Review: Gold Diggers

Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Pub Date: 4/6/2021

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

GoodReads Synopsis: A floundering second-generation teenager growing up in the Bush-era Atlanta suburbs, Neil Narayan is authentic, funny, and smart. He just doesn’t share the same drive as everyone around him. His perfect older sister is headed to Duke. His parents’ expectations for him are just as high. He tries to want this version of success, but mostly, Neil just wants his neighbor across the cul-de-sac, Anita Dayal.

But Anita has a secret: she and her mother Anjali have been brewing an ancient alchemical potion from stolen gold that harnesses the ambition of the jewelry’s original owner. Anjali’s own mother in Bombay didn’t waste the precious potion on her daughter, favoring her sons instead. Anita, on the other hand, just needs a little boost to get into Harvard. But when Neil–who needs a whole lot more–joins in the plot, events spiral into a tragedy that rips their community apart.

Ten years later, Neil is an oft-stoned Berkeley history grad student studying the California gold rush. His high school cohort has migrated to Silicon Valley, where he reunites with Anita and resurrects their old habit of gold theft–only now, the stakes are higher. Anita’s mother is in trouble, and only gold can save her. Anita and Neil must pull off one last heist.

Gold Diggers is a fine-grained, profoundly intelligent, and bitingly funny investigation in to questions of identity and coming of age–that tears down American shibboleths.

Review: I was initially intrigued by Gold Diggers by the vibrant cover and that Mindy Kaling is adapting this novel into a TV series which I’m sure will be amazing! This magical realism novel explores family pressure, mental health, finding your identity, and Indian culture. The writing style in this novel will capture you from page one especially with the complex flawed character and the intriguing backstory of the older generations. The audiobook narrator did an incredible job narrating this novel. The way he did the different characters voices made the story come alive. I loved the audiobook so much that I went out to buy a physical copy from Barnes & Noble to add to my bookshelf last night. Highly recommend picking this one up!

Review: Second First Impressions

Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne
Publisher: William Morrow
Pub Date: 4/13/2021

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced digital 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: From the USA Today bestselling author of The Hating Game and 99 Percent Mine comes the clever, funny, and unforgettable story of a muscular, tattooed man hired as an assistant to two old women—under the watchful eye of a beautiful retirement home manager.

Distraction (n): an extreme agitation of the mind or emotions.

Ruthie Midona has worked the front desk at the Providence Luxury Retirement Villa for six years, dedicating her entire adult life to caring for the Villa’s residents, maintaining the property (with an assist from DIY YouTube tutorials), and guarding the endangered tortoises that live in the Villa’s gardens. Somewhere along the way, she’s forgotten that she’s young and beautiful, and that there’s a world outside of work—until she meets the son of the property developer who just acquired the retirement center.

Teddy Prescott has spent the last few years partying, sleeping in late, tattooing himself when bored, and generally not taking life too seriously—something his father, who dreams of grooming Teddy into his successor, can’t understand. When Teddy needs a place to crash, his father seizes the chance to get him to grow up. He’ll let Teddy stay in one of the on-site cottages at the retirement home, but only if he works to earn his keep. Teddy agrees—he can change a few lightbulbs and clip some hedges, no sweat. But Ruthie has plans for Teddy too.

Her two wealthiest and most eccentric residents have just placed an ad (yet another!) seeking a new personal assistant to torment. The women are ninety-year-old, four-foot-tall menaces, and not one of their assistants has lasted a full week. Offering up Teddy seems like a surefire way to get rid of the tall, handsome, unnerving man who won’t stop getting under her skin.

Ruthie doesn’t count on the fact that in Teddy Prescott, the Biddies may have finally met their match. He’ll pick up Chanel gowns from the dry cleaner and cut Big Macs into bite-sized bits. He’ll do repairs around the property, make the residents laugh, and charm the entire villa. He might even remind Ruthie what it’s like to be young and fun again. But when she finds out Teddy’s father’s only fixing up the retirement home to sell it, putting everything she cares about in jeopardy, she’s left wondering if Teddy’s magic was all just a façade.

Hilarious, warm, and romantic, Sally Thorne’s novel delivers an irrepressibly joyous celebration of love and community for fans of 99% Mine and The Hating Game.

Review: Sally Thorne’s third book, Second First Impressions, has been on my radar! I was a bit hesitant to read this because I adored The Hating Game, but wasn’t a fan of 99 Percent Mine. Second First Impressions is a sweet romance that explores taking chances, self discovery, community love, and finding happiness. I enjoyed the cast of characters in this storyline and seeing the character growth in the main characters. Though I enjoyed the storyline and hilarious side characters, I wasn’t a big fan of the main characters. I really love the banter and friendship all the characters had with one another, but I kind of felt that the relationship was forced between the two main characters. Towards the last quarter of the book, things seemed to wrap up too quickly. Other than that, I would recommend this novel if you loved The Hating Game!

Review: Anna K Away

Anna K Away by Jenny Lee
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Pub Date: 4/27/2021

Disclaimer: I received 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: The sequel to Anna K, set over the course of the next summer, as the characters come to terms with Vronsky’s tragic death

How the mighty have fallen. Anna K, once the golden girl of Greenwich, CT, and New York City, has been brought low by a scandalous sex tape and the tragic death of her first love, Alexia Vronsky. At the beginning of the summer, her father takes her to the other side of the world, to connect with his family in South Korea and hide her away. Is Anna in exile? Or could this be her chance to figure out who she really is?

Back in the U.S., Lolly has forgiven Steven for cheating on her, and their relationship feels stronger than ever. But when Lolly meets a boy at her beloved theater camp, she has to ask herself how well Steven will ever really know her. Meanwhile, in Manhattan, everything between Kimmie and her new boyfriend, Dustin, is easy—except when it comes to finally having sex. And Bea escapes to LA, running away from her grief at her beloved cousin’s death, until a beautiful stranger steals her heart. Is Bea ready to finally forgive Anna, and let herself truly fall in love for the very first time?

Set over the course of one unforgettable summer, Jenny Lee’s Anna K Away is full of the risk, joy, heartbreak, and adventure that mark the three months between the end of one school year and the beginning of the next.

Review: Anna K Away is the sequel of Anna K. I’d definitely recommend reading Anna K before you read this one as the second book is a continuation on what happened in the first book. I loved that the Gossip Girl vibes continued in this young adult novel. The beginning started off a bit slow and there were a few parts that felt repetitive. The book picks up towards the second half of the story. Overall, I preferred the first book over this one, but I’d recommend reading it if you’ve already read the first book to see what happens.

Review: Greenlights

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Pub Date: 10/20/2020

Disclaimer: I received a free finished physical copy and audiobook 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: From the Academy Award®–winning actor, an unconventional memoir filled with raucous stories, outlaw wisdom, and lessons learned the hard way about living with greater satisfaction

I’ve been in this life for fifty years, been trying to work out its riddle for forty-two, and been keeping diaries of clues to that riddle for the last thirty-five. Notes about successes and failures, joys and sorrows, things that made me marvel, and things that made me laugh out loud. How to be fair. How to have less stress. How to have fun. How to hurt people less. How to get hurt less. How to be a good man. How to have meaning in life. How to be more me.

Recently, I worked up the courage to sit down with those diaries. I found stories I experienced, lessons I learned and forgot, poems, prayers, prescriptions, beliefs about what matters, some great photographs, and a whole bunch of bumper stickers. I found a reliable theme, an approach to living that gave me more satisfaction, at the time, and still: If you know how, and when, to deal with life’s challenges – how to get relative with the inevitable – you can enjoy a state of success I call “catching greenlights.”

So I took a one-way ticket to the desert and wrote this book: an album, a record, a story of my life so far. This is fifty years of my sights and seens, felts and figured-outs, cools and shamefuls. Graces, truths, and beauties of brutality. Getting away withs, getting caughts, and getting wets while trying to dance between the raindrops.

Hopefully, it’s medicine that tastes good, a couple of aspirin instead of the infirmary, a spaceship to Mars without needing your pilot’s license, going to church without having to be born again, and laughing through the tears.

It’s a love letter. To life.

It’s also a guide to catching more greenlights – and to realizing that the yellows and reds eventually turn green too.

Good luck.

Review: Greenlights has been in my TBR since late last year when I received a physical copy from Random House. What can I say about the GoodReads Choice Award for Memoir & Autobiography 2020 that hasn’t already been said? First off, I really enjoyed this book! Matthew’s memoir explores taking chances, lessons learned, reminiscing memories, and truths. I loved switching from reading the book and listening to the audiobook. Matthew has notes and photos in the physical book which is fun to go through. The audiobook is also fun because Matthew narrates it himself and I love his way of storytelling. Highly recommend listen to this gem of a memoir!

Review: Perfect on Paper

Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzales 
Publisher: Wednesday Books 
Pub Date: 3/9/2021

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: Her advice, spot on. Her love life, way off.
Darcy Phillips:

• Can give you the solution to any of your relationship woesfor a fee.

• Uses her power for good. Most of the time.

• Really cannot stand Alexander Brougham.

• Has maybe not the best judgement when it comes to her best friend, Brooke…who is in love with someone else.

• Does not appreciate being blackmailed.

However, when Brougham catches her in the act of collecting letters from locker 89out of which she’s been running her questionably legal, anonymous relationship advice servicethat’s exactly what happens. In exchange for keeping her secret, Darcy begrudgingly agrees to become his personal dating coachat a generous hourly rate, at least. The goal? To help him win his ex-girlfriend back.

Darcy has a good reason to keep her identity secret. If word gets out that she’s behind the locker, some things she’s not proud of will come to light, and there’s a good chance Brooke will never speak to her again.

Okay, so all she has to do is help an entitled, bratty, (annoyingly hot) guy win over a girl who’s already fallen for him once? What could go wrong?

Review: This is the first book I’ve read from the Sophie Gonzales and definitely won’t be my last! I agree with the synopsis that this is definitely a great mash up of To All The Boys I Loved Before and Leah on the Offbeat (part of the Simonverse series). This young adult LGTBTQ+ novel explores self love, high school dating world, friendship, being true to yourself. I liked that the author includes multiple gender identities throughout the book and explained each of them. Another big aspect I really liked about the book was the understanding about being bi and reevaluating what we think it means versus what it actually means. This was pretty important not only in the story, but as a readers, I learned quite a bit since I wasn’t familiar with it. Overall, I really enjoyed this thoughtful and entertaining read. Highly recommend picking this one up!

Review: You Love Me

You Love Me by Caroline Kepnes
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Pub Date: 4/6/2021

Disclaimer: I received a free finished physical copy and audiobook 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: Joe is done with the cities. He’s done with the muck and the posers, done with Love. Now, he’s saying hello to nature, to simple pleasures on a cozy island in the Pacific Northwest. For the first time in a long time, he can just breathe.

He gets a job at the local library—he does know a thing or two about books—and that’s where he meets her: Mary Kay DiMarco. Librarian. Joe won’t meddle, he will not obsess. He’ll win her the old-fashioned way… by providing a shoulder to cry on, a helping hand. Over time, they’ll both heal their wounds and begin their happily ever after in this sleepy town.

The trouble is… Mary Kay already has a life. She’s a mother. She’s a friend. She’s… busy.

True love can only triumph if both people are willing to make room for the real thing. Joe cleared his decks. He’s ready. And hopefully, with his encouragement and undying support, Mary Kay will do the right thing and make room for him.

Review: You Love Me is the third book in You series. This has been one of my most anticipated reads this year! Overall, I really enjoyed this and it gave me similar vibes to the first book. All the characters are deeply complex and perfectly flawed. The storyline kept me on my toes the whole time and I didn’t expect the twists and turns. I kept switching from reading the book and listening to the audiobook since Santino Fontana is one of my favorite audiobook narrators. Santino is an incredible audiobook narrator. I love that he brings the story alive and he does distinct voices for each of the characters. If you are a fan of the book series or the TV series, I highly recommend picking this up! Now I can’t wait to watch the third season of You!

Review: The Bad Muslim Discount

The Bad Muslim Discount by Syed M. Masood
Publisher: Double Day Books 
Pub Date: 2/2/2021

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

GoodReads Synopsis: Following two families from Pakistan and Iraq in the 1990s to San Francisco in 2016, Bad Muslim Discount is a hilarious, timely, and provocative comic novel about being Muslim immigrants in modern America. For fans of Hanif Kureshi, Mira Jacob, and Mohammed Hanif.

It is 1995, and Anvar Faris is a restless, rebellious, and sharp-tongued boy doing his best to grow up in Karachi, Pakistan. As fundamentalists in the government become increasingly strident and the zealots next door start roaming the streets in gangs to help make Islam great again, his family decides, not quite unanimously, to start life over in California. The irony is not lost on Anvar that in America, his deeply devout mother and his model-Muslim brother are the ones who fit right in with the tightly knit and gossipy Desi community. Anvar wants more.

At the same time, thousands of miles away, Safwa, a young girl suffocating in war-torn Baghdad with her grief-stricken, conservative father will find a very different and far more dangerous path to America. These two narratives are intrinsically linked, and when their worlds come together, the fates of two remarkably different people intertwine and set off a series of events that rock their whole community to its core.

The Bad Muslim Discount is an irreverent, dramatic, and often hysterically funny debut novel by an amazing new voice. With deep insight, warmth, and an irreverent sense of humor, Syed Masood examines quirky and intense familial relationships, arranged marriage, Islamic identity, and how to live together in modern America.

Review: The Bad Muslim Discount is a contemporary novel that explores traditional vs. modern beliefs, immigration, family, and self- identity. I am not an own voices reviewer so please take my review with a grain of salt. I loved the dual perspective and the audiobook narrators did a phenomenal job bring these out! The storyline is entertaining, but I found it to be a bit all over the place. I wasn’t a fan of the romance in here. It just didn’t fit well with the rest of the story. The main characters, Safwa and Anvar, are complicated individuals. Safwa has a heartbreaking story, but her actions are so out of character which makes it a bit confusing. I liked Anvar’s relationship with his grandmother and his dry humor, but I couldn’t feel any empathy towards him. The author did an excellent job making their voices as distinct as possible which I appreciated. Overall, I had mixed feelings about this book.

Review: The Good Sister

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pub Date: 4/13/2021

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from 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: From the outside, everyone might think Fern and Rose are as close as twin sisters can be: Rose is the responsible one and Fern is the quirky one. But the sisters are devoted to one another and Rose has always been Fern’s protector from the time they were small.

Fern needed protecting because their mother was a true sociopath who hid her true nature from the world, and only Rose could see it. Fern always saw the good in everyone. Years ago, Fern did something very, very bad. And Rose has never told a soul. When Fern decides to help her sister achieve her heart’s desire of having a baby, Rose realizes with growing horror that Fern might make choices that can only have a terrible outcome. What Rose doesn’t realize is that Fern is growing more and more aware of the secrets Rose, herself, is keeping. And that their mother might have the last word after all.

Review: The Good Sister is the second book I’ve read from from Sally Hepworth. This book felt more like mystery than a thriller to me. The storyline is intriguing, more character driven and it’s a slow burn. Though I picked up on a couple of clues in the beginning, I found it to be an enjoyable read. All the characters were well thought out. I really enjoyed reading the perspectives of past vs. present perspectives from the twins, Rose and Fern. I kept switching from reading the physical book and the audiobook. I really liked the audiobook narrator as I felt like she made the story come alive. Highly recommend picking this up if you’re looking for a domestic slow burn mystery!

Review: The Lost Apothecary

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
Publisher: Park Row
Pub Date: 3/2/2021

GoodReads Synopsis: A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them—setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course.

Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman.

Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.

One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose—selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.

In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive. 

Review: The Lost Apothecary was my March BOTM pick. The storyline and mystery intrigued me. I really loved Nella and Eliza’s historical perspectives which really got me hooked. I could care less about Caroline’s present day perspective which didn’t add any insight to the story. Despite this having a gorgeous cover, this book ended up being a solid three stars for me. If it didn’t have Caroline’s perspective in here, I would have rated it higher.

Review: Survive the Night

Survive the Night by Riley Sager
Publisher: Dutton (Penguin Random House) 
Pub Date: 6/29/2021

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

GoodReads Synopsis: It’s November 1991. George H. W. Bush is in the White House, Nirvana’s in the tape deck, and movie-obsessed college student Charlie Jordan is in a car with a man who might be a serial killer.

Josh Baxter, the man behind the wheel, is a virtual stranger to Charlie. They met at the campus ride board, each looking to share the long drive home to Ohio. Both have good reasons for wanting to get away. For Charlie, it’s guilt and grief over the murder of her best friend, who became the third victim of the man known as the Campus Killer. For Josh, it’s to help care for his sick father. Or so he says. Like the Hitchcock heroine she’s named after, Charlie has her doubts. There’s something suspicious about Josh, from the holes in his story about his father to how he doesn’t seem to want Charlie to see inside the car’s trunk. As they travel an empty highway in the dead of night, an increasingly worried Charlie begins to think she’s sharing a car with the Campus Killer. Is Josh truly dangerous? Or is Charlie’s suspicion merely a figment of her movie-fueled imagination?

What follows is a game of cat-and-mouse played out on night-shrouded roads and in neon-lit parking lots, during an age when the only call for help can be made on a pay phone and in a place where there’s nowhere to run. In order to win, Charlie must do one thing–survive the night.

Review: I’m a huge Riley Sager fan so I was ecstatic to hear he releasing a new book this year, Survive the Night.  This thriller takes place in the ‘90s and dives into cat-and-mouse chase, grief, guilt, and instinct. I really loved the concept and plot of this book, but unfortunately, the execution fell a bit flat for me which is surprising because I loved Riley’s previous books. I noticed in the beginning I kept comparing this book to No Exit by Taylor Adams which is unfair since they are different type of books but they both involve abduction and takes place in the winter. The beginning of the book was a bit slow for me, but as we got 60% through, I found Riley Sager’s familiar adrenaline type writing which I love. I found Charlie’s character to be a bit dull, but I liked the complexity of the other characters. Overall, this was a 3.5 star read which I rounded to 4 stars. I’d recommend this book to fans who love Riley Sager’s work.