Book Review – The Kiss Quotient

Title: The Kiss Quotient (The Kiss Quotient #1)

Author: Helen Hoang

Publisher: Berkley

Publication date: May 30th, 2018

323 pages

5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases — a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice — with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan — from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…

Review

“All the things that make you different make you perfect.”

helen hoang, the kiss quotient

I got this book through a trade with some friends, and I hadn’t even heard of it before! But now I’ve read it twice, and read the sequel The Bride Test. Yes, I somehow reviewed the second one before the first, no idea how that happened! Anyway, I adored this romance novel with an autistic main character. Both MCs are also Asian, so there’s multiple different reps going on here – which I love to see. AND the book is Own Voices because Helen Hoang has autism herself. I think Stella is modeled after Helen herself.

Stella and Michael were amazing characters, and I loved them from the jump! Michael is an escort Stella hires to teach her how to have sex, because she generally doesn’t enjoy other’s touch. What she finds is that Michael’s touch is more than tolerable, it’s addictive. They make a longterm agreement (to not fall in love), and of course that doesn’t work. Their relationship was amazing, even if it wasn’t perfect all the time. Stella has some failed forays into life with Michael’s family, but was able to patch them over. Honestly I love these two.

I highly recommend this book for everyone who enjoys romance novels. It does have some level of steam – I’d say medium/high on my scale. There are some pretty detailed scenes that might not be interesting or comfortable for some people to read. It’s well written, and it really can be skimmed over without losing too much of the storyline.

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – The Bone Houses

**Owlcrate Special Edition Cover, which is the edition I read**

Title: The Bone Houses

Author: Emily Lloyd-Jones

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication date: September 24th 2019

352 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Aderyn (“Ryn”) only cares about two things: her family, and her family’s graveyard. And right now, both are in dire straits. Since the death of their parents, Ryn and her siblings have been scraping together a meager existence as gravediggers in the remote village of Colbren, which sits at the foot of a harsh and deadly mountain range that was once home to the fae. The problem with being a gravedigger in Colbren, though, is that the dead don’t always stay dead.

The risen corpses are known as “bone houses,” and legend says that they’re the result of a decades-old curse. When Ellis, an apprentice mapmaker with a mysterious past, arrives in town, the bone houses attack with new ferocity. What is it that draws them near? And more importantly, how can they be stopped for good?

Together, Ellis and Ryn embark on a journey that will take them deep into the heart of the mountains, where they will have to face both the curse and the long-hidden truths about themselves.

Review

“It was a risk, to love someone. To do so with the full knowledge that they’d leave someday. Then let go of them, when they did.”

emily lloyd-jones, the bone houses

Gravedigger, zombies, fae, and a sweet love story. What more could you ask for in a spooky season release? I highly enjoyed this book, it was captivating and complex, yet simple enough for a stand alone that didn’t feel rushed or like it needed more to round out the story. Lloyd-Jones is able to pack a lot of story into one 350 page book – a rich backstory for the world with urban legends, great backstories for the characters, and a harrowing adventure through the countryside to save their town. And did I mention the zombies?! Called bones houses in this book, the zombies come out of the forest after dark to wander and destroy, even to kill. Ryn as the gravedigger is the only protection the village has yet even the residents don’t believe the danger they are in.

Again, holy wow to this book. I loved the new take on a zombie book, which I generally don’t enjoy as much. Ryn was a very capable MC, hard yet soft, strong yet vulnerable at times. She worked well with Ellis, the traveling mapmaker who finds himself wrapped up in the bone houses. Also, the goat was by far the best character. IYKYK. The love story between Ryn and Ellis was so sweet and subtle, which I enjoy just as much as passionate, crazy love affairs. I love the storyline of being able to find love in the middle of a crisis, when it’s more about the little moments than getting wrapped up in each other. But I digress.

Prepare for a brief scene of intense sadness. I did not see it comes but I was shook by the surprise. Yet even in the middle of their adventure, Ryn doesn’t let it impact her goals which I thought was so amazing and strong of her. I highly suggest reading this book, and it’s coming up on Halloween, spooky times so it’s the perfect season for this book!

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – The Guest List

Title: The Guest List

Author: Lucy Foley

Publisher: William Morrow

Publication date: June 2nd, 2020 (first pub date March 19th, 2020 in the UK)

330 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

The bride ‧ The plus one ‧ The best man ‧ The wedding planner ‧ The bridesmaid ‧ The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

Review

I picked The Guest List as my June BOTM choice as I try to open up the genres that I read. AS one of my first thriller/mystery books, I had high hopes. However, it didn’t exactly do much for me, which was fairly disappointing. However, I plan to keep trying this genre because I like to mix up my books these days so it’s not all the same.

Anyway, onto The Guest List. There are 5 POVs in this book, which was really the crux of my issues with this book. It was just so much. I enjoy multiple POV books but 5 seems excessive to me. I also didn’t particularly like any of the characters in the books (but I think this is part of the point in this book). I ended up just being really confused, and it took me time to really get into this book because it kept switching around to different POVs.

On a more positive note, I could not for the life of me figure out who did it. It really came down to the wire for who killed the person, and there’s was no expecting it. On top of that main mystery, you find out so many more shocking things. The last 25% of the book is just bomb after bomb being dropped. So as much as it was hard to read for the first 75% of the book, the last quarter really picked up and heightened my experience of this book.

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Crown of Midnight

Title: Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2)

Author: Sarah J Maas

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Publication date: August 15th, 2013

420 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul as black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.

Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.

Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena’s world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie… and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.

Review

“But death was her curse and her gift, and death had been her good friend these long, long years.”

sarah j maas, crown of midnight

Well this book was so intense! As a sequel the Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight picks up right after TOG ends. Celaena is the king’s assassin and has been working to fulfill his orders. Celaena, Dorian, Chaol, and Nehemia are all still large factors in this book, and they have much to work on. Celaena continues trying to understand her calling from Elena down in the tunnels. These books truly manage to put so much plot and action into a fairly normal sized book.

The magic in this book is so interesting, and you just know that so much more with it will happen over the course of the series. The romance in this book was also very interesting. It was surprising, but also not surprising, at the same time. I thoroughly approved, even if heartbreak comes later for the characters. Also, Celaena is a crazy cook assassin and even though she murders people with joy, you somehow also end up feeling badly for her. She really is a complex character, not at all redeemable but you kinda want to forgive her.

THAT ENDING. Frankly, the ending of this book was spoiled for me due to bookstagram, but if you’re one of those rare birds who hasn’t read this series yet, and hasn’t had it spoiled, there is a HUGE BOMB DROPPED at the end of this book. Just be aware the last chapter is so intense! It isn’t a huge cliffhanger though, so I wasn’t itching to pick up the next book, Heir of Fire.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Where Dreams Descend

Title: Where Dreams Descend (Kingdoms of Cards #1)

Author: Janella Angeles

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Publication date: August 25th, 2020

464 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Review

Kallia is a female magician, stronger than most others, in a world where stage magicians are only accepted if they are male. She learned everything she knows from Jack, the master of Hellfire House, a club near the city of Glorian. She is the headliner of the club, but she longs to be on stage as a true magician, not a show girl. So she escapes to Glorian to enter a magic competition being held – but not before she finds out Jack has been lying to her all along. Now in Glorian, she is faced with opposition like never before, and she must remember that not everything is as it appears, especially when looking into mirrors…

I had a hard time reviewing this book, because the beginning and middle of the book were very different than the end. Throughout the book, I had no trouble putting it down. I just wasn’t fully drawn into the plot and the cast. BUT the ending was crazy insane and completely changed my mind on the entire book. Kallia is a great character, and her assistant Aaros made me laugh through the whole book. But Demarco wasn’t exactly what I would look for in a love interest, BUT I have high hopes for him in the second book! There was a lot of Kallia having to be strong against male opposition, due to all the misogyny in the book.

The world Angeles has built is super interested. You don’t know much about the world outside of Glorian or the Hellfire House, but it’s all very intriguing and mysterious which makes for a good read. I would’ve liked some more explanation into the magic system, I didn’t leave the book feeling like I truly understood how it all worked. BUT the descriptions and writing of the magic and the circus and the competition was glorious and so well done.

As you can see, this is a bit of a mixed review. I’m very much invested in reading the sequel when it eventually comes out, because I just MUST know what happens to everyone after that ending. Prepare yourselves for a decently large cliffhanger!

Thank you to Wednesday Books and Netgalley for an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Mirage

Title: Mirage (Mirage #1)

Author: Somaiya Daud

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Publication date: August 28th, 2018

320 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon.

But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place.

As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection…because one wrong move could lead to her death.

Review

“You do not kneel or bend, I told myself. To anyone. You continue.”

somaiya daud, mirage

Amani is a simple girl, living in a small farming village. Her planet has been conquered by a oppressive race, who views them as degenerates and less than. One day, she is captured by the empire to serve as the stand-in for the Princess, Maram. They are almost identical, and is in need of someone to take on the risk of public events. Maram is cruel and vicious, she is half and half, so everyone despises her for her race for some reason. Amani and Maram are able to form an uncertain companionship, but Amani soon is in over her head.

I really enjoyed the mix of science fiction, corrupt government, and rebellion plot lines and themes. There’s interplanetary travel and technology but also class divisions and haves and have nots. I loved the juxtaposition of Amani and Maram, they are truly opposites in every way of life and personality while being almost identical. I enjoyed reading about Amani’s thoughts as she is pretending to be Maram, she really took on the “character” well and it was like she was acting and playing a part.

Some of the middle of the book went somewhat slowly and became less interesting, but I still highly enjoyed the read. You start to see a more human side of Maram, which is nice, and I imagine the sequel will further her story – as this is really focused on Amani and her story. As always, it is hard to read about racism and the general insults that come when racism is apparent – but it is a major plot line in the book and it wouldn’t be the same without it.

For fans of Illuminae and Sky Withouts Stars, Mirage is an interesting take on rebellions in space, and the meaning of race and friendship.

Happy reading, folks!

BLOG TOUR – Impersonation

Title: Impersonation

Author: Heidi Pitlor

Publisher: Algonquin Books

Publication date: August 18th, 2020

336 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Allie Lang is a professional ghostwriter and a perpetually broke single mother to a young boy. Years of navigating her own and America’s cultural definitions of motherhood have left her a lapsed idealist. Lana Breban is a powerhouse lawyer, economist, and advocate for women’s rights with designs on elected office. She also has a son. Lana and her staff have decided she needs help softening her public image and that a memoir about her life as a mother will help.

When Allie lands the job as Lana’s ghostwriter, it seems as if things will finally go Allie’s way. At last, she thinks, there will be enough money not just to pay her bills but to actually buy a house. After years of working as a ghostwriter for other celebrities, Allie believes she knows the drill: she has learned how to inhabit the lives of others and tell their stories better than they can.

But this time, everything becomes more complicated. Allie’s childcare arrangements unravel; she falls behind on her rent; her subject, Lana, is better at critiquing than actually providing material; and Allie’s boyfriend decides to go on a road trip toward self-discovery. But as a writer for hire, Allie has gotten too used to being accommodating. At what point will she speak up for all that she deserves?  

A satirical, incisive snapshot of how so many of us now live, Impersonation tells a timely, insightful, and bitingly funny story of ambition, motherhood, and class.

Review

Impersonation is about a ghostwriter, Allie Lang, who writes books for celebrities or other famous people – without getting any of the credit. She lives a simple life with her son, Cass, in Western Massachusetts. Her life may look different than the norm, but she strives to be a good mother while also teaching her son how to grow up well in the years following the 2016 election. Allie is hired to ghostwrite for a feminist activist, Lana Breban, who is looking to improve her image and seem more “motherly”. But getting information for the book from Lana is like pulling teeth, and Allie is forced to supplement from within her own life. Things get complicated, and Allie must figure out how to continue on.

I felt that the message of this book was very powerful. It’s something that realistically could happen in this presidency, and a lot of it is focused on the aftermath of the 2016 election. It is a somewhat political book, it takes hard stances on certain people. The overall message of the book Allie is ghostwriting is how to raise boys to be feminists, and respect women – which is really a questions plaguing society. The highlight of this book is how real Allie is. She’s honest, raw, and not trying to be someone she isn’t. She doesn’t have the typical nuclear family, she has flaws and makes mistakes. So often books pain the prettiest pictures of characters, but that isn’t Allie – which I think is the whole point.

This leads into the characters. No one is particularly “great”. Each and every characters has a mountain of flaws, so if those aren’t characters you enjoy reading about, this book may not suit you. I guess this book also just made me sad that this is the state of our country right now, but it’s real! There’s no getting around that, and Pitlor is right to call it out and grow attention to it. Especially in an election year.

Thank you to Algonquin Books and Netgalley for and early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Happy readings, folks!

BLOG TOUR – A House Is a Body

Title: A House Is a Body

Author: Shruti Swamy

Publisher: Algonquin Books

Publication date: August 11th, 2020

208 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

In two-time O. Henry-prize winner Swamy’s debut collection of stories, dreams collide with reality, modernity collides with antiquity, myth with true identity, and women grapple with desire, with ego, with motherhood and mortality. In “Earthly Pleasures,” Radika, a young painter living alone in San Francisco, begins a secret romance with one of India’s biggest celebrities. In “A Simple Composition,” a husband’s moment of crisis leads to his wife’s discovery of a dark, ecstatic joy and the sense of a new beginning. In the title story, an exhausted mother watches, distracted and paralyzed, as a California wildfire approaches her home. With a knife blade’s edge and precision, the stories of A House Is a Body travel from India to America and back again to reveal the small moments of beauty, pain, and power that contain the world.

Review

Shruti Swamy crafts a collection of such beautifully written and evocative short stories, depicting women in all different areas of life and situations. Each story is so gripping that you get lost in it, and wish for more when it inevitably ends far too soon. But there is something so right about the abrupt ends to the stories, because life continues on for women, not matter what happens to you. Your responsibilities continue on endlessly, and the short stories seem to really try to just catch a snapshot of these women going about their lives.

The writing in this collection is truly the highlight. The prose is so lyrical and emotional, it’s hard to tear yourself away from reading the next perfectly crafted line. Swamy really weaves intricate tales, giving detail when necessary, withholding information when needed. Some stories appear to be set in the current world, some could be set in worlds gone and dead. She travels back and forth from India to America in her stories, without it feeling disjointed or broken up.

A short, but powerful read for anyone who enjoys short stories and women’s lit.

Thank you to Algonquin Books and Netgalley for an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – A Tortured Soul

Title: A Tortured Soul

Author: L. A. Detwiler

Self Published

Publication date: August 11th, 2020

234 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Everyone has a breaking point.

At twenty, an unplanned pregnancy seals Crystal Holt into a marriage to the abusive Richard Connor. After a stillborn birth, Crystal insists they have the baby baptized postmortem. A cynic, a drunk, and a poor man, Richard has other plans. When her monstrous husband tosses the baby into the woods to be forgotten, Crystal instantly spirals. After beating her within an inch of her life, Richard does something else he’s done before—he disappears. This time, however, things feel very different…

With her husband gone, Crystal battles with the demons of abuse, dark childhood memories, and a declining mental state worsened by horrific nightmare sequences. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that something’s not quite right about the way Richard disappeared this time, and Crystal is in more danger than ever. After all, not all of the dark secrets belong to Richard.

Will Crystal be able to escape from a lifetime of torture unscathed, or will she succumb to the dark secrets she’s fallen prey to before?

A twisted page-turner that will shake even the toughest horror and thriller fans…

Review

TW: domestic abuse, sexual violence, rape, assault, murder

If you enjoy psychological thrillers, you’ll want to read this book. Told from the perspective of Crystal, she details her life as an abused woman. She grew up with abusive parents, married an abusive man, and lives her life being abused. But when she loses her baby, things change. Her husband leaves, which isn’t unusual, and she is left alone. She doesn’t know how much time she has until he reappears, but she starts to enjoy some things she hasn’t been able to since he left. But when people start looking for him, the story gets a lot more complicated, and Crystal starts to unravel.

Before I get too far into this, I want everyone to take my trigger warnings seriously. This book is graphic. The author did not sugar coat anything, and the topics touched on are very serious and could seriously impact someone if they aren’t prepared. So be very mindful as you read this book. Moving along, I was captivated by this book almost from the beginning. My heart ached for Crystal, between her parents and her husband she really had no chance at happiness in life, especially after she lost the baby. There are some chapters where she flashes back and some that depict, I believe, when she is dreaming while her husband is gone. It adds extra dimension to the story, which I think helped a lot.

Let me say again, this book is graphic. There were points where it was too much for me. I don’t read many thrillers, but I have to imagine the descriptions were above average graphic for the genre. It served a purpose though, it clearly shows all the abuse Crystal went through, and the result.

Thank you to the author for providing an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Court of Lions

Title: Court of Lions (Mirage #2)

Author: Somaiya Daud

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Publication date: August 4th, 2020

320 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Two identical girls, one a princess, the other a rebel. Who will rule the empire?

After being swept up into the brutal Vathek court, Amani, the ordinary girl forced to serve as the half-Vathek princess’s body double, has been forced into complete isolation. The cruel but complex princess, Maram, with whom Amani had cultivated a tenuous friendship, discovered Amani’s connection to the rebellion and has forced her into silence, and if Amani crosses Maram once more, her identity – and her betrayal – will be revealed to everyone in the court.

Amani is desperate to continue helping the rebellion, to fight for her people’s freedom. But she must make a devastating decision: will she step aside, and watch her people suffer, or continue to aid them, and put herself and her family in mortal danger? And whatever she chooses, can she bear to remain separated, forever, from Maram’s fiancé, Idris?

Review

**Thank you to Flatiron Books, Netgalley, and Somaiya Daud for an early copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

A stunning conclusion to the Mirage duology, Court of Lions continues Amani and Maram’s journey. The book picks up about 6 weeks after the end of Mirage, but mostly fills in what has gone on during this time. A different aspect of Court of Lions that we didn’t see in Mirage is POV chapters from Maram – some in flashback and some in real time. Maram undergoes a lot of character development in this book, and this insight into her character really helps give her depth.

This book is really centered around Amani and Maram’s friendship. Their development around each other, with each other, BECAUSE of each other, is truly a marvel to read. These characters were written so well, and seem to be meant to be seen as polar opposites, whereas they are actually two ends of a spectrum and eventually meet in the middle. The side characters and plotting are great as well, but this book truly is about Amani and Maram.

The pacing of this book is a tad off, some things happen too quickly, without enough time or justification. Some of it seems too “easy”. As an avid reader of fantasy novels I’ve come to expect certain hiccups or things to go wrong in the plot – but there wasn’t much in this book. It reads as a touch unbelievable. I found myself confused about how quickly events were happening & there just didn’t seem to be much struggle for the characters.

Overall, I really did enjoy this conclusion and found the world-building just as amazing as the first book. Also, there is LGBTQIA representation in this one, which helped you understand a character a bit better.

Happy reading, folks!