Solo Lisa Reads: November 2020

Round-up of 4 book covers featuring Crazy Stupid Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams; If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha; Salt by Mark Kurlansky; and A Duke, The Lady, And A Baby by Vanessa Riley

This month I watched a lot of TV (hello, The Queen's Gambit and The Crown season 4) in between barre, work, and the stress of living in 2020. It was hard enough to focus through the brain fog, let alone pick up a book. That's why November's book review round-up only features 4 reads, and for each one, I couldn't help thinking of a corresponding movie or TV show. This post marks my first time making streaming recommendations alongside the mini book reviews—kind of like a pop culture wine-and-cheese pairing. Enjoy!

1. Crazy Stupid Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams

The latest installment in Adams's Bromance Book Club series delivers the laughs, the romance, and the emotional up-and-down journey I've come to expect from these books. I will never get over the brilliance of the central premise: A secret book club of men who read romance novels and use them like relationship manuals to troubleshoot their own love lives. It's a plot device that allows for insightful meta commentary about romance novel tropes, even as Crazy Stupid Bromance deep-dives into them. This time around, the story follows Alexis (the owner of a cat cafe) and Noah (resident computer genius, Alexis's best friend, secretly in love with Alexis). One day, a strange woman shows up at Alexis's cafe, claims to be her long-lost sister, and tells Alexis that their father is in need of a kidney transplant and Alexis may be a match. Talk about an emotional minefield, but at least she has Noah—and by extension, the other members of the Bromance Book Club—to help her through it.

If you enjoyed this book, you should watch: The movie that inspired the title of this book, Crazy Stupid Love (Netflix).

2. If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha

Depending on your place on the socioeconomic ladder, life in South Korea can be a far cry from the glittering world of a K-drama. The women in Frances Cha's novel all live in the same low-cost apartment building. Their situation isn't as dire as the one depicted in Parasite, but each of them is hyper-aware that the system seems rigged against a woman who isn't born rich, privileged, and beautiful. Kyuri goes into debt for multiple painful plastic surgeries; she now works as a room salon girl pouring drinks for wealthy businessmen and the money is good, but she knows that her livelihood depends on fleeting youth and beauty, as well as the whims of her clientele and the salon's madam. Her roommate Miho grew up in an orphanage and is now a New York-educated artist dating a chaebol. Ara, the hairstylist who lives down the hall, has a disability that makes life hard and lonely; she develops an unhealthy obsession with a boy-band member to cope. Downstairs, newlywed Wonna is trying to get pregnant but knows she and her husband can't afford a child. The intertwining stories add up to an engrossing read you'll want to finish within a day.

If you enjoyed this book, you should watch: Hello, My Twenties (Netflix), about four young South Korean women from different walks of life living together as roommates.

3. Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky

I don't normally read non-fiction, but this book has called out to me for ages and I'm glad I finally picked it up. Salt is, as promised, a world history of humankind's relationship with sodium chloride, chronicling how the search for it has driven empires and economies, shaped society and culture, and made the world what it is today. I enjoyed this book for the fascinating trivia and the stories about ancient cultures and food. For example, did you know that the word "salad" comes from the Roman practice of salting greens? And that there's a salt mine in Wieliczka, Poland, where miners carved chandeliers and an entire ballroom out of salt, and to this day an orchestra plays underground there because the acoustics are so good? Partway through the book, Kurlansky's focus shifts from salt as sodium chloride to salt as the byproduct of an acid and a base, which I didn't enjoy as much. I kind of sped through the chapter about the chemical manufacturing industry to get back to the foodie trivia.

If you enjoyed this book, you should watch: The "Salt" episode of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat (Netflix).

4. A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby by Vanessa Riley

Here's to more diversity in Regency romances! West Indian heiress Patience Jordan loses her home, her freedom, and custody of her baby Lionel when her English husband commits suicide. Busick Strathmore, Duke of Repington, is now Lionel's legal guardian . Patience disguises herself as a nanny to be close to Lionel, to find the financial documents that will let her access the funds her father left for her, and to find evidence of the truth behind her husband's death. What she doesn't count on is falling for Busick, an ex-rake and a veteran of the Napoleonic wars who is adjusting to life post-injury. Riley's book is so well-constructed and researched, it made me wonder why there weren't more Regency romances in a similar thread. Financially strapped English gentlemen married heiresses from the colonies for their fortunes all the time, so it's not a huge reach to imagine there could've been an English gentleman who married a biracial heiress. Similarly, there were probably loads of Napoleonic war veterans with injuries and PTSD--why aren't there more stories about them?

If you enjoyed this book, you should watch: I haven't seen Bridgerton (Shonda Rhimes's latest show, coming to Netflix Christmas Day), but it promises to be another fun and diverse Regency romance.

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1 comment

  1. Lisa's November book picks sound like a perfect blend of literary and screen treasures! From Bromance laughs to South Korean reality, her reviews offer insightful pairings. Can't wait to dive in!
    Driving Without a License in NJ


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