November 9 by Colleen Hoover

Ebook, 307 pages
Romance, Contemporary, New Adult
Trigger Warning: Abuse, Fire Accident

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Now, before we start, a warning, this is less of a book review and more of a rant post. So, if you are faint of heart or loved this book (I would like to say “no judgement” but honestly…?), I suggest you don’t read further. It will not be pretty.

Now, am I a salty person? The Dead Sea would look at me and say, “Damn, that’s salty“. Do I hate wasting time on useless, pointless plots? Yes. And that, my child, is how this rant review was born.

Hear me when I say the rage I felt when I finished this book was unimaginable. There are some books that I keep reading despite blaring red flags (much like most of Ben and Fallon’s relationship), because I hate leaving books in between. I am a hopeful soul and hold firm that maybe, it could get better towards the end. Short answer: it did not. Long answer: Keep reading.

Now, the plot of the story is that Ben and Fallon meet in a diner on November 9th. Fallon is about to fly across the country to NYC the very next day. So, they make a pact to meet every year. This plot, on paper, was right up my alley. A little romance akin to One Day, told over years? A story of passion, romance, friendship and finally realizing that they were meant to be? Sign me up!

Turns out, it was a souffle that just didn’t rise. This story was better when I read the synopsis than when I finished the book. An equivalent to when the trailer was better than the movie. But worse. So much worse.

I have learned from this book that characters can make or break a book. And well, meet Ben, the man who broke this book single-handedly. Ben is what you would called a pseudo perfect boyfriend. He has all the qualities of a perfect boyfriend and that would work fine, if he wasn’t such a infuriating piece of shit (Pardon, my French). The man practically forces his way into Fallon’s conversation with her father aka “rescues her”, sits there undressing her with his mind (And no, I am in no way mistaken about this because there is a huge paragraph dedicated to him wondering about what colour her underwear is- three seconds after they meet) and not to mention how controlling he is. Exhibit A:

I shove the dress back at him. “I don’t want to wear that, I want to wear this.”

“No,” he says. “I’m paying for dinner, so I get to choose what to stare at while we eat.”

If a guy says this to me, he will be limping how after I knee him in the family jewels. But poor Fallon, in her ‘damsel in distress’ with zero confidence and absolutely no self esteem falls for his “I shall wave my magical wand and deliver a few big speeches about how I want to do you and you shall find yourself a confident, sexy woman” ploy. Honestly, there was a point where he asks her, all romantic, about if she knew what he was thinking about when he first saw her, and I admit, the die hard, sappy romantic in me, for a second, did indeed believe he was going to tell her in some touching fashion about how gorgeous he found her and beauty was really about what was on the inside and not how many scars you have on the outside, but no, it was about how enamored by her ass and wondering if she was wearing underwear. Romance is truly dead.

There were so many such exhibits. And omg, if this is what the New Adults of the world are being exposed to, nowadays, I worry for the future generations. Just to clear things up, no, virginity is not a “gift” to the guy and you do not “lose a bit of yourself” and making it seem that way, just made me want to vomit all over this book. And also, if a man ever puts his hand over your mouth, to prevent you from speaking, bite him.

Moving on the Fallon, aka the cause for my rising blood pressure- Part 2. In short, I found her extremely annoying and totally melodramatic. But she was tolerable even though she found the fact that her “boyfriend” keeps objectifying her as romantic and not disturbing. I found it sad how complying she was, even when she was uncomfortable. This book really took objectifying women to a whole new level. Not to start on the gas lighting.

“It took four years for me to fall in love with him. It only took four pages to stop.”

So, as you can imagine by the time, the actual plot twist came around, I was done with this book. And honestly, the plot twist didn’t improve things. It just cemented my already deteriorating views about this book. I was right to hate it. I was right to trust my instincts. And this book was truly terrible.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Ebook, 304 pages
Fiction, Fantasy, Contemporary, Magical Realism, Adult
Ratings: 4/5
TW: Suicide Attempt

“That was how she had felt most of her life.
Caught in the middle. Struggling, flailing, just trying to survive while not knowing which way to go. Which path to commit to without regret.”

I remember back in high school when we were taught (forced to read) The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. The line that resonated with me to this day was “Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.” The poet, it always seemed to me, was consoling himself that he would return one day and then, take the other road despite knowing deep down that day might never come.

Regret. “Maybe just maybe if I had done something differently I wouldn’t have ended up where I am now.” A word that holds the weight of the worlds. Everyone has them, everyone thinks about them and everyone deals with them.

But it is not lives we regret not living that are the real problem. It is the regret itself. It’s the regret that makes us shrivel and wither and feel like our own and other people’s worst enemy.

It is no secret that Matt Haig, the author of this book, has battled long and hard with various mental issues and maybe that’s why he is so apt at creating characters that are so easy to resonate with.

Nora Seed has found herself in the most shittiest version of her life. Everything that could have gone horribly wrong, has. First, her mom passed away. Then, she lost her job at the saddest music shop possible. Then, the cherry on top of her already sad and mopey day, her cat died. And perhaps what’s worse, her sorta crush, brought her dead cat to her (I mean, talk about a turn off). And then, Nora found herself doing a run down of things that went wrong in her life- She quit swimming, she quit the band that her brother and her were part of , she left her fiance two days before their wedding, she didnt go to Australia with her best friend and they barely talk anymore, she got a degree in philosophy instead of going to study glaciers in the Arctic circle and so on and so forth. But you get the gist of it.

“It is easy to mourn the lives we aren’t living. Easy to wish we’d developed other other talents, said yes to different offers. Easy to wish we’d worked harder, loved better, handled our finances more astutely, been more popular, stayed in the band, gone to Australia, said yes to the coffee or done more bloody yoga.”

And so, Nora finds herself in The Midnight Library. A place that is filled with books, each representing a life she could have made had she made a few different choices. And so, begins her second life, and her third and her forth and on and on and on. She tried one she got married to the guy of her dreams, went to Australia with her best friend, said yes to a coffee date, became a rockstar etc etc. Her possibilities, as it seemed, were just as big and wide as her regrets.

“Never underestimate the big importance of small things.”

Now, I have thought and thought how best to describe the feeling of this book. Imagine watching a Hallmark movie, or a typical romcom from the 90s, lets say The Runaway Bride (picked because its also a disguised self help movie) , now everyone, including the writers know, that the ending (Read as: “the lesson learned”) is quite obvious. Yet, we continue to watch the movie. And its the same with the book. We know where this is headed and yet, we continue reading.

“You’re overthinking it.’

‘I have anxiety. I have no other type of thinking available.”

My one problem with the book is that Nora is a wet blanket. She is the dementor of her life. She manages to overthink and devoid any and all situations out of an ounce of happiness. And yes, I know, reading about a character who was down in the depths that taking her life was the only solution left to her, is quite emotionally challenging. And I, personally, in no way believe that you can cure a mental illness by changing a few perspectives on your life and tapping your heels three times and saying that you want to go home, The Midnight Library, does manage to remain warm and uplifting despite its dark and dreary start.

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

Ebook, 256 pages
Psychological, Thriller, Fiction, Mystery, Adult, Suspense
Rating: 3.5/5

Well, I did it. I picked up a book solely because Booktok told me to, and it has left me utterly confused. Don’t get me wrong, any book that makes me see the rays of the morning sun peak through my blinds, as the sudden realization that I have yet again, stayed up the whole night to read, automatically must be a good book, right? Well….you might just be wrong there.

“Waiting…waiting…that’s what women do. We wait for him to get home, we wait for him to pay attention to us, wait to be treated fairly—for our worth to be seen and acknowledged. Life is just a waiting game for women.”

The book starts of from the point of view of a woman who’s husband has two other wives. She has never met them. That was part of the agreement. No contact with the other wives. She doesn’t even know their names. Instead, she has a loving, caring, hot as a Greek God personified husband that comes home to her once a week. And the rest of the time, she distracts herself working to death.

Was she happy with this arrangement? No.

Will she continue with this arrangement? Yes. Absolutely. 100%. YES!

The secrecy of the situation is almost nightmarish as is the almost frightening adoration she has for this man. She almost fervently repeats in her head that “he loves them all in his way” and “she is his legal wife“. There is also a level of possessiveness, the way she subconsciously compares all her actions to other wives, each action marred by the competitiveness to be the “better wife” to him.

Now, don’t get me wrong, our girl was happy with this situation. I mean, sure she couldn’t go on a vacation with him when she wanted to, because one of his other wives, the youngest one, is now carrying his baby, and she can’t go into a restaurant or a club with him, because they might be spotted by someone she or he knows, or complain about her husband over brunch to a work bestie, because she doesn’t know that she is even married let alone in a polygamist relationship. But she was happy.

“Amazing how once you open a door for something, there’s no going back. All you can do is brace yourself as you get sucked in, deeper and deeper.”

And of course, all this secrecy, loving a man who keeps two-thirds of his life holed away in literally another city, has had his effects. So, she decides to snoop. She decided to befriend, Monday. Her husband’s latest and youngest wife. The one who is carrying his baby. Befriending someone under false pretenses is itself wrong, but when its your husband’s other wife who’s name you were not allowed to know, well, it gets messier. And when you find out that your perfect to a T hubby, has been abusing her, physically and maybe even forcing her to have her kid, well… that would crack any rose tinted glasses.

“In its place is a framed print of a pressed poppy. It depresses me. Pressed flowers are an attempt to hold on to something that was once alive. They’re desperate and lonely”

And so begins, her adventure down her husband’s twisted rabbit hole. She tracks down his first wife “Tuesday”, the workaholic, kid-hating one, who didn’t want to have kids because she had a “career”. (I know! What a monster!) Anyway, after that, there is a lot of drama, a lot of fighting, a lot of “he says she says”, a minor stint in mental hospital- you know, completely normal husband and wife things.

“Does a woman still have to explain herself when she doesn’t want children?”

And somewhere around here, after her discovery, after the mirror shattered, the plot plummets. The plot, still very fast paced and compelling, turned into slightly nonsensical and then, full blown “what the hell is even happening?” that turned the book into a cheap plot twist that could rival any melodramatic soap opera.

And honestly, the only reason I picked up this book (other than the glowing reviews promising me a compelling read- which it delivered on) was the tea. Hot gossip that spoke to my mundane bored soul. I was curious. It started off with knowing how anyone could agree and maintain a poly amorous relationship. Now, anyone who knows me will swear, cross their hearts and hope to die, that I am terrible at sharing. And as per the writer, this is where the idea of this book came from. So, this felt like a perfect fit.

And as much as I loved the emotional roller coaster that this book has put me through, the ending made me regret it, leaving me drained and kinda sad because it didn’t deliver on its promise. And it held a lot of promise.

P.S: It took me a very long time, nearly 3/4th of the book, before I realized that her name is actually Thursday and its not just the day of the week that Seth visits her on. Dumb me.

Book Review (Quarantine Special)- Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

Ebook, 327 pages
Fiction, Holiday, Contemporary, LGBTQ
Rating: 3.5/5

One thing you all must be wondering: Mia, was it really wise to pick up a book about quarantine during quarantine?

Possibly not. But the prose was so tempting, I just couldn’t resist.

So, yes, I did pick up this book because of the self-quarantine aspect. Especially, since I and many others in the world are in lock down and quarantining ourselves with our loved ones. And I, for one, can tell you in all honesty, it has not been a blast. Quite the contrary actually.

Seven days of Us reads like a melodramatic sitcom. We are introduced to the Birch family. An affluent upper middle class family, who has decided to self-quarantine themselves for seven days (from Christmas to New Year’s) in their family mansion, upon the return of their eldest daughter, Olivia Birch, from treating a deadly disease called Haag. (Because what could possibly go wrong with shutting themselves in with a person who is completely exhausted from treating sick and dying people in a third world country?)

Told from multiple POV’s, this story gives a glimpse into the intriguing dynamics of the Birch family. From Olivia to Phoebe, from Emma to Andrew and last of all, to the new comer, Jesse, we see that what makes any relationship work is more than just smiles and fairy dust, its communication and hard work.

Being engaging and warm whilst remaining utterly realistic, is a hard feat to achieve, but this book manages to shake its soap opera-like roots to tell a very captivating, witty and thought provoking story.

The Birch’s are introduced pretty early in the book and the dysfunctional relationship with their eldest daughter is pretty evident early on. Which the matriarch has taken it upon herself to see that its fixed over the next seven days. (Mothers, they do try, don’t they?)

Secrets, secrets and more secrets are unveiled as the quarantine begins as each of the Birch’s finds themselves a recipient of (some expected and very unexpected) news:

The youngest daughter, Phoebe, just found herself to engaged to the man of her dreams (or is he?).

The patriarch of the family, a former war correspondent turned food critic (think Ego from Ratatouille and you have him down to a T), just received word from an old flame. (And he does not like it one bit.)

On the other hand, the cheery, self-sufficient matriarch has news of her own. While the news is quite devastating and equally heart breaking, she will be damned if she let spoil her perfect vacation.

Olivia, on the other hand, cannot wait for this week to be over (AMEN TO THAT). She had never connected to her family and cannot think of a reason to now. And the only thing worse than being in quarantine with her exorbitant family, might be Haag itself. 

With secrets everywhere, the Birch enter their week long quarantine (Pfft. Amateurs). Will they make it out alive? Or at least with their feelings intact? Will all the skeletons remain in the closet or will they all come tumbling out in an avalanche? To find out and more, stay tuned for next week’s episode of…Oh wait…

With a few surprises along the way, the book wraps up the same way it began, nicely, like a well wrapped Christmas gift. And anyway, who doesn’t love the theatrics of dysfunctional family? Right?