Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 20. Related to the word “gold”

Other Possible Prompts: 12. Set on at least two continents, 23. Author with an X, Y, or Z in their name, 33. A bilingual character, 41. Involves a second chance, 50. A person of color as the main character, 52. Published in 2022

This book was simply stunning. I am on a wildly good streak of books as of late, this one no exception. Carrie Soto is Back is somehow even better than I expected it to be, as Taylor Jenkins Reid has a habit of doing to me!

Six years ago, Carrie Soto retired from professional tennis the world record holder for most slam wins, among other things. Obsessed with tennis since childhood, she made a career out of her incredible tennis ability and need to win. Now, as she sits in the stands in 1994, she watches her world record for wins get broken by Nicki Chan, and makes the decision to come out of retirement and get her record back. This is Carrie’s journey back into tennis, and to finding herself.

I don’t even like tennis, but I couldn’t put this down. How does Reid do that?! I don’t like band books, either, but Daisy Jones & The Six was easily the best book I read last year. Carrie Soto will definitely be in my top three this year. While tennis plays a big part in Carrie Soto, Reid finds a way to keep it completely captivating – and there’s a lot more to it than just the games. This is about Carrie’s identity, who she is with and without tennis, and what the definition of success really is.

I think a lot of type A ladies are going to see themselves in Carrie. I certainly did. I loved her ruthlessness and need to win, but also her drive and her innate sense of direction. Sometimes it’s hard to like Carrie, but I always loved her. She can be tough and a bit mean, but she’s never wrong. Her story and her sense of self just click, and I think the lesson she learns in her return to the courts is a good one for all of us to take in, in a world that moves so fast. Though I have to say, the whole time I was reading it, I kept thinking “I genuinely hope this book ends with Carrie getting some sort of help…” and, spoiler alert, it does not. I think Carrie displays some behaviors of OCD, and her brashness clearly derives from a discomfort with losing (sounds familiar!). I loved her but it couldn’t be comfortable to live in her head, with her insecurities, and I wanted better for her.

The supporting characters in this book were also AMAZING! I loved Carrie’s dad, Javier, and her tennis partner, Bo. Her agent was also wonderful. I liked all of them for supporting Carrie while also nudging her in a direction that was healthier for herself, her mind and her body. They help make this story the learning journey it is and should be. They soften Carrie, in contrast to the way tennis hardens her around the edges.

I have a hard time conveying just how much I loved Carrie Soto is Back. Sometimes, a book walks into your life at just the right time, and I think it sticks with you a lot more for that. I’m so glad I read this one.

Happy reading! 🙂

Fumbled by Alexa Martin

Fumbled by Alexa Martin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 13. Includes a club

Other Possible Prompts: 4. Title starting with the letter “F”, 23. Author with an X, Y, or Z in their name, 25. A wealthy character, 36. Recommended by a favorite author, 41. Involves a second chance, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover, 50. A person of color as the main character

After all that rigamarole, Fumbled ended up being my June vacation read! I was getting ready to leave and realized I was finally ready to pick up the second book in the Playbook series, which I had bought almost immediately after finishing Intercepted. I can’t recall much of the first book, but I think I may have liked it better than this one.

Ten years after she was rejected by her boyfriend, his family, and her own for keeping her baby at sixteen, Poppy now lives a solid life with her son, Ace, in Denver. She definitely doesn’t think about her ex and the father of her child, NFL player TK Moore, anymore. Until, that is, he walks into the club she works at, and she covers him in the drinks she’s carrying. Just like that, he’s back in her life and leaving her reeling about whether to tell him that she went ahead and had their baby ten years prior. The chemistry is still there, but with all the lies and secrecy between them, can they ever move forward and be the family Poppy really wants?

One thing I picked up pretty early on is their attitudes. I know Poppy is supposed to be pretty fiery and sassy, but I just found her downright rude at times. The same can be said of TK. It’s kind of hard to like people or root for characters you think are being unkind or impatient with each other or others. I don’t remember feeling that way about Intercepted, but it’s been so long I can’t recall…and I don’t have a review to go back to.

While I usually love romances with kids in them by default, Ace is one of the few bright spots in this book! I loved his sass and how Martin really hit the mark on what a nine year old boy acts like. He’s sweet and his familial chemistry with both TK and Poppy is adorable and enhances character development. Additionally, I loved all of TK and Poppy’s friends, particular the girl crew Poppy acquires throughout the book…but Poppy and TK themselves were just not my favorite characters.

I wasn’t sold on their chemistry, and felt that some of their behaviors and communication was toxic. I think it’s become increasingly important to me that my romance demonstrate good, healthy relationships, and I simply cannot recommend them very highly when it just doesn’t click right. For those reasons, I wasn’t all about TK and Poppy, and wasn’t all that invested in their story. Even the steam couldn’t really save this one for me.

And finally, a very niche complaint: Poppy’s reaction every time she was called a stripper. Was she technically a stripper? Nope. Was her indignant reaction every time her club-waitressing was referred to as such very woke? Also no. There are multiple confrontations involving this very scenario and Martin *almost* takes it far enough to let Poppy tell her verbal opponent that there is nothing wrong with being a stripper, but never *quite* that far. Truthfully, if she was aware that there was nothing wrong with being a stripper, these comments about Poppy would not have become such a central part of the storytelling. The scenarios are designed to niggle and create tension – but Poppy should’ve told them to shove it where the sun don’t shine.

Anyways!

I hope you all have a great week, but I don’t think I’m recommending this one. I’m not sure I’ll continue with this series when there’s plenty of other good, steamy romances with more social awareness inside and out!