Review: Our Missing Hearts

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng
Publisher: Random House
Pub Date: 10/4/2022

Thank you to PRH Audio for the free audiobook copy in exchange for my honest review. 

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Bird Gardner lives a quiet existence with his loving but broken father, a former linguist who now shelves books in a university library. Bird knows to not ask too many questions, stand out too much, or stray too far. For a decade, their lives have been governed by laws written to preserve “American culture” in the wake of years of economic instability and violence. To keep the peace and restore prosperity, the authorities are now allowed to relocate children of dissidents, especially those of Asian origin, and libraries have been forced to remove books seen as unpatriotic—including the work of Bird’s mother, Margaret, a Chinese American poet who left the family when he was nine years old.

Bird has grown up disavowing his mother and her poems; he doesn’t know her work or what happened to her, and he knows he shouldn’t wonder. But when he receives a mysterious letter containing only a cryptic drawing, he is pulled into a quest to find her. His journey will take him back to the many folktales she poured into his head as a child, through the ranks of an underground network of librarians, into the lives of the children who have been taken, and finally to New York City, where a new act of defiance may be the beginning of much-needed change.

Our Missing Hearts is an old story made new, of the ways supposedly civilized communities can ignore the most searing injustice. It’s a story about the power—and limitations—of art to create change, the lessons and legacies we pass on to our children, and how any of us can survive a broken world with our hearts intact.

Review: Our Missing Hearts is the third book I’ve read from Celeste Ng and one of my most anticipated reads. This contemporary/dystopian novel explores themes of injustice, community, legacy, and parent-child relationships. This book is pretty heavy and so heartbreaking. The author touches upon subjects of missing children, discrimination, abandonment, and hate crimes to name a few. The story is about a boy named bird is sets off on a quest to find out the truth about his mother and why she left. The writing style captured me from the first page and as I was reading, I had no idea where the story would take me. All the characters are flawed and yet my heart ached for what they had to go through. Highly recommend picking this one up if you loved Celeste’s previous books!

Review: The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna
Publisher: Berkley
Pub Date: 8/23/2022

Thank you to Berkley for the free finished copy in exchange for my honest review.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: As one of the few witches in Britain, Mika Moon knows she has to hide her magic, keep her head down, and stay away from other witches so their powers don’t mingle and draw attention. And as an orphan who lost her parents at a young age and was raised by strangers, she’s used to being alone and she follows the rules…with one exception: an online account, where she posts videos pretending to be a witch. She thinks no one will take it seriously.

But someone does. An unexpected message arrives, begging her to travel to the remote and mysterious Nowhere House to teach three young witches how to control their magic. It breaks all of the rules, but Mika goes anyway, and is immediately tangled up in the lives and secrets of not only her three charges, but also an absent archaeologist, a retired actor, two long-suffering caretakers, and…Jamie. The handsome and prickly librarian of Nowhere House would do anything to protect the children, and as far as he’s concerned, a stranger like Mika is a threat. An irritatingly appealing threat.

As Mika begins to find her place at Nowhere House, the thought of belonging somewhere begins to feel like a real possibility. But magic isn’t the only danger in the world, and when a threat comes knocking at their door, Mika will need to decide whether to risk everything to protect a found family she didn’t know she was looking for….

Review: The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches is a fantasy romance and the first book I’ve read from Sangu Mandanna. This fantasy romance book contains grumpy/sunshine trope and explores themes of belonging, found family, identity, and kindness. Overall, I enjoyed this book! This was a book that tugged my heartstrings. I really loved that the theme of found family was the main focus and the romance was secondary. I liked how the setting was a character in itself as well. This was the perfect witchy read to start spooky season! Highly recommend if you love witchy books with a dash of romance in them!

Review: Drunk on Love

Drunk on Love by Jasmine Guillory
Publisher: Berkley Romance
Pub Date: 09/20/2022

Thank you to Berkley Romance & PRH Audio for the free copy in exchange for my honest review.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Margot Noble needs some relief from the stress of running the family winery with her brother. Enter Luke: sexy, charming, and best of all in the too-small world of Napa, a stranger. The chemistry between them is undeniable, and Margot is delighted that she lucked into the perfect one-night stand she’ll never have to see again. That is, until the winery’s newest hire, Luke, walks in the next morning. Margot is determined to keep things purely professional, but when their every interaction reminds her of the attraction still bubbling between them, it proves to be much more challenging than she expects.

Luke Williams had it all, but when he quits his high-salary tech job in Silicon Valley in a blaze of burnout and moves back to Napa to help a friend, he realizes he doesn’t want to tell the world–or his mom–why he’s now working at a winery. His mom loves bragging about her successful son–how can he admit that the job she’s so proud of broke him? Luke has no idea what is next for him, but one thing is certain: he wants more from the incredibly smart and sexy woman he hooked up with–even after he learns she’s his new boss. But even if they can find a way to be together that wouldn’t be an ethical nightmare, would such a successful woman really want a tech-world dropout?

Set against a lush backdrop of Napa Valley wine country, nothing goes to your head as fast as a taste of love–even if it means changing all your plans.

Review: Drunk on Love is a contemporary romance novel that places in Napa Valley. This book explores the winery business, finding your identity, burn out, and joy. I love that each of her books focus on a certain place in California and was excited that this one takes place in Napa. Overall, I found this to be a decent read. I loved that it was a lighthearted, quick, and easy read. This was one of those instances where I loved the backdrop more than the characters. The characters were fine individually, but I was craving more depth and chemistry between the main characters. In terms of the narration, the day narration was done well and kept me engaged with the story. If you’re a fan of Jasmine Guillory’s previous books, you may enjoy this one.

Review: Well Traveled

Well Traveled by Jen DeLuca
Publisher: Berkley
Pub Date: 12/6/2022

Thank you to Berkley for the free advanced copy on NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. 

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: A high-powered attorney from a success-oriented family, Louisa “Lulu” Malone lives to work, and everything seems to be going right, until the day she realizes it’s all wrong. Lulu’s cousin Mitch introduced her to the world of Renaissance Faires, and when she spies one at a time just when she needs an escape, she leaps into the welcoming environment of turkey legs, taverns, and tarot readers. The only drawback? Dex MacLean: a guitarist with a killer smile, the Casanova of the Faire… and her traveling companion for the summer.

Dex has never had to work for much in his life, and why should he? Touring with his brothers as The Dueling Kilts is going great, and he always finds a woman at every Faire. But when Lulu proves indifferent to his many plaid charms and a shake-up threatens the fate of the band, Dex must confront something he never has before: his future.

Forced to spend days and nights together on the road, Lulu’s interest in the kilted bad boy grows as he shows her a side of himself no one else has seen. The stresses of her old lifestyle fade away as she learns to trust her intuition and follow her heart instead of her head. But when her time on the road is over, will Lulu go with her gut, or are she and Dex destined for separate paths?

Review: Well Traveled is the fourth book in the Well Met series that features Lulu (Mitch’s cousin) and Dex (guitarist and singer of The Dueling Kilts). This isn’t a stand alone book as it does refer to what happened in Well Played (second book) and Well Matched (third book). Overall, I enjoyed this one! I really loved the growth and transformation we see in Lulu throughout the story. I love how we see how vulnerable she is and that the author discusses about Lulu’s burnout, finding her purpose, and finding joy in small things. I also loved that we got to reconnect with characters from previous books as well. I loved how supportive Mitch, Stacey, and April were of Lulu. The only two parts that didn’t really work for me was the main male character and digital detox. The author shows how much Dex has grown from the story and I’m glad they touched upon what happened in Well Played, but I wanted a bit more to make him a multidimensional character. As for the digital detox, I could understand someone who was on their phone and laptop all the time doing a digital detox for like a week, but two months without seemed a bit unrealistic to me. Despite those two parts, I found it to be an entertaining read though it’s not my favorite in the series. I’m really hoping that the author does a story or a novella about Caitlin (April’s daughter). I’d recommend picking this one up if you love the Well Met series!

Review: Do You Take This Man?

Do You Take This Man by Denise Williams
Publisher: Berkley
Pub Date: 9/6/2022

Thank you to Berkley Romance for the free advanced copy on NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. 

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Divorce attorney RJ would never describe herself as romantic. But when she ends up officiating an unplanned wedding for a newly engaged couple in a park, her life is turned upside down. The video of the ceremony goes viral, and she finds herself in the unlikely position of being a sought-after local wedding officiant. Spending her free time overseeing “I dos” isn’t her most strategic career move, but she enjoys it, except for the type A dude-bro wedding planner she’s forced to work with.

Former pro-football event manager Lear is a people person, but after his longtime girlfriend betrayed him, he isn’t looking for love. He knows how to execute events and likes being in control, so working with an opinionated and inflexible officiant who can’t stand him is not high on his list. He’s never had trouble winning people over, but RJ seems immune to his charms.

Surrounded by love at every turn, their physical attraction pulls them together despite their best efforts to stay an arm’s length apart. Lear refuses to get hurt again. RJ refuses to let herself be vulnerable to anyone. But when it comes to happily ever after, their clients might not be the only ones saying “I do.”

Review: Do You Take This Man is romance novel that has an enemies-to-lovers trope and explores wedding planning, vulnerability, friendship, and moving on. This book featured Britta’s best friend, RJ, and her love interest, Lear. The author addresses some heavy subjects: infidelity of a partner (in one of the main characters pasts) and death/abandonment of a parent (both in the past). I really loved the storyline of a wedding planner and wedding officiant going from enemies-to-lovers and working on weddings together while their relationship blossoms. The author did a great job diving into RJ and Lear’s pasts and the alternate perspectives. There were a few times where I was frustrated with each main character, but I understood why they were acting the way they were as the author slowly revealed their pasts. I loved that Britta and Wes made some appearances which was fun! I’d recommend picking up Do You Take This Man if you liked The Fastest Way To Fall and How To Fail At Flirting!

Review: Carrie Soto Is Back

Carrie Soto Is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pub Date: 8/30/2022

Thank you to Random House for the free advanced copy in exchange for my honest review. 

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: In this powerful novel about the cost of greatness, a legendary athlete attempts a comeback when the world considers her past her prime—from the New York Times bestselling author of Malibu Rising.

Carrie Soto is fierce, and her determination to win at any cost has not made her popular. But by the time she retires from tennis, she is the best player the world has ever seen. She has shattered every record and claimed twenty Grand Slam titles. And if you ask Carrie, she is entitled to every one. She sacrificed nearly everything to become the best, with her father, Javier, as her coach. A former champion himself, Javier has trained her since the age of two.

But six years after her retirement, Carrie finds herself sitting in the stands of the 1994 US Open, watching her record be taken from her by a brutal, stunning player named Nicki Chan.

At thirty-seven years old, Carrie makes the monumental decision to come out of retirement and be coached by her father for one last year in an attempt to reclaim her record. Even if the sports media says that they never liked “the Battle-Axe” anyway. Even if her body doesn’t move as fast as it did. And even if it means swallowing her pride to train with a man she once almost opened her heart to: Bowe Huntley. Like her, he has something to prove before he gives up the game forever.

In spite of it all, Carrie Soto is back, for one epic final season. In this riveting and unforgettable novel, Taylor Jenkins Reid tells her most vulnerable, emotional story yet.

Review: Carrie Soto may sound familiar to you as you met her briefly in Malibu Rising. Carrie has an affair with Nina Riva’s tennis star husband, Brandon Randall (fyi this isn’t a spoiler)! Carrie Soto Is Back explores the world of tennis, ageism, family, and vulnerability. Overall, I loved this one and it deserves all the stars! I adored the relationship that Carrie has with her father/coach, Javier. I loved that TJR shows the up and downs in their relationship along with overcoming difficult situations. To some readers, Carrie may come off as a cold-hearted bitch, but given that she’s under the public’s eye and every move she makes is scrutinized, it doesn’t surprise me she is the way she is. What I love the most is that we get to see Carrie’s character grow and change throughout the story. I liked how it’s mostly told through Carrie’s perspective, but there is also tidbits of sportscaster commentary and articles to break it out. One aspect of the novel I loved the most was the fact that TJR touched upon how society views women aging. There were so many incredible quotes I ended up tabbing. Highly recommend picking this one up if you’re a TJR fan!

Review: Scandalized

Scandalized by Ivy Owens
Publisher: Pocket Books
Pub Date: 8/23/2022

Thank you to Ivy Owens for the free advanced copy in exchange for my honest review. 

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Exhausted and on deadline with a story that could make or break her career, investigative journalist Georgia Ross is on the verge of a meltdown when a cancelled flight leaves her stuck in the airport overnight. But when a familiar face appears—the older brother of her childhood friend—and offers help, Gigi seems to have caught a break.

Alec Kim is handsome, humble, and kind—exactly the sort of man that Gigi has forgotten existed after her own painful heartbreaks. An evening of reconnection followed by a night of no-strings-attached passion with Alec feels like a gift—that is, until Gigi finally realizes that their childhood connection isn’t the only reason he seems so familiar to her.

Alec is determined to prove to Gigi that he is truly the man she thinks he is, even if it means coming clean about his fame—and his family’s connection to the story Gigi’s been working so hard to break. But as their feelings for each other grow deeper, Gigi and Alec must navigate a new reality…one where both of their hard-won careers are put directly in the path of an international scandal.

Review: Scandalized has been one of my most anticipated summer reads! This romance novel contains childhood friends to lovers, insta-love, first crush, secrets, and fame. The author addresses a heavy topic of sexual assault. She addresses the topic in a sensitive way that is pertinent to the storyline. I liked this book! I usually don’t like insta-love in books, but this one worked so well especially within the span that Alec and Gigi are together. I loved the way that the author built the connection between Gigi and Alec. Their chemistry was off the charts! The writing style is fast-paced and kept my interest from the beginning. Definitely recommend fellow romance readers to pick this one up! I’m looking forward to reading more from Ivy Owens.

Review: I’ll Be You

I’ll Be You by Janelle Brown
Publisher: Random House
Pub Date: 4/26/2022

Thank you to Random House for the free finished copy and PRH Audio for the free audiobook copy in exchange for my honest review. 

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Two identical twin sisters and former child actors have grown apart—until one disappears, and the other is forced to confront the secrets they’ve kept from each other in this twisty suspense novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Pretty Things.

“You be me, and I’ll be you,” I whispered.

As children, Sam and Elli were two halves of a perfect whole: gorgeous identical twins whose parents sometimes couldn’t even tell them apart. They fell asleep to the sound of each other’s breath at night, holding hands in the dark. And once Hollywood discovered them, they became B-list child TV stars, often inhabiting the same role.

But as adults, their lives have splintered. After leaving acting, Elli reinvented herself as the perfect homemaker: married to a real estate lawyer, living in a house just blocks from the beach. Meanwhile, Sam has never recovered from her failed Hollywood career, or from her addiction to the pills and booze that have propped her up for the last fifteen years.

Sam hasn’t spoken to her sister since her destructive behavior finally drove a wedge between them. So when her father calls out of the blue, Sam is shocked to learn that Elli’s life has been in turmoil: her husband moved out, and Elli just adopted a two-year-old girl. Now she’s stopped answering her phone and checked in to a mysterious spa in Ojai. Is her sister just decompressing, or is she in trouble? Could she have possibly joined a cult? As Sam works to connect the dots left by Elli’s baffling disappearance, she realizes that the bond between her and her sister is more complicated than she ever knew.

I’ll Be You shows Janelle Brown at the top of her game: a story packed with surprising revelations and sharp insights about the choices that define our families and our lives—and could just as easily destroy them

Review: I’ll Be You is the second book I’ve read from Janelle Brown. This psychological thriller dives into former child actor lives, twins, strained relationships, and secrets. Overall, I really enjoyed this one! From the first page, I had no idea where the story was going to go. The twists and turns of each page has me curious what the end game was going to be. This is definitely a character driven story and it is a bit of a slow burn. I really loved that not only we got read perspectives from the twins (Sam and Ellie), but there were also now and then chapters within each perspective. I mostly listened the audiobook which Julia Whelan and Kate Rudd narrate. I loved their narrations which helped me get invested in the story further. The only part I wasn’t sure how I felt was the ending, but I won’t mention any spoilers. The author discusses a lot of heavy subjects in this book so read with care if you decide to pick up (I won’t list them here as some of the subjects may be spoilers). Highly recommend picking up I’ll Be You if you like twisted thrillers!

Review: The Undertaking of Hart & Mercy

The Undertaking of Hart & Mercy by Megan Bannen
Publisher: Orbit Books
Pub Date: 8/23/2022

Thank you to Orbit Books for the free advanced listening copy on Libro.fm in exchange for my honest review.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Hart is a marshal, tasked with patrolling the strange and magical wilds of Tanria. It’s an unforgiving job, and Hart’s got nothing but time to ponder his loneliness.

Mercy never has a moment to herself. She’s been single-handedly keeping Birdsall & Son Undertakers afloat in defiance of sullen jerks like Hart, who seems to have a gift for showing up right when her patience is thinnest.

After yet another exasperating run-in with Mercy, Hart finds himself penning a letter addressed simply to “A Friend”. Much to his surprise, an anonymous letter comes back in return, and a tentative friendship is born.

If only Hart knew he’s been baring his soul to the person who infuriates him most – Mercy. As the dangers from Tanria grow closer, so do the unlikely correspondents. But can their blossoming romance survive the fated discovery that their pen pals are their worst nightmares – each other?

Review: The Undertaking of Hart & Mercy is a fantasy romance book that explores loneliness, family pressure, unexpected friendship, and contains an enemies-turned-lovers trope. I was initially intrigued by this book because of Helen Hoang’s review. I went in knowing very little about the book and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Though the fantasy romance is a bit morbid, it such a sweet and beautifully written story. I loved seeing Mercy and Hart’s relationship grow throughout the story. I also adored the side characters in this book that made it funny and heartfelt. Highly recommend picking up the audio as both narrators did a phenomenal job making the story engaging!

Review: The Second First Chance

The Second First Chance by Mona Shroff
Publisher: Harlequin
Pub Date: 8/2/2022

Thank you to Harlequin for the free advanced copy on NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. 

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: The Second First Chance is a big, wonderful, messy love story about family, heartbreak, strength and courage. It shows us that sometimes what we want is what we least expect, and that everything we need is often right in front of us.

Strength comes in many different forms.  

Riya Desai and Dhillon Vora grew up together. Sharing secrets, hiding in their tree house, they were playmates, best friends and later—as teenagers—almost something more. Until the devastating house fire that ripped them apart, claiming the life of Dhillon’s father and Riya’s big brother, Samir. Riya and Dhillon have barely spoken since that terrible night, but they both made big decisions based on that fire.

Riya has chosen to fight fire with everything she’s got, but it’s not easy. As the only female firefighter and one of the only people of color at her fire hall, she has to prove herself over and over. Plus, she’s hidden her career from her family.

Dhillon wanted to heal things, so he became a veterinarian. When a chance encounter with a rescue dog throws Riya and Dhillon together again, he’s furious at her career choice. After what happened to them, how can she run into fires on purpose? For Riya, Dhillon’s anger is unacceptable: How can he not see that she’s protecting others from the very losses they both experienced?

Review: The Second First Chance is the first book I’ve read from Mona Shroff. This romance explores family dynamics, resilience, moving on, and being true to yourself. The largest theme of this book has to deal with grief and moving on from a traumatic event. Riya and Dhillon’s families, being next door neighbors, experience loss the day their respective townhomes catch on fire. Riya loses her older brother, Samir, while Dhillon loses his father. This was one really heavy, emotional, and heartfelt read that deserves all the stars. Other heavy subjects the author addresses in this story are pet death, fire injury, car accident, sexual harassment, and medical content. The author does an incredible job showcasing how deeply complex each of the main characters are and how their pasts and feelings are slowly revealed. I also really loved the way the author showed sibling bonds among the families and how important that is along with tying into the Hindu tradition of Rasksha Bandhan celebrating the special sibling bonds between brother and sister. I highly recommend The Second First Chance to anyone who loved Things You Save In A Fire and The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo. If you do read this, please read with care.