Posted in Reviews

ARC Review: If You Could See The Sun by Ann Liang (10/11/22)

If You Could See the Sun by Ann Liang
Expected Publication: October 11, 2022

Recommended: yeppp
for a medium-dark story that feels like a dark-reality fairy tale, for academic rivals / unlikely team tropes, for a look at morality and poverty and how those two can conflict

Summary

Alice Sun has always felt invisible at her elite Beijing international boarding school, where she’s the only scholarship student among China’s most rich and influential teens. But then she starts uncontrollably turning invisible—actually invisible.
 
When her parents drop the news that they can no longer afford her tuition, even with the scholarship, Alice hatches a plan to monetize her strange new power—she’ll discover the scandalous secrets her classmates want to know, for a price.
 
But as the tasks escalate from petty scandals to actual crimes, Alice must decide if it’s worth losing her conscience—or even her life.

Thoughts

Oh man. I’ve been looking forward to this one for, I don’t know, 10 months now? I came in expecting this book to be gut-wrenchingly sad, and — thankfully — it was actually not quite so much. Maybe that’s because my expectations were SO dire that in reality it seemed easier. To be clear, though, this is not an easy read. There’s so much pain and fear in it, everyone is saturated. But that’s the point: the emotions, the underlying fear in life that connects even the most otherwise disparate people.

Continue reading “ARC Review: If You Could See The Sun by Ann Liang (10/11/22)”
Posted in Reviews

Review: Honey & Spice by Bolu Babalola

Honey & Spice by Bolu Babalola (Honey and Spice)
Recommended: YES!!
For fake dating gone right, for gestures both grand and minute that matter equally as much, for characters who confront hard truths about themselves and challenge others to do the same, for excellent frienships, and yes, romance too

This is one of the few books this year — maybe the only book this year? — that I finished and feel like it was EASILY a five-star read, smashing through and getting all the way to the top. Loved it. 😍

Summary

Sharp-tongued (and secretly soft-hearted) Kiki Banjo has just made a huge mistake. As an expert in relationship-evasion and the host of the popular student radio show Brown Sugar, she’s made it her mission to make sure the women of the African-Caribbean Society at Whitewell University do not fall into the mess of “situationships”, players, and heartbreak. But when the Queen of the Unbothered kisses Malakai Korede, the guy she just publicly denounced as “The Wastemen of Whitewell,” in front of every Blackwellian on campus, she finds her show on the brink.

They’re soon embroiled in a fake relationship to try and salvage their reputations and save their futures. Kiki has never surrendered her heart before, and a player like Malakai won’t be the one to change that, no matter how charming he is or how electric their connection feels. But surprisingly entertaining study sessions and intimate, late-night talks at old-fashioned diners force Kiki to look beyond her own presumptions. Is she ready to open herself up to something deeper?

Thoughts

So many of the women in this book sound like excellent people to be friends with and I wish I knew where to find folks like them. Making friends as an adult is weird, y’all. I think the female friendships in this book were very well done and I adored them. Yes, some of them come about because of a man, and they do talk about their men, but damn if it wasn’t so much more than that. It felt empowering and hilarious and vulnerable all at once.

Continue reading “Review: Honey & Spice by Bolu Babalola”
Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: Where We End & Begin

Hey y’all! In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I like to use Fridays to look forward to an upcoming release that I’m excited about! Today’s is Where We End & Begin by Jane Igharo!
Expected Release: September 27, 2022

Why wait on this one?

  • SECOND CHANCE ROMANCE! The stories of people reconnecting after years apart and finding that their love still holds true just makes me swoon and cry happy tears every time. I want Dunni and Obinna to fall in love all over again… while I watch. 😅
  • I also love stories of women making hard decisions to go after what they truly want in life. Dunni certainly seems to be doing that, abandoning the fiance approved by her parents in hopes of a chance to see where things go with Obinna. 🥰
  • I’ve read and/or added several other books by Jane Igharo to my list, and I generally really enjoy them. Part of it is learning about Nigerian culture through the characters, but I also find that her approaches to love stories don’t shy away from painful truths, giving her love stories some realistic pain with the love.

Summary

Dunni hasn’t seen her high school boyfriend, Obinna, since she left Nigeria to attend college in America. Before their devastating separation, they vowed to find their way back to each other one day.

Twelve years later, and their vow is a thing of the past. Dunni works as a geneticist in Seattle and is engaged to a man she doesn’t love but one her parents approve of. Her future is laid out for her, and everything is going according to plan until she returns to Nigeria for a friend’s wedding and runs into Obinna. The shy, awkward boy she loved as a teenager is now a sophisticated, confident man. Things have changed, but there’s still an undeniable connection between them.

As they rediscover each other, their days filled with desire and passion, Dunni is reminded of the beautiful future she once planned with Obinna. But when devastating secrets are revealed and the reckless actions of their past bring new challenges, she’s left questioning everything, including if the love that consumed her as a teenager is still worth holding on to.

Posted in Release Day!

Just Published: Take It From Me by Jamie Beck!

Hey y’all! Just a reminder that Take It from Me by Jamie Beck released today! Check out the full review here or grab a copy of your own!

Recommended: yep
For a book about a person writing a book, for some free therapy, for two characters who blend beautifully well, for a nuanced look at mental illness (Specifically one that’s usually played for laughs, dismissed, feared, etc)

Summary

Wendy Moore hides her collection of pilfered bric-a-brac from everyone, including her husband. He thinks she licked her kleptomania in therapy more than a decade ago. Therapy did help, as did focusing her attention on motherhood. But now Wendy’s gardening and furniture-refinishing hobbies fill up only so much of the day, leaving the recent empty nester lonely and anxious—a combination likely to trigger her little problem. She needs a project, fast. Luckily, Harper Ross—a single, childless younger woman in desperate need of highlights—just moved in next door.

The only thing Harper wants to change is the writer’s block toppling her confidence and career. Then a muse comes knocking. Sensing fodder for a new antagonist, Harper plays along with Wendy’s “helpful” advice while keeping her career a secret so Wendy keeps talking. Sure, she’s torn about profiting off her neighbor’s goodwill—especially when Wendy’s matchmaking actually pans out—but Harper’s novel is practically writing itself.

Just as a real friendship begins to cement, their deceptions come to light, threatening Wendy’s and Harper’s futures and forcing them to reconcile who they are with who they want to be. Easier said than done. 

Posted in Release Day!

Just Published: Happyish by Jeanette Escudero!

Hey y’all! Just a reminder that Happyish by Jeanette Escudero published today! Check out the full review here or grab a copy of your own!

Recommended: yep
For a story with “last day to live” vibes, for a lot of character reflection, for lovely settings and journeys that’ll make your feet itch to wander

Summary

It was supposed to be a good day.

On the one-year anniversary of her divorce, Alex Martinez is getting closure—and margaritas with her two best friends. But just before the celebratory meetup, Alex is clobbered by life once again. Damping the cheer is the diagnosis of a brain tumor she can’t pronounce, a procedure she’d rather postpone, and the prospect of what to say to an already heartbroken mother. Not that Alex plans to tell her anything anytime soon.

Going from blissful to blindsided in one afternoon, Alex has other plans: to be impulsive and embark on an adventure she’ll never forget. Expected destinations: the Grand Canyon, Puerto Rico, and zip-lining through Costa Rica. Unexpected companion: a hiker named David who’s found a woman after his own heart. But no matter how enriching the journey, how long can Alex keep running?

It’s time to accept past griefs, reconnect with her mother, and find her way back to happy. For Alex, whatever the future holds, maybe everything she really needs to face is right where she left it. 

Posted in Reviews

Review: The Bodyguard by Katherine Center

The Bodyguard by Katherine Center

Recommended: eh
For ok characters who are sometimes inconsistent, and an ok plot that moves really quickly, and an overall ok read

Summary

She’s got his back. Hannah Brooks looks more like a kindergarten teacher than somebody who could kill you with a wine bottle opener. Or a ballpoint pen. Or a dinner napkin. But the truth is, she’s an Executive Protection Agent (aka “bodyguard”), and she just got hired to protect superstar actor Jack Stapleton from his middle-aged, corgi-breeding stalker.
He’s got her heart. Jack Stapleton’s a household name—captured by paparazzi on beaches the world over, famous for, among other things, rising out of the waves in all manner of clingy board shorts and glistening like a Roman deity. But a few years back, in the wake of a family tragedy, he dropped from the public eye and went off the grid.
They’ve got a secret. When Jack’s mom gets sick, he comes home to the family’s Texas ranch to help out. Only one catch: He doesn’t want his family to know about his stalker. Or the bodyguard thing. And so Hannah—against her will and her better judgment—finds herself pretending to be Jack’s girlfriend as a cover. Even though her ex, like a jerk, says no one will believe it.
What could possibly go wrong??? Hannah hardly believes it, herself. But the more time she spends with Jack, the more real it all starts to seem. And there lies the heartbreak. Because it’s easy for Hannah to protect Jack. But protecting her own, long-neglected heart? That’s the hardest thing she’s ever done.

Thoughts

This is definitely not my favorite Katherin Center book. It was a lot of small things that built up and brought this one down for me. If it was only one or two things I probably could have gotten over them, but so many all together just bombed it. This one was solidly ok. I read it in two days, but that’s because it was very simple and easy to read rather than that I was so compelled by it. 🤷‍♀️

The first issue that hit me was how much I disliked the overall character voice and style of writing. It’s narrated as though it’s a story being told to the reader by the main character, complete with statements like “I’ll save you the trouble of reading it and summarize for you” when, well, I’m never going to read those documents because they don’t actually exist and I don’t know, it just irked me.

Continue reading “Review: The Bodyguard by Katherine Center”
Posted in Reviews

ARC Review: Take It From Me by Jamie Beck (9/20/22)

Take It from Me by Jamie Beck
Expected Release: September 20, 2022

Recommended: yep
For a book about a person writing a book, for some free therapy, for two characters who blend beautifully well, for a nuanced look at mental illness (Specifically one that’s usually played for laughs, dismissed, feared, etc)

Summary

Wendy Moore hides her collection of pilfered bric-a-brac from everyone, including her husband. He thinks she licked her kleptomania in therapy more than a decade ago. Therapy did help, as did focusing her attention on motherhood. But now Wendy’s gardening and furniture-refinishing hobbies fill up only so much of the day, leaving the recent empty nester lonely and anxious—a combination likely to trigger her little problem. She needs a project, fast. Luckily, Harper Ross—a single, childless younger woman in desperate need of highlights—just moved in next door.

The only thing Harper wants to change is the writer’s block toppling her confidence and career. Then a muse comes knocking. Sensing fodder for a new antagonist, Harper plays along with Wendy’s “helpful” advice while keeping her career a secret so Wendy keeps talking. Sure, she’s torn about profiting off her neighbor’s goodwill—especially when Wendy’s matchmaking actually pans out—but Harper’s novel is practically writing itself.

Just as a real friendship begins to cement, their deceptions come to light, threatening Wendy’s and Harper’s futures and forcing them to reconcile who they are with who they want to be. Easier said than done. 

Thoughts

If you read the blurb for this and worried that the character with kleptomania would be the all-too-common rep of a quirky mental illness that gets her into awkward shoplifting situations, etc: you are happily incorrect in that fear. I feel like it’s important to start with this, because the book itself even acknowledges how often that’s done in books, movies, and other media. The author in the book learns a lesson about it, and that allows readers to as well (if they need to). I really appreciated that it felt like a truly nuanced look at how it affects people who have it as well as those they love and are around them.

Continue reading “ARC Review: Take It From Me by Jamie Beck (9/20/22)”
Posted in Reviews

ARC Review: Happyish by Jeanette Escudero (9/20/22)

Happyish by Jeanette Escudero
Expected Release Date: September 20, 2022
Recommended: yep
For a story with “last day to live” vibes, for a lot of character reflection, for lovely settings and journeys that’ll make your feet itch to wander

Summary

It was supposed to be a good day.

On the one-year anniversary of her divorce, Alex Martinez is getting closure—and margaritas with her two best friends. But just before the celebratory meetup, Alex is clobbered by life once again. Damping the cheer is the diagnosis of a brain tumor she can’t pronounce, a procedure she’d rather postpone, and the prospect of what to say to an already heartbroken mother. Not that Alex plans to tell her anything anytime soon.

Going from blissful to blindsided in one afternoon, Alex has other plans: to be impulsive and embark on an adventure she’ll never forget. Expected destinations: the Grand Canyon, Puerto Rico, and zip-lining through Costa Rica. Unexpected companion: a hiker named David who’s found a woman after his own heart. But no matter how enriching the journey, how long can Alex keep running?

It’s time to accept past griefs, reconnect with her mother, and find her way back to happy. For Alex, whatever the future holds, maybe everything she really needs to face is right where she left it. 

Thoughts

Key point to jump straight to because there’s one big, obvious question when the blurb and point of the book is about a woman learning she has a brain tumor: the ending was unexpected, but in a good way. I felt like I learned a lot about myself through the way the ending was handled, and that was an interesting (and maybe humbling) experience in itself. I won’t say exactly what happens, just that it was done well and added to the rest of the story building up to that critical moment.

Continue reading “ARC Review: Happyish by Jeanette Escudero (9/20/22)”
Posted in Reviews

Review: Nothing But The Truth by Holly James

Nothing But the Truth by Holly James

Recommended: yes!!
for chick lit Liar Liar, for a story about honesty with yourself and others, for a 100% feel good journey with some laughs as well

Summary

It’s the eve of Hollywood publicist Lucy Green’s thirtieth birthday, a day she hopes will bring the promotion she deserves and a proposal from her boyfriend. But he stands her up for a date, not for the first time, leaving Lucy alone at the bar—or at least, alone with the handsome bartender on the other side of the counter—so she makes a rueful wish over her cocktail for a perfect birthday. But when Lucy’s wish is granted in the most unexpected way, things go terribly awry, as things often do when wishes come true….

When Lucy wakes up on her big day, she can’t seem to force herself to go through her rigorous fitness and beauty routines—things she usually tells herself she likes. She has no desire to eat only a spoonful of yogurt for breakfast and she simply can’t bear to put on the uncomfortable shapewear needed for the power outfit she had planned for work.

When Lucy arrives at the office, she realizes that not only can she no longer lie to herself, she can’t lie to anyone else, either. Not her clients, not her boyfriend, not her creep of a boss. Now that she can’t hide how she feels, Lucy must confront all the injustices—small and large—she’s faced on a daily basis at work, in her relationship, and in every other aspect of her life…and the truth is going to come out in a big way.

Thoughts

WHY DIDN’T ANYONE BILL THIS BOOK AS A CHICK-LIT VERSION OF LIAR LIAR??? I was already excited to read it but when I realized about 15% in that it was a “can’t tell a lie because of a birthday wish” story I was practically vibrating with delight! Add in the finding yourself and feminist angles and wow this book was fab, y’all. I don’t think there’s a single thing in this book that I disliked, and thinking that is so startling that I actually bumped the rating because if there’s nothing I would change then it’s ABSOLUTELY five stars, right?

Alright. Let’s take my excitement down a notch and lay out precisely why I chugged through this in under a day and loved every minute of it.

Continue reading “Review: Nothing But The Truth by Holly James”
Posted in Reviews

Review: The Replacement Wife by Darby Kane

The Replacement Wife by Darby Kane
Recommended: eh
For a thriller that relies on mental health issues for the instability of the narrator, for a lot of potential suspects, for a mystery rife with clues

Summary

Elisa Wright is a mom and wife, living a nice, quiet life in a nice, quiet town. She’s also convinced her brother-in-law is a murderer. Josh has one dead wife and one missing fiancée, and though he grieved for them he starts dating someone new. Elisa fears for that woman’s safety, and she desperately wants to know what happened to her friend, Josh’s missing fiancée.

Searching for clues means investigating her own family. And she doesn’t like what she finds. A laptop filled with incriminating information. Other women.

But when Elisa becomes friends with Josh’s new girlfriend and starts to question things she thinks are true, Elisa wonders if the memories of a horrible incident a year ago have finally pushed her over the edge and Josh is really innocent. With so much at stake, Elisa fights off panic attacks and a strange illness. Is it a breakdown or something more? The race is on to get to the truth before another disappearance because there’s a killer in the family… or is there?

Thoughts

If I had to pinpoint the one thing about this that most made me feel fairly ambivalent about it, I’d say it was that there were TOO MANY potential clues and points of confusion. I feel ridiculous saying that about a thriller where the point is to try and solve it through the clues. But man, I felt like I had whiplash with how many little secrets and questions and hints and possible angles came at me during it.

Continue reading “Review: The Replacement Wife by Darby Kane”