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?

Favorite Books of 2020

As we wrap up 2020, reading has certainly been different this year. There were times where I could binge through book after book. Then there were times I have hit reading slumps. Here are my top 12 favorite books in no particular order – these include books published in 2020 and backlist titles that I read this year. I hope you enjoyed reading these as much as I did or that you consider adding these to your TBR list!

Books Published in 2020
Romance: The Trouble with Hating You by Sajni Patel
Fantasy: Hunted by the Sky by Tanaz
Thriller: The Night Swim by Megan Goldin
Contemporary: The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett by Annie Lyons
Nonfiction: Caste by Isabel Wilkerson
Fantasy: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Swab
Fantasy: The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

Backlist Books I Read in 2020
Fantasy: The Graveyard House by Neil Gaiman
Classic: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Fantasy: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
Young Adult Contemporary: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Young Adult Fantasy: A Torch Against The Night by Sabaa Tahir

What was one of your favorite books of 2020?

4 Sequels Better Than The First Book I’ve Read This Year

The second book in a series is usually difficult to write if the first book was so successful. There’s also the added pressure of the second book making or breaking the series. Below are my top 4 sequels I loved better than the first book that I’ve read this year.

A Torch Against The Night (An Ember in the Ashes #2) by Sabaa Tahir

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
First Book: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Take a Hint, Dani Brown (The Brown Sisters #2) by Talia Hibbert

Genre: Contemporary Romance
First Book: Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2) by Sarah J. Maas

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
First Book: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Undercover Bromance (Bromance Book Club #2) by Lyssa Kay Adams

Genre: Contemporary Romance
First Book: The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams

Review: Accidentally Engaged

Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron
Publication: Read Forever
Publication Date: 3/2/2021

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

GoodReads Synopsis: Reena Manji doesn’t love her career, her single status, and most of all, her family inserting themselves into every detail of her life. But when caring for her precious sourdough starters, Reena can drown it all out. At least until her father moves his newest employee across the hall–with hopes that Reena will marry him.

But Nadim’s not like the other Muslim bachelors-du-jour that her parents have dug up. If the Captain America body and the British accent weren’t enough, the man appears to love eating her bread creations as much as she loves making them. She sure as hell would never marry a man who works for her father, but friendship with a neighbor is okay, right? And when Reena’s career takes a nosedive, Nadim happily agrees to fake an engagement so they can enter a couples video cooking contest to win the artisan bread course of her dreams.

As cooking at home together brings them closer, things turn physical, but Reena isn’t worried. She knows Nadim is keeping secrets, but it’s fine— secrets are always on the menu where her family is concerned. And her heart is protected… she’s not marrying the man. But even secrets kept for self preservation have a way of getting out, especially when meddling parents and gossiping families are involved.

Review: I loved The Chai Factor so I was super excited to hear that Amira’s best friend, Reena, would be the focus in Accidentally Engaged. This contemporary romance is explores self-discovery, family pressure, culinary delights, and cultural expectations/values. This was such a cute heartfelt romance read! All the characters felt so real and were entertaining to read. The chemistry between Reena and Nadi forming a friendship into a fake engagement was organic. I really liked the way the author portrayed Reena and Nadim’s overbearing but loving parents and shed light into Indian culture. The secondary characters like Saira, Marley, and Shayne were sweet and encouraging. I also loved that we get cameo appearances from Amira and Duncan from The Chai Factor. If you loved The Chai Factor or love contemporary romance books in general, I highly recommend picking this one up. FYI Accidentally Engaged can be read as a stand alone, but I think you would enjoy it more if you’ve already read The Chai Factor.

Rating: 4/5

Review: The Boy Toy

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The Boy Toy by Nicola Marsh
Publication: Berkley
Publication Date: 11/17/2020

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

GoodReads Synopsis: A woman ready to give up on love discovers that age is truly just a number in this heartwarming and steamy new romantic comedy by USA Today bestselling author Nicola Marsh.

For almost a decade, successful 37-year-old Samira Broderick has used her bustling LA practice as an excuse to avoid a trip home to Australia. She still resents her meddling Indian mother for arranging her marriage to a man who didn’t stick around when the going got tough, but now with a new job Down Under, she’s finally ready to reconnect with her. And while she’s there, a hot international fling might be just what she needs to get out of her recent funk.

Aussie stuntman, Rory Radcliffe, has been hiding his stutter for years by avoiding speaking roles. When a job he can’t refuse comes up as a reality show host, he knows he’ll need some help for the audition: a dialect coach. But he finds himself at a loss for words when he discovers it’s the same sexy woman with whom he just had a mind-blowing one-night stand…

Samira can think of many reasons why Rory is completely wrong for her: he’s ten years her junior, for one, and he’s not Indian–something Samira’s mother would never approve of. Even if things were to get serious, there’s no reason to tell her mother…is there?

Review: The Boy Toy is the first book I’ve read by Nicola Marsh. Overall, I had mixed feelings about this book. I really liked the premise of this book and that it didn’t fit the standard checklist of traditional romance novels. The immersion of cultures, balancing traditional and modern values, strained relationships with parents felt refreshing and real. I liked seeing the older woman/younger man troupe and mention of Rory’s stutter. The first half of the book was intriguing, but once the second half took an unexpected turn which I won’t spoil, it went downhill from there. I was disappointed that the author kept focusing on Samira’s age in a negative light. Other than that, you may want to check this out if you’re a fan of romance books.

Rating: 3/5