The Rest is Still Unwritten

  • What: Beach Read
  • Who: Emily Henry
  • Pages: 350 pages
  • Genres: Chick lit and contemporary fiction
  • Published: 2020
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flames

I had read that author Emily Henry had suffered from terrible writer’s block when she started her 2020 novel, Beach Read. That idea eventually led to a main theme in the book where the main character fails to have any clue what her next book will be about despite a looming deadline. And, boy can I relate.

For a few months in 2021, I also suffered from writer’s block. There are a slew of things I could have blamed it on, but I just didn’t feelt motivated to write and blog. I usually procrastinated until the last possible moment before I started my reviews — which really tested the memory. And worse than that, I hadn’t even felt motivated to read. It’s not that I had read bad books that steered me away from my favorite hobby; in fact, five of the eight that I’ve finished in 2021 have received four flames. There was really no explanation; all I knew is that it was taking much longer to finish books I was enjoying than it normally would. That is, until I met Beach Read.

Just like Henry’s characters, I needed a little something to spark some motivation and creativity. That presented itself in the form of 350 pages of a fun and flirty storyline with something important to say. I read this book in one weekend, and I don’t remember the last time I felt like I just could NOT put down a book. I closed this one and felt a little bit more like myself. Now that is what I call a powerful piece of art.

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I Still Believe (Still Believe)

I used to be a sucker for the romcom and the romdram. Is that a genre? If not, it should be. The Notebook, Titanic, 27 Dresses, P.S. I Love You, The Wedding Date, 500 Days of Summer, and SO many more filled the days of my youth. (Nora Ephron classics came later in life). I used to peruse the $5 movies at Target looking for any and every cliché romantic movie I could find. In fact, I used to go to Target on Black Friday specifically for this reason and not to buy Christmas presents for other people. I have no shame.

Somewhere along the line, though, I fell out of love with fictional tales that focused on cliché love itself. Maybe it was maturity. Maybe it was a reality check. But now, I can barely sit through five minutes of The Notebook.

*Please do not discount the gravity of this sentence. I used to watch The Notebook or Titanic (or both) every week.*

Every now and then, however — usually when the going gets tough — I crave a little cliché romance. I’m not talking chick lit; I mean pure romance and cliché. Enter: Waiting for Tom Hanks, the novel dedicated to the romcom genre that I have long since avoided. My friend Kelliann sent me this book after a rough week but warned that it was pure fluff and to not have high literary expectations; just be prepared for an escape. A welcome escape was exactly what I got, but did the fluff go too far?

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Secret Moments in a Crowded Room

Yes, all three Jasmine Guillory books have T.Swift lyrics in their review title. I can’t help it these two women absolutely kill it in their respective careers.

And when I say Guillory is killing it, I mean it; she may just be sliding her way into my favorite author slot. I can say that confidently after reading three of her five novels. I knew I’d found a stellar author after reading The Proposal in 2019, and recently reading her debut, The Wedding Date, confirmed it for me. I loved it so much that I instantly threw away by #tbr list to divulge into Guillory’s next chronological novel, The Wedding Party.

I read two Guillory books in less than two weeks, and it may have been the two best literary weeks of 2020. The Wedding Party didn’t quite top her previous two books I’d read, but I still enjoyed every moment of it. And Guillory once again gave me everything I loved in her previous work: realistic characters with depth, diversity, entertainment, wit, and a whole lot of love — both literally and euphemistically.

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At Least We Were Electrified

I owe chick lit an apology. Too often this year, I’ve used the genre as a clutch and as an escape. Read something sad? Life and the world are blowing up? No worries; let’s check in with chick lit for a pick-me-up. It will surely turn things around. How did one of my favorite genres become my sidepiece when the going got tough?

Such an amazing genre deserves better, so to end 2020, I decided to make chick lit my main squeeze, starting with Paris for One. By the time I finished it, I knew I had to continue on my Tour de Fun with these light-hearted and entertaining novels by turning to one of the best in the genre: Jasmine Guillory.

I first met Guillory’s writing in the summer of 2019 with her five-flame second book, The Proposal, which is actually the second of five very loosely connected books that Guillory has written. The Proposal was so much fun, made me laugh, and made my mouth salivate with all of its delicious food scenes. Not to mention the characters and their arcs had some serious depth and dealt with real-life issues rather than just romantic clichés. Oh, and it’s full of diversity. If it sounds like Guillory’s books have it all, that’s because they do, which was proven once again in her debut, The Wedding Date. And yes, somehow things got even spicier with this one.

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Bon Voyage

Life is all about balance, right? Well, it definitely applies to literature. At a few points this year, I found myself emotionally affected by books I was reading. The human experience can be some deep shit, and when you’re living it every day, you don’t always want it in your literature. Here Comes the Sun, Normal People, and A Little Life have all had profound effects on my moods and emotions, and I had to quickly proceed these books with fun picks that would distract me from literary chaos and that which exists in the real world.

For the first time in years, though, I recently had to stop a book in the middle of it and find something else as a distraction. Reading two books at once isn’t really a concept my brain understands, but it was something I desperately needed in November. After Kyle and I witnessed a tragedy outside our apartment, my mental health just couldn’t endure Yaa Gyasi‘s powerful and emotional second novel Transcendent Kingdom.

So I scoured available chick lit novels at my library while halfway through Gyasi’s book. I really wanted to continue it, but I knew my heart and brain couldn’t. Eventually I landed on a Jojo Moyes novel: Paris for One. Now, I had some trepidations about this pick. I’ve only read Moyes’ Louisa Clark series, which I loved, and The Giver of Stars, which gave me “meh” lit feels. My skepticism had less to do with her so-so latest book and more to do with the fact that Me Before You almost had me in tears on the subway. Yes, I would generally consider Moyes’ novels to live in the chick lit realm, but her books certainly aren’t devoid of sadness. (News flash: Chick lit isn’t all fluff!) Was this a risk worth taking when my mental health was already teetering?

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It’s Been a Cruel Summer

  • What: The Proposal
  • Who: Jasmine Guillory
  • Pages: 325, soft cover
  • Genres: Contemporary fiction and chick lit
  • Published: 2018
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flames

Sometimes you need a pick-me-up. In July and August, I read some great books (see here, here, and here), but there was a lot of death and sadness. It was prime-time summer reading mode, so why was I depressing myself before Labor Day? I desperately needed and wanted something fun, fast, and maybe even a little sexy (not too different from what our main characters in this review desire).

Insert The Proposal: the perfect remedy for summertime blues.

Yes, it’s classic chick lit: Boy meets girl; they have a fun fling; and you fly through their whirlwind romance with many laughs.

But Jasmine Guillory also gives us realistic sex scenes, some very tasty meals (I was craving tacos for days), cultural awareness and diversity, and zero eye-rolling over clichés. This is more than your typical summer beach read. To put it simply, it’s a really good book, of which I thoroughly enjoyed every page. Sometimes that’s all you need in a recommendation, especially in the steamy months of summer.

(And don’t read too much into this title; I have so many ideas now that T.Swift has new music.)

The Proposal

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No, You Can’t Disguise

  • What: Tell Me Lies
  • Who: Carola Lovering
  • Pages: 384 pages, hard cover
  • Genre: Contemporary fiction
  • Published: 2018
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flames

C’mon, this book takes its title from a Fleetwood Mac song. How could I not be drawn to this?

Most women have that one guy in their past. You know the one. Most likely, but not always, a cliché bad boy. Someone who drove you crazy in both good and bad ways. The one who took a long time to get over. The one who still pops up in your memory every now and then.

Well, that drama, of which we all have a relatable anecdote, is the subject of Carola Lovering’s debut novel. Because it’s a story we all know, it’s a story that can be challenging to tell. How can you write this dilemma in a way that feels fresh yet relatable? Lovering sort of accomplishes this in her sexy book, but the ways that make it feel new are also the ways that make it incredibly frustrating.

Tell Me Lies

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So Much for My Happy Ending

  • What: Miss You
  • Who: Kate Eberlen
  • Pages: 433
  • Genre: Chick lit; romance
  • Published: 2016
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flames

Let’s get one thing straight: A happy ending isn’t always sunshine and daisies. Sometimes they don’t end up together; sometimes the person with the terminal disease doesn’t miraculously pull through; sometimes questions are left unanswered. For me, a happy ending doesn’t mean being overjoyed; it simply means it’s powerful. It proves that sometimes a story ends with a little roughness around the edges because not everything in life is so cut and dry, perfect and jubilant. As long as the storytelling ends on a solid note, I’m a content reader.

I’m not sure Miss You got that memo. Because I read this 2016 novel en route from Florence to Rome and then to New York, I had a lot of uninterrupted time to become acquainted with the characters, to really dive into their lives. I felt a connection, like I was walking through life with them. That says a lot about the writer, Kate Eberlen, and that’s also why the ending seemed to serve such an injustice to 400 pages of beautiful writing and character development. I’d spent 16 wonderful years with these characters before a too-perfect finish skewed my opinion of the book.

Miss You

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A Room with a Bad View

Traveling obviously gives me life and just perpetuates my wanderlust. For book lovers, one of its perks is uninterrupted hours of reading during long flights, especially of books set in your destination. As I embarked on my first Italian holiday, I had two novels in tow, and I was ready to immerse myself in this beautiful land, both physically and in my imagination. Unfortunately, one of those books was a chore to finish.

I had read a Goodreads comment that One Summer Day in Rome had a poor plot but intriguing details about the Roman landscape. At least I knew what I was getting into. The excitement of reading about landmarks and neighborhoods that I was about to or just explored wasn’t enough to bump up this novel’s excitement. I was looking for gelato and ended up with soft serve.

One Summer Day in Rome

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