This Week, I Read… (2019 #21)

64 - Where We Land

#64 – Where We Land, by Abigail Barnette

  • Read: 5/17/19
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

As promised on the label, cute beta guy meets and falls in love with hardworking, frazzled but fun girl.

As usual for a Jenny Trout/Abigail Barnette work, there’s tons of healthy relationship dynamics at play, and the characters address social issues instead of ignoring them. (This is certainly a #MeToo era work in tone, even if the actual movement isn’t a part of the story.)

I loved the characters, even the minor ones, and I’ve got no gripes with 95% of the book. This didn’t get a fifth star from me because I prefer my romances not to skip to a HEA ending as soon as the lovebirds confirm they’re together. The epilogue felt tacked on instead of being a natural conclusion.

For what it is–a meet-cute novella–it’s practically perfect. I just loved the characters enough to want to see more, the meat of the relationship that got skipped near the end.

65 - Read, Write, Love at Seaside

#65 – Read, Write, Love at Seaside, by Addison Cole

  • Read: 5/17/19 – 5/18/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (45/100); The Reading Frenzy’s “Try a Chapter” Mini Challenge
  • Rating: 1/5 stars

Opposites attract, but not in any interesting way. DNF @ 60% because there was no conflict and I got tired of waiting for something interesting to happen.

Leanna is a directionless hippie (with a backup trust fund she wants to use only for emergencies, so it’s okay that she’s an adult with no direction because she’s not in any danger of starving or becoming homeless. That would ruin the vibe.)

Kurt is a stick-up-his-ass neat-freak author (who immediately loosens up at the mere sight of sexy, sexy Leanna and becomes super-perfect in no time flat. Like, before the book was halfway over, he’d already been made over into the ideal man, and not even because Leanna was trying to change him, but just because he was so damn smitten that he did it all without being asked.)

THERE’S NO CONFLICT. EVER. They get together with only a token amount of resistance, Kurt basically remakes his entire schedule to fit her into it but that’s okay because she’s SO INSPIRING that he writes faster in less time so it’s okay. When I gave up, they were talking about moving in together and also somehow making room for her burgeoning business (that he wants to take further time out of his own schedule for to help with) AND IT’S ALL JUST SO EASY.

I can’t even call this fluff, because fluff still usually has conflict! Maybe it’s low-key, but stuff still happens to keep the protagonists apart or make their relationship more rocky-road and less vanilla-silk. It’s so bland. It’s so easy. It’s so boring.

66 - A Stone in the Sea

#66 – A Stone in the Sea, by A.L. Jackson

  • Read: 5/19/19
  • Challenge: Mount TBR (46/100); The Reading Frenzy’s “Try a Chapter” Mini Challenge
  • Rating: 1/5 stars

DNF @ 10%.

The prologue was overwrought and terrible. Having been introduced to both protagonists, I have no idea which POV it’s from, what horrible pain it’s meant to represent, or what its relevance is to the story. No clue at all. It’s just angst with no purpose.

Baz’s introductory chapter is too many mystery events alluded to with no groundwork laid. His band’s in trouble, or he is, or both. His little brother is important to him but also severely traumatized by something, maybe? The big European tour is canceled! …for some reason. Why? Keep reading to find out!

Too many hooks pulling my attention in too many directions. Should’ve just used one and made it more interesting instead of overloading poor Baz with so much obviously tragic backstory.

Then there’s Shea, who’s no mystery at all. She’s a gorgeous waitress working at her uncle’s bar. And that’s it. No depth.

But Baz finds her mysterious and asks her out. She says no, and does a pretty solid job laying out all the reasons it’s reckless and unsafe for a woman in a service industry to go out with guys who hit on her at work. Too bad it’s undermined by the event that came immediately afterward and made me give up on the book.

Baz assaults Shea. She’s said no, but he runs into her in the hallway before he leaves the bar, and he creeps up behind her, slides his hand from her back, around her side, and to her “heart.” Um, honey, if your hand made it from her back to her heart, then you’re touching her boobs at some point along the way, because you know, they’re on either side of her chest, where her heart is.

[Not that he should be touching her without permission at all, of course, but how he did it makes it sexual, and thus, worse.]

THEN he leans in and whispers in her ear, “Go out with me.”

The only response to this series of actions on his part that doesn’t support a narrative rife with toxic masculinity, rape culture, or abuse apology is if she immediately took him down with some sweet self-defense moves (or called her uncle who runs the damn bar for help, if she’s not able to manage Baz herself,) reports him for assault, and never, ever, ever goes out with him.

She does none of that. She’s too overwhelmed by how attracted to him she is.

I don’t need to read the rest of the book now, because it just romanticized assault. THIS IS NOT ROMANCE. THIS IS ASSAULT. THIS IS NOT OKAY. DON’T NORMALIZE THIS BEHAVIOR.

67 - The Kiss Quotient

#67 – The Kiss Quotient, by Helen Hoang

  • Read: 5/20/19 – 5/21/19
  • Challenge: Virtual Mount TBR (20/48); PopSugar Reading Challenge
  • Task: An “own voices” book
  • Rating: 5/5 stars

This came so close to being a one-afternoon read for me. I didn’t want to stop but had to, to engage in real life again. I finished it this morning.

I loved it. I loved it so much I checked negative reviews for mentions of flaws I obviously overlooked, found a few I agree with and a lot I don’t. None of them retroactively make me love the book any less.

It helps that I love smut, because this book is NOT shy about sex, even if Stella starts out that way.

The story is an interesting push-and-pull of communication issues. Michael is excellent at talking about sex, and gradually shows how great he is at being attentive. While that comes from his job (both of them, as it turns out,) he’s never portrayed as sleazy because he’s a sex worker, and that attentiveness is what makes his building trust with Stella believable. Stella is great at being bluntly honest, and she’s upfront about most of her issues without ever defining herself with a label. Both characters spend most of the book failing to reveal their true feelings because of personal insecurity, which makes them a great pair on the page, even if it’s easy for me, the reader, to shout “just talk to each other already!” They’re so good about that up to a point, then they completely fall apart. Which, again, is believable. Most people find it hard to open up about their deepest issues.

I’m just such a sucker for romances where I can actually see the couple falling in love, instead of just falling into bed together. I realize that’s a low bar to set in general, but so many books fail even at that, while this one clears it by a mile.

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