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A Book That Had A Lot of Room to Grow: Review of Very Sincerely Yours by Kerry Winfrey

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Do you ever set a book down and think to yourself, “Damn, I really wish those characters would have gone to therapy?”

Summary

Teddy Phillips never thought she’d still be spending every day surrounded by toys at almost thirty years old. But working at a vintage toy store is pretty much all she has going on in her life after being unceremoniously dumped by her longtime boyfriend. The one joy that she’s kept is her not-so-guilty pleasure: Everett’s Place, a local children’s show hosted by Everett St. James, a man whom Teddy finds very soothing . . . and, okay, cute.

Teddy finds the courage to write to him, feeling slightly like one of the children who write to him on his show. He always gives sound advice and seems like he has everything figured out–and he pretty much does: Everett has a great support system, wonderful friends, and his dream job. But there’s still that persistent feeling in the back of his mind that something’s missing.

When a woman named Theodora starts writing to Everett, he is drawn to her honesty and vulnerability. They continue writing to each other, all the while living their lives without meeting. When their worlds collide, however, they must both let go of their fears and figure out what they truly want–and if the future they want includes each other.

Review

This review will contain light spoilers.

Instead of being proposed to, Teddy gets broken up with. That’s how Very Sincerely Yours by Kerry Winfrey Opens. I thought that this was a great opener, I like romances where a character splits from a long time partner because it usually leads to the character realizing that their “idyllic” relationship was anything but and they learn a lot about themselves and their new partner in the process. The characters spend time healing and learning they deserve better and I love these types of books. I think that this is what was supposed to happen to Teddy but I don’t know that the lessons she learned ever fully sunk in for her.

So I’ll just say it. Teddy’s ex was a dick. He spent years taking advantage of her kindness and squashed her down into becoming not a partner, but a caretaker instead. He expected her to come running when he called her and it physically hurt to watch Teddy continue to fall for it, thinking that his neediness equated to love. It’s eventually revealed that much of Teddy’s lack of confidence stems from childhood trauma and her parent’s divorce. She has spent almost her entire life trying to please everyone else in order to avoid conflict and in doing so, she’s lost her way. This is a story I can relate to and I know how difficult it is to realize you need to change and it’s even harder to begin to make those changes. Knowing how much of this story needed to be based around self-discovery and healing had me questioning how much the romance played into everything. And ugh, I just wish Teddy would’ve gone to therapy because she really, really needed it.

As the story unfolded it was a constant back and forth with herself over if it was okay to make her own decisions and questioning everything she did because “what if it’s the wrong thing”. It was nice to see her grow a bit but I have to say that I think this story leaned a little too far into “a relationship can fix things” and “the right person can make everything better” type of story.

Before I finish with my thoughts on the plot, I do want to talk about our other main character, Everett. Now Everett is lovely, he’s creative and hard-working, he’s close with his family, and he’s passionate. But his passion for his job, a children’s TV show called Everett’s Place, borders on obsessive. Essentially, he’s the opposite of Teddy. Teddy has no idea what she wants to do with her life, while Everett only wants to do this one thing and he can’t wrap his head around why other people have issues with his inability to step away from his work. There were a few times when other characters began to call him out for his poor work-life separation but no one really fully went there to tell him what the issue was. It was hinted at a few times that people in his life had made sacrifices over the years and simply accepted that Everett was unable to set his work aside but I don’t know if he ever truly realized how unhealthy it was. This aspect of Everett’s personality is what had me going back and forth on what I really thought of his and Teddy’s eventual relationship.

So Everett’s TV show is Teddy’s comfort show. She reaches out to him via email and the two strike up a friendship. Their emails were funny and vulnerable and I thought that they had almost instant chemistry. This book takes place over the course of only a couple months and I think that I would have enjoyed this more if the timeline had been longer. I was surprised that they met so soon in real life and I do think that many of my critiques about their relationship would not apply as much had they not met when they did. The arc just didn’t feel as complete as it could have been. Teddy had really just gotten out of this long-term relationship only to quickly fall into a new one with Everett despite the personal journey she really needed to go on. While there were moments where she was learning and growing and setting boundaries and standing up for herself, I was uncomfortable with what the pair went through in this short timeline. This especially applies to the main conflict that was due to Everett’s inability to have any sort of work-life separation. I was proud of Teddy stepping away from this relationship when she saw that it was potentially going to be harmful for her, but I think that they could have stayed apart from each other longer than they did. To me, Everett didn’t fully learn the lesson that he needed to and I felt like Teddy really still needed to grow more on her own. There were too many parts of this that leaned into what I saw as “love fixing things” it didn’t seem like either character were truly being themselves outside of this relationship and that the relationship only added to who they were.

And I do know that other people may not look at this story at all and think that the message is that a relationship can fix a person, but it makes me nervous nonetheless. You can absolutely be in a relationship while you work on yourself, people can work together to be their best selves and support each other in that process. This book may have benefitted from a little more inner dialogue from Teddy as she learned to be strong as herself. I liked seeing her set boundaries and make her own decisions but absolutely hated how she continued to justify her behavior when she let people walk all over her. I really do think this could have been a lot stronger of a story than it was.

Very Sincerely Yours is a closed-door romance with only a handful of kisses on page. It’s cheesy as hell and I loved that about this book. I liked the email component of Teddy and Everett’s relationship and would have loved to see more of this incorporated. While I did have issues with Teddy’s characterization, I don’t think that everyone will hold my same views. If you’re looking for a sweet romance with a quirky cast of characters set in a small town, I’d definitely recommend picking this up.

Final rating is three stars.

Links For Places to Find This Book

Save it on Goodreads here.

To purchase a copy you can find it at the following:

Bookshop // Libro.fm // Book Depository // Barnes & Noble // Kobo

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Twitter: @nihilisticactus

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For review requests and inquiries: adventuresandespresso@gmail.com

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The Secret Relationship Boyband Book You’ve All Been Waiting For: If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich Review

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

e-ARC provided by publisher through NetGalley in exchange for review

Oh no, I accidentally didn’t post for an entire month… Again. I think if you follow me you’re probably used to this by now. I just pop in every once in a while like, “Here’s a book I liked, here’s another one I didn’t. I’ll see you later!” With that being said, here’s a review for an ARC I read last year!

If you’ve ever shipped members of a boyband, or spent hours reading fan fiction about boybands, this book will be right up your alley. If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich follows two members of a band called Saturday as they navigate international stardom and a secret relationship.

If This Gets Out
Image: Cover of If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzalez and Cale Dietrich

Summary

Eighteen-year-olds Ruben Montez and Zach Knight are two members of the boy-band Saturday, one of the biggest acts in America. Along with their bandmates, Angel Phan and Jon Braxton, the four are teen heartbreakers in front of the cameras and best friends backstage. But privately, cracks are starting to form: their once-easy rapport is straining under the pressures of fame, and Ruben confides in Zach that he’s feeling smothered by management’s pressure to stay in the closet.

On a whirlwind tour through Europe, with both an unrelenting schedule and minimal supervision, Ruben and Zach come to rely on each other more and more, and their already close friendship evolves into a romance. But when they decide they’re ready to tell their fans and live freely, Zach and Ruben start to truly realize that they will never have the support of their management. How can they hold tight to each other when the whole world seems to want to come between them?

Review

I definitely think that this book had its moments. I was intrigued by the discussion of exploitation in the music industry and of course was excited for the romance too. With that being said, I think that this lacked a lot of depth. There were the beginnings of discussions on drug abuse, disordered eating, and more and all of these were consequences of the power that Saturday’s management company had over them. It had the set up of a book that could have started a lot of conversations about exploitation and the way that we treat musical idols. Instead of looking deeper at these, the story was repetitive in nature surrounding entirely on teen angst and a relationship that I found lacked chemistry.

Ruben and Zach were the narrators of the story and despite being best friends and eventually falling for each other I didn’t really get it. Zach was indecisive to the point that I was actually angry with him. He was a people pleaser to the extreme and while this did become a central conflict I didn’t finish the book thinking that he had changed at all. Ruben was a fine character and I really don’t have much to say about him on that front. I think that his family drama was a unique plot point and I felt a lot of sympathy for him and all that he had gone through. This was something else that I thought could have been explored more. Honestly, the other members of Saturday were at times more intriguing than the narrators but I understand why Zach and Ruben were chosen for the main characters without adding the points of view of Angel and Jon.

In terms of the writing, If This Gets Out really did bring me back to high school and reading fan fiction late into the night. I wasn’t someone who did read much involving boy bands but this book gave off a lot of the same vibes. I think that this will be a big appeal to readers because it’s familiar and fun. I really did think that this was an interesting concept and I think that anyone who has ever shipped members of a boyband might be interested in picking this up. Personally, I ended up reading it a lot slower than I expected to and I have a feeling that was due simply to the fact that I didn’t enjoy the plot as much as I had hoped. From the synopsis and the way that the book began I definitely expected this to be more dramatic than it actually was. Moments of conflict or drama would start to pop up, or there would be an event that seemed to foreshadow something bigger but then all of it just fizzled out. Then the ending arrived and it all wrapped up conveniently with a nice tight bow. It didn’t bother me but it didn’t impress me either. I really can’t come up with any other way to describe this other than it was fine!

If I step back, I do see how Zach and Ruben fell for each other. The close proximity and their friendship heavily factored in and I’m kind of disappointed that I wasn’t able to like this book as much as I had hoped I would. I think a lot of my opinions boil down to how little the conflicts seemed to matter. Sure, it was angsty but that angst never seemed to go anywhere. The inner conflict the boys had overpowered a lot of the conflicts that were happening outside of their relationship. Like I had mentioned at the beginning, numerous heavy topics were sprinkled throughout the book but that sprinkling was all we were given. Personally, I would have loved to see larger discussions on these topics as well as the angsty romance bits. Overall, I see why many people loved this book and found it enjoyable. It didn’t blow me away but I didn’t hate it either so I ended up rating it three stars.

If you’d like to check out the book for yourself, you can add it on Goodreads here.

And if you’d like a copy of your own, you can find it at the following links:

Bookshop // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository // Kobo // Libro.fm

Other Places You Can Find Me

Add me on Goodreads, or follow my reviews. Profile linked here.

Twitter: @nihilisticactus

Readerly: @sideofadventure

For review requests/inquiries: adventuresandespresso@gmail.com

If you’d like to buy me a coffee, my Ko-fi is linked here.

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Graphic Novel Review: Eat, and Love Yourself by Sweeney Boo

*This post may contain spoilers*

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC of this graphic novel. Eat, and Love Yourself is out today for purchase 🙂

Eat, and Love Yourself

Synopsis:

A story about Mindy, a woman living with an eating disorder who has to learn how to love herself again.

In pursuit of the perfect body, Mindy buys the low-fat diet products and the glossy magazines which promise the secret to losing weight. One night, while perusing the aisles of the neighborhood convenience store for a midnight snack, she finds a new product. A chocolate bar called “Eat and Love Yourself”. On a whim, Mindy buys the curious candy, not knowing that with every piece of chocolate she eats, she will be brought back to a specific moment of her past — helping her to look at herself honestly, learn to love her body the way it is, and accepting love. Perhaps, she will even realize that her long lost high school best friend, Elliot, was more than just a friend…

Rating:

Untitled design-3

Review:

TW: Depression, Bulimia, Body Dysmorphia, Eating Disorders

I was intrigued by this graphic novel from the get go. I stumbled across it on NetGalley and wanted to read it right away and while I absolutely loved the artwork, the story itself fell somewhat flat.

Body image and eating disorders and anything that falls in that realm is incredibly nuanced and complex and I think that one aspect of this story that missed the mark was the length. I think that anyone would say that 160 pages would be difficult to tell a complete story in, especially one that contains the topics that this one does and I feel as if this could have benefitted from more content. The synopsis (which I didn’t read until after I had finished reading it) tells the story entirely. While normally I wouldn’t mind, as it does a great job of summing up the story, it made me realize that I really felt like the story was too short. There wasn’t enough explanation, inner thought, or conclusion. I ended my time reading only wanting more, but not in terms of a sequel, just more from what I was given. The ending was abrupt and everything else really only breached the surface of the topic at hand.

From the story that we were given I feel wishy washy in terms of my opinion. Again, I loved the artwork but because nothing related to the plot was fleshed out I was left with more questions than answers. I loved the arc of self acceptance and was overall pleased with the story in general but I constantly felt like I was reading the highlights or a sneak peek of this graphic novel rather than an almost finished product. I know that this book was about self love but I couldn’t help but wonder where the interpersonal relationships were, why the characters interacted the way that they did, why certain conversations led to others. The flashback scenes only provided so much context.

I think if the author was going for a broad, more universally understandable story about a woman’s journey to self love she hit that mark. But this story held so much potential that just wasn’t there. It has the important messages of looking back at oneself and finding contentment and self love in the midst of disordered eating and thoughts but it was all surface level. As someone who has spent much of their life struggling with self image and disordered eating I loved the memories that Mindy was given that allowed her to step back and look at how she ended up in the spot that she was in. The book did open up the line of self reflection which I know is something that a lot of people struggle with.

This is the type of book to spark conversations and again, I cannot praise the artwork more, and if you’re looking for a graphic novel that ties in body positivity and relearning how to love yourself in the midst of personal struggles I would recommend it.