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review 2021-08-11 04:48
BEACH READ by Emily Henry
Beach Read - Emily Henry

January has been left a house in Michigan by her late father. She goes up to live in it when she is broke and still is working on her current novel--or rather not working on it. Her next door neighbor is Gus Everett, her rival in college. After taking potshots at each other, they decide to have a contest where he writes a rom-com and she writes a literary novel and see which one can sell theirs first. In the course of their writing, truths come out.


I loved this book! I loved January. I could relate to her as she and Gus have their discussions at the end of their days of writing. I understood her thoughts. I also loved Gus. He is similar to January but his thoughts took on a darker tone. Once January can get him to open up, he reveals a lot to January--things she never expected. I did appreciate their openness when their thoughts and explanations came out. It is rare to have that much communication between characters. His explanation when they went to New Eden was wonderful and swoon-worthy.


I loved the other characters--Pete, Maggie, even Sonya. They are quirky (not Sonya). I was glad when Sonya made January listen to her. So much was said and pain was let go eventually. I wish January's mother had been more open with her earlier so her father's death would not have been a shock.


I liked the humor. There were times I was laughing out loud as I pictured these scenes. The dialog was snappy and snarky (reminds me of the dialog in The Maltese Falcon). This is one of the top books I have read this year. It is wonderful watching a curmudgeon fall in love.

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review 2020-07-19 00:55
28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand
My Rating: 5 Stars
This book starts with the reader already knowing the ending. Some reviews I've seen state that it would've been better to save what Mallory's fate is until the end of the book, but I feel that the reason Elin disclosed her illness was so you could appreciate what a full life she led, although bittersweet.

This book is based on the play and movie, Same Time Next Year. Mallory Blessing and Jake McCloud come into one another's life via her brother Cooper Blessing and connect romantically almost instantly in 1993.  Although they have chemistry from the beginning, Jake is in a relationship with his childhood sweetheart and Mallory is starting her life over on Nantucket. They agree to spend Labor Day weekend together every year, no matter what is happening in their lives.  are not to contact one another throughout the year unless there's a marriage, pregnancy or death, which they abide by.
I loved how each chapter began with real life highlights of events that were happening in the specific year.  Another highlight was the mouth-watering details in the meals they prepared and ate!!! I need some recipes for these dishes Elin!!!  She also peppers characters and businesses from her other books throughout the story, which is very comforting; makes you feel like you've been here before (and if you've read any of her books before, you kind of have been!)

- I did not enjoy the politics within the book. (Beach Read...trying to escape reality here!!) - At times I felt sad for both Mallory and Jake because their situation could've been different if they were just honest with themselves and others in their lives.  They could've had more time together during their lifetime (life is short!)  - Infidelity. It is bothersome that both characters so easily could drift back to one another for one weekend a year and then just return to the rest of their lives for the remainder of the year.  ( they did find it difficult to separate and thought of one another when not together...torturing themselves.)
If this is your very first Elin Hilderbrand read, please don't totally judge her on this book alone.  It was a bit more 'serious' and depressing than some of her other books. Checkout 'The Blue Bistro' to experience just one of my favorites of hers!
Click here to purchase your copy! 
Source: allaroundthecircle.blogspot.com/2020/07/book-review-28-summers.html
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review 2020-06-08 18:04
'Beach Read' by Emily Henry
Beach Read - Emily Henry,Julia Whalen

'Beach Read' lived up to its title. It's exactly the kind of book that I want to read on holiday.

It made me laugh, cry, think, grin at its impudence, cheer for the good bits and fast-forward through the sex bits. Most of all, it made me happy.



A clever structure


I picked up 'Beach Read' after reading Deborah Kehoe's review which positioned the book as much more than just another romance. She was absolutely right. 'Beach Read' is one of those rare books that manages to be accessible and engaging while also being clever and insightful. 


Think of 'Beach Read' as having a double helix structure, like DNA.


One helix is a straight RomCom about two writers, January, a writer of 'women's fiction' and Gus, a Lit Fic writer. both struggling to write their next novel, who discover that they are neighbours for the summer and overcome some initial hostility to dance all the usual romance steps.


The other helix is about the process of writing, about overcoming writer's block and about challenging the artificial genre boundaries imposed by publishing houses to make books easier to market. Each helix would be fin on its own but together they make something much more powerful and original.


The RomCom helix: like a romance only with real people


I'm not normally a fan of romance but this romance I loved. I loved how knowing and yet how believable this book was. The structure is self-referentially that of a romance novel, from Meet Cute to Happy Ever After with all the steps in between labelled as we go along. 


Yet it's neither groan-worthily glub nor mechanically formulaic because the characters KNOW the framework that they're in and any romance that occurs is created by a consensual collaboration. The characters aren't plot-devices, they have histories and personalities and problems that determine how they behave within this romantic construct. The story is backlit by a playful examination of the process of writing a novel and the nature of the genres that are imposed on them, which is used to reveal more about the characters themselves.


Together, these things make for a novel that's like a romance but with real people who aren't blinded or glamoured by the magic of romance but instead are able to see themselves and each other more clearly.


The Writing Helix: challenging genres and throwing words like knives.


I am a fan of clever trope-twisting and witty analysis and 'Beach Read' delivers both. Take this excerpt from a discussion between Gus, the male lit-fic writer and January the female romance writer. January says that her books aren't shelved as Romance but as Women's Fiction. Gus says:

'I don't understand why there'd need to be a full genre that's just books for women.' 

January replies:

'Yeh, well you're not the only one who doesn't understand it.' I said.  'I know how to tell a story, Gus and I know how to string a sentence together. If you swapped out all my Jessicas for Johns, do you know what you'd get? Fiction. Just fiction. Ready and willing to be read by anyone but somehow, being a woman who writes about women, I've eliminated half the world's population from my potential readers and you know what? I feel ashamed of that. I feel pissed that people like you will assume my books couldn't possibly be worth your time while, meanswhile, you could shart on live TV and the New York Times would praise your bold display of humanity.'

Given that I wouldn't have picked up this book if I hadn't been told that it was more than a romance, this made me grin sheepishly.


Writing and what it means to be a writer is at the heart of the book which means that what these two say to each other and write to each other are important. For writers, words have sharp edges. I thought one of the joys of this book was the way the two writers traded pen sketches. It displayed how their imaginations worked and revealed the kind of judgements that they make, Here's an example where Gus, having asked January what 'baby January' was like and having been told, 'She was a lot' spontaneously spins this:

'Let me guess. Loud. Precocious. Room full of books organised in a way that only you understood. Close with your family and a couple of tight-knit friends, all of who you probably still talk to regularly, but casual friends with anyone else with a pulse. A secret over-achiever who had to be the best at something, even if no one else knew. Oh and prone to juggling or tap dancing for attention in any crowd.' 

Here's January's response:

'Wow,' I said, a little stunned. 'You both nailed and roasted me.'

I could hear the joy and the danger in that Gus' kind of statement, where things come out of your mouth unedited, partly playful, partly true, partly catching you by surprise even as you hear yourself say them. It sparkles. Then January's response grounded it, without rebutting it, making it clear that words have edges and need to be thrown with care.


I also like how Emily Henry plays with the form while still delivering something satisfying. You know how there's likely to be a chapter in a romance book where the girl dreams of the boy or vis versa and suddenly understands the depth of their attraction? Well, this book has that chapter. The fun thing is that it's called 'The Dream' and it's one sentence long.

'I dreamed about Gus Everett and woke up needing a shower.'

That made me laugh.


The disappointing sex scene


The only thing that disappointed me in 'Beach Read' was the sex. I knew that had to be sex, I just wanted the sex to be as real as the people having it.


Up until the sex scene, the book had sidestepped clichés and toyed with tropes with skill and a little humour, keeping the focus on making January and Gus real. Yet the sex scenes didn't seem real at all. They lacked the focus of previous scenes. They were a muddle of sanitised descriptions of who does what to whom, hyperbolic descriptions of how good it all felt, and a few muttered attempts at humour. It was a long scene, cutting across a chapter break (why do that?) yet all I got was euphemisms that were so soft-focus that the sex wasn't really described. I was also supposed to accept that two people, having sex with each other for the first time managed a flawless choreography with no communication and rapidly achieved a level of mutual satisfaction that was explosive, exhausting. 


My main problem with the scene was that it was so generic. It was a generic description of two beautiful, highly aroused people having frantic but deeply satisfying sex. Nothing in the scene links specifically to the characters in the book. You could drop this scene into another novel and only have to edit the names.


Earlier in the book, the two writers discuss how you make things real by paying attention to the small details that matter to people: how they dress, what they're anxious about, what unconscious ticks they have and so on. None of that thinking translated into the scene. January had neither anxiety or curiosity. There was no uncertainty, no hesitation, no real interaction beyond two bodies getting off in perfect soft-focus harmony.


This was very disappointing. Write a real sex scene for the real people in the book or write, 'the sex was great' and leave it at that but don't drop in a soft porn photomontage that would work well if you never saw the participants faces.


Try the audiobook


I listened to the audiobook version of 'Beach Read' and I recommend it. Julia Whelan did a great job on the narration. 

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review 2020-05-03 20:33
Beach Read by Emily Henry
Beach Read - Emily Henry

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


January has lived her life with an open heart and rose colored glasses. Her mother's scares with cancer taught her to hide her fears while the way her parent's loving and romantic relationship taught her that outpouring happiness and love made life glow. When her father dies and a big secret is revealed, she can't manage to see only the glow in life. Her boyfriend dumps her and with her writing career in danger, January takes off to Michigan to come to terms with who she thought her father was and try to get her life back on track. When her next door neighbor turns out to be college rival and crush Augustus Everett, she winds up getting in a pseudo competition about who can write the best book in the other's genre. January's trying to come to terms with the past and she might just build a future while doing it.


From now on, it was the ugly truth or nothing.


Beach Read is a standalone contemporary that melded women's fiction and romance together perfectly. Told entirely from January's point of view, the reader is brought into her life as it's falling apart. January had a good childhood but not a perfect one, her mother had two cancer scares but the way her father showed his love for the family and constantly romanced her mother, taught January that love and happiness makes everything better. A little later in the story we learn that January's parents did have a couple month separation and it becomes apparent that while January knew there were cracks in her ideal world, she glossed them over. I liked how the author flushed out this trait of January's, not simply having her be a head in the clouds happy but having this aspect of January's develop in part to being a child who had a parent with cancer and emotionally deciding to keep in complicated feelings because you want every moment with them to be “happy”.


I wanted to know whether you could ever fully know someone. If knowing how they were—how they moved and spoke and the faces they made and the things they tried not to look at—amounted to knowing them. Or if knowing things about them—where they’d been born, all the people they’d been, who they’d loved, the worlds they’d come from—added up to anything.


The core of the story is January coming to terms with the fact that her father cheated on her mother and had a mistress, which she doesn't find out until after her father has died. The swirling emotions of January are felt, the anger, the disillusionment, and the pain. Her mother knew about the mistress but doesn't want to speak to January about it and while I liked this no easy, messy, tangle of emotions from two characters, I wish we could have gotten more from and between January's mom and her. This seemed like such an important relationship for January and it wasn't worked out enough for me. I did like how Sonya, the woman January's father had been involved with, became a fully fleshed out character and their relationship wasn't black and white.


The worst part of being college rivals with Gus Everett? Probably the fact that I wasn’t sure he knew we were. He was three years older, a high school dropout who’d gotten his GED after spending a few years working as a literal gravedigger.


I'm typically am not a fan of only one pov in a romance but it worked for me here, possibly because of the women's fiction aspect and probably because the author was able to convey Gus (Augustus) as solid, well rounded out character who's emotions I could grasp on page. From the moment January is angry at her next door neighbor grump to when Gus tells her “I lied,” he whispered against my ear. “I have read your books.”, these two sparked and burned. Their past relationship in college and how they misread each other's thoughts and feelings was a perfect bridge to January learning to look into the shadows and Gus discovering that he can bring light to the dark. I enjoyed their wit and snark that had such an ease to it; they weren't “on” for each other, it was just their chemistry. I did think at times their cutesy knee bumping while sitting felt a bit juvenile but overall I liked their friendship and that had me believing in their love.


I don’t need you to be Fabio,” I said, voice thick with emotion, like it wasn’t the single stupidest sentence I’d uttered in my life.


This had me chuckling and my eyes misting, the emotion is felt but with more of tingle and lightness, rather than diving into the trenches with it. As I mentioned, I wish we could have gotten more in regards to January and her mother's relationship and felt the same way with January and her bestfriend Shadi, who ended up feeling more like a guest star than integrated into the story. However, the relationship between January and Gus amused and attracted as they waded through their own issues and each others. If looking for a great blend of women's fiction and romance, Beach Read would be a perfect pick.

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review 2020-04-30 03:11
Love on Beach Avenue (The Sunshine Sisters, #1) by: Jennifer Probst
Love on Beach Avenue (The Sunshine Sisters, #1) - Jennifer Probst





Probst grabbed me at hello. Carter and Avery are the sweetest mix of chaos and forever that I've ever encountered. He's the Grinch with a hero's heart. She's the dreamer with a romantic soul. Never quite perfect, yet hopelessly drawn together. Love on Beach Avenue is a melody that lures your heart into the tune. Probst constructs a beautiful kind of heartache that proves itself to be a breathtaking experience.

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