Take A Peek Book Review: Roomies by Christina Lauren

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

Marriages of convenience are so…inconvenient.

For months Holland Bakker has invented excuses to descend into the subway station near her apartment, drawn to the captivating music performed by her street musician crush. Lacking the nerve to actually talk to the gorgeous stranger, fate steps in one night in the form of a drunken attacker. Calvin Mcloughlin rescues her, but quickly disappears when the police start asking questions.

Using the only resource she has to pay the brilliant musician back, Holland gets Calvin an audition with her uncle, Broadway’s hottest musical director. When the tryout goes better than even Holland could have imagined, Calvin is set for a great entry into Broadway—until his reason for disappearing earlier becomes clear: he’s in the country illegally, his student visa having expired years ago.

Seeing that her uncle needs Calvin as much as Calvin needs him, a wild idea takes hold of her. Impulsively, she marries the Irishman, her infatuation a secret only to him. As their relationship evolves and Calvin becomes the darling of Broadway—in the middle of the theatrics and the acting-not-acting—will Holland and Calvin to realize that they both stopped pretending a long time ago?

My Thoughts:

Yet another sweet, wish-fulfillment romantic story by the amazing writing duo Christina Lauren! There’s not much of a shred of realism in the plot, but it’s oh so fun to just kick back and go with the flow.

We have Holland, mid-twenties, with an MFA that she’s not using, living a comfortable New York life (thanks to her amazing, generous uncles) — who decides that marrying her crush is the best way to help him get legal residence in the US so he can pursue his musical career. Of course, Calvin is both incredibly gorgeous and unbelievably talented, as well as being sweet, smart, and a considerate and passionate lover. Of course, Calvin shoots to instant stardom. And of course, their fake marriage turns into a real marriage, although not without the requisite trust and communication issues that plague any good contemporary romance.

It’s all good fun, and the happy ending is never in doubt. It’s an entertaining, sexy romp, and even though we know that these two crazy lovebirds will end up together, the excitement is in seeing how they get there. The book is quick and light, and despite the moments of emotional turmoil and illogical behavior, the characters are always likable (and have enough of a sense of humor to get past some super awkward situations.)

This is my 4th Christina Lauren book, and I have yet to encounter a dud! Not exactly deep reading, but great for when you need something cheery.

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: Roomies
Author: Christina Lauren
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: December 5, 2017
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: Library

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The Monday Check-In ~ 12/24/2018

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren: I finished this the previous week, but just posted a review a few days ago.

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory: More contemporary romance! My review is here.

In audiobooks:

I finished a re-read of Beneath the Sugar Sky via audio, and now I’m all set for the next book in the series, coming in January. Can’t wait!

Book group books:

Our group re-read of The Scottish Prisoner wrapped up this week. We’ve been reading and discussing two chapters per week since July — so much fun. For any Outlander fans out there who haven’t year explored the Lord John works, I strongly urge you to do so! The Scottish Prisoner is particularly fun, since John and Jamie share the spotlight. As always, reading with my book group made the experience extra sweet for me.

We also read The Night Before Christmas by Nikolai Gogol for our December book of the month — nice and short, and perfect holiday reading!

And my biggest accomplishment — I finished Middlemarch! My book group started Middlemarch back in March, and have been group-reading two chapters per week ever since. I actually cheated a bit — we had three chapters left, to be read in January, and I just couldn’t stand waiting! I need to digest it all a bit… and I think I’m going to watch one of the movie/mini-series versions too. I’m so glad to have read it, and once again need to say how grateful I am to be in a book group where we can tackle big, challenging books like this together.

Outlander, baby!

I’m writing reaction posts for each episode of season 4:

Check out the most recent:

Episode 408, “Wilmington” (aired 12/23/2018) – my reaction post for last night’s episode is here.

Pop culture goodness:

I don’t know what I was up to in the early 2000s (oh yeah, that’s right, having a baby!), but clearly I was way too busy to start watching Gilmore Girls. In the category of “never too late”, I finally sat down to start at the beginning, and I’m finding season 1 awfully cute. It does kind of crack me up to see how dated it is (pagers! flip phones! landlines! a Bangles concert! and oh, the clothing…), but the characters and mother/daughter dynamic are truly charming.

Fresh Catch:

More and more books! A few of my used book orders arrived in the mail this week, including these two non-fiction books that sound really interesting:

I also treated myself to a brand-new book by a favorite author:

Signed and everything!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Fire & Blood by George R. R. Martin: I started this MASSIVE book thinking I’d read straight through, but I’m finding that I can’t handle more than a one or two chapters a day before my eyes start to cross and I lose all ability to keep my Targaryens and their respective dragons straight. This book is absolutely going to take me a while, although I’m still hoping to finish before the end of the year.

And meanwhile, I’m giving myself little breaks from Westerosi history by reading My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead, which is really interesting so far, and helps me make sense of Middlemarch and why it’s considered such an important book in English literature.

Now playing via audiobook:

Back to Tortall! I’ve started my next Tamora Pierce trilogy, the Beka Cooper books. Book #1 is Terrier, and I’m liking it so far, even though I don’t think I’d make it without a print copy handy so I can check the glossary to figure out all the terminology and slang.

Ongoing reads:

None at the moment! All of my book group reads are wrapped up at this point. A new classic read and a new Lord John read will both be starting in January!

So many books, so little time…

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Take A Peek Book Review: Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

Macy Sorensen is settling into an ambitious if emotionally tepid routine: work hard as a new pediatrics resident, plan her wedding to an older, financially secure man, keep her head down and heart tucked away.

But when she runs into Elliot Petropoulos—the first and only love of her life—the careful bubble she’s constructed begins to dissolve. Once upon a time, Elliot was Macy’s entire world—growing from her gangly bookish friend into the man who coaxed her heart open again after the loss of her mother…only to break it on the very night he declared his love for her.

Told in alternating timelines between Then and Now, teenage Elliot and Macy grow from friends to much more—spending weekends and lazy summers together in a house outside of San Francisco devouring books, sharing favorite words, and talking through their growing pains and triumphs. As adults, they have become strangers to one another until their chance reunion. Although their memories are obscured by the agony of what happened that night so many years ago, Elliot will come to understand the truth behind Macy’s decade-long silence, and will have to overcome the past and himself to revive her faith in the possibility of an all-consuming love.

My Thoughts:

This is my 3rd book in about a month by Christina Lauren, a relatively new-to-me writer duo. I’ve been consistently finding their writing engaging, hard to put down, and emotionally compelling — but that said, Love and Other Words didn’t wow me as much as the other two I’ve read.

In Love and Other Words, there’s an aura of sadness that permeates the entire book, driven mostly by the “Then and Now” structure that keeps the narrative flipping back and forth between past and present. In the present, we know that Macy has never gotten over the heartbreak that Elliot represents, and that as a consequence, she keeps herself safe by never really opening herself up to feeling deep emotions. In the past, we see the growing friendship that turns into love, which is sweet and nostalgic, but even there, the feeling of sorrow hangs over everything as Macy mourns her deceased mother and tries to find a place for herself in the world. None of this is a negative exactly, but it does give the book a heaviness that keeps it from being an upbeat, fun read.

And having now read a few books by these authors in a relatively short space of time, I have a quibble that I can’t ignore: This is the 2nd of their books in a row (after My Favorite Half-Night Stand) where the main character is a woman with a very impressive professional life, which clearly required dedication and years of study — and yet their careers end up feeling like window dressing. In My Favorite Half-Night Stand, she’s a university professor; here’s, she’s a pediatric resident. Specifically in this book, we mainly see Macy coming and going from work shifts, but never actually see her working. What’s more, I don’t remember ever getting a clue from her “then” chapters that she had an interest in medicine or science. It’s great to see women in powerful, learned roles — but I want to actually see them in their professional capacity at least a little bit, rather than having their careers being just another fact that makes up the whole. If that makes any sense…

But back to the love story — Macy and Elliot are awfully sweet together, and it’s not exactly a surprise (so I won’t include a spoiler warning) that these two crazy lovebirds find their way back to one another by the end. “Then” Elliot and Macy take a long time to move beyond friendship, and it’s kind of lovely to see them navigating how to deal with first love. As an added plus, young Macy and Elliot bond over their love of words and books, and that’s never not a good thing! Give me a love story built around shared reading material any day!

I’ll close by sharing this sweet little exchange from a “Then” chapter, when Elliot asks Macy if she thinks about him when they’re apart:

It took me a second to process what he meant. When I was back home. Away from him. “Of course I do.”

“When?”

“All the time. You’re my best friend.”

“Your best friend,” he repeated.

My heart dipped low in my chest, almost painfully. “Well, you’re more, too. You’re my best everything.”

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: Love and Other Words
Author: Christina Lauren
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: April 10, 2018
Length: 432 pages
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: Library

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The Monday Check-In ~ 12/17/2018

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

It’s the little things in life that warm a book-lovers heart. On Saturday, I took a whole bunch of books to the library donation center, then headed over to my very favorite bookstore in the city (Borderlands!), where I treated myself to one new book and drooled over half a zillion others, then stopped off at the library on my way home to pick up the books on my hold shelf. So many books to gaze at and admire and adopt!

What did I read during the last week?

The Library Book by Susan Orlean: Fascinating non-fiction. My review is here.

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne: Contemporary romance, borrowed on a whim. My review is here.

Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren: I just discovered this author duo’s books a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve just finished my 3rd book by her (them). So much for me not being a romance reader — clearly, I seem to have a sudden weakness for contemporary romance. I’ll share a review post later this week.

Outlander, baby!

I’m writing reaction posts for each episode of season 4:

Episode 405, “Savages” (aired 12/2/2018) – my reaction post for the 5th episode is here.
Episode 406, “Blood of My Blood” (aired 12/9/2018) – my reaction post for last week’s episode is here.


NEW: Episode 407, “Down the Rabbit Hole” (aired 12/16/2018) – my reaction post for last night’s episode is here.

Fresh Catch:

I did a major bookshelf purge, and took all these books to the library donation center:

But then counter-balanced my sense of virtue by buying a few more new and used books:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Fire & Blood by George R. R. Martin: With two weeks left in December and my 2018 Goodreads challenge already complete, this seems like a good time to take a deep breath and dive into this massive tome. Wish me luck!

Now playing via audiobook:

A tough choice! I’m in-between audiobooks right now, but next up will either be:

  • An audiobook re-read of Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire, since the next Wayward Children book comes out in January; or…
  • Zero G by Dan Wells, an Audible Original that was a free selection for December

Ongoing reads:

Book group reads — two approaching the end, and one just for Christmas!

  • Classic read: Middlemarch by George Eliot — we’ll be done in January.
  • The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon — Last chapters this coming week!
  • The Night Before Christmas by Nikolai Gogol — our group read for December

So many books, so little time…

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Take A Peek Book Review: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

My Thoughts:

I picked up The Hating Game on a whim while pondering which of the heavier books on my list to tackle next. Sometimes, light and romantic is just the thing, and this book delivered — but also made me alternate between hair-pulling frustration and goofy, grinning swoons.

Office romances are risky, and depicting them in fiction takes some delicacy… which The Hating Game mostly lacked. I spent the first twenty percent or so of this book shrieking at the characters to grow up and act like professionals! (OK, my day job might be leaking through a bit here — as someone who works in HR for a living, I was more than a little horrified by the workplace behavior of the characters and the fact that their bosses were completely hopeless as managers). Add to the office nonsense the fact that Josh and Lucy were up for the same promotion (and just how do executive assistants suddenly get considered for COO jobs?), and much of the story drove me absolutely batty.

BUT… when we get Josh and Lucy away from the office, suddenly their banter, flirtation, and chemistry become adorable, and — I admit it — it was impossible not to be caught up in the steamy scenes of almost-but-not-quite between the two of them. Sure, the plot and romance development were complicated by the usual contemporary romance tropes of poor communications and jumping to wildly off-base conclusion about the other’s intentions, but my grumpiness about these elements was eventually washed away by the sheer cuteness and sexiness of Josh and Lucy together. (With Lucy as the only POV character, we have to take her word for everything — but she does have a tendency to freak out over Josh’s behavior in ways that seem overly exaggerated. For a smart woman, she jumps to some dumb conclusions… repeatedly.)

Oh, and for a book that was supposedly centered around the office competition between the two characters, the ending left the career elements strangely unfinished, at least for Lucy. [SPOILER ahead] The big interview for the COO job has been Lucy’s focus (apart from Josh) for weeks, yet the story ends before the interview, so we don’t find out if Lucy ever got the job. We do know that Josh withdraws his application and takes a job with another company so that he and Lucy can pursue their relationship without professional conflicts of interest, but Lucy isn’t necessarily a lock and there are outside candidates — so why, after all the emphasis on Lucy’s dedication to her career, do we not get to know if she achieved her goal? This piece left me decidedly unsatisfied.

So, I guess you could say that I had a love/hate relationship with The Hating Game. I definitely got caught up in the story and basically dropped everything else until I finished… but so many parts of the story left me snorting with disbelief or rolling my eyes. If I had to come up with a rating, I’d probably give 2 stars for the office romance components, but 4 stars for the out-of-the-office flirtation, chemistry, and sexytimes. And apparently, I’ve turned into a contemporary romance reader this month — who’d have thunk it?

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: The Hating Game
Author: Sally Thorne
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication date: August 9, 2016
Length: 384 pages
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: Library

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Shelf Control #145: The Unexpected Waltz

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

cropped-flourish-31609_1280-e1421474289435.png

Title: The Unexpected Waltz
Author: Kim Wright
Published: 2014
Length: 288 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

From the author of the critically acclaimed debut Love in Mid Air comes this moving novel about a middle-aged widow who finds her feet by embracing a new hobby: ballroom dancing.

Kelly Wilder becomes recently widowed from a much older wealthy man with whom she spent her married life doing charity work, building a lovely home, and, as she says, “pretending to be a whole lot more conservative and stupid and nicer than I really am.”

Now, with too much time and money on her hands, Kelly has absolutely no idea what happens next. So on a whim she signs up for a ballroom dancing class, and slowly, step by high-heeled step, begins to rebuild her life with the help of friends old and new: Nik, a young Russian dance teacher who sees the artistic potential she left behind; Carolina, a woman in hospice, anxious to experience a whole lifetime in a few months; and Elyse, Kelly’s girlhood best friend who knows all of her past secrets—including the truth about the man who long ago broke Kelly’s heart.

In the vein of Jennifer Weiner’s novels, Unexpected Waltz is a deeply felt story about moving on after loss and finding a new walk—or dance—of life through the power of second chances.

How and when I got it:

This is one of those mysterious books that I don’t remember buying! I know it’s been on my Kindle for a while now, which means at some point I decided I needed it — but I have no memory of actually getting it. Still, I’m glad it’s there!

Why I want to read it:

I love sweet stories about dancing — I’m thinking of movies like Shall We Dance, with great dance numbers and a moving, uplifting plot about personal change, opening up, finding yourself, etc. The description of The Unexpected Waltz makes it sound like a lovely read… and maybe it’ll prompt me to consider ballroom dance lessons, something I’ve always intended to try some day.

__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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