The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics
The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics is a luscious historical f/f romance. I adored this book, which includes science, art, and feminism. It may be too slow for some people’s taste – this is a book in which people spend a lot of time either thinking about their feelings or talking about their feelings. It’s very much a drawing room romance as opposed to an adventure romance. However, if you have the patience for this kind of slow paced story, you will love this one.
Our story begins at a wedding. Lucy’s lover, Pris, is getting married and Lucy is heartbroken. Her father was an astronomer and Lucy did the mathematical calculations that proved his theories. Once Lucy’s father dies, her artistic brother, Stephen, points out that no one will employ a woman as an astrologer. This leaves Lucy at loose ends.
Meanwhile, Catherine, the Countess of Moth, is also at loose ends. She had married George, a naturalist, and accompanied him on expeditions around the world. Now that George is dead, Catherine is both relieved (George was abusive) and without purpose (her life revolved around trying to keep George happy). On behalf of the Polite Science Society, she sends a letter to Lucy’s father asking if he can translate an astronomical text by M. Oleron (Catherine doesn’t know yet that Lucy’s father is dead). Lucy wants to do the translation but she knows that it will be difficult to convince the Society to hire her so she shows up at Catherine’s house in person to plead her case.
Lucy and Catherine end up forming a professional collaboration and a romantic relationship that includes romance, sex, emotional healing, fighting the patriarchy, and appreciating the art of needlework. Catherine loves embroidery but has always dismissed her work, which is made from her own original patterns, as “not really art.” The conversation that runs throughout the book about what true art is and is not parallels other conversations about who actually does science, and all the hidden ways that women use to express themselves in a repressive society.
I adored these characters and drooled over the descriptions of the night sky and of Catherine’s needlework. The slow pace allows the characters to progress from mutual shyness to friendship to love. Near the end there is a stupid fight based on mutual misunderstanding but thankfully that does not last long. For the most part, the conflicts are not between Catherine and Lucy, but rather between the two united women and the society that won’t recognize their romantic relationship nor their contributions to the sciences and the arts. The book becomes a meditation on all the ways that women try to support (and, alas, in some cases undermine) each other in a world that barely acknowledges their existence.
The biggest flaw in the book is Pris, who is one dimensionally shallow, selfish, and manipulative. It’s a glaring flaw in a book otherwise full of layered characters. Otherwise, the book is evocative, interesting, and full of competence porn, fashion, art, and intelligent people saying intelligent things. Anyone who doesn’t mind a slow pace will love this.
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I absolutely loved A Family of Strangers by Emilie Richards. It’s a beautifully executed mystery with a lovely second-chance romance subplot. It also offers a depiction of what living with chronic pain can look like, and as someone who has Fibromyalgia, that was really meaningful to me.
I do want to caution potential readers that this book does contain child abuse, specifically
click for spoilers
…children being drugged so they sleep through the night while their parent leaves
and some violence, so if that’s a trigger for you, you’ll want to steer clear. There is also an instance of homophobia which I’ll address later in the review.
The book opens with Ryan Gracey getting a strange phone call from her sister, Wendy. Wendy has been traveling for work and she tells Ryan that she’s about to be wrongly implicated in a murder. She needs Ryan to go take care of her two young daughters while she figures things out. Ryan and Wendy aren’t especially close–Ryan was a “change of life baby,” so Wendy was already out of the house when she was growing up. Ryan has also struggled to live up to Wendy’s example; she’s a perfect wife, mother and businesswoman whereas Ryan has always been more of a free spirit.
Obviously concerned by the phone call, Ryan packs her things and heads to Wendy’s place to take care of her nieces. She keeps the nature of the phone call from their parents, who are worried about why their normally dependable oldest daughter would suddenly “take some time off” and leave her kids with Ryan.
Ryan is a true crime podcaster, and she’s not the type of person to leave things alone. She can’t get ahold of her sister for more information, so she and one of her researchers start digging up information about recent murders where Wendy supposedly was. Then someone tries to break into Wendy’s house, and Ryan doesn’t believe it’s coincidence.
The more she digs, the more Ryan realizes her sister isn’t the person she thought she was, and that her family has been living with a series of complicated lies. Every clue that’s revealed perfectly builds to the resolution of the mystery of where Wendy is and what she’s involved with. Ryan is a dogged investigator, and it was genuinely fun unraveling the mystery through her POV.
Ryan’s family situation is complicated and even as she searches for answers about Wendy, she has to navigate a precarious place with her parents and nieces. Ryan’s father recently had a heart attack and she’s concerned that the truth about Wendy’s extended “vacation” could set his health back. Ryan’s discoveries about Wendy also make her view her typically cold and judgmental mother in a new light, and as the mystery unfurls, her relationship with her mother shifts in interesting ways.
Ryan’s nieces, Holly and Noelle, also play a significant role in this book. They’re both still very young, and both are clearly traumatized by their mother’s disappearance. They behave in ways that make sense given their situation (alternately clinging to Ryan, acting out, and being wary of her) and are not perfect plot moppets.
Added to all of this was a really lovely second-chance romance. When someone tries to break into Wendy’s house, Ryan contacts her ex-boyfriend, a former cop named Teo. Teo loans Ryan his German Shepherd, Bismark, to deter anymore intruders, and he and Ryan start to reconnect.
Before she was podcasting, Ryan was an investigative journalist, and she and Teo were both entangled in a nasty case. I don’t want to spoil too many details about it, but it ended in a shooting that resulted in Teo needing one leg amputated below the knee. He was forced into early retirement and went on to train dogs for security and protection. Unable to get over the trauma they both suffered, Teo and Ryan broke up.
The romance blends nicely into the mystery. Teo helps Ryan search for her sister, and in the process they are able to re-evaluate their relationship from a more mature perspective and realize that they still have feelings for each other. They’ve both clearly grown in the years they’ve been apart, and understand that they have things they need to work on in order to be a couple.
There was also a scene in this book that was especially powerful for me as a reader. At one point Teo and Ryan travel in their search for Wendy. Teo is clearly struggling during their flight and when they finally reach their hotel, he collapses in pain and exhaustion. He has chronic pain in the leg that was partially amputated, and the stress of travel has exacerbated it. He’s crabby and miserable and he doesn’t want Ryan to see him that way. Ryan deals with it like a pro, and is able to help him gain some comfort.
The depiction of Teo’s pain felt very similar to what I experience during a fibro flare-up (which sometimes come on due to travel and airplane pressure changes). It’s feeling awful and being crabby about it and not wanting the people around you to see you feeling brittle and weak. Often when I read depictions of a person suffering from chronic pain or illness, the element of emotional exhaustion is left out. The way Ryan helped him, with compassion but not coddling, was perfect.
I do want to make potential readers aware of a homophobic comment that appears in the beginning of the book. At first I marked it down it down as something problematic to be addressed, but then further along it made more sense as to why it appeared. It does spoil the mystery a bit so:
click for spoilers
Wendy makes a homophobic comment early on in the book, but as more is revealed about her, I realized this was a clue as to her character. “Perfect” Wendy is actually a really vile person, and the comment she made was a hint of her vileness she let slip when her guard was down. Her comment isn’t directly addressed or framed as unacceptable by any other characters, however.
A Family of Strangers was pretty much the perfect book for me. It gave me a really compelling mystery that I was able to solve along with the heroine, a nuanced and engaging romance subplot, and a hero whose pain I could relate it. It’s only June, but I suspect this might be book of the summer for me.
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This HaBO comes from Barbara, who is looking for a historical romance:
It isn’t much, but here’s what I remember.
I think it’s a series. Perhaps set during the Regency period.
Many characters are reading a series of novels about a woman who finds herself in outlandishly dramatic and dangerous situations. One of the characters in the series—I think it’s a man—is secretly the author of these novels.
In one scene in particular, one of the characters in the series gives a dramatic reading from one of the silly novels while standing on a small table that I think breaks under his weight.
I can’t remember the name of the series, the book, or even the author.
Secret authorship isn’t entirely uncommon in historical romances, but perhaps the scene mentioned will jog some memories.
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Siendo estrictos, las Tabletas culinarias de Yale no son un libro de cocina como tal, pero sí que forman el primer registro escrito de un recetario. Estas cuatro tablillas escritas en akadio cuneiforme, suponen un hito dentro de la percepción y el conocimiento de la cultura gastronómica. Hay que tener en cuenta que estaríamos hablando de recetas utilizadas en la corte real, auténticos manjares de su época.
Ya se habían visto bajorrelieves y estelas de época babilónica donde se representaba a cocineros y se describían banquetes, por lo que se sabía la importancia que se le daba a la comida. En estas tabletas se han encontrado varias recetas, aunque la aparición de palabras muy específicas -como pueden ser ingredientes concretos-, complicó mucho su traducción exacta.
La mayoría de las recetas que se han recuperado son estofados. Quizá la manera más sencilla de lograr platos de gran sabor, ideales para preparar en festines con gran cantidad de comensales. Eso sí, lo que no detallan las recetas son las cantidades requeridas de cada alimento, dejando al entendimiento del cocinero las medidas correctas.
En 2018, un equipo de la Universidad de Yale convocó unas jornadas histórico-gastronómicas, en las que se cocinaron recetas de la Antigua Roma, de la Europa Medieval o la Antigua China. Como plato fuerte, decidieron acudir a las tabletas babilónicas para preparar tres de los platos cuyas recetas estaban mejor traducidas.
Les llevó varios meses de prueba y error conseguirlo, sobre todo gracias al trabajo de la química experta en alimentación Pia Sörensen y de Patricia González, del Basque Culinary Center. No solo valía con acertar los ingredientes, sino también cómo se cocinaban, teniendo en cuenta la tecnología de la época.
Al final prepararon tres recetas. Dos estofados de cordero, uno con remolacha y otro con leche y pasteles de grano, además de una receta vegetariana enriquecida con pan de cerveza. La complejidad y variedad de ingredientes indicó al equipo que eran recetas dedicadas a la alta nobleza, teniendo en cuenta que muy pocos cocineros de la época podrían saber leer cuneiforme, estas tablillas se crearon para recoger y documentar el arte culinario de la época.
Para lograr un resultado más fiel a la historia, contaron con el apoyo de Nawal Nasrallah, especialista en historia culinaria y chef, que cuenta con varios libros publicados sobre gastronomía medieval árabe, y que ya había comparado algunas de las recetas de las tablillas con platos posteriores en Iraq e Irán.
El resultado final fue sorprendentemente agradable. Las recetas, pese a la disparidad de ingredientes y sabores, funcionaron muy bien, consiguiendo, según los participantes en la experiencia, transmitir la sensación de buena y agradable comida casera.
Vía: Yale News
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These new disclosures of what Trump said in the draft letter terminating James Comey as FBI director highlight the central parts played in the affair by then Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Even though Trump had provided them copies of the draft letter, the nation’s two top federal law enforcement officials agreed to assist the president in his effort to fire Comey. Notably, Rosenstein has said he had no reason to believe that Trump fired Comey to undercut the FBI’s Russia investigation until after Comey’s firing. The draft letter appears to directly contradict that claim.
The post Timeline of Deceit: From Trump’s Draft to Rosenstein’s Cover Story appeared first on NeedaBook.
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Didn’t we just do a Cover Snark? Sometimes they just sneak up on me!
From Jazzlet: Why is she checking his pulse? Why are her hands so tiny? Why is he feeling her nose? Why are his hands so big? Sooo many questions.
Sarah: I envy his ability with a smoky eye and facial hair sculpting. And Jazzlet is right – the composition makes for a really confusing perspective.
Amanda: Nothing says love like a little nose boop.
Sarah: The perspective is SO WEIRD I can’t stop looking at it. Her hand is so small while his is so large.
From Deidre: He looks like her dad, giving her a push on the gate!
Amanda: And also…it’s a gate. They could just walk through it.
Sarah: Where’s the fun in THAT?!
Elyse: This is giving me flashbacks to Colton’s season of The Bachelor
Carrie: It’s Woody Harrelson! OMG, its Woody and Kelly, our favorite couple from Cheers!
On vacation at the farm!
Amanda: So..I think I’ve found one of the best snark covers.
ARE YOU READY?!
Carrie: She’s totally about to rip out his jugular with her teeth
However, it’s a nice change to see the guy’s bodice being ripped for once. Too bad it’s being ripped by someone who is seconds away from eating him in a not nice way.
Amanda: It looks like she’s tweaking his nips.
Sarah: And he is not enjoying it.
This is breathtaking.
From Gloriamarie: I don’t know about him, but I use my eyes to sight things with.
Sarah: He’s not having a hard time finding the gym, that’s for sure.
Elyse: That’s his laser nipple. Pew! Pew!
Carrie: It’s sort of off to the side making me wonder who or what is behind me?
Amanda: The shirt lift and one nip exposed is a common romance cover model position. But I have to wonder what goes into choosing the nip. Is he showing us his favorite one?
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Diablo Lake: Protected
RECOMMENDED: Diablo Lake: Protected by Lauren Dane is $1.99 at Amazon and $2.49 elsewhere! Sarah read this one and gave it a B+, though she definitely suggest reading the first book, Moonstruck, before this one:
I don’t think I can communicate how much I found this story inspiring and comforting, not without spoiling some major plot points and ruining the joy of discovering the intricate connections between the characters.
New York Times bestselling author Lauren Dane welcomes you back to Diablo Lake, Tennessee: a town founded by witches, governed by werewolves and full of secrets
Tensions are building in Diablo Lake as the two main rival Packs vie for control, and the town is divided along lines of Pack loyalty. Aimee Benton and Mac Pembry are on opposite sides and he seems to find excuses to spar with her daily. He’s infuriating—not to mention charming, gorgeous and oh-so-lickable.
Mac can’t resist pushing Aimee’s buttons. She’s always been incredibly sexy, and the wolf in him craves a female with fire in her belly. When a heated argument ends with a sizzling kiss and Mac gets a taste of her, he craves more—and she can’t seem to get enough of him, either. The forbidden nature of their attraction stokes their desires until they’re secretly hooking up whenever they can.
But then Mac’s clan goes too far, and Aimee shuts him out. She’s hurt and angry—but that’s nothing compared to the rage Mac is feeling toward his own Pack. A fight is brewing that will plunge the whole town into chaos, and someone will have to cross Pack lines to keep the town’s fragile peace from breaking apart for good.
The Next Best Bride
The Next Best Bride by Kelly McClymer is 99c at Amazon! It’s not price-matched, which could mean it’s expiring soon. This is the fifth book in the Once Upon a Wedding Series, though it can be read on its own. It was also originally published in 2002 with a different cover. This historical romance has a marriage of convenience. Here’s a fantastic Goodreads review:
Honestly this felt like mostly just a lot of sex scenes strung together by an absurd plot that didn’t even make that much sense…
This USA Today Bestseller is the tale of an unrepentant rake’s marriage of convenience turned upside down when twins switch place at the altar.
When his fiance informs him that she can’t go through with their marriage of convenience Rand Mallon, Earl of Dalby, agrees to marry her twin sister in her place. After all, what difference does it make to him, an unrepentant rake in need only of a legitimate heir?
Helena Fenster looks forward to the earl’s promise to allow her her freedom once he has his heir. She draws the line at giving in to his desire to make sure their attempts for an heir bring her pleasure. Neither one of them can afford to complicate their practical plan with the dangerous fall into true love.
Miss Grimsley’s Oxford Career
Miss Grimsley’s Oxford Career by Carla Kelly is $2.99 at Amazon! For some reason, it’s been removed from previous retailers. Maybe because it’s now in KU. This book has a 3.8-star average on Goodreads, and is a classic Signet Regency republished in digital format. Hold on to your catnip alarms: the heroine dresses in her brother’s robes to attend Oxford in secret.
School For Scandal
Beautiful and brilliant Miss Ellen Grimsley considered it a scandal and a shame that she as a female could not attend Oxford, while a dashing dunderhead like her older brother Gordon could. On the other hand, society would reel in a scandalized shock at the idea of Ellen donning Gordon’s student robes to do his work.
But an even greater scandal loomed when a handsome lord in humble scholar’s disguise learned Ellen’s secret and set out to give her a most advanced lesson in love…
Rogue’s Pawn by Jeffe Kennedy is $2.49 at Amazon and $3.99 elsewhere! This is the first book in an erotic fantasy romance series and you can grab all three books for less than $7. The heroine is a scientist and the cover model for the hero looks like Keanu Reeves, which is a good thing in my book. However, some readers didn’t feel the world building worked very well in this one.
This is no fairy tale…
Haunted by nightmares of a black dog, sick to death of my mind-numbing career and heart-numbing fiance, I impulsively walked out of my life–and fell into Faerie. Terrified, fascinated, I discover I possess a power I can’t control: my wishes come true. After an all-too-real attack by the animal from my dreams, I wake to find myself the captive of the seductive and ruthless fae lord Rogue. In return for my rescue, he demands an extravagant price–my firstborn child, which he intends to sire himself…
With no hope of escaping this world, I must learn to harness my magic and build a new life despite the perils–including my own inexplicable and debilitating desire for Rogue. I swear I will never submit to his demands, no matter what erotic torment he subjects me to…
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A half-century on, the majesty of Peter Brook’s Royal Shakespeare Company production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream still hangs heavy over theatre in Britain. For all Nicholas Hytner’s chutzpah in confronting the primal scene of modern British theatre, his new production lacks the courage of his convictions. There’s no follow-through to the opening act’s sense of sexuality’s threat, no lingering darkness. It’s just another attempt to get down with hyper-current sexual politics, without interrogating their complexities. And no one needs another Dream populated with fairies in disco spandex and body glitter.
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Lightning Reviews are back! If you’re new here, welcome! This is where we run three miniature reviews of three titles. They could all have a theme or be completely different in every way possible. This time, we have two different graphic novels with one having a very familiar face. We also have some nonfiction on screenwriting.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Vol. 1
author: Jordie Bellaire
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Volume One: High School Is Hell collects the first four issues of the new Buffy comic by Jordie Bellaire. This is not to be confused with Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season Eight – Twelve, a series published by Dark Horse that continued the story past the TV show’s finale. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a reimagining of Buffy with the same characters set in the present day. There are a lot of significant changes: Willow is much more confident that her TV counterpart and is openly dating a girl, Buffy’s mom has a lovely boyfriend who shows no signs of being a killer robot, Anya is an adult who runs the Magic Shop, and Cordy is popular but also quite nice.
I was prepared to loathe this (my loyalty to the TV Show knows no bounds) but I found it to be wonderful. Everyone is different but they feel right at the same time. The tone, both verbal and otherwise, is spot on. Everyone feels familiar and comforting even though they may be doing different things. It feels just like watching the original actors in the original show instead of watching a reboot or a replacement. At the same time, the things that have changed (such as having more diversity, and introducing some characters at different places in their character arcs than we saw on TV) feels like a relief instead of a rip off. It feels fresh, and corrects some of the more problematic aspects of the TV show (lack of racial diversity and an astounding amount of slut-shaming) while retaining the humor, action, and emotionality.
You can buy Issues #1-4 as a collected volume or Buffy Issue #4 ends on a huge cliffhanger. Issue #5 comes out on June 5. I usually wait for the trades (the collected volumes) but I think I’m going to have to snap up Issue #5 the minute it comes out. It’s that good!
– Carrie S
Save the Cat
author: Blake Snyder
In Waiting for Tom Hanks, the heroine refers to Save the Cat, a famous book on screenwriting. I checked out a battered copy from the library and concluded that this guide to screenwriting is dated, obsessed with blockbusters and making sales, and irritating. I also found that when I tried applying ideas from the book to stories that I like, they fit perfectly. I recommend this book for people interested in story structure in any medium who are willing to take the advice as a good introduction to the form, remember what they like, and toss the rest aside.
In this short book, Blake Snyder talks about structure and about how to pinpoint common flaws in a script. I especially liked his breakdown of movies not into genres like science fiction or romantic comedy, but into broader categories (Monster in the House, The Golden Fleece, Out of the Bottle, Dude with a Problem, Rites of Passage, Buddy Love, Whydunit, The Fool Triumphant, Institutionalized, and Superhero). I also liked his observations about keeping everything tied to primal needs and desires, and his observations about arcs and emotional beats. Anyone trying to sell something (anything) will appreciate his advice with regard to developing a logline (a one or two sentence description of the story you want to sell).
If you are the kind of person who likes to dig into story structure, or you get lost for days on end on TVTropes.org, or you are trying to finesse and/or sell a story, check this book out – it’s strictly for people who like the nuts and bolts of things.
– Carrie S
Sleepless, Volume 1
author: Sarah Vaughn
Sleepless is an inventive and incredibly gorgeous romance told in two volumes, both of which are out now. It features one of the best love stories I’ve read in comics and with every page I exclaimed, “That dress tho!” The setting, a fantasy kingdom, is inspired by the Italian and Moroccan Renaissance. The heroine is a woman of color with a pet fennec fox. The hero is her bodyguard. Every page is frameable.
The heroine, Poppy, is in an awkward position at court. She’s the only child of a deceased king, but she’s illegitimate. Her mother lives in exile and her uncle, who holds the throne, demands that Poppy stay at court where he can keep an eye on her. Poppy has no desire to make a claim for the throne but everyone is suspicious of her anyway.
Poppy is assigned a Sleepless guard named Cyrnic. The Sleepless are an elite group of guards who literally never sleep until the one day their sleeplessness catches up to them. At this point, they fall asleep for a period of time as long as the sleep they missed while awake – usually forever. The two fall in love while trying to navigate court politics, manage Cyrnic’s increasing physical problems with sleeplessness, and avoid assassination.
In addition to having fabulous art, this comic has a fabulous romance. Poppy and Cynric’s loyalty, mutual respect, and protectiveness of each other is touching and they have great chemistry. The reason I’m giving this an A- grade is that in Volume 2 I found myself to be confused by a couple of plot twists that seemed to come out of nowhere. I would happily read this comic again and again for the romance and the lush, detailed, and inventive art!
– Carrie S
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Waiting for Tom Hanks is a cute but not too cute romantic comedy about a woman who longs to be in her own rom-com but can’t recognize it when it happens. It’s also a lovely meditation on loss and healing. This book might be too PG for some readers and too cute for others, but I enjoyed it because of its well developed romance, great friendships, respect for the rom-com genre, and treatment of grief.
Annie is an aspiring screenwriter living in Ohio. Her parents had a storybook marriage until her dad died. After that, Annie and her mom bonded by watching rom-coms until Annie’s mom passed away as well. Annie lives with her Uncle Don and hangs out with her best friend Chloe but otherwise lives a pretty isolated life. She’s determined to have her own perfect romantic experience someday, which is difficult because Chole sets her up with some truly awful dates. Honestly, people keep telling Annie that she needs to get out there more but if the field consists of more guys like Blind Date Barry, who shows up late, smells bad, doesn’t like hot liquids or fluoridated water, and tells Annie to lose some weight, then I don’t see how anyone can blame her for staying home.
Anyway, it turns out that a rom-com is about to film in Annie’s town and she gets a job as the director’s assistant. She immediately has a meet-cute with the male star, but insists that he’s a total snob and she hates him. Naturally events transpire to challenge her first impressions, and with the help of her community of friends she learns to open her heart after the usual round of romantic false leads and other rom-com tropes.
The book works partly because it has a true affection for the romantic comedy, along with a knowledge of the limits of the genre. It also works because there’s more to it than romantic love. Annie has to learn to see her parent’s marriage with clear eyes and to live with the loss of her parents in a way that doesn’t stunt her own growth. This aspect was much more powerful than the actual romance, and I love the bit where Annie explains how it works in the genre, particularly in the films of Nora Ephron:
The story is told from Annie’s point of view, so we know her better than the hero, Drew, but I liked Drew. Actually, I liked Drew a lot more than I liked Annie, who whines and jumps to negative conclusions about Drew at all times. Drew is shown to have a lot of complexity and kindness. I also liked it that the foil characters (a guy Annie briefly dates and an actress she thinks Drew is dating) are portrayed as genuinely lovely people. Of course the supporting characters are suitably quirky and endearing.
I did not enjoy Annie’s passivity, nor her utter insistence that Drew must be awful despite any evidence to support this conclusion.
The final big misunderstanding involves such an amazing lack of judgement that I don’t know why Drew would take Annie back.
However, despite these major problems, I mostly charmed by the book. It was sweet but not too gooey, and I loved Annie’s through knowledge of the rom-com genre and her observation about how we can appreciate happiness all the more if we’ve also known loss.
Extra credit for mentioning Joe Versus the Volcano, a delightful movie that more people should see. Demerits for NOT mentioning ‘Til There Was You, which has the same “My parents had the perfect marriage…no wait, what?” story line.
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