Size Doesn’t Matter (146): Duels & Deception; The Horse Dancer; This Is Really Happening

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (146): Duels & Deception; The Horse Dancer; This Is Really HappeningDuels & Deception by Cindy Anstey
Published by Swoon Reads on April 11, 2017
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book Depository

Miss Lydia Whitfield, heiress to the family fortune, has her future entirely planned out. She will run the family estate until she marries the man of her late father's choosing, and then she will spend the rest of her days as a devoted wife. Confident in those arrangements, Lydia has tasked her young law clerk, Mr. Robert Newton, to begin drawing up the marriage contracts. Everything is going according to plan.

Until Lydia—and Robert along with her—is kidnapped. Someone is after her fortune and won't hesitate to destroy her reputation to get it. With Robert's help, Lydia strives to keep her family's good name intact and expose whoever is behind the devious plot. But as their investigation delves deeper and their affections for each other grow, Lydia starts to wonder whether her carefully planned future is in fact what she truly wants…

Anstey remains one of the better offerings from Swoon Reads, which really says more about how bad a lot of those titles are than it does about the quality of these little Regency comedies.

Both Love, Lies and Spies and Duels & Deception have adorable premises and a ton of potential as base ideas. Unfortunately, they aim for a madcap, hilarious, laugh-a-minute vibe, and Anstey’s writing is simply not funny enough to pull that off. She would do better with light comedies of manners perhaps, but these just don’t work. They’re so obviously trying to be uproarious but instead they’re boring.

Lydia and Robert could have been a cute ship, but they’re both lacking in character development and the banter isn’t on point, so it’s basically a shrug. This whole book is a shrug. I may end up reading Anstey’s next anyway because I’m garbage but I really shouldn’t.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (146): Duels & Deception; The Horse Dancer; This Is Really HappeningThe Horse Dancer by Jojo Moyes
Narrator: Fiona Hardingham
Length: 16 hrs, 4 mins
Published by Penguin Audio on April 11, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible

A quintessential Jojo Moyes novel about a lost girl and her horse, the enduring strength of friendship, and how even the smallest choices can change everything

When Sarah’s grandfather gives her a beautiful horse named Boo—hoping that one day she’ll follow in his footsteps to join an elite French riding school, away from their gritty London neighborhood—she quietly trains in city’s parks and alleys. But then her grandfather falls ill, and Sarah must juggle horsemanship with school and hospital visits.

Natasha, a young lawyer, is reeling after her failed marriage: her professional judgment is being questioned, her new boyfriend is a let-down, and she’s forced to share her house with her charismatic ex-husband. Yet when the willful fourteen-year-old Sarah lands in her path, Natasha decides to take the girl under her wing.

But Sarah is keeping a secret—a secret that will change the lives of everyone involved forever.

Moyes’ books pretty reliably work for me, and The Horse Dancer was no exception, though admittedly it’s not my favorite one by a long shot.

I’d have been much more charmed with this book if I’d read it earlier on in life. My obsession with horses has pretty well waned by this point. Then again, it’s also all about marriage and divorce, which I’m a bit young for still. Actually, I think the basic issue with this book is that it’s telling both a YA story (Sarah and her horse) and an adult romance of a separated couple coming back together.

Surprisingly, my favorite part was the adult romance part. That’s not my usual trope, but Moyes does a nice job establishing what Natasha and Mac’s issues were and showing how they’ve grown; they have a decent shot of making it work now. They’re sweet.

Sarah’s plot on the other hand was endlessly frustrating. Though I think it’s convincing for her to be reticent to share information with Natasha and Mac, basically all of the plot hinges on her making absolutely terrible choice after absolutely terrible choice, which just isn’t fun. Also, that sexual assault scene is excruciating.

The Horse Dancer also has some semi-problematic racial stuff potentially. One element does ultimately get resolved, but is definitely not excellent for the current political climate. Plus, the villain of the piece is Maltese Sal, and I just really don’t like when the only active POC character is evil.

The Horse Dancer runs long and it has some narrative issues. It’s not one of Moyes’ best, but I’m not unhappy I read it as I did get some feels.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

Size Doesn’t Matter (146): Duels & Deception; The Horse Dancer; This Is Really HappeningThis Is Really Happening by Erin Chack
Narrator: Erin Chack
Length: 4 hrs, 26 mins
Published by Listening Library on April 25, 2017
Genres: Memoir
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible

BuzzFeed senior writer Erin Chack provides a collection of personal essays for the Snapchat generation.

Erin recounts everything from meeting her soulmate at age 14 to her first chemotherapy session at age 19 to what really goes on behind the scenes at a major Internet media company.

She authentically captures the agony and the ecstasy of the millennial experience, whether it's her first kiss ("Sean's tongue! In my mouth! Slippery and wet like a slug in the rain.") or her struggles with anxiety ("When people throw caution to the wind, I am stuck imagining the poor soul who has to break his back sweeping caution into a dustpan").

Yet Erin also offers a fresh perspective on universal themes of resilience and love as she writes about surviving cancer, including learning of her mother's own cancer diagnosis within the same year, and her attempts to hide the diagnosis from friends to avoid "un-normaling" everything.

The only reason I read This Is Really Happening is because it was given to me by an enthusiastic publicist at ALA. I’m not really into memoirs, unless the person is a celebrity, and I had no idea who Erin Chack was. The publicist praised the voice, and I decided to give it a shot. As expected, This Is Really Happening just wasn’t really a me book.

Because the audiobook came along, I decided that might be a better fit for me than reading the print. I do think that was a good call for me, though obviously I didn’t do a direct comparison. Chack has a pretty engaging reading voice, and you get to hear the precise delivery she had in mind, which is always nice in books narrated by the author.

The peak of my interest in this book is when Chack ran through how she and her boyfriend got together in high school, which was completely adorable and high school in the funniest way. Otherwise, most stuff wasn’t all that fascinating to me.

Chack definitely has a strong voice, and I think this will be great for some readers. Unfortunately, she and I don’t really have the same sense of humor, so stories she told that were clearly meant to be funny would leave me cold.


Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:


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