Review: The Bandit Queens

The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff
Publisher: Random House
Pub Date: 1/3/203

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

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Geeta’s no-good husband disappeared five years ago. She didn’t kill him, but everyone thinks she did–no matter how much she protests.
But she soon discovers that being known as a “self-made” widow has some surprising perks. No one messes with her, no one threatens her, and no one tries to control (ahem, marry) her. It’s even been good for her business; no one wants to risk getting on her bad side by not buying her jewelry.

Freedom must look good on Geeta, because other women in the village have started asking for her help to get rid of their own no-good husbands…but not all of them are asking nicely.

Now that Geeta’s fearsome reputation has become a double-edged sword, she must decide how far to go to protect it, along with the life she’s built. Because even the best-laid plans of would-be widows tend to go awry.

Review: The Bandit Queens is Parini Shroff’s debut. This contemporary/mystery novel explores themes of women’s rights, revenge, toxic relationships, and social class. Unfortunately, this book didn’t work for me. The plot of this book sounded very intriguing but the execution was poorly done. I guess this book could be described as dark humor with extremely heavy subjects done in very poor taste. The author address heavy topics throughout the story: abuse (physical & emotional), alcoholism, rape, gaslighting, animal cruelty to name a few. The beginning of the book is super slow and barely anything happens. At first I was thinking of DNF’ing it but decided to power through it to see if it got better and it didn’t. The dialogue felt odd and didn’t really flow well with the story. I understand that India has its good and bad parts, but I think she should have showed a more balanced view of the country, didn’t bash on a particular religion, and didn’t heavily rely on the stereotypes then this could have been a powerful novel. Definitely pass on this novel as there are other great books out there from Indian authors.

Review: How to Sell a Haunted House

How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix
Publisher: Berkley
Pub Date: 1/17/2023

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: Every childhood home is haunted, and each of us are possessed by our parents.

When their parents die at the tail end of the coronavirus pandemic, Louise and Mark Joyner are devastated but nothing can prepare them for how bad things are about to get. The two siblings are almost totally estranged, and couldn’t be more different. Now, however, they don’t have a choice but to get along. The virus has passed, and both of them are facing bank accounts ravaged by the economic meltdown. Their one asset? Their childhood home. They need to get it on the market as soon as possible because they need the money. Yet before her parents died they taped newspaper over the mirrors and nailed shut the attic door.

Sometimes we feel like puppets, controlled by our upbringing and our genes. Sometimes we feel like our parents treat us like toys, or playthings, or even dolls. The past can ground us, teach us, and keep us safe. It can also trap us, and bind us, and suffocate the life out of us. As disturbing events stack up in the house, Louise and Mark have to learn that sometimes the only way to break away from the past, sometimes the only way to sell a haunted house, is to burn it all down.

Review: How to Sell a Haunted House has been one of my most anticipated 2023 reads! This horror book explores themes of family secrets, strained relationships, puppetry, and troubled pasts. Overall, I enjoyed this one! All the characters are deeply flawed and it was interesting to learn more about each one. I’ve always thought that puppets were creepy, but Grady Hendrix definitely took the puppet creep factor to another level which blew my mind. I loved how complex the story was and how the subplots came together. I also couldn’t guess any of the twists in this one which made reading this fly by. Highly recommend picking this one up if you’re a Grady Hendrix fan or love horror books!

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: Before I Let Go

Before I Let Go by Kennedy Ryan
Publisher: Forever
Pub Date: 11/15/2022

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

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Their love was supposed to last forever. But when life delivered blow after devastating blow, Yasmen and Josiah Wade found that love alone couldn’t solve or save everything.

It couldn’t save their marriage.

Yasmen wasn’t prepared for how her life fell apart, but she’s is finally starting to find joy again. She and Josiah have found a new rhythm, co-parenting their two kids and running a thriving business together. Yet like magnets, they’re always drawn back to each other, and now they’re beginning to wonder if they’re truly ready to let go of everything they once had.

Soon, one stolen kiss leads to another…and then more. It’s hot. It’s illicit. It’s all good—until old wounds reopen. Is it too late for them to find forever? Or could they even be better, the second time around?

Review: Before I Let Go is the first book in the Skyland series. book features Yasmine and Josiah This contemporary romance novel explores divorce, co-parenting, small business life, mental health representation, struggle, and hope. The author addresses some heavy subjects in here: grief, death of a loved one, child death, mental illness to name a few. Overall, I loved this one and it deserves all the stars. This is the first Kennedy Ryan book I read and definitely won’t be my last. I’m typically not a fan of second chance romance trope, but this was so well written. The storyline tugged at my heart strings and I truly felt empathetic towards each main character. One of the other aspects I loved about the novel was Yasmine and her best friends. It was refreshing for the main character to have best friends that she met in the last couple of years after her divorce than with friends she’s known for years. Hendrix and Soledad were so supportive of Yasmine and I’m really hoping each of them have their own books! Highly recommend picking this one up if you’re a romance reader!

Review: Do You Take This Man?

Do You Take This Man by Denise Williams
Publisher: Berkley
Pub Date: 9/6/2022

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

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Divorce attorney RJ would never describe herself as romantic. But when she ends up officiating an unplanned wedding for a newly engaged couple in a park, her life is turned upside down. The video of the ceremony goes viral, and she finds herself in the unlikely position of being a sought-after local wedding officiant. Spending her free time overseeing “I dos” isn’t her most strategic career move, but she enjoys it, except for the type A dude-bro wedding planner she’s forced to work with.

Former pro-football event manager Lear is a people person, but after his longtime girlfriend betrayed him, he isn’t looking for love. He knows how to execute events and likes being in control, so working with an opinionated and inflexible officiant who can’t stand him is not high on his list. He’s never had trouble winning people over, but RJ seems immune to his charms.

Surrounded by love at every turn, their physical attraction pulls them together despite their best efforts to stay an arm’s length apart. Lear refuses to get hurt again. RJ refuses to let herself be vulnerable to anyone. But when it comes to happily ever after, their clients might not be the only ones saying “I do.”

Review: Do You Take This Man is romance novel that has an enemies-to-lovers trope and explores wedding planning, vulnerability, friendship, and moving on. This book featured Britta’s best friend, RJ, and her love interest, Lear. The author addresses some heavy subjects: infidelity of a partner (in one of the main characters pasts) and death/abandonment of a parent (both in the past). I really loved the storyline of a wedding planner and wedding officiant going from enemies-to-lovers and working on weddings together while their relationship blossoms. The author did a great job diving into RJ and Lear’s pasts and the alternate perspectives. There were a few times where I was frustrated with each main character, but I understood why they were acting the way they were as the author slowly revealed their pasts. I loved that Britta and Wes made some appearances which was fun! I’d recommend picking up Do You Take This Man if you liked The Fastest Way To Fall and How To Fail At Flirting!

Review: Scandalized

Scandalized by Ivy Owens
Publisher: Pocket Books
Pub Date: 8/23/2022

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

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Exhausted and on deadline with a story that could make or break her career, investigative journalist Georgia Ross is on the verge of a meltdown when a cancelled flight leaves her stuck in the airport overnight. But when a familiar face appears—the older brother of her childhood friend—and offers help, Gigi seems to have caught a break.

Alec Kim is handsome, humble, and kind—exactly the sort of man that Gigi has forgotten existed after her own painful heartbreaks. An evening of reconnection followed by a night of no-strings-attached passion with Alec feels like a gift—that is, until Gigi finally realizes that their childhood connection isn’t the only reason he seems so familiar to her.

Alec is determined to prove to Gigi that he is truly the man she thinks he is, even if it means coming clean about his fame—and his family’s connection to the story Gigi’s been working so hard to break. But as their feelings for each other grow deeper, Gigi and Alec must navigate a new reality…one where both of their hard-won careers are put directly in the path of an international scandal.

Review: Scandalized has been one of my most anticipated summer reads! This romance novel contains childhood friends to lovers, insta-love, first crush, secrets, and fame. The author addresses a heavy topic of sexual assault. She addresses the topic in a sensitive way that is pertinent to the storyline. I liked this book! I usually don’t like insta-love in books, but this one worked so well especially within the span that Alec and Gigi are together. I loved the way that the author built the connection between Gigi and Alec. Their chemistry was off the charts! The writing style is fast-paced and kept my interest from the beginning. Definitely recommend fellow romance readers to pick this one up! I’m looking forward to reading more from Ivy Owens.

Review: The House Across the Lake

The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager
Publisher: Dutton
Pub Date: 6/21/2022

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

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Casey Fletcher, a recently widowed actress trying to escape a streak of bad press, has retreated to the peace and quiet of her family’s lake house in Vermont. Armed with a pair of binoculars and several bottles of liquor, she passes the time watching Tom and Katherine Royce, the glamorous couple who live in the house across the lake. They make for good viewing—a tech innovator, Tom is rich; and a former model, Katherine is gorgeous.

One day on the lake, Casey saves Katherine from drowning, and the two strike up a budding friendship. But the more they get to know each other—and the longer Casey watches—it becomes clear that Katherine and Tom’s marriage is not as perfect and placid as it appears. When Katherine suddenly vanishes, Casey becomes consumed with finding out what happened to her. In the process, she uncovers eerie, darker truths that turn a tale of voyeurism and suspicion into a story of guilt, obsession and how looks can be very deceiving.

With his trademark blend of sharp characters, psychological suspense, and gasp-worthy surprises, Riley Sager’s The House Across the Lake unveils more than one twist that will shock readers until the very last page.

Review: I’m huge Riley Sager fan so so was excited to hear his latest novel, The House Across the Lake, is releasing this summer! The House Across the Lake is a psychological thriller that explores stalking, former actor life, toxic relationships, and secrets. I had mixed feelings about this book. When I was first reading, I was a bit concerned about not liking the book because it had the overhyped trope of an unreliable female narrator. I like that Riley Sager’s writing style always keeps me engaged even if I feel unsure about the story. This is a definitely a slow build and character-driven story. I found the last third of the story to be the most interesting even though I’m not a fan of paranormal thrillers. I loved the twists and turns he provided and they were ones I wouldn’t have guessed. I ended up rating this 3.5 stars and rounded up to 4 stars. One thing to note is that I would definitely recommend reading the physical or the ebook. I wasn’t a fan of the audiobook narrator that was chosen as I felt the voice felt older than the narrator in the book. If you loved Riley Sager’s previous books or are a fan of psychological thrillers, you may want to check this one out.

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.

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.