Review: The Shape of Family

The Shape of Family by Shilpi Somaya Gowda 
Publication: William Morrow
Publication Date: 3/17/2020

Disclaimer: I received a free ARC from Gallery Books in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: The Olander family embodies the modern American Dream in a globalized world. Jaya, the cultured daughter of an Indian diplomat and Keith, an ambitious banker from middle-class Philadelphia, meet in a London pub in 1988 and make a life together in suburban California. Their strong marriage is built on shared beliefs and love for their two children: headstrong teenager Karina and young son Prem, the light of their home.

But love and prosperity cannot protect them from sudden, unspeakable tragedy, and the family’s foundation cracks as each member struggles to seek a way forward. Jaya finds solace in spirituality. Keith wagers on his high-powered career. Karina focuses relentlessly on her future and independence. And Prem watches helplessly as his once close-knit family drifts apart.

When Karina heads off to college for a fresh start, her search for identity and belonging leads her down a dark path, forcing her and her family to reckon with the past, the secrets they’ve held and the weight of their choices.

The Seekers is an intimate portrayal of four individuals as they grapple with what it means to be a family and how to move from a painful past into a hopeful future. It is a profoundly moving exploration of the ways we all seek belonging—in our families, our communities and ultimately, within ourselves.

Review: The Shape of Family is Shilpi Somaya Gowda’s latest book. I enjoyed Shilpi Gowda’s previous books, Secret Daughter and The Golden Son so I was really excited to read The Shape of Family. The Shape of Family was such a heartbreaking book. First and foremost, there are some trigger warnings to be keep in mind before reading this book: death of a loved one, suicide, toxic relationships, and depression. After reading the first 10% of the novel, I had to put the book down for a bit because it was so emotionally heavy. That first part of the book is important and I understand the intention behind it as it affects the storyline throughout the rest of the novel, however, there doesn’t seem to be much lightness after that. However, the author’s writing style is captivating from page one and is a page turner throughout the novel. There were a few scenes in the book that truly resonated with me. I admire the author for being able to write in a way that made me think of this book long after I read it. One of the reasons I gave this book a 3 star rating was because of the alternating perspectives and the character depth. I found the male perspectives, Keith and Prem, to be unnecessary. I felt that Jaya and Karina’s perspectives had the most depth and kept the story moving along. Personally, Secret Daughter is my all-time favorite so far. If you decide to read this book, I recommend to read the synopsis before you dive in so you can be emotionally prepared and know the trigger warnings in advance.

Rating: 3/5

Review: The Eighth Girl

The Eighth Girl by Maxine Mei-Fung
Publication: HarperCollins
Publication Date: 3/17/2020

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

GoodReads Synopsis: One woman, multiple personas. 

But which one is telling the truth? 

Beautiful. Damaged. Destructive. Meet Alexa Wú, a brilliant yet darkly self-aware young woman whose chaotic life is manipulated and controlled by a series of alternate personalities. Only three people know about their existence: her shrink Daniel; her stepmother Anna; and her enigmatic best friend Ella. The perfect trio of trust.

When Ella gets a job at a high-end gentleman’s club, she catches the attention of its shark-like owner and is gradually drawn into his inner circle. As Alexa’s world becomes intimately entangled with Ella’s, she soon finds herself the unwitting keeper of a nightmarish secret. With no one to turn to and lives at stake, she follows Ella into London’s cruel underbelly on a daring rescue mission. Threatened and vulnerable, Alexa will discover whether her multiple personalities are her greatest asset, or her most dangerous obstacle.

Electrifying and breathlessly compulsive, The Eighth Girl is an omnivorous examination of life with mental illness and the acute trauma of life in a misogynist world. With bingeable prose and a clinician’s expertise, Chung’s psychological debut deftly navigates the swirling confluence of identity, innocence, and the impossible fracturing weights that young women are forced to carry, causing us to question: Does the truth lead to self-discovery, or self-destruction?

Review: The Eighth Girl is Maxine Mei-Fung’s debut novel. This psychological thriller explores mental health (more specifically dissociative identity disorder or also known as multiple personality disorder), trauma, abuse, sexuality, and control. Overall, I found the storyline to be quite intriguing. I loved the alternative perspectives of Alexa and Daniel. For Alexa, it was interesting to learn about her multiple ‘selves’, how they interacted with one another, and how we are introduced to them throughout the book. For Daniel’s perspective, I found his psychiatrist and patient sessions to be most fascinating and learned a great deal. It was great to see how complex these characters were by diving into their pasts and seeing how it affected their present selves. I did find that I took my time with novel due to the nature of the content instead of speeding through books like I usually do. If you decide to read this book, I recommend to definitely read the synopsis before you dive in so you can be emotionally prepared and know the trigger warnings in advance if needed.

After I finished the book, I found out from the author that The Eighth Girl has been optioned by Netflix. Click here to learn more. I’m super excited to see that this book will be potentially a movie and can’t wait to see who they will cast!

Review: 5/5

Review: My Dark Vanessa

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
Publication: William Morrow
Publishing Date: 3/10/20

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced 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: Exploring the psychological dynamics of the relationship between a precocious yet naïve teenage girl and her magnetic and manipulative teacher, a brilliant, all-consuming read that marks the explosive debut of an extraordinary new writer.

2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher.

2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager—and who professed to worship only her—may be far different from what she has always believed?

Alternating between Vanessa’s present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of Room, My Dark Vanessa is an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself.

Review: Wow what an amazing debut novel from Kate Elizabeth Russell! The writing in this book was phenomenal. The author has such a way in her writing style where she pulls your heart out and puts it back, but it doesn’t feel the same. Though she does a great job tackling on controversial and sensitive topics, I definitely had to take my time with this book. There were times where the scenes evokes such emotions that I had to put it down and get back to it. Without giving too much away, it really made me think on a higher level what consent is, how sexual power is used, and what psychological grooming is, and what’s healthy and what’s not in relationships. This was such a resonating read that it left me in a book hangover. Though this was a 5 star read for me, I would recommend reading this book only if you read the synopsis above and feel that you are emotionally equipped to handle this.

Rating: 5/5

Review: You Are Not Alone

You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
Publication: St Martin’s Press
Publication Date: 3/3/2020

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

GoodReads Synopsis: You probably know someone like Shay Miller. She wants to find love, but it eludes her. She wants to be fulfilled, but her job is a dead end. She wants to belong, but her life is so isolated. You probably don’t know anyone like the Moore sisters. They have an unbreakable circle of friends. They live the most glamorous life. They always get what they desire. Shay thinks she wants their life. But what they really want is hers.

Review: This is the third book I’ve read from Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanan.  You Are Not Alone reads similar time their previous works, The Wife Between Us and An Anonymous Girl. However, it’s not a domestic thriller. Overall, I found the writing to be intriguing and fast-paced for the most part. Towards the end, it felt like it was dragging a bit. The characters weren’t as fully in-depth that I liked, but it was still enjoyable read.  In terms of the audiobook, I felt that there wasn’t much of a voice difference between the two women who were narrating it even though the book is told from multiple perspectives. Personally, An Anonymous Girl, is my all-time favorite from them.If you love thrillers and/or loved the author duo’s previous books, I’d recommend checking them out. 

Rating: 3/5

Review: Oona Out Of Order

Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore
Publication: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: 2/25/2020

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced listening copy of this book from LibroFM, MacMillan Audio, and Flatiron Books in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: Just because life may be out of order, doesn’t mean it’s broken.
It’s New Year’s Eve 1982, and Oona Lockhart has her whole life before her. At the stroke of midnight she will turn nineteen, and the year ahead promises to be one of consequence. Should she go to London to study economics, or remain at home in Brooklyn to pursue her passion for music and be with her boyfriend? As the countdown to the New Year begins, Oona faints and awakens thirty-two years in the future in her fifty-one-year-old body. Greeted by a friendly stranger in a beautiful house she’s told is her own, Oona learns that with each passing year she will leap to another age at random. And so begins Oona Out of Order…
Hopping through decades, pop culture fads, and much-needed stock tips, Oona is still a young woman on the inside but ever changing on the outside. Who will she be next year? Philanthropist? Club Kid? World traveler? Wife to a man she’s never met?
Oona Out of Order is a remarkably inventive novel that explores what it means to live a life fully in the moment, even if those moments are out of sequence. Surprising, magical, and heart-wrenching, Montimore has crafted an unforgettable story about the burdens of time, the endurance of love, and the power of family.

Review: Oona Out of Order is the first book I’ve read from Margarita Montimore. When I first came across this book, I thought that the storyline seemed intriguing, but I wasn’t sure if I’d like it since the genres this book are under are sci-fi and magic realism which are out of my comfort zone. Overall, I found this to be a solid 4 star read. I was drawn to the author’s writing style. I liked how each year was a different phase in life and how all the parts eventually came together. There were a few twists I didn’t see coming. I realized that I ended up liking the second half of the book more than the first half (I’m thinking it may have to do with Oona becoming more mature). The book ended up being deeper than I thought and loved that the overall message. I’d recommend picking this up if you like the concept of time travel.

Rating: 4/5

Review: Wild At Heart

Wild At Heart by K.A. Tucker
Publication: K.A. Tucker 
Publication Date: 2/18/2020

Disclaimer: I received a free ARC from Social Butterfly PR and K.A. Tucker in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: From the internationally best-selling author of The Simple Wild comes the continuation of a woman’s journey to Alaska and a life she never imagined for herself.
Calla Fletcher returns to Toronto a different person, struggling to find direction and still very much in love with the rugged bush pilot she left behind. When Jonah arrives on her doorstep with a proposition she can’t dismiss, she takes the leap and rushes back to Alaska to begin their exciting future together.
But Calla soon learns that even the best intentions can lead to broken promises, and that compromise comes with a hefty price—a log cabin in interior rural Alaska that feels as isolating as the western tundra.
With Jonah gone more than he’s home, one neighbor who insists on transforming her into a true Alaskan, and another who seems more likely to shoot her than come to her aid, Calla grapples with forging her own path. In a world with roaming wildlife that has her constantly watching over her shoulder and harsh conditions that stretch far beyond the cold, dark, winter months, just stepping outside her front door can be daunting.
This is not the future Calla had in mind, leaving her to fear that perhaps she is doomed to follow in her mother’s fleeing footsteps after all.

Review: Wild At Heart is the much anticipated sequel of The Simple Wild. Heads up that this book is literally a continuation of The Simple Wild and doesn’t read as a stand-alone book. Personally I found Wild At Heart not to be as great as The Simple Wild. The storyline seemed interesting, however, the writing style didn’t seem to captivate me as much as The Simple Wild. The first half of the book is a bit mundane about menial items. There seemed to be a lot of repetitiveness in the beginning. There were also a couple of times I was ready to DNF as Calla and Jonah’s relationship fell into this repetitive pattern. I ended up skimming through the rest of the book even though the second half picked up the pace a bit. It was great that new side characters were introduced and the ones from the first book reappeared as well. Overall, I wouldn’t recommend reading this sequel. 

Rating: 2/5

Review: Undercover Bromance

Undercover Bromance by Lyssa Key Adams
Publication: Berkeley 
Publication Date: 3/10/2020

Disclaimer: I won a finished copy of this book on GoodReads from Penguin Random House. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: Braden Mack thinks reading romance novels makes him an expert in love, but he’ll soon discover that real life is better than fiction.

Liv Papandreas has a dream job as a sous chef at Nashville’s hottest restaurant. Too bad the celebrity chef owner is less than charming behind kitchen doors. After she catches him harassing a young hostess, she confronts him and gets fired. Liv vows revenge, but she’ll need assistance to take on the powerful chef. 

Unfortunately, that means turning to Braden Mack. When Liv’s blackballed from the restaurant scene, the charismatic nightclub entrepreneur offers to help expose her ex-boss, but she is suspicious of his motives. He’ll need to call in reinforcements: the Bromance Book Club. 

Inspired by the romantic suspense novel they’re reading, the book club assist Liv in setting up a sting operation to take down the chef. But they’re just as eager to help Mack figure out the way to Liv’s heart… even while she’s determined to squelch the sparks between them before she gets burned.

Review: Undercover Bromance is the sequel to The Bromance Book Club and is the second book I’ve read from Lyssa Kay Adams. I was really looking forward to this book as the main characters are two side characters I loved in the first book. On top of that, enemies-turned-lovers is my favorite romance trope! Personally, I thought that Undercover Bromance was much better than the first. I really loved that the author explored Mack’s vulnerable yet cheesy side. At first, I felt that Liv’s character was a bit too aggressive, however, I later realized why she was like that and she makes a great counterpart to Mack. It was also great the way that the author incorporated the #metoo movement in the storyline. Overall, I highly recommend checking out this book if you loved Undercover Bromance or are a fan of romance in general. I’m super excited for Alexis and Noah’s story to release later this year

Rating: 4/5