Book Review

Recipe for Persuasion (The Rajes #2)

Recipe for Persuasion (The Rajes #2)

By: Sonali Dev

Blurb:

Chef Ashna Raje desperately needs a new strategy. How else can she save her beloved restaurant and prove to her estranged, overachieving mother that she isn’t a complete screw up? When she’s asked to join the cast of Cooking with the Stars, the latest hit reality show teaming chefs with celebrities, it seems like just the leap of faith she needs to put her restaurant back on the map. She’s a chef, what’s the worst that could happen? 

Rico Silva, that’s what.  

Being paired with a celebrity who was her first love, the man who ghosted her at the worst possible time in her life, only proves what Ashna has always believed: leaps of faith are a recipe for disaster. 

FIFA winning soccer star Rico Silva isn’t too happy to be paired up with Ashna either. Losing Ashna years ago almost destroyed him. The only silver lining to this bizarre situation is that he can finally prove to Ashna that he’s definitely over her. 

But when their catastrophic first meeting goes viral, social media becomes obsessed with their chemistry. The competition on the show is fierce…and so is the simmering desire between Ashna and Rico.  Every minute they spend together rekindles feelings that pull them toward their disastrous past. Will letting go again be another recipe for heartbreak—or a recipe for persuasion…? 

In Recipe for Persuasion, Sonali Dev once again takes readers on an unforgettable adventure in this fresh, fun, and enchanting romantic comedy.

Review:

I thought I’d start this review with a disclaimer. I have not read Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I’ve read Pride and Prejudice and Emma and loved them. I have every intention of reading Persuasion. I just haven’t gotten to it yet—one day. So I have no idea how closely Recipe for Persuasion follows the book that inspired it.

Moving on.

Recipe for Persuasion was lack of communication the book. Whenever anyone talked to each other, they were vague, or they just walked away when things got uncomfortable, or they got frustrated that they weren’t being understood. That was literally the entire conflict behind the book. If any of the three characters had sat down and had a straightforward conversation, things would have been solved in a quarter of the time.

Ashna, the heroine, is a giant ball of anxiety and possibly obsessive-compulsive disorder. She cannot cook anything but the food her father cooked. If she does, she passes out or has a crippling anxiety attack. She cleans obsessively, especially when she’s feeling stressed. She bottles up all of her negative emotions and is basically half a person. Her family has tried to help her with yoga and breathing exercises, but seeking professional help is only mentioned once, in passing, as something she did after a traumatic event. She could have really, really used someone to talk through her problems.

Rico, the love interest, is super attractive, the most successful soccer/football star on the planet, and recently retired after a knee injury. He’s succeeded at everything he wanted, except being with Ashna. Of course, there was a huge misunderstanding between them, and twelve years have passed with no communication between them.

Shobi , Ashna’s mother, is the third person who’s story is told. She has been an absentee parent, leaving her only child with a father she knew was unfit. She comforted herself with the knowledge that it was actually Ashna’s aunt and uncle raising her. Still, she focused on her career and not her child. There is more to the story, of course, but she doesn’t reveal everything to Ashna, preferring to try to make Ashna love her without relevant knowledge to explain her actions.

My least favorite trope is lack of communication. Sometimes it’s acceptable, but I don’t like it when it’s the only source of conflict. Recipe for Persuasion was wonderfully written, but it was not for me.

2.75/5

Side Note: The blurb, in several places, has outright lies. I won’t point them out because I don’t want to spoil, but this is not a light hearted, humorous book, at all.

A Duke, the Lady, and A Baby (Rogues and Remarkable Women #1)

A Duke, the Lady, and A Baby (Rogues and Remarkable Women #1)

By: Vanessa Riley

Blurb:

When headstrong West Indian heiress Patience Jordan questioned her English husband’s mysterious suicide, she lost everything: her newborn son, Lionel, her fortune—and her freedom. Falsely imprisoned, she risks her life to be near her child—until The Widow’s Grace gets her hired as her own son’s nanny. But working for his unsuspecting new guardian, Busick Strathmore, Duke of Repington, has perils of its own. Especially when Patience discovers his military strictness belies an ex-rake of unswerving honor—and unexpected passion . . .

A wounded military hero, Busick is determined to resolve his dead cousin’s dangerous financial dealings for Lionel’s sake. But his investigation is a minor skirmish compared to dealing with the forthright, courageous, and alluring Patience. Somehow, she’s breaking his rules, and sweeping past his defenses. Soon, between formidable enemies and obstacles, they form a fragile trust—but will it be enough to save the future they long to dare together?

Review:

A Duke, the Lady, and A Baby had a title I love. I was hoping for something over the top and amusing. Once again, I’ve disappointed myself with my expectations.

Things did not start well because I was quickly taken out of the story. Patience, the heroine, was committed to Bedlam for ten days by an evil man out to steal her son’s fortune. She was saved by a woman in charge of a secret society of widows who’ve been screwed over by the system. She spends weeks searching for her son before finally finding him again. What took me out of the story was her ability to breastfeed her son immediately. The stress of being in Bedlam would have taken that ability away if, by some miracle it hadn’t, the weeks away would have most certainly done it. It’s possible she would have been able to restart her production, but it would have taken weeks of trying. I might have been able to roll my eyes and move on, but breastfeeding her son and her milk production are mentioned several times. It’s such a misunderstanding of female anatomy that it bothers me a lot. It could have easily been researched, but it would have ended up requiring a lot of rewrites. I’m not sure if it wasn’t caught or if it was decided it would be too much work. Either way, it took me out of the story very early on.

Busick, the hero, is not consistent. He’s almost immediately attracted to Patience, even though he knows she’s lying to him. He is gruff, but not? It’s weird. He was confusing to me, and it would take too much thought to figure precisely why, and this book already took up too much time.

As a couple, they made about as much sense as the rest of the book. There wasn’t much romance, and the book lacked a lot of the couple’s usual internal emotion. They didn’t kiss until closer to the end, and it was not described. It was a pretty chaste book. Considering in the acknowledgment, at the end of the book, Riley starts thanking her heavenly father and quotes a Bible verse in her Author’s Note, it’s obvious why. I wish it had been explained before I started reading this was a Christian romance. That’s the genre that fits this best.

Many plot points sound exciting in the blurb but were either explained in the first few pages of the book or dragged out so long that I didn’t care; I just wanted it resolved. The only positive I can think of in A Duke, the Lady, and A Baby was that the heroine was a woman of color.

2/5

The Constant Rabbit

The Constant Rabbit

By: Jasper Fforde

Blurb:

Peter Knox lives quietly in one of those small country villages that’s up for the Village Garden of the Year award. Until Doc and Constance Rabbit move in next door, upsetting the locals (many of them members of governing political party United Kingdom Against Rabbit Population), complicating Peter’s job as a Rabbit Spotter, and forcing him to take a stand, moving from unconscious leporiphobe to active supporter of the UK’s amiable and peaceful population of anthropomorphised rabbits.

Review:

I have a difficult time reviewing Jasper Fforde’s books. I enjoy them so much and am not the best at conveying why that is. The Constant Rabbit is satirical and, at times, can be uncomfortable as it shines a light on how poorly people react to other people’s differences. It made me think about the world while also making me laugh, which was precisely what it was supposed to do. It wasn’t funny like an Onion article, though, so keep that in mind if that’s your only experience with satire.

Knox is a middle-class man who lives in the same little village he was born in. He considers himself a good man, definitely not a leporiphobic. Knox has no issues with rabbits. Sure he works for a large government agency that barely even tries to hide their agenda against the rabbits. He’s only doing it to support his family, though. He’s a perfect representation of someone who is apathetic to the world’s ills that haven’t hurt him.

When a rabbit family moves in next door, his life ends up taking a turn, and he’s suddenly forced to see, first hand, what they have to live with. It’s a slow eye-opening for Knox. He’s not a  leporiphobic after all. He’s a good person who just happens to have probably not the best job.

There were parts of the book that were hard to read. It was frustrating because the things that were done to the rabbits were so absurd but still believable and comparable to real-life systemic racism.

The Constant Rabbit is one of my favorite books of 2020. It was blunt and clearly said things I’ve thought in a way I never could. Fforde is such a talented writer, and I’m so glad I was able to read this book.

5/5

One of my favorite quotes in the book:

“…Humans have a very clear idea about how to behave, and on many occasions actually do. But it’s sometimes disheartening that correct action is drowned out by endless chitter-chatter, designed not to find a way forward but to justify petty jealousies and illogically held prejudices. If you’re going to talk, try to make it relevant, useful and progressive rather than simply distracting and time-wasting nonsense, intended only to justify the untenable and postpone the real dialogue that needs to happen.”

One to Watch

One to Watch

By: Kate Stayman-London

Blurb:

Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion blogger who has amazing friends, a devoted family, legions of Insta followers–and a massively broken heart. Like the rest of America, Bea indulges in her weekly obsession: the hit reality show Main Squeeze. The fantasy dates! The kiss-off rejections! The surprising amount of guys named Chad! But Bea is sick and tired of the lack of body diversity on the show. Since when is being a size zero a prerequisite for getting engaged on television?

Just when Bea has sworn off dating altogether, she gets an intriguing call: Main Squeeze wants her to be its next star, surrounded by men vying for her affections. Bea agrees, on one condition–under no circumstances will she actually fall in love. She’s in this to supercharge her career, subvert harmful anti-fat beauty standards, inspire women across America, and get a free hot air balloon ride. That’s it.

But when the cameras start rolling, Bea realizes things are more complicated than she anticipated. She’s in a whirlwind of sumptuous couture, Internet culture wars, sexy suitors, and an opportunity (or two, or five) to find messy, real-life love in the midst of a made-for-TV fairy tale. In this joyful, razor-sharp debut, Bea has to decide whether it might just be worth trusting these men–and herself–for a chance to live happily ever after.

Review:

I’ve got some thoughts about One to Watch. First, I want to say I did enjoy the book, but I’m leaning toward not giving it above a three-star. Second, I cried a fair amount while reading this book. Probably more than your average reader. I’m a crier, but this also hit some body image issues I have so fair warning.

Bea is a plus-sized fashion influencer. Initially, she comes off as very confident and sure of herself, but that is completely obliterated once the story starts. She’s spent a significant portion of her adult years obsessed with a man that ends up using her. At first, I wasn’t sure if he was using her or if she saw more into things. Then, when things are cleared up, I end up being less sympathetic to Bea. That all happens pretty early on, so she had an uphill battle for me.

I’ve never watched the Bachelor or any show like it. I’m aware of them. I know the general premise. It’s just not the type of show that appeals to me. That being said, if it’s like what this book is and if I had people to watch it with, people like the book shows through snippets, I could see myself getting into it. Potentially.

The decisions made by the show regarding dates and men seemed pretty realistic, especially their rating obsessed decisions. My main problem there was that Bea was always so forgiving to the producer. Forgiving is the wrong word. Bea seemed to be acting like Lauren was her friend a lot of the time. There was no reason why Bea should have acted that way. By the end, it seemed like the author was setting it up for the sequel to be about Lauren. Not a fan.

I will say that I had a hard time figuring out who Bea would wind up with. It was obvious who she wasn’t going to end up with, but the other side was harder to figure out. Mainly because the author was going out of her way to make it that way. Bea would have misgivings about someone but still pursue them, and then their issue would be revealed. It should have been obvious who she would wind up with, but she had pangs of uncertainty and trouble believing everyone.

I found the ending to be a little underwhelming. I’m assuming if this had been a reality show, I would have been thoroughly entertained, but I was just glad of the way the author wrote it because it minimized the awkwardness. Obviously, Bea ended up with one of the men. She had a connection with him, but because of the format of the show, she barely spent any time with him. She had connections with multiple men to the point where I wondered if she would choose more than one. I hate love triangles, so I would have enjoyed it more if it went that way.

I guess my issue with the book is that the reality show format is not something that appeals to me. My main focus when picking this book up was that it had a plus-sized heroine front and center. Maybe if there had been more romance and had less time having Bea doubt herself and men being absolute horrors to her, I would have enjoyed it more. I don’t know. Once again, I felt like the blurb promised me one thing, but the book gave me something else entirely.

My feelings for the book are complicated. I had no issues with the writing style. I really enjoyed the bits in between from social media. Loved the inclusion of Chris Evans. I ended up not being a fan of a lot of significant parts, though. After writing this review, I’m not even sure I enjoyed it anymore. I’m bummed now.

2/5

Neanderthal Seeks Human (Knitting in the City #1) By: Penny Reid

Neanderthal Seeks Human

Neanderthal Seeks Human (Knitting in the City #1) By: Penny Reid

Plot:

This is a full-length, 110k word novel and is the first book in the Knitting in the City series. There are three things you need to know about Janie Morris: 1) She is incapable of engaging in a conversation without volunteering TMTI (Too Much Trivial Information), especially when she is unnerved, 2) No one unnerves her more than Quinn Sullivan, and 3) She doesn’t know how to knit. After losing her boyfriend, apartment, and job in the same day, Janie Morris can’t help wondering what new torment fate has in store. To her utter mortification, Quinn Sullivan- aka Sir McHotpants- witnesses it all then keeps turning up like a pair of shoes you lust after but can’t afford. The last thing she expects is for Quinn- the focus of her slightly, albeit harmless, stalkerish tendencies- to make her an offer she can’t refuse.

Review:

Janie is a bit weird, but Quinn is a bit secretive, so a match made in heaven. In the book Janie thinks she’s the Neanderthal, she seems to think that she’s not attractive, even though she’s gorgeous, and he’s evidently physically perfect. She has a hard time believing someone like him would be into her.

I’m not overly fond of characters that are supposed to be beautiful, but don’t know it. I’ve yet to meet anyone that is beautiful and doesn’t know it. Most people know their level of attractiveness.

Quinn is clearly the Neanderthal by most people’s definition. He’s a bit overbearing, always ordering for Janie at restaurants, putting security on her without her permission, and making her use a cell phone. Janie just takes it and fights the most against a cell phone. Normally her submissiveness would bother me, but it didn’t in this book because it didn’t come off as submissive. It was more she was lost in her thoughts and let him do that because she didn’t care.

There were so many hints that Quinn was more than what Janie thought he was, but she just never connected the dots. I didn’t have any problem forgiving him for not forcing the issue because it was so clear. I’m not a fan of that in most books, but again there were just so many hints it was crazy she didn’t figure it out on her own.

I liked the book, even though it had things I don’t normally enjoy. The way it was written avoided what I dislike most out of those situations. Definitely going to read more.

4/5