How to Build a Girl- Caitlin Moran:
|Pub Date: 9-23-14|
Adult - Fiction
It's 1990, and fourteen-year-old Johanna Morrigan has embarrassed herself so epically on television that she's decided she can't possibly be herself for one minute longer. Instead of being meek, mousy Johanna, she's reinventing herself as the crass, loudmouth, Dolly Wilde. Johanna dons her new personality and sets out to help her struggling family by becoming a music journalist. By the time she's sixteen, she's spending nights drinking, chain-smoking, and bedding as many rock stars as possible and then turning around and trashing their bands in her reviews by morning. Johanna fully embraces this new lifestyle she's built, but what happens when she realizes Dolly isn't who she wants to be anymore?
I'm a bit torn on this one because the bits I liked and the bits I didn't are pretty much equal. As someone who spent most of their high school/college career writing for music zines and interviewing bands, I loved that aspect. It was fun going along to shows with Johanna and watching her craft her reviews because that was the same thing I used to do on countless weekends. I know the thrill of being packed together in a dingy venue with lots of other people listening to a band play their hearts out, so it was relatable watching her go through all those emotions for the first time. Aside from that, I liked the dynamic between Johanna and her family, as well as her friendship with John Kite, and the nineties setting. My main issues were the fact that the writing was repetitive, and Johanna was so sex-crazed, and her exploits very detailed, which made it slightly uncomfortable to read at times. More power to her for being on this journey of self-discovery, but I didn't need a play-by-play. It was still a somewhat funny coming-of-age story, you just have to wade through some cringey second-hand embarrassment to get to the heart of it.
Seven Days in June- Tia Williams:
|Pub Date: 6-1-21|
Adult - Contemporary
When Eva Mercy was young, she and her mother constantly moved around from city to city, never staying in one place for long. In her senior year, she met Shane Hall, and the pair had a whirlwind romance that lasted for seven frantic days before Shane left her, and they never spoke again. Now, Eva is a best-selling erotica writer and single mother living in Brooklyn, and Shane is an enigmatic author who'd rather stay out of the limelight. While no one knows about the history between them, both have been writing to one another in their books for years. When the pair cross paths at a literary event, they can't deny the spark is still there. Over the next seven days, Eva and Shane begin to reconnect, and the feelings between them are more intense than ever, but can Eva trust that Shane isn't the same reckless kid who broke her heart all those years ago?
I didn't know much about this going in other than so many people were raving about it, and the hype is fully deserved! I was hooked right from the start. I loved following along on this epic, whirlwind romance and watching it go from angsty teenage wanting to mature understanding. Williams' writing is sharp and easy to fall into; it almost felt like you were having a conversation with a friend. Eva and Shane were both so complex and vulnerable, and it was satisfying watching them put the work in to have a relationship and fully realize they're both deserving of the kind of love they always pushed to the side. They both had their flaws and are very much all-or-nothing type people, but it made them feel even more real. I also loved how they were writing to each other in their books for years without anyone knowing. The representation of invisible illnesses and the silent suffering many go through daily was also really well done, and I don't think it's talked about enough in books. If you enjoy second-chance romances, you won't be able to put this one down.
The Heart Principle- Helen Hoang:
|Pub Date: 8-31-21|
Adult - Contemporary
Once Anna loved playing the violin, but after a viral video made her famous, she's lost the music that was once as natural to her as breathing. Now, she can barely make it through a piece before obsessively starting over until it's perfect. Not only is Anna suffering from burnout, but her long-time boyfriend has decided he wants to see other people before he can commit to settling down with her. Anna's never had a one-night stand before, so she sets herself up on a dating site where she meets Quan. This muscular, heavily tattooed, motorcycle-driving man couldn't be further from her boyfriend, which means he's just what Anna needs for one night of fun. But when their first, second, and third attempts all fail, Anna starts to realize that Quan means more to her than just one night. He makes her feel things she's never felt before and fully embraces her for who she is. Both are dealing with obstacles in their personal lives that take a toll on their relationship, but they know what they have is worth fighting for, they just have to be courageous enough to not let go.
This was so unlike the previous two books, but it's hands-down my favorite. It was way deeper and emotional than the other books and dealt with darker topics, but there was still that underlying sense of hope. Anna felt so real, and that made everything she was going through that much more heartbreaking. She's trying to find herself while juggling so many changes in her life and career, and watching her and her feelings get dismissed by her family was hard to take at times. You can see how badly she's struggling and how trapped she feels inside her own mind, and you want someone to take care of her. And Quan was the perfect match. He was so sweet and gentle with her. He was attentive to what she needed and made sure she was safe and comfortable. I was fully connected and loved them together right from the start, and their chemistry was *chefs kiss*. Watching them develop as a couple was great, but watching them develop as individuals was beautiful. This whole thing just felt very raw and honest, and it'll break and mend your heart all at the same time.