Book Review, Fiction, Uncategorized

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger ~ Book Review

The Devil Wears Prada with brownies

Broadway
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Release Date: April 15, 2003
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪

I absolutely adore the movie adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada and yes, I did watch it before I read the book (many, many times in fact). I’m not sure why I never thought to pick up the book until now — I might have been a teensy bit scared of being disappointed.

I think the key for me to enjoy this story was to think of it as a standalone, and not consider its relation to the movie. Did I picture Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway while I read? Maybe a little bit. But I digress. The Devil Wears Prada follows Andrea Sachs as she embarks on her first job out of college, in New York City. She lands the role of assistant to Miranda Priestly, the editor of Runway, a glamorous fashion magazine. Andrea has dreams of someday being a writer for The New Yorker, but she figures a year at Runway will be a foot in the door of the publishing industry.

The majority of the book focuses on the insane errands and impossible tasks that Miranda tosses Andrea’s way, but Andrea’s personal life is fleshed out as well, much more so than the movie. She struggles with her relationships with her family and with her boyfriend, with trying to find an affordable apartment in Manhattan, and with a friend who is dealing with a drinking problem. This rounding-out of her character kept the scenes at the office from getting repetitive. 

There are some key plot differences between the movie and the book, especially near the end, and Andrea’s character is depicted very differently. As much as I did enjoy reading this, I think I actually prefer the movie, but that might just be because I’ve seen it so many times, and am used to the story going a certain way. Nonetheless, Miranda’s antics, and Andrea’s growth throughout her time working at Runway still make for an entertaining and interesting read for sure.

My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪
Buy The Devil Wears Prada at an indie bookstore near you
The Devil Wears Prada on Goodreads

Book Review, Fiction, Uncategorized

Destination Wedding by Diksha Basu ~ Book Review

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Ballantine Books 
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: June 30, 2020 (Happy Pub Day! Thanks to NetGalley and the Publisher for an ARC!)
My Rating: 🍪🍪.5

Destination Wedding is a meandering work of contemporary fiction that takes place over the course of a weeklong wedding celebration in Delhi, India. Above all, this felt to me like an exploration of Delhi, the characters who act as narrators, and the varied relationships they have with India. The descriptive imagery throughout the entire narrative was extremely detailed and characterized the writing and the entirety of the novel for me.

There are a lot of players who make up this storyline. Tina Das and Marianne lead the narrative, at least at the beginning. Tina’s cousin is getting married, and she brings along her best friend Marianne with her, both traveling from Manhattan. Tina’s divorced parents come along as well as her mom’s boyfriend. I did not like Tina and Marianne. Both seemed very entitled to me, and Marianne’s fixation with dating men of different races and cultures felt problematic. I think she was constructed that way on purpose, but I wished Tina had addressed it. While in Delhi, Tina’s dad is set up with a woman who has been widowed. Their storyline was my favorite. The budding romance is not traditionally the type that’s written about, given their age, and it was heartwarming to see their renewed faith in love. I also really appreciated Mr. Das’s relationship with his ex-wife and their ability to support each other despite their divorce.

I’m a very plot-oriented reader, and as such, I struggled with this book. The descriptive language is fantastic, I felt like I could see, smell and hear Delhi through Basu’s wonderful prose, but it was a bit rambly. The asides from various, seemingly inconsequential characters, also threw me for a loop. It felt disjointed to me to suddenly have a bit of insight from someone who was not a main character, but in hindsight, it added to the overall atmospheric element of the novel. As an exploration of Delhi, and different inhabitant’s thoughts about the city, this worked well and gave a more rounded view of the city. If you are looking for a fast paced, plot driven narrative, this one may not be your cup of tea.

My Rating: 🍪🍪.5
Buy Destination Wedding at an indie bookstore near you
Destination Wedding on Goodreads

Book Review, Fiction, Romance, Uncategorized

Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan ~ Book Review

IMG_5143

Doubleday (Thanks to the publisher for an ARC!)
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: June 30, 2020
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪.5

I was a big fan of the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy (and movie!). When I first caught wind of Kevin Kwan’s new book, Sex and Vanity, I couldn’t wait to jump back into a world of over the top luxury, caricature-esque characters, and ways of life beyond my wildest imaginings. This is exactly what I got. Sex and Vanity is marketed as an homage to A Room with a View, and although I haven’t read E.M. Forster’s novel, after a brief skimming of the Wikipedia page, it looks like the general plot is closely followed, and many of the names of the main characters from the original book are used. Other than that, I can only speak to Sex and Vanity as a standalone story.

I will say that in retrospect, there are very few likable characters in this book. I loved the main characters of the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy, and the way they stood in stark contrast to the utter vanity of those around them. This book follows Lucie, starting when she is in high school and has a romantic trist with a boy named George while they’re at a wedding in Italy, and then skipping ahead to when she becomes engaged to Cecil. Cecil was way too much for me. He was inexcusably rude, vapid, and entitled, and the fact that Lucie could be engaged to him and keep brushing off the terrible way he treated her family made me very frustrated. Besides having little personality of her own, she came off as quite the meek pushover. Additionally, her cousin Charlotte’s character construction was extremely bizarre. She seemed incredibly old-fashioned and conservative for the modern setting. I wonder if this was a sort of carry-over from trying to adapt a novel from 1908. It didn’t quite work.

Besides the issues with the characters, I actually enjoyed this novel a lot. It was a wonderfully opulent escape from reality, with exquisite descriptions of decadence from Capri to the Hamptons. The plot was pretty predictable, but I liked the little dips and turns that were taken along the way. Lucie’s experience being biracial and feeling torn between the two sides of her family was also a thought-provoking and informative layer to her character and the story as a whole. Kevin Kwan’s descriptive language is masterful. I could practically see, taste, and smell everything he depicted, and the footnotes he includes in his writing allow the reader to have the same background knowledge as the kooky characters, without him including a bunch of exposition directly in the narrative.

My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪.5
Sex and Vanity on Goodreads 
Buy Sex and Vanity at an indie bookstore near you

Book Review, Fiction, Romance, Uncategorized

The Sight of You by Holly Miller ~ Book Review

The Sight of You and Cake

G.P. Putnam’s Sons (thank you to the publisher for a review copy!)
Genre: Romance
Release Date: June 9, 2020
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪

The Sight of You sets up an emotional and beautiful love story with an unexpected premise unlike anything I’ve read before. One of the two main characters, Joel, has a peculiar ailment: he dreams about the futures of the people he loves. Although these are often wonderful and positive dreams, the ones that are sinister haunt him at all times of day. Plagued by the knowledge of what will happen to the people he is closest to, Joel tries to sleep as little as possible, and distances himself from close relationships. The emotional weight of this book reminded me of Me Before You. When Callie meets Joel, she is instantly attracted to him. I really appreciated seeing her side of the narrative as she struggles to understand Joel’s actions and reactions.

The narrative is split between the two of them in a heartbreaking depiction of two people who want, above all else, to be together, but who struggle to justify the pain and weight that their relationship carries. The way that their relationship affects each of them is really wonderfully portrayed. The novel shows how being together helps each of them become better versions of themselves: pursuing passions, travels, and experiences spurred by conversations they shared. The positive impacts they have on each other makes the arc of the story especially heart-wrenching.

The chapters are also interspersed with letters from Callie in the future, giving the reader some insight as to how her life has unfolded. These made me whip through the book, trying to understand the actions that led to her writing each letter. This book definitely sits heavy on the heart, but the beauty of Miller’s writing and uniquely descriptive prose makes it a truly enjoyable read.

My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪
Buy The Sight of You at an indie bookstore near you
The Sight of You on Goodreads

Book Review, Fiction, Romance, Uncategorized

The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon ~ Book Review

IMG_5379
Forever
Genre: Romance
Release Date: June 9, 2020
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪.5

Thank you to Libro.fm for an audiobook of The Boyfriend Project. I absolutely loved the premise of this book. It begins with three women who discover, thanks to Twitter, that they’ve all been catfished by the same man. As they bond over their shared strife, they commiserate about how much time they’ve spent swiping through dating apps and going on wasted dates. Together, they decide to devote the next six months to their own passion projects and hobbies in an endeavor they title: The Boyfriend Project. Obviously, this is a romance, so this plan isn’t strictly upheld, but I loved the feeling of empowerment behind their decision and the way that it sets the stage for the three women’s friendship. I also really appreciate their frank conversations about the difficulties of finding strong friendships as an adult.

Samiah Brooks is our main character and largely leads the story. She works in the tech industry, and discusses the racism and sexism she’s experienced as a Black woman throughout her career. The weight of her struggle and her need to strive for nothing less than perfection is such an important addition to this story. The layers of this novel really impressed me. When Samiah meets a new hire at work, Daniel, their attraction is immediate. I was expecting her main qualm with pursuing a relationship with him to be The Boyfriend Project, but his storyline was much more complex than that (think a little bit of a double life). This was such a unique, intricate, and ~steamy~ romance and Je Nie Fleming’s narration truly brought Farrah Rochon’s work to life. I can’t wait for the next book in this series!

My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪.5
Buy The Boyfriend Project at an indie bookstore near you
Buy the audiobook on Libro.fm
The Boyfriend Project on Goodreads

Book Review, Fiction, Romance, Uncategorized, YA

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell ~ Book Review

Eleanor & Park with brownies

St. Martin’s Press
Genre: YA Romance
Release Date: February 26, 2013
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪

I have never smiled so much while listening to an audiobook. Eleanor & Park tells the story of, well, Eleanor and Park, whose romance begins on the seats of the yellow school bus that brings them to and from high school each day. Eleanor’s the new kid. She’s overweight, and her flaming red hair and eclectic clothes immediately make her standout to the other kids, and not in a good way. Park, unable to stand the awkwardness that ensues when no one lets her sit with them, scoots over for her. Aw, young love. From there, Rowell does a captivating job of creating a believable YA love story. It starts with Park’s comic books, which Eleanor reads over his shoulder on their daily bus rides, subtly at first, and then not so subtly.

The humor infused in this novel is fantastic. Eleanor’s flirty sass is adorable and believable, and her banter with Park is perfect. Their internal insights and conversations, narrated by Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra wonderfully bring to life the trepidation that comes with first relationships.

There’s an extra layer added to Park and Eleanor’s story that was woven through every action: Eleanor’s family. She lives with her mom and abusive stepfather, and a gaggle of younger siblings she tries her best to protect. The details of her home life are heartbreaking: her race to take a bath after school before her stepdad gets home because the bathroom door won’t close and her attempts to confront her mom about what’s going on while she quietly assures Eleanor she is fine.

Park’s family welcomes Eleanor into their home as Park’s girlfriend and for the first time in her life, she has a safe place. I appreciated the discussions the two of them had about their families and Park’s feelings about his Asian heritage. It was touching and painful to see the way he tried to understand and accommodate Eleanor’s home life, and the way the romantic relationships Eleanor’s mom engaged in affected her ability to express the way she felt toward Park. Overall, this was an engrossing coming-of-age romance and there was a good balance between the heavy and disturbing topics and the adorable and humorous relationship between Eleanor and Park.

My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪
Buy Eleanor & Park at an indie bookstore near you
Eleanor & Park on Goodreads

Book Review, Memoir, Nonfiction, Uncategorized

Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me by Adrienne Brodeur ~ Book Review

Wild Game with Brownies

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Memoir
Release Date: October 15, 2019
My Rating: 🍪🍪.5

The setting of this story intoxicated me. Brodeur’s descriptions came alive through her writing. I could feel the salty humidity of summers on Cape Cod, hear the sound of the ocean on a summer night, and vividly imagine sitting, stuffed full of exquisite food, tipsy on red wine, perfectly content in a hot breeze. These are the prose that drew me into Wild Game. What followed was Adrienne’s story of her relationship with her mother, Malabar, who used Adrienne as a pawn in her affair.

Starting at age fourteen, Adrienne is privy to her mother’s every trist with a close family friend, Ben. Malabar treats Adrienne as her closest confidant, and has her daughter help orchestrate times for her to be alone with her lover. Not once does she seem to consider the detrimental effect this may have on Adrienne. As a teenager, Adrienne thinks it’s all very exciting. She basks in being her mom’s chosen confidant. As she gets older, she struggles when those around her tell her that her relationship with her mom is toxic. Adrienne is so blinded by her mother’s glamour, and intoxicated by her seemingly thrilling and secretive life, that it takes her a long time to understand the terrible toll her mom’s secret had on her own life.

It was incredibly shocking reading about the dinner parties with spouses who were secretly sleeping together. Even more disturbing was Ben and Malabar’s plan to wait until their spouses, each with severe illnesses, died, and then to be together. It was hard to understand how their secret was sustained for so many years, but that clearly would not have been the case without Adrienne’s help.

I wanted to shake Adrienne through a lot of this book to get her to see clearly how awfully her mom treated her. Malabar’s utter selfishness is proven again and again, and it was painful to witness how blinded Adrienne to the one-sided nature of their relationship. In addition to the repetitive nature of Malabar’s actions, much of this memoir felt repetitious. Despite the speed at which it sucked me in, I found that the later chapters seemed drawn out, with Ben and Malabar nearly getting caught, and then making it through, over and over again. Unfortunately, this caused me to largely lose interest by the end of the book.

My Rating: 🍪🍪.5
Buy Wild Game at an indie bookstore near you
Wild Game on Goodreads

Book Review, Fiction, Uncategorized, YA

Harley in the Sky by Akemi Dawn Bowman ~ Book Review

Harley in the Sky with Blondies

Simon Pulse
Genre: YA Fiction
Release Date: March 10, 2020
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪

I really had no idea what to expect going into this book. I received it in the March YA Once Upon a Book Club Box and it’s probably not something I would have picked up otherwise. The premise of a story set at a circus was extremely unique and gave me major The Greatest Showman vibes. Harley’s parents own a circus and she has grown up surrounded by performers, desperately dreaming of someday being an aerialist and performing under the big top herself. Her parents, however, have other plans for her. Plans that involve college and postponing her dream. 

I often struggle with YA, and find that it falls into the same repetitive tropes. The setting of Harley in the Sky really helped set it apart and avoid those issues. This was an incredibly distinctive storyline. The theme of family played heavily into the plot, especially how relationships with parents and other relatives change through the teenage years and beyond. The letters written by Harley’s mom were alternately heartbreaking and eye opening and really helped the reader understand where her character was coming from in contrast to Harley’s narration.

Identity was also a major theme. Harley struggles with the different parts of her heritage. She doesn’t feel fully connected with any one part of her Asian heritage and as a result doesn’t feel like she knows how to define herself. The standard coming-of-age theme seemed relevant and important for a YA audience.

Mental health also featured significantly in this story. Harley candidly discusses how she has dealt with extreme mood swings and depression in the past, and paints a heartbreaking image of her parents misunderstanding and reticence to send her to therapy. This is such an important conversation for young people to be exposed to, and it made me really happy to see the way it was opened up through Harley.

The pieces of the plot and narrative were all tied together by the overarching location of the circus. Bowman does a wonderful job of explaining circus culture and dropping in beautiful imagery to describe the performers and performances. The consistency of the setting was a wonderful backdrop for the story to unfold within and really made Harley’s story cohesive.

My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪
Buy Harley in the Sky at an indie bookstore near you
Harley in the Sky on Goodreads

Book Review, Fiction, Uncategorized

Oona Out of Order: A Novel by Margarita Montimore ~ Book Review

Oona Out of Order with banana bread

Flatiron Books
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: February 25, 2020
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪

Thank you to Libro.fm for the audiobook Oona out of Order, narrated by the wonderful Brittany Pressley! I am very conflicted about what genre Oona Out of Order falls into. The premise is this: every year at the stroke of the New Year, Oona is transported to a different year of her life. From there, she lives that one year internally a different age than her external self. Enter lots of confusion and difficulty maintaining relationships. It sounds kind of sci-fi based solely off of that, but the story is so much more.

The relationships in Oona’s life, and the exceptional way that she is forced to navigate them really stood out to me. Oona’s mother is particularly central, and seeing the way she supports her daughter as best she can through her strange condition is really touching. As with all parents and children, their love for one another ebbs and flows, with Oona often unaware of why her mother feels a certain way toward her. The dynamic between them is strong and often painfully relatable, and felt like a believable extension of a mother-daughter relationship.

I also loved the world-building in this book. Montimore took the time to really think out how Oona’s condition works. Oona writes notes to herself at the end of each year to help her future self process the world around her. Since she can’t pursue a traditional career, she utilizes her future knowledge of stock markets to support herself (more than support herself, really). It was clear that a lot of planning went into making this premise work, and as a result, it didn’t feel fantastically far-fetched.

Oona deals with things that everyone is forced to grapple with: heartbreak, grief, lust, anger. Her story just written out chronologically would have been interesting, but the added twist of her time-hopping makes it especially powerful. She finds out about the death of loved ones years after they occurred, only to reencounter them, alive, the next year. She learns secrets about the past and the future that she’s forced to keep quiet in order to avoid impacting events to come. Oona Out of Order was definitely not like anything I’ve ever read before, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Brittany Pressley’s narration.

My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪
Buy Oona Out of Order at an indie bookstore near you
Buy the Audio Book on Libro.fm
Oona Out of Order on Goodreads

Book Review, Fiction, thriller, Uncategorized

The Girl Before by JP Delaney ~ Book Review

The Girl Before and cookies

Ballantine Books
Genre: Thriller
Release Date: January 24, 2017
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪.5

I got major Riley Sager vibes from this book (although it definitely came out before any of the Sager books I’ve read). I love the premise of a creepy residence with a life of its own. ‘Settings that almost become characters in and of themselves’ seems to be its own subset of the thriller genre, and I’m not mad about it. One Folgate Street is just such a setting. A futuristic fortress designed entirely to teach its inhabitants to be more minimalistic and alter their morals, it is also steeped in tragedy. Initially designed to be the home of the architect, Edward Monkford, and his family, it was instead put up for rent after Edward’s wife and child were killed in an on-site construction accident.

The book is split between Emma and Jane’s narrations, fifteen years apart. Both women apply to stay at One Folgate Street, a process which includes an extensive and intrusive questionnaire as the first step. Each one is reeling from a personal tragedy, and sees the strange residence as an opportunity for a fresh start despite the strange rules and regulations that they agree to upon signing the lease.

Before moving in, both Emma and Jane meet Edward Monkford, the alluring architect of the home. Both women find themselves instantly attracted to him and the feeling appears mutual. Packed full of desolation, lies, mistrust, instability, and sex, this book was a rollercoaster from start to finish. I will say that there were times when it felt like there was too much trying to be crammed in (the sudden introduction of an eating disorder and excessive compulsive lying caught me off guard), but nonetheless, the parallel stories of Emma and Jane kept me utterly enthralled and on the edge of my seat to know what would happen next.

My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪.5
The Girl Before on Goodreads
Buy The Girl Before at an indie bookstore near you