The Matchmaker’s List by Sonya Lalli

The Matchmaker’s List by Sonya Lalli
Pub. Date: February 5, 2019
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Berkley!)
Summary: Raina Anand may have finally given in to family pressure and agreed to let her grandmother play matchmaker, but that doesn’t mean she has to like it–or that she has to play by the rules. Nani always took Raina’s side when she tried to push past the traditional expectations of their tight-knit Indian-immigrant community, but now she’s ambushing Raina with a list of suitable bachelors. Is it too much to ask for a little space? Besides, what Nani doesn’t know won’t hurt her…

As Raina’s life spirals into a parade of Nani-approved bachelors and disastrous blind dates, she must find a way out of this modern-day arranged-marriage trap without shattering her beloved grandmother’s dreams.
Genre: Contemporary, Romance

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a sucker for a good cover. And, friends, The Matchmaker’s List has a GREAT one. Contemporary romance seems tailor-made for illustrated covers and this one is no exception – before I even knew what the book was about I was intrigued.

Raina Anand has just turned 29 and is in dire need of a husband. Not that Raina feels that way, but her beloved Nani and the rest of their community can’t comprehend the thought of a woman still unwed and coming up on 30. Personally Raina’s holding out for Dev – the one who got away (and completely crushed her heart while he was at it, thank you very much) – but she loves her Nani something fierce and agrees to go on a few dates.

With each date it’s clear Raina is no closer to finding a husband. As the bad dates get even worse, and the community aunties sound the alarm, Raina tells a little lie. Just one tiny lie, hoping it will be enough to give her a moment to breathe, not realizing her problems have only just begun.

I wanted so badly to enjoy this one. For the most part, The Matchmaker’s List isn’t a bad read, it was light-hearted and easy enough that I read it during one snowy afternoon. Unfortunately, if it hadn’t been for that snowy afternoon that kept me cooped up inside, I doubt I would have finished in one sitting.

Simply put, The Matchmaker’s List bored me. Even as I type this, my mind is wandering. Thoughts keep cropping up: dinner, work tomorrow, the stack of books piled next to me – would my time have been better spent with one of them instead? Raina listens to her co-worker’s woes, Raina listens to her bestie’s wedding woes, Raina goes on dates and complains about the men (though she does have a point, they’re all awful, even her much pined-after Dev as well as the man she eventually ends up with).

But what really took me out of the story was Raina’s lie. In order to have Nani take a step back with her list of eligible men, Raina decides to go along with the assumption that she’s gay. There’s a scene where her younger cousin comes out to her because she was so brave and courageous for coming out herself in their Indian community. There aren’t any consequences of Raina’s actions until the very end and the majority of the characters – included a gay co-worker – just accept her story without any repercussions. I felt sorry for her grandmother, believing Raina to be gay, Nani went out of her way to research Canada’s laws regarding gay marriage and adoption and on more than one occasion stood up for her granddaughter even when it meant ostracizing herself from their tight-knit community.

There were other baffling moments in the book, like the constant flashbacks. Some were just a few years in the past (at the beginning of Raina and Dev’s relationship) while others were during Raina’s childhood. These were clearly meant to garner sympathy for Raina – for both her heartbreak and her absent mother – but I honestly didn’t care. By then I was reading just to get to the end and be done with the book.

The Matchmaker’s List had the potential to be a really fun romcom. Unfortunately, a poorly-handled rumor and horrifically unlikable characters made this one a chore to read. There was nothing romantic nor comedic about this book – Raina’s lie was appalling, the men were awful, even the guy she’s been in love with for years came across as a scumbag. Sadly, this was not the book for me.

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Merry Christmas!


A boyhood Christmas list from Roald Dahl

Merry Christmas! I hope yours is full of decent books :)

where I’ve been.

After a blogging break in September, The Pretty Good Gatsby is back in action! Earlier in the week I kicked things off with a gushing, rambly review of Kelly Bowen’s Last Night with the Earl, the second novel in her Devils of Dover series, and my final read in September. After a seriously lackluster summer, this one was an absolute joy!

But before we can get to the exciting posts and reviews I have planned for October, let’s do a recap of September! So what have I been up to this past month?

I TURNED 30 By far the highlight of the month. Unfortunately, I spent the day at a funeral. My bonus grandfather passed away a few days prior, so the day itself wasn’t exactly the celebration we had in mind, but birthdays can be celebrated any time. So while I wish the circumstances would have been different, when we all got together, the party was lovely.

I CHOPPED OFF MY HAIR As much as I’m obsessed with long hair, I absolutely love it super short. Every Fall I chop it off, letting it grow out again throughout the year, and by the time Fall rolls around once more I’m sick of it and ready for it to be gone ha. I shared a quick pic on IG: chin-length is my go-to. My ultimate hair dream is to one day be brave enough to do a pixie. About five years ago when partially shaved heads were super trendy, I went for it, so you’d think a pixie wouldn’t be a big deal!

I BASICALLY LIVED AT MY LIBRARY After a seemingly never-ending string of awful, disappointing, or just plain blah ARCs, I decided to put review copies on the back burner for a bit. And honestly? It was awesome. September started with an ARC of And the Ocean was Our Sky by Patrick Ness, a bizarre Moby Dick retelling told from the perspective of a whale pod. This book sealed the deal and the next 10 books I read were all library grabs. Definitely the highlight was Jude Deveraux’s A Knight in Shining Armor, a time-travel romance. I furthered my Dilbert obsession (and still have several collections checked out that I’m eager to dive into) and played catch-up with Harrow County, a fun graphic novel series that put me in a Fall mood…despite the VERY Summer temperatures lol. I’ve shared my love of nonfic before and had a fun time with Of All the Gin Joints, a trip through old Hollywood. Lastly, I dipped back into ARCs with Last Night with the Earl to close out the month and what a way to finish!

What’s been going on in YOUR life??

weekly wrap-up 7/29

• Remember the cheddar jalapeno bread I drooled over a few weeks ago? Yesterday Matt and I stopped by for more – it’s so good! He also got us croissants and I was initially hesitant but wow. They were phenomenal and not at all greasy and gross like the croissants I’ve had in the past!

• I just finished reading a nonfic, Love From Boy, a collection of letter Roald Dahl wrote to his mother. The letters span about 40 or so years, from when he was 9 and just off to boarding school throughout adulthood. His mother had kept over 600 of them! A sweet, quick read, and now I’m in that dreaded limbo between books! What are you reading??

MISSED SOMETHING THIS WEEK? Rosie Walsh’s fantastic debut, Ghosted, completely captivated me. A couple fall madly in love over the course of a week, then he vanishes. No phone calls, no texts, he doesn’t even reply to her facebook messages. Though Sarah’s friends think she needs to forget about Eddie and move on, she’s absolutely convinced there’s a reason. There was a twist in this one I wasn’t expecting at all! I also shared what’s making me happy this week!

FOR REVIEW
The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle
This magical realism novel has been getting a fair bit of buzz this summer! Compared to One Day and Me Before You, this book explores that age-old question of if you could invite anyone – living or dead – to dinner, who would you pick? It’s Sabrina’s thirtieth birthday and as she arrives, she sees not just her friends, but people from her past…and a very perturbed Audrey Hepburn who does NOT appreciate waiting an hour for the birthday girl! I am so so so looking forward to this one! Thank you, Flatiron Books!

June 2018 recap


WHAT I…DID

Cars & Coffee is always one of my favorite parts of the month. This bi-weekly event (held in Warrendale, hi local friends, come join us!) features “exotic and performance” cars…basically suped-up sports cars and cars that cost more than my house ha. There are McLarens and Lotuses alongside Subarus and Hondas. Matt takes his car and we always have a good time! I can’t wait to see what July will bring (the next meet-up is this coming Saturday) and I would love to meet new people!

• Usually after Cars & Coffee, Matt and I will go for random drives – one of our favorite things to do. We’ll take randoms turns and back roads, yours truly playing DJ obvs. The photo above is one I took during one of those drives, out of nowhere a family of geese crossed the road in front of us!

• There’s a Loafers Bread Co next to our local Whole Foods and I’ve always been so tempted to stop in (hello, bread). In June we finally went it (in a different location, one close to my work that I had NO idea even existed!! This is going to be bad hahaha). This Panera-esque has delicious sandwiches and soup and, of course, the bread was phenomenal as well! We grabbed a loaf of Struan and totally demolished it in a few days oops.

• Our Netflix binges included Safe (a Harlan Coben-penned British thriller starring Michael C. Hall…yep, Dexter with a British accent) and the second season of GLOW.

• I received my first Sips by box. Before signing up, you complete a profile where you choose your likes and dislikes and tea preferences, then each month you receive a personally curated box specifically for your tastes. So fun!

• June was jam-packed with family time. Not only was it my brother’s birthday and Father’s Day, but summer always seems to have a way of bringing people together. Father’s Day was a blast and I spent the day back in my hometown where I caught frogs with my nieces and my dad, my siblings, my nieces, and I all stood outside to see who would be the first to spot a rainbow after a sudden, five-minute storm.

• The new Jurassic World made me cry and that’s all I’m saying about that!

• When I looked at the books I read in June, I was a little disheartened. But then I realized just how much I did last month and I don’t feel too bad! I read 7 books, all were either print of e-books, no audio this time! Out of the bunch, I enjoyed Save the Date and It Takes Two the most, but Kate Messner’s Breakout was also wonderful and surprisingly thought-provoking!

WHAT I…REVIEWED

MURDER AT THE MANSION BY SHEILA CONNOLLY had my name written all over it: this start to a new cozy mystery series featured a Civil War historian, small town charm, a grand old estate, and a dead body discovered on the grounds. Unfortunately, the main character was so awful and nasty she completely ruined any enjoyment I could have had. Kate’s comments about how it was so cute that her best friend’s biggest problems in life were finding her kids’ lost sports equipment while Kate’s job dealt with multi-million dollar deals with global companies was grating. Her high and mighty attitude constantly had her belittling everyone around her and I was glad to see this one come to an end.

SAVE THE DATE BY MORGAN MATSON had my kicking myself for not having read one of her books before! Though this YA was a teensy bit too long (clocks in around 400 pages), I enjoyed every second with the Grant family! The wedding nightmares – a band who can only play Journey covers, a dry cleaner mix-up leaves the groom with a bright purple suit – the sibling dynamic, the coolest job (the mom is the writer of Grant Central Station, a nationally beloved comic strip that’s getting ready to end its 25-year run), it all came together perfectly. I also loved how romance isn’t a big plot point here. There’s the barest of teases of a romance to come for Charlie, but Save the Date focused on family and I was all about that.

IT TAKES TWO BY JENNY HOLIDAY was such a fun read. When I wasn’t reading this book I was counting down the minutes until I could get back to it. The super fun settings, the swoony romance (complete with banter!), the amazing group of women who define friend goals, I fell hard for this book and can’t wait for the next one to come out!

BRING ME BACK BY B.A. PARIS had me a little hesitant at first. Behind Closed Doors was one of my top reads of 2016 (only beaten out by one other book as my favorite read of the year), but her follow-up, The Breakdown, was terrible. Bring Me Back was TINY…to the point where I honestly thought a good chunk of my copy was missing. While I was completely glued to the page and kept reading, the big reveal was absolutely bonkers.

WHAT I…BLOGGED

MAY 2018 RECAP

JUNE 2018 RELEASES I NEED TO GET MY HANDS ON!

RECENTLY ADDED

GIVEAWAY: BABY TEETH BY ZOJE STAGE

WEEKLY WRAP-UPS
6/3
6/10
6/17
6/24

weekly wrap-up 7/1 + giveaway winners!

• Pittsburgh is potentially reaching triple digits today and we’ve got cook-outs, parades, and fireworks lined up! Our house is literally across the street from where the town does fireworks – when we first bought the house they weren’t…of course it wasn’t until after we moved in and adopted pup #1 that the fireworks rolled in. Neither pup is a big fan, but Bay especially hates them. Last year Nacho was only 4 months old, so I’m curious to see how he’ll react this year! Either way, we’ll be celebrating indoors.

• I can get behind this: Lord Farquaad is a style icon.

• SO many sales this weekend! Am I the only one who won’t bat an eye at dropping $$$ but the second that shipping cost appears I’m like um no thank you?? I recently found an adorable shop on IG – major bonus: they’re local! – and they’re currently running a pretty great sale. Then I was hit with a shipping cost that was nearly the full price of one of my items! Yeah that’s a pass.

• Matt & I binged the second season of GLOW yesterday. ♥ So good.

MISSED SOMETHING THIS WEEK? Jenny Holiday’s It Takes Two is A+ beach read material. Humor, chemistry, a core group of women who seriously define friend goals, this book has it all and when I wasn’t reading, I was counting down the minutes until I could get back to it. The next book in the series comes out in January and once it’s released, you know where to find me!

B.A. Paris is back with her third book, Bring Me Back. Her debut was among my Top Reads of the year (my 2nd favorite book of 2016 actually!), but her follow-up was a massive letdown. I admit I went into this one a bit hesitantly and while the reveal was totally bonkers, I couldn’t stop reading.

GIVEAWAY WINNERS!! It’s time to reveal the winners of my Baby Teeth giveaway! Each lucky lady will receive an ARC! Congratulations to Kimberly M, Robin J, and Ashley S!!

Before and Again by Barbara Delinsky
I snagged an e-ARC of this one a few months ago but was thrilled to see a finished copy arrive! I haven’t read anything of hers before, but this one sounds intriguing: Mackenzie took her eyes off the road for only a second, but in that second she lost her daughter and, in the aftermath, her marriage and friends – particularly once the media got wind of her story. Now living in Vermont as Maggie, she hopes to make a new start. She has cats and a dog, new friends, even a successful job, but her newfound privacy quickly shatters when a neighbor boy is accused of hacking a Twitter account. Maggie has done everything possible to lay low and avoid the spotlight…but it seems to have a way of findind her and it’s only a matter of time before her painful past is exposed. Thank you, St. Martin’s Press!

The Corpse at the Crystal Palace by Carola Dunn
This is the 23rd Daisy Dalrymple novel! I have received several of these over the years – a mega-binge just might be in store! April, 1928. Daisy is visited by her cousins and during their stay in London, the top of the Must See list is the Crystal Palace. Once at the palace, however, a the body of a nanny is discovered. To make matters worse, Daisy’s children’s own nanny has gone missing – and is later found unconscious. Things take an interesting turn when a third nanny is introduced into the mix…and this one just might be a murderer. Fun, fun, fun! Thank you, Minotaur!

Women of the Dunes by Sarah Maine
While I never fully connected to the characters in last year’s Beyond the Wild River, the book was so atmospheric and the setting unbelievably detailed that I couldn’t help but be excited for Sarah’s follow-up! Women of the Dunes is set on the Scottish coast and weaves together a tale about a ninth century Viking maiden, a Victorian murder, and a present day archaeologist. Yes, yes, and yes. Thank you, Atria!

The Subway Girls by Susie Orman Schnall
This one has received a ton of buzz already to the point where I honestly thought it was already released and now it’s coming out in softcover. Nope! Bouncing between 1949 and the present day, this one explores the lives between two women and the Miss Subways beauty contest. Thank you, St. Martin’s Griffin!

The Clockmaker’s Daughters by Kate Morton
AAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!! Thank you, Atria!

Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris

Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris
Pub. Date: June 19, 2018
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, St. Martin’s Press!)
Summary: Finn and Layla are young, in love, and on vacation. They’re driving along the highway when Finn decides to stop at a service station to use the restroom. He hops out of the car, locks the doors behind him, and goes inside. When he returns Layla is gone—never to be seen again. That is the story Finn told to the police. But it is not the whole story.

Ten years later Finn is engaged to Layla’s sister, Ellen. Their shared grief over what happened to Layla drew them close and now they intend to remain together. Still, there’s something about Ellen that Finn has never fully understood. His heart wants to believe that she is the one for him…even though a sixth sense tells him not to trust her.

Then, not long before he and Ellen are to be married, Finn gets a phone call. Someone from his past has seen Layla—hiding in plain sight. There are other odd occurrences: Long-lost items from Layla’s past that keep turning up around Finn and Ellen’s house. Emails from strangers who seem to know too much. Secret messages, clues, warnings. If Layla is alive—and on Finn’s trail—what does she want? And how much does she know?
Genre: Domestic Thriller

Paris’s 2016 debut, Behind Closed Doors, was one of my top reads of the year and still remains one of my go-to recommendations. Her follow-up, last year’s The Breakdown, unfortunately didn’t hold up to my expectations and it’s sloppy, predictable plot made the book one of the year’s biggest disappointments. Still, I know Paris has wicked talent and wasn’t yet ready to write her off when a copy of her latest appeared at my door.

Bring Me Back features one of my favorite storytelling methods: the before and after, the now and then. Twelve years ago, Finn and Layla were on holiday in France when Layla disappeared one night. Though a search was launched, nothing ever turned up and, devastated, Finn went back home to London to carry on with his life. Now engaged to Ellen – Layla’s sister, their shared grief having brought them together – the two live a quiet, if unremarkable, life with their dog in a small village. When mementos of the past begin showing up (matryoshka dolls, something of Layla’s past only Finn and Ellen knew about), the two can’t help but wonder if Layla is back. Where has she been all these years? Why return now? And what does she want?

Bring Me Back is tiny. My review copy is 223 pages and I honestly thought half the book was missing. No, turns out this is just an incredibly short aka blindingly fast read. The book doesn’t wait around before letting the reader know Finn isn’t all that he seems; in the opening pages Finn’s police statement from the night Layla disappeared is presented. At the end, Finn admits he held back some of the truth, so right from the start it’s clear there’s much more to his story than he’s letting on. From there the book bounces around, traveling back to the past when Layla first came into Finn’s life and the present day, ultimately giving way to Layla’s own story.

Finn’s chapters became an endless loop of finding a doll, hiding the doll from Ellen, and avoiding going to the police, particularly once he began receiving odd e-mails (from Layla?). As the possibility of Layla’s return becomes more and more concrete, it’s clear Finn is struggling: does he still love Layla? Did he ever love Ellen? If Layla truly is alive and well and wants to be back in Finn’s life, how would he react? Kick Ellen to the curb to rekindle a decade-old romance with her sister? Finn was a garbage human – not unlike another Finn – and I couldn’t look away.

As the book draws to a close and the Big Reveal is announced, Bring Me Back become so over-the-top and bonkers in an absurd, totally unbelievable way. As much as I disliked Finn, I still felt he was aware/intelligent enough to have been able to see what had happened. I won’t give anything away, but I simply couldn’t see how no one figured it out. Especially Finn.

Despite the disappointing-slash-ridiculous reveal, Bring Me Back kept me entertained the entire (albeit incredibly short) time. I’m still totally biased when it comes to Paris’s first novel and, as yet, neither of her follow up releases have come close to being as great as Behind Closed Doors. Still, this one was riveting and I truly didn’t want to put it down, regardless of the wacky, cartoon villain-esque reveal. Someone who doesn’t read nearly as many thrillers as I do might be a bit more inclined to be shocked by the ending, but I still enjoyed the time I spent reading this one and look forward to whatever B.A. Paris does next.