Review: The Winners

The Winners by Fredrik Backman
Publisher: Atria books
Pub Date: 9/27/2022

Thank you to Atria Books for the free advanced copy on NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Two years have passed since the events that no one wants to think about. Everyone has tried to move on, but there’s something about this place that prevents it. The residents continue to grapple with life’s big questions: What is a family? What is a community? And what, if anything, are we willing to sacrifice in order to protect them?

As the locals of Beartown struggle to overcome the past, great change is on the horizon. Someone is coming home after a long time away. Someone will be laid to rest. Someone will fall in love, someone will try to fix their marriage, and someone will do anything to save their children. Someone will submit to hate, someone will fight, and someone will grab a gun and walk towards the ice rink.

So what are the residents of Beartown willing to sacrifice for their home?

Everything.

Review: The Winners is the third book in the Beartown series. I’d recommend reading the other two books and then read this one as there are several points that refer back to the other two books. The Winners explores social class, community, politics, and family. The book is a little under 700 pages and it took me almost a month to finish. I loved this book and it was a five star read. However, read this book with care. The author discusses a lot of heavy subjects: rape, alcoholism, abuse, suicide, gun violence, death, and so many other subjects. There were quite a few times I had to stop reading because it spurred all sorts of emotions. In terms of the writing style, this is a very character driven book. Sometimes it will feel like a slow build or it will feel repetitive in writing, but this all serves a purpose in the story flow. I really liked the multiple subplots going in within the community and the introduction to new characters interacting with beloved characters from the previous books. For those who love the Beartown series will really enjoy The Winners.

Review: Mother Ocean Father Nation

Mother Ocean Father Nation by Nishant Batsha
Publisher: Ecco Books
Pub Date: 6/7/2022

Thank you to Ecco Books for the free advanced reader copy in exchange for my honest review.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: A riveting, tender debut novel, following a brother and sister whose paths diverge–one forced to leave, one left behind–in the wake of a nationalist coup in the South Pacific

On a small Pacific island, a brother and sister tune in to a breaking news radio bulletin. It is 1985, and an Indian grocer has just been attacked by nativists aligned with the recent military coup. Now, fear and shock are rippling through the island’s deeply-rooted Indian community as racial tensions rise to the brink.

Bhumi hears this news from her locked-down dorm room in the capital city. She is the ambitious, intellectual standout of the family–the one destined for success. But when her friendship with the daughter of a prominent government official becomes a liability, she must flee her unstable home for California.

Jaipal feels like the unnoticed, unremarkable sibling, always left to fend for himself. He is stuck working in the family store, avoiding their father’s wrath, with nothing but his hidden desires to distract him. Desperate for money and connection, he seizes a sudden opportunity to take his life into his own hands for the first time. But his decision may leave him vulnerable to the island’s escalating volatility.

Spanning from the lush terrain of the South Pacific to the golden hills of San Francisco, Mother Ocean Father Nation is an entrancing debut about how one family, at the mercy of a nation broken by legacies of power and oppression, forges a path to find a home once again.

Review: Mother Ocean Father Nation is a literary, historical fiction, LBTQ+ debut novel from Nishant Batsha. Mother Ocean Father Nation explores themes of strained relationships, power, oppression, self discovery, and the meaning of home. The author alternates perspectives from sister and brother, Bhumi and Jaipal. I loved that their perspectives were different and their stories were separate yet interwoven. I also liked how the author touched suppression, immigration, and the feeling of belonging. The plot is intriguing, but the pacing of the story felt either way too show or everything happens at once. The author touches upon some heavy themes in here, but I felt there was too much to dive into and some things were unexplained. It was a good start to a debut that was heartbreaking yet filled with hope. I’d recommend reading this one if you love character/driven stories.

South Asian Book Recommendations

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month takes place in the month of May in the United States. AAPI heritage month celebrate the contribution and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans to history, culture, and achievements.

One of my reading goals this year has been to read and amplify more books from South Asian authors. I’m so glad to see that our voices are shown through various genres and are being pushed to the forefront, however, we still have a ways to go.

Here are some South Asian books I’d read recently and recommend along with a few that are on my TBR:

✨What We Carry • memoir

✨The Last Queen• historical fiction • on my TBR

✨Kamila Knows Best • romance

✨All My Rage• young adult contemporary

✨In Sensorium • queer memoir

✨ My Sweet Girl • thriller/suspense

✨Dava Shastri’s Last Day • contemporary

✨ The First, The Few, The Only • business

✨The Bangalore Detectives Club • cozy mystery • on my TBR

✨ Kaikeyi • fantasy • on my TBR

What’s the latest book from an AAPI author you read?

Review: Insomnia

Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough
Publisher: William Morrow Books
Pub Date: 4/12/2022

Thank you to William Morrow Books for the free finished copy in exchange for my honest review.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: In this twisty, mind-bending thriller from the bestselling author of Behind Her Eyes, Emma Averell worries that her crippling insomnia is a sign that she’s slowly going insane—like the mother she’s worked so hard to leave in her past.

Emma Averell loves her life—her high-powered legal career, her two beautiful children, and her wonderful stay-at-home husband—but it wasn’t always so perfect. When she was just five years old, Emma and her older sister went into foster care because of a horrific incident with their mother. Her sister can remember a time when their mother was loving and “normal,” but Emma can only remember her as one thing—a monster. And that monster emerged right around their mother’s fortieth birthday, the same age Emma is approaching now.

Emma desperately wants to keep her successful life separate from her past, so she has always hidden her childhood trauma. But then she’s unable to sleep, and now losing time during the day, also one of the first symptoms her mother showed. Is the madness in her blood, just as her mother predicted? Could she end up hurting her family in her foggy, frenetic state? Or is she truly beginning to lose her mind?

Review: Insomnia is the third book I’ve read from Sarah Pinborough. This psychological thriller explores strained familial relationships, memories, secrets, and paranoia. Overall, I liked reading this one. This is one of those books where it’s better going in not knowing what it’s really about. There’s only one narrator who is unreliable. I liked the slow build and unfolding throughout the book. Though some of the explanations seemed unrealistic, it was a fun read. If you love psychological thrillers, this may be up your alley!

Review: The STEMinist Novellas by Ali Hazelwood

The STEMinist Novellas

The STEMinist Novellas by Ali Hazelwood
Publisher: PRH Audio (audiobooks) & Berkley (ebooks)

Thank you to PRH Audio for the free audiobook copies in exchange for my honest review.

Image from GoodReads

Under One Roof (#1)
Audiobook Pub Date: 2/8/2022
Ebook Pub Date: 5/3/2022

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: A scientist should never cohabitate with her annoyingly hot nemesis – it leads to combustion.

Mara, Sadie, and Hannah are friends first, scientists always. Though their fields of study might take them to different corners of the world, they can all agree on this universal truth: when it comes to love and science, opposites attract and rivals make you burn….

As an environmental engineer, Mara knows all about the delicate nature of ecosystems. They require balance. And leaving the thermostat alone. And not stealing someone else’s food. And other rules Liam, her detestable big-oil lawyer of a roommate, knows nothing about. Okay, sure, technically she’s the interloper. Liam was already entrenched in his aunt’s house like some glowering grumpy giant when Mara moved in, with his big muscles and kissable mouth just sitting there on the couch tempting respectable scientists to the dark side…but Helena was her mentor and Mara’s not about to move out and give up her inheritance without a fight.

The problem is, living with someone means getting to know them. And the more Mara finds out about Liam, the harder it is to loathe him…and the easier it is to love him.

Thoughts: Under One Roof has enemies-to-lovers and forced proximity tropes. Overall, this was a cute and fast listen. If you loved the Love Hypothesis, this may be up your alley.

Image from GoodReads

Stuck On You (#2)
Audiobook Pub Date: 3/8/2022
Ebook Pub Date: 6/7/2022

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Nothing like a little rivalry between scientists to take love to the next level.

Mara, Sadie, and Hannah are friends first, scientists always. Though their fields of study might take them to different corners of the world, they can all agree on this universal truth: when it comes to love and science, opposites attract and rivals make you burn…

Logically, Sadie knows that civil engineers are supposed to build bridges. However, as a woman of STEM she also understands that variables can change, and when you are stuck for hours in a tiny New York elevator with the man who broke your heart, you earn the right to burn that brawny, blond bridge to the ground. Erik can apologize all he wants, but to quote her rebel leader—she’d just as soon kiss a Wookiee.

Not even the most sophisticated of Sadie’s superstitious rituals could have predicted such a disastrous reunion. But while she refuses to acknowledge the siren call of Erik’s steely forearms or the way his voice softens when he offers her his sweater, Sadie can’t help but wonder if there might be more layers to her cold-hearted nemesis than meet the eye. Maybe, possibly, even burned bridges can still be crossed….

Thoughts: Stuck With You features Sadie and Erik and takes place in New York. This novella dives into themes of rival companies, miscommunication, and instalove. Overall, this was a cute and fast listen. If you loved the Love Hypothesis and Under One Roof, you may enjoy Stuck With You.

Image from GoodReads

Below Zero (#3)
Audiobook Pub Date: 4/5/2022
Ebook Pub Date: 7/52022

Rating: ⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: It will take the frosty terrain of the Arctic to show these rival scientists that their chemistry burns hot.

Mara, Sadie, and Hannah are friends first, scientists always. Though their fields of study might take them to different corners of the world, they can all agree on this universal truth: when it comes to love and science, opposites attract and rivals make you burn…

Hannah’s got a bad feeling about this. Not only has the NASA aerospace engineer found herself injured and stranded at a remote Arctic research station—but the one person willing to undertake the hazardous rescue mission is her longtime rival.

Ian has been many things to Hannah: the villain who tried to veto her expedition and ruin her career, the man who stars in her most deliciously lurid dreams…but he’s never played the hero. So why is he risking everything to be here? And why does his presence seem just as dangerous to her heart as the coming snowstorm?

Thoughts: Below Zero is the third romance novella in the STEMist novella series. This romance novella features Hannah and Ian. Overall, this was my least favorite of the novellas and wasn’t for me. I noticed that all the novellas involve the same formula containing insta-love, enemies to lovers, she’s tiny and he’s so big type stories. That’s fine, but I was kind of hoping that there would be something distinctly different in this one than other two novellas. There’s a lack of chemistry between the main characters. I couldn’t really get into the story as I was able to with the others. You may enjoy this one if you loved the other two novellas in the series.

Review: Book Lovers

The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James
Publisher: Berkley Pub
Pub Date: 3/15/2022

Thank you to Berkley Pub for the free advanced copy on NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.

Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute.

If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.

Review: Book Lovers by Emily Henry is the third adult romance I’ve read from Emily, but overall fourth book I’ve read from her. This romcom explores sister love, small town life, and taking risks.I l enjoyed this one. The author addresses heavy subjects in the story: death of a parent, grief, pregnancy, and panic attacks/disorders to name a few. I love that Emily’s writing style is pretty consistent in all her books. In Book Lovers, I found it surprising that the story is told only through Nora’s perspective which works well. All the characters are fleshed out and have such great chemistry with one another. Each of the main characters have their flaws, but I love that we get to see main characters’ chemistry heighten, the slow build of their relationship, and the witty banter works so well. The only character annoyed me at the beginning was Nora’s sister, Libby, but I understand why she was written the way she was and liked how we got to see her character grow. Highly recommend picking h toys up if  you’re a  romance reader and/or if you’re a fan of Emily Henry.

Q1 2022 Wrap Up

This is the first time I’ve done a quarterly wrap. I thought it would be a great time to do a check-in on my 2022 reading goals since we’re already a quarter of the way through the year.

GoodReads Challenge: Put at 1 for fourth year in a row to continue to enjoy what I read.

I’ve currently read 45 books so far. I noticed that I’ve been a lot more easygoing giving higher ratings on books and rounding up .5s.

Read more books from South Asian authors.

I read four books from South Asian authors so far and enjoyed most of them. I ideally wanted to read at least one book from a South Asian author each month, but that didn’t happen in March. However, my list of books from South Asian books have grown which is great.

Finish the rest of Jane Austen novels this year.

I finished Sense & Sensibility in January. I haven’t picked up any others since then. The only two I have left are Mansfield Park and Love & Friendship. I’m hoping I can get through another Jane Austen novel by summer, but I’m not going to pressure myself.

Review: The Younger Wife

The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pub Date: 4/5/2022

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for the free advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis:

THE HUSBAND: A heart surgeon at the top of his field, Stephen Aston is getting married again. But first he must divorce his current wife, even though she can no longer speak for herself.

THE DAUGHTERS: Tully and Rachel Aston look upon their father’s fiancée, Heather, as nothing but an interloper. Heather is younger than both of them. Clearly, she’s after their father’s money.

THE FORMER WIFE: With their mother in a precarious position, Tully and Rachel are determined to get to the truth about their family’s secrets, the new wife closing in, and who their father really is.

THE YOUNGER WIFE: Heather has secrets of her own. Will getting to the truth unleash the most dangerous impulses in all of them?

Review: The Younger Wife is the third book I’ve read from Sally Hepworth. Sally’s books seem to be a mixed bag for me. The Younger Wife explores strained familial relationships, social class, gaslighting, and finding the truth. Overall, this was an entertaining read. I liked the various POVs and the writing style. The middle dragged a bit, but it was interesting to see how the ending came together. Also the author connected a scene in the book to something that happened to her in real life which was pretty cool. I’d recommend reading this if you loved her other books. This was 3.5 stars for me.

Review: This Might Hurt

This Might Hurt by Stephanie Wrobel l
Publisher: Berkley
Pub Date: 2/22/2022

Thank you to Berkley for the free finished copy in exchange for my honest review.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Welcome to Wisewood. We’ll keep your secrets if you keep ours.

Natalie Collins hasn’t heard from her sister in more than half a year.

The last time they spoke, Kit was slogging from mundane workdays to obligatory happy hours to crying in the shower about their dead mother. She told Natalie she was sure there was something more out there.

And then she found Wisewood.

On a private island off the coast of Maine, Wisewood’s guests commit to six-month stays. During this time, they’re prohibited from contact with the rest of the world–no Internet, no phones, no exceptions. But the rules are for a good reason: to keep guests focused on achieving true fearlessness so they can become their Maximized Selves. Natalie thinks it’s a bad idea, but Kit has had enough of her sister’s cynicism and voluntarily disappears off the grid.

Six months later Natalie receives a menacing e-mail from a Wisewood account threatening to reveal the secret she’s been keeping from Kit. Panicked, Natalie hurries north to come clean to her sister and bring her home. But she’s about to learn that Wisewood won’t let either of them go without a fight.

Review: This Might Hurt is Stephanie Wrobel’s second novel. I loved Stephanie’s debut, Darling Rose Gold, so I was excited to hear about this one! This Might Hurt is a thriller that explores strained family dynamics, claustrophobic vibes, island life, and instinct. The author addresses some heavy subjects throughout the story: child abuse, domestic abuse, emotional abuse. The premise of the story was intriguing. I found this to give Nine Perfect Strangers and cult like vibes which was interesting. It was interesting to see the secrets unravel for each character and to learn more about their pasts. Though I figured out most of the twists early on, there was a small one that I didn’t catch that was pleasantly surprising. I liked the way the book ended as well. I could definitely see this book have a sequel or turn into a show. This Might Hurt was a fun read, but I personally like Darling Rose Gold even though I rated both books the same. I’d recommend picking this one up if you liked Darling Rose Gold!

Review: The Book of Cold Cases

The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James
Publisher: Berkley Pub
Pub Date: 3/15/2022

Thank you to Berkley Pub for the free advanced copy on NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: In 1977, Claire Lake, Oregon, was shaken by the Lady Killer Murders: Two men, seemingly randomly, were murdered with the same gun, with strange notes left behind. Beth Greer was the perfect suspect–a rich, eccentric twenty-three-year-old woman, seen fleeing one of the crimes. But she was acquitted, and she retreated to the isolation of her mansion.

Oregon, 2017. Shea Collins is a receptionist, but by night, she runs a true crime website, the Book of Cold Cases–a passion fueled by the attempted abduction she escaped as a child. When she meets Beth by chance, Shea asks her for an interview. To Shea’s surprise, Beth says yes.

They meet regularly at Beth’s mansion, though Shea is never comfortable there. Items move when she’s not looking, and she could swear she’s seen a girl outside the window. The allure of learning the truth about the case from the smart, charming Beth is too much to resist, but even as they grow closer, Shea senses something isn’t right. Is she making friends with a manipulative murderer, or are there other dangers lurking in the darkness of the Greer house?

Review: The Book of Cold Cases has been one of my most anticipated thrillers this year. I’m not really a fan of paranormal thrillers, but I absolutely loved Simone’s previous two books so I was curious about this one. The Book of Cold Cases involves crime blogging, unsolved serial killer mystery, small town living, and paranormal vibes. Overall, this was a decent read. The building up to the mystery was a bit too slow burn for me. I really enjoyed Beth’s POV more than Shea, but I understood why Shea’s POV was there. It took me a while to get invested in the story as I felt that there was a lack of twists and it’s easy to figure out who was culprit from the beginning. Even though I figured it out early, I enjoyed the journey of getting to that point through the author’s writing style. This was a solid 3 stars for me. If you enjoyed the author’s previous work or love paranormal thrillers, you may enjoy this one.