Book Review: Shipped by Angie Hockman

Title: Shipped
Author: Angie Hockman
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: January 19, 2021
Length: 335 pages
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: Purchased

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Unhoneymooners meets The Hating Game in this witty, clever, and swoonworthy novel following a workaholic marketing manager who is forced to go on a cruise with her arch-nemesis when they’re up for the same promotion.

Between taking night classes for her MBA and her demanding day job at a cruise line, marketing manager Henley Evans barely has time for herself, let alone family, friends, or dating. But when she’s shortlisted for the promotion of her dreams, all her sacrifices finally seem worth it.

The only problem? Graeme Crawford-Collins, the remote social media manager and the bane of her existence, is also up for the position. Although they’ve never met in person, their epic email battles are the stuff of office legend.

Their boss tasks each of them with drafting a proposal on how to boost bookings in the Galápagos—best proposal wins the promotion. There’s just one catch: they have to go on a company cruise to the Galápagos Islands…together. But when the two meet on the ship, Henley is shocked to discover that the real Graeme is nothing like she imagined. As they explore the Islands together, she soon finds the line between loathing and liking thinner than a postcard.

With her career dreams in her sights and a growing attraction to the competition, Henley begins questioning her life choices. Because what’s the point of working all the time if you never actually live?

Perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Sally Thorne, Shipped is a fresh and engaging rom-com that celebrates the power of second chances and the magic of new beginnings.

In this office romance (set on a cruise ship!), two people competing for one job end up finding romance and chemistry while forced to spend time together. Henley has harbored anger and resentment toward Graeme ever since he joined the marketing team of Seaquest Adventures, although they’ve only ever met via video conferences. She is not thrilled to learn that he’s being considered for the promotion that she thought she had in the bag, and is especially unhappy to learn that part of the selection process for the promotion involves going on the company’s Galapagos tour — with Graeme.

While enjoying the gorgeous setting, Henley continues to bump heads with Graeme, but between their instant physical attraction and the fact that he actually seems nice in person, she’s forced to reevaluate her opinions of him.

Shipped is pretty standard fare when it comes to contemporary romance. It’s the enemies-to-lovers trope, every step of the way, and while the Galapagos setting makes it fun, the plot beats are exactly what you’d expect.

I had a hard time with main character Henley pretty much the entire way through the book. Her impression of Graeme and the way she interacts with him are so uncalled for — she comes across as unreasonable and extreme, and I doubt that was the author’s intention. He’s clearly not an awful person, and the way she talks to him and acts around him just doesn’t make sense. As Henley puts it:

The fact is, I acted like a lunatic today […]

Some of the writing is a little clunky, with language that left me scratching my head:

We barely make it through the door before we’re on each other like duct tape.

That sounds… painful? sticky? Not sexy, which I think was the intent. And then there’s this, which… I don’t even know.

My nether-kitty yowls and hisses at this interruption.

Of course, I also should disclose that office romance storylines are probably my least favorite romance plots, so that factors in as well. I didn’t find the office dynamics believable, and don’t even get me started on the promotion competition or the book’s tidy resolution for Henley’s career.

Still, there are some cute moments, and I liked Henley’s relationships with her friends and her sister, as well as the importance she places on giving credit where credit is due. The descriptions of the sights and wildlife of the Galapagos makes me want to go there, immediately! And I appreciate that the author includes all sorts of information on how to support wildlife preservation initiatives in the area as part of her notes at the end.

Maybe this book will work better for those who enjoy the specific romance tropes included here. Alas, while it was a quick and light read, it just wasn’t really my cup of tea.

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.


(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








Book Review: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Book Review: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Attachments is a love story, albeit one that’s a bit outside the usual boy-meets-girl mold. In this version of 20th century love, boy doesn’t meet girl, exactly — he snoops through her email files instead.

Lincoln is a midwestern loner in his late twenties, so badly burned by getting dumped by his first love during their freshman year of college that he’s just never tried again. Lincoln lives with his mom, works the graveyard shift in the IT department of a newspaper, and has a social life that consists primarily of Saturday night Dungeons & Dragons sessions. When Lincoln is assigned to work internet security, his job mainly entails reviewing emails flagged for violating company policy and sending warning memos to the offenders. But mostly, he sits around with not much to do, killing time in his lonely workspace and having dinner in the break room with Doris, the 60-something-year-old vending machine lady — who, incidentally, has a better love life than Lincoln does.

But as soon as Lincoln reads the first flagged email between Beth, a movie reviewer, and Jennifer, a copy editor, he’s captivated. He knows he should warn them and move on, but instead, he gets caught up in their daily chit-chat, their ruminations on life, their ongoing relationship woes, and most of all, their easy yet deep friendship. At some point, there’s no return: There’s no way for Lincoln to suddenly tell them to stop sending personal emails without revealing that he’s been reading their emails for months, and so it goes on. On the one hand, Lincoln gets more and more deeply involved and begins to really fall for Beth — but on the other hand, Lincoln starts to really despise himself for what he can no longer consider anything but creepy snooping.

There are surprises in store. We hear about Lincoln only from his own perspective, and he really does not think well of himself. So when Beth starts emailing Jennifer about the cute guy at work, it takes a few beats to realize that they’re discussing Lincoln. Wait, he’s cute? He’s big and handsome, kind of like the Brawny paper towel guy? You’d never know it, considering how little Lincoln thinks of himself.

Beth’s got self-image issues too. She’s been involved with a gorgeous guitar player for years — but most of the time, he barely knows she’s there. She wants to get married, but mostly he just wants to perform and listen to music. Beth’s sisters are married, her friends seem to all be married or on their way to the altar, she thinks her upper arms are hideous, and she has a sad collection of bridesmaids dresses that taunt her from the closet.

This is, ultimately, a very romantic book, and so it’s clear early on that Beth and Lincoln are destined to finally connect. How they get there and what they go through is where all the fun lies. Attachments is a quick, quirky read. The Beth-and-Jennifer parts of the story are told via their emails, and really, these two women are people you’d just love to hang out with. They’re funny, they’re snarky, and they’re really there for each other, with an honesty that only best friends can truly afford. Lincoln’s chapters are the meat of the book, and their narrative flow is both sad and humorous. You can’t help but root for Lincoln as he takes baby steps toward manning up and moving forward — look, he went out to a bar! Look, he arranged a weekend outing! Look, he started going to the gym and bought some new clothes!

Attachments starts out in late 1999, with the world starting to seriously worry about Y2K and whether technology will grind to a halt. There ‘s a charm to the millenial internet jargon, the coding frenzies, the gradual introduction of email privacy (or lack thereof). This book was written in 2011, and I’m not entirely sure that I think the nostalgic look back at 1999/2000 is really necessary to the storyline — although I suppose things couldn’t happen this way today, with our firewalls, spam filters, and tech-savvy social media obsessions. There’s a certain sweet innocence to the emails between Beth and Jennifer, blithely talking about their personal lives with no thoughts about anyone reading their words, forwarding their emails, or posting embarrassing quotes on their Facebook walls.

Office settings are rare in contemporary fiction as anything but backdrop — the places the main characters go when they’re not on stage in their homes or other more action-packed or glamorous settings. In Attachments, the office is a bit of a social melting pot, where Lincoln is finally dragged out of his cocoon and forced to acknowledge himself as a person who needs and wants other people.

I decided to read Attachments after reading Eleanor & Park, the new (and amazing) young adult novel by Rainbow Rowell. I loved the author’s voice and approach to her characters so much that I decided to seek out anything else she’d written, and as it turned out, Attachments was her first and only other novel. If not for Eleanor & Park, I doubt I would have come across Attachments… but I’m so glad that I did.

Attachments is sweet, romantic, funny, and warm-hearted, and surprised me by being much more affecting than I’d anticipated. It’s a great love story, well-suited to a lonely world in which people connect best via their devices and screens. At its heart, Attachments is about real, live, human connection — how rare it is to find it, and how special it can be. Check it out! It’s a quick, satisfying read that’ll leave you with a smile on your face.

Rainbow Rowell has a new book, Fangirl, due out in the fall. You can bet I’ll read it!

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