I’ve decided to check in every three books so that I can do full reviews where I break down my numerical scoring of these favorites and articulate my thoughts about it. This review/rating system is really heavily inspired by G from Book Roast and her CAWPILE system. I borrowed Characters, Writing, Plot, and Intrigue from her for this rating system I crafted to specifically hone in on my ability to actually rank these books. Hopefully this will go well, but I welcome all of your feedback for anything else you might want to see. And at the end of each check in, I will provide you with an updated rankings list. My goal is to re-read these books alphabetically that way each book has an equal shot at me reading it no matter the mood I’m in. I’m trying to be as impartial as possible–to determine my own favorite books… What a weird project I’ve settled on. Anyway, that means our first three books are Beach Read by Emily Henry, Beginner’s Luck by Kate Clayborn, and The Belle and the Beard by Kate Canterbary. I should mention that I’m allowing myself to read the three books at a time in whatever order I’d like so my alphabetical mandate is only going so far. Anyway, let’s get started with the reviews, shall we?
Beach Read by Emily Henry
I am delighted to be able to tell you that Beach Read lived up to my original love of it. If you’ve not read it, essentially Beach Read is about January, an author and woman whose father has just died and she’s also just broken up with her fiancé, and has moved for the summer into the beach house in Michigan that her father owned apparently for his mistress. With his mistress? January is reeling because she always believed in true love because of her parents relationship so to find out that he had an affair? She’s not coping well. Meanwhile, Gus, her college “rival” lives next door. The two of them decide to switch literary genres for the summer and create this fun challenge for themselves with field trips. Content Warning in particular for cults, parental death (past), child abuse (past), and cancer (past).
Now, for my re-read thoughts: I still adored January and Gus. I did find myself wishing for just slightly more development of the secondary characters and maybe a little more of Gus, but mostly I thought Henry did a great job bringing everyone to life. I am also obnoxious and therefore wanted more at the end because I love being able to actually picture the lives of the characters after the events of the books, but mostly I think Gus and January have it made. Maybe they need a little therapy, but I think they really were able to see one another and will make it forever.
Then we have The Emotions. So, for me, this book made me cry, which automatically means it gets a high rating, but it also had me tabbing the heck out of my physical copy and emoting out loud, another reason it got such a high rating for this aspect of the book. Turning to chemistry, I definitely felt the chemistry between the two of them, but it also wasn’t the most important thing in the book and isn’t the piece that really sold me on Beach Read. As far as writing goes, in some ways, for me, writing and The Emotions goes hand in hand, but they are separate. And for me, Emily Henry’s writing works for me. I love her writing style. I get along really well with it. So for me? Writing is a 10.
Then we have Intrigue, Re-Readability, and Plot. As far as intrigue goes, I decided to view that as what keeps me turning the pages. And in this case, I gave it an eight because I started Beach Read for the second time and then sat it down for quite a bit of time. However, once I actually sat down and started reading, I was really quick to fall back into the book. I enjoyed it so much. Now, re-readability in some ways seems like it could be very similar to intrigue, but I made it a separate scale because there are some books that you fall into super quick and want to keep flipping the pages, but you never want to re-read. For me, re-readability gets at, this book still holds up, that it’s still a book that I want to read and keep reading, that it wasn’t a book that was perfect for me in the moment I originally read it. I hope that makes sense. Anyway, I rated Beach Read a 10 for that reason because I still left it by clutching Beach Read to my chest and muttering to myself about how much I adore the book. And finally, we have Plot. I haven’t been using this rating system for long, but I’m quickly coming to realize how rare it is for my favorite book to really deliver a plot that I love as much as everything else. But I gave Beach Read an 8 on this score because I really do love the challenge aspect/the field trips and the way that writing is a part of this book. I’m not sure when we’ll find my perfect plot, but I certainly liked this one!
So, tl;dr, Beach Read scored an overall 71/80!
Beginner’s Luck by Kate Clayborn
I’ve found the first situational favorite read, I think, with Beginner’s Luck by Kate Clayborn. This book is Clayborn’s debut and the writing is stunning and the bones of loneliness and community that she weaves into all of her books is present. But I think that since I’ve now read books where I think Clayborn does it better, it made Beginner’s Luck not quite as successful for me as it was when I first read it.
Beginner’s Luck is about Kit and Ben. Kit won the lottery with two of her friends and while they are not like, so rich that their entire lives are set for forever, they definitely won enough money to make a significant difference in each of their lives. And when we meet Kit, she’s just bought a house, which is so important to her because for Kit, creating a sense of home is everything. She had a chaotic childhood, to put it mildly. Meanwhile, Ben has entered her life to try and recruit her to join this company to do science for them instead of in academia. He’s in the town she’s settled into because he’s home to take care of his dad who had some sort of health scare and has injured himself. The two of them have an awkward first encounter, but slowly but surely come together throughout this book and it’s really lovely.
Now, let’s break it down. I gave the Character aspect of this book a 9 because Kate definitely writes characters well. I really feel like all of the characters she introduces are real and not just caricatures. I was and am invested in all three friends and am looking forward to re-reading Greer and Alex’s book shortly for this project. (I’m tempted to re-read everyone’s favorite, book #2 as well, even though it’s not my favorite.) For HEA Believability, I scored this at a 7 because I don’t feel like we really get to see Kit and Ben make a transition into lives that work for them both and so I’m left sort of wondering about that. Then we have The Emotions. Now this is, I think, where the fact that I’ve read every other Kate Clayborn book really makes a difference because I scored this particular book at a 6. Kate’s books for me tend to clock in at about a 9 or 10 on this scale, generally speaking. I say that having just created this rating system, but I’m pretty sure I’m right. So, this book just didn’t quite live up to the way Love Lettering hit me in the feels. At least, in my memory.
That takes us to Chemistry. I did feel like Ben and Kit had pretty good chemistry. I liked the way they were together, but it didn’t have me like, gasping. So I scored it at an 8. Now, I did give the writing a 10 because obviously. Kate Clayborn is a fantastic author. I love her writing. Then we have intrigue. Now, I started Beginner’s Luck probably nearly two weeks before I finally finished it. And I know I mentioned that I had started Beach Read and then wandered away, but the difference is that I was 40+% into Beginner’s Luck when I wandered away rather than like two chapters. So it just seemed a bit different. Therefore, I scored this one at a 6.
I only gave Beginner’s Luck and 8 for re-readability, and honestly, I may have been a wee generous with that because as I said at the beginning, I think my favorite status for Beginner’s Luck may have been more situational than anything else. And finally we have plot. I rated Beginner’s Luck at a 7 just because the plot wasn’t propelling me forward necessarily, but I didn’t mind it either.
Overall, I wound up scoring Beginner’s Luck at a 61/80 and at least for myself, I dropped my star rating to a 4 star.
The Belle and the Beard by Kate Canterbary
The Belle and the Beard by Kate Canterbary is the third book in Canterbary’s Santillian Triplets series and this series is definitely a favorite. I’d placed The Belle and the Beard and The Magnolia Chronicles on this list anyway and as soon as I finished The Belle and the Beard, I started Boss in the Bedsheets (book two). And honestly, the fact that I have to wait to read The Magnolia Chronicles until I get to the Ms is rude and unfair. It’s tempting to break the rules. Instead, I’ve been re-reading other Canterbary’s and I’m hoping to finally finish a few of the other series I’ve started from her. I read Canterbary for the first time last year and I think she belongs with Clayborn and Lucy Parker in terms of the ability to craft characters and write in a way that draws you in completely. So it’s no real surprise that I wound up with two of her books on this list. Anyway, let me actually tell you about it real quick instead of rambling.
The Belle and the Beard is about Linden and Jasper-Anne. Linden is a tree person, an arborist, I think, and he’s a bit of a grouch. He likes his solitude and he’s an all around good guy. He’s… I love him. Anyway, Jasper-Anne is a mess. She’s just been fired from her job because she had a hot mic situation on air where she talked about her boss is dumb, while her boss is actively campaigning. So Jasper-Anne retreats to this house in Massachusetts where her not biological aunt had left her a house, which just so happens to make her Linden’s neighbor. But of course, the house she’s been left is even more of a mess than Jasper-Anne.
So let’s start with characters. Y’all, I love these characters. So much. 10 points for Canterbary right off the bat because Linden and Jasper-Anne are everything to me. But more than that, the entire Santillian family? Amazing. Wonderful. Adopt me. Like, I love them. I just want to spend more and more time with them. I find it outrageous that Magnolia is not a real human for me to know and go get pedicures with. All of them. They’re just great. Turning to HEA Believability, I gave this one an 8 only because I think I needed just a little more at the end to see how Jasper-Anne is going to settle into town full time. I want to know how she’s going to make her life, make her career work. I want Jasper-Anne to be happy so desperately, but I need just a little to see the life that she decides to create. But Linden will love her through it all, so I feel good about them.
Then we have The Emotions and y’all, I feel them. I felt them. Honestly, I rated this a 9, but the way I feel about this book in this moment? It’s a 10. But we’ll leave it at a 9 because I already made the graphic so we’re committed. This book made me feel so much because even though I’m like, settled (settling?) into my career (I mean, am I though?), I think on a regular basis about is this really what I want to do? (Maybe that’s obvious.) And there’s just something about the way Linden and his family are like, “Jasper-Anne, you can do anything and it’s okay to change your life.” Like, what if I want to change my life and move to a small town in Massachusetts and fall in love with a lumberjack man? Where is my Linden, Universe? Where is he? Anyway, obviously this book is my obsession. So I was deeply invested, hence the high emotional rating.
Next up we have Chemistry and Writing. Now, for Chemistry, I only scored The Belle and the Beard at an 8 because while I enjoyed the chemistry between Linden and Jasper-Anne, I think I’ve seen Canterbary write chemistry better in other books of hers. But I still enjoyed them immensely and it was a good time. For writing, in case it wasn’t apparent, I rated this a 10 because I love Canterbary’s writing. I’m obsessed with it.
For the final three, Intrigue, Re-Readability, and Plot, we have a two different numbers. For intrigue, I scored this at an 8, but I really think that had more to do with not loving the audiobook narrators than anything else. I didn’t race through this one though the way I did the first time or the way I did Boss in the Bedsheets. Turning to re-readability, I scored this at a 10 because even writing this review is making me want to pick this book up again. I just love it. And then for plot, I rated this an 8 again. I love hot mess heroines, so I really enjoyed that aspect of the plot. However, to an extent, I would have liked maybe just a little more development of Jasper-Anne figuring things out because we really stop the book at a place where she’s figured out something she doesn’t really want, but we don’t know exactly where she’s going. Honestly, my problem is, I could read another 300 pages just about Jasper-Anne figuring things out and I would be perfectly content. So, that’s really a me issue and not a book issue. I want more because I love it so much not because it requires it. But nevertheless.
tl;dr The Belle and the Beard clocks in at 71/80 (maybe 72/80 if we go with my desire to increase a rating today while writing this review).
I’m realizing now that Best of Luck should say that it’s in third place not two but you know, ties were meant to be avoided and then counting would be less challenging! Anyway, given my love for both Beach Read and The Belle and the Beard I do feel okay about them being tied, but if it comes down to the two of them competing for spot number five in the overall favorites, I’ll read them both again and make them battle it out head to head. What a burden. Lol
Anyway, please let me know if there’s anything else you want to hear about when I write the next post like this! I’m having a really lovely time with these re-reads so I’m very much looking forward to my next set of three. And, if I’m being honest with you, I’ve already read one. Block Shot by Kennedy Ryan is absolutely incredible, but more on that next time…