[ARC Review] – I Have Never (First Comes Love #2) – By Camilla Isley

I Have Never (First Comes Love, #2) Rating:

*Note : I received an e-arc of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*

Synopsis2Twenty-nine-year-old Blair Walker is a girl with a plan, or more a girl with a list. A list of dos and don’ts to live the perfect life, land a dream career, and marry Mr. Right.

When Blair loses her job and gets dumped by her boyfriend all in one day, she starts to wonder if she’s had it all wrong. And what better way to find out than experience everything the list forbade?

Never Lie
Never Pick a Fight
Never Make a Scene
Never Make the First Move
Never Make Impulse Decisions
Never Mix Business and Pleasure…

With hilarious consequences, Blair will discover some items are trickier to tick off than she’d thought…

A laugh out loud romantic comedy perfect for fans of Lindsey Kelk, Sophie Kinsella, and Mhairi McFarlane.

My reviewHow would you react after going through the worst day of your life? Well, the most sorted thing to do is probably make a “sensible” To-Do list and re-evaluate. But, for Blair, who has always carried and meticulously lived by an actual list of Do’s and Don’ts on paper, this is an opportunity to put the list through a figurative shredder.

I loved the premise as soon as I read the synopsis because I thought it was a pretty cool idea to use the oft-employed idea of “bucket-list” but with a twist. It works pretty well, each chapter is named after something from the list, so it sets the stage nicely for events to come. It is fun trying to guess how exactly would Blair end up doing(or not!) everything  she never planned on before her life upended.

After getting fired and nursing a broken heart, she lands a job at an online-editorial portal. Here, she makes new friends, gets a chance to build an entire fashion/beauty magazine from scratch and finds it more fulfilling than her previous high-profile job. There is another major factor contributing to her happiness too – her boss whom she has been majorly crushing on right from their first accidental encounter. The boss here is Richard, who featured in the first book of this series. Richard, who got ditched at the altar in the previous book, is understandably commitment-phobic and well , just a bit averse to having any girlfriend lasting more than a month. The book centers largely on Blair figuring out whether Richard is interested in taking their relationship beyond the professional realm and Richard getting over his fears after the incidents in the previous book.

This book can be read as a standalone so, if you are wondering about whether to pick this up before the first one,  I would say that it wouldn’t be a problem. But, I personally enjoyed the references to the previous book. My favorite (and the most direct one) was Blair confiding her feelings for Richard to an airport bartender who featured in the previous book. Most of the other references were lingering ones related to Richard’s ex.  Considering that most chicklits are from the girl’s PoV, I feel that the male MC’s character arc is usually rushed or underdeveloped. But Richard’s was actually done pretty well. I liked how the author showed him being “ready” to take the relationship forward but probably at a different pace than what he thought Blair expected of him. It actually made all the “conflicts” between them at the end of the book feel realistic rather than something that was hurriedly thrust into the last pages just to amp up the drama.

With LA celebrities, snarky interviews at fashion houses, takedowns featuring spaghetti-dunking and fake lawsuits, and an adorable puppy, this was very entertaining and a great addition to the series! And just to add to the list of things I loved – Blair’s love for heels, the whole start-up team working for Richard (and yay, it actually mentions the techies too! No seriously, the techies are never mentioned in any of the “magazine/fashion” business set-ups in books. As if the online portals magically run by themselves….), and the clever way in which Blair ends up negating the “eating meat” caveat of her list (as she is a vegetarian).  Respect!

 

Love Connection (First Comes Love #1)

Love Connection (First Comes Love, #1) Rating:

*Note : I received a digital copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*

Buy Links:

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Synopsis2Have you ever wondered what might have been?
Gemma Dawson is at the airport, staring at two plane tickets to two different cities. Two different weddings. Two possible futures. She’s at a crossroads.
Be maid of honor at her best friend’s wedding or crash her ex’s?
Gemma’s decision, unknown to her, hinges on a delayed flight and a chance meeting. Now her life is about to go down two parallel tracks—will Gemma fly toward a life with her first love or a future with a man she’s not even met yet? 

Love Connection is a feel good Romantic Comedy about one woman, life’s infinite possibilities, and the destiny that lies beyond two different choices.

My reviewThis is the first book I have picked up with this kind of storytelling. There are two separate stories running in alternate chapters – both as consequences of two different choices Gemma makes – one in which Gemma catches a flight to San Francisco to stop her ex’s wedding and the other where she catches a flight to Chicago to attend her best friend’s wedding. Both stories feature almost the same cast of characters, such as her best friend, sister and some similar events such as Gemma’s bachelorette party. It was a lot of fun to see similar events being played out differently as a result of Gemma’s choice. I liked how the author managed to keep all the chapters and events so consistent. I keep waiting to see if there would be any moment when some character would doff their hat acknowledging the “parallel universe” of Gemma’s life; and it does happen once. So, I did like that slight touch of magic.

Well, I am pretty critical of the whole altar-ditching when it features the main characters since I, as a reader, would be accompanying the MCs on their journey; and altar-ditching is a sure-shot way for me to lose sympathy with at least one MC in the whole situation. I always dislike it when a couple gets their happily-ever-after and has no thought, guilt or consideration for the broken hearts and dreams they leave behind. Since this is a short book with two stories – it was almost like two novellas in one – I didn’t expect pages and pages of stewing-in-guilt scenes. Having said that, and without giving away any spoilers, all I can say is that I really liked Gemma in one story more than the other. She acts like a ditz but she owns it that she messed up and gets these “I feel guilty, Karma is going to get me” stabs on her chest occasionally and well, that was good enough for me. I am not too convinced with the other story though – she got off guilt-free way too easily.

I also felt both stories had very convenient third-wheels who just absolved Gemma from feeling guilty because, well, they were just that forgiving. But, having said that, I didn’t mind it in one of the stories because I did somewhere want closure for Gemma too.  Moreover, like I said, I was happy the author let Gemma stew a bit. But I didn’t really like the final moments in the other story – I found a couple of people’s reactions to the situation a bit unbelievable.

One thing that never gets old in chick-lit is female friendships. I love how they rally around in times of crisis – can be running away from your own wedding or being single on your own honeymoon – and this book is no different.  Gemma’s sister and her best friend were precious ❤ and the three of them provided just the kind of laugh-riot needed to get the other through the times they were feeling lousy.

Overall impressions This book had all the elements of a fun romantic comedy – bachelorette parties, runaway brides and drunken binges with your best friend who is as broken hearted as you are. Now, imagine twice the fun when you have two different stories based on two choices by one person. A lot of rom-coms deal with the dynamics of the girl, her (ex?)boyfriend and her best friend.  Ever felt or wondered how a movie or a book might have turned out if the girl had preferred to place the well-being or interests of one person over the other? Well, this book explores two different possibilities – and keep reading to find out if both lead to the same or different happily-ever-afters.

Game of Scones (Game of Scones #1)- By Samantha Tonge

Rating:

*Note : I received this book from the author via Aimee’s giveaways*

Buy Links:

Paperback

Synopsis2

A story of icing and flour…and how love doesn’t always go to plan!

Growing up, Pippa Pattinson’s summers were spent in the idyllic Greek island fishing village of Taxos. There she spent many long hazy days determinedly ignoring thoughts of the life her parents had mapped out for her (a dreary-but-secure banking job and obligatory sensible husband!) Instead she daydreamed of running her own tea shop – serving the perfect scones –with mocha-eyed childhood friend Niko by her side…

Arriving back in Taxos for the first time in years, with suave boyfriend Henrik, Pippa barely recognises the tired little town – but is relieved to catch glimpses of the quaint, charming village she’s always loved. Together Niko and Pippa put together a proposal to save Taxos from tourist-tastic ruin, and at the heart of their plan is Pippa’s dream project – The Tastiest Little Tea Shop in Taxos. It’s time for Pippa to leave her London life behind and dust off her scone recipe that’s guaranteed to win over both locals and visitors. And amidst the rolling pins and raisins, it seems romance is blossoming where she’s least expecting it…

If you’re a fan of Lindsey Kelk or Lucy Diamond then don’t hesitate to step into Samantha Tonge’s truly delightful tea shop.

My review

What I loved:

  • It was an ideal “destination chick-lit”, travel enthusiasts would love and echo the sentiments shared by Pippa in this book – the best tourist-destinations are often the ones that are less-travelled and untouched by the glitz of the modern bars and restaurants.
  • The Greek heritage and daily life in a quaint li’l village – Pippa’s (and I guess Tonge’s too!) love for it shines and leaps through the pages and I fell in love with it too.
  • All the food!!! – The way Tonge described Pippa’s familiarity and comfort in baking scones in parallel with how she found comfort in the stillness and beauty surrounding her every morning she wakes up in Taxos – was wonderful (and tantalizing!) to read.
  • All the entrepreneurial spirit!!!– Honestly, I could probably never do it if I was in Pippa’s place – Leave the luxuries of a city and a plush high-paying job I am good at and start afresh in a small village to bake and sell scones.

What I disliked:

  • Pippa’s boyfriend dilemma – It felt like something I have already read many times before – the trope where the girl is in a long term relationship with a guy but finally loses her heart to her best friend BUT you can’t have the main girl protagonist ditch a perfectly reasonable and practical guy as then she would come across as cold and heartless. So, what is the best solution? Make the long-time boyfriend have a couple of douche-y public meltdowns. The thing with tropes is that they are unavoidable. I don’t think it is possible to really have a book totally devoid of them. But I do like and have my own preferences in how some are handled. So, in these kind of love triangles I really like it when authors handle the “ditching the long-time boyfriend” trope in a way where we get to see the guy’s POV and the reasoning behind his actions. So, I liked it that we actually got that with Henrik in the end. (Moreover, I thought Henrik got the better lines when it came to convincing Pippa that she wouldn’t be able keep a lasting relationship with her childhood friend Niko. I am not much of a romantic and well..some of the arguments Henrik made just appealed to my pragmatic side *shrugs*)However, my problem lied more with Pippa than with Henrik. I just felt like she had already made her decision about Henrik even before she went to Taxos, so there were times in the first half of the book when I felt she just strung him along as a back-up plan if her crush on Niko wasn’t going to turn to anything meaningful.
  • The tourism politics – It would be a major spoiler to say anything further but there was a lot of unnecessary OTT drama in the end which felt out of place in the book (though props to the author for dropping hints of the occurrence a couple of times earlier in the book). It was out of sync with the very earnest, small but collective steps taken by the villagers throughout the book to increase tourism footfalls into Taxos.

Overall impressions If you like a story about good food, travel, tourism, childhood friendships and small town corporate greed locking horns with villagers determined to preserve the natural splendor of their surroundings, then I would definitely recommend this one!!!

 

Natalie’s Getting Married – By Rosa Temple

9781942111061Rating:

Kindle
Paperback

*Note: I received this book from the author through Aimee’s blogiversary giveaways.

 Synopsis:

Career minded, Natalie Spencer, had never been in love. She could never understand what all the fuss was about. But when she met Jackson Humphries during Fresher’s Week at university, that all changed.

Utterly infatuated, Natalie quickly discovers the meaning of love and, before she knows it, she’s heading up the aisle – for the first time, that is.

This is a tale about four wedding dresses, a runaway groom and a girl who got so carried away, she couldn’t see true love staring her right in the face.

My Review:

I think I enjoyed the first half of the book a lot more than the second. Though predictable, it was a lot of fun, and who doesn’t like to root for a girl ending up with her college crush?

This is the story of Natalie and the men in her life. When Jackson proposes to her by the end of her University days, she couldn’t have imagined or wished for better. But is he the one? Her mom and dad are happy, her best friend Gabriel seems to be skeptical and Jackson’s mom hates her and feels they are making a mistake by rushing into things. Will their relationship last? Will they make it to the aisle? Is Jackson the one or is it someone else?

There are a lot of cute touches to the story – The whole, magical feel to the dress shop which felt like a nod to the wardrobe door in Narnia, Natalie’s surprise gift at the hen party and even some of the stereotypes like the rich, snooty, future mother-in-law were fun to read.  But as the book progressed, I became less sympathetic towards Natalie. It felt like watching someone make a repetitive trainwreck of decisions. Her resolve to “focus” on her career and stay away from men lasted only till she met the next hot or considerate guy. In her own words, I did find her to be a bit of a flake in the end. I found it ironic that for all the talk about her best friend Bella not sticking to one guy for a long time and being projected as the more “shallow” one of the two, she ended up sounding more worldly-wise and mature in the end. One more thing which I felt could have been better is build-up to some conversations on a couple of occasions when Natalie has a “How can you say that about me?!” righteous outbursts. I couldn’t connect to them and it made her come across as a ditz. On the other hand, Gabriel could have really used more animated moments. I mean, I get it, he was a rock and very, very mature, but whenever I pictured him while reading I always felt like I was listening and watching someone with infinite patience, no anger and amazing perceptibility when it comes to people. Oh well, what am I complaining about?! That’s Gabe for you ❤ ❤ ❤

There were a couple of other things which worked for me in the beginning but I felt they were overused and ceased to be funny later on. For example, Natalie’s mom crying and fainting spells whenever she is happy or excited. That continued throughout the book and was a bit of overkill. If I do have to pick one character who was my favorite from the secondary cast, it is probably Liam. Without giving away much,  I will just say that I really liked the way he was written and he shined in the page-time that he got – right from his thoughtful side to his anger and bitterness, everything felt apt and relatable.

So yes, there were some parts that I thought could have been better. But if I have to sum it up, it was a fun and ideal chick lit read. I finished it in a few hours and thoroughly enjoyed reading it.