Books. Opinions. Good times.

Waiting on You

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 by: Kristan Higgins

I picked up this romance novel at Rite Aid a week or so ago (along with ice cream and pop chips; it was not a good day) on the recommendation of two of my favorite authors, Eloisa James and Julia Quinn.  With a double whammy, how can you go wrong?

And I didn’t.  While not my favorite romance novel ever, it was probably the best one from a new author I’ve picked up in a long, long time.  The characterizations were really good, with the main characters and most of the supporting characters being extremely well-developed.  There were one or two supporting characters that came across as a little “type-y” rather than depending on Higgins’ characterization to develop, but it certainly wasn’t an egregious overuse.

The plotline was good – it’s one of those “old love comes back to town” kind of deals.  I’m really fond of that plot device – I think it makes for a more believable bond between the two main characters.  And Higgins put a pretty interesting twist on it here, without making it too angst-ridden.  The pacing was really nice; at no point did I feel like it was either dragging or leaving me with my head spinning.

The book itself was light and full of humor.  I don’t think it actually made me laugh or chuckle at any point, but it certainly worked as an escape mechanism.  One of the things I liked best is how Higgins handled secondary relationships between the main characters and their friends and family.  Without overshadowing the main relationship of the book, Higgins manages to make them important to the characters’ development and believable.  It helps to round out the characters, but it also makes the book seem more grounded in reality.  Family and friends generally are an important part of any life decision and it’s always weird to me when authors neglect those relationships in favor of a romantic relationship.  Higgins struck an exceptionally good balance, I feel, especially for a contemporary novel where it’s so easy to create situations where the characters can be removed from their families.

The book draws a lot from Jane Austen’s Emma and at first, I thought it was going to be a little too much “men are like X and to trap them women must Y.”  That is not an attitude I’m fond of at all.  But instead, Higgins used that set-up to create some interesting situations and invert those expectations.  (Much like Austen’s Emma, so perhaps I should have expected that, rather than risking brain damage by rolling my eyes so hard during the first few pages.)

There was lots and lots of sexual tension in this book but very little actual sex.  (I don’t recall reading any, although sometimes I just skim over those scenes.)  I was kinda meh about this aspect of the book – didn’t think a lot or a little of it.

All in all, if you like contemporary romances that are light and fun, you should definitely give Waiting on You a try.  It was a very good bit of escapism.  If you like your romances heavy sexualized or dark, or if you like them completely focused on the relationship between the two main characters, than perhaps this isn’t the book for you.

Corpus Christi

corpus christi

by: Bret Anthony Johnston

Corpus Christi: Stories is a collection of short stories, which I’m going to be upfront about and say – not my favorite form of literature.  While I enjoyed this book and have a mostly positive review, and Johnston is certainly an amazing writer, I do think some of my less favorable remarks are influenced by the fact that I don’t particularly care for short stories.

And on the note of full disclosure, Corpus Christi is set in the Texan city it is named after, which is about an hour from where I grew up.  It was the nearest big city and I spent a lot of time there, shopping, going to orthodontist appointments, checking out the sights and the beach – it’s a pretty cool place. The Texas State Aquarium is amazing; go if you have the chance.  And, with the caveat that Johnston did grow up actually in Corpus, I felt a little odd about how he chose to incorporate the setting into the story.

Certainly, the setting felt like it was a real place, but – his Corpus was not my Corpus.  It appears from his biography that he hasn’t lived in Corpus for a while, and there were certain parts of the dialect and the stories that just jarred slightly.  (I’ve never heard anyone from back home say “sunblock,” for instance; I’ve always heard it referred to as “sunscreen.”)  The reference to the Nutcracker coming to town being a big deal – there’s now a ballet in Corpus that performs that every year; I feel like that sentence should have been started with “Back then” or something.

But there were certainly parts that felt authentic, and it’s only the second book I’ve read set in Corpus, and the third set in South Texas/the Coastal Bend in general, so there’s that.  I also think I would care less about whether or not it aligned with my experience of Corpus if there were more books or media or any sort set there.

One of the big things that jumped out at me, though, was how predominately white the stories were. According to Wikipedia, Corpus is more than 50% Hispanic/Latino and I think one of the most jarring things about the stories was how whitewashed they seemed.  That may have just been Johnston’s experience, depending on what neighborhood he grew up in, but it was probably the biggest thing that stuck out to me as not feeling like Corpus.

That aside, Johnston is an amazing writer.  His stories mostly examined relationship between adult children and their parents, though not exclusively.  It’s not a relationship I tend to focus a lot of my reading on, but I really enjoyed the way Johnston explored them.  They were complicated and imperfect, and many of the characters existed within a dysfunctional family.

Johnston does an absolutely fantastic job of creating this complex relationships between these extremely well-developed characters, very simply and in an incredibly short amount of space.  His writing is beautiful and the stories have – emotional resonance? They weren’t quite bittersweet but they managed to strike the perfect balance between evoking pain and evoking hope. There are three connected short stories that form the backbone of this collection, focusing on the relationship between a mother and her son, and I absolutely loved them.  They were brilliant and honest and heartbreaking.  His use of the scenery was subtle, but it fit well into the story and I think the title is completely appropriate.  I am definitely going to be reading more of his works.

If you like elegant, yet heartbreaking short stories, or if you love a well-written story, you should absolutely read Corpus Christi.  If you’re into happy endings, or something more than a hope for a better future, you should probably give this one a pass.

If you’re from Corpus or if you’ve ever lived there, I’d love your take on this book! Please leave a comment!

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