Thursday, April 29, 2021

April Reading Notes

Image Copyrighted by Candice Hern Some people like to write long individual review posts and some do shorter reviews for a monthly round-up. Both types of posts have their pros and cons. Some people feel that not much analysis is possible in these round-ups, which is true. However,there is blog post fatigue associated with multiple reviews a month. My blog is already miniscule; with multiple posts, it will get further diluted in terms of people reading it.

Given the number of ARCs I read, from which text quotations are disallowed, that style of reviewing has fallen out of my reviewing style. For most of the books reviewed for publication, I do have links to longer reviews where I do more analysis and only put the bare bones of the plot here. For books that I don't review for publication, I do bigger reviews to support why I liked or did not like the books. I do realize that this means longer monthly posts, which could lead to skiming and online reading fatigue and thus skipping, but this style of blogging is what I am most comfortable with at this moment in time.

Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin
Category: Contemporary Romance
Comments: I read Jalaluddin’s début book Ayesha At Last with such joy two years ago, and I have been waiting ever since for her second book. To her new book, Jalaluddin brings a maturity and keener eye to emotional nuance. Rich with cultural texture, replete with social nuance, and brimming with humor, it is a delight from the first word to the last. Her talent is in allowing her characters to recount their own stories, whether they are the main characters or the secondary ones. No one gets short shrift in the attention she pays to creating whole, complex people. Jalaluddin’s signature style is in her social commentary on the lives led by Indian Canadian Muslims, the immigrants and the first generations. She had started this conversation with the reader in Ayesha At Last, and she continues on that conversation in Hana Khan Carries On.

This is a book that you need to spend some time immersed in. Jalaluddin’s lyrical prose brings to life a story in subtle shades of meaning and expression as the characters share with you their deepest secrets and dreams. Long-buried family secrets and hate-motivated attacks add to the complexity of the narrative. The book can be read is multiple ways: as Hana’s life journey, as Aydin’s character growth, as romantic love between the protagonists, as being Muslim in Canada, and so on. In this review, I have chosen a few of those strands that make up the narrative. You will have to read the book to discover them all. I cannot express how much Jalaluddin’s books please me; I hope they bring you joy as well. My review is here.

Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle
Category: Contemporary Romance
Comments: [CW: mental illness, anxiety, social anxiety] Hogle has won me over with her back-to-back lovely stories. I would recommend both of her books, You Deserve Each Other and Twice Shy.

Maybell Parrish is restless and unhappy in a dead-end job, constantly thwarted in succeeding in it by her coworker. Still, it’s a step-up, in her mind, from her former housekeeping job at the indoor waterpark, so she works d. She’s a killer baker, and constantly daydreams of a life as a baker with her online friend as a future spouse. So when she finds out that she has inherited her great-aunt, Violet’s, mansion, Falling Stars, in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, she dumps her job and walks away. While she had hoped, she would go out with a bang, her meek, people-pleasing nature only allows her to ghost her employer.

Wesley Koehler is a decidedly grumpy, decidedly reclusive groundskeeper of Violet’s estate. While she lived, he had persistently offered to care for her mansion and make it habitable. But the old lady had an indomitable nature and was adamant that nothing should be changed, and all he could do was offer her a place to stay in his small cottage. So when she passes away and he finds out that he has inherited Violet’s mansion, he immediately sets about planning what he will do to fix the mansion that has good bones and only needs thoughtful renovation. He also wants to build an animal sanctuary.

Plot twist! Maybell and Wesley are not the sole inheritors of Violet’s estate. Rather, they are co-owners. My review is here.

Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne
Category: Contemporary Romance
Comments: I have found Sally Thorne’s stories always entertaining and well-paced to hold my interest from beginning to end. I find her a versatile writer. She has written three entirely different books in: The Hating Game, 99 Percent Mine, and now, Second First Impressions. The voice, the style of writing, the choice of words, the type of people, the very narrative—they are all different and unique to the stories she is telling. I know she has received hate for books 2 & 3 by readers who just wanted her to reiterate The Hating Game over and over again.

Ruthie Midona is someone who does not like surprises. She had been bullied as a child and unloved by her family. As a result, she is at pains to always be in control of herself, because when your life is out of control, all you can control is yourself. She is the acting manager of a luxury retirement community, where everything is just as it should be. She is dedicated to her job of caring for the quirky and opinionated denizens of the Providence Villa. Her boss is out for the nonce, and she is in charge.

Teddy Prescott fits the stereotype of a spoilt rich man who doesn’t like to bestir himself for anything involving work. He wants life to be easy and in constant motion, or at least that is what he projects to everyone. In reality, he dreams of owning a tattoo parlor, but he has to first convince his demanding father. Ruthie and Teddy meet when he shows up at the villa expecting to be in charge. My review is here.

The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren
Category: Historical Romance
Comments: Jessica “Jess” Davis’ has three people in her life whom she loves with every fiber of her being: her daughter and her grandparents. She is a freelance statistician working constantly to stay afloat as she financially supports her loving grandparents and largely-absent mother every once in a while, runs a house, and struggles to provide her daughter with the comforts, activities, and school involvement she believes every child should have.

When Jess loses a big client because she refuses to compromise her ethics in fudging data, she is forced to become a barista at her favorite coffee shop. For months on end, she was at the front of the counter, now she is behind it. Her humiliation is complete when the person she surreptitiously admires for his gorgeousness but thinks is surly and taciturn comes to order his customary drink and leaves her a big tip.

Dr. River Peña is that grumpy tipper and also a highly regarded biotechnology researcher, who has focused his research on a DNA-based matchmaking app. Along with his mentor, he has founded a company, which he would soon like to take to IPO, based on the research he completely believes in. My review is here.

Waiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall
Category: Historical Romance
Comments: What a stunning story! This was my first Alexis Hall story, and I now get his fame. The writing is...chef's kiss—delicate, unusually perceptive, and imaginative, in emotions and also in the usage of language. Gosh, if you've not read Hall, I'd urge you to give him a try. Do note that this is a slow story and reads like a short novel, despite being only 96 pages long. To me, this is its strength. You can luxuriate in the feelings of the protagonists to the fullest without feeling rushed or feeling like the story is moving to an outline.

Edwin is a book restorer. At the Bodleian in Oxford and at home, he restores all kinds of books that have suffered untold damage. He lives alone in a big house which he used to co-own with his then boyfriend of ten years. The ending of that relationship has been devastating for Edwin. As it is his stuttering has always been the cause of his low self-esteerm, this loss further erodes his self-confidence.

Due to heavy rains, the river close to his house floods his street and his house. It brings Adam, a city engineer, into his life. You would think that a hearty broad-shouldered man wouldn't be in tune with his emotions. But that is not true at all. In Hall's skilled hands, both men come to life in their individual ways and learn to share their sorrows and joys with each other. While is clear in his intentions and feelings, Edwin has to learn to trust and let Adam into his life.

Again, I sound like Hall's publicist, but this is a book worth savoring.

Again by Kathleen Gilles Seidel
Category: Vintage Contemporary Romance
Comments: [CW: "Indians," "blacks," racism] There was no reason to include these words or the racism that goes with them. They add nothing to the story other than to attempt to show that the heroine grew up poor and lived on the wrong side of the tracks and how her father sent her to the right side for school. Other than this racist backstory, there is no more racism in the book, because the book is only populated with white characters. This is a book written in 1995, so not that long ago, and I can't imagine how the writer was so racist even then.

If you are able to set the racism aside, this is a fabulous story. I would give it an 'A.' It is a gentle story of uncommon actions and reactions, large and small. What could've been clichéd is not because of the little twists and turns in the story that keep you guessing. What is very sweet about the story is that the hero acknowledges to himself and to the heroine that he is in love with her before the halfway mark. The rest of the book is of him waiting patiently for her to love him, then giving up in despair, and then her bringing him back into being alive by her love.

The setting is a daytime soap studio in Brooklyn. It's a scrappy, low-budget half-hour soap set in the Regency. The network execs were reluctant to part with even the small amount of money they did for it, but surprising everyone, the show took off and drew in rating higher than any of the hour-long soaps. It was a case of the engine who could. This was all because of Jenny cotton, the head writer. It all came from her head and she spent countless hours seven days a week working and reworking the stories, sometimes, making changes even the day of the taping. Luckly, her directors and producer were adept at finding good, professional actors who could adapt and act.

Alec Cameron is a well-known daytime soap actor. Since his childhood when he took care of his sister who died of leukemia, he is used to being the responsible person in the cast. If there was a crisis, he would step in and help fix things. However, right from the begining, his respect for Jenny's brilliance has him stepping aside to let her take the lead. He is fascinated with her right from the begining even though she is living with her boyfriend of fourteen years. Of course, he makes no moves on her other than to tell her that he in love with her. It is only when her boyfriend cheats on her and marries someone else that Alec makes clear that he is interested in marriage and only marriage with Jenny. But Jenny does not love him.

I really liked that Seidel does not have Jenny wallowing in her betrayal. She grieves, she plots some mild revenge, she works through her emotions, and she emerges stronger and more optimistic than before. Wonderful characterization there. Then Alec thinks she would fall in love with him. But there is no such automatic, clichéd response from Jenny. And this is the heart of the story, how she gets to love—at first, it was only the show she loved, now she could love Alec and the show.

After All These Years by Kathleen Gilles Seidel
Category: Vintage Contemporary Romance
Comments: Even though the above book is the fourth book in the series and this is the first, I read Again first, fell in love with it, and went looking for more of Seidel's work. And while this was not as great as Again, it was still good. However, it is a different book, more a story of a family than a straightforward romance, even though it does follow some of the genre conventions about building a central love story to a HEA climax. However, a fair bit of the second half of the book is in the POV of the teen son of the heroine, which has nothing much to do with the romance and much to do with his own growth. It does go towards the character reformation of the hero, but given that it is from the boy's POV, it's about his growth arc as well.

Three children, two boys and a girl, were born days apart and lived in nearby houses in the South Dakota countryside outside a small town. The three families were close, supposedly, and despite tragedy robbing the kids of some of their parents, the kids grew up happy and wild and incredibly close to one another. Curry, Tom, and Huck made a blood bond to always stay true to each other and always tell each other the truth. As they grow up, first Tom dates Curry, but he is too intense with her, and she gravitates naturally to the sunny-tempered Huck and they marry at 18 and have a child. Tom and Huck are all fired up to join Vietnam, and only Tom returns home, not to South Dakota and only to marry someone else. He doesn't see Curry for 16 years.

That they love each other is a given. But can they build a life together? Curry is rooted into the South Dakota soil for generations. Tom is a footloose historic homes restorer of some repute who travels constantly, job to job. Curry built a flourishing paint business in town, raised a boy, and took care of her grandmother, who raised her, and her mother-in-law. Tom was an absentee husband and an absentee father to his daughter, whom he loves but rarely sees. Curry is building a life for herself for the future when her chick wiill fly the nest and she will have nothing to do. So she is going to college to earn a degree to teach history in school.Tom wants to continue his aimless life forever.

The story of the book is in the emotional growth of both characters, but especially Tom. What I loved this story is that Seidel does not make Tom renounce his work and live in the small town. Most small town stories are where the folks from the big city always give up their life there completely to move to the small town and remake their life from ground-up. It is a rare book that allows me to believe in future happiness for that person. In this book, both characters give a little and take a little and share a lot. Perfect HEA!

The Heiress Hunt by Joanne Shupe
Category: Historical Romance
Comments: This book is in a voice and style unlike Shupe's former books. The author has had help with this book, and I wonder if that has affected how the story was written and how it reads. It is disappointing. And...I had really been looking forward to it.

Maddie Webster is a high society girl in 1895 New York City. Used to attention and adulation all her life, Maddie is a strong, confident young woman. She convince her parents not to expect her to marry in her first season, but to give her three seasons or so to indulge in her love of tennis. Now, she's become a national championship player and is at the height of her sports career. However, she knows, that despite her parents indulging her wish for a few years, her only job is to get married. So she sets her cap at the biggest prize of the season, the British Duke of Lockwood, and he is slowly warming up to her. While he hasn't proposed, a proposal is imminent.

Into this lovely situation steps her old, beloved friend, who'd abandoned her in her first season and rushed away to Paris for three years. She had been heartbroken that he had completely broken away from their friendship.

Harrison Archer has been in love with Maddie for years. But one night, he overhears her confiding to her friend about him. Stung, he runs away to Paris, and throws himself into amassing a fortune and living a hedonistic life. He is fond of his delightful mistress, but parts with her when he decides to return to NYC when his father dies. His family had abused him as a child, always treating him as a worthless second son, so now, he is back to bankrupt them and ruin their standing in society. Oh, and now that he is back, he is determined to marry the love of his life, Maddie.

This entire characterization of Harrison is strange. Instead of rushing off to Paris, he could've had a clarifying conversation with his closest friend in the world, Maddie. For all that he claims to love her and her being his best friend, he does not even trust her enough to have one mature conversation. Of course, in that case, the book would've never been. Upon his return, he could've had that conversation, and yet, he never does. He could've have returned at any point in the three years he was gone if he was so much in love with her, but he never does. But now that he is back to wreak revenge, as a side benefit, he is going to pursue Maddie and win her. And while the romantic shenanigans are going on, the revenge plot is put on hold. Towards the end of the book, their relationship hits a stumbling block, and they decide to separate for a bit, and immediately, Harrison gets in touch with his mistress. Right.

At no point did Maddie think to talk to Harrison before he left or after he returns or send letters asking him why he had left so precipitously. Does she not want to solve the obstacle in the friendship with her best friend? She just accepts his abandonment. And then despite his having abandoned her and lived a hedonistic life, the minute she sets eyes on him upon his return, her previous friendship morphs into romantic interest. It's like a switch was thrown; there was no build-up to the new feelings. Maddie's behavior in the breakup of their relationship—the requisite clichéd black moment of the book—is immature at best. I think this was a major peeve of mine: the protagonists' immaturity and inability to have an adult conversation with each other.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

March Reading Notes

Image Copyrighted by Candice Hern I am continuing apace with my exploration of audio books. As mentioned earlier, listening in the car works best for me. Sitting in a chair to listen, inevitably puts me to sleep. Before I started listening to books, I had no idea how vital a narrator is to how interesting a book is. The writer's skill matters of course but the performer's is just as important.

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
Category: Nonfiction
Comments: This book has been a fascinating read thus far. I am in two book clubs for the same book, and depending on the composition of the book group, different aspects of the readings have been highlighted. For me, comparing and contrasting the caste system in the US with the caste system in India has been an interesting exercise. People forget how much privilege they have until they have to grapple with something like this, and realize that so much of what goes on right in front of your nose, you are compeltely impervious to and do not notice its effect on others. I have listened to the author talk in a couple of talks. Brilliant thinker and brilliant book. It should required reading for all incoming college freshman.

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers
Category: Contemporary Romance
Comments: [CW: self harm, anxiety] Grace Porter has a newly minted doctorate in astronomy from Portland. Eleven years of dogged hard work and weekends and summers sacrificed to research and achieving new and newer heights in her pursuit of perfection have left her burnt out. Job search has been heartbreaking as she realizes that the field of her dreams is rejecting her Black heritage. Whereas her father, the Colonel, has pushed and prodded her and expected perfection from her emotionally and academically, her mother only wants her to be happy and fulfilled in whatever she chooses to pursue.

Grace wishes she could disappear in the orange groves of her childhood home in Florida. Problems don’t disappear even if you choose to hide, but taking a break is definitely called for every once in a while, before you splinter into tiny particles and get scattered among the stars. In a bid to shore her spirits up, Grace goes off to Las Vegas with her dearest friends. And there, one night, she meets a girl with stars in her eyes and roses in her cheeks; they get drunk; they get married; and they buy a lock together with matching keys and rings. After a night together, the girl leaves behind a love note to her Honey Girl with a calling card and a photo.

Yuki Yamamoto is a Japanese American child of immigrant parents living in NYC. She is a medieval history major who waitresses for her living needs and assuages her lonely soul and those of others in a late night radio show called Are You There? My review is here.

Careless Whispers by Synithia Williams
Category: Contemporary Romance
Comments: [CW: miscarriage, wealthy tobacco company] Parenting has such an impact on how a child grows up into the adult the world sees. One child in this story was brought up to be tough as all heck and giving no way to any softness, and the other child was brought up in a loving family where all feelings were allowed to have free rein. Both adults are driven to succeed, but for one adult, there is never any other way of life, whereas the other one has realized that a fast-paced life is not all that it is cracked up to be.

Elaina Robidoux was trained from birth to one day assume control of Robidoux Tobacco and Robidoux Holdings. From leading boardroom meetings of directors to orchestrating her politician brother’s events, from being a socialite to a ruthless businesswoman, Elaina does it all. Growing up, she had been starved of love and acceptance by her parents, and in her adulthood, she finds herself seeking connections that ultimately fail to give her the love she is attempting to find. As a result, she considers herself unlovable and incapable of loving, pathetic and lonely. She is tired of being strong all the time, but being strong is all she knows.

Alex Tyson has joined his large family in Jackson Falls in a bid to slow down his life. His pedal-to-the-metal way of life leads to him having a heart attack at a very young age. It serves as a wake-up call that his life in New York City is killing him. So he packs everything up and heads south to Jackson Falls to become head of research and development at Robidoux Holdings. Unfortunately for him, he proceeds to clash with Elaina on a regular basis. My review is here.

The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting by KJ Charles
Category: Historical Romance
Comments: [CW: Previously enslaved character and mention of enslavement. References to emotional and financial abuse of spouses and children.] KJ Charles continues to write book after book of near perfection. Every time I think, she can’t get better, she does.

Sir John Hartlebury “Hart” is a baronet, a prosaic member of the Upper Ten Thousand with a good-sized property, and also a tradesman efficiently managing his sister’s brewery. He is a large man with a large voice, who cannot be bothered to temper his views or mind his manners when in company. He retains an avuncular interest in the future of his niece, wanting her to acquire some town bronze, while safeguarding her fortune from the hands of fortune hunters.

Robin Loxleigh is a gazetted fortune hunter. He and his sister, Marianne, make no bones about them being down on their luck and from a small village in Nottinghamshire, here in London to make advantageous marriages. They charmingly cozen everyone into thinking them to be harmless, so Society casts a benign eye over their machinations.

Robin and Hart meet when Robin inveigles himself into the notice of Hart’s niece. Hart is instantly suspicious of Robin’s background and motives and sets detectives into digging up dirt on him. In town, he keeps an eagle eye on him and his doings. Deciding to corner Robin into a tight spot, Hart destroys him over a game of piquet to the tune of four thousand odd pounds. The next day, Robin arrives at Hart’s house penitent and defiant over his inability to pay. He leaves with an unholy bargain: his body for a month in exchange for forgiveness of his debt. That entire scene of negotiation is a master class in the subtle use of words juxtaposed with the shifting undercurrents of the unsaid. My review is here.

Cranford Elizabeth Gaskell, performed by Prunella Scales
Category: Literary Fiction
Comments: I abandoned this book partway through. I just couldn't stand the performer. There are many characters in this story and so much of the story is all in conversation, and Scales just isn't up to the heft of this book. I have read the book and watched the miniseries, so I am familiar with the story, and yet, I was bored by Scales' characterization and had a difficult time figuring out who was who. Scales has a bland voice for the omniscent narration and has a tendency to mumble toward the en of sentences. In addition, she did not have much animation and differentiation in the tone and color and style of voices for the different characters. All in all, a disappointing narration.

One thing that listening to the story as opposed to reading the book or watching the miniseries brought up for me was Gaskell's peculiarity, or perhaps it was in literature in the Victorian times, in how her characters' perceive death and their lack of sensibility or emotions surrounding it. There is some sadness, some shock, but life as usual moves on pretty quickly. People died, and ho hum. I found this true in North & South by Gaskell as well, and I find it off-putting. Perhaps there is extreme sensibility in the unsaid that I am supposed to get and am not. Perhaps this is an incorrect reading of Gaskell. Anyway. It didn't work for me.

Miss Benson's Beetle by Rachael Joyce, performed by Juliet Stevenson
Category: Historical Literary Fiction
Comments: What a decided pleasure to be listening to Juliet Stevenson read this book. I chose this book primarily because of her, and then also because the story reminded me of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I loved. I am about a third of the way through and thanks to Stevenson am following along really well. Stevenson is a treasure.

A middle-aged woman decides to throw in the towel and leave the teaching job she hates and the modest circumspect life she is leading to travel halfway around the world to New Caledonia in this post WWII story. She is on the search of the elusive golden beatle that she's been fascinated with since she learned about it at her father's knee. Her dream has gotten tarnished over the years, but never abadoned. Now she drags it out, spiffs it up with spit and polish, throws all her money at it, and finds herself on a ship steaming away to New Caledonia with an improbable and suspicious assistant and a stalker with PTSD.

This book embodies the type of heroine with whom I have some difficulty. I saw her type in Lady Awakened by Cecilia Grant as well. These are taciturn, very emotionally subdued women, by circumstance, for whom we are supposed to feel sorry and have sympathy. In general, my interest is immediately peaked by the quiet ones, because they usually have much more going on for them, especially because it is not visible. However, the protagonists of both these books assume that the other protagonists have to give and give while they take and take. The little they do give is to be received with gratitude and be considered sufficient. This is the dynamic that both the authors set up for their protagonists. While both Joyce's and Grant's stories are marvelously written and the heroines are superbly drawn, I find that my sympathies are with the other protagonists, not the heroines. Those other protagonists deserve more from life than what the heroines are handing to them. Anyway. Despite these misgivings, I am going to continue on with the book to see where it leads.

Forbidden by Jo Beverley
Category: Historical Romance
Comments: I am now part of a new Twitter book club called The Saturday Book Club with @willaful, @janetetennessee, @regency_gal, @growlycub, and @emmelnie. Forbidden is our first book. We are JoBev fans, so this was an enthusiastic choice. You can tell the caliber of the writer JoBev was from the opening pages. This is a re-read for me, but it has been so long since I last read it, as part of a binge-read of all of JoBev's works, that I have forgotten most of the story other than hazy recollections. We've had two rousing discussions for chapters 1-6, and I look forward to discussing the rest of the book in April, three chapters a week.

The Bluestocking Duchess by Julia Justiss
Category: Regency Romance
Comments: This was a disappointing Justiss novel. Usually, I really like her work, but not this one. There was far too much navel-gazing and retreading of the same concerns throughout the novel without much forward movement. Another issue I had with the book was lack of sexual tension even though there was constant noticing of the facial charms of the other. The anticipation of a kiss or no kiss was used as sexual tension, but again a lack of forward motion there made the anticipation deflate for the reader. Here are the main issues concerning the protagonists.

She is an ancient Greek scholar but believes that no one knows of her expertise. She think she manages to even fool her father and brother despite actually doing a fair bit of the translation work. She is convinced that marriage would mean the end of her scholarship. So she is determined to be a spinster lady's companion. I was not sure how this would enable her to continue the work that "defines her." As a result, while she really wants to kiss the hero, she really does not want to marry him.

He has been newly elevated to a duke's heir. He really wants to kiss her but that would be dishonorable. Marrying her has never occurred to him because despite being attracted to her, his one brush with romance in the past has turned him off romance, even though it seemed like a rather innocuous experience to me. As a duke's heir, he is expected to marry well, and the daughter of the duke's librarian ain't cutting it. He wants to do his duty to the title and let the duke choose his bride but he really wants to kiss her.

Every time they think of wanting to kiss the other person, they retread the above. And frustratingly, I didn't get much of a look into their thoughts—how are they changing how they look at their lives and what they can to get what they want. Yes, of course, there's a HEA at the end of the book so there is forward progress in their relationship towards the end but they stay mired in these ruminations for far too long. Disappointing! I look forward to Justiss' next book because I really like her writing.

Dial 'A' for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto
Category: Contemporary Romance
Comments: I had been looking forward to reading this book ever since I first read the back cover copy. The author's introduction/author's note at the beginning of the book solidified my impression that this was going to be a good book. I enjoyed the dual timelines between the heroine's college life and current life, both progressing along in the story, and I enjoyed the prologue setup, though it was entirely telling rather than showing. On to the story and what caused me to rate it two stars.

I was uncomfortable with how after graduating from college, Meddie breaks up with the love-of-her-life (and the hero of this story) Nathan. She has made up her mind that she cannot abandon her mother and aunts and move away from home. So when Nathan gets the job in NYC, she tells him that she has stopped loving him, all so he wouldn't sacrifice his NYC job for her. He is utterly shocked. It is one thing to be self-sacrificing, but quite another to lie like that and break his heart. Why did she not opt for an honest conversation where she lays out all the reasons she cannot move? Instead, she chooses to break up with him in the worst way possible. He had hoped to marry her. I thought she was very insensitive to his feelings and immature in how she handled the situation.

My belief in her immaturity was solidified by what happens with her ill-fated date with Jake.

Yes, Jake is totally behaving like a creep and a threat to her in the car, and she is justified in being scared by his behavior. But tasering him while he is driving fast is a surefire way to getting both of them badly hurt or killed. Luckily for her, despite the car wrapping around a tree, she is OK and her car is dented but OK, but Jake is so badly hurt that she thinks he is dead. I was then horrified that instead of using his phone to call 911; or walking to get help; or somehow maneuvering him out of the way on the roadside, driving to get help, and returning with the help, she stuffs him in the trunk of her car.

Then she drives home to her mother and lets her mother and aunts take care of her and the situation. She shows no maturity even at 26, no remorse, and no conscience. I read in horrified fascination as she, her mother, and her aunts all eat and joke and laugh while Jake lies unconscious or dead in the car trunk. Then they drive him over and put him in a cooler, which the next day, gets put on a boat to an island, and so on.

I know we are supposed to be laughing along with all these shenanigans, but my sympathies were all with Jake and none with Meddie. I kept on hoping Jake would wake up soon and go on home, chastened by what has happened to him. Instead, the horror kept going on. I had hoped so much from this book. The author paints a wonderful picture of her aunties at the beginning, and I had hoped they would do madcap stuff, which they did, except, I did not want them do to it with a "dead" body. That was just not funny.

(BTW for a 5'2" petite girl to lift a deadweight grown man, who outweighs her by a lot and is much taller than her, is impossible. So that whole thing of her moving him from the driver's seat into the trunk is completely unbelievable. I know we're supposed to suspend disbelief at this point, but it is a bridge too far for me. Implausible things I can take in stride, but this is impossible.)