Birthday Girl by Penelope Douglas (Review)

*3/5 Stars

            Birthday Girl by Penelope Douglas is about a university student, Jordan, who is living with her boyfriend Cole, who is a deadbeat and is constantly making messes that Jordan has to clean up. One night, after getting off work early and being unable to contact Cole to pick her up, Jordan attends a special showing of an 80s movie. At the movie, she meets the charming Pike, who she has an almost immediate connection with. But that connection is challenged when Jordan and Pike realize that the boyfriend she speaks of is actually his son, Cole. 

Birthday Girl started off strong. Like any good romance, there were high levels of angst, grovel and drama. The problem with this novel, was a matter of taste for me. I am not a fan of large age gap romance. This romance has a age gap of like 18+ years, and 10 years is about the highest age gap that I can get behind. Anything greater becomes ingenuine to me, mostly because authors struggle to write characters of a large age gap in a believable way. This is what happened in Birthday Girl. Pike felt immature and much younger than 40 (or whatever his exact age was). He has been supporting himself since he was 18, runs a successful business, and has raised a son, but Pike felt more like a 25–30-year-old eternal bachelor than a 40 year old father. 

Jordan, surprisingly, I liked. She was heavily flawed, highly insecure and quick tempered. But I found her refreshing because she remained this way throughout the entire novel. Often when writing young, edgy characters, writers of all genres lose their character 30-50% through the novel. We are told that she is all these things, but we are never really shown it through her actions. Jordan remained consistent in her character throughout the novel. While I found her infuriating and immature at times, that was her character, and I appreciated that it remained the same. It would have been a good contrast to portray the differences between her and Pike had he actually been written with the maturity of his age. 

Cole and Pike felt more like brothers than son and father, and that was a problem with me. I think it could have been an interesting story if they were brothers instead of father son. Pike could have been his guardian in a Party of Five style, and I think it would have had the same effect, but Pike’s immaturity wouldn’t have been so apparent. 

Plot wise I found the story a lot of fun. It was dramatic and everything you want from a soap-opera type romance. It was full of misunderstandings and people blowing words and actions out of proportion. At about 80% I did begin to lose interest because the story felt like it was going in circles a little bit, and I did find that the main conflict fell a bit flat for me. Lack of communication and people leaving without having conversations about what happened bothers me. I understand that it propels the plot, however it just seemed like Jordan never solved her issues and insecurities, she just ran from them and never worked to better herself for her own purposes. Jordan was ambitious and driven, so it felt ingenuine to me. 

All that said, this was a fun read, and I would recommend you check it out if you want a fun and angsty age gap romance! But beware if you have problems with imbalances of power (at least the perception by one character of a power imbalance), and thoughts about cheating.

The Reading Rush 2019 TBR

With the Reading Rush (formerly known as Booktubeathon) beginning on Monday, I thought I would post a tentative list of the books I’m going to try to cram into the next week. I’d like to at least complete all of the challenges, even if I don’t get to finishing 7 books within the week. Because of this, I have decided to double up on some of the challenges, this means that for the remaining amounts of books to complete the 7 book goal, I can be more flexible in what I read.

Read a book with purple on the cover: For this challenge, I think I’m going to double up and combine it with the challenge of reading the book and watching the movie. The book I am going to do for this is Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. The cover version I have has a bit of purple on the cover, and to be honest I am in a Harry Potter mood currently and the book is so short I can most likely finish in an afternoon. Then I can watch the movie and knock these two challenges out on the first day! This can also be used for the challenge read an author’s debut novel, now that I think about it… So I guess I’m tripling up on this one.

Read an entire book in one spot: I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do with this one yet… I’m thinking of doubling up on this one again and reading a volume of the graphic novel Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. This would work for the challenge of read a book with a non-human main character.

Read a book from last year’s TBR: for this challenge, I think I am going to read City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare. I had planned to finish the series last summer but that just didn’t happen. Maybe I will be able to get the motivation I need from the readathon to finish it this summer.

Read a book with a five word title: I’m less sure about this challenge than I am the other ones… Looking through my TBR, I am thinking about reading My Favourite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren (I’m going to count it as 5 whole words…) or maybe I’ll pick up Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane.

Since I have combined so many challenges, I still have three spots free on my TBR for the readathon. The books I am keeping on standby to finish the 7 book challenge are:

Please Send Help by Allison Raskin and Gaby Dunn

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat

The Perfect Date by Evelyn Lozada

Intercepted by Alexa Martin

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

Mid Year Book Freakout Tag

The purpose of this tag is to discuss the books you have read so far in the year. So far, I have completed 35 books this year:

1. best book so far:

The best book I had read so far this year was Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by the author duo Christina Lauren. I won’t say much about this since I’m going to talk about it in a couple of the other categories.

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2. best sequel so far:

Since I have only read a few sequels so far, I am going to choose Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares. This really stands out to me because of how much better I was able to enjoy it compared to when I tried to read the series back in middle school. I understood the characters much better and I loved every minute with them.

3. new release you have yet to read but want to:
Again, but Better by Christine Riccio. I picked this book up on the day it came out, but I just wasn’t in the right place to read it despite my excitement. Because of my love for Christine and her content, I really want to wait until the right time to read this book.

4. most anticipated release for the 2nd half of the year:
Twice in a Blue Moon by Christine Lauren. I am dying to read all of their books with the fun new adult covers.

5. biggest disappointment:
The Vincent Boys by Abbi Glines. The book was just total garbage. I’m all for romance, it’s really all I’ve read this summer. But I want romance with a bit of plot. The characters need to have drive and have some kind of life outside of the love interest. This was just a whole lot of trashy scenes… but I finished it because I had already spent the money.

6. biggest surprise:

I didn’t actually mean to read Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card. I haven’t read Ender’s Game but my brother has, and he began listening to it with me in the car so I just listened too. And by the time we got home I was hooked and listened to the rest of the book with him. The world gave me the same feeling that I got back when I was first starting to read and I was unfamiliar with any tropes. It was mysterious and new, and I am so glad I read it. I enjoyed feeling like a new reader again. It definitely took me out of my reading comfort zone and into the unknown territory of SciFi.

7. favourite new author:
Christina Lauren hands down. There is something about the way they can write dialogue and human interaction. While all characters need to be exaggerated, their characters feel like they could be real people. I am even able to spot them in people that I know.

8. newest fictional crush:
Josh from Josh and Hazel’s. He’s just a really nice guy and such a good foil for Hazel’s awesomeness.

9. new favourite character:
Hazel from Josh and Hazel’s, duh. Josh would be nothing without Hazel, so I couldn’t make him a favourite without making her one. Hazel is eccentric and a bit crazy, but it’s a kind of crazy I can relate to and see in myself. It’s the kind of crazy that comes with being yourself. I loved every second with Hazel.

10. book that made you cry:
Roomies by Christina Lauren. More Christine Lauren?? It’s the last one, I swear. Another relationship that I really enjoyed. But they were more like happy tears.

11. book that made you happy:
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Neil Gaiman in general just makes me happy. I could read his grocery list and it would probably make me happy… But the story was just wholesome and sweet and it left me with that feeling in my stomach like something good had been accomplished that day.

12. favourite book to movie adaptation:

I actually haven’t watched any movies based on books I have read… But I did watch Crazy Rich Asians based on the book of the same name by Kevin Kwan which made me sob something terrible, so I would count it as a favourite, I think.

13. favourite review you’ve written:

I really like my review of The Vincent Boys on my Goodreads. Short and sweet, I wrote it while very angry about the book in the shower after finishing it.

14. most beautiful book you bought this year:
Stain by A.G. Howard. I’m not usually a fan of purple but the cover is so harmonious.

15. a book that I need to read by the end of the year:

So many… too many… but one that comes to mind is Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare. I have just put off the series for too long and it’s time for me to finally have my heart broken just like the rest of the reading world.