December 2021 Book Reviews: Part Two

The first book reviews of 2022 are here! Earlier in December, I shared reviews for the first half of the month since many of them were holiday themed. You can read all about the books I read and their reviews here. Today I’m covering the three books I read in the second half of the month: two holiday reads and one memoir. Let’s dive in!

Christmas in Paris by Anita Hughes

Christmas in Paris: A Novel by [Anita Hughes]

After calling off her wedding a week earlier, Isabel decides to go on her Parisian honeymoon by herself. While enjoying the view from her hotel balcony, she accidentally locks herself out of her room and luckily is rescued by Alec, the Frenchman staying in the room next door. Alec is also nursing a broken heart after a failed engagement and the two start to spend time together. When they run into a fortune teller in a street market in Paris, her prediction makes Isabel causes Isabel to become singularly focused on finding a way to make that prediction, and her happily ever after, come true.

I do not like to be super negative with reviews, but wow oh wow I did not enjoy this book. This was very nearly a Did Not Finish for me. There was way too much time spent on Alec and Isabel’s flashbacks to their previous relationships and not nearly enough time spent on present-day relationship development to make it feel believable. The plot was unrealistic and jumped all over the place and the characters seemed superficial and shallow. I found myself getting especially annoyed with Isabel – she seemed fickle and immature both in her previous relationships and in her present day self. There’s a lot of luxury and Parisian references, but it didn’t feel particularly Christmas-y and there were too many aspects of the plot that just felt trivial and bizarre to me. I unfortunately cannot recommend this one at all.

Duke, Actually by Jenny Holiday

Duke, Actually: A Novel by [Jenny Holiday]

Dani Martinez is post-men. After her soon-to-be-ex-husband left her for a woman twenty years his junior, she has decided to shift her focus away from men and dating and onto getting tenure at her job as a professor while preparing to be the best woman in her best friend Leo’s wedding. Max, or rather, Maximillian von Hansburg, Baron of Laudon and heir to the Duke of Aquilla, is also going to be in the wedding, which some may consider surprising since he was formerly engaged to the bride-to-be. While there was no love lost in that failed engagement, Max has no interest in fulfilling his family’s wishes and marrying their next choice in bride. Still, he goes to New York to pretend to care about his parent’s wishes and there he meets up with Dani. The two strike up a platonic friendship that continues to grow over time. As the wedding approaches and they become more and more important to one another, it seems like the friendship may in fact have grown into something more.

Once I started reading, I realized that the author had previously written a book about the love story of Leo and Marie, the couple getting married in this one. Dani and Max were both in that book, and it seems like they even met briefly there, so at first it did feel like I missed a step. It wasn’t really a big deal, and once the story got going it didn’t matter, but there were a few references to the past book and how they initially met that threw me off a tiny bit. Despite that, I enjoyed this book. It is set around Christmas time and does have Christmas-y references, but Christmas is not a central part of the book. Instead, it’s all about Max and Dani and how they develop a close friendship that turns into something more. I am a sucker for a best-friends-to-lovers storyline – Justin and I were really close friends before we ever started dating, so these storylines have a special place in my heart. I loved Dani, I loved Max, I loved how they supported one another, I loved the character development, I loved the side characters, I loved picturing the setting in Aquilla. I found it to be an enjoyable holiday(ish) rom com! It does fall in the rated-R category for some steamy scenes. I thought Max and Dani were convincing and charismatic and I was rooting for them the whole time. I enjoyed it!

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

In this memoir, Michelle explores her childhood memories of growing up in Oregon as one of the few Korean children in the community, traveling to Seoul in the summers to visit her mothers family, and her relationship with her now-deceased mother over the years. Through vast descriptions of Korean food and culture, she weaves stories of her life, family, grief, hope, personal dreams, and identity.

This book was chosen by my book club and I had high hopes for it. It’s on tons of bestseller lists, I’ve seen rave reviews online, I’ve heard podcast interviews with the author – it was all set up in my mind to be an astonishing memoir to read. And in reality, it was . . . fine. Many members of my book club agreed: there’s nothing wrong with it, but we couldn’t quite understand why it was so hyped up? While the author has found success in an Indie rock band, none of us had ever heard of her before so we were starting from ground zero. There are a lot of Korean food references, and as someone who is not a big fan of Korean food, I wasn’t interested in that much of it. It feels kind of strange critiquing a memoir like this because it was clearly very personal for the author, who vulnerably writes about so much of her life and family. I did enjoy reading about the mother-daughter dynamic and their family in general, and the way the author writes about her grief is both touching and relatable. I didn’t not like this book, but I think it was too overhyped in my mind and definitely didn’t live up to the high standards. It’s a solid mid-range memoir for sure, and if you are a fan of the author’s music or particularly interested in Korean food and culture, it’s worth checking out. But if those things don’t interest you, the book may be overhyped for you as well.

What have you been reading lately?

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