Review: Exes & O’s

Exes & O’s by Amy Lea
Publisher: Berkley
Pub Date: 1/10/2023

Thank you to Berkley for the free advanced copy on NetGalley and PRH Audio for the free audiobook in exchange for my honest review.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Romance-novel connoisseur Tara Chen has had her heart broken ten times by ten different men–all of whom dumped her because of her “stage-five clinger” tendencies. Nevertheless, Tara is determined to find The One. The only problem? Classic meet-cutes are dead thanks to modern dating apps. So Tara decides to revisit her exes in hopes of securing her very own trope-worthy second-chance romance.

Boston firefighter Trevor Metcalfe will be the first to rush into a burning building but the last to rush into a relationship. Love just isn’t his thing. When his new roommate Tara enlists him to help her reconnect with her exes, he reluctantly agrees. But Tara’s journey is leading him to discover his own new chapter.

The more time they spend together, the more Tara realizes Trevor seems to be the only one who appreciates her authentic, dramatic self. To claim their happily-ever-after, can Tara and Trevor read between the lines of their growing connection?

Review: Exes and O’s is the second book in The Influencers series and can be read as a standalone which features Tara (Crystal’s older sister) and Trevor (Scott’s best friend/former roommate). This contemporary romance novel contains forced proximity room-ance. I enjoyed this one! I loved the storyline and loved how funny, tender hearted, and swoon worthy this was. It was wonderful to see Tara’s growth throughout the book. I also loved the depth of Trevor and why he acts the way he does. Tara and Trevor’s chemistry is a sweet slow burn and love how the author builds up their chemistry. Highly recommend picking this one up! Now I can’t wait for Mel’s story!

Review: Age of Vice

Age of Vice by Deepti Kapoor
Publisher: Riverhead
Pub Date: 1/3/2023

Thank you to Riverhead for the free advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: This is the age of vice, where money, pleasure, and power are everything,
and the family ties that bind can also kill.

New Delhi, 3 a.m. A speeding Mercedes jumps the curb and in the blink of an eye, five people are dead. It’s a rich man’s car, but when the dust settles there is no rich man at all, just a shell-shocked servant who cannot explain the strange series of events that led to this crime. Nor can he foresee the dark drama that is about to unfold.

Deftly shifting through time and perspective in contemporary India, Age of Vice is an epic, action-packed story propelled by the seductive wealth, startling corruption, and bloodthirsty violence of the Wadia family — loved by some, loathed by others, feared by all.

In the shadow of lavish estates, extravagant parties, predatory business deals and calculated political influence, three lives become dangerously intertwined: Ajay is the watchful servant, born into poverty, who rises through the family’s ranks. Sunny is the playboy heir who dreams of outshining his father, whatever the cost. And Neda is the curious journalist caught between morality and desire. Against a sweeping plot fueled by loss, pleasure, greed, yearning, violence and revenge, will these characters’ connections become a path to escape, or a trigger of further destruction?

Equal parts crime thriller and family saga, transporting readers from the dusty villages of Uttar Pradesh to the urban energy of New Delhi, Age of Vice is an intoxicating novel of gangsters and lovers, false friendships, forbidden romance, and the consequences of corruption. It is binge-worthy entertainment at its literary best.

Review: Age of Vice is the first book I’ve read from Deepti Kapoor. This literary fiction/ crime thriller dives into power, family, social class, and revenge. Wow! What an intense action-packed book! I loved that the story sucked me in from page one. The book is told in multiple POVs and is written in a style where each character is deeply complex and each of their voices are very distinct. I loved the combination of family saga/drama, thriller, suspense, and forbidden drama. There were a few parts that were a bit graphic but I understand that was part of the storytelling experience. As for the audio, I thought the audiobook narrator chosen did an amazing job and loved the way he did various accents. I do think they should have had multiple narrators since there were multiple POVs. Also that ending had my mind blown and now I can’t wait hear news about the sequel. I can definitely see this book becoming popular next year. Highly recommend picking it up!

2022 Year In Review & 2023 Reading Goals

2022 has been my best reading year yet! This is the most number of books I’ve read in a year since I started keeping track in 2017. Here were my goals in 2022 and what I learned:

1. GoodReads Challenge: Put at 1 for fourth year in a row to continue to enjoy what I read. <— I love this goal and plan to carry this goal over to next year. It really puts into perspective on my initial reason for reading. It’s also given me the power to DNF more than I used to.

2. Read more books from South Asian authors. <— Some of my favorite books from this year were written by South Asian authors. I read 27 books from South Asian authors this year! I loved that I was able to read authors I loved along with discovering new ones. I’m definitely carrying this goal over to next year.

3. Finish the rest of Jane Austen novels this year. <— Back in September, I decided to only count the six completed novels from Jane Austen which doesn’t include Love & Friendship. I loved the first 3 Jane Austen books I read. However, I realized that making it as a goal didn’t make it enjoyable for me and also classics in general aren’t really my cup of tea.

Though those were my reading goals this year, I had some other reading accomplishments that I was anticipating as well:

1. I wrote a review on GoodReads on every single book I read this year.

2. I kept my NetGalley % ratio above 80% throughout the year.

After reflecting my reading habits this past year, I had quite a few thoughts on whether I should keep my goals the same or change it up. Should I add a goal to keep my NetGalley at 90%? Should I start to have a goal that I should review every book I’ve read for the year in GoodReads? Is there a particular social media platform I want to focus on – Instagram, TikTok, my blog? I do some of these things now, but sometimes they are difficult to maintain and don’t want it to feel like a burden. I decided to go with two goals I know for sure that I can stick with and these are going to be my 2023 reading goals:

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

2. Continue to read more books from South Asian authors.

What are your 2023 reading goals?

Favorite Books of 2022

These are my top 12 favorite reads of 2022! The books are in order. These were all 5-star reads and I considered what I read this year regardless of the publication date.
🎉 Romance-Best Forced Proximity Trope: The American Roommate Experiment – gifted from Atria
🎉 Best Young Adult: All My Rage – gifted from Penguin Teen
🎉 Best Fantasy: The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches – gifted from Berkley
🎉 Most Anticipated 2023 Read: Age of Vice – gifted from Riverhead Books
🎉 Romance-Best Second Chance Trope: Before I Let Go – gifted from Forever
🎉 Romance-Best Childhood Friends to Lovers Trope: The Second First Chance – gifted from Harlequin
🎉 Best Final Book in a Trilogy: The Winners – gifted from Atria
🎉 Historical Fiction: The Lioness – gifted from PRH Audio
🎉 Best Celebrity Book Club Pick: Remarkably Bright Creatures
🎉 Best Thriller: Hidden Pictures
🎉 Romance-Best Fake Dating Trope: The Bodyguard – gifted from St. Martin’s Press
🎉 Best Nonfiction Backlist: A Life in Parts

Here are a couple of observations from this year’s list:
• Many thanks to the publishers for giving me the opportunity to read these books which I may have not discovered on my own.
• I love that I made an intentional goal to read more books from South Asian authors this year. It’s great to see that some of those books have made into into my top reads of the year.

What was one of your favorites books that you read in 2022?

Review: The Light We Carry

The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Pub Date: 11/15/2022

Thank you to Crown Publishing for the free book and PRH Audio for the complimentary audiobook in exchange for my honest review. 

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: There may be no tidy solutions or pithy answers to life’s big challenges, but Michelle Obama believes that we can all locate and lean on a set of tools to help us better navigate change and remain steady within flux. In The Light We Carry, she opens a frank and honest dialogue with readers, considering the questions many of us wrestle with: How do we build enduring and honest relationships? How can we discover strength and community inside our differences? What tools do we use to address feelings of self-doubt or helplessness? What do we do when it all starts to feel like too much?

Michelle Obama offers readers a series of fresh stories and insightful reflections on change, challenge, and power, including her belief that when we light up for others, we can illuminate the richness and potential of the world around us, discovering deeper truths and new pathways for progress. Drawing from her experiences as a mother, daughter, spouse, friend, and First Lady, she shares the habits and principles she has developed to successfully adapt to change and overcome various obstacles—the earned wisdom that helps her continue to “become.” She details her most valuable practices, like “starting kind,” “going high,” and assembling a “kitchen table” of trusted friends and mentors. With trademark humor, candor, and compassion, she also explores issues connected to race, gender, and visibility, encouraging readers to work through fear, find strength in community, and live with boldness.

“When we are able to recognize our own light, we become empowered to use it,” writes Michelle Obama. A rewarding blend of powerful stories and profound advice that will ignite conversation, The Light We Carry inspires readers to examine their own lives, identify their sources of gladness, and connect meaningfully in a turbulent world.

Review: The Light We Carry is a memoir/self help book. This nonfiction book dives into overcoming self-doubt, gladness, hope, and power. Overall, I enjoyed this book. The audiobook is wonderful because Michelle narrates it herself and it felt like I was listening to a dear friend give me advice. The hardback copy was also great because she shares photos each chapter. In terms of the writing style, I really loved the way that Michelle broke down what tools and advice what worked for her along with what she would. She also stresses in the beginning that the advice she gives worked for her but for the reader to choose what may work for them and disregard what won’t. I appreciated that she acknowledged her privilege in some areas. What made this book the powerful was she shared a vulnerable side of self-doubt, fears, and anxiety but talks about what she uses to change that into something that is actionable and powerful. Highly recommend picking this up if you’re a fan of Michelle!

Review: Kiss Her Once For Me

Kiss Her Once For Me by Alison Cochrun
Publisher: Atria Books
Pub Date: 11/1/2022

Thank you to Atria Books for the free book in exchange for my honest review. 

Rating: ⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: 

One year ago, recent Portland transplant Ellie Oliver had her dream job in animation and a Christmas Eve meet-cute with a woman at a bookstore that led her to fall in love over the course of a single night. But after a betrayal the next morning and the loss of her job soon after, she finds herself adrift, alone, and desperate for money.

Finding work at a local coffee shop, she’s just getting through the days—until Andrew, the shop’s landlord, proposes a shocking, drunken plan: a marriage of convenience that will give him his recent inheritance and alleviate Ellie’s financial woes and isolation. They make a plan to spend the holidays together at his family cabin to keep up the ruse. But when Andrew introduces his new fiancée to his sister, Ellie is shocked to discover it’s Jack—the mysterious woman she fell for over the course of one magical Christmas Eve the year before. Now, Ellie must choose between the safety of a fake relationship and the risk of something real.

Perfect for fans of Written in the Stars and One Day in DecemberKiss Her Once for Me is the queer holiday rom-com that you’ll want to cozy up with next to the fire.

Review: Kiss Her Once For Me is a queer Christmas romance that takes place in Portland, OR. This romance novel contains fake dating, forced proximity, and forbidden romance. I really loved The Charm Offensive so I had high exceptions for this one! I loved the music and pop references in the book. I think there should have been a playlist at the end of the book or something! The biggest part that didn’t work for me was the storyline The plot seemed interesting, but the storyline was an utter mess. There were too many subplots going on and the flashback section was so drawn out. I couldn’t get onboard with Ellie and Jack’s insta-love connection and the miscommunication of it all. There were so many times where one of the characters could have come clean and they didn’t. This wasn’t for me. I’d recommend skipping this one.

Review: You Should Sit Down For This

You Should Sit Down For This by Tamera Mowry-Housley
Publisher: Legacy Lit
Pub Date: 10/4/2022

Thank you to Hachette Audio for the free audiobook copy in exchange for my honest review. 

Rating: ⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: A lighthearted and supremely entertaining memoir, You Should Sit Down for This is like spending the afternoon sharing tea, fresh baked cookies, and conversation with Tamera Mowry-Housley, the fun-loving, wisdom-sharing girlfriend we all need in our lives (always ready to top off your wine!). Most of us know Tamera Mowry-Housley as a beloved TV star—one half of the memorable duo on the hit show Sister, Sister and co-host of the FOX talk show The Real. Tamera’s spunky Sister, Sister character stole the hearts of millions, but the transition in the public eye from teen-girl star to grown woman with a family and thriving career wasn’t easy. Being raised in Hawaii as an army brat instilled in her the discipline needed to succeed and conquer her dreams, but she felt secluded and sheltered, and wondered if living on her own terms would ever be her reality. Then, she decided it would. Tamera stopped letting other people define her, tapped into her faith, and tossed away negativity to hone her own happiness and create a unique path forward for herself. In this pink book of quirky advice and funny stories, she encourages everyone to do the same. In a book that celebrates cookies and the juicy parts of life, Tamera will leave you feeling liberated and motivated to embrace the highs and lows of growing up.
 
Tamera shares heartfelt stories about exiling herself from the world of beauty pageants, the pressures of being a teenage star, her struggle with rejection, the craziness of dating later in life, the challenges of balancing family and career, and why it’s okay for women to hide out in their closets when they just need a few minutes of peace. Tamera doesn’t shy away from the tough experiences, hilarious missteps, and big lessons it took to build a thriving career and the full life she’s living today. Our favorite girl next door offers “Tameraisms”—bite-sized pieces of wisdom to empower other women to step up to life’s unexpected turns and surprises and make it all work. You Should Sit Down for This is a much-needed reminder of the magic that can happen when we open our minds and hearts to become the very best versions of ourselves.

Review: You Should Sit Down For This is Tamera Mowry-Housley’s memoir. This memoir dives into family, values, and tidbits of advice. Tamera narrates this memoir herself with her wholesome and bubbly voice which sounds like listening to a dear friend. Though she seems like a sweet person and it’s great that she shared her experiences with readers, this one didn’t work out for me. It just didn’t seem memorable or to have substance. Some parts seemed to be a bit superficial and the way some parts were written seemed that they were intentionally left out which is fine. I found it odd that she didn’t have more about her siblings considering how popular her twin and one of her brothers are. I’d recommend skipping this one.

Review: Two Wrongs Make a Right

Two Wrongs Make a Right by Chloe Liese
Publisher: Berkley Romance
Pub Date: 11/22/2022

Thank you Berkley Romance for the free finished copy and PRH Audio for the free audiobook in exchange for my honest review.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Opposites become allies to fool their matchmaking friends in this swoony reimagining of Shakespeare’s beloved comedy, Much Ado About Nothing.

Jamie Westenberg and Bea Wilmot have nothing in common except a meet-disaster and the mutual understanding that they couldn’t be more wrong for each other. But when the people closest to them play Cupid and trick them into going on a date, Jamie and Bea realize they have something else in common after all—an undeniable need for revenge.

Soon their plan is in place: Fake date obnoxiously and convince the meddlers they’re madly in love. Then, break up spectacularly and dash their hopes, putting an end to the matchmaking madness once and for all.

To convince everyone that they’ve fallen for each other, Jamie and Bea will have to nail the performance of their lives. But as their final act nears and playing lovers becomes easier than not, they begin to wonder, what if Cupid’s arrow wasn’t so off the mark? And what if two wrongs do make a right?

Review: Two Wrongs Make a Right is the first book I’ve read from Chloe Liese. This romcom contains a fake dating trope and dives into family, friendship, healing, and taking chances. Overall, I enjoyed this one! I really loved the relationship between James and Beatrice. I really liked the way that the author built the relationship between the two main characters. Two Wrongs Make a Right is the first book I’ve read from Chloe Liese. This romcom contains a fake dating trope and dives into family, friendship, healing, and taking chances. Overall, I enjoyed this one! I aapreciated the touching note from the author giving the reader a heads up about content warnings and to read with care. I really loved the relationship between James and Beatrice. I really liked the way that the author built the relationship between the two main characters. I also really loved the dual POVS. The audiobook narrators also did a fantastic job! Now I can’t wait for Kate’s story!

Review: Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing

Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing by Matthew Perry
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Pub Date: 11/1/2022

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: In an extraordinary story that only he could tell, Matthew Perry takes readers onto the soundstage of the most successful sitcom of all time while opening up about his private struggles with addiction. Candid, self-aware, and told with his trademark humor, Perry vividly details his lifelong battle with the disease and what fueled it despite seemingly having it all.

Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing is an unforgettable memoir that shares the most intimate details of the love Perry lost, his darkest days, and his greatest friends.

Unflinchingly honest, moving, and hilarious: this is the book fans have been waiting for.

Review: I had such mixed feelings about this book and was struggling to rate this. I loved that Matthew went into detail about his struggles with addiction, loneliness, and discussed about his childhood. I was surprised he didn’t blame his parents on any of it and was forgiving of them. I also loved the tidbits he shared about Friends and how he became casted as Chandler. I ended up listening to the audiobook which I highly recommend because even though his voice has changed due to age, drugs, smoking, etc, you can hear the vulnerability and the raw emotion in his voice. I applaud him for sharing his struggles in memoir as there is a stigma in men’s health not to discuss or share anything with loved ones and to suffer alone. November is men’s health awareness so I felt that was a very timely read. There were also some parts that didn’t work for me and made me lose a bit of respect for him. I know there were times he was just trying to joke around or be sarcastic about the way he was talking about other celebrities, but it just came off as mean or so unnecessarily desperate so he was trying to name drop. The way he spoke and treated women was no surprise to me. There times in the book where he seemed very arrogant as well which was a bit annoying. The last part that frustrated me was the writing style. He is an incredible writer and I was able to binge this in a matter of days, but it kept hopping all over the place which was difficult to follow and needed some more structure. If you’re a Friends fan and/or a fan of Matthew Perry’s work, I would recommend picking this one up. 

Review: The Angel Maker

The Angel Maker by Alex North
Publisher: Celadon
Pub Date: 2/28/2023

Thank you to Celadon for the free advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Growing up in a beautiful house in the English countryside, Katie Shaw lived a charmed life. At the cusp of graduation, she had big dreams, a devoted boyfriend, and a little brother she protected fiercely. Until the day a violent stranger changed the fate of her family forever.

Years later, still unable to live down the guilt surrounding what happened to her brother, Chris, and now with a child of her own to protect, Katie struggles to separate the real threats from the imagined. Then she gets the phone call: Chris has gone missing and needs his big sister once more.

Meanwhile, Detective Laurence Page is facing a particularly gruesome crime. A distinguished professor of fate and free will has been brutally murdered just hours after firing his staff. All the leads point back to two old cases: the gruesome attack on teenager Christopher Shaw, and the despicable crimes of a notorious serial killer who, legend had it, could see the future.

Review: The Angel Maker is a horror/thriller that dives into a serial killer who supposedly knows the future, strained family relationships, fate, borderlines to paranormal, and dives into philosophy. The beginning of this book is extremely slow burn. There’s a ton of information thrown at the reader that can be confusing, but stick with it and everything will make sense in the end. There were a couple of portions that I had to reread or go back a chapter to make sure I was on track with what was going on in the storyline. Towards the middle of the book, things start to pick up and I couldn’t put the book down. I didn’t anticipate the twists and turns. I really loved everyone’s perspective except Katie’s. I understood the purpose of Katie’s perspective, but I found her character to be a bit drab. Overall, this was 3.5 stars for me, but rounded to 4 on GoodReads. If you’re a fan of Alex North’s other work, then The Angel Maker may interest you.