What I Read: December 2021

Miranda Cowley Heller: The Paper Palace

It is a perfect July morning, and Elle, a fifty-year-old happily married mother of three, awakens at “The Paper Palace” — the family summer place which she has visited every summer of her life. But this morning is different: last night Elle and her oldest friend Jonas crept out the back door into the darkness and had sex with each other for the first time, all while their spouses chatted away inside. Now, over the next twenty-four hours, Elle will have to decide between the life she has made with her genuinely beloved husband, Peter and the life she always imagined she would have had with her childhood love, Jonas if a tragic event hadn’t forever changed the course of their lives.

I read so many rave reviews for this book and I had high expectations, but whilst well written I was left very confused about what the point of the story was. Hate is a strong word but…I came pretty close to hating this book. I ended up reading it pretty quickly because I was expecting something to happen but nothing did. I can’t even call this book a slow burn, it’s just a waste of time. All the jumping around between past and present with so many new characters introduced each time and none of them likable, made it very hard to follow the story. There is a cyclical pattern of sexual/emotional abuse in all the generations which could be a trigger warning as this is non-consensual and features children. Also it’s worth keeping in mind that this book features a lot of death and suicide and is not very uplifting. The story ends back in the present day and doesn’t really come to anything, there is no fallout for Elle’s actions and no feeling that anything happened in the book except that the reader is taken on a journey through the life of this character. The synopsis of the book was much more promising than the actual content. A real disapointment and the rating is mainly for the writing.


catherine steadman: The disappearing act

Mia Eliot has traveled from London to LA for pilot season. This is her big chance to make it as an actor in Hollywood, and she is ready to do whatever it takes. At an audition, she meets Emily, and what starts as a simple favour takes a dark turn when Emily goes missing and Mia is the last person to see her. Then a woman turns up, claiming to be Emily, but she is nothing like Mia remembers. Why would someone pretend to be Emily? Starting to question her own sanity, she goes on a desperate and dangerous search for answers, knowing something is very, very wrong.In an industry where everything is about creating illusions, how do you know what is real? And how much would you risk to find out?

The thing I liked the most about this book is the showbiz setting! We’re given an interesting look behind the glamour of Hollywood and the dark characters that lurk there. I really enjoyed the atmospheric scenes situated at the Hollywood sign. This landmark and cultural icon has a dark history that I was not aware of until I read this story. This one is a real page turner with lots of strange and weird happenings, It was a fast and enjoyable read. Even though some suspension of disbelief was required to buy the whole premise, some of Mia’s actions and especially the final reveal, though despite this I found the story entertaining and intriguing until the end. I enjoyed the glamorous backdrops and the surreal depiction of the LA lifestyle, and the plot had enough twists and turns to keep me glued to the story.


colleen hoover: ugly love

When Tate Collins meets airline pilot Miles Archer, she knows it isn’t love at first sight. They wouldn’t even go so far as to consider themselves friends. The only thing Tate and Miles have in common is an undeniable mutual attraction. Once their desires are out in the open, they realize they have the perfect set-up. He doesn’t want love, she doesn’t have time for love so that just leaves the sex. Their arrangement could be surprisingly seamless, as long as Tate can stick to the only two rules Miles has for her. Never ask about the past. Don’t expect a future. They think they can handle it, but realize almost immediately they can’t handle it at all.

I’m starting to understand what the fuss is about CoHo books! I loved this book even though I also understand the mixed reviews. I’m not going to go deep into it because I don’t want to spoil it but Miles is a red flag, it’s clear from the beginning. But… I feel this type of relationship is very realistically portrayed. It gets ugly – just like the title of this implies. True, there is a lot of backstory and reasoning behind why everything plays out the way it does, but it is what it is… I do appreciate what CoHo does here though, by showing the downright ugly and painful parts of love. Overall, this story is page-turner and Colleen Hoover’s writing was brilliant as always! I can’t wait to read another of her books!


christina lauren: in a holidaze

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her going-nowhere job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions. But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy. The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collides, everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake…she’s on an airplane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop—and finally get her true love under the mistletoe.

This was just ok and exactly what you would expect from the blurb. I really needed something light over the Christmas period and this was just perfect. Overall, the plot was cute and kind of fun. But, I found the initial part of time travel where Mae kept reliving the same day kind of boring. I was so glad when the story moved on. My other issue with the book was that it had a lot of telling and not enough showing for my personal taste. Then there was the romance. We are told that Mae has been in love with her childhood friend, Andrew for the past decade. But I didn’t really see why. Their families only ever get together for Christmas and Fourth of July weekend, so when exactly did they fall in love? Where is the undeniable chemistry between the two? Especially from Andrew’s part, where are the signs that he’s ever had any feelings for Mae? I wanted more! More romance and tension and cuteness! But still, I liked it just enough. It was a fun and easy read, full of likable characters.


taylor adams: no exit

On her way to Utah to see her dying mother, college student Darby Thorne gets caught in a fierce blizzard in the mountains of Colorado. With the roads impassable, she’s forced to wait out the storm at a remote highway rest stop. Inside are some vending machines, a coffee maker, and four complete strangers. Desperate to find a signal to call home, Darby goes back out into the storm . . . and makes a horrifying discovery. In the back of the van parked next to her car, a little girl is locked in an animal crate. Who is the child? Why has she been taken? And how can Darby save her? There is no cell phone reception, no telephone, and no way out. One of her fellow travelers is a kidnapper. But which one? Trapped in an increasingly dangerous situation, with a child’s life and her own on the line, Darby must find a way to break the girl out of the van and escape.

While I was reading this book I was thinking throughout: This should be a movie! So I did a little research and guess what?! A movie has been filmed and is coming out this year! I hope they don’t mess it up because…That tension and creepiness …I felt like I was holding my breath throughout this entire book. I really enjoyed the speed and pacing with which this was written. You start off with a bang and it doesn’t stop until the last sentence. What makes this story work is its lack of predictability, even when it felt like it was going down that path. I had no idea how it would all end, whether it would be satisfying or frustrating. It was brutal and cruel at times but consistent with the circumstances. Highly recommend!


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