Words Worth Noting

Favorite Quotes

"Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait point. French. Pascal. The heart has its reasons, whereof reason knows nothing."— Madeleine L'Engle

Saturday, February 08, 2020

Review: Rebel Hard

Rebel Hard Rebel Hard by Nalini Singh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Love him. Love her. Love the way he loves her.

I keep finding myself returning to this book again and again. There are so many good things here. Absolutely lovely hero. I love him. Love her. Love the way he loves her. Lots of Pride and Prejudice references but they’re smart and organic to the story rather than gratuitous. I also love the fact that Indian culture in New Zealand is absolutely central to the story and it’s rendered in wonderfully specific detail. This is by far the most nuanced portrayal of arranged marriage I’ve seen and I’ve read quite a few of late (Ayesha At Last, When Dimple Met Rishi, There's Something About Sweetie).

One of the best things about this narrative is that the setup creates ample room for realistic, relatable conflict and growth. A formal introduction is coordinated by Nayna and Raj's families, but the relationship—its pace, intimacy, power dynamics— is all them, and that’s essential to its success. Nayna is the consummate good girl, and she’s tired of it. She’s an ambitious, well-educated, sexually inexperienced professional woman in her late twenties, and frustrated with the constraints of the role. She adores her family but is tired of always doing their bidding. Raj is a traditional guy with a rocky early childhood who wants a strong, traditional family for himself. This does not seem like an auspicious foundation for a relationship. But Raj expands his conception of what a happy family life requires because he understands that a strong marriage requires a happy wife and for the wife he wants that means freedom and equality within the relationship. For Nayna, there’s nothing sexier than a man who listens, respects and responds to her needs.

Favorite quote:
“You love her as my Nayna deserves to be loved. Don’t lose faith in your own ability to grow.” Raj stared down at the seamed lines of her face, feeling the sense of tightness around his chest snap. “Midnight walks and shared secrets?” Aji’s smile was luminous. “See? You understand.” She opened the back door. “Love grows when it is tended.”

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Thursday, January 30, 2020

Review: Tweet Cute

Tweet Cute Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As befits the title and cover art, in Tweet Cute, two smart, attractive and socially insecure Manhattan teens meet cute online. In the real world, Jack and Pepper don’t like each other very much. Yet they have an easy rapport on the social networking app that's exclusively for and by kids from their school. With the freedom and sense of security that comes from anonymity, Jack and Pepper find that they a lot in common: both feel like outsiders in their swanky Upper East Side private school; both have a snarky sense of humor; and they both harbor a disdain of the more entitled classmates who have more family money than intellectual heft.

Unfortunately, as social media/ marketing whizzes who, unbeknownst to each other, use Twitter to boost their families’ fast food businesses, they’re also competitors. The premise is fine, but there’s an inherent challenge in a book that hinges on the wit and creativity of its protagonists: the text itself has to have original things to say and say them well. Novels about poets for example fall flat when the poetry disappoints.

In Tweet Cute, the art is texts and tweets. The conflict between Pepper and Jack arises from a critical tweet by Jack about Pepper’s family account, a tweet that’s supposed to be so sharp it gets shared by a pop star, and goes viral. Rather than bask in his moment of twitter fame, Jack’s immediately consumed by worry that he’s going to be grounded for his impudence. The Tweet in question though is basic, rather than edgy: Pepper tweet brags about a new menu item at her family’s burger chain; Jack screenshots it with the comment “Sure Jan,” making fun of the larger company for being a copycat. As Twitter fights go, that’s as mild as it gets. So neither its virality nor the anxiety it inspires make much sense, and therefore the tension between the two feels pretty overblown and low stakes. I've seen Gen Z tweet. It gets a little wilder and funnier than this!

That said, when you're young and sheltered, and experiencing the stirrings of first love, everything is amplified. It's wonderful that Jack and Pepper have that space. The Manhattan Pepper and Jack live in is essentially a wholesome, G-rated version of the one depicted in Gossip Girl with some of the sweetness of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I've Loved Before . Sometimes that’s just the escape we’re looking for as readers. Even though the conflict is tepid, the characters are interesting and really, refreshingly sweet. They care about each other, their families and their futures. There are subplots about realistic concerns like bullying, sibling rivalry, academic stress, business ethics, and divorce. The plot gets a bit more complex with time, and I grew more invested in them as things progressed. While Tweet Cute may not be the kind of YA novel that holds a ton of crossover potential, it could and should appeal to its true, hopefully less jaded, intended audience. At least least I hope so!

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Saturday, January 04, 2020

Review: Band Sinister

Band Sinister Band Sinister by K.J. Charles
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Band Sinister was without a doubt one of the best books I read in 2019. I love it for many reasons: sweetness of the central romance, the rich, multidimensional, diverse found family that surround them, the spot on homage to Heyer, Venetia in particular. But one of the strongest elements has to be K.J. Charles's facility with and economy of language and how she uses language to build character.

For example, when a close friend wonders about the main character's judgment in getting involved with a seemingly conventional younger man, the friend says:
"You were going to tell us about how and why you’ve talked a strait-laced bundle of rustic nerves into bed.”

Six words: "straight-laced bundle of rustic nerves." A small thing. But it's just the right turn of phrase. Captures Guy. Captures how the others, Philip’s friends see Guy. Captures their dilemma, the gap between them. Perfection.
That's just one tiny example; the whole thing is a joy. But a smart one full of insight as well as kindness. And quite a bit of heat. Charles is also really good at that.

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