For every book, there is a reader - but not every book is for every reader. That's where I'm coming from in this new book series on my blog. Inspired by the wonderful podcast, What Should I Read Next, which encourages readers to identify three books they like and one book they don't in order to help guide them toward their next book choice, I'm going to share a book that falls under one of three categories:
Loved It: Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, by Lori Gottlieb
Goodreads Rating: 4.37 out of 117,591 ratings
This book is a memoir about Gottlieb's dual experience as both a practicing therapist and as someone who is in therapy. She reveals truths to the reader (at least this reader!) by breaking down the invisible barrier between patient and therapist.
Gottlieb finds herself in therapy after a shocking breakup that turns her life and her self image upside down. It was really interesting to read what it was like for her - a practicing therapist - to find a place on the couch and to see how that experience informed the way she helped her own patients. I also thought the "inside baseball" view into what it's like to be a therapist was really interesting.
The patient stories - including a self-absorbed Hollywood producer, a newlywed with cancer, a woman threatening to kill herself on her next birthday if her life doesn't turn itself around, and a woman in her twenties who self sabotages with alcohol and dead-end relationships - were the real heart and soul of the book, told with such compassion and an engaging narrative arc that I became invested in what the hell was going to happen to each person. I laughed, I cried (and cried some more), and cheered each one of them on over the course of the book. They felt like friends, and they also acted as mirrors in many ways.
I think that's something especially effective about this book - it held a mirror up to me so I could see some of my own issues and unhealthy ways of thinking reflected back at me in a way that felt both resonant and fresh. I also enjoyed reading about some of the science behind why people do what we do, and think what we think. I came away from this book with a deeper appreciation for therapists, and for the common problems so many of us face in life. Gottlieb is insightful and offered a unique-to-me perspective that's stuck with me as I navigate the ins and outs of my own life (and with my own therapist).
Liked It: Well Met, by Jen DeLuca
Goodreads Rating: 3.88 out of 28,759 ratings
Well Met is a contemporary romance that finds our heroine, Emily, at a crossroads in her life after a bad breakup with a truly horrible person - the kind of guy who let her drop out of college to financially support him while he completed his degree only to dump her because she's a college drop out. Emily is homeless and jobless when her older sister and teenage niece get into a serious car accident, leaving her sister with debilitating physical injuries that make caring for her daughter difficult over the summer. Emily to the rescue!
She shows up, moves in, and jumps feet first into care-taker mode - which includes becoming a cast member in the local Renaissance Faire so her niece can take part in it, too. The Faire introduces Emily to new friends and helps her become part of the community. It also introduces her to the man who simultaneously pokes at all her insecurities, infuriates her, and turns her on. This is an enemies to lovers trope and, although it's told from a single point of view (Emily's), DeLuca did a great job creating a fully developed love interest out of Simon, in large part because of Emily's strong sense of empathy.
"Emily to the Rescue" is an on-going theme in the book, and one that I can relate to. One thing I found frustrating was that we never got more than just a surface-level acknowledgement that "rescuing" is Emily's thing. I would have loved for Emily to dig deep and learn why she pins her self-worth to rescuing others. Overall, she's a wonderful character - funny, self-aware in so many ways, crippled by her very relatable insecurities in many other ways, giving and thoughtful. And funny (I know I already said that). The humor in this book is a huge part of its charm.
Key impressions for me of Well Met are that the romance between Simon and Emily was a deeply satisfying, sexy, slow burn that intensified, page by page. But what I appreciated most was that the true love story was between Emily and herself. Her story arc was to learn to love and appreciate who she is, and decide not to settle for anyone who couldn't love and appreciate her just the same. I enjoyed this one and am looking forward to the second book in this series (out now!), called Well Played.
Wasn't for Me: A Sweet Mess, by Jayci Lee
Goodreads Rating: 3.55 out of 975 ratings
A Sweet Mess is a contemporary romance with such a good setup. I really thought the foundation of the plot was clever. Aubrey runs a successful bakery and is focusing all of her time and energy on expanding her business. Except for the brief amount of time (and considerable energy) she expends on a one-night stand with a really hot guy who's just passing through town. She has a great time with the guy and thinks that's that. However - the hot guy, Landon, is a big-time celebrity food critic who is accidentally served from her bakery a really disgusting piece of cake that was baked as a special order for a child's birthday. It was a simple mistake that snowballed. Landon writes a scathing review about Aubrey's bakery (not knowing she was both the baker and the one-night stand), which torpedoes her business and reveals each of their true identities to one another. Cute, right?? This is where the wheels started to fall off for me.
Rather than simply write a retraction and explain what happened, Landon invites Aubrey to appear on a new cooking show he's producing. She is whisked away to a villa in California's wine country for two weeks to prepare for her appearance on the show. And of course they wind up sharing the villa, and a whole lot of sexual tension. Sort of. The chemistry between Aubrey and Landon never clicked for me. I couldn't at any point understand what the heck she saw in this guy. He was arrogant and patronizing, and the few moments I could recognize as, "Ahhh...humanity!" felt forced and trite.
Rather than building, their romance chugged along as they did the same things over and over and over again: she likes him, he pushes her away, he likes her, she pushes him away. The repetitiveness of their push/pull extinguished any momentum of the story and was, frankly, exhausting.
The setup for A Sweet Mess was fantastic but couldn't sustain itself. I can suspend my disbelief in almost any story as long as I'm rooting for the characters, but that lack of chemistry is why this book wasn't for me.
That's what I've read lately - how about you? Is there a book you've loved, liked, or wasn't for you? Let us all know down in the comments!
This is a place to celebrate all the parts of yourself that come with age and experience. I'm here to share with you what I know and to explore with you the many (many) things I don't.