Book Review – The Bride Test

“Don’t forget to apologize. First with words. Then with your tongue.”

Title: The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient #2)

Author: Helen Hoang

Publisher: Berkley

Publication date: May 7th, 2019

296 pages

5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.

As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.

With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love. 

Review

In a split second, she redefined perfection for him. His standards aligned to her exact proportions and measurements. No one else would ever live up to her.

Helen Hoang, The Bride Test

I absolutely adored The Kiss Quotient when I read it a few months ago. I didn’t end of reviewing it on here, otherwise I would link it. I truly adore that both books feature a main character with autism – because everyone deserves a sweet and sexy love story. The Bride Test is a companion novel to The Kiss Quotient.

The Bride Test follows Khai Diep, a young man with autism who is really not looking for a girlfriend and Esme Tran, a young mother from Ho Chi Minh City. Khai’s mother travels there to interview potential brides for Khai and to bring the best candidate to America to win him over. Esme jumps at the chance to provide her family a way out of poverty. However, Khai is seriously not pleased with this development and does everything he can to ignore his new roommate, who doesn’t make it easy…

*swoon* Man, Helen Hoang really knows how to make me laugh, my heart pound, and cry all in one books, sometimes multiple times each. From start to finish, I loved these characters and their interactions with each other. Their love is so unique and fun, began neither of them have any clue what they are doing. It is so eye opening to read from the perspective of someone with autism – the rep is done beautifully. Khai goes on such a journey in the book, you can’t help but be proud. And the same can be said for Esme! She makes the most of her opportunity in America and takes adult education classes on TOP of trying to seduce a man who doesn’t want to be seduced. Talk about overachieving.

The first sex scene (and the aftermath) if my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE PART of this entire book. Picture this: it’s 1 am, I couldn’t sleep, I’m sitting outside my bedroom on the floor with a flashlight (so as not to wake up the fiance), and I’M DYING of laughter. It is a pure gold scene and I’m here for it. If you’ve read this book, you know what I’m talking about.

Anywho, this was amazing. Go read it ASAP pronto mucho. Read The Kiss Quotient first if you haven’t (it’s not necessary, it’s just also a freaking awesome book).

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Serious Moonlight

“Judging other people unfairly doesn’t define them; it defines you. And in the end everyone will be disappointed.” 

Title: Serious Moonlight

Author: Jenn Bennett

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication date: April 16th, 2019

426 pages

4.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that the most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.

Review

Let’s go eat some pie and solve a mystery.

JENN BENNETT, SERIOUS MOONLIGHT

Hello friends! I decided to pick up a library book that I have renewed for the umpteenth time this month – so I can feel like I’m making headway with my never ending stack of books to read. I’ve read a few Bennett books, and I LOVE her contemporaries. She writes the sweetest stories, generally involving teenagers, and Serious Moonlight was no exception.

Meet Birdie, an 18 year old woman trying to find her way after losing her mother at a young age, and her grandmother recently. She is trying to become an “adult” and that means working full time – evening if that means overnight. And even if it means working with the guy she met at a diner and had sex with in his car before freaking out and running away and not speaking to him again… YEP.

I love Daniel and Birdie SO MUCH. Daniel is such a sweet, cinnamon roll and when I learned more of his background I swooned and felt so bad for him at the same time. Birdie almost doesn’t deserve him, but she comes around and I start to like her more by the middle/end of the book. They have such an easy friendship and banter, and Daniel allows her to slowly warm back up to him after her initial fright. She has her baggage, and so does he, and I like how they work through it together instead of pretending each other is perfect.

I LOVED BIRDIE’S AUNT. I frankly think everyone needs family like her. She took Birdie in when her mother died, even when her grandmother didn’t want Birdie to keep that connection. They have a close connection that perfectly blends authority figure and friend in a way the fosters trust and openness. I loved her influence and want her in my life.

So to wrap it up, I still love Jenn Bennett. Not going to change! Planning to continue reading her backlist over the next year!

Happy reading, folks! 🙂

eARC Review – Ink in the Blood

Title: Ink in the Blood (Ink in the Blood #1)

Author: Kim Smejkal

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Publication date: February 11th, 2020

448 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

A lush, dark YA fantasy debut that weaves together tattoo magic, faith, and eccentric theater in a world where lies are currency and ink is a weapon, perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Kendare Blake.

Celia Sand and her best friend, Anya Burtoni, are inklings for the esteemed religion of Profeta. Using magic, they tattoo followers with beautiful images that represent the Divine’s will and guide the actions of the recipients. It’s considered a noble calling, but ten years into their servitude Celia and Anya know the truth: Profeta is built on lies, the tattooed orders strip away freedom, and the revered temple is actually a brutal, torturous prison.

Their opportunity to escape arrives with the Rabble Mob, a traveling theater troupe. Using their inkling abilities for performance instead of propaganda, Celia and Anya are content for the first time . . . until they realize who followed them. The Divine they never believed in is very real, very angry, and determined to use Celia, Anya, and the Rabble Mob’s now-infamous stage to spread her deceitful influence even further.

To protect their new family from the wrath of a malicious deity and the zealots who work in her name, Celia and Anya must unmask the biggest lie of all—Profeta itself.

Review

**Thank you to HMH Books for Young Readers, Netgalley, and Kim Smejkal for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

Ink in the Blood is a dark fantasy with cult/religious involvement, magic, and sacrificing for the greater good. Our MC Celia looks to escape Profeta, the church, in which she was conscripted against her will to be an Inkling. Inklings have the ability to tattoo other people with the church’s instructions on how to change their lives. Celia comes to see the corruption within the church, and with the help of a fellow Inkling, Anya, she escapes with a traveling comedy group.

It took me about 60% percent of this book to really get into it, which was part of why the rating on this is lower. Once I got into it I finished it in one sitting, but it took me awhile to get to that point because it didn’t capture my attention. I want books that will hook me immediately, and this one was not the case. There was a lot of backstory given in the beginning with world-building, but it wasn’t the kind of world-building that drew me in.

The magic in this book fascinated me – I knew I wanted to review it when I saw the tattooing was the magic. I didn’t realize the level of religion involved, which also brought it down a bit for me. Something about this book didn’t sit right with me and I’m having a hard time narrowing down what it was. I almost wish the church had less of a hold on people in the book, because it really portrayed the general population as sheep, incapable of thinking for themselves or making their own decisions.

One thing I loved about this book was the romantic interest for Celia. The Plague Doctor reminded me of Jacks from the Caraval series and I loved it. He is a soft, broken boy who comes across as villainous and detached until she is able to break him down. Swoon. Celia was a good enough MC – she isn’t perfectly moral and she isn’t completely evil, she’s somewhere in the middle like the rest of us.

I do plan on reading the sequel when it is released, because the ending really surprised me. There were some lovely twists and turns in the last 25% of the book that I wasn’t able to see coming, so it helped the overall experience of this book for me. I’m hoping now that the world is set up, the sequel will be more action packed and attention grabbing.

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

eARC Review – Heart of Flames

Title: Heart of Flames (Crown of Feathers #2)

Author: Nicki Pau Preto

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication date: February 11th, 2020

640 pages

3.75/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Veronyka, Tristan, and Sev must stop the advancing empire from destroying the Phoenix Riders in this fiery sequel to Crown of Feathers, which #1 New York Times bestselling author Kendare Blake calls “absolutely unforgettable!”

You are a daughter of queens. 

The world is balanced on the edge of a knife, and war is almost certain between the empire and the Phoenix Riders.

Like Nefyra before you, your life will be a trial by fire. 

Veronyka finally got her wish to join the Riders, but while she’s supposed to be in training, all she really wants to do is fly out to defend the villages of Pyra from the advancing empire. Tristan has been promoted to Master Rider, but he has very different ideas about the best way to protect their people than his father, the commander. Sev has been sent to spy on the empire, but maintaining his cover may force him to fight on the wrong side of the war. And Veronyka’s sister, Val, is determined to regain the empire she lost—even if it means inciting the war herself.

Such is your inheritance. A name. A legacy. An empire in ruin. 

As tensions reach a boiling point, the characters all find themselves drawn together into a fight that will shape the course of the empire—and determine the future of the Phoenix Riders. Each must decide how far they’re willing to go—and what they’re willing to lose in the process.

I pray you are able to pass through the flames.

Review

**Thank you to Netgalley, Simon Pulse, and Nicki Pau Preto for an ebook copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**

Heart of Flames continues the story of Veronyka and her older sister Val. Veronyka is continuing to fight against Val and fight with the Phoenix Riders in the Eyrie. Her close relationship with Tristan is starting to bloom and Veronyka wants nothing more than to prove herself as a Phoenix Rider. When more of Val’s plans are revealed, and some details of Veronyka’s background are discovered, Veronyka must decide which side she fights for.

I loved Crown of Feathers. I believe Heart of Flames suffers from middle book syndrome, where so much of it is spent to set up the plot in the third book. Parts were long an tedious, ripe with historical information, names, and events that are just too much to remember and keep in. The plot limped along with some moments of action and intrigue, only to flip to a different POV and have the excitement fizzle.

There are so many POV’s that it is hard to keep track at times, and some events are told more than once through a different perspective. It’s a little much, and is confusing when being read in an ebook format. I wanted to be able to go back easily and reference past parts.

Honestly, I am still buying this book. I love the characters SO MUCH. I ship Veronyka and Tristan, Sev and Kade until the end of time. As much as I think this book paled in comparison to Crown of Feathers in terms of plot, we get to see SO MUCH character development from everyone involved. This was the part I loved most about Heart of Flames, and I’m eager to see what happens in the third installment.

Happy reading, folks! 🙂

Book Review – Queen of Air and Darkness

“Some lights were never meant to burn for long.”

Title: Queen of Air and Darkness (The Dark Artifices #3)

Author: Cassandra Clare

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Publication date: December 4th, 2018

912 pages

4.25/5 pages

Goodreads Synopsis

What if damnation is the price of true love?

Innocent blood has been spilled on the steps of the Council Hall, the sacred stronghold of the Shadowhunters. In the wake of the tragic death of Livia Blackthorn, the Clave teeters on the brink of civil war. One fragment of the Blackthorn family flees to Los Angeles, seeking to discover the source of the disease that is destroying the race of warlocks. Meanwhile, Julian and Emma take desperate measures to put their forbidden love aside and undertake a perilous mission to Faerie to retrieve the Black Volume of the Dead. What they find in the Courts is a secret that may tear the Shadow World asunder and open a dark path into a future they could never have imagined. Caught in a race against time, Emma and Julian must save the world of Shadowhunters before the deadly power of the parabatai curse destroys them and everyone they love.

Review

Sometimes when you start a war, you want to make pancakes.

Cassandra Clare, Queen of Air and Darkness

First off, holy cow this cover is the best of all Cassie Clare and I will hear no arguments. I love the covers that are made for her, but I felt like Lady Midnight and Lord of Shadows were too dark and you couldn’t even see what was on the cover. This book has everything I love in a cover and I can’t say enough about it. Also, the white spines are amazing.

So seeing as this is the end of a trilogy, I’m not going to talk so much about plot because spoilers. I would definitely say I enjoyed this one the best out of all three books in this trilogy. Still, it’s my third favorite series of Cassie’s. I just never connected with Julian and Emma as main characters. Give me Mark, Kieran, and Christina any day. Also, I feel like all Cassie does is take plot points from her other books and copies them into next trilogy. It just isn’t very unique, which makes it hard to be invested at times.

However, I am SO EXCITED for more after that ending. Whereas her trilogy beginning in March doesn’t pick up where TDA ends, the next trilogy will and I’m stoked for that. Cassie has the art of the cliffhanger down on LOCK – and I’m in suspense for the next 2 years.

Overall, very pleased with my Cassie binge in January. I plan on maybe checking out her spin off books from the library so I can catch up on those too, but that might take some time so I can get to some other books on my shelves. This chunker put me into a big of a book hangover so I need to focus on some other reads before diving back into the Shadowhunter’s universe.

Happy reading, folks! 🙂

eARC Review – The Stars We Steal

Title: The Stars We Steal

Author: Alexa Donne

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Publication date: February 4th, 2020

400 pages

5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Engagement season is in the air. Eighteen-year-old Princess Leonie “Leo” Kolburg, heir to a faded European spaceship, only has one thing on her mind: which lucky bachelor can save her family from financial ruin?

But when Leo’s childhood friend and first love Elliot returns as the captain of a successful whiskey ship, everything changes. Elliot was the one that got away, the boy Leo’s family deemed to be unsuitable for marriage. Now, he’s the biggest catch of the season and he seems determined to make Leo’s life miserable. But old habits die hard, and as Leo navigates the glittering balls of the Valg Season, she finds herself failing for her first love in a game of love, lies, and past regrets.

Review

**Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Netgalley, and Alexa Donne for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

I previously read Alexa Donne’s debut novel, Brightly Burning and wasn’t super thrilled with the book – but I loved the writing and when I see Bachelorette… coupled with SPACE… I know that’s a book I 100% need to read, and it did NOT disappoint. Leo is the Princess of her ship in space – where these titles are still used to create a classist society, even when it’s totally not necessary. The Valg is their way of creating marriages (that aren’t with your cousins…) among the elite, rich, and/or titled young people. Leo is participating in The Valg to find a rich husband, because her family is in dire need of funds, not because she wants to. As the oldest child of a man who spends money faster than it could possibly come in, she needs to be the adult and keep their spaceship afloat. Enter, her ex-fiance Elliot whom her family made her break the engagement to because he didn’t have money. Now? He is the sole heir to a prosperous whiskey ship and has plenty of money. Problem? He’s seriously pissed at her…

Ya’lllllll I loved this book. I read it all in one night because I could not put it down. Alexa Donne weaved so many elements together that you wouldn’t expect to work together, but pulled it off perfectly. I’m a huge sucker for Bachelor style plots, but it’s not JUST that. You have murder, intrigue, theft, Robin Hood-esque schemes, rebel groups, cyber attacks, AND wealthy extravagance from young people who have nothing better to do than be petty and make drama. Like, let’s gooo!

I am obsessed. Her writing worked so well with these elements and I found it SO much more enjoyable than her other classics spin in space. Currently starting a petition to re-write all the classics in a futuristic space society. Needs to happen.

The Stars We Steal, Alexa Donne’s second book, is a stand-alone space adaption of Persuasion by Jane Austen and will have you hooked from the first few pages. Leo is a strong character who is put in an untenable situation and trying to make the most of it. Pick it up if you enjoyed her first book, Brightly Burning, or are a fan of retellings and/or space!

Happy reading, bookish friends! 🙂

eARC Review – Break in Case of Emergency

Title: Break in Case of Emergency

Author: Brian Francis

Publisher: Harper Collins

Publication date: February 4th, 2020

368 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Dads can be such a drag

Life has been a struggle for Toby Goodman. Her mother died by suicide five years ago, and her father left their small town before Toby was born. Now a teenager living on her grandparents’ dairy farm, Toby has trouble letting people in. She keeps even her closest friend, the brash but endearing Trisha, at arms’ length, and recently ended her first relationship, with Trisha’s burnout brother, Mike. Convinced that she is destined to follow her mother’s path, Toby creates a plan to escape her pain.

But with the news that her father is coming home and finally wants to meet her, Toby must face the truth of her family’s story. Not only is her father gay, but he’s also a world-famous female impersonator—and a self-absorbed, temperamental man-child who is ill-prepared to be a real parent.

When Toby’s careful plans go awry, she is forced to rebuild the life she thought she knew from the ground up. While she may not follow an expected path, through the support of a quirky but lovable circle of friends and family, Toby may finally put together the many different pieces that make up her past, her present, and her future.

Review

**Thank you to Netgalley, Harper Collins, and Brian Francis for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review **

Break in Case of Emergency is a contemporary tale of 15 year old Toby who is dealing with her mother’s suicide 5 years ago. She is struggling, especially when her father comes into the picture for the first time since her conception. Her father is… interesting… and isn’t what she was expecting – or wanting.

I will say, I related to Toby in a lot of ways. I remember being 15 and having some of the thoughts and feelings Toby was having – and it’s certainly not fun. Trigger Warning: I would say proceed with caution before jumping into this book, especially if you are triggered by depression or suicidality. It’s the main theme of the novel and jumps in on page one so please heed this warning and get help if needed.

I did not love the LGBTQIA representation or mental health representation. I understand it was done with an explicit purpose, but I don’t feel like they were represented properly. I feel it was meant to bring attention to depression and suicidality along with a country town’s aversions to the LGBTQIA population (it’s also set in 1992), but I feel that it misses the mark on both cases. Toby’s mental health journey is a main plot point, but it’s like it’s set up so well and then just falls flat 2/3 of the way through and is finished too quickly.

I felt confused by this book a lot of the time, and I feel it just wasn’t my style. I didn’t connect with the characters, but I did like the use of flashbacks to present information. I felt that was done very well and provided needed context to what Toby was going through at any given point.

Happy reading, folks! 🙂