Posted in Reviews

Review: Dava Shastri’s Last Day by Kirthana Ramisetti

Dava Shastri’s Last Day by Kirthana Ramisetti

Recommended: yes!
For a look at fame and legacy, for some play on gender norm flipping, for characters who go from unlikable to at least understandable, for a really interesting effect in the storytelling style

Summary

Dava Shastri, one of the world’s wealthiest women, has always lived with her sterling reputation in mind. A brain cancer diagnosis at the age of seventy, however, changes everything, as she decides to take her death—like all matters of her life—into her own hands.

Summoning her four adult children to her private island, she discloses shocking news: in addition to having a terminal illness, she has arranged for the news of her death to break early, so she can read her obituaries.

As someone who dedicated her life to the arts and the empowerment of women, Dava expects to read articles lauding her philanthropic work. Instead, her “death” reveals two devastating secrets, truths she thought she had buried forever. And now the whole world knows, including her children.

In the time she has left, Dava must come to terms with the decisions that have led to this moment—and make peace with those closest to her before it’s too late.

Thoughts

I’m not sure what I expected but it wasn’t this. What a pleasant discovery. I started off disliking every character, from Dava herself down to her grandchildren. As I saw into the minds and motivations of each of them, my understanding and sympathy grew. While I might still not be friends with all of these people, I no longer harboured my disdain for them.

I loved the way the past happened in this book. That might sound strange, but let me explain. There weren’t such clear moments of “that was then, this is now,” but at no time was it confusing. Dava is slipping between memories and her current experience so often as she deteriorates that we just slip along with her naturally. The feeling was akin to that of when you let your mind wander and end up recalling something you haven’t thought of in many years. All parts of the story were interesting and compelling, so I never resented moving from one moment to another.

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Just Published: Once Upon a K-Prom by Kat Cho!

Hey y’all! Just a reminder that Once Upon a K-Prom by Kat Cho published today! Check out the full review here or grab a copy of your own!

Recommended: sure
For a light k-pop-y romance, for a normal girl + superstar pair that’s a bit easier to believe, for characters who you can root for

Summary

Elena Soo has always felt overshadowed. Whether by her more successful older sisters, her more popular twin brother, or her more outgoing best friend, everyone except Elena seems to know exactly who they are and what they want. But she is certain about one thing – she has no interest in going to prom. While the rest of the school is giddy over corsages and dresses, Elena would rather spend her time working to save the local community center, the one place that’s always made her feel like she belonged.

So when international K-pop superstar Robbie Choi shows up at her house to ask her to prom, Elena is more confused than ever. Because the one person who always accepted Elena as she is? Her childhood best friend, Robbie Choi. And the one thing she maybe, possibly, secretly wants more than anything? For the two of them to keep the promise they made each other as kids: to go to prom together. But that was seven years ago, and with this new K-pop persona, pink hair, and stylish clothes, Robbie is nothing like the sweet, goofy boy she remembers. The boy she shared all her secrets with. The boy she used to love.

Besides, prom with a guy who comes with hordes of screaming fans, online haters, and relentless paparazzi is the last thing Elena wants – even if she can’t stop thinking about Robbie’s smile…right?

Posted in Reviews

ARC Review: Once Upon a K-Prom by Kat Cho (5/17/22)

Once Upon a K-Prom by Kat Cho
Expected release date: May 17, 2022

Recommended: sure
For a light k-pop-y romance, for a normal girl + superstar pair that’s a bit easier to believe, for characters who you can root for

Summary

Elena Soo has always felt overshadowed. Whether by her more successful older sisters, her more popular twin brother, or her more outgoing best friend, everyone except Elena seems to know exactly who they are and what they want. But she is certain about one thing – she has no interest in going to prom. While the rest of the school is giddy over corsages and dresses, Elena would rather spend her time working to save the local community center, the one place that’s always made her feel like she belonged.

So when international K-pop superstar Robbie Choi shows up at her house to ask her to prom, Elena is more confused than ever. Because the one person who always accepted Elena as she is? Her childhood best friend, Robbie Choi. And the one thing she maybe, possibly, secretly wants more than anything? For the two of them to keep the promise they made each other as kids: to go to prom together. But that was seven years ago, and with this new K-pop persona, pink hair, and stylish clothes, Robbie is nothing like the sweet, goofy boy she remembers. The boy she shared all her secrets with. The boy she used to love.

Besides, prom with a guy who comes with hordes of screaming fans, online haters, and relentless paparazzi is the last thing Elena wants – even if she can’t stop thinking about Robbie’s smile…right?

Thoughts

I liked that the premise of this book was a bit more believable than some of the other recent popular normal girl + kpop megastar romances. In this case, they actually were friends and knew each other before all of the kpop fandom started, so I could get more into it without having to totally suspend all disbelief and willfully shut my brain off to some of the more ridiculous stretches to validate scenarios. That was an extremely long sentence!

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ARC Review: Dear Dana by Amy Weinland Daughters

Dear Dana: That time I went crazy and wrote all 580 of my Facebook friends a handwritten letter by Amy Weinland Daughters
Expected Release Date: May 17, 2022

Recommended: sure
For people who like to see the good in others, for a real story about human connection, for a story that makes you feel inspired and motivated

Summary

When Amy Daughters reconnected with her old pal Dana on Facebook, she had no idea how it would change her life. Though the two women hadn’t had any contact in thirty years, it didn’t take them long to catch up—and when Amy learned that Dana’s son Parker was doing a second stint at St. Jude battling cancer, she was suddenly inspired to begin writing the pair weekly letters.

When Parker died, Amy—not knowing what else to do—continued to write Dana. Eventually, Dana wrote back, and the two became pen pals, sharing things through the mail that they had never shared before. The richness of the experience left Amy wondering something: If my life could be so changed by someone I considered “just a Facebook friend,” what would happen if I wrote all my Facebook friends a letter?

A whopping 580 handwritten letters later Amy’s life, and most of all her heart, would never, ever, be the same again. As it turned out, there were actual individuals living very real lives behind each social media profile, and she was beautifully connected to each of those extraordinary, flawed people for a specific reason. They loved her, and she loved them. And nothing—not politics, beliefs, or lifestyle—could separate them.

Thoughts

Yes, 580 two page front and back letters is a lot. And that was the goal. What was also a lot were the often emotional responses Amy received back from folks.

As you might imagine, there are snippets of letters from the 580 with the stories behind them when there is something especially notable about it, such as a person important to Amy, a difficult letter to write, or a response that provoked thought. I’d guess there are maybe 50ish letters included this way, which might not seem much, but it is a lot!

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ARC Review: Blame It on the Brontes by Annie Sereno (5/3/22)

Blame It on the Brontes by Annie Sereno
3.5 ♥
Expected Release: May 3, 2022

Recommended: sure
For a hometown-style second-chance romance, for some fun literary references throughout, for a light mystery to carry forward the romance

Summary

Go ahead. Read the names on the books. I’ll wait. 😊

English professor Athena Murphy is an authority on the novels of the Brontë sisters. But as they say in academia, publish or perish. To save her job, Athena decides to write a biography of C.L. Garland, the author heating up bestseller lists with spicy retellings of classic literature. Tracking down the reclusive writer and uncovering her secret identity, though, means Athena must return to her small midwestern hometown where Garland—and her ex-boyfriend, Thorne Kent—live.

Seeing Thorne again reminds Athena that real life never lives up to fiction. He was the Heathcliff to her Catherine, the Mr. Rochester to her Jane. Not only did their college breakup shatter that illusion, but they also broke each other’s hearts again a second time. Now she has to see him nearly every…single…day.

The only solution is to find C.L. Garland as quickly as possible, write the book, and get the heck out of town. As her deadline looms and the list of potential C.L. Garlands dwindles, Athena and Thorne bicker and banter their way back to friendship. Could it really be true that the third time’s a charm?

Athena and Thorne have a love story only a Brontë could write, and the chance for their own happily-ever-after, but first, they’ll need to forgive the mistakes of the past.

Thoughts

First of all, I haven’t actually read any works by a Bronte so maybe I was a weird target audience for this. xD Folks who have will probably get more out of the references and the constant Heathcliff references in the plot and from the characters themselves. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t familiar, though, because they were included naturally and added rather than alienated.

There are a few chapters from the Thorne’s perspective, just enough to give a little insight into his mind. I enjoyed those being sprinkled in, though I wasn’t always sure what decided when we would hear from him or not. The bulk of it is entirely Athena, though, and she is definitely the focused perspective and character.

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ARC Review: How to Be the Best Third Wheel by Loridee De Villa (5/3/22)

How to Be the Best Third Wheel by Loridee De Villa

Recommended: yup!!
For a trope-y book that ends up going way past the tropes, for a lighthearted yet fairly deep story, for a whirlwind set over 3 months but feels like so much more than that

Summary

After spending summer vacation in the Philippines with family, Lara returns to school eager to catch up with her close knit group of girlfriends. But within minutes of reuniting with her friends, she learns that not one, not two, but all three of them are now in relationships that blossomed over the summer. And to make matters worse, Lara’s long time frenemy, James, won’t stop bugging her in class and eventually forces her into tutoring him everyday after school.

Surviving high school was never easy to begin with, but with occupied friends, a hectic Filipino family, and her annoying childhood enemy pestering her more than ever, Lara tries to juggle everything, while trying to figure out her own place in the chaos.

Thoughts

What hit me most with this story was how much more there was to it than I expected. From the silly title and cutesy cover, I figured this would be a lightly angsty YA book about discovering oneself that would probably end in a romance. While that wasn’t totally incorrect, there was so much more to it. Amazingly, it never felt crammed or forced to me. It was more like a three-act play, where one arc of the story would resolve and a new one would begin.

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Review: I Am Margaret Moore by Hannah Capin

I Am Margaret Moore by Hannah Capin
Verdict: as disappointed as it seems most other people were. It’s no Foul is Fair, that’s for sure 😦

Recommended: not really
If you’re easily surprised this might be more fun, for people who love military/naval stuff and/or summer camp stories, for a somewhat stream-of-conscious style

Summary

Each summer the girls of Deck Five come back to Marshall Naval School. They sail on jewel-blue waters; they march on green drill-fields; they earn sunburns and honors. They push until they break apart and heal again, stronger.

Each summer Margaret and Rose and Flor and Nisreen come back to the place where they are girls, safe away from the world: sisters bound by something more than blood.

But this summer everything has changed. Girls are missing and a boy is dead. It’s because of Margaret Moore, the boys say. It’s because of what happened that night in the storm.

Margaret’s friends vanish one by one, swallowed up into the lies she has told about what happened between her and a boy with the world at his feet. Can she unravel the secrets of this summer and last, or will she be pulled under by the place she once called home?

Thoughts

Not the best. Maybe if I hadn’t known the “twist” from page one it would’ve had more punch? It seemed so obvious that I’m not sure it was actually meant to be a twist, but just in case it is, I’ll stay quiet.

The last quarter gets very disjointed and reads like a stream of consciousness across time jumps. It’s not too hard to follow, but it wasn’t very interesting to me either. Capin has a strong style of writing, and while I generally love it, this ended up getting repetitive. Sure, that was partially the point, but it made me want to hurry up the ending so I’d be done with it.

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Review: So This Is Ever After by F.T. Lukens

So This Is Ever After by F.T. Lukens
Verdict: 🐲🏰🤴🧙‍♂️🥰

Recommended: yup
for a lot of tongue-in-cheek play on fantasy tropes, for a lot of amusing romcom antics, for a little bit of tongue-in-mouth goodness, for a simple story well done

Summary

Arek hadn’t thought much about what would happen after he completed the prophecy that said he was destined to save the Kingdom of Ere from its evil ruler. So now that he’s finally managed to (somewhat clumsily) behead the evil king (turns out magical swords yanked from bogs don’t come pre-sharpened), he and his rag-tag group of quest companions are at a bit of a loss for what to do next.

As a temporary safeguard, Arek’s best friend and mage, Matt, convinces him to assume the throne until the true heir can be rescued from her tower. Except that she’s dead. Now Arek is stuck as king, a role that comes with a magical catch: choose a spouse by your eighteenth birthday, or wither away into nothing.

With his eighteenth birthday only three months away, and only Matt in on the secret, Arek embarks on a desperate bid to find a spouse to save his life—starting with his quest companions. But his attempts at wooing his friends go painfully and hilariously wrong…until he discovers that love might have been in front of him all along.

Thoughts

The plot of this story is pretty straightforward. Early on, there’s a clear path of what events are going to happen once the plan is in place. There wasn’t much surprise to it, but that really didn’t bother me. I just reveled in knowing what good was yet to come, and then enjoying the heck out of it at every scene. ^.^

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Review: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas (ACOTAR #2)

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2)
Verdict: Meh. Better than the first but I still won’t be continuing

Recommended: if you’re on the fence about continuing the series, this book will probably decide it for you.

Summary

Feyre has undergone more trials than one human woman can carry in her heart. Though she’s now been granted the powers and lifespan of the High Fae, she is haunted by her time Under the Mountain and the terrible deeds she performed to save the lives of Tamlin and his people.

As her marriage to Tamlin approaches, Feyre’s hollowness and nightmares consume her. She finds herself split into two different people: one who upholds her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court, and one who lives out her life in the Spring Court with Tamlin. While Feyre navigates a dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms. She might just be the key to stopping it, but only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future-and the future of a world in turmoil.

Thoughts

I was absolutely done with this series after how freakin’ boring the first book was. Quite disappointingly so. Tamlin was 100% unlikable for me, nothing really seemed to HAPPEN for about 75% of the book, and the ending “mystery” was so annoyingly obvious that imagining the character struggling with it made them unlikably stupid. (Maybe unlikably isn’t a word but I’m using it anyway.) So I was not going to read this book until a friend who loved the series said that book two goes in a different direction entirely and might make me like it more.

They were correct that I like it more, but I still don’t care enough to finish the series. The overall story and character style is just not working for me this time. The all-powerful chosen one theme is boring the heck out of me in this story and taking away some of my investment. If they’re so all powerful and can wipe out the world with a thought, how are they struggling with so many things? Anyway.

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Review: The Bone Orchard by Sara A. Mueller

The Bone Orchard by Sara A. Mueller

Recommended: sure
For a very strange atmosphere, for people okay with embracing a bit of confusion, for people okay with doing a little bit of work to figure out what’s going on, for people who adore a fascinating and gothic world. FYI that there’s not a lot of focus on the bone orchard itself, weirdly. More the results of it, the symbol of it.

Summary

Charm is a witch, and she is alone. The last of a line of conquered necromantic workers, now confined within the yard of regrown bone trees at Orchard House, and the secrets of their marrow. Charm is a prisoner, and a survivor. Charm tends the trees and their clattering fruit for the sake of her children, painstakingly grown and regrown with its fruit: Shame, Justice, Desire, Pride, and Pain. Charm is a whore, and a madam. The wealthy and powerful of Borenguard come to her house to buy time with the girls who aren’t real.

Except on Tuesdays, which is when the Emperor himself lays claim to his mistress, Charm herself. Now—Charm is also the only person who can keep an empire together, as the Emperor summons her to his deathbed, and charges her with choosing which of his awful, faithless sons will carry on the empire—by discovering which one is responsible for his own murder.

If she does this last thing, she will finally have what has been denied her since the fall of Inshil—her freedom. But she will also be betraying the ghosts past and present that live on within her heart. Charm must choose. Her dead Emperor’s will or the whispers of her own ghosts. Justice for the empire or her own revenge.

Thoughts

Well, it was weird and absolutely not what I expected. Not bad, but definitely strange. I felt like an outsider the whole time. Sometimes I missed the subtleties of exchanges that were carefully worded between characters to carry secrets. I only understood when someone laid it out plainly later on, or when an action happened that I was confused by and thought about until I connected it to their previous plotting that I had missed. That feeling lasted, and while it should have been more alienating, it was intriguing in a way as well.

I rather liked that this book was not straightforward to me. I rather liked that I felt a bit offkilter, because it put me on more even footing with Charm and the boneghosts. The scheming and intrigue was at times a secret even from me: that’s how clever our characters are.

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