A Review And A Celebration

Cover of

Athena ScalziWhen I was younger, I read books like I would keel over and die if I ever stopped. When I say I was an avid reader, I mean I was back to back reading series after series, novel after novel, cranking ’em out like nobody’s business.

And then, when I was sixteen, I got a job at a bookstore, and I didn’t read another book until I was twenty-one. I’m not including books I read for school, by the way, because I definitely had to read things like 1984, The Great Gatsby, Lord of the Flies, classics like that. But what I mean is I didn’t read for fun. I didn’t enjoy reading books for school, they weren’t what I liked and I had to do assignments over them, so I kind of resent them, even if they aren’t necessarily bad books.

I didn’t enjoy reading for a very long time. Even if I found a book that I thought I’d like, I couldn’t bring myself to read it, because high school and college kind of killed reading for me. And working at a bookstore killed my love for them. Where once I found joy, now I only think of work and straightening shelves. Not that it was a bad job, because it definitely wasn’t, but walking around a bookstore just stresses me out now.

It wasn’t until I went on a trip to New Mexico for my 21st birthday (January 2020), and my mom suggested I bring a book, that I ended up reading a novel again. We were in the airport, passing by the bookstore, when I decided I should take her advice and look for something to entertain me on the plane.

The egregiously limited selection had a few familiar titles, and one familiar author. Joe Hill. The book, The Fireman, was huge, and I thought it was a bit risky to try and jumpstart my reading career with something so hefty. But I ended up loving it, and managed to read half of it on the way there and the way back. Then, when I returned home, I put it down and didn’t finish the other half until three months later.

It took me just a couple days to get through half of it, months to convince myself to finish it, and then another couple days to finish it. And it wasn’t that I had to convince myself to finish it because it was bad or I didn’t like it, in fact quite the opposite. It was amazing, and when I did actually sit down and read it, I tore through it. But the convincing was more about bringing myself to do something I was sure I didn’t like anymore.

The idea that I was actually having a good time doing something I’d grown to resent was weird to me. So I started to think, maybe with The Fireman would come my renewed love of reading, and I could finally get back to the thing I loved most as a kid.

Alas, my streak of not reading continued after the exception that was The Fireman.

Until last week!

My friend sent me a Tik Tok of a girl recommending a book called The Unhoneymooners, and her review made me want to read it. So I decided, “Dammit! I’m gonna read this book!” So I ordered it (from the bookstore I used to work at), picked it up, and I READ IT!

And when I say I read it, I mean I devoured it. I flew through it, and I loved it, and I loved reading it! This feeling, it’s so familiar, and so nice. The feeling of having completed a book, the feeling of having read a good, enjoyable story, the feeling of experiencing the highs and the lows and having real emotions over these fictional characters. I remember why I found it so addicting in the past.

The Unhoneymooners was so good, and originally this post was just going to be me recommending it. But I felt that this recommendation needed context, and I wanted to share my struggles with reading with you all.

I really feel like I’m ready to get back into reading. It’s something I want to do, now that it’s no longer something I have to do. Ever since I left school, I haven’t been forced to read anything, and ever so slowly that long lost desire has come back to me.

Finding The Unhoneymooners was total chance, and it’s not my usual genre. It’s a romantic comedy type, a realistic fiction/romance, and I’m totally shocked I’ve never read one before, considering it’s like my favorite type of movie. Turns out, it’s a great kind of book, too!

The Unhoneymooners is about a woman named Olive whose twin sister, Ami, is getting married and has won a free 10-day honeymoon to Hawaii. However, the bride and groom fall ill, and the nonrefundable trip to paradise is gifted by Ami to Olive. Unfortunately for Olive, the groom gifted the trip to his brother (and Olive’s nemesis), Ethan. The two agree to call a truce in order to snag the free trip, and slowly but surely the inability to tolerate each other melts away underneath the Hawaiian sun.

It’s a classic enemies-to-lovers, and I’m nothing if not a sucker for romance. It was fun and light-hearted, flirty and frisky, and maybe a little cheesy, but enjoyable! Olive is a great main character, and super relatable, which is something I never found to be the case in practically all the YA I read.

Overall, it was a fun and easy read, totally gives off “reading by the poolside” vibes. I highly recommend it if you like romantic comedies, witty banter, and one or two clichés. This book gave me all the feels, and I hope it does the same for you if you decide to give it a chance.

If you’re interested, you can check it out here!

Have you read it? Are there other romantic comedy books you think I should check out? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!


46 Comments on “A Review And A Celebration”

  1. I’m very glad you found something to rekindle your love of reading. I don’t have any specific recommendatoins, rather a recommendation for a review site which you can search in all sorts of handy ways to find your catnip: Smart Bitches Trashy Books https://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/

    I’m also rather appalled that your school experience put you off so badly, I really did not like reading to analyse as one has to do for school, but it didn’t put me off the reading, it put me off English as a subject. I too read Lord of the Flies and The Great Gatsby for English, I didn’t like either of them, but I hated Lord of the Flies, absolutely hated it. It turns out when something similar happened in real life the boys actually looked after each other to the extent that aside from one broken leg which healed fine, they were surprisingly healthy and well muscled desite spending over a year on the island https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/may/09/the-real-lord-of-the-flies-what-happened-when-six-boys-were-shipwrecked-for-15-months

  2. Some recommendations:

    WAITING FOR TOM HANKS by Kerry Winfrey
    BEACH READ by Emily Henry
    ATTACHMENTS by Rainbow Rowell

    BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME by Julia Claiborne Johnson, about divorcees at a dude ranch in Nevada in the 1930s, isn’t exactly romantic comedy, but it’s funny and smart and full of engaging characters and romance-concerned, at least. I loved it.

    THE DIVORCE PAPERS by Susan Rieger is technically romantic comedy, but there’s a lot more to it as well. It’s an epistolary novel, told through letters and memos and such, about a young lawyer who finds herself handling a divorce even though that’s very much not her area, and things go quirky from there. Very funny.

    Hope you find a lot to read…


  3. Coincidentally, I too am trying to get into reading fiction. In my case my obstacle is my Puritan streak: I find myself compulsively web surfing, mostly BBC News (how noble) rather than pick up a fiction book within arm’s reach.

    It’s up to me: I can’t depend on the devil to make me read. …Yesterday I bought and raced through an old spy book (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) and realized I can’t bear to read anymore from that series: I’m not the boy I was.

    As for funny, from the days of Agatha Christie, comes the classic series about Jeeves (a butler) and Wooster, which makes me laugh out loud. Also from those years, the script for Major Barbara by George Bernard Shaw makes me laugh aloud too. (Normally I only laugh inside—hey, I’m a Puritan)

  4. I also enjoyed The Unhoneymooners. I recommend trying Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. She’s one of my favorite authors, and that’s he best adult fiction books. It’s a super nerdy, adorable rom-com.

  5. I hated the assigned reading for school. Though in senior year of high school i got to take a free reading class where you could read any genre you wanted as long as you read a “classic” in the genre. It was great except for the classic which basically turned me off of anything ever labeled a classic.
    There is so much fun stuff to read out there, I’m glad you have found your way back to reading.

    I would highly recommend Nalini Singh’s Rock Addiction novels. More romance than romantic comedy but they definitely have their moments of laugh out loud humor. And her other series are great if you are ok with shifter or fantasy/alternate present settings (psy-changeling and Guild Hunter series, respectively)

  6. Red White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston is one of the splashiest romcoms of the last few years–it’s hilarious and very fun.

    The Hating Game by Sally Thorne is about workplace nemeses falling in love.

    Well Met by Jen Deluca is set at a renaissance faire and has two more in the series.

    I love Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series–they’re not always straight-up comedies, but they’re fantastic. A Princess in Theory is the first one, about a woman who’s been getting spam emails about how she’s betrothed to the king of a small African country except oops, not spam!

    Romance is a great genre for when you just want a fun time and a happy ending. I hope you find something you like!

  7. Welcome back to reading for fun!

    I also highly endorse RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE by Casey McQuiston — one of the funniest and most fun I’ve read in a while. Rainbow Rowell is also pretty terrific. Start with FANGIRL and move on to CARRY ON from there if you feel so inclined. :)

  8. A second for Red, White, and Royal Blue.

    Two other books that I dearly loved in the last year:

    Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall (fake dating)

    Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell (so tropey, outgoing but feckless royal has to marry widower of a cousin for reasons. Widower is pretty much his opposite)

    These are all MM btw. They all have great secondary characters.

    Assigned reading for high school and a bit for uni killed my desire to read anything looking like “literary fiction” or classics. There have been a few exceptions but I’ve pretty much stuck to genre.

    With young kids, I’d been reading between 40-50 books a year. When covid-19 hit, I had real trouble reading for several months. I did some rereading and then started reading historical genre fiction (k.j. charles, others) and contemporary romances, lots and lots of romances. So many that I’ve blown away my goodreads goals multiple times last year and this. So for that, I’m enjoying the heck out of them.

    I’m glad that you’re beginning to read for pleasure again.

  9. It’s hard to go wrong with Rainbow Rowell.

    My recommendation for you would be Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Cruise.

    “Sophie Dempsey wants to help her sister film a video and then get out of Temptation, Ohio. Mayor Phin Tucker wants to play pool with the police chief and keep things peaceful. But when Sophie and Phin meet, they both get more than they want. Gossip, blackmail, adultery, murder, vehicular abuse of a corpse, and slightly perverse but excellent sex: all hell breaks loose in Temptation as Sophie and Phin fall deeper and deeper in trouble… and in love.”

  10. I’m so glad that you’ve rediscovered the joy of reading for fun! I was an English major in college and I remember not enjoying much of the classic books I had to read. Then I worked for about 5 years as a features editor for a trade publication, and reading for that job was boring. That was over 30 years ago, but I remember how stultifying it was and how it put me off reading for fun for a while.

    The most recent romance I read was The Bride Test by Helen Hoang. I liked it a lot. It’s about an autistic Vietnamese man whose mother brings a woman over from Vietnam, hoping she will work out as a wife for him. The author has a couple of other books in the same genre as well.

  11. Act Like It, by Lucy Parker, delighted me and I imagine it might delight you too.

  12. I once read that what saved Harry Potter was putting witchcraft in the book, which meant it would never be in schools, so kids wouldn’t hate it.

    My book recommendation is a YA, “Going Vintage,” which starts with the first person hero on page one making out with her boyfriend—not like the books I used to read from 1962.

    Well, the girl won’t do anything past that year “Did your father take away your cell phone?” She reflects that since all people had back then was television they must have talked to each other.

    It has good reviews on Good Reads.

    Incidentally, remembering early Walkmans, I recall keeping a straight face one morning when student arrived at campus saying, “Do you know how hard it is to ride public transit when your walkman batteries have died?” Both then and now I remain nondigital in public. Why yes, it’s easy for me to daydream.

  13. I second and third most of the recommendations you’ve already been given. I think my favorite book of last year was Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade It is a love letter to fan fiction, ships, friends, movies, and love. It distracted me with giggles through election week last year.
    Amari and the Night Brothers is MG but a great adventure story. Loved it.
    I just finished Legendborn – YA King Author retelling in the modern world with Black Girl Magic.
    The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon was a fun romcom as was
    The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa

    I could go on, but I’ll stop here. :)
    Audiobooks have gotten me through the last 4 years still reading. They allow me to do other things and be carted away by a story at the same time.
    I have friends who ‘can’t do audiobooks’ who finally tried a few and now can’t get enough of them.

  14. Both my sons were avid readers and now no longer read because either school or university has made reading a chore. It’s sad.

    Meanwhile, eldest has moved out and left a huge bookcase full of military SF….guess I have some books to try out!

  15. I second the recs for Beach Read by Emily Henry and The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory. Those have been my favorite rom com discoveries of the past few years. I will give The Unhoneymooners a shot since it sounds similar and certainly made an impression on you!

  16. I believe that high school English teachers specialize in ruining great books for students. To this day (almost 40 years later) I cannot stomach the thought of whether Bartleby the Scrivener is a Christian Hero or an Existential Hero. It was years later before I could read the Iliad or any Faulkner without getting ill. On the flip side, many years ago I managed a B. Dalton book store and the experience really fed my desire to read.

  17. 100% with you on this one. I used to be a VORACIOUS reader. 18-20 novels a year. Many came from the Big Idea posts right here. And then I stopped reading. I don’t really know why. I have read maybe 10 novels in the last 3 years. I am trying with one right now. Again from a recent Big Idea post. It helps me with creativity as a DM in my D&D group. That’s the thing that’s getting me back into reading. I need that inspiration that comes from spending time in other worlds, other dreams, and other perspectives.

  18. I love this whole story & will definitely read that book. Thanks for the recommendation. I, too, have had waxing & waning reading periods of my life but there’s nothing like a random fun read to reignite the reading bug. Enjoy anew!

  19. I’ve always enjoyed reading, so when I first retired and was hunting for a retired guy get-out-of-the-house-job and the local Borders Books and Music was hiring it was hand, meet glove. I thought being around books would be something great–making and receiving recommendations in genres/areas I was knowledgeable in, hanging around smart people, etc.

    I quickly learned that book stores are retail, and 98% of what happens in retail is independent of the product. As far as the mechanics of the business it didn’t matter that I was selling books; it could have been anything, from lawn products to batteries (I doubt the folks who work at Batteries+ are there because they love batteries).

    But my time there didn’t sour me on bookstores, or books. I did learn quite a bit about how the industry works from the distribution/sales end, how and why bookstores are set up the way they are, why certain books get prominent displays and other, equally good or better ones don’t, and all the other behind-the-curtain nuts and bolts involved in book retail stores. I look at things a bit differently when I walk into a book store now, with a greater understanding of what I’m seeing.

    I’ll somewhat agree with you on how HS/college literature classes can suppress a love of reading; there were very few assigned readings that I truly enjoyed. But I approached the classes in the same way I approached trig and calculus problem sets, history and economics. The readings were there for me to learn something specific from, not to enjoy, and the reason for each reading was usually pretty clear. It was to deal with structure, character development, symbolism, and all of the other techniques and tools writers use. Some novels were assigned because of their historic significance. Trudging through a bad translation of “Crime and Punishment” in tiny print, with multi-page paens to the love of a coat in a Russian winter, felt like punishment to me. But it was also no different than struggling with a calc problem set covering a certain set of functions that I had to learn to progress, and I approached it as such.

    (I did fill a required humanities elective in college with a course on The History of the Novel that covered what I thought were great books to read that I enjoyed. Reading Candide, Gulliver’s Travels, Huck Finn, and Light in August with a professor who described the times and context of each, the author’s history, how the book worked as a piece of literature, and why it was considered a milestone in the history of literature opened this STEM major’s horizons.)

  20. When I started working my current job at a university library, my book reading really dropped. Kinda sad. Which is not to say that my purchasing rate has appreciably slowed, fortunately 95%+ of my purchases are ebooks.

  21. I was an English teacher for years and became a credentialed librarian in high schools because I couldn’t stomach cramming books down students’ throats and making them hate reading any more. Being a librarian has been the best job in education I have ever had. I get to read a lot of YA books and then share my excitement about them with teens and we have great discussions about the books without the pressure to make them write about the books. It is so much more enjoyable.

    I can second (third or fourth) Christina Lauren’s books. They are great. And many of the other titles recommended here, and I will be putting many of them on my to-read list.

  22. I’ve been very fond of the fantasy romance novels by T. Kingfisher (pen name of Ursula Vernon) has been publishing: Swordheart, Paladin’s Grace, and Paladin’s Strength. While not romantic comedies per se, they are incredibly funny in places (she does dialogue and internal monologues that are both hilarious and highly relatable), and her main characters are intensely likeable. The worldbuilding is solid (all three are set in the same world), and there are some horror elements that are handled well.

  23. If that book was fun, check out the movie called “Honeymoon with Mom”. I watched one overnight at the hospital when I was desperate for entertainment. See what you think if you can rent it online. It’s got a related premise. 😉

  24. I’m here to second the losing the love of reading for a while. For me it was after I finished writing my dissertation. While I was working on it, I would only allow myself to read for fun while I was on the exercise bike as a reward. Afterward, I dropped the bike and the reading. I seriously couldn’t put words in front of my eyes for at least 6 months. I found my way back via audiobooks because I didn’t have to use my eyeballs to have someone tell me a story.
    I’ve also found that I still have a hard time maintaining focus on novel-length stories, so I’ve gotten more interested in short story collections, novellas, and even poetry. I still enjoy a good long-form story, but I’m more likely to listen to my favorites than sit down with a book. I don’t know if that is a permanent shift in my brain or not, but good stories are good stories however you find them.

  25. Hearty seconding of Alexis Hill’s Boyfriend Material. It’s absolutely lovely, and the audiobook is excellent too. Hill’s newest book, Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake, takes place on what is obviously meant to be the set of The Great British Baking Show, even though he has to call it something else.

  26. Weird, thought I posted this, but then it disappeared!

    Anyway, highly recommend Alexis Hill’s Boyfriend Material (also recommended above) and his newest book, Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake. It takes place on what is obviously meant to be the Great British Baking Show, and it was so much fun!

  27. Hi Athena,

    I’m very happy for you to hear that you’ve rediscovered reading for pleasure! One must ask: During your reading hiatus, did that include or exclude works from a hyper-local author?

    As everyone is also including YA recommendations, a shout-out to John Barnes’ “Tales of the Madman Underground”.

    All the best,
    Enquiring Mind

  28. I had to read Silas Marner and The Scarlet Letter in school, yuck. It didn’t put me off reading fiction (I loved James Michener in high school, and I milked “Hawaii” for 3 years’ worth of book reports!) but I didn’t read anything else written before 1940 for a very long time.

  29. This is exactly an example of how to get kids to hate reading: make them read Great Literature That’s Depressing AF. I was an English major in college (let’s face it, that was easiest for my skill set) but man, I hated almost everything I ever read for English classes my entire academic career from middle school through the end of college. Hated almost every book except Jane Austen and Jane Eyre. Everything was depressing.

    I really wish that books people might WANT to read that don’t end in mass death were on the curriculums of schools. Never gonna happen, though!

  30. Came here to make sure Boyfriend Material was recommended, and it was, so all is well. Truly funny and sweet. I also second the recommendation for the smartbitches website. And, as Enquiring Mind hinted, your dad writes some pretty fun stuff :)

  31. My wife used to read books like that, before she switched over to mostly paranormal romance and occasional romantic suspense plus the odd mystery that i tell her she will like.

    I’m more in the Th. Jefferson “I Cannot Live Without Books…” mode, and have been most of my life. (I have it on a T-shirt and a refrigerator magnet.)

    Anyway, welcome back to the fold (of readers) and I hope you stay.

  32. I think some people, contrary to the scenario that university students are nerds, can be smart enough for university and simultaneously be nonreaders. Weird, I know.

    By this I mean that higher education did not make them nonreaders. Granted, I know (by hearsay) of people saying, “Great, it’s summer, now I don’t have to read anymore.” Summers at university are four months long.

    At my on-campus toastmasters club an undergraduate once smiled very broadly to say to me, “I’m reading because of you!” I forget exactly what I must have done. Quote books? Reference books? I don’t know. At the time, I thought she must have been a nonreader throughout high school.

  33. In a related vein, in a speech at my toastmaster club, I professed that the way to enjoy a book, poem or oil painting is just to enjoy it at first, at length, to register whether you like it… without thinking your left brain is supposed to be engaged to look for symbolism and theme and such.

  34. Try and forget the high school and college book requirements. I often thought that instructors hated books and hoped to instill that hate into students.

    I love books! Read all the time. I do not assign essays to myself to define key plot points and hidden meanings.
    OK, most of the time. Sometimes I look deeper into connections, but because they interest me.

  35. Wow, I have no idea what would make me not read. We had some big dry books in high school and undergrad English, but I still kept reading my escape fiction too. I’ve worked in a library for over 20 years and still like to read at least a couple of books a week.
    That said, Joe Hill is great and everyone should read all his books. I preferred NOS4A2 to The Fireman though — maybe some of his short fiction? Or comics? I don’t read a ton of rom-coms but I did like The Rosie Project and the first sequel, about an autistic academic and the woman he starts up a relationship with.

  36. The main cause of reading block is that feeling of compulsion. For those of us with ADD it makes reading for school almost impossible, especially when too many well-meaning adults try to steer kids to something that “isn’t trash.” The easiest way to get around a block like that is to choose books with a very low entry bar and a very high entertainment quotient. So, read trash unapologetically.
    Picture books are fun and gratifyingly quick, most are only one good joke; try Adam Rex or Mini Grey. Middle grade is full of action and mystery, try The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell for kids planning a heist. Graphic novels are easy to get into as are cartoon collections: Try Emily Carroll for creepy and The Complete Calvin and Hobbes never disappoints. Short stories are good for low commitment level, I suggest Edward Gorey’s Haunted Looking Glass or James Herriot’s Dog Stories. YA has a strong focus on plot which keeps them zippy and engaging, Jaclyn Moriarty has a strong line in magical realism level fantasy. You’ve gotten lots of good suggestions for rom coms, but try other adult genres, too. True Grit is a unexpected sort of western starring a 12 year old girl. The Terror by Dan Simmons is arctic exploration and horror and wonderful. Naomi Novik does stand alone fairy tales for adults and a series of Napoleonic naval stories that have dragons. Bellwether by Connie Willis is a rom com and sci fi. Mash-ups are great as is anything that sounds faintly ridiculous in the blurb.

    And finally, I recommend library books as a way to get back into reading again. A book that you buy is a sunk cost making you feel guilty if you don’t love it enough to want to go on: instant burden. Go to the library and get a lot of books, whatever catches your eye, or request holds on everything someone suggests. Go home with too many books to possibly read and you can blithely toss one aside if it isn’t sucking you in.

    Welcome back to reading.

  37. @Kaethe, right above, you have lots of good suggestions and advice.

    Regarding Bellwether, by award winning writer Connie Willis, people may be encouraged to know the book is thin. (Normal for comedies, eh?) She is so funny that even the nonfiction interstitials at the top of each chapter are droll. I’ve read it twice. So far.

  38. I’ll probably be the 4th person in the comments to recommend Red White and Royal Blue, but I’ll add on and say that I highly recommend Casey McQuiston’s new book One Last Stop which officially comes out June 1. My signed copy arrived early and I finished it in two days. Lesbian time-slip romance!

  39. I would like to note that I’m in a book related Zoom at work right now and most people are all reading Great Literachoor and a 20-year-old just said that his favorites are Frankenstein and O Pioneers! and I was all “oh hell, REALLY???” Anyone who tells me their very favorite book is an old classic, well, I will give them whopping side-eye.

    But then again, I really hate the classics. I will note that so far it’s like me and one other sci-fi nerd in this and she and I are clearly feeling bad for not liking Great Literachoor.

  40. One more funny before this closes that I found on Doctor Nerdlove: https://www.doctornerdlove.com/why-am-i-so-indecisive-about-dating/

    “And seriously, you’re talking to an English lit major. Let’s be honest, most of those stories are tedious as fuck and the only ones that stand out as being interesting are because the folks involved are raging trashfires. LOOKING AT YOU, HENRY ‘WASHINGTON FUCKING SQUARE’ JAMES.”

  41. I am so glad you rediscovered a love of reading!

    If you would like a regular source of recommendations, you could check out the “good book Thursday” posts on Jennifer Crusie’s blog, which is called Argh Ink (https://arghink.com/).
    She is a romance writer (though she hasn’t published any new books for a while, her older books are well worth reading), and many of the regular readers of her blog love all kinds of romances. On Thursdays everybody talks about the books they’ve been reading in the comments. I’ve found several books and new-to-me authors that I like from those recommendations.

    There is a variety of tastes among the commenters, though leaning strongly towards at least some romance; but it can be romantic comedy, or romantic suspence, contemporary or set in a fictional classical world, sweet or steamy, and sometimes not romance at all. Though I haven’t adored everything I tried because of those recommendations, they have broadened my field of books and authors I like, and some have become new favorites.

  42. The romance is incidental, the farm, funny idealistic voice is terrific. And she does end up with a guy,
    The Roxy Letters by Lowry

%d bloggers like this: