Once Upon a Bookclub – January

Once Upon a Bookclub – January

Once Upon a Book Club


Once upon a time, there was a group of women studying publishing in Edinburgh, Scotland. Neither of them was originally from the country, but they all had something in common: they had a fondness for romance novels. And so it happened, that when they crossed paths, it did not take long before a book club was formed.

One Day in December, The Royal Runaway, & The Hating Game

One of the perks of studying publishing is that you’re surrounded by avid readers all day, every day! An added bonus is that there are plenty of enthusiasts around when you’re thinking of creating a book club. And so this romance book club was formed. Because this month started off with a three-week break for us, we decided to read not one but three books.

Be advised that this post might contain spoilers! We discuss various aspects of the book(s) and although we try to avoid spoilers, some aspects cannot be discussed without mentioning parts of what happened in the book.

One Day in December

Once Upon a Bookclub – JanuaryOne Day in December by Josie Silver
Published by Broadway Books on October 16th 2018
Genres: Love & Romance
Pages: 416

Two people. Ten chances. One unforgettable love story.

Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn't exist anywhere but the movies. But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there's a moment of pure magic... and then her bus drives away.

Certain they're fated to find each other again, Laurie spends a year scanning every bus stop and cafe in London for him. But she doesn't find him, not when it matters anyway. Instead they "reunite" at a Christmas party, when her best friend Sarah giddily introduces her new boyfriend to Laurie. It's Jack, the man from the bus. It would be.

What follows for Laurie, Sarah and Jack is ten years of friendship, heartbreak, missed opportunities, roads not taken, and destinies reconsidered. One Day in December is a joyous, heartwarming and immensely moving love story to escape into and a reminder that fate takes inexplicable turns along the route to happiness.

Caoimh on the plot

When I read the blurb for One Day in December I instantly thought this was going to be a version of my favourite movie “Love Rosie”. I loved the similarity of plots with the missed chances between the characters to be together that had me screaming at the screen with Alex and Rosie and Laurie and Jack at the beginning. Josie Silver really wove an intricate plot over the ten years the story is told which was detailed and kept you wanting to see where the characters were each year and how they would end up. However, the cheating element of the plot between Laurie and Jack didn’t make me want to invest in their relationship quite the same as I did with Alex and Rosie, which was my only negative with the plot.

Lauren on the characters

There were some good characters and some bad characters in One Day in December. My favourite character, by far, was Laurie’s friend Sarah. She was such a good friend to Lori, and a great girlfriend to Jack, even when things went wrong. I loved where her storyline went: the success she found both professionally and romantically. When she moved to Australia with her husband I cheered! Good for her, for finding happiness after the mess that was her relationship with Jack.

Laurie was fine, but I feel like she pitied herself a lot and should have been a better friend to Sarah. If she had just told her the truth about knowing Jack at the start, SO MANY problems could have been solved. I feel like Laurie made a lot of mistakes (which is realistic), however, a lot of them were unnecessary and avoidable. (First of all, you NEVER kiss your friend’s boyfriend! I don’t care what the circumstances are. It’s not okay).

Finally, Jack. I think Jack is what ruined the book for me. I didn’t understand Laurie’s attraction to him. Sure, physically, but his personality left a lot to be desired. He cheated on Sarah, he whined A LOT, and he was very mean to Laurie at various points. By the end, I didn’t see what Laurie saw in him. This is not what I want out of a love interest in a romance novel. A book about Sarah and her happiness? Now THAT, I would read and enjoy.

Iris on the romance

Unfortunately, I did not ship the romance in One Day in December, AT ALL. I started this book thinking I would end up loving it (blame all the raving reviews…), but I was sorely let down. The romance wasn’t cute or heartwarming. The meet-cute was fun, but everything that followed just felt so wrong that it frustrated me to no end. I think this mainly had to do with the fact that Laurie is in love with her best friend’s boyfriend. I just have a massive problem with the fact that the boy from the bus stop, which they tried to find together, a few years later is introduced as her best friend’s boyfriend and she NEVER TELLS HER BEST FRIEND. The cheating aspect of the book made the romance as unenjoyable as could for me and, as a result, the story just fell flat.

The Royal Runaway

Once Upon a Bookclub – JanuaryThe Royal Runaway by Lindsay Emory
Published by Gallery Books on October 9th 2018
Genres: Love & Romance
Pages: 290

Princess Theodora Isabella Victoria of Drieden of the Royal House Laurent is so over this princess thing.

After her fiancé jilted her on their wedding day, she’s finally back home after spending four months in exile—aka it’s back to press conferences, public appearances, and putting on a show for the Driedish nation as the perfect princess they expect her to be. But Thea’s sick of duty. After all, that’s what got her into this mess in the first place.

So when she sneaks out of the palace and meets a sexy Scot named Nick in a local bar, she relishes the chance to be a normal woman for a change. But just as she thinks she’s found her Prince Charming for the night, he reveals his intentions are less than honorable: he’s the brother of her former fiancé, a British spy, and he’s not above blackmail. As Thea reluctantly joins forces with Nick to find out what happened the day her fiancé disappeared, together they discover a secret that could destroy a centuries-old monarchy and change life as they know it.

Lauren on the plot

The Royal Runaway had the most outlandish, unbelievable plot, and I loved every moment of it. This book was a new take on the royal romance genre, and it kept me entertained from beginning to end. Even though the book was completely unrealistic, it was still so fun to read. It had enough plot twists to keep me guessing and keep me interested in the story. The story was well paced. The romance developed fairly naturally through the crazy situation the characters were in (without spoilers: it involves a missing fiancé, a possible murder, stolen money, and a stalker to tie it all together).

My only complaint is that the ending was too quick. Most issues were resolved and the romance was tied up nicely on the last page. However, I would have liked a longer epilogue to further see the couple work things out. It felt too abrupt, but that was the only part of the plot that wasn’t perfectly paced. If you’re like me and love completely wild, unrealistic plot lines (in the best way!!) I would definitely recommend this book

Iris on the characters

The Royal Runaway was quite unrealistic and frankly so are its characters, but that’s exactly what makes them so enjoyable! The two main characters, Thea and Nick, could have used a little more depth but were very likable and a lot of fun to read! Although there are some other characters introduced in the book, the story really revolves around Thea and Nick. Thea is clearly struggling, but loves her family and the history of her country somewhat fiercely. Nick is all gruffiness and very very Scottish. Their banter is so much fun to read and their sweet moments are just that: sweet. All that plus some scenes where their chemistry sparks and you have found the beating heart of this fun and wildly bizarre romance/mystery story!

Caoimh on the romance

I am a sucker for any type of romance that has the word royal proceeding it. So I eagerly snapped up The Royal Runaway. The main couple, Thea and Nick, and their budding romance as they tried to uncover the royal secrets ended in all sorts of scandal and tension. I really enjoyed their development as singular characters but also as a pair – they each retained their core qualities without sacrificing anything to be together. Their romance was the perfect mix of swooning and sexy all rolled into one, especially with Nick being a sexy Scot. There’s not a whole lot that can beat that!

The Hating Game

Once Upon a Bookclub – JanuaryThe Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Published by William Morrow on August 9th 2016
Genres: Love & Romance
Pages: 384

Nemesis (n.)
1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome;
2) A person’s undoing;
3) Joshua Templeman.

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive-aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

Iris on the plot

The Hating Game captured my heart with its hate-to-love slow-burner romance. I literally cannot think of anything that I disliked, because the story is THAT perfect! The story doesn’t sag and the way the romance unfolds over the course of the story gave me ALL THE FEELS. The pace of the story and the way the plot unfolded was believable and constant. I literally could not put this book down. The Hating Game was just so well-written! Definitely my favourite book out of the three titles we read!

Caoimh on the characters

I loved every second and every page of The Hating Game. Most especially I loved the two main characters, Lucy and Josh. Their dynamic was hilarious as their hate for each other jumped off the page in the most hilarious of situations at their publishing company. I loved how Sally Thorne skirted the line between hate and love with Josh and Lucy and how she used that to slowly develop their relationship over the course of the book. I couldn’t put down the book I HAD to see how it ended between them and I was not disappointed. Of all three books, I think Josh and Lucy were my favourite couple to watch come together as they realised there really is a very thin line between love and hate.

Lauren on the romance

The romance in The Hating Game is AMAZING. It’s everything I want out of an enemies-to-lovers romance, and out of an office romance. Joshua was the perfectly imperfect romantic hero and the scene about the colour of his bedroom walls? My heart exploded. He unconsciously (and then consciously) loved her for so long, and was never outright mean to Lucy. Their banter and flirting were perfectly written, and the progress of their relationship was natural and believable. They felt like a real couple, and the obstacles they had to overcome to be together were perfectly resolved. Overall, this book had all of my favourite elements of the romance genre, and it got the publishing world right as well! I would read a dozen more books about Lucy and Josh, just to see more of their banter and undeniable chemistry.

  • One Day in December 25% 25%
  • The Royal Runaway 75% 75%
  • The Hating Game 100% 100%

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

Something Like Normal by Trish DollerSomething Like Normal by Trish Doller
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on June 19th 2012
Pages: 224
Format: Paperback
Buy on Amazon


When Travis returns home from a stint in Afghanistan, his parents are splitting up, his brother’s stolen his girlfriend and his car, and he’s haunted by nightmares of his best friend’s death. It’s not until Travis runs into Harper, a girl he’s had a rocky relationship with since middle school, that life actually starts looking up. And as he and Harper see more of each other, he begins to pick his way through the minefield of family problems and post-traumatic stress to the possibility of a life that might resemble normal again. Travis’s dry sense of humor, and incredible sense of honor, make him an irresistible and eminently lovable hero.

What I thought

Something Like Normal is a beautiful read: raw and unflinchingly honest. While I’m writing my review (roughly an hour after having finished the book) I don’t quite know what to do with myself. There’s this feeling inside me that took root when I started reading Something Like Normal and kept growing and growing while reading and I feel like it’s about to burst right now. This book is under my skin, and managed to secure a special place in my heart. THAT’s how beautiful this book was.

I love how this book isn’t about patriotism or politics. Simply put Something Like Normal is a story about people. Trish Dollar doesn’t turn her characters into saints, they’re flawed like any person is, and that is exactly the thing that makes this story so realistic. I care about the people in this book: about Travis and his friends, I laughed at their antics, and felt for them and what they were going through. Besides that, it’s incredibly realistic in the way the characters talk. She doesn’t water down their language use. We’re talking about 19 year old males here (besides the fact that they’re soldiers), and what guy our age doesn’t swear or say stupid shit? Like I said before, the characters aren’t saints, they’re flawed, and that includes them using the word “fuck” and them calling each other names.

Travis is struggling to hold himself together after losing his best friend in the war. He struggles with his grief and guilt, and it becomes so very clear that while he’s home, in some respects, he is very much still at war and Trish doller did a wonderful job at describing Travis’ emotional state. Throughout the story he develops his relationship with his mother, which made me want to cry at times. The way Trish Doller wrote about Travis’ mother and the desperation she felt over her son going to war was so palpable. I think she represented that in a great and (again) very realistic way.

Final verdict IRISJEXX!

Something Like Normal was quite the devastating, but most of all incredibly moving story with a flawed but appealing main character. I feel like everything I said in this review has been said by others already, but if this is your first time hearing about this book then please take my word and do yourself the favor of  reading this book. I promise you that it won’t dissapoint.

New OTP on the Horizon – Graceling by Kristin Cashore

New OTP on the Horizon – Graceling by Kristin CashoreGraceling by Kristin Cashore
Series: Graceling Realm #1
Published by Gollancz on January 22nd 2009
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Buy on Amazon


In a world where people born with an exceptional skill, known as a Grace, are both feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of a skill even she despises: the Grace of killing.

Feared by the court and shunned by those her own age, the darkness of her Grace casts a heavy shadow over Katsa’s life. Yet she remains defiant: when the King of Lienid’s father is kidnapped she investigates, and stumbles across a mystery. Who would want to kidnap the old man, and why? And who was the extraordinary Graced man whose fighting abilities rivalled her own?

The only thing Katsa is sure of is that she no longer wants to kill. The intrigue around this kidnapping offers her a way out – but little does she realise, when she takes it, that something insidious and dark lurks behind the mystery. Something spreading from the shadowy figure of a one-eyed king...

What I thought

Graceling now holds a special place among my favorite fantasy books. What a story! Magical powers, good and interesting plot, and great characters, what more can you ask for?! I’m feeling all warm and fuzzy after finishing Graceling and want to hug the book to my chest and never EVER let go again. I need more. This story could’ve gone on infinitely and I wouldn’t have cared, I just need MORE.

I have a new OTP, Katsa and Po were absolutely PERFECT together.

I absolutely ADORE Katsa and Po together. I love how they first became friends and then slowly their bond developed into much more. They had that special something, that spark, that makes for a beautiful romance. They are, well I can’t say adorable, because they’re both badass in their own way and they fight eachother (literally… they beat the crap out of eachother). They can because their graces allow them too, and it’s just EVERYTHING I look for in a romance. Their banter was the best. I LOVED it.

Katsa develops so freaking much throughout the story, it’s a beautiful thing to read about.

Katsa is a wonderfully complex character. Yes, she’s badass, but she’s so much more than that. She is intelligent and has this soft side that starts coming out more and more. She develops enormously throughout the story. She goes from the king’s lapdog to this strong and independent person that values justice above all else. She’s nowhere near perfect, but she’s courageous and not afraid to learn from her mistakes.

Po’s character was so damn refreshing. He’s cheerful and talkative and just so lovable!

Po, gosh I am in love with sweet Po. His grace allows him to fight a somewhat fair fight with Katsa on her level, and even though he got his ass handed to him plenty of times he was perfect. Absolutely perfect. I want my own Po, desperately. He’s cheerful and talkative and just so damn lovable. You have no idea how refreshing his character was. I love me a good and sexy bad boy, or a diamond in the rough, but I think we need more Po’s in literature (and in real life… swoons).

The plot was well thought out and unfolded at a very comfortable pace, with some great twists along the way.

The plot is basically this gigantic journey. The story follows Katsa and the journey she makes. I would have thought it would have some boring moments here and then, but I was fully enchanted with the story and writing. I COULDN’T stop reading. I loved the survival part of this story, it was interesting and made it even easier for me to admire Katsa’s strength and character. The plot was well thought out and unfolded at a very comfortable pace, with some great twists along the way.

Basically, I wish there was MORE.

I was looking at the synopsis for the sequel and noticed that it’s not neccesarily about Katsa, and part of me is sad about it. I loved her story so freaking much and I wish there was MORE. But on the other hand, I’m content with the way this story ended, and intrigued by the synopsis of the sequel. Graceling BLEW me away.

Final verdict IRISJEXX!

Graceling is one EPIC story. It has EVERYTHING you need in a story: an easy writing-style, engaging plot, great characters, and solid world-building. I just want more, more, and more. I sure hope we’ll see more of Katsa and Po in the future! I definitely need more Kristin Cashore as soon as possible!

a Bombshell of a Fantasy – The Falconer by Elizabeth May

a Bombshell of a Fantasy – The Falconer by Elizabeth MayThe Falconer by Elizabeth May
Series: The Falconer #1
Published by Gollancz on September 26th 2013
Genres: Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 317
Format: Paperback


She's a stunner.
Edinburgh, 1844. Eighteen-year-old Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, has everything a girl could dream of: brains, charm, wealth, a title—and drop-dead beauty.

She's a liar.
But Aileana only looks the part of an aristocratic young lady. she's leading a double life: She has a rare ability to sense the sìthíchean—the faery race obsessed with slaughtering humans—and, with the aid of a mysterious mentor, has spent the year since her mother died learning how to kill them.

She's a murderer.
Now Aileana is dedicated to slaying the fae before they take innocent lives. With her knack for inventing ingenious tools and weapons—from flying machines to detonators to lightning pistols—ruthless Aileana has one goal: Destroy the faery who destroyed her mother.

She's a Falconer.
The last in a line of female warriors born with a gift for hunting and killing the fae, Aileana is the sole hope of preventing a powerful faery population from massacring all of humanity. Suddenly, her quest is a lot more complicated. She still longs to avenge her mother's murder—but she'll have to save the world first.

What I thoughtThe Falconer is EVERYTHING and more. I loved every single second of this book, and I am dying to read more. Every since I read my first steampunk story I’ve been kinda intrigued and obsessed with the genre. The Falconer has steampunk AND faeries, a more perfect combination doesn’t exist, especially when the story is so perfectly executed.

Aileanna is as feisty and determined as they come, she’s a glorious protagonist (one I’d rather not have as my enemy)

The main character, Aileanna, takes badass to a whole new level. Since she witnessed a fae kill her mother she’s been thirsting for vengeance. Kieran, a powerful faery, trains her and gives her all the tools to kill all kinds of faeries. Her thirst of revenge has her on the very edges of morality, but with the memories of the brutal death of her mother plaguing her it is hard not to feel for her and be pulled into her mission. She’s as feisty and determined as they come, and loves tinkering with mechanics. Not just tinkering, she creates some seriously badass weapons. I love reading about all the things she creates, it’s what I LOVE so much about steampunk. I greatly admired her strength and the way she dealt, or rather struggled, with the expectations and conventions of society. People talking behind her back, she sneaking off during balls to kill a fae, it was all so intriguing. Gossip, nasty glares, and great fights, it’s glorious.

The chemistry, the banter, and slow burning realtionship get’s better and better every page

I also hava a serious new crush: Kieran. This guy is almost unreal, that’s how swoon-wrorthy he is (of course he isn’t human, so that might explain the ‘unrealness’ haha). It’s a bit of a process to get to that point, I was REALLY hesitant about him at first, but once I got over that WHAM I was a goner. And the romance is a slow burner. The chemistry, the banter, the slow burning realtionship that get’s better and better every page, I was fanning myself through all those scenes. LOVED it and I’m pretty sure, no I’m positive, I’m in love with Kieran.

Solid characters with great depth to them

All the secondary characters are solid. Aileanna’s pixie friend, Derick, made me giggle a lot. Then there’s Catherine, Aileanna’s best friend, and Gavin, her past crush, they are good characters with great depth to them, every single one of them.

I was sucked into the story from the very first page

The plot is good, VERY good. I loved learning more about the falconers, their history, and especially how this made Aileanna different from others. I was sucked into the story from the very first page. The Scottish setting and the Fearies made for an amazing story. Battles, bloodshed, Gossip. I am absolutely in love with every single aspect of The Falconer.

Final verdict IRISJEXX!

I love this book. I adore this book. I need the sequel. Kickass characters, an epic Scottish setting, steampunk, faeries, battles, bloodshed, upperclass society and gossip, The Falconer has everything you look for in an epic fantasy, more than everything even. It is a glorious book. A fair warning though, don’t start this book if you don’t have the sequel as well. I am lucky to have only read this book 8 days before the sequel releases, but I feel for all the people that have had to wait more than a year for it, because that ending is a KILLER.