132: Emily Henry's BEACH READ - July 2020 Book Club
Updated: Jul 22, 2020
In this Unabridged podcast book club episode, we're discussing Emily Henry's Beach Read. We have a great discussion and pair this one with some other great reads, including Mary Beth Keane’s Ask Again, Yes, Kate Clayborn’s Love Lettering, and Josie Silver’s The Two Lives of Lydia Bird. Beach Read is a contemporary romance that balances witty banter with more serious themes.
Bookish Check In
Ashley - Jacqueline Woodson’s Harbor Me
Jen - Jennifer S. Cohen’s Falling Forward
Sara - Elizabeth L. Cline’s The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good
Ashley - Mary Beth Keane’s Ask Again, Yes - episode
Jen - Kate Clayborn’s Love Lettering
Sara - Josie Silver’s The Two Lives of Lydia Bird
Mentioned in Episode
Sally Thorne's The Hating Game
Cassandra Clare's Lady Midnight
Brandy Ferner's Adult Conversation - episode
Cormac McCarthy's The Road
Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles
Bryn Greenwood's All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
BookSparks SRC2020 - Summer Reading Camp
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Hi, and welcome to Unabridged! This is Episode 131. This is one of our book club episodes. We are talking about Emily Henry's Beach Read. Before we get started, we just want to mention that if you have not checked out unabridgedpod.com, we have a lot of great content there for you. Every Monday we share Bookish Faves, and these are big book lists of recommendations that we assemble around a theme. Sometimes they relate to our episodes, but sometimes they're just things that we think are worth shouting out. On Tuesdays, speaking of shouting out, we have Pub Day Shout Outs. So those are books that we're excited to see released on Tuesdays. I know that was a great segue, right? On Wednesdays, we have our episode notes. And we have tons and tons of information in our show notes that we think could be helpful for you, especially if you connect with the topic of our episode. And then every Friday, we publish book reviews, and sometimes we have some extra book review goodness on Thursdays, and you can find all of that just at unabridgedpod.com.
Bookish Check In
All right, we also want to go ahead and do our Bookish Check Ins. So Sara, do you want to start? What are you reading right now?
Sure. So my reading has been going pretty well. I have to say: it definitely had some bumps along the way. But I've been reading quite a bit, so I'm happy about that. So one that I'm going to talk about today is one that I am reading for the Dressember Summer Book Club. Because as you all know, we did an episode with Ruth Ann back in November, and we talked all about Dressember, and they are doing a book club that is focusing on ethically sourced fashion. And the book that we're reading is The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good. And it's by Elizabeth Klein, and what I . . . I am really enjoying it, I'm learning a ton. And it's really talking about how we can curate our closets and have less textile waste, thinking about what we're going to do, what we do with things that we don't want anymore, how we avoid consuming too much, and especially fast fashion that is just not well made and trendy, and we wear it for a season and then it's waste. And what--I'm not going to keep preaching about this--but what I really like about it is it's really showing me how much as Americans we consume, and how much waste we have, especially in textiles. Because when I think about waste, I don't think about . . . I just like textiles is not something that goes through my mind. And also where the waste ends up, which is a lot of times in developing countries in . . . and especially right now, in the book where I am, they're focusing on Africa, and it's just there, it's waste that they then cannot use, and it ends up in landfills and developing countries, which is horrific. So I'm really enjoying the, like awareness that it's bringing for me, and it's also helping me find ethically sourced fashion sources. And having me think about paying more for quality textiles and kind of letting go of the fast fashion.
Sorry, that was way longer than I thought, but I do think this is an important topic, and we have talked about Dressember before. And the way that it connects to Dressember is oftentimes these textiles are being made by people who are not being paid a fair wage or by the employment of modern-day slavery. So that's kind of where the connection comes in. Okay.
That's fascinating. I'm so glad you preached because that is a lot of stuff that I did not know. It sounds really good.
Yeah, that does sound great, Sara.
When I read it, Ashley, I definitely think about you because I know, I know. Like, once I'm done with this, I'm gonna pass it on to you, but not that I don't think of you, Jen. But I know that Ashley is always like doing so much more than I do to make sure that her waste consumption is smaller. And so I think we could all learn from it, though.
Yeah. And I think I really think that you're right, that it is an area that we don't highlight. So I think even when we think about a lot of the trends in America, at least more movement toward trying to consume less, there isn't a whole lot of discussion of that. I think there are other areas that get a lot more attention than that. So and I think it's a harder one, until you know where to go or who to, you know, who can be a source for you to, a place to buy, it's a hard one to change because you have to have clothes. Of course, you can choose to buy less, but you are going to have to purchase stuff. And it is hard. I mean, even for me, like, I think that we, in our family, we try not to buy tons of extra stuff. But for sure, you know, our kids are every year they grow, and they have to have clothes, and they wear them until they have holes in them. And then we do have to get something else. And so I think it is thinking about how can you do that in a more mindful way. And there are some great programs out there, but it's just being more aware of them. And I mean, I don't know much about it. And I think that's true of a lot of . . . Yeah, a lot of people that even even people who are paying attention to some of that conversation that clothing and textiles is something that gets overlooked.
Ashley, what are you reading?
So I just barely started Jacqueline Woodson's Harbor Me.
I should say. So I should say first that I'm really happy for you, Sara, that you're making some progress. I don't know that I can say that I am making the same progress with my reading life. I keep thinking that I've kind of gotten into a groove, and then I feel like I'm in the doldrums again. But anyway, that's okay. I'm sure that I am not alone in that situation. And I posted the other day several books, and Jen wisely commented that this one was both phenomenal and also very short and fast moving. So I picked it up because I thought that's a great point. And I just need to make some traction. I think that I finished a really long fantasy book--I talked a while ago about Lady Midnight, Cassandra Clare's Lady Midnight--and I loved it, but it was really it was 665 pages or something. And it took me a long time to get through it, even though I was enjoying it. But anyway, the point is that, you know, I just I need some wins, I think in the reading, in the reading world and I know I'm going to love this one. I'm always here for Jacqueline Woodson's books. And I love that no matter what the story is, I think that at the core that she always speaks to kindness and empathy for others and how we can grow as people and be kind and be open to accepting people who are different from ourselves. I think she's really great at that. So I see some of that already in Harbor Me. I've read very little so far, but I mean, I love the narration, and I know it's going to be a great one. So I'm excited to read that today.
I'm so excited that you're reading that book.
I'm thrilled this one I got this one at Green Valley Book Fair. They are doing . . . they are amazing. We talked about them sometimes, but they are a local bookstore for us, and they are still doing mail orders. So if you are looking for somewhere that you want to support that's an independent bookstore, they are doing mail orders right now, and I was absolutely overjoyed to get books from them, and they are doing pickup as well. So I did a curbside pickup. But if you are living elsewhere, they are mailing things right now, which they don't normally I don't think they normally do. Because I mean, they they do a tremendous business here. But anyway, it's very great discount books, and I mostly got kid stuff for my kids, but I did get Harbor Me because I saw that and couldn't pass it up and I'm so glad so yay, okay. What about you, Jen? What are you reading?
So I just started a book this morning. So I have zero comments about it yet, but it's . . . I'm reading an ARC. It's Jennifer S. Cohen's Falling Forward. And it actually just came out, but I had picked up the ARC as part of a buddy read. And so I've just started that this morning, and she's an indie author. So I think that's really cool that we are reading this together and hopefully promoting a book. Yeah, it's an author who's trying to make her way forward. This is her first book. So that is Jennifer S. Cohen's Falling Forward. So far, I know that the main character is undergoing a divorce, and that's really about it. So we'll see what's coming there. I have to say I'm reading a lot of ARCs right now, which is really cool. But I'm a little overwhelmed. I went, yeah . . . I was doing better about not requesting ARCs. And then I kind of went on a spree, and I overestimated the amount of ARC reading and review writing that I could do in a short amount of time.
I'm struggling with that, too, Jen. I think that I, both of us are doing some of the Book Sharks Summer Reading Camp, which I am really excited about, but I was like, oh, I can get this book and this book and this book, and they are all part of this, you know, part of this communal experience of the summer reading, and I felt really excited about it. And then the same, I mean, they're all ARCs, so they've all got to be read on my e-reader? And that's okay. But when you're doing them back to back, yeah, it's just hard not to overcommit. And yeah, so listeners, if you are having that experience, let us know how you're managing that because that is . . . or not, it's always nice to commiserate. And it's also nice to get tips because I think I'm having a struggle, too. I had really pulled back on how many ARCs I was asking for, especially that are e-ARCs, and now I just feel like like I might have made a mistake, but . . .
Main Book Club Discussion - Emily Henry's Beach Read
I think I made a series of mistakes. But we'll see how I could find my way out of that. So. All right, well speaking of ARCs . . . There. Do you like that segue, too? I am in on the segues today, apparently, folks. Speaking of ARCs. We today are talking about Emily Henry's Beach Read. This is one that has been super buzzy on bookstagram even though it is just coming out--we are actually recording on its publication date. And this is one, like Bookish Ladies Club, which is a group we're all a part of, has chosen this as their June Buddy Read, and I think it's getting a lot of attention. So I'm super excited to talk about it because I--spoiler--I love this book so much.
And it was a Book of the Month pick too
That's right! Yeah. All right. So here's a quick summary, and then we'll get started. Emily Henry's Beach Read is a contemporary romance novel about January Andrews, a romance novelist. January is grieving the unexpected death of her father and also the discovery that he had been having an affair. Since his death, her fiance broke up with her, and she has been unable to write. She flees to North Bear Shores, Michigan, to the home her father shared with his mistress, with the aim of selling the home and overcoming her writer's block. Then she meets her grumpy neighbor. She is determined not to have anything to do with him until she discovers that he is literary fiction author and college rival Augustus Everett. Sparks fly as January and Gus wager on a genre swap and discover the truth about each other. All right, so let's talk overall impressions. Ashley, what did you think about Beach Read?
So, I finished this one. I feel like it was only a few hours ago. It was last night as opposed to today, but it was not very long ago. And one thing . . . Okay, so I'm gonna give a slight digression. Apparently that's the theme for this episode.
That's okay. We love a digression.
I think that I have discovered recently that I don't even know, often, I don't even know books that are really impactful to me until I'm a little bit away from them. And so I know I really enjoyed it. I definitely really enjoyed it. And I thought it was rich and had a lot more substance--I've read I've talked on here about how I read a lot of romance books recently. And I have enjoyed how light and easy they are. And this one is heavier, and I appreciated that. I've actually already felt like I'm kind of burning out on some of the . . . like I'm enjoyed this little, this little pathway into romance books, but it might have been pretty short lived. And so I really enjoyed the weight of this. I feel like it is a hefty book that brings in some important topics about how love works and how to navigate difficult circumstances in your life and how the way that those circumstances impact you shapes you as a person. I think all of that is really rich. I did feel, and I just don't know if it was because it was like rushing on a deadline or what, I mean, in some ways, I did feel a little distant from it compared to what I expected. We talk a lot on here about expectations. And this book is so heavily hyped, and everybody's giving it five stars. And I really enjoyed it. And I felt connected to it in some ways, but I'm just not sure yet. Yeah, I'm just not sure yet how far that impact goes for me. So yeah, I enjoyed it. I'm glad I read it. I'm excited to discuss it today. But I will be thinking about, you know, and as I move away from it, I'll be thinking about how much it stays with me.
Um hm.Okay. Sara, what'd you think?
I loved it. One, I think it's really it's interesting to talk to, like hearing Ashley talk about it, because when I chose it for my Book of the Month, which was in May, so I got it near the beginning of May, and I read it right away. So I had seen it on Instagram and in different places, but everybody hadn't read it and wasn't reviewing it and all of that. And I talked to Jen about it, but I really hadn't talked to anybody else about it. And I knew that Jen really liked it. And so when I started it, I thought it was going to be just like a run of the mill romance and that it was going to just be that, so I was like, my expect... it exceeded my expectations so much because it had this heart, and it had this other story happening that was an aside from the romance part. And I just felt like real, I felt really connected to the characters, and I thought she did such a great job of creating these really strong secondary characters who were characters themselves, you know, like they had these quirks, and I just really enjoyed all of that. So I think I definitely think--I mean, I think the longer we have the podcast and talk about a variety of books, I really start to believe, I'm starting to believe and understand just how much impact the expectations you bring into a book, how they affect your reading experience, which is I mean. . . . I think that that happens a lot with overly hyped books, that sometimes the expectation just keeps building and building and there is no way for that book totally up to that expectation. So, for me, I loved it. I mean, I mean, I just wanted to hug it when I was done, and I, you know, I just felt really affected by it. But I can also see Ashley's point and how the expectations might have been a little like deterring for the enjoyment of the book. What did you think, Jen?
I have I have a story of my reading. So I got this as an ARC. It was like a download now on Edelweiss, and I picked it up reading it so I could review it, and it was one of those I stayed up till like two or three in the morning reading because I could not put it down, and like all the tears, all the laughing because I think it's really funny. I just I loved it so much. And then I wandered into a buddy read discussion of it. So I read it again three chapters at a time. And then I read it again for this. So I've now read this book three times. And I love it more every time I read it. And I think . . . so I recently did the same thing with another romance that I will not name, but I read it the first time and loved it, and then I did . . . I signed up for a buddy read about it and reread it, and it just did not hold up. And so I think what rereading this one so many times made me appreciate is the quality of the writing, the quality, like you were saying, Sara, of the character development, the fact that it is definitely a romance, it is dealing with this romance, but like Ashley, all those themes you were talking about, I mean, there's so much more about it. And this is a book, it is about January and Gus, but it's also about January, like realizing that she is going to be okay and that she does not need Gus to be okay. And I think that is a remarkable lesson, just a remarkable epiphany in a book that is a romance, to have that moment in there. And that just made it so impactful for me. I mean, we're going to talk about quotations later. And this is one where I was like highlighting every page because I just think, I think Emily Henry is a really talented author. I cannot wait to read more of her books because I think she is just so great at building characters who felt real to me. And you know, as someone who has grieved the death of a parent, I think there are a lot of the things that January's dealing with that just really resonated. So, yeah, that was very long winded. I'll just say that I love it. I loved it the first time and the second time and the third. And I'm probably part of the reason that Ashley's expectations, were maybe too high for what the book is. Because yeah, I know I've talked it up a lot. But . . .
And I mean, I did really, I really loved it. I don't know how to explain it. I mean, I think I saw somebody post on Instagram about a book. And she said--it wasn't this book--but she said, I don't know, if it didn't work for me, or if I'm just in a space where nothing works for me.
And like, that sounds really negative. But I also think that's kind of the truth. Like, it's hard for me to . . . I mean, I loved it. I definitely think it's at least four stars for me. I just don't know. I think I expected to be blown out of the water. And because of that, I'm not sure if I had that impact or not.
And it also is hard for me right now to be to want to be sad.
And I think that when I got to the part about her dad, and those letters, of course, that is heartbreaking. First of all, number one, it made me feel like a bad parent because I have never written letters on my kids' birthday, and so I felt inadequate that I had never thought to write that. And I know that's not the point. But I'm just going to be honest and say that I mean, we talk about that with our episode, with Adult Conversation with Brandy Ferner. But this feeling like you're never enough as a mom. And I think that it's so great in the book that he has this chance to work through all this horrible stuff in those letters. I think it had to be there. And those are gorgeous, and heart rending, but it was hard for me like, like how you feel about experiencing sadness through characters affects the way that you read books. And it's not that I never want to be sad when I read--I'm actually much more willing to do that with reading than I am with watching--but sometimes it's just overwhelming for me. And so, and that affects that it makes more of a like, I feel like they teach little kids about mixed feelings. You know, like it makes it makes more of a mixed feeling because I'm loving it, but I'm also grieving, and like for me, I mean, I'm grieving you know, like you said, Jen, I'm grieving the loss of a parent that happened to me a long time ago, and not that I never want to think about that, but it's hard sometimes when those things come to the surface . . .
. . . to be ready to embrace them. So anyway, that's a lot of unpacking there. But I think that you know, that stuff is all relevant when you're getting into books that do a good job of showing, of showing the complexity of being human.
All right. Well, I think we may have answered this question already. But I'm going to go ahead and put it out there. What what worked for you in this book? Sara, do you want to go first?
Sure. I, for me, the thing that really stood out to me was Henry's ability to weave in humor that made me laugh out loud because I don't think often when I read a book that I actually laugh out loud, and it's funny that I read Emily Henry's Beach Read and then Brandy Ferner's Adult Conversation so close together because both of them . . . I would be sitting--my husband would be working on his computer--and I would be reading, and I would be chuckling out loud at certain things. And I think, for me, it is a rare thing that I laugh out loud when I'm reading a book, especially a romance book. And I think again, that goes back to those expectations. I did not expect that at all when I started the book and just, I think that it takes a very good writer to be able to write humor in a way that connects with a reader. And I think Emily Henry does it fantastically. And for me, I loved everything about the book. I mean, I just adored it, but for me, the thing that makes it shine are those moments of humor. So that's what works the best for me.
I mean, the banter in this one is stellar. I love it. It reminds me, another favorite banter wise is Sally Thorne's The Hating Game, and it reminds me of that, that I've just like cried... like I could watch it in a movie. It feels like that old, like, Hepburn and Tracy kind of . . . Yeah, just back and forth, really smart people saying really smart things that are just hilarious. I love it. Yeah. Ashley, what's something that worked for you?
Yeah, I love the banter. I love that when they write the notes to each other, all of that was just so endearing. I loved that so much. But I think that the thing that stood out to me the most was actually--this is going to sound contrary to what I just unloaded for everyone about my emotional journey with this book--but what stood out to me the most was all the stuff was New Eden and the way that Gus was willing to sit with the atrocity of things that happen in humanity. I just thought that that was so powerful, his willingness to look ugly things in the face, and January's willingness to hold his hand while he did it. I think all of that was just phenomenal. So I know that that is contrary because obviously those things are sad, but I think that's what she does so well in a romance. So like I said, actually, ultimately, like that kind of book that really looks at--I mean, think about Cormac McCarthy's The Road, which I talk about all the time, which I absolutely love. I mean, I like books that explore what it is to be human including all the ugly parts. I think I really thought that was so rich in this. But I do think that, at least right now, which again, I think a week from now, I might feel very differently about this, it was hard for me to move from that one from that into that funny banter, and the humor and the lightness and the sexiness. I mean, all of that, like I loved all of that. It just was a, it was a lot. It was a lot to experience emotionally. But that was probably the thing that I loved the best about the book was just . . . I loved the thing with Dave and the interviews and where he wanted to . . . he couldn't come tell the story. And then Gus, his ability to help people tell these stories that help them heal. I mean, I just thought all of that was fantastic.
What about you, Jen? We know, I know that you loved it. What is something that worked for you?
Yeah. I mean, again, I think I loved all of that too. And just the understanding that it's not about solving someone else's problems, but it's about just being there. And I think both of them have those moments for each other, which I appreciate. I mentioned about January gaining confidence in herself and in her own ability be okay. I thought that was strong. This is something . . . I read a lot of romance. And so I thought the way that Emily Henry chose to play with the tropes of romance and to make January so aware that she was looking for those in her own life, but also she was resisting those . . . like, there's a quote, I'm going to share in a little bit where she says, I don't want to be the romance trope that does this. And so I think it's not quite breaking the fourth wall, but it almost feels like it. That just you see, because they're authors and everything is a story, you see them both embracing and resisting that tendency to make their own lives that type of story. And because January is a romance author, she is very much playing with those kind of tropes in her life. So I just thought that was really clever. I just think it was smart for Henry to embrace those instead of trying to hide from them because I think that was one thing that made it really successful for me is that she's just saying, Yeah, these are things that happen in romances. And sometimes they might seem a little silly, but this is also why they work. And so I thought that was really great.
Let's talk about what didn't work for us. I don't remember who started last. I was trying to go back and forth, and I've lost track. So does anybody want to start?
I think is a testament to the this book that it's hard to find things that don't work. So I feel like I've already given probably more than anyone wanted to know about the emotional unpacking that I am doing after reading it. And so in some ways, that is what didn't work for me. But I think that as I moved from it, like I said, the more I thought about five-star reads, the more I've realized it is the ones that have the emotional resonance that I really come to love. So even if in the moment of finishing them I don't really . . . like The Song of Achilles. Madeline Miller is a great example of . . . I mean, I knew I loved it, but it is that one was also very sad. It is, there is a lot of emotion, and the farther I get from it, the more I realize how impactful it is. And that comes to be the book that I love. I mean, same with Bryn Greenwood's All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. I felt a lot of feelings about it and did not realize how much I loved it. But the farther I got from it, the more I realized I really loved it. And I can see that this one may be like that. Yeah. So I think you know, on the surface, what did not work for me right away was that it was hard for me. I think it was convincing. Henry was convincing, and the movement from the light and easy to the difficult, hard work. But it was hard for me right now, at this time, to move with her on that. But you know, I'll be interested to see how I feel in the future.
I will say that's one critique. Maybe not even critique. One thing I've seen on bookstagram is people who . . . . the cover looks super . . . like it's bright yellow, it has them on the beach. It looks super cheery. And so people who go in expecting just a pure, light romance, and then to find out that there is all this emotional content. Some people aren't loving that jump. And so I think I think that's totally legitimate because sometimes you pick up a book because you think it's gonna be light. And then if it's not and you're not in the space to handle any, you know something else that's problematic. And then you get into spoiler territory, you know, how much do you want to know about that going in? But I do think right now, people are choosing books pretty deliberately based on their mood and what they feel like they can handle. And so I think maybe that's more a problem now than it would be at other times.
I was just gonna say that I think like, like you said, Sara, about having not talked to many people about it. A lot of . . . a difference for me is that we often are together, the three of us, are together in person more often. And so we do a lot more of talking about books, and I think this is one I'm glad we're talking about it today. This is one I kind of need to work through. And so I do think that's different for people right now, who are at home who normally have a reading community in person as well as online to talk about their books and their reading experience.
Yeah. Sara, is there anything that didn't work for you?
I was struggling with this before we started recording. I would say no, I think that, like the things that you both talked about, especially the cover first, because I did think it was going to be a really light read when I chose it as my Book of the Month. Luckily, before I read it, I saw another bookstagrammar talking about it, and she said it was so good, but it's kind of sad. And so we kind of messaged back and forth, and then I felt prepared that there was going to be some sadness in it. So I mean, I just, I really loved it. It also is the book that kind of brought me out of this reading slump. So again, I had been really struggling, and I read this and I also, Jen, stayed up till 1 am reading this, and so I just I can't think of anything that didn't work for me. Because it was kind of the like, right book at the right time for me, so I don't have anything bad.
Yeah, I really don't either. There are things, there are things that the characters do that frustrate me. But I think that they are consistent with the characters Henry has built. And I think that is part of believing that they are real people is believing that Gus maybe isn't always making the best emotional decision. And so even though there are parts in the book, like where I kind of want to throttle him because he's hurting January, I also know that he is doing all that he can, because of his past experiences. So . . .
Yeah, that was something I really appreciated. It's just that they're never and I've struggled with that as I've read several romances back to back, which I don't read as often, that nothing and this feels contrived. Yeah, and I really appreciate that because that is something in a lot of the romances I've read recently, that even though I'm enjoying the reading experience, the conflicts between them sometimes feel contrived.
And this never felt that way. Everything felt genuine. The tension between them, the resistance on both sides. I mean, I thought all of that was really effective. So like you said, Jen, I mean, there were times it's frustrating to see them not willing to take the step. But it's very real.
Yeah. Yeah. All right. Well, let's share some quotations that we enjoyed from the book. And now I know who went last. So Sara, if you'll go first this time--see, I'm back with it--what's your quotation?
So my quotation is "Falling's the part that takes your breath away. It's the part when you can't believe the person standing in front of you both exists and happened to wander into your path. It's supposed to make you feel lucky to be alive, exactly when and where you are." So this is a conversation between January and her best friend Shadi, and what I love about this quote is, they are talking and Shadi is explaining that when you fall in love that you should have, that this is the way you should feel. And January says that she has felt that, and it was with her friendship with Shadi, and I just thought that was beautiful. Because I thought that Henry did a really good job of showing how important this female friendship was to January and to Shadi and that they are just like soulmates, you know, like friendship soulmates, and they are always there for each other, and they love each other unconditionally. And when January says that, when Shadi says this quote about falling in love, you're automatically thinking about Gus, but when, when January says that she's found it and it's with her because they are . . . they are just such good friends. I mean, I found that very impactful. I shed a tear and I just thought it was so beautiful to be able to describe her friendship with her like that. So to me, that was a quote that really stuck out, and it was a really beautiful part of the story for me.
I love that too. I just got goosebumps and almost started to cry all over again. So yes, I think so . . . I'm really pulling I would love for a book about her. I think would be a phenomenal protagonist in Emily Henry's next book. So Emily Henry, if you're happening to listen to this, I will be . . . I will read it for sure.
She is . . . she's such a rich character. And I love how her love experiences are so contrary to January's and how, you know, none of that impacts their amazing friendship, but it is helpful to look at the different ways that people's love lives go, and so I mean, I thought all of that was really . . . like how she's really great at falling in love and things all you know, and like, disaster ensues, but I mean, I loved all of that.
And I just thought the descriptions of her as seeming to be this one thing, seeming to be really tough and really, but that at heart, she's a romantic. I mean, I think another thing, and I haven't really said this, that I love about the book is how it shows that we are always interpreting other people's actions and reactions to us. And that a lot of times we are wrong and that we have no idea what they're really thinking. And most of the time, that's what January and Gus: that January has built up Gus as being this person who was really disdainful of her and who thought she was a bad writer. And then you see, as they're, as they're sort of going back over their history, that so often she was . . . she was interpreting out of her own insecurities. And that that is not at all how he felt. And so then I think when you see that with Shadi as well that she appears to be this one thing, but because January knows her well she knows she's something very different from the appearance. I just yeah, again, I think there's such depth to . . . it's amazing that there's such depth to a secondary character who's not in the book very much. But I really felt like I came to understand why January loved her so much as a friend. Yeah. All right, Ashley, what's your quotation?
So I chose One of the things that we haven't talked about a whole lot that I enjoyed in the book is the way that they . . . it speaks to them as writers and then writing characters' experiences. I thought all that was really interesting. But the quote I chose was, "Angry that these characters had deserved better than they'd gotten and somehow comforted by their experience. Yes, I thought, that is how life feels too often. Like you're doing everything you can to survive only to be sabotage by something beyond your control, maybe even some darker part of yourself." And I just loved that I loved how she, as a writer, was so focused on her reader and wanting her reader to have a great experience. And then as she turned more towards speaking truth, and trying to . . . and not that that meant that her other books were bad. I mean, I think we see from Gus's interpretation and from the success of them that her other books have been well received. But I think that as she's digging into these characters, she is trying to show how things play out, and I just love that. And I think you know that part about that you can be sabotaged by things beyond your own control, but also by the darker parts of yourself, that we see that in both of them, that we see that for sure. And Gus throughout his life as he has had a lot of trauma and a lot of things that have really impacted him as a person. But then we see in January, as she has had this kind of cataclysmic event happen, both of losing her dad and then finding out this horrible truth, that she's having to work through all that . . . I just thought all that was really rich, and I loved how they were exploring the genres and trying to sort through all that stuff. I just thought it was really interesting.
And I remembered what I wanted to say about your comment about Gus, Jen, was just that I think I also loved that we saw that she misunderstood what he was like, but also he was like, I was an . . . I mean, I think like, there is truth in the fact that he couldn't be bothered to give commentary on anyone else at work because he was young, and smart, and pretentious. And I think even though we love him as a person, like, I just, I could relate to a lot of that, like I could relate to being that person and to feeling that way, and to being friends with people who were like that. And so I just appreciated that too, because I think that it's both that she misinterpreted him, but also that when he gave commentary, the commentary was criticism and harsh and all of these things, because again, that's consistent with, I think, sometimes how young academics come across as they're trying to establish themselves and, you know, create a community of people who comment and get feedback and stuff. So I thought all that was really interesting.
Yeah. All right. So I wrote down, in our notes, the end part of this quotation, but I'm going to back up to give a little context. So January's thinking, "In my own story, I didn't want to be the heroine who let some silly miscommunication derail something obviously good, but in my real life, I felt like I'd rather risk that and keep my dignity than keep laying everything out for Gus until he finally came right out and admitted he didn't want me the way I wanted him." And she thinks more than once she's had this thing that he will sleep with someone once and then it's over. So she thinks, "More than once, I thought miserably, something real even if a little misshapen." And I thought that was so beautiful. Because I think that's what love is, is that it has to be real. It's not going to be perfect. And she has had these illusions about her parents' marriage that it was perfect. And so then to see her suffer from the fact that she's realized that it's not perfect. She had set up this relationship for herself with Jacques that on the surface seemed perfect but was quite empty. It was only successful in the moments where they were both kind of on show or ready to show, you know how beautiful and wonderful they were, but falls apart when she is sad and vulnerable and he just can't handle that. And so I think she has grown so much as a character to understand what she actually wants, I just thought that was a beautiful moment. And again the writing there . . . I could just that "something real even if a little misshapen" is so lovely both in meaning and in the way it's written . . . yeah I just really like Henry's work there.
All right, let's move on to pairings, and, Ashley . . . I cannot keep track. I think Ashley's first this time. Ashley, what is your pairing for this book?
So I wanted to get back to one that we've talked about on Unabridged for a book club. And it's Mary Beth Keane's Ask Again, Yes. And I love that book. I . . . that's one that the farther I've gotten from it, the more I have appreciated it. I loved it when we discussed it, but I think it has really stayed with me. And it is different in a lot of ways. But I think that it . . . so in it, they're . . . you're looking at two families, and you're seeing a lot more of the different generations in the family. But when you get down to Peter and Kate, who are the kids, they experience trauma, but they come into this love relationship. And similarly I think that they have this background between them that unites them, and . . . but it's a long time later that their love forms and, and then the love is complicated, but it's rich and I think all of that we really see with Gus and January that they got this history. I mean, I love . . . we hadn't talked about the beginning--there's so much we could talk about in this book--we hadn't really talked about when they you know that when she first saw him now like in the in this part, she thinks he doesn't even remember her.
Oh my gosh, I love that part.
How ridiculous that is. But it is I mean, rightfully so she feels very self conscious that because he doesn't say it out right, he must not even remember. And so again, I think it's this shared history that there is connection. And so I think that's significant. Also, I don't want to give any spoilers, that, and I think if I made this connection outright, it would be be a spoiler, but there is a lot about the complexities of love that I think is really similar between these two books and just speaks to how love that is true is not easy. And it is not simple. And it can endure while being really complicated. And I think that both of these books do that so well. And so I feel like that . . . those, that's another similarity.
And then finally, I think that two other thematic connections, one is just the commentary on grief and on dealing with trauma and how to heal, and what that looks like and how to move forward that that's really significant. And also this idea of forgiveness. I think when I come right down to it, Ask Again, Yes is so much about a search for forgiveness, and a search for continuing to have connections to people that you love, even though it's messy, and I just think that that book does that so beautifully, and so does Beach Read. I mean, I just love the way that it is about, you know, for her dad even after he's gone. He has been preparing to ask her for forgiveness for so long. And I think that all of that . . . I'm effectively making Jen sad. I can see it on her face.
I'm going to hold it together.
Yeah, I think all that so convincing, and I think it's so powerful that we love people but that love is not simple. And I think both of those books just do that so beautifully of painting these complex relationships between people and showing them working through these hard circumstances, and I just love that. So yeah, so that is mine. Mary Beth Keane's Ask Again, Yes.
Okay. Sara, how about you?
Oh my gosh. So much . . .
The letters were, like, the push over for me.
So much of what Ashley said about Ask Again, Yes is really true for my pairing, and my pairing is Josie Silver's The Two Lives of Lydia Bird. And this story follows a young woman whose fiance . . . this is, this is all very in the very beginning, whose fiance dies on her birthday on the way to her birthday dinner. And it is, the whole book is about her working through that grief and kind of coming into her own as a woman and as someone who is not defined by her love, the love that she gives someone else or that someone else gives her, which I feel like in Beach Read, January gets to that point that that they are not being defined by the relationships they're in, and this happens for Lydia in The Two Lives of Lydia Bird. And I mean it really is an exploration, a beautiful exploration, of grief, how we cope, how we come to terms with things when bad things happen. And this one is really interesting because there are alternating timelines. So there's kind of like an alternative universe type thing that is going on, so it is really interesting. But I think at the core, it is about overcoming grief and working through things and finding ourselves again, and Lydia does that beautifully. And I think January does that beautifully in Beach Read, so I think that they would make a great pairing. And I stole this one. I just want to say, Jen also had this one written down, but she also had a second choice, so I stole her stole this from her so she might have something to add.
There was no theft. And that was a great discussion.
I do really want to read that. It was another one that I resisted because people said it was sad. But I am interested in it.
I definitely feel like for me, Lydia Bird was the sadder of the two. I mean, I definitely got choked up several times during Lydia Bird, but . . .
Maybe not today.
Yeah, not today for you, friend.
We'll be withholding it from you for a while.
I need that sometimes.
All right, so my pick is Kate Clayborn's Love Lettering. First, superficially, this is another recent romance that I gave five stars. I just thought it was the same great balance of witty and funny and also dealing with some really serious topics. I'm going to really resist giving some spoilers, but I do think there are some thematic connections there as well. Oh, and I also have to say there's a lot of stuff about fonts in there, which makes me so happy. My friends know that I love a good font and I love picking the right font, sometimes so I make them want to drive their heads into the ground. But I do love fonts, and so that just fed my soul the whole book because she's talking about letters, the whole book. But so this book is about Meg mackworth, who is living in New York City, and she does hand lettering. And she ends up meeting this couple who want her to do the lettering for their wedding. And it's . . . I think it's like a year later, and the groom comes back into the store. And she realizes that they did not end up getting married. And so they strike up this friendship. It's a romance. So yeah, this is the couple. His name is Reid. And so they reminded me in some ways of January and Gust because just like January, Meg has, in many ways been shaped by certain things that her parents have done or have told her or that she has discovered about them. And so you see this adult who has been independent, but has very much, her identity has shifted in a way that she was not quite ready for. And Reid, just like Gus, is in some ways closed off. Again, I don't want to share the reasons, but he is in some ways closed off. And Meg is trying to reach him and convince him basically to be vulnerable to her so that they can get to know each other better. So I think it is superficially quite similar. It's another book that made me giddy, and then I stayed up way too late reading, but it is also a book that thematically has some of the same character arcs that this book has, that Beach Read has, so . . .
I really want to read that one. I was scrolling through my Kindle while you were talking because I was thinking I had purchased it, but I don't see it. So yeah, I really want to read that one.
I checked that one out from the library, the ebook out from the library, so you might be able to get it that way.
Oh, good. Yeah, that sounds great.
I did then purchase it.
I since purchased it because it was on sale. And I was like, I might read that again.
Well, that's funny because I was thinking about that with Beach Read that I saw somebody saying that they really wanted a hard copy. And I can I can relate to that. Yeah, you know, I read the e-book but or the e-galley. But yeah, I can see why you would want a copy.
Yeah. All right, we are going to round things out here with our last couple of ratings. So first, is this book a keeper, a loaner, or a book to donate for you? Ashley?