The Charm Offensive: Finding Happily Ever After

Review: The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun

Reality dating tv shows have just never really been my jam. So many of my friends and sorority sisters look forward to watching The Bachelor or the Bachelorette every Monday night, but I just never really got the appeal, to be honest. So, when I heard about the premise of The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun, I’ll admit that I was skeptical. But it turned out to be my favorite book that I read in the month of August! And that is high praise, because I managed to read a total of 15 books in August, with five of them being 5 star reads for me! So, thank you to my friends at Atria Books for asking me to be a part of the blog tour as we celebrate the release of The Charm Offensive this Tuesday September 7th! I know you guys are going to fall in love with this one!

“Dev Deshpande has always believed in fairy tales. So, it’s no wonder then that he’s spent his career crafting them on the long-running reality dating show Ever After. As the most successful producer in the franchise’s history, Dev always scripts the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star.

Charlie is far from the romantic Prince Charming Ever After expects. He doesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s a stiff, anxious mess with no idea how to date twenty women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold, awkward, and emotionally closed-off.

As Dev fights to get Charlie to connect with the contestants on a whirlwind, worldwide tour, they begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars. But even reality TV has a script, and in order to find to happily ever after, they’ll have to reconsider whose love story gets told.”

The Charm Offensive, Alison Cochrun (Atria Books)

This is hands down one of the best romances that I’ve read this year! I love everything about this novel. I love how much asexual representation was shown in the novel, and even learned about the different forms that asexuality can take.

What struck me most was the focus on mental health and neurodiversity. The characters felt real and I connected to them so quickly. Very often, we see mental health discussed in novels as almost an afterthought. But in The Charm Offensive, we really got to see up close how Charlie and Dev navigate the world and how their mental health issues affect their relationships with others, both in romantic and platonic relationships.

This book was so thoughtfully written with plenty of heart and humor. I cannot wait to see what Alison Cochrun writes next!

Click HERE to pre-order The Charm Offensive from a Seat at the Table Books in Elk Grove, CA! It will be available everywhere on Tuesday September 7th!

Light Changes Everything: The Power of Staying True to Oneself

Review: Light Changes Everything by Nancy E. Turner

Thank you so much to St. Martin’s Press and Thomas Dunne Books for inviting me to be a part of the Blogger Tour for Light Changes Everything by Nancy E. Turner! When I read that there were some references to Jane Austen and Pride & Prejudice in this book, I was intrigued! But other than that, I really did not know what to expect from this novel. It seemed like a pleasant enough story so I was happy to read it. But WOW, was I blown away by this book!

Light Changes Everything is a coming of age story for seventeen-year-old Mary Pearl from the Arizona Territory in the early 20th century. Although banned by their mother, Mary Pearl and her sister sneak Jane Austen novels from their aunt and read them in secret. When Mary is introduced to a rich lawyer, Aubrey Hanna, she is swept into a swift engagement promising her a life of wealth and sophistication, so very different from her own humble upbringing. But when Mary Pearl is given the opportunity to attend art school at Wheaton College in Illinois, she puts the wedding planning on hold to pursue an education. Upon her arrival at college, Mary Pearl is thrust into a world she does not quite understand and is forced to adapt.

I expected this book to be quite slow throughout but it was such an electrifying book! Filled with twists and turns, I did not know where the story would go next. The character of Mary Pearl is such an amazing woman, strong in her own convictions. While she is smart enough to learn to adapt to different cultural customs, she manages to stay true to herself and pursue a life that she wants. This is a story about the bonds of family, the affects of societal gender norms, and knowledge being passed down through generations.

I truly did not want this book to end. I had no idea what to expect from it but I definitely did not anticipate this to be one of my favorite books of the year! This is absolutely a five-star read for me. I recommend this book for fans of novels about strong women and those who love a good coming of age story. The only complaint I have about the book is that I wish it were longer so that I could stay with the main character for a longer period of time! You can purchase Light Changes Everything using the link below!

Trigger warnings: rape & sexual assault


You can order Light Changes Everything using the link below!

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These Ghosts are Family: How Did Our Family Get Here?

Review: These Ghosts are Family by Maisy Card

I want to thank the team at Simon Books and Simon & Schuster for sending this ARC of Maisy Card’s debut novel, These Ghosts are Family. I saw @bookswithmeg_ on Instagram talk about it and I knew I had to read it. I was so thrilled to open the box and see that Simon Books sent it to me! I particularly love reading debut novels because I love to discover new authors and experience their unique writing style. I was so struck by the beautiful cover; it’s as interesting and layered as the novel’s story itself.

These Ghosts are Family begins with the story of Stanford Solomon, who we soon discover was originally Abel Paisley. Abel left his wife and children in Jamaica for England where he decided to assume the identity of his friend Stanford who died, while Abel faked his own death. He began a new family and settled in New York. The story begins from his perspective but from there, we are taken on a wild ride through the varying perspectives of all of the different relatives connected to Abel, now Stanford. The novel spans from the early 1800s Jamaica to present day United States and explores how a family was formed and developed on the basis of slavery, migration, and past traumas. Thankfully, this beautifully layered story includes a family tree, which I definitely had to refer back to several times.

I really enjoyed this book. At first, it was confusing to try and understand whose perspective I was reading as they changed, but as the book went on, more pieces of this family’s puzzle began to fall into place. I began to understand how such a complicated family history developed. It was so fascinating to start putting the pieces together and to begin to understand why certain characters made certain decisions. I was very interested in exploring the idea of how our ancestors’ traumas get passed down and how they affect us today. I wonder about this in my own family, as well as how our unique puzzle came together to create our day to day experiences with one another.

I recommend this book for any fiction fans that love a puzzle! It was so exciting to discover a new layer to the story to help put together the bigger picture as the book went on. I think it’s also important to make sure that we are reading books that vary from our own personal experiences. That is the reason that we read books, after all. We need to make sure that our bookshelves are as diverse as the world that we live in. Besides exploring other experiences, it’s what helps us to become more empathetic in our lives. Maisy Card’s novel, These Ghosts are Family publishes on March 3rd! Make sure to get your hands on this one!

You can pre-order Maisy Card’s new book These Ghosts are Family using the link below!

Life Meets Literature is a participant in the the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

Ninth House: What Secrets Do These Societies Hold?

Review: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

I have been seeing ads for the Book of the Month subscription for years. As an avid reader, I have always considered signing up, but since I was not reading as much as I’d like, I just hadn’t done it yet. But once I began to read more frequently and started this blog, I decided that it was time to get a subscription! One of the things that I love about Book of the Month is that they give you options to choose from each month that include upcoming releases or newer releases from several different genres (Click here to learn more about the Book of the Month subscription or to join for yourself!). For the month of November, I was torn between a few different books: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo, The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell, and a few others. I read the summary for Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo and was intrigued instantly, even though I’m not typically a reader of fantasy. But there is just something about mysterious stories set on a university campus that just draw me in, so I took a chance and picked it! Once I began reading, I could not put it down!

Ninth House is the story of Alex Stern, a young woman with a dark and dangerous past who finds herself at Yale University on a full ride, but there’s a catch. Her tuition is being funded by an organization that has tasked her with helping to monitor the activities of eight secret societies on the Yale campus; activities that are filled with magic, darkness, and power. Something strange is happening in New Haven and it is up to Alex to figure it out.

I love stories that are set on university campuses, especially those in New England. There is something beautiful and mysterious about the way these campuses look. My own alma mater, The University of the Pacific is often described as looking like an ivy league New England university of the west coast. This is one of my favorite things about my university’s campus. The brick buildings and ivory columns are absolutely beautiful, especially in the fall. And as a sorority woman myself, I’m fascinated with secret societies. Although, my organization is an international Panhellenic sorority and is vastly different than those societies in Ninth House. I’m drawn to the ritual aspect and that the secrets and legends of the organization are only known to its members. When I selected this book, I did not expect a lot of what happens within the secret societies. There were so many twists and turns. It started slow but once it picked up, it took off like a shot. I could not put it down. I recommend this for any fans of fantasy but honestly, you don’t have to be a fantasy reader to enjoy this one. It was my first fantasy novel and I loved every minute of it. I think it’s great for anyone that loves a mysterious story of any kind. And a bonus: Amazon is developing the book for a TV series! Score! Check back for future posts of my other BOTM picks such as my choices for December: Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston and A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum.

Check out the books referenced in this post!

Life Meets Literature is a participant in the the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

The Intentional Pursuit of Happiness

Review: The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, & Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

The Preamble to the United States Declaration of Independence

I have had countless people recommend Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project to me so I was already intrigued. One day while my ex-boyfriend and I were on our anniversary trip to Napa County, we stopped at the most incredible bookstore in Petaluma (Copperfield’s Bookstore) that was filled with new and used books. I found three amazing titles on sale (each for less than $10, score!) that I had been wanting: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, This Will Only Hurt a Little by Busy Phillips, and of course, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I was so excited to find these. Wandering through bookstores is one of the things in life that makes me the happiest. When I got home, I knew I wanted to get to these books ASAP. I ended up starting Big Magic first, because I’ve heard such great things and I love Elizabeth Gilbert.

But after I started it, I found myself extremely curious about The Happiness Project. In my own life, I’ve also started taking action to make myself feel better (emotionally, mentally, and physically) by participating in Rachel Hollis’s Last 90 Days Challenge. You can read all about it in my first blog post when I reviewed Girl, Stop Apologizing. But the basics are that for the last 90 days of the year, I do her 5 to Thrive items every single day: drink half my body weight in ounces of water, write down 5 things I’m grateful for, move my body for at least 30 minutes, wake up an hour earlier than usual and use that time for myself, and give up one category of food that I know I shouldn’t be eating. I’m not even quite halfway through the 90 days yet, but I can already tell you that I feel better than I ever have before. So, I knew that Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project was all about her doing her own version of intentionally seeking happiness for a full year.

I couldn’t wait to finish Big Magic to start it so I decided on the next best thing: to listen to the audiobook! I know that some people don’t think that audiobooks count as reading, but for those of us with busy lives, they are the perfect way to get in more books that we want to read but may not be able to get to. I’m incredibly fortunate to have the career that I do. I work for an incredible company estimating on large multi-million-dollar construction projects. But this means that I spend 8+ hours a day estimating on my computer, staring at construction plans & drawings all day. I love it, I truly do. And a bonus to this job is that I can listen to music while I’m working and better yet, listen to audiobooks! Yes! This means I can be “reading” for the entire 8-hour work day while getting my work done! It’s a win-win for me! My favorite types of audiobooks to listen to are non-fiction, personal development books. I love these books and I find that I get even more motivated listening to the author read them aloud and I feel even more motivated to work hard at work! The Happiness Project ended up being perfect for this.

Gretchen Rubin is a writer from New York City. She left a career in law clerking for Sandra Day O’Conner to pursue her passion to become a writer. She began to ask herself if it was possible to intentionally make herself happier. She decided to embark on a yearlong mission to design a life and take specific action in order to become happy. Is this possible? Can you come up with a plan and just decide to be happy, and then actually feel true happiness? The answer that she found (and I too, found this year) is YES. Gretchen’s project was far more ambitious than just 90 days though. She settled on actively pursuing happiness for a full year. She makes clear that her action plan is specific to her and that anyone can do their own happiness project, and that everyone’s personal project would look different based on their own lives, needs, and dreams. For Gretchen, she focused on a different area each month: January – Vitality, February – Marriage, March – Work, April – Parenthood, May – Leisure, June – Friendship, July – Money, August – Eternity, September – Books, October – Mindfulness, November – Attitude, & December – Happiness. To be successful and keep herself grounded, she gave herself Twelve Commandments to keep in mind throughout the process, such as “enjoy the process….lighten up….there is only love” and another list she calls “The Secrets of Adulthood” including helpful life lessons such as “It’s ok to ask for help…Bring a sweater…Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” These basic principles helped to guide her journey and stay grounded.

Every month, she kept a short list of action items to be able to tackle the overall theme of the month. She refers to each of these action items as resolutions. This helped her to keep them at the forefront of her mind and attempt to pursue them with intentionality all month long and then to continue to pursue them in the months that followed. She found that although she didn’t always keep her resolutions 100% of the time, by remembering her commitment she was able to continue on and improve in those areas far beyond what she had before. And after her year was over, she truly felt happier!

I learned an incredibly valuable lesson this year from both Gretchen Rubin, Rachel Hollis, and a few other authors as well: you are the only one that can make yourself happy. There are life circumstances that are out of our control. I know this as well as anyone. I cannot control that I have anxiety, I cannot control that I experienced difficult childhood trauma that resulted in PTSD, I cannot control that my perfectly beautiful, healthy mom went to bed one night over Thanksgiving weekend and died in her sleep, I cannot control that the trauma of that night compounded my existing PTSD and made it more complex. But do you know what I can control? I can control my daily habits, I can decide to pursue things that I already know make me happy, I can seek help in the form of a therapist, I can talk to my family, friends, and boyfriend when I need support. But the biggest lesson that I learned is that I have to be INTENTIONAL. I can’t just say “I’m sad, life has been so hard, when will I ever be happy again?” I have to say “I’m going to actively do things to MAKE myself happy. No one can or should do it for me.”

One of my favorite Rachel Hollis quotes is “If you’re unhappy, that’s on YOU.” That may sound harsh to someone that has experienced life’s difficulties and traumas. But I am here to tell you that it is true. I was grieving and very unhappy for a while even though I had beautiful things in my life. But I was spending time trying to self-soothe and to make myself feel better in the moment. I was not actively doing things that were actually good for me. Once I realized that there were simple things that I could choose to do every day, I felt so powerful. I realized that I’ve been yearning to feel happy again. While Rachel Hollis’s ideas were about specific daily habits and Gretchen Rubin’s ideas were about creating a plan for the year and building on what she learned, the overall idea is intentionality. You have to have specific things in your life that you are doing that will make you happy ON PURPOSE. No one can do them for you. As Gretchen Rubin says towards the end of the book: “After all my research, I found out what I knew all along: I could change my life without changing my life. When I made the effort to reach out for them, I found out that the ruby slippers had been on my feet all along…” Both Girl, Stop Apologizing and The Happiness Project are great personal development books because they truly help to give you an actual action plan. So many books seek to be helpful by introducing powerful concepts, but these books give you specific action items that you can do right now to change your life. And that is endlessly powerful.

Here are a few of my favorite resolutions that Gretchen pursued during her year of her Happiness Project:

  1. Toss, restore, organize
  2. Tackle a nagging task
  3. Fight right
  4. Launch a blog (oh hey!!!)
  5. Work smart
  6. Take time for projects
  7. Take time to be silly
  8. Be generous
  9. Keep a gratitude notebook
  10. Make time

Check out all the awesome books referenced in this post!!!

Life Meets Literature is a participant in the the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.