Chick-Lit, For the Love of Books, Reviews, Romance

Review: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

The Bookish Life of Nina HillThe Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

My rating: 4.75 of 5 stars

In public Nina was a quiet, reserved person; in private she was an all-singing, all-dancing cavalcade of light and motion.

We are introduced to the heroine of Abbi Waxman’s latest novel in the bookstore where she works as a customer attempts to return a certain literary masterpiece after reading it, claiming that it was boring. Thus we are introduced to Nina Hill and the general feel of this novel. That literary classic was Pride and Prejudice and there is something about The Bookish Life of Nina Hill that feels like reading a Jane Austen work.
Like an Austen novel, this one centers around a lovable, complex heroine that many readers will recognize very well (I know that I did, sometimes thinking that Waxman somehow has seen inside my head) and will probably want to be friends with. Nina’s expanding world is filled with delightful characters with personalities that pop of the pages, making the reader feel even more connected with Nina herself as she struggles to take it all in. Those familiar with Waxman’s work will recognize a few of those characters from her previous novels, The Garden of Small Beginnings and Other People’s Houses as well as her trademark irreverent wit. Also like Miss Austen’s work, the romance storyline, while wonderful, is just icing on an already delicious cake.
Like Nina’s life, The Bookish Life of Nina Hill is not a fast-paced, thrill a minute story. This is a comfortable read with plenty of laugh-out-loud humor and insightful wisdom. Being a story about a book lover who works in a bookstore there are also a few book recommendations to be found in its pages, which is always a nice bonus.

There are a lot of books out there about book lovers like Nina and you and me.  Try They Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms, How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry, or Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell if what you’re looking for is a character with which you can identify.  Also, I don’t think I can state enough how much I love Abbi Waxman’s books so, if you haven’t already, check them out The Garden of Small Beginnings and Other People’s Houses.

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Chick-Lit, Reviews, Romance

Review: Well Met

Well MetWell Met by Jen DeLuca

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Thank you to Goodreads and Berkley Publishing for the opportunity to read this ARC of Jen DeLuca’s first (of what will hopefully be many!!) novel, Well Met. I loved this rom/com set around a small-town Renaissance Faire from the word go. Emily is a delightful heroine with an intelligent sense of humor and a wounded heart that just makes you recognize her and want to root for her. But it is Simon with his deep emotional scars and lost sense of self that combined with his swaggering, swashbuckling alter-ego makes for a not only swoon-worthy but relatable hero.
Emily and Simon’s early encounters – even before the start of the faire – crackle like a cross between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, and Benedick and Beatrice. And if their dialogue crackles, then their love scenes absolutely sizzle.
Nerd that I am, though, I believe that it is all made better by the Ren Faire setting and the many allusions to Shakespeare. I only wish there had been more scenes from the fair in the last chapters because I enjoyed Emma and Captain Ian’s banter so much.

I’m a sucker for a well-written romantic comedy like Well Met with intelligent, relatable characters.  If you are too, I recommend the novels of Kelly Harms – I particularly enjoyed The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane – and Louise Miller whose The Late Bloomers’ Club was one of my favorite reads from last year.  If you enjoy the modern-day meets historical setting of the Renaissance Faire, I loved Shannon Hale’s Austenland.

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Chick-Lit, Reviews, Romance

Review: Bidding for Love

Bidding for Love Bidding for Love by Katie Fforde

My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

Katie Fforde’s romantic chick-lit novels may not be the most well-written, and the plots may be formulaic, but they are sweet and a little sexy – just what you need sometimes, especially in summer. I particularly enjoy the rural English settings which always make me feel cozy and more than a little envious. Bidding for Love, like most of the other of Fforde’s novels I’ve read feature a spunky young woman trying to make it on her own in an unfamiliar setting. In this case, Flora has inherited more than half of the family auction house from a distant relative.
Flora, despite a rocky start, and a less than warm welcome, makes friends and starts to settle into the small village, her cozy cottage, and eventually the business. Until she realizes she’s falling in love with her stuffy, unavailable business partner. It is, as expected, a sweet, easy, breezy read. However, and maybe this is just because I’m an average American, but I kept getting hung up on the fact that Flora and Charles are cousins even though the distance of that relationship was reiterated often throughout the novel. It didn’t bother me enough to stop me from enjoying the story and the setting though.

I just love British Chick-Lit and I’m always looking for a new author in the genre (so if there’s someone you enjoy reading, please pass it on!) but for now Katie Fforde is my go-to writer for a gentler romantic comedy thanks to those cozy rural settings, spunky heroines, and sweet romances.  I particularly enjoyed Artistic License, Stately Pursuits, and Highland Fling.  

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Chick-Lit, Reviews, Romance

Review: I Owe You One

I Owe You OneI Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Sophie Kinsella’s latest novel, I Owe You One, – which I want to thank NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review – is the story of Fixie, a young woman who would do anything for her family and the house good store she, her mother, and two siblings inherited when her father died. She lives by her beloved father’s motto of family first and her family takes advantage of her devotion sometimes to the point of cruelty.
I Owe You One holds a great message about balancing the needs and demands of those you love with your own happiness, and about standing up for what you value while valuing others. It is also a sweet romantic comedy. Fixie’s dedication to being the family doormat wears thin quickly as does her naivete when it comes to her longtime crush, Ryan. I was often angry while reading I Owe You One because of the way Fixie is treated by her siblings, Ryan, her uncle, and even, to an extent, her mother. This only meant that I cared about Fixie, no matter how annoying I sometimes found her. I also recognized myself in her as I’m certain many readers, especially women, will.
The romance storyline is lovely but the message is the reason I would recommend I Owe You One, which is not Kinsella’s best but still enjoyable.

If you enjoy Kinsella’s style of Chick-Lit with a dash of romance, I recommend her My Not so Perfect Life, which has a similar message as I Owe You One but with a more entertaining story.

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Chick-Lit, Reviews, Romance, World Literature

Review: Unmarriageable

 

UnmarriageableUnmarriageable by Soniah Kamal

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What would happen if you moved Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to 21st century Pakistan? You would get Soniah Kamal’s Unmarriageable, which I got the opportunity to read thanks to NetGalley.

Reading Unmarriageable is not about the story. If you’ve read Pride and Prejudice, you already know the story – a man and a woman from different classes meet and thanks to their ingrained prejudices, take an instant dislike to each other, a dislike she maintains as he falls grudgingly in love with her.  That story will always be great, it is the execution that often fails.  Unmarriageable is not a particularly great adaptation of Pride and Prejudice – Alys is no Elizabeth Bennett, Mrs. Binat is even more annoying than Mrs. Bennett, some of the dialogue is just awkward, and the writing tends to be repetitive.  Instead, for me, the joy of reading Kamal’s interpretation was in learning about Pakistani culture about which I’ll admit I was totally ignorant.

Chick-Lit, which is what this novel and its Austen ancestor is, often gets a bad wrap but, while it is important to learn about the history and the hardships around the world, I think it is equally important to learn about the ordinary, everyday lives that show us not only the cultural differences but how we are alike and Chick-Lit whether it is set in the US, the UK or Pakistan, does that.

If like me, you enjoy a good Pride and Prejudice update, Shannon Hale’s Austenland and Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible are two of my favorites.  Austenland is a fun romp through a vacation experience that places the Austen-obsessed protagonist into Austen’s world with the promise of a happy ending straight out of one of Jane’s novels while Eligible, part of The Austen Project is truly a modernization of Pride and Prejudice.

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