Book Review: This Is Not How It Ends

When Charlotte and Philip meet, the pair form a deep and instant connection. Soon they’re settled in the Florida Keys with plans to marry. But just as they should be getting closer, Charlotte feels Philip slipping away.

Second-guessing their love is something Charlotte never imagined, but with Philip’s excessive absences, she finds herself yearning for more. When she meets Ben, she ignores the pull, but the supportive single dad is there for her in ways she never knew she desired. Soon Charlotte finds herself torn between the love she thought she wanted and the one she knows she needs.

As a hurricane passes through Islamorada, stunning revelations challenge Charlotte’s loyalties and upend her life. Forced to reexamine the choices she’s made, and has yet to make, Charlotte embarks on an emotional journey of friendship, love, and sacrifice—knowing that forgiveness is a gift, and the best-laid plans can change in a heartbeat.

“This is Not How it Ends” by Rochelle B. Weinstein is a character-driven narrative on finding love while coping with grief and loss. The story centers on Charlotte who found love through some romantic twist of fate but finds tragedy almost always coinciding; tricking her into being hopeful only for that hope to be shattered once again. This is a story about culpability, forgiveness, and acceptance of how fate plays a neat trick on people’s lives.  

Told from the first-person point of view, executed with dual timelines, Weinstein’s writing style is characterized by her use of descriptive imagery, wordy prose, and emotional dialogues.  I fell in love with how Weinstein had beautifully described every emotion, every behavior, and perspective of her characters. One could feel the wisdom emanating from every word as well as the pain and irony from every discourse. It is hard not to love a novel written magically with nothing but palpable words to hold on to.

A somewhat predictable slow burn romance story but complemented with themes on alternative medicine, cancer, LGBT, and death, Weinstein’s novel not only narrates but informs and enlightens. I was easily drawn to this serendipitous-slash-forbidden type of love story despite my suspicions on how the story will likely end. While the plot screams the usual love triangle trope, what impelled me were the inner struggles brought about by the guilt of betraying someone you love.  How choices are restricted because of personal and external pressures acting on socially acceptable values and behaviors. Lessons on love and life proliferate this novel that while the story may be draggy at times, it doesn’t deviate from what compels readers to perpetually enjoy romance novels: believing in love amidst the blackest remnants of the past.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Author: Rochelle B. Weinstein

Genre: Romance Fiction / Friendship Fiction

Length: 351 pages

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (January 1, 2020)

ISBN-10: 1542007674

ISBN-13: 978-1542007672

Book Review: Verity

Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of what really happened the day her daughter died.

Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.

Prior to reading “Verity”, a romantic thriller by the bestselling author Colleen Hoover, I devoured her most recent book, “Regretting You”: a domestic and romance fiction narrative that I ultimately rated five stars.  Transitioning from a heart-wrenching romance story to a thriller, both from the same author, catapulted me into a series of emotions that transfixed my heart into danger mode.  

“Verity” is hands down unputdownable.  Colleen Hoover is known for her romance novels and for her to shift into different genres was a breath of fresh air and a sea change well worth the wait. It is one of those few mystery novels that will keep you on your toes and will leave you up all night.  The Gothic elements infused within her novel is enough to haunt its readers. But “Verity” is all these things and more. It is first and foremost a romance thriller although some would argue that the romantic element falls underneath the mystery and suspense Hoover’s narrative explores.  The disturbing imagery, gory details, and a somewhat allusion to E.L James’: “Fifty Shades of Grey” were all suspensefully built around Hoover’s compelling narrative.  

A word of caution though: thread this novel lightly as trigger warnings abound.  Unwanted pregnancy (abortion), child abuse, and murder are all vividly detailed and many times throughout the novel I wished I never had read parts of it.  It was that disturbing.  

The book held me spellbound on how the truth will unravel.  I swore this narrative kept me guessing right till its finale.  Though a riveting plot twist is highly expected of a suspense thriller, any prediction could go several ways.  The open-ended ending may baffle and unnerve most readers but I’d wager it’s what made the novel utterly controversial and haunting. 

Overall, Colleen Hoover’s “Verity” did not just appease my love for thrillers but it enkindled an insight into the enigma of womanhood and how desire and greed work concurrently leading to bad choices. A gripping tale of one strong female protagonist against another, “Verity” made me question if reality is indeed stranger than fiction.  

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Author: Colleen Hoover

Genre: Romance Thriller

Length: 331 pages

Publisher: Independently published (December 10, 2018)

ISBN-10: 1791392792

ISBN-13: 978-1791392796

Book Review: Regretting You

Morgan Grant and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Clara, would like nothing more than to be nothing alike.

Morgan is determined to prevent her daughter from making the same mistakes she did. By getting pregnant and married way too young, Morgan put her own dreams on hold. Clara doesn’t want to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Her predictable mother doesn’t have a spontaneous bone in her body.

With warring personalities and conflicting goals, Morgan and Clara find it increasingly difficult to coexist. The only person who can bring peace to the household is Chris—Morgan’s husband, Clara’s father, and the family anchor. But that peace is shattered when Chris is involved in a tragic and questionable accident. The heartbreaking and long-lasting consequences will reach far beyond just Morgan and Clara.

While struggling to rebuild everything that crashed around them, Morgan finds comfort in the last person she expects to, and Clara turns to the one boy she’s been forbidden to see. With each passing day, new secrets, resentment, and misunderstandings make mother and daughter fall further apart. So far apart, it might be impossible for them to ever fall back together.

If only there are precise books on “How to Raise the Perfect Teenagers” then any parent would have invested in those self-help books and somehow raising teens can be a breeze.  But every teen is different as every parent is. Relationships between parents and their children run along different roads ending up different paths.  

There are a lot of novels written along the same lines that the family drama trope can either draw more readers due to its relatability or tagged as overused and redundant that it loses its charm.  But family drama as a literary genre has already established its thematic map. Readers love the conflicts and the resolutions thereafter. “Regretting You” by Colleen Hoover takes the readers to the conflicts that come to light after a tragic accident placed a mother and her daughter’s relationship to the test.  A mostly common trope but one that resonates with mothers and how raising a child was both a struggle and a fulfillment. Morgan and Clara’s narrative sheds light on how a mother finds the strength to raise her only daughter despite the pain and anguish she had to endure while shielding her daughter from the bitter truth of her husband’s accident. 

This novel stretches out beyond the mother and daughter relationship but the subterfuge with which a betrayed partner had to face.   We get to look at how Morgan’s predictable character made her question her initial choices and sacrifices. How she wished she could have done things differently. Hoover’s differing characters are the heart and soul of this novel.

POV, Writing Style, & Atmosphere

The author made use of an alternating first-person point of view shifting between Morgan and Clara.  Hoover’s writing style is straightforward but her emotions are raw and earnest. The humorous exchanges and dialogues are done just right rarely an attempt at cloying to the point of being nauseating. A combination of light and heavy scenes were alternately done to balance the atmosphere. 

  • Coming of Age
  • Betrayal 
  • Forgiveness
  • Mother and daughter relationship 
  • Love

At its core, “Regretting You” is a masterfully told novel that explores the complex journey of Morgan and Clara as they find themselves at odds with each other after the tragedy that left them forever scarred. It is a narrative that reminds us how flawed and disapproving mothers are but also forgiving and brave.  It brings about the fact that parents cannot always expect their children to turn out the way they wanted them to be just as children cannot expect their parents to be perfect. But what the author drives at with her novel are the sacrifices that Morgan had to endure both as a wife and a mother. Hoover takes us to the realization that there are no perfect marriages and no absolute formula for raising children. Communication is part key and acceptance and forgiveness are necessary in order to move forward.  Overall, this novel is an act of love; one that makes us question our choices and principles despite our good intentions, but love ultimately collects the broken pieces together.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Author: Colleen Hoover

Genre: Women’s Domestic Life Fiction / Romance Fiction

Length: 365 pages

Publisher: Montlake (December 10, 2019)

ISBN-10: 1542016428

ISBN-13: 978-1542016421

Book Review: The Flatshare

What thoughts could possibly permeate your brain at every single moment of the person you have never met but whom you share a flat with–let alone a bed with? Does it not feel strange? Do thoughts of how your flatmate looks like in real life ever pop in your head? Or do you simply not care at all as long as the rent is justifiable and the binding rules suit you? 

Gloriously funny and infinitely adorable: these are the words I conclusively describe Beth O’Leary’s romance novel, “The Flatshare”. The usual premise of a contemporary romance novel is downright unambiguous from girl meets boy, girl falls in love with the boy, girl loses the boy, then loose ends are patched up, setting the pace for the predictably happy ending. The plot may be linear, familiar, and cliched but these are the elements that make romance novels so popular among readers.  But what compels readers to romcom novels like “The Flatshare” is not the discernible ending but the humorous (zingers-wise) and engaging journey that brought the fated characters together.

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.

But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window

The story introduces us to Tiffany Moore, an assistant book editor who was out looking for an affordable flat after she decided to move out of the one she shared with her cheating ex-boyfriend, Justin.  Luckily, she found a one-bed flat advert in Stockwell occupied by a twenty-seven-year-old palliative nurse, Leon Twomey, who works at night so she can have her bedshare while he is out. It seems like the perfect flatshare agreement money-wise with an implied rule that Tiffy and Leon need not necessarily meet.  All is well for Tiffy and Leon except for the fact that she is still hung up with her ex, while Leon is constantly weighed down by his girlfriend, Kay. With an obsessive ex-boyfriend and a demanding girlfriend, the two came to communicate via Post-it notes they leave for each other around the flat. When they finally meet, all rules break loose as they discover how despite of their opposite personalities, they came to reconcile their differences, finding love in the end.

POV, Writing Style & Atmosphere

The author made use of alternate first-person POVs for the main characters: Tiffy and Leon.  O’Leary’s prose is characterized by straightforward but detailed lines for Tiffy’s character, while she made use of concise but descriptive words, infused with script-style conversation for Leon’s segments.  O’Leary’s writing style matches the individuality of the two characters. While writing style for Tiff is spontaneous, blunt, wordy and animated, Leon’s is reserved and withdrawn as evident with the use of two-word sentences and some fragments which magnify Leon’s timid but observant character. The novel’s tone is light and feel-good.  The dialogues were funny one-liners and the witty remarks made the book truly unputdownable.

  • Opposites attract
  • Home is where you make it
  • Sibling relationship
  • Friendship
  • Emotional abuse/manipulation
  • Toxic relationship

What I love most about this book is how the author stayed true to the facets of the romance genre. O’ Leary has given us a sympathetic heroine in Tiffy and a logical but introverted archetypal hero in Leon that readers can immediately fall in love with.  The physical attraction between the two characters is ever pervasive mostly when the author describes Leon’s mental images of Tiffy. Another remarkable asset of this novel is the build-up of sexual tension and O’Leary definitely delivered on that aspect (cue bathroom scene).  The author also creatively used contemporary settings and modern-day conflicts but there are sections in the novel that are reminiscent of traditional romantic elements.

This is the kind of romance novel that makes you hopeful about love all throughout. O’Leary’s characters are all likable and compelling, easily identifiable and relatable. Although the mushy ending is quite formulaic, it doesn’t take away the fact that narratives of the romance genre still excite the readers, providing escapism.  Overall, “The Flatshare” commits to the core of the romance genre by concluding a story that asserts the value of love and constructive relationships while satisfying the readers with its humorous appeal.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Author: Beth O’ Leary

Genre: Romance

Length: 336 pages

Publisher: Flatiron Books, (May 28, 2019)

ISBN-10: 1250295637

ISBN-13: 978-1250295637