The Bonneville Hotel is the best-kept secret in London: its elegant rooms and discreet wood-paneled cocktail lounge were the home-away-from-home for royalty and movie stars alike during the golden age of glamour. Recent years haven’t been kind, but thanks to events manager Rosie, it’s reclaiming some of its old cachet as a wish list wedding venue. While Rosie’s weddings are the ultimate in romance, Rosie herself isn’t; her focus is fixed firmly on the details, not on the dramas. She lives with a professionally furious food critic and works tirelessly toward that coveted promotion. But when the hotel owner appoints his eccentric son Joe to help run Rosie’s department, she’s suddenly butting heads with the free spirit whose predilection for the unconventional threatens to unravel her picture-perfect plans for the most elaborate—not to mention high-profile—wedding the hotel has ever seen, a wedding that could make or break not only the hotel’s reputation, but also Rosie’s career.
Although not every Browne book is a hit for me, they often are, and this one was incredible. One of the blurbs says it’s in the vein of The Wedding Planner. My comeback would be it’s everything I thought The Wedding Planner was going to be but even better. It’s a story that showcases a woman building her career while craving a relationship and ultimately getting the next level of her career and the relationship she’d been dreaming of.
I often find that in chick lit I have to be willing to give up on either seeing a woman with ambition or a woman desiring a traditional relationship. You often don’t get both. Both is what I want out of my comfort reading, and both is what you get here. Plus, both the career and the love interest are something you want to root for. Rosie isn’t a heartless workaholic but she’s also not someone who’s just working until she nails down the guy. She wants everything, and she keeps wanting everything even when the going gets tough. And the tough going is realistic, both in the romance and in the career. The realism kept things relatable even with things ultimately working out great for her in both ways in the end. And you know what? I like that things work out in both ways. I like that hope. We all can use some more hope in our lives.
In addition, the setting is just stunning. It’s a hotel that had its height in the Art Deco era, and all of the beauty and splendor of it is eloquently described. It was a place I wanted to keep coming back to because it just felt so divine, even with seeing the behind-the-scenes of the staff rooms and the stress of running the special events.
One other thing I must mention is that yet again Browne does a great job of presenting positive female friendships. There’s more than one woman to women relationship that Rosie has where both women help each other out. Women are shown as having differences of opinions and other difficulties to work through but ultimately being there for each other. It might not always work out that way in real life, but I really like seeing female friendships validated and other women not being demonized just to make a scene work.
Overall, this features everything I like in the best Browne books with the added dash of a setting that really suited me. The final scene was so pretty I had tears in my eyes on public transportation, and that’s really saying something. Highly recommended to lovers of quality chick lit.
5 out of 5 stars
A feature for the disappointing reads: I spent enough time reading them. The reviews shouldn’t waste more time. See all haiku reviews here.
By: Daniel Woodrell
The sheriff’s deputy at the front door brings hard news to Ree Dolly. Her father has skipped bail on charges that he ran a crystal meth lab, and the Dollys will lose their house if he doesn’t show up for his next court date. Ree knows she has to bring her father back, dead or alive.
How could a book with
Meth and gangs and a strong lead
Be very boring?
2 out of 5 stars
Little Lady Agency
By: Hester Browne
Melissa Romney-Jones can bake a perfect sponge cake, type her little heart out, and plan a party blindfolded. But none of that has helped her get far in life or in love. When she gets fired — again — she decides to market her impeccable social skills to single men. To avoid embarrassing her father, a Member of Parliament, Melissa dons a blond wig and becomes “Honey,” a no-nonsense bombshell who helps clueless bachelors shop, entertain, and navigate social minefields.
Everything that makes
Browne’s other books good is just
Missing. Try again.
3 out of 5 stars
By: Philip K. Dick
On the arid colony of Mars the only thing more precious than water may be a ten-year-old schizophrenic boy named Manfred Steiner. For although the UN has slated “anomalous” children for deportation and destruction, other people–especially Supreme Goodmember Arnie Kott of the Water Worker’s union–suspect that Manfred’s disorder may be a window into the future.
Using the n-word
For Martians. Fear of mental
Illness. Doesn’t age well.
2 out of 5 stars
Like everyone in New York media, editor Liz Buckley runs on cupcakes, caffeine and cocktails. But at thirty-one, she’s plateaued at Paddy Cakes, a glossy baby magazine that flogs thousand-dollar strollers to entitled, hypercompetitive spawn-havers.
Liz has spent years working a gazillion hours a week picking up the slack for coworkers with kids, and she’s tired of it. So one day when her stress-related nausea is mistaken for morning sickness by her bosses—boom! Liz is promoted to the mommy track. She decides to run with it and plans to use her paid time off to figure out her life: work, love and otherwise. It’ll be her “meternity” leave.
By day, Liz rocks a foam-rubber belly under fab maternity outfits. By night, she dumps the bump for karaoke nights and boozy dinners out. But how long can she keep up her charade…and hide it from the guy who might just be The One?
As her “due date” approaches, Liz is exhausted—and exhilarated—by the ruse, the guilt and the feelings brought on by a totally fictional belly-tenant…about happiness, success, family and the nature of love.
This book is more controversial than it probably should be. It’s a silly chick lit book in the vein of Shopaholic (if you haven’t read that series, the main character is addicted to shopping and does a lot of terrible things in a funny way). But it is a book that involves parenting, pregnancy, and women in the workplace, which are hot button issues for a lot of people. So I can see how it wound up being controversial. I do think most people are taking it too seriously though.
For the first solid half of the book I was fairly certain a lot of people were misunderstanding satire for seriousness. While some of Liz’s complaints about her particular workplace are valid (she has all the worked shoved off on her, repeatedly staying until midnight, while the other team members who are parents leave early; the expectation and pressure on women in their 30s to naturally want to have a baby, etc…) the way she reacts to these particular situations is childlike and pretty terrible. That said, a lot of chick lit has a tradition of the main character reacting in an over-the-top way no one in real life would ever do. It’s where the humor come from. From “what if” followed by utter ridiculousness. That said, halfway through the book I became less certain it’s satire and wondering more and more whether the author really looks at the world in this black-and-white way. If the author does actually think this way, it’s a sign of immaturity but one I’m able to laugh at. Not all readers might feel that way.
That said, I do think the author tried to provide a nod to women who feel differently. One of Liz’s good friends is having difficulty getting pregnant, and she supportively goes with her to a fertility doctor. There’s a character who is a working mother who calls Liz out by pointing out how very little time she actually gets to see her daughter and that she works just as hard as Liz then goes home and works more. (It’s true that this character is probably the only parent in the company who does, but the fact remains that she exists and calls Liz out). There is another character who is a parent who bemoans the pressure on women to return to the perfect body immediately after pregnancy, and Liz sympathizes with her. I do think by the end of the book Liz learns to have more empathy for women who’ve made different life choices from herself and sees it’s not all sunshine and roses onthe other side of the fence.
With regards to the writing, I didn’t like either of the love interests, and I did actually like (flawed) Liz enough that I was rooting for her to not end up with either of them. I will also say that I predicted the ending far far in advance but I’m also not sure how else the book could have ended and still lived up to the chick lit happy ever after mandate.
Overall, if you want a retake on Shopaholic featuring fake pregnancy rather than addiction to shopping, albeit one that doesn’t quite live up to Shopaholic, you’ll enjoy this book. You just need to be able to not take the subject matter too seriously.
3 out of 5 stars
A dead girl walks the streets.
She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.
And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.
Because the boy has a terrifying secret – one that would just killto get out.
The official pitch on this one is that it’s Dexter meets The Grudge but what I heard about it was it’s another version of the Japanese myth that The Ring is based on. (After reading it, I can tell you that this is true). I was absolutely batshit terrified of The Ring when I first watched it. I must admit that I read this description and expected the book to me meh compared to the movie based on the same myth. This low expectation is what kept the book from being a disappointing read for me.
I found the writing to be overwrought and trying too hard for the actual genre and plot. Like when the small town seamstress thinks she’s a haute couture fashion designer. For instance:
His mind tastes like sour wine, a dram of sake left out in the dark for too long. (location 63)
Bear in mind that this passage is about a ghost girl who murders child killers/rapists. It’s a pretty passage; it just doesn’t fit.
As far as the plot goes, while I really liked the ghost, the tattooed boy’s plot rubbed me the wrong way. His mother is deemed mentally ill, partially for trying to kill him and tattooing him when he was a child. We later find out that rather than being mentally ill she was battling literal evil spirits, one in particular who wanted to go out and wreak havoc on the world. To try to bind the spirit, she decides to sacrifice her own child to the evil spirit by using him as an anchor, basically, to bind him. So after a bunch of the book basically saying hey the kid should forgive his mother because she’s ill we find out she did this act. I feel like the book wants me to think it’s heroic, but I thought it was sick. The way I felt the book wanted me to feel and the way I actually felt about the situation made me uncomfortable with the rest of the book and struggling with who to root for. Others may feel less conflicted than me over this part of the plot.
Overall, it’s a unique plot that other readers may enjoy more than myself.
3 out of 5 stars
Every year, I wrap up the old year and start the new one here on the blog with a look back at my reading stats. You can see my stats for the years 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014,and 2015 by clicking on the years.
Total books read: 59
Average books read per month: 4.92
Month most read: August with 7
Month least read: July with 3.
Longest book read: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski with 705 pages.
Fiction: 49 (83.1%)
Nonfiction: 10 (16.9%)
Series: 24 (40.7%)
Standalone: 35 (59.3%)
With my new commitment to read only things I enjoy, this reflects a lot of me reading the first book in a series and then choosing not to continue because I didn’t enjoy it quite enough, so there was more room for standalones this year.
–print: 8 (13.6%) (Down quite a bit from last year.)
–ebook: 42 (71.2%)
–graphic novel: 0 (0%) (I’ve honestly lost most interest in graphic novels.)
–audiobook: 9 (15.3 %) (Almost the same as last year. My final audiobook of the year that I am still on is dragging, hence the slowdown.)
I’ve always read slightly more female than male authors but this is a vast majority this year, as opposed to 2015’s 57.7% female authors. I think this is a reflection of my commitments to read what interests me and stop being ashamed of it, particularly chick lit. This meant more female authors. Interestingly, my ratings of books by women show that I like them significantly better.
Ratings of Female Authors:
Ratings of Male Authors:
Not a single one of my 5 star reads was by a male author.
This went down, largely because I only accepted 6 ARCs this year. You’ll note that I still read indie books that were not ARCs. I do struggle to find indies, though, since my reading list is often influenced by other book bloggers, and I find that many of them don’t seek out indie reads quite the way I do. That means it can be harder for me to find the indie reads.
I thought glancing at this that I did poorly reading pre-2000s books but the goal I set for myself last year was for 20 to 25% of my reads to be pre-2000s, and I actually surpassed that with 27% of my total reads being pre-2000. I still felt like it was a bit low, though, so for 2017 I’ll aim for 30%. I’ll keep going up til I hit the sweet spot.
I read slightly fewer adult books this year, with more YA and also a new venture into NA. I’m happy with this distribution.
–Scifi: 12 (20.3%)
The subgenre I read the most of in scifi was outer space (50%).
–Contemporary: 9 (15.3%)
–Fantasy: 7 (11.9%)
The subgenre I read the most of in fantasy was urban fantasy (71.4%).
–GLBTQ: 7 (11.9%)
–Chick Lit: 6 (10.2%)
–Mystery: 6 (10.2%)
The subgenre I read the most of in mystery was an even split between cozy and traditional.
–Thriller: 6 (10.2%)
–Nonfiction – self-help / psych: 4 (6.8%)
–Romance: 4 (6.8%)
–Nonfiction – history: 3 (5.1%)
–Historic Fiction: 2 (3.4%)
–Horror: 2 (3.4%)
–Nonfiction – biography: 2 (3.4%)
–Alternate history: 1 (1.7%)
–Nonfiction – lifestyle: 1 (1.7%)
–Nonfiction – memoir: 1 (1.7%)
My top two genres are scifi and contemporary, followed by a tie between fantasy and GLBTQ lit for third place.
A marked improvement over last year with 4% more 5 star reads. The rest of the star ratings remained similar distributions to before, but I generally felt a larger enjoyment of my reading. I think more 5 star reads helped with that.
General Thoughts on the Stats
You can see my new focus on reading what I enjoy rather than making reading a chore most reflected in the genres I read, the number of ARCs read, and surprisingly in the gender of the author. I did not set any intentions on what gender of author to read and yet seeking out books I was fairly certain I would enjoy led me to more women authors. I think that’s interesting.
I was also surprised by the strong presence of contemporary fiction this year. I didn’t used to perceive of myself as someone who found contemporary lit to be escapist, but apparently it works for me now. While I still have a dominant showing in scifi and fantasy (32%) this is far down from the 50% last year. This shows that venturing into new or returning to old well-loved genres left less room for scifi and fantasy but I still visited them and enjoyed it.
I am quite happy with how my stats look this year. The only thing sticking out to me as a goal for 2017 is the format of books. I am out of room on my print book shelf at home, and I can see why with only 8 of my reads being in print. While I prefer reading on my kindle paperwhite (for convenience), there are still books you can only get in print. These are what are taking up my shelves. I’d like to read 1 a month to continue to allow myself to pick up the not available digitally books as I see them.
I hope you all had a good reading year and found my reviews helpful in your pursuit of good books. Sending best wishes for everyone’s 2017!