Neve and William have an intellectual connection and, while he's been in America the past few years, Neve has been working hard to ensure they have a physical connection when he gets back. She has lost a lot of weight and is no longer obese, but she's still doesn't feel ready for William's not-too-distant return. Aside from shifting the last few pounds, she needs more relationship experience - ANY would be handy - so she comes up with the idea of a "pancake relationship", a first relationship that you can chuck away like you throw away the first mangled pancake in a batch. Her sister's hot but sleazy boss Max is the perfect candidate for her first pancake, and he agrees to try the relationship because he's never really been in one himself, and it's ideal for him coz Neve doesn't care if he sleeps with other people coz she certainly doesn't want to sleep with him.
With this hijinksy set up, I was expecting You Don't Have to Say You Love Me to be a lot of fun. And it certainly was. Charming, funny and completely entertaining. But what I wasn't expecting was just how touching it would be - and how much I would relate to it. Neve is a complete mess, and boy did I see my own messy self in her. She is intelligent and attractive, but so incredibly insecure it's painful to read about at times - all the more painful because it was like hearing my own thoughts repeated back to me. From the way she froze when a guy tried to cuddle her across her tummy, to the way she held up her fingers to indicate she was just a LITTLE bit drunk when she was actually very drunk, it was bizarre just how much I felt like Neve WAS me sometimes. Some readers may find all her insecurities annoying, but they felt completely authentic and relatable to me. She also experiences a lot of character growth over the course of her book, and her journey towards accepting and even loving herself is heartbreaking and heartwarming all at once.
The funniest moments, as well as a number of incredibly moving ones, come when Neve interacts with Max. They are complete opposites in so many ways, and it makes for some hilarious and really fun scenes. Even more fun is the amazing chemistry they have, which gets harder and harder for them to resist. Max is a bit of a douche at times, but of course he has a big heart underneath. He is blokey and messy but he's also sexy and charming and respectful and lovely and a little bit broken himself. It's hard not to fall in love with him by the end.
The secondary characters are really great, and I especially loved Neve's family relationships. The way they hurt each other but love each other so much was realistic and really got under my skin. On a lighter level, Neve's work friendships and the office politics she deals with made for an entertaining subplot. Her career ambitions and growing belief in herself, even when others don't, is an awesome part of her character arc.
The story, characters and writing are all fantastic, but I also really appreciated the exploration of what makes a good relationship, and how your dreams and expectations don't always match reality - which can actually be a very good thing. The contrast between someone who you think is right, but who isn't at all, with someone you think is all wrong, but who is actually totally right, was really well done. The whole book was just so realistic in the most entertaining way.
I listened to the audiobook edition of this, read by Julie Maisey, and she did a wonderful job. Neve's voice was perfect and although I was a little unsure of Max's at first, I got used to it and really liked it in the end. The pacing and expression is spot on and all in all it was very compelling to listen to. This is one of those books where you begin to resent the rest of your life for getting in the way of it. When I finished You Don't Have To Say You Love Me I had a big, goofy grin on my face - and it doesn't get much better than that.
The audiobook was rather delightful, and there were many passages that were rather delightful - some even made me want to fist-pump the air and go YAAASS. But there were others that felt self-indulgent (I know, it's a memoir, but STILL) and a few that were a little tedious. And although I enjoyed listening to this, after I was finished I was left with the uncomfortable sensation that I liked Amy Poehler a lot less. I'm not sure why. She's definitely awesome and smart and hilarious and inspiring in so many ways - and yet, something wasn't quite right.
I think I expected her to be more like Leslie Knope. I wanted her to be more like Leslie Knope. Which is completely unfair of me. But c'mon - Leslie Knope!
I loooooved listening to this lecture series on audiobook. Vandiver gives a fantastic introduction to classical mythology - mainly Greek, but some Roman too - examining what it meant to its contemporaries and how it has affected history and even our culture today. Each lecture is engaging, entertaining and informative, and the series as a whole is coherent and accessible. I basically didn't want it to end.
The emotional and authentic story of a teen girl dealing with her mother's depression - and her own issues - with lovely narration by Macauley.
An engaging intro into linguistics using a word for each letter of the alphabet as a clever and interesting framing device.
Fawn Brown is Snow White's overlooked half-sister, revealing the "true" story of the fairy tale. This is a short novella with an interesting take on the classic story, narrated beautifully by Kellgren.
A delightful performance of the classic play, I found it entertaining but I didn't ~love~ it as much as some of Wilde's other works I've read (a.k.a. listened to) this year.
The classic tale of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman is surprisingly funny in its original form, narrated perfectly here by the same actor who plays Crane in the new TV show.
This is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and it contains all of the elements of the story you usually see. Loving the story so much, I was expecting to enjoy this too, and I was not disappointed. It's beautifully told, and McKinley's interpretation of the world and the characters is truly delightful. I adored Beauty, who was not "typically" beautiful or by any means perfect, which just made her all the more real and powerful. I loved the slow build of her relationship with the Beast. I loved her relationships with the rest of her family. I loved the twists and turns of the plot. I loved the narration by Charlotte Parry. I just loved this book.
This was a charming and interesting take on the frog prince story. I really liked the main characters of Sunday and Rumbold, and the secondary characters - who apparently take centre stage in later novels in the series (I wish they were available on Audible!) - were also great. I did find myself confused in a couple of places, where I thought the backstory of exactly what was going on could have been explained better,. Overall it was a lovely book, with excellent narration by Katherine Kellgren.
Bedbugs is a pretty standard horror. A young family moves into a new home and it seems like a dream come true, until of course things start to go wrong. Strange smells, strange noises, strange neighbours, and increasing tension within the family itself. Where it differs from a lot of horror, however, is that this time it's the mother, rather than the father, who is affected by the new place and whose sanity slowly starts to unravel and turn her against her own family.
I really liked this different perspective on the classic horror narrative. I liked the family at the centre, and loved Susan and Alex's relationship, making it hard to watch it start to unravel. True, Susan thinks some awful things even before she starts to go crazy, but that didn't make her an awful character - I found her to be incredibly realistic, actually. Everyone has bad thoughts they wouldn't ever say out loud, and it was kind of refreshing to see them on the page. I also really related to Susan's own guilt and anxiety, particularly about her painting - she left her job to focus on her art, and finds a million things to instead so she doesn't have to begin and risk failure. I wasn't expecting to connect so much on an emotional level in a simple horror story, but I guess deep down good horror is about everyday anxieties amplified.
Which I suppose is why this book puts the hysteria over bedbugs that happened in New York a couple of years ago at front and centre. It's a good device, a threat that most people recognise, and yet I do feel like it wasn't used entirely effectively here. What was most interesting was Susan's inner chaos, and the bedbugs could have been substituted with any kind of threat or annoyance, really. They didn't form an essential part of the story. If anything they made Susan's unravelling seem a little more unrealistic, because not a lot actually happens regarding bedbugs before she's totally freaking out over them and becoming obsessive. I get that there were other things affecting her but it just seemed a little ridiculous in spots.
There's a slow build to this book that I quite liked but it did drag in spots. It was very creepy for the most part but sometimes I just wanted something to happen. But when something did happen I was a little disappointed, the creepiness disappeared and it just felt a little... silly. I still liked it overall but I didn't LOVE it.
The narration for the most part was very good. Elisabeth Rodgers captured Susan's voice really well and the supporting characters were great, with one exception - Emma, Susan and Alex's daughter. I get that it's hard for a grown woman to do a toddler's voice but it really got on my nerves. I think part of that was also the writing - some of the dialogue coming from Emma just didn't sound authentic to me, it was frequently overly cutesy, like how someone thinks a toddler would sound and not how a toddler actually sounds. But otherwise it was a pretty good listening experience.
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