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: 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.

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

Review: Barely Functional Adult

Barely Functional Adult by Meichi Ng
Publication: Harper Perennial
Publication Date: 11/24/2020

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

GoodReads Synopsis: Wielding her trademark balance of artful humor, levity, and heartbreaking introspection, Meichi Ng’s indisputably relatable collection of short stories holds a mirror to our past, present, and future selves.

Featuring a swaddled, gender-neutral, Barely Functional Adult as its protagonist, who says all the things we think but cannot say, this book is equal parts humorous and heartbreaking as it spans a spectrum of topics including imposter syndrome, therapy, friendships, first loves, letting go of exes, and just trying to find your purpose in the world. Prepare to excitedly shove this book in your friend’s face with little decorum as you shout, “THIS IS SO US!”

In this beautiful, four-color collection compiled completely of never-before-seen content, Meichi perfectly captures the best and worst of us in every short story, allowing us to weep with pleasure at our own fallibility. Hilarious, relatable, and heart-wrenchingly honest, This Book Is a Time Machine will have you laughing and crying in the same breath, and taking solace in the fact that we’re anything but alone in this world.

Review: Barely Functional Adult is Meichi Ng’s debut book. This nonfiction humorous memoir is a collection of short stories written in a memoir writing style with graphics. Overall, I thought this was a decent read. The author’s perspective of not being a young nor old person but trying to figure out your place in the world is something many people can relate. I wasn’t too impressed with the graphics in this book and some of the chapters seemed to be a bit random and meaningless. The chapters felt a bit choppy. Overall, I’d recommend reading this only if you are familiar with the author’s Instagram.

Rating: 3/5

Review: Super Fake Love Song

Super Fake Love Song by David Yoon
Publication: Penguin Teen
Publication Date: 11/17/2020

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

GoodReads Synopsis: When Sunny Dae—self-proclaimed total nerd—meets Cirrus Soh, he can’t believe how cool and confident she is. So when Cirrus mistakes Sunny’s older brother Gray’s bedroom—with its electric guitars and rock posters—for Sunny’s own, he sort of, kind of, accidentally winds up telling her he’s the front man of a rock band.

Before he knows it, Sunny is knee-deep in the lie: He ropes his best friends into his scheme, begging them to form a fake band with him, and starts wearing Gray’s rock-and-roll castoffs. But no way can he trick this amazing girl into thinking he’s cool, right? Just when Sunny is about to come clean, Cirrus asks to see them play sometime. Gulp.

Now there’s only one thing to do: Fake it till you make it.

Sunny goes all in on the lie, and pretty soon, the strangest things start happening. People are noticing him in the hallways, and he’s going to football games and parties for the first time. He’s feeling more confident in every aspect of his life, and especially with Cirrus, who’s started to become not just his dream girl but also the real deal. Sunny is falling in love. He’s having fun. He’s even becoming a rocker, for real.

But it’s only a matter of time before Sunny’s house of cards starts tumbling down. As his lies begin to catch up with him, Sunny Dae is forced to wonder whether it was all worth it—and if it’s possible to ever truly change.

Review: Super Fake Love Song is David Yoon’s second novel. After loving his debut, Frankly In Love, I was really excited for this one. Unfortunately, this one wasn’t up to par to Frankly In Love which was a five-star read for me. The plot sounded really intriguing, but there were times where the story felt like it was dragging. I loved the diverse set of characters, but all the characters were pretty unlikable. The main character, Sunny, was a bit too whiny. His love interest, Cirrus, seemed to have no personality at all and we don’t know much about her. I wasn’t a fan of the way the dialogue was written here and some of the parts were written oddly. Overall, I would recommend skipping this one.

Rating: 2/5

Review: Love Your Life

Love Your Life by Sophie Kinsella
Publication: Penguin Random House
Publication Date: 10/27/2020

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: Call Ava romantic, but she thinks love should be found in the real world, not on apps that filter men by height, job, or astrological sign. She believes in feelings, not algorithms. So after a recent breakup and dating app debacle, she decides to put love on hold and escapes to a remote writers’ retreat in coastal Italy. She’s determined to finish writing the novel she’s been fantasizing about, even though it means leaving her close-knit group of friends and her precious dog, Harold, behind.

At the retreat, she’s not allowed to use her real name or reveal any personal information. When the neighboring martial arts retreat is canceled and a few of its attendees join their small writing community, Ava, now going by “Aria,” meets “Dutch,” a man who seems too good to be true. The two embark on a baggage-free, whirlwind love affair, cliff-jumping into gem-colored Mediterranean waters and exploring the splendor of the Italian coast. Things seem to be perfect for Aria and Dutch.

But then their real identities–Ava and Matt–must return to London. As their fantasy starts to fade, they discover just how different their personal worlds are. From food choices to annoying habits to sauna etiquette . . . are they compatible in anything? And then there’s the prickly situation with Matt’s ex-girlfriend, who isn’t too eager to let him go. As one mishap follows another, it seems while they love each other, they just can’t love each other’s lives. Can they reconcile their differences to find one life together?

Review: Sophie Kinsella’s latest novel, Love Your Life, is a cute lighthearted romance that I definitely needed at the beginning of this month. This contemporary romance novel is a opposites attract / instalove type troupe that explores self-discovery, friendship, lust, and reality. Overall, I enjoyed this one! I thought that the protagonists’ friends outshines the protagonists. As expected in a Sophie Kinsella novel, I loved that there were laugh out loud and cheesy moments. There were a few times where I felt the protagonists were a bit too extreme, but felt that it ended off nicely. If you’re a fan of Sophie Kinsella or are looking for something fun and lighthearted, I’d recommend picking this one up!

Rating: 4/5

Review: Crazy Stupid Bromance

Crazy Stupid Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams
Publication: Berkley Publishing Group
Publication Date: 10/27/2020

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

GoodReads Synopsis: Alexis Carlisle and her cat café, ToeBeans, have shot to fame after she came forward as a victim of a celebrity chef’s sexual harassment. When a new customer approaches to confide in her, the last thing Alexis expects is for the woman to claim they’re sisters. Unsure what to do, Alexis turns to the only man she trusts—her best friend, Noah Logan.

Computer genius Noah left his rebellious teenage hacker past behind to become a computer security expert. Now he only uses his old skills for the right cause. But Noah’s got a secret: He’s madly in love with Alexis. When she asks for his help, he wonders if the timing will ever be right to confess his crush. 

Noah’s pals in The Bromance Book Club are more than willing to share their beloved “manuals” to help him go from bud to boyfriend. But he must decide if telling the truth is worth risking the best friendship he’s ever had.

A hacktivist and a cat café owner decode the friend zone in this romantic comedy from the author of Undercover Bromance. 

Review: Crazy Stupid Bromance is the third book in the Bromance Book Club series and features Alexa and Noah. Although this can be read as a stand alone, I’d recommend reading the previous books as you wouldn’t catch some of the references to the other books’ characters. This wasn’t my favorite of the three, but it wasn’t my least favorite either. I like that we get to see the characters in previous books progress in their lives in this book. My favorite aspect of this series is that we get to see the bromance book club come together and support each other. Though there are parts in this book that are highly unrealistic, it was still a fun and light read even though there were undertones of serious subjects. If you loved the previous books or like friends turned lovers trope, then this book is definitely for you. I’m excited to hear that there will be a fourth book coming out soon featuring the Russian and his wife!

Rating: 3/5

Review: Invisible Girl

Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell
Publication: Atria Books
Publication Date: 10/13/2020

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: Owen Pick’s life is falling apart.

In his thirties, a virgin, and living in his aunt’s spare bedroom, he has just been suspended from his job as a geography teacher after accusations of sexual misconduct, which he strongly denies. Searching for professional advice online, he is inadvertently sucked into the dark world of incel—involuntary celibate—forums, where he meets the charismatic, mysterious, and sinister Bryn.

Across the street from Owen lives the Fours family, headed by mom Cate, a physiotherapist, and dad Roan, a child psychologist. But the Fours family have a bad feeling about their neighbor Owen. He’s a bit creepy and their teenaged daughter swears he followed her home from the train station one night.

Meanwhile, young Saffyre Maddox spent three years as a patient of Roan Fours. Feeling abandoned when their therapy ends, she searches for other ways to maintain her connection with him, following him in the shadows and learning more than she wanted to know about Roan and his family. Then, on Valentine’s night, Saffyre Maddox disappears—and the last person to see her alive is Owen Pick.

With evocative, vivid, and unputdownable prose and plenty of disturbing twists and turns, Jewell’s latest thriller is another “haunting, atmospheric, stay-up-way-too-late read” (Megan Miranda, New York Times bestselling author).

Review: Since I absolutely loved The Family Upstairs, I was really excited to read Lisa Jewell’s upcoming novel, Invisible Girl. I’ve noticed that Lisa Jewell’s novels are either a hit or miss for me. I had mixed feelings about Invisible Girl. The writing style is fast-paced and easy to get into which made me finish the book in a day! The author does an excellent job in creating these deeply complex characters and for discussing the tough subjects of rape and sexual assault. In this book, she had three POVs and I loved how distinct the voices were for each POV. When it came towards the end of the book, I was expecting there to be more of a twist or surprise but that seemed to never happen. Overall, I’d recommend this book if you’re a Lisa Jewell fan.

Rating: 4/5