BOOK REVIEW: BOOK LOVERS BY EMILY HENRY

the cover for Book Lovers by Emily Henry
  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 377 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: May 3rd 2022 
  • PUBLISHER: Berkley
    CONTENT WARNINGS: Death of parent, grief, sexual content, pregnancy

  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Well Met by Jen DeLuca, The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

SYNOPSIS

One summer. Two rivals. A plot twist they didn’t see coming….

Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.

Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small-town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute.

If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.

Book Lovers is pretty much universally adored by contemporary romance readers — that I’ve seen, anyway. (This is a partial fib — I’ve seen like…two bad reviews of this book. Two out of the many, many, many good ones.) I am firmly in the holy-shit-I-adored-this-book category, in case you were wondering. Book Lovers is full of tropes, but Henry twists them on their head and pokes fun of them in the best way possible. If you’re a romance lover, you’ll see so many familiar tropes you’ll end up grinning from ear to ear as you pick them apart.

Now, this is my first Emily Henry book, so I can’t say much about her consistency, but I can say that I loved how she writes dialogue. The characters felt like real people talking — no fake plasticine layer over everything. I loved the banter between the leads, Nora and Charlie, most of all. I frequently found myself laughing out loud at some exchange between them. Their chemistry was like fire — smoky, and extremely hot.

The general plot of the book is that Nora needs to learn how to let go and not control everything — including her sister. She doesn’t want to control her sister, as much as she desperately wants to take care of her, but still. Nora is controlling. It takes three weeks in a podunk little town — and an extremely hot rival — to get her to loosen up. The scenes with Nora and Libby truly felt like real situations between sisters. The love they had for each other was extremely evident on page, and it was a joy to read.

I also love that this book did not end with Nora and Charlie expecting a baby or moving to the little town. I love that they got their happy ending where they wanted it the whole novel — right there in NYC. It just goes to show how many romance novels end with the lead couple giving up their separate dreams to live out some generic idea of happiness. Book Lovers ended perfectly, in my eyes. Five stars. Holy crap, I loved this.

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BOOK REVIEW: NETTLE & BONE BY T. KINGFISHER

the book cover for Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher
  • STAR RATING:  5 stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 245 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: April 26th 2022 
  • PUBLISHER: Tor Books
    CONTENT WARNINGS: Domestic abuse, pregnancy, miscarriage, child death,

  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Swordheart by T. Kingfisher, Juniper & Thorn by Ava Reid (but this one is much darker)

SYNOPSIS

After years of seeing her sisters suffer at the hands of an abusive prince, Marra—the shy, convent-raised, third-born daughter—has finally realized that no one is coming to their rescue. No one, except for Marra herself.

Seeking help from a powerful gravewitch, Marra is offered the tools to kill a prince—if she can complete three impossible tasks. But, as is the way in tales of princes, witches, and daughters, the impossible is only the beginning.

On her quest, Marra is joined by the gravewitch, a reluctant fairy godmother, a strapping former knight, and a chicken possessed by a demon. Together, the five of them intend to be the hand that closes around the throat of the prince and frees Marra’s family and their kingdom from its tyrannous ruler at last. 

If you’ve been following me for a little while, then you’ll know just how much I absolutely adore T. Kingfisher’s fantasy works. There is something about her work that just makes me incredibly happy. (Not to mention she is a delight on Twitter.) Kingfisher’s work frequently features older heroines, sarcasm & humor, and honestly, some rather dark themes. All of these ring true in Nettle & Bone. Marra, is thirty years old, trying to save her sister from her wife-beating husband of a King. On her journey, Marra does two impossible things, and makes friends with a sarcastic, powerful dustwife, an evil (but not really) godmother, and an honorable, former knight. They work together to kill the king.

I loved this. I tend to love retellings of classic fairy tales, and while this isn’t really a retelling that I can see, it fits right in with the OG fairy tales. The story itself feels classic, while the writing is certainly modern. (You’ll see what I mean if you read it.) I adored how unsure Marra was the entire story, but despite that, she was determined to do whatever she could to save her sister. Her sister who Marra was sure didn’t like her. I loved all the characters in this — the dustwife, who never gets a name, but has such a hugely impressive personality, Agnes the evil-but-not-really godmother who had a huge heart, Fenris the knight, who was so sure he was going to die, but helped anyway. And Bonedog, the cutest dead sidekick I’ve ever heard of.

My favorite part of Nettle & Bone was the dust palace — when they travel into the old catacombs/tombs under the palace to find the first king. I loved the haunting sense of urgency, the horrible sense that they were taking way too long to do what they needed to do. Kingfisher has such a way with creepiness, too. The thief wheel. Ugh. [Shudders] She is a horror author as well, and that frequently comes out in her fantasy works. Not to mention, the last scene with the old godmother…what delightful awfulness.

I will continue to read just about anything that T. Kingfisher puts out, because I have yet to be even remotely disappointed in her work.

Add to your Goodreads, or preorder at at the following links:

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ARC REVIEW: THE UNDERTAKING OF HART AND MERCY BY MEGAN BANNEN

the book cover for The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen
  • STAR RATING:  5 enormously huge stars
    PAGE LENGTH: 336 pages
  • DATE PUBLISHED: August 23, 2022.
  • PUBLISHER: Orbit Books
    CONTENT WARNINGS: Death, sexual content, grief, cursing, violence, body horror
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY:  Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones for the quirkiness

Thank you to Netgalley and Orbit Books for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

Hart is a marshal, tasked with patrolling the strange and magical wilds of Tanria. It’s an unforgiving job, and Hart’s got nothing but time to ponder his loneliness.

Mercy never has a moment to herself. She’s been single-handedly keeping Birdsall & Son Undertakers afloat in defiance of sullen jerks like Hart, who seems to have a gift for showing up right when her patience is thinnest.

After yet another exasperating run-in with Mercy, Hart finds himself penning a letter addressed simply to “A Friend”. Much to his surprise, an anonymous letter comes back in return, and a tentative friendship is born.

If only Hart knew he’s been baring his soul to the person who infuriates him most – Mercy. As the dangers from Tanria grow closer, so do the unlikely correspondents. But can their blossoming romance survive the fated discovery that their pen pals are their worst nightmares – each other?

How do I sum up what has to be one of the most unique books I’ve read in a long, long time? I have no idea. I know that The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy is one part romance novel, one part zombie novel, one part mystery novel, and one part western novel. You mix all that up and you end up with an extremely quirky, loveable trip that’s about processing grief, and letting yourself live.

Hart Ralston is one of our main characters — he’s self-described as prickly, and when you first meet him, that is definitely the case. But as the novel wears on, it’s increasingly clear that Hart is not prickly at all. He is ooey-gooey marshmallow on the inside, and it’s adorable to see him realize it.

Mercy Birdsall is stubborn, proud, and unafraid to work hard. I loved Mercy, so, so much. She stands up for what she wants — to run the Undertaking business — and she holds her family together like glue. I wanted to shake her family for most of the book. Not one of them seemed to care what she wanted, despite saying that they knew what was best for her. Spoiler alert — they did not. But don’t read this thinking they’re an awful bunch. Quite the contrary. They are an adorable family who really do want the best for Mercy. They just don’t know what the best thing for her is. I loved the scenes with Mercy’s sister.

Put Hart and Mercy together and it was like watching an inferno. It takes a little bit for them to get together, but once they do they are…well. Really hot Together. I loved reading about how much they cared for one another, to put it mildly. There are at least two semi-explicit sex scenes, which fit rather perfectly within the novel.

The main plot of the book is that there are suddenly way more drudges (zombies) than there used to be, and they are venturing into populated areas and hurting people. The question is — where are they coming from, and why now? Megan Bannen does a fantastic job of weaving in the plot with the romance, and I didn’t see the answer to those questions until it was literally right in front of my face. I loved it. I loved this world. I loved the characters, and the relationships between them. I would read about eighty more novels set in this world.

If you like the original Hell Boy movies, I think you’d like this book. (Humor, dark themes, violence, anthropomorphized animals, and love.) The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy is frequently laugh out loud, and full of scenes that will make you go “what exactly am I reading right now?” in the best way. But despite all of that, it’s rather dark, and there’s serious discussions of actual, horrible gut-wrenching grief. And the ending…oh my god the ending had me sobbing. I loved this book.

Thank you to Becky for buddy reading this with me. It was so much fun discussing the book with you as we went along!

THE UNDERTAKING OF HART AND MERCY comes out AUGUST 23, 2022.

Add to your Goodreads, or preorder at at the following links:

GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE