Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey (1/17/23)

Hey y’all! IT HAS BEEN A WHILE. I fell off doing Fast Forward Friday titles last summer-ish when there was a span of time where there genuinely weren’t many new releases I was looking forward to. Those that I was looking forward to were usually ones I had already received ARCs of and didn’t think it made sense to put it as a FFF feature. Anyway, I’ve got lots of books I’m excited for once again so I wanted to start this series back up1 😊

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 Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey!
Expected Release: January 17, 2023

Why wait on this one?

  • The title and cover made me think this would be a bit of a funny read, and the blurb only backed that up. Situational humor of “a surprisingly young divorcee” will provide plenty of fodder for laughs, I’m sure! Even if they are a bit of the pained or awkward variety. I think this book will have a character who doesn’t take herself too seriously.

  • Oh come on, I’m a fan of basically any book with a plot that is essentially a woman redefining or reclaiming her life in a way that suits her goals and happiness. So for Maggie to be plowing on through it all to get things done? I can’t wait to cheer her on!

  • And of course, I do think this will have a lot of emotional and tender moments besides the humor. Because those life-redefining journeys aren’t usually easy, and require some (tough) introspection. As Maggie considers what she wants and needs, I’ll reflect as well!

Summary

Maggie is fine. She’s doing really good, actually. Sure, she’s broke, her graduate thesis on something obscure is going nowhere, and her marriage only lasted 608 days, but at the ripe old age of twenty-nine, Maggie is determined to embrace her new life as a Surprisingly Young Divorcée™.

Now she has time to take up nine hobbies, eat hamburgers at 4 am, and “get back out there” sex-wise. With the support of her tough-loving academic advisor, Merris; her newly divorced friend, Amy; and her group chat (naturally), Maggie barrels through her first year of single life, intermittently dating, occasionally waking up on the floor and asking herself tough questions along the way.

Posted in Reviews

Review in Quotes: All That’s Left Unsaid by Tracey Lien

Just let him go. These are the words Ky Tran will forever regret. The words she spoke when her parents called to ask if they should let her younger brother Denny out to celebrate his high school graduation with friends. That night, Denny—optimistic, guileless, brilliant Denny—is brutally murdered inside a busy restaurant in the Sydney suburb of Cabramatta, a refugee enclave facing violent crime, an indifferent police force, and the worst heroin epidemic in Australian history.

Returning home to Cabramatta for the funeral, Ky learns that the police are stumped by Denny’s case: a dozen people were at Lucky 8 restaurant when Denny died, but each of the bystanders claim to have seen nothing.

Desperately hoping that understanding what happened might ease her suffocating guilt, Ky sets aside her grief and determines to track down the witnesses herself. With each encounter, she peels back another layer of the place that shaped her and Denny, exposing trauma and seeds of violence that were planted well before that fateful celebration dinner: by colonialism, by the war in Vietnam, and by the choices they’ve all made to survive.

“Would an explanation of why something was not done in the past make you feel better?” he said, defaulting to a line he often used on Ky’s mother whenever she re-litigated his past decisions…

This quote reflected in words a feeling I’ve had myself many times. I often tell myself this any time I find I’m dwelling on the past that can’t be changed, and it helps to let things go and move on. The message to let go and move on is strong in this whole book. Ky’s mother reflects this in a way, whose mindset is that her son is dead and knowing details about why and how isn’t going to make him not dead, so the details ultimately do not matter.

…whatever sense of satisfaction she derived from getting him to admit his faults would be swallowed by the guilt of making another person feel rotten.

Another sentiment I related to quite a lot from Ky was this one. Vindictiveness is not in my nature, and it’s for almost this exact reason. The key difference is that I’m not upset by guilt, I’m upset by cruelty. Ky’s motivation to not be cruel is based only on her guilt that results from breaking a common social contract to avoid conflict and confrontation. Does that imply that she doesn’t truly care about making the person feel rotten? It’s one of many reflections Ky has about herself and her personal identity crisis over the course of the novel.

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Posted in Reviews

Review: Book Lovers by Emily Henry

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

Summary

Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.

Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small-town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute.

If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.

Thoughts

Why was I avoiding reading this book for so long? I think it was partially because of how hyped this book was, which is usually a sure way to keep me away from it. Even though I had already read her other two books and enjoyed them. Even though I had been interested in this one. I avoided it still.

Well I finally read it for a challenge read, my first of 2023! And I was admittedly a bit grumbly to myself about making a book I was reluctant about to be the coveted first read and review of the year. But hey, it was actually quite good. Maybe next time I won’t hold back on her book?

It didn’t blow me away, but I enjoyed it. It read fast, too, so if there were any things I didn’t love
(there were) it was pretty easy to move past them to something better in short time.

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Posted in Reviews

Review: Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Sophie Cousens

Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Sophie Cousens

Recommended: yep!
For a cute little love story about love, for characters who are mostly lovable and only ocassionally idiots, for a personal tour of the island 🙂

Summary

Laura’s business trip to the Channel Islands isn’t exactly off to a great start. After unceremoniously dumping everything in her bag in front of the most attractive man she’s ever seen in real life, she arrives at her hotel only to realize she’s grabbed the wrong suitcase from the airport. Her only consolation? The irresistibly appealing contents of the case: a copy of her favorite book; piano music; and a rugged, heavy knit fisherman sweater only a Ryan Gosling lookalike could pull off. The owner of this suitcase is Laura’s dream man–she’s sure of it. Now, all she has to do is find him.

The mix-up seems written in the stars. After all, what are the odds that she’d find The One on the same remote island where her mom and dad had first fallen in love, especially as she sets out to write an article about their epic romance? Commissioning surly cab driver Ted to ferry her around seems like her best bet in both tracking down the mystery suitcase owner and retracing her parents’ footsteps. And if beneath Ted’s gruffness lies a wit that makes their cab rides strangely entertaining, so much the better. But as Laura’s long-lost luggage soulmate proves difficult to find–and as she realizes that the love story she’s held on a pedestal all her life might not have been that perfect–she’ll have to rethink her whole outlook on love to discover what she really wants.

Thoughts

It has now been several months since I finished this, and I still am remembering it fondly, which really could be my entire view in one sentence. However, I am verbose, and will add more. 😁

The overall premise and plot of the book are excellently done and play with tropes and expectations in a really fun way. I think fun is honestly the perfect word to sum up this book. With it you get a lot of smiles and silliness, but also maybe some things that could have been done better (which were sacrificed in the same of more fun). Looking back at my highlights, there are a lot that I had highlighted just because they made me smile. In the whip played with the tropes and expectations, I was somehow surprised in little moments along the way but not at the overall turnout. Granted when you read a rom-com, you kind of know what to expect at the ending most of the time.

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Posted in Reviews

Review: In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

Summary

When Type-A Manhattan lawyer Dannie Kohan is asked this question at the most important interview of her career, she has a meticulously crafted answer at the ready. Later, after nailing her interview and accepting her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, Dannie goes to sleep knowing she is right on track to achieve her five-year plan.

But when she wakes up, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. The television news is on in the background, and she can just make out the scrolling date. It’s the same night—December 15—but 2025, five years in the future.

After a very intense, shocking hour, Dannie wakes again, at the brink of midnight, back in 2020. She can’t shake what has happened. It certainly felt much more than merely a dream, but she isn’t the kind of person who believes in visions. That nonsense is only charming coming from free-spirited types, like her lifelong best friend, Bella. Determined to ignore the odd experience, she files it away in the back of her mind.

That is, until four-and-a-half years later, when by chance Dannie meets the very same man from her long-ago vision.

Thoughts

This book is a slow burn. We know from the start exactly how it ends, so it’s the epitome of “it’s about the journey.” While it might sound like it’s about romantic love, it is much more about friendship. It’s also not a light and happy story. This is painful and emotional the whole way through.

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Posted in Reviews

Review: Pride, Prejudice, and Turkish Delight by K.C. McCormick Ciftci

Pride, Prejudice, & Turkish Delight by K.C. McCormick Çiftçi

Recommended: yep!
for a cute story with parallels to a classic lit story, for an adventure story, for a story about taking risks and finding yourself, for lots of teaching pedagogy and moments that teachers will fully resonate with, for career and friendship and romance decisions

Summary

Having led a safe (admittedly boring) life until now, Eliza Britt wasn’t about to turn down the opportunity to work in Antalya, Turkey. With the Mediterranean calling, she was excited to help lead the university’s English department and to finally have a little adventure in her life.

On arrival Eliza soon realizes that her new posting won’t be all cerulean waters and exploring a new culture. Instead she’s faced with Deniz Aydem. Forced to work together, Eliza isn’t sure she will be able to ignore his arrogance or the unexpected attraction she feels for him.

Eliza and Deniz differ in every way. She’s American, he’s Turkish. She embraces her sense of humor, whereas Deniz has a serious disposition. But regardless of all their differences, something is simmering beneath the surface of their interactions. Whether it’s love or just an intense dislike for each other remains to be seen.

Thoughts

The title alone makes it clear that this is meant to be a bit of a parallel to pride and prejudice, but it definitely can stand on its own. There are certainly parallels to Austin’s story, but they are more like little fun bonuses if you know what to look for. For anyone not interested or not familiar with pride and prejudice, this will still be a fun read.

As a former teacher, I enjoyed the realism with which the profession was portrayed. There are so many struggles faced, and I would say that the struggles of from the admin side are not usually the perspective we see. It’s clear for teachers how administration can make daily life harder, but rarely is there a story where the admin making life harder is the protagonist. I appreciated the sensitive insight here and the learning that the main character does in regards of her career and how her decisions affected her teams and teachers and ultimately her students.

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Review: The Upside of Falling by Alex Light

The Upside of Falling by Alex Light
Recommended: not really
for a simple teen fake-dating story, not for much memorable, for vague teenage lessons

Summary

It’s been years since seventeen-year-old Becca Hart believed in true love. But when her former best friend teases her for not having a boyfriend, Becca impulsively pretends she’s been secretly seeing someone.

Brett Wells has it all. Being captain of the football team and one of the most popular guys in school, he should have no problem finding someone to date, but he’s always been more focused on his future than who to bring to prom. When he overhears Becca’s lie, Brett decides to step in and be her mystery guy. It’s the perfect solution: he gets people off his back for not dating and she can keep up the ruse.

Acting like the perfect couple isn’t easy though, especially when you barely know the other person. But with Becca still picking up the pieces from when her world was blown apart years ago and Brett just barely holding his together now, they begin to realize they have more in common than they ever could have imagined. When the line between real and pretend begins to blur, they are forced to answer the question: is this fake romance the realest thing in either of their lives?

Thoughts

Well it’s been almost six months since I finished this in June, which isn’t great as far as review-writing-memory goes. I’ll keep this one short, because I didn’t take great notes and I don’t remember it well. Honestly though, that to me is usually all the review I need: if I don’t remember anything about it six months later, it probably wasn’t that great.

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Review: Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen

Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen
Recommended: yes
For a lot of info about handbags and scams, for characters that flip and flop and you don’t know what they’re doing but in the best way

Summary

Ava Wong has always played it safe. As a strait-laced, rule-abiding Chinese American lawyer with a successful surgeon as a husband, a young son, and a beautiful home–she’s built the perfect life. But beneath this façade, Ava’s world is crumbling: her marriage is falling apart, her expensive law degree hasn’t been used in years, and her toddler’s tantrums are pushing her to the breaking point.

Enter Winnie Fang, Ava’s enigmatic college roommate from Mainland China, who abruptly dropped out under mysterious circumstances. Now, twenty years later, Winnie is looking to reconnect with her old friend. But the shy, awkward girl Ava once knew has been replaced with a confident woman of the world, dripping in luxury goods, including a coveted Birkin in classic orange. The secret to her success? Winnie has developed an ingenious counterfeit scheme that involves importing near-exact replicas of luxury handbags and now she needs someone with a U.S. passport to help manage her business–someone who’d never be suspected of wrongdoing, someone like Ava. But when their spectacular success is threatened and Winnie vanishes once again, Ava is left to face the consequences.

Thoughts

There are two obvious main characters in this, that being Winnie and Ava. Perhaps the third less obvious character is the detective to whom Ava is speaking and narrating her whole story to. We find that out in like chapter 1, and that sets up a whole lot of intrigue because right from the start you know somehow they must get caught since Ava is talking to a detective about all of this. And then commences the mystery.

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Review: American Royals by Katherine Mcgee

American Royals by Katharine McGee

Recommended: not for me, maybe for you
it’s a series starter, the characters are often wishy-washy and fickle, and multiple characters are cheating on another

Summary

When America won the Revolutionary War, its people offered General George Washington a crown. Two and a half centuries later, the House of Washington still sits on the throne. Like most royal families, the Washingtons have an heir and a spare. A future monarch and a backup battery. Each child knows exactly what is expected of them. But these aren’t just any royals. They’re American.

As Princess Beatrice gets closer to becoming America’s first queen regnant, the duty she has embraced her entire life suddenly feels stifling. Nobody cares about the spare except when she’s breaking the rules, so Princess Samantha doesn’t care much about anything, either . . . except the one boy who is distinctly off-limits to her. And then there’s Samantha’s twin, Prince Jefferson. If he’d been born a generation earlier, he would have stood first in line for the throne, but the new laws of succession make him third. Most of America adores their devastatingly handsome prince . . . but two very different girls are vying to capture his heart.

The duty. The intrigue. The Crown. New York Times bestselling author Katharine McGee imagines an alternate version of the modern world, one where the glittering age of monarchies has not yet faded–and where love is still powerful enough to change the course of history.

Thoughts

Thoughts:
If I had known this was a series started when I began it, that might have helped. As it was, I was about 70% of the way through and getting frustrated that nothing seemed to be heading towards a resolution, and it gave the impression that the “big conflicts” for each character were unimportant in the end. So FYI: this is a series.

Even knowing that it’s going to be continued, the ending felt really lackluster. The way it ended, while inevitable, was still just… unsatisfying. I feel like wherever it goes next will invalidate a lot of what happened in this first book (in my mind at least) which is frustrating.

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Review: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng


Recommended: meh
For character studies, for mild mystery, for psychological impacts of grief

Summary

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.

So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos.

A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

Thoughts

If you had asked me if I recommended this book right after I finished reading it, I probably still would have been unenthusiastic, but I would have said yes. Now it’s been about a month since I finished it and I had to sit and think to remember anything of what it was about. If it can’t even last a month before I’m struggling to think of main plot points, that’s not a great sign.

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