of some great reads and a few bad ones. But, that’s the beauty of reading lots of books, right?
Without further ado, here is my (late) January wrap-up!
The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Themes: Marriage, Reconciliation
Gavin Scott loses his mind (and his pride) when he finds out his wife has been faking it. Their already-strained relationship then hurtles toward divorce, but Gavin doesn’t want to give up on his love for Thea. Gavin, a professional baseball player, finds himself inducted into the Bromance Book Club – a book club for husbands and boyfriends that study romance books as manuals for how to be better men to their significant others. Gavin soon finds out that maybe there’s still a way to win Thea back and have a better relationship this time around.
First of all – I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: I am a HUGE fan of the illustrated cover trend for romance books. For me, it helps to introduce a better sense of diversity and imagination. There’s only so many photos of shirtless, chiseled men I can stand before I begin to completely glaze over the content.
YES, I JUDGE BOOKS BY THEIR COVERS, FIGHT ME!
“Men are idiots. We complain that women are so mysterious and shit, and we never know what they want. We fuck up our relationships because we convince ourselves that it’s too hard to figure them out. But the real problem is with us. We think we’re not supposed to feel things and cry and express ourselves. We expect women to do all the emotional labor in a relationship and then act confused when they give up on us.”
I enjoyed every facet of this book. Hearing the story of reconciliation from a man’s point of view is something the romance world needs a bit more of. I’d be even more on board if the book was being written by a man. (Imagine that, right?)
We live in a time where the #CutOffGame is STRONG, but where does reconciliation fall? The Bromance Book Club perfectly illustrates the story of multiple couples going through the hard steps of mending their relationship and, further, without the false narrative of a quick, easy, everlasting fix.
It was super cute to see a group of professional athletes putting their hearts on the line, swallowing their pride, and pushing each other to be better for the sake of their wives.
Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Themes: Teenage Love, Social Media Fueds
Pepper and Jack are the two teens behind their family businesses’ Twitter feud. Only, no one knows, including them. Simultaneously, the two just happen to be falling in love via an anonymous chatting app (developed by Jack). But, as always, secrets don’t remain secrets and the two lovers-duelers have to face their true feelings for each other – and the war they’re stuck in the middle of.
I was very surprised by this book! Usually, I can’t get down with teenage romance. Pepper and Jack’s Twitter feud turned meet cute is the exact type of story that I will religiously follow a hashtag for.
It’s cheesy, it’s cute, it’s light – It’s the perfect read when you need a pick-me-up or something to make you giggle like a teen again. Pepper and Jack were both rising stars in their own right – but they were forced to keep their true passions under wraps for fear of disappointing their parents.
Pepper’s mom needed a reality check and drove me absolutely nuts the whole time. While she was too busy forcing her teenage daughter to spend all of her free time in a social media feud with a company that made far less than her own global business, she missed the signs that she was pushing her daughter away – even after already ruining her relationship with her other daughter due to her recent divorce. Pepper’s mom seemed self centered, career-obsessed, and negligent (like, leaving her teenage daughter alone in New York for a week here and there, negligent).
Other than Pepper’s annoying mother, I loved the story, the quirkiness, and the coming of age of two teens that made a path for themselves.
Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Emma Lord
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Themes: Chronic Illness/Pain
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 glamourous family’s mansion. The next items?
Enjoy a drunken night out.
Ride a motorcycle.
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…
“When she was sick and tired of being sick and tired, she clung to moments like this : The first shower after a flare-up.
Bliss should be held on to with both hands.”
Chloe’s story is not too dissimilar from my own, so it was really great to see life with chronic illness reflected in a light-hearted, genuine, and understanding way.
Being diagnosed with a chronic illness in early adulthood can throw you for a loop. Your relationships change, you feel like no one wants to hear about your constant pain cycles, so it’s easier to shut yourself off than to have to cancel on your friends *again* because you can’t get out of the bed. You feel like you’re a drain on everyone’s mood if you share how you feel and if you keep it to yourself, you feel like you’re being dishonest.
I loved reading life through the eyes of Chloe – she gave me the affirmation I didn’t realize I needed and the permission to live my life in the best way I can and to let people in so that they have the chance to walk through this journey with me.
This is a FANTASTIC read for anyone, but especially for anyone suffering from chronic illness or close to someone that does.
Love on Lexington Avenue by Lauren Layne (Central Parj Pact #2)
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Chick Lit
Themes: Finding love again after being widowed, strong friendships
In the first book of the series, we meet Naomi, Chloe, and Audrey. Strangers, they meet in Central Park outside of the funeral of the man they’re all dating (or married to). There, the three women make a pact to never let each other fall for a man life him ever again.
In Love on Lexington Avenue, Claire Haynes is still struggling with putting her new life together after losing her husband. Even though he cheated on her (and she found out posthumous), she is left feeling like she has to start life over again. How can she deal with the anger and sorrow of losing her husband? And has her life always been so plain and boring? Claire is ready to dive into a home renovation project that may force her to start adding a little more variety and excitement back into her life.
The second installation of The Central Park Pact series was enjoyable for me. Claire goes through some pretty complicated emotions dealing with the loss of her husband. I appreciated that her story showed there’s no set end date for grief and that you can go through the grieving cycle multiple times before you feel truly able to move on.
Of course, there’s the added layer of Claire being pretty well off due to he late husband’s estate, so she has the added bonus of being able to deal with her trauma without having to go to work, pay bills, or take care of children or any other responsibilities that so many widows are left with on top of financial burdens.
Circe by Madeline Miller
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Genre: Fantasy, Mythology
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.
It’s been quite a while since I’ve read up on or studied Greek mythology. Circe made me want to go to the library and find every book on Greek mythology that was available.
The writer framed her as equal parts goddess and equal parts human. She loved fiercely and wanted nothing more than to belong and to be loved for who she was. But, even so, she was a mother hell bent on protecting her son and would do so even at the threat of the most powerful goddess.
I thoroughly enjoyed the writing style of Madeline Miller. I will definitely be reading more of her work.
Faker by Sarah Smith
Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Chick Lit
Themes: Enemies to Lovers, Workplace romance
Emmie Echavarre is a professional faker. She has to be to survive as one of the few female employees at Nuts & Bolts, a power tool company staffed predominantly by gruff, burly men. From nine to five, Monday through Friday, she’s tough as nails–the complete opposite of her easy-going real self.
One thing she doesn’t have to fake? Her disdain for coworker Tate Rasmussen. Tate has been hostile to her since the day they met. Emmie’s friendly greetings and repeated attempts to get to know him failed to garner anything more than scowls and terse one-word answers. Too bad she can’t stop staring at his Thor-like biceps…
When Emmie and Tate are forced to work together on a charity construction project, things get…heated. Emmie’s beginning to see that beneath Tate’s chiseled exterior lies a soft heart, but it will take more than a few kind words to erase the past and convince her that what they have is real.
I started out really liking this book. The angst between Emmie and Tate was everything! But, I had a sneaky suspicion from the beginning because of his comments on the way Emmie looked.
Tate is narcissistic and controlling and CREEPY! Once the big twist was revealed, I wanted to throw the book out of a window (but it’s an audiobook and I’m not about to throw my phone out of a window). His behavior was controlling, abusive, and jealous – even when he was still being a jerk to her. He had no right to be angry when other men looked at Emmie and I hate the savior complex that was introduced.
STOP GIVING ABUSERS SMALL “GOOD GUY” TRAITS TO MASK THEIR ABUSE!
I liked the story line, per se. But Tate’s character ruined it for me. Can we all agree to stop perpetuating the belief that men/boys are mean to you when they like you?
The Year of Less by Cait Flanders
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Genre: Nonfiction, Self Help
In her late twenties, Cait Flanders found herself stuck in the consumerism cycle that grips so many of us: earn more, buy more, want more, rinse, repeat. Even after she worked her way out of nearly $30,000 of consumer debt, her old habits took hold again. When she realized that nothing she was doing or buying was making her happy—only keeping her from meeting her goals—she decided to set herself a challenge: she would not shop for an entire year.
The Year of Less documents Cait’s life for twelve months during which she bought only consumables: groceries, toiletries, gas for her car. Along the way, she challenged herself to consume less of many other things besides shopping. She decluttered her apartment and got rid of 70 percent of her belongings; learned how to fix things rather than throw them away; researched the zero waste movement; and completed a television ban. At every stage, she learned that the less she consumed, the more fulfilled she felt.
The challenge became a lifeline when, in the course of the year, Cait found herself in situations that turned her life upside down. In the face of hardship, she realized why she had always turned to shopping, alcohol, and food—and what it had cost her. Unable to reach for any of her usual vices, she changed habits she’d spent years perfecting and discovered what truly mattered to her.
Blending Cait’s compelling story with inspiring insight and practical guidance, The Year of Less will leave you questioning what you’re holding on to in your own life—and, quite possibly, lead you to find your own path of less.
This was a good personal account of Cait Flanders’ journey of not shopping for a year. As someone who’s recently been taking stock of all that I own and trying to do better about changing my mindset around what I consume and own and why.
There was a bit of negativity in reviews around this book – many people were expecting this to be a handbook on how to recreate the experience. But, the title to me sounded like more of a diary type situation rather than a step by step tutorial.
Was it lifechanging? No. But it did help be consciously start to rethink how I make consumption decisions and the habits (good or bad) around them.
Love at First Like by Hannah Orenstein
Rating: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Genre: Romance, Chick Lit
Themes: Fraud, Internet Influencer Scamming, Colonizer Nonsense
Eliza Roth and her sister Sophie co-own a jewelry shop in Brooklyn. One night, after learning of an ex’s engagement, Eliza accidentally posts a photo of herself wearing a diamond ring on that finger to her Instagram account beloved by 100,000 followers. Sales skyrocket, press rolls in, and Eliza learns that her personal life is good for business. So she has a choice: continue the ruse or clear up the misunderstanding. With mounting financial pressure, Eliza sets off to find a fake fiancé.
Fellow entrepreneur Blake seems like the perfect match on paper. And in real life he shows promise, too. He would be perfect, if only Eliza didn’t feel also drawn to someone else. But Blake doesn’t know Eliza is “engaged”; Sophie asks Eliza for an impossible sum of money; and Eliza’s lies start to spiral out of control. She can either stay engaged online or fall in love in real life.
I think I said [out loud] – “Is this a f*cking joke?” At least 20 times while listening to this audiobook. I think the high volume of monotonous projects at work are the only reason I was able to finish this book.
Love at first like is basically a retelling of Anna Sorokin, except she got away with it and somehow suckered the lone brown person in the story into committing fraud with her.
I can’t believe this is actually a book.
But, alas: When a well-meaning white woman defrauds hundreds of thousands of people in order to save her family business (that would have been fine if they’d operate within their means), it’s perfect fodder for a romance novel I guess.
*SUPREME EYE ROLL*
You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero
Rating: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
In this refreshingly entertaining how-to guide, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author and world-traveling success coach, Jen Sincero, serves up 27 bite-sized chapters full of hilariously inspiring stories, sage advice, easy exercises, and the occasional swear word. If you’re ready to make some serious changes around here, You Are a Badass will help you: Identify and change the self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors that stop you from getting what you want, blast past your fears so you can take big exciting risks, figure out how to make some damn money already, learn to love yourself and others, set big goals and reach them – it will basically show you how to create a life you totally love, and how to create it now.
By the end of You Are a Badass, you’ll understand why you are how you are, how to love what you can’t change, how to change what you don’t love, and how to use The Force to kick some serious ass.
Jenn Sincero is way too comfortable with slipping into AAVE just to sound “hip” or “street” or whatever. But it’s basically vocal black face and I’m not having it. Complete turn-off beyond her generic content.
Have you read any of these books? If so, tell me what you thought!
How;s your yearly book reading goal progress?