Review: The Four Winds

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
Publication: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: 2/2/21

Disclaimer: I received a finished listening copy from Macmillan Audio in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: Texas, 1934. Millions are out of work and a drought has broken the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as the crops are failing, the water is drying up, and dust threatens to bury them all. One of the darkest periods of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl era, has arrived with a vengeance. 

In this uncertain and dangerous time, Elsa Martinelli—like so many of her neighbors—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in search of a better life. The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American Dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.

Review: The Four Winds is the third book I’ve read from Kristin Hannah and one of my most anticipated reads this year. This historical fiction novel takes place during the dust bowl era and dives into family, bravery, the American dream, and determination. I loved the author’s writing style and how it kept me on my toes from the first page. The struggle, emotion, and grit that Elsa goes through is seen and felt through every page. I highly recommend picking this one up if you loved Kristin Hannah’s previous books.

Review: A Promised Land

A Promised Land by Barack Obama
Publication: Penguin Random House / Crown
Pub Date: 11/17/2020

Disclaimer: I received a free finished copy of this book from Penguin Random House in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: A riveting, deeply personal account of history in the making, from the president who inspired us to believe in the power of democracy.

In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency—a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.

Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office.

Reflecting on the presidency, he offers a unique and thoughtful exploration of both the awesome reach and the limits of presidential power, as well as singular insights into the dynamics of U.S. partisan politics and international diplomacy. Obama brings readers inside the Oval Office and the White House Situation Room, and to Moscow, Cairo, Beijing, and points beyond. We are privy to his thoughts as he assembles his cabinet, wrestles with a global financial crisis, takes the measure of Vladimir Putin, overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to secure passage of the Affordable Care Act, clashes with generals about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, tackles Wall Street reform, responds to the devastating Deepwater Horizon blowout, and authorizes Operation Neptune’s Spear, which leads to the death of Osama bin Laden.

A Promised Land is extraordinarily intimate and introspective—the story of one man’s bet with history, the faith of a community organizer tested on the world stage. Obama is candid about the balancing act of running for office as a Black American, bearing the expectations of a generation buoyed by messages of “hope and change,” and meeting the moral challenges of high-stakes decision-making. He is frank about the forces that opposed him at home and abroad, open about how living in the White House affected his wife and daughters, and unafraid to reveal self-doubt and disappointment. Yet he never wavers from his belief that inside the great, ongoing American experiment, progress is always possible.

This beautifully written and powerful book captures Barack Obama’s conviction that democracy is not a gift from on high but something founded on empathy and common understanding and built together, day by day.

Review: Obama’s memoir, A Promised Land, was one of my most anticipated reads. Though I don’t necessarily agree with all of his political views, I appreciated reading his experience being president for 8 years. I kept switching from reading the book and listening to the audiobook. I enjoyed seeing the photos in the physical book. Obama does a wonderful job narrating the book which he has a strong and resonating voice. One downside of the book that I had a difficulty overlooking was that it was extremely long. There were a few parts I felt that dragged on and lost my interest. Also as unfair as it is, I found myself comparing his book to Michelle’s. I adored Michelle’s book so I had expectations to love this as well. Overall, I’d recommend reading this if you’re looking into more insight of Obama’s presidency.

Review: The Truth About Melody Browne

The Truth About Melody Browne by Lisa Jewell
Publisher: Atria Books
Pub Date: 1/26/2021

Disclaimer: I received an advanced digital copy of this book from Atria Books in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: When she was nine years old, Melody Browne’s house burned down, taking every toy, every photograph, every item of clothing and old Christmas card with it. But not only did the fire destroy all her possessions, it took with it all her memories – Melody Browne can remember nothing before her ninth birthday. Now in her early thirties, Melody lives in a council flat in the middle of London with her seventeen-year-old son. She hasn’t seen her parents since she left home at fifteen, but Melody doesn’t mind, she’s better off on her own. She’s made a good life for herself and her son and she likes it that way. Until one night something extraordinary happens. Whilst attending a hypnotist show with her first date in years she faints – and when she comes round she starts to remember. At first her memories mean nothing to her but then slowly, day by day, she begins to piece together the real story of her childhood. Her journey takes her to the seaside town of Broadstairs, to oddly familiar houses in London backstreets and to meetings with strangers who love her like their own. But with every mystery she solves another one materialises, with every question she answers another appears. And Melody begins to wonder if she’ll ever know the truth about her past. 

Review: I didn’t realize that The Truth About Melody Browne is actually one of Lisa Jewell’s earlier books and that this book is more contemporary than thriller. Overall, I enjoyed the storyline and loved the fast paced writing style. Switching from past to present really kept me on my toes as I didn’t have an idea on how the story would end. I also really liked the way we got introduced to so many different characters. The only part that didn’t work for me was the ending which seemed to wrap up in a bow. If you enjoyed Lisa Jewell’s other books, I’d recommend picking up The Truth About Melody Browne

Review: Act Your Age, Eve Brown

Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert
Publisher: Avon
Pub Date: 3/9/2021

Disclaimer: I was gifted this ARC from Bel Canto Books in Long Beach, California.

GoodReads Synopsis: Eve Brown is a certified hot mess. No matter how hard she strives to do right, her life always goes horribly wrong—so she’s given up trying. But when her personal brand of chaos ruins an expensive wedding (someone had to liberate those poor doves), her parents draw the line. It’s time for Eve to grow up and prove herself—even though she’s not entirely sure how…

Jacob Wayne is in control. Always. The bed and breakfast owner’s on a mission to dominate the hospitality industry—and he expects nothing less than perfection. So when a purple-haired tornado of a woman turns up out of the blue to interview for his open chef position, he tells her the brutal truth: not a chance in hell. Then she hits him with her car—supposedly by accident. Yeah, right.

Now his arm is broken, his B&B is understaffed, and the dangerously unpredictable Eve is fluttering around, trying to help. Before long, she’s infiltrated his work, his kitchen—and his spare bedroom. Jacob hates everything about it. Or rather, he should. Sunny, chaotic Eve is his natural-born nemesis, but the longer these two enemies spend in close quarters, the more their animosity turns into something else. Like Eve, the heat between them is impossible to ignore—and it’s melting Jacob’s frosty exterior.

Review: Act Your Age, Eve Brown is the third book of the Brown sisters series. This book could also be read as a stand-alone. Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. One aspect I really liked about this book was the character development. The main characters take ownership of their flaws and grow from their experiences. It was great to see scenes where the reader gets to see Chloe and Dani, Eve’s sisters and main characters from previous books, pop up. There is also quite a bit of steamy scenes in this one. I definitely recommend this book if you loved the previous books in the series or are a fan of romance!

Review: The Dating Plan

The Dating Plan by Sara Desai
Publisher: Berkley Books
Pub Date: 3/16/2021

GoodReads Synopsis: Daisy Patel is a software engineer who understands lists and logic better than bosses and boyfriends. With her life all planned out, and no interest in love, the one thing she can’t give her family is the marriage they expect. Left with few options, she asks her childhood crush to be her decoy fiance.

Liam Murphy is a venture capitalist with something to prove. When he learns that his inheritance is contingent on being married, he realizes his best friend’s little sister has the perfect solution to his problem. A marriage of convenience will get Daisy’s matchmaking relatives off her back and fulfill the terms of his late grandfather’s will. If only he hadn’t broken her tender teenage heart nine years ago…

Sparks fly when Daisy and Liam go on a series of dates to legitimize their fake relationship. Too late, they realize that very little is convenient about their arrangement. History and chemistry aren’t about to follow the rules of this engagement.

Review: My January BOTM pick was The Dating Plan by Sara Desai. This was my first Sara Desai book and didn’t realize that was part of a series. I had mixed feelings about The Dating Plan. I enjoyed the multicultural aspects in this book. I also liked that we were introduced to several supporting characters. However, there were several parts that didn’t work for me. First, the main character was way too quirky. Her quickness didn’t really match with her personality. The storyline had some scenes that felt way too far fetched and too cheesy. The conflict-resolution of the book happened way too quickly and wrapped up too easily which seemed really odd given the circumstances. As for the writing style, it felt choppy to me. There were times where the story was dragged out with unnecessary back story or description or felt too rushed from one scene to another. Overall, it was a decent read, but not my favorite.

Review: The Neil Gaiman: Selected Fiction

The Neil Gaiman Reader: Selected Fiction by Neil Gaiman
Publisher: William Morrow
Pub Date: 10/20/2020

Disclaimer: I received a finished copy of this book from William Morrow in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: An outstanding array—52 pieces in all—of selected fiction from the multiple-award-winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman, curated by his readers around the world, and introduced with a foreword by Booker Prize-winning author Marlon James

Spanning Gaiman’s career to date, The Neil Gaiman Reader: Selected Fiction is a captivating collection from one of the world’s most beloved writers, chosen by those who know his work best: his devoted readers. 

A brilliant representation of Gaiman’s groundbreaking, entrancing, endlessly imaginative fiction, this captivating volume includes excerpts from each of his five novels for adults —Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Anansi Boys, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane—and nearly fifty of his short stories. 

Impressive in its depth and range, The Neil Gaiman Reader: Selected Fiction is both an entryway to Gaiman’s oeuvre and a literary trove Gaiman fans old and new will return to many times over.

Review: Neil Gaiman’s latest book, The Neil Gaiman Reader: Selected Fiction, is perfect for Neil Gaiman fans! It’s also a great first book to pick up for readers who never read his work, but are interested in reading fantasy and don’t know where to start. It’s amazing to see how his writing has changed through the years and that he truly can write anything from happy to shivers up your spine type stories. Though the book may seem intimidating by size, don’t let that stop you! There are quite a few stories in here are truly gems. I highly recommend picking this one up regardless of what you read. You won’t regret it!

Review: The Book of Joe

The Book of Joe by Jeff Wilser
Publisher: Three Rivers Press / Penguin Random House
Pub Date: 10/24/2017

Disclaimer: I received a free finished copy of this book from Penguin Random House in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: The aviators. The Amtrak. The bromance with Barack Obama. Few politicians are as iconic, or as beloved, as Joe Biden. Now, in The Book of Joe, Biden fans and political junkies alike have the ultimate look at America’s favorite vice president.

Covering the key chapters in Biden’s life and career–and filled with classic Biden-isms, including “That’s a bunch of malarkey” and “I may be Irish, but I’m not stupid”–this entertaining blend of biography, advice, and muscle cars explores the moments that forged Joe Biden, and what they can teach us today.

But along with this “Wisdom of Joe,” the book also reveals the inspirational story of a man whose life has been shaped by his father’s advice: Get back up. Time after time, Biden has bounced back from both personal heartbreaks and professional disappointments, and just like Joe, sometimes we all have to dust ourselves off and fight back.

Packed with lessons we need now more than ever, The Book of Joe is both a celebration of a revered political figure and a testament to the power of a life filled with integrity, perseverance, and plenty of ice cream.

Review: In honor of President-Elect’s Inauguration tomorrow, I decided to pick up this quick read. The Book of Joe features Joe Biden’s key events in his political career and personal life packed with tidbits of his wisdom and lessons learned. I enjoyed learning more about our President-Elect. I liked that the chapters were short and focused on critical points in his life that made him who he is today. The author admits from the beginning that he’s a Joe Biden fan so I knew before going in that this would only paint him in a certain light which I didn’t mind. Whether you love him or not, I recommend reading this book if you’re looking to learn more about President-Elect Joe Biden

Review: First Comes Like

First Comes Like by Alisha Rai
Publisher: Avon
Pub Date: 2/16/2021

Disclaimer: I received an advanced digital copy of this book from Avon Books in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: Beauty expert and influencer Jia Ahmed has her eye on the prize: conquering the internet today, the entire makeup industry tomorrow, and finally, finally proving herself to her big opinionated family. She has little time for love, and even less time for the men in her private messages—until the day a certain international superstar slides into her DMs, and she falls hard and fast.

There’s just one wrinkle: he has no idea who she is.

The son of a powerful Bollywood family, soap opera star Dev Dixit is used to drama, but a strange woman who accuses him of wooing her online, well, that’s a new one. As much as he’d like to focus on his Hollywood fresh start, he can’t get Jia out of his head. Especially once he starts to suspect who might have used his famous name to catfish her…

When paparazzi blast their private business into the public eye, Dev is happy to engage in some friendly fake dating to calm the gossips and to dazzle her family. But as the whole world swoons over their relationship, Jia can’t help but wonder: Can an online romance-turned-offline-fauxmance ever become love in real life?

Review: First Comes Like is the third book in the Modern Love series and can be read as a stand alone. I was so excited to finally see that Jia was going to have her love story since she was first introduced in book 2 of the Forbidden Heart series, Wrong to Love You, as Sadia’s sister and then she made appearances in the Modern Love series, The Right Swipe and Girl Gone Viral, as Rhiannon and Katrina’s friend and roommate. This book is more of a slow burn and is definitely a way more tame than any of Alisha Rai’s previous books. The author definitely tackles sensitive issues like traditional beliefs, conservatism, religion, and family pressure in a tactful way while implementing the fake relationship and catfish tropes. I really liked the fake relationship trope in this story which worked out well, but I just couldn’t get into the catfishing trope (FYI I have not found any romance book that successfully does the catfish trope). Though both of the main characters are sweet and they’re a great fit for each other, the pace of their relationship was a bit off and felt that the main characters overall were a bit flat. I love that we see reoccurring characters from previous books like Rhiannon, Katrina, Sadia, and Lakshmi. We are also introduced to some lovable new side characters like Adil Uncle and Luna. Even though I didn’t enjoy this as much as I enjoyed Girl Gone Viral, I absolutely love the author’s writing style. I’m really hoping we’ll get to read Lakshmi’s story next!

Review: The Wife Upstairs

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pub Date: 1/5/2021

Disclaimer: I received a finished copy of this book from Booksparks and St. Martin’s Press and an advanced listening copy from LibroFM and Macmillan Audio in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates––a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.

But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie––not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.

Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past––or his––catches up to her?

With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?

Review: The Wife Upstairs is the first book I’ve read from Rachel Hawkins. This book initially caught my interest as it was December BOTM pick. This domestic thriller is supposed to be a twist to the gothic classic, Jane Eyre, and dives into forbidden romance, twisted love triangles, social elite status, and troubled pasts. I enjoyed listening to this one! The three perspectives were very distinct. I really liked that Jane’s personality and that she was observant. Though I felt that some of the twists were predictable, I did enjoy the solid storyline. The author’s writing style made this quick and intriguing read. In terms of the audio, I really liked the narrator for Jane. She really brought out Jane’s character by reading with so much emotion. Overall, I’d recommend this thriller if you’re looking for a book to get you out of your reading slump or if you enjoy domestic thrillers as much as I do.

2020 Year In Review & 2021 Reading Goals

2020 has been a wild year! I’m a bit surprised that I didn’t read as many book as I did last year since we had a pandemic and needed to be home, but I did attain my goal in enjoying the books I read rather than the number.

My 2020 reading goal was simply to enjoy what I read. Here is what I learned this year:

1. Reading outside of my comfort zone: I’m proud of myself for stepping it of my comfort zone and exploring genres that I typically wouldn’t read like fantasy, horror, and sci-fi. Fantasy has become one of my go-to comforts besides contemporary, romance, and thrillers.
2. Mental Health: If there was one thing I had to take away from this year, it is definitely the importance of mental health. This also correlates with reading because sometimes I would pick up a book and I may not enjoy it as much because I wasn’t in the right headspace. There were a few times this year where I picked up a book, started reading, and then put it aside because I wasn’t emotionally ready for the book. Then a few days or a few weeks later, I would pick up that same book I put down and would enjoy it so much more.
3. DNF books: This year I noticed I DNF’ed way more books than I have last year or the year before. I’m glad that I’ve been more selective on what I read especially since I’ve been wanting to focus on reading what I enjoy instead of being forced to read something.

After taking a step back, I figured that I’m going to have two goals in 2021:
1. Continue to enjoy what I read and embrace the mood reader in me!
2. Be more selective and mindful of the books I receive/request that I will be reviewing.
3. Buy less books and use the resources I have to attain books, e.x. library, current book subscriptions I’m actively using.

What are your 2021 read goals?