[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!

 

Advertisements

The Shoemaker’s Wife – By Adriana Trigiani

Rating:

Well, I admit I am not that enthusiastic about browsing through books tagged as romantic fiction. I often end up picking the ones that are formulaic, one-note and boring.. with vapid characters that you don’t care much for throughout the book.

However I do have some sub-genres that I really like, one of my favourites being historical romance. Especially the ones set in the early 1900s. And at the outset, The Shoemaker’s Wife did seem to have the kind of elements that I like reading in a love story.. or any story – Rich cultural setting, strong-willed characters, vivid descriptions of landscapes, journey across continents and well.. a lot of good people with good ethics and ..let’s just say, if you want to take a break from books with grey characters, amoral tendencies, and tragic lives, then The Shoemaker’s Wife might be the book for you. It does get a bit mawkish though but I will get to that later.

Ciro and his brother grow up in a convent after their mother, unable to take care of them, leaves the two in the care of the nuns. During his mid-teens, he meets Enza who lives in a neighbouring village with her parents and siblings. Both Ciro and Enza immediately feel a sense of comfort and companionship with each other. That singular, chance meeting is something that both cherish and reminisce about later. Sadly, that is the last time they encounter each other in Italy. Unknown to the other, circumstances force both of them to immigrate to America, search for jobs and rebuild their lives. Ciro starts apprenticeship with a shoemaker and excels at the craft. Enza puts in long hours at a blouse factory. Over the next few years, call it by the design of fate or coincidence, they do end up meeting each other sporadically. But when Enza’s exciting career prospects as a seamstress beckons her from another town and Ciro enlists himself to fight in the war, it begins to look improbable that their love does have a future.

There are a lot themes in this book that I loved reading about. There is an underlying melancholy among Ciro, Enza and the other Italian immigrants who continually miss the mountains, green fields, open air, and blue lakes of the alps back home. Who might never see their families again for years. This was the time when the only mode of communication was letters. Ciro and Enza get by with that and treasure every correspondence with their folks. But they are also grateful for the opportunities America provides them. And work hard and don’t take it for granted. And there were a lot of insights delicious expositions about food, family, music, fine arts and the inherent grace and beauty of the Italian heritage and landscape . And some reflective thoughts.

Between Ciro and Enza, I think I liked Enza more initially. She was practical and just so sure of what she wanted for her family and herself – in that order. But when she finally makes an impulsive decision for herself, I found it a bit jarring and uncharacteristically insensitive of her towards someone else. And just when I was beginning to think, “Well, nobody is perfect… “ , Trigiani slips in a nugget about the goings-on in that character’s life to somehow just justify that Enza’s choice was “right” and she and all her near and dear ones are perfect. I think that slowly began to tire me towards the end of the book.. that everyone is so nice and wonderful .. with even nicer and more wonderful friends (And that fact is explicitly hammered into our heads). It was a nice cozy read, but I would have liked if there were a bit more conflicts… or well.. just something to stir things up. I like neat, happy endings.. but I find it a bit boring if the book chugs along to a neat, predictable, happy ending.

As I mentioned earlier, the book had some cool, thoughtful passages. I will end the review by quoting one of my favourites:

“Hope is a wonderful thing. It has no memory. It fills you with possibility. Whatever your imagination can conjure, hope will design and deliver”.