Review: Our Missing Hearts

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng
Publisher: Random House
Pub Date: 10/4/2022

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

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Bird Gardner lives a quiet existence with his loving but broken father, a former linguist who now shelves books in a university library. Bird knows to not ask too many questions, stand out too much, or stray too far. For a decade, their lives have been governed by laws written to preserve “American culture” in the wake of years of economic instability and violence. To keep the peace and restore prosperity, the authorities are now allowed to relocate children of dissidents, especially those of Asian origin, and libraries have been forced to remove books seen as unpatriotic—including the work of Bird’s mother, Margaret, a Chinese American poet who left the family when he was nine years old.

Bird has grown up disavowing his mother and her poems; he doesn’t know her work or what happened to her, and he knows he shouldn’t wonder. But when he receives a mysterious letter containing only a cryptic drawing, he is pulled into a quest to find her. His journey will take him back to the many folktales she poured into his head as a child, through the ranks of an underground network of librarians, into the lives of the children who have been taken, and finally to New York City, where a new act of defiance may be the beginning of much-needed change.

Our Missing Hearts is an old story made new, of the ways supposedly civilized communities can ignore the most searing injustice. It’s a story about the power—and limitations—of art to create change, the lessons and legacies we pass on to our children, and how any of us can survive a broken world with our hearts intact.

Review: Our Missing Hearts is the third book I’ve read from Celeste Ng and one of my most anticipated reads. This contemporary/dystopian novel explores themes of injustice, community, legacy, and parent-child relationships. This book is pretty heavy and so heartbreaking. The author touches upon subjects of missing children, discrimination, abandonment, and hate crimes to name a few. The story is about a boy named bird is sets off on a quest to find out the truth about his mother and why she left. The writing style captured me from the first page and as I was reading, I had no idea where the story would take me. All the characters are flawed and yet my heart ached for what they had to go through. Highly recommend picking this one up if you loved Celeste’s previous books!

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: The Way We Weren’t

The Way We Weren’t by Phoebe Fox
Publisher: Berkley
Pub Date: 11/9/2021

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

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: You trying to kill yourself, or are you just stupid?

Marcie Malone didn’t think she was either, but when she drives from Georgia to the southwestern shore of Florida without a plan and wakes up in a stranger’s home, she doesn’t seem to know anymore. Despondent and heartbroken over an unexpected loss and the man she thought she could count on, Marcie leaves him behind, along with her job and her whole life, and finds she has nowhere to go.

Herman Flint has seen just about everything in his seventy years living in a fading, blue-collar Florida town, but the body collapsed on the beach outside his window is something new. The woman is clearly in some kind of trouble and Flint wants no part of it–he’s learned to live on his own just fine, without the hassle of worrying about others. But against his better judgment he takes Marcie in and lets her stay until she’s on her feet on the condition she keeps out of his way.

As the unlikely pair slowly copes with the damages life has wrought, Marcie and Flint have to decide whether to face up to the past they’re each running from, and find a way to move forward with the people they care about most.

Review: The Way We Weren’t is the first book I’ve read from Phoebe Fox. This contemporary novel explores unexpected friendship, moving on, and finding yourself. The author touches upon heavy subjects of miscarriage, death of a child, grief, family member abandonment. When I initially read the summary of this book, it kind of reminded me of A Man Called Ove and The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysuckle (both wonderful books and highly recommend reading if you haven’t done so already) so I was intrigued to read this. Overall, I had mixed feelings about is book. I’m not sure if it was because I didn’t expect miscarriage to be in this book which I don’t mind, but I think there should have been content/trigger warnings either in the summary or in beginning of the book. Also I felt that something was missing or maybe the book just wasn’t my cup of tea. I kept switching from reading the physical book and listening to the audiobook from the library book. In terms of characters, I really liked Flint and his backstory. I really loved the male audio narration and he brought Flint’s perspective alive. I really tried to like Marcie and tried to be sympathetic to her situation, but I found her unlikable and could care less about what was going on with her. I’d recommend reading this only if it’s on your TBR and keep in mind of the content warnings listed above.

Review: Eight Perfect Hours

Eight Perfect Hours by Lia Louis
Publisher: Atria Books
Pub Date: 9/28/2021

Disclaimer: I received a free 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: On a snowy evening in March, 30-something Noelle Butterby is on her way back from an event at her old college when disaster strikes. With a blizzard closing off roads, she finds herself stranded, alone in her car, without food, drink, or a working charger for her phone. All seems lost until Sam Attwood, a handsome American stranger also trapped in a nearby car, knocks on her window and offers assistance. What follows is eight perfect hours together, until morning arrives and the roads finally clear.

The two strangers part, positive they’ll never see each other again, but fate, it seems, has a different plan. As the two keep serendipitously bumping into one another, they begin to realize that perhaps there truly is no such thing as coincidence. With plenty of charming twists and turns and Lia Louis’s “bold, standout voice” (Gillian McAllister, author of The Good Sister), Eight Perfect Hours is a gorgeously crafted novel that will make you believe in the power of fate. 

Review: Eight Perfect Hours is Lia Louis’ sophomore novel. This contemporary romance novel explores friendship, destiny/fate, second changes, and new beginnings. The author addresses some heavy subjects such as death of a close friend, mental health, infidelity, strained family relationships, and suicide. Overall, I had mixed feelings about this book. Even though it was a nice listen, I still preferred Dear Emmie Blue over Eight Perfect Hours. The storyline was cute, however, it was a bit too cheesy and unbelievable for me. I had a difficult time believing this insta-love and ‘great love’ between Noelle and Sam when they barely spend time with each other. A few of the supporting characters are highly unlikable which I didn’t mind, but I felt that all the characters needed to be fleshed out more. The one aspect I really liked about this novel was how the author discusses the loss of a best friend and strained familial relationships. If you love fate/destiny type romance novels, Eight Perfect Hours may be up your alley.

Review: Reminders of Him

Reminders of Him by Colleen Hoover
Publisher: Montlake
Pub Date: 1/18/2022

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

GoodReads Synopsis: After serving five years in prison for a tragic mistake, Kenna Rowan returns to the town where it all went wrong, hoping to reunite with her four-year-old daughter. But the bridges Kenna burned are proving impossible to rebuild. Everyone in her daughter’s life is determined to shut Kenna out, no matter how hard she works to prove herself.

The only person who hasn’t closed the door on her completely is Ledger Ward, a local bar owner and one of the few remaining links to Kenna’s daughter. But if anyone were to discover how Ledger is slowly becoming an important part of Kenna’s life, both would risk losing the trust of everyone important to them.

The two form a connection despite the pressure surrounding them, but as their romance grows, so does the risk. Kenna must find a way to absolve the mistakes of her past in order to build a future out of hope and healing.

Review: Reminders of Him has been one of my most anticipated reads for 2022! This contemporary novel explores grief, strained relationships, hope, and second chances. First and foremost, this is a heavy contemporary novel that really dives into grief and trauma. There is a little bit of romance in here, but it’s more of a subplot. Overall, this was extremely well written and definitely a resonating book. I really love the way Colleen not only fleshed out the flawed characters, but we also have a chance to see them grow throughout the novel. The raw emotions and the intimacy she’s able to capture of her characters is truly heart wrenching. I loved the way that the story flowed and the pacing of the romance in here works so well. The only part that didn’t work for me was that I felt that the ending was a bit too tidy for my liking, but other than that, it’s definitely a powerful and moving read. I highly recommend picking this up if you’re a Colleen Hoover fan.

Review: Love, Chai, and Other Four-Letter Words

Love, Chai, and Other Four-Letter Words by Annika Sharma
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Pub Date: 9/21/2021

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

GoodReads Synopsis: Kiran needs to fall in line. Instead, she falls in love.

Kiran was the good daughter. When her sister disobeyed her family’s plan and brought them shame, she was there to pick up the pieces. She vowed she wouldn’t make the same mistakes. She’d be twice the daughter her parents needed, to make up for the one they lost.

Nash never had a family. The parents who were supposed to raise him were completely absent. Now as a psychologist, he sees the same pattern happening to the kids he works with. So he turns away from love and family. After all, abandonment is in his genes, isn’t it?

If she follows the rules, Kiran will marry an Indian man. If he follows his fears, Nash will wind up alone. But what if they follow their hearts?

Review: Love, Chai, and Other Four-Letter Words takes place in NYC and has a friends-to-lovers trope. This novel dives into themes of strong friendships, cultural expectations, taking risks, and self discovery. This book is definitely a close door romance and slow burn. I had mixed feelings about this book. I loved the plot of this book. One main aspect I really adored was Kiran’s friends. I liked how all her friends come from different backgrounds and can’t wait to read their stories. A couple of elements that didn’t work for me were the main characters, Kiran and Nash, and the writing style. The chemistry between Kiran and Nash seemed to be more of an unbelievable insta love. Also both characters seemed to be pretty shallow. The one main aspect that bothered me was the writing style and some of the language seemed to be odd. Overall, it was a decent story, however, keep in mind this is more of women’s fiction than romance.

Review: Last Summer at the Golden Hotel

Last Summer at the Golden Hotel by Elyssa Friedland
Publisher: Berkley
Pub Date: 5/18/21

Disclaimer: I received a free finished physical 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 family reunion for the ages when two clans convene for the summer at their beloved getaway in the Catskills–perfect for fans of Dirty Dancing and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel–from the acclaimed author of The Floating Feldmans.

In its heyday, The Golden Hotel was the crown jewel of the hotter-than-hot Catskills vacation scene. For more than sixty years, the Goldman and Weingold families – best friends and business partners – have presided over this glamorous resort which served as a second home for well-heeled guests and celebrities. But the Catskills are not what they used to be – and neither is the relationship between the Goldmans and the Weingolds. As the facilities and management begin to fall apart, a tempting offer to sell forces the two families together again to make a heart-wrenching decision. Can they save their beloved Golden or is it too late?

Long-buried secrets emerge, new dramas and financial scandal erupt, and everyone from the traditional grandparents to the millennial grandchildren wants a say in the hotel’s future. Business and pleasure clash in this fast-paced, hilarious, nostalgia-filled story, where the hotel owners rediscover the magic of a bygone era of nonstop fun even as they grapple with what may be their last resort.

Review: Last Summer at the Golden Hotel is the first book I’ve read from Elyssa Friedland. This contemporary novel explores family business, strained relationships, long buried secrets, and traditional vs. modern perspectives. Overall, this was a decent read. I really liked the plot of the story, but I wasn’t really a fan of execution. The family drama was entertaining and I liked a few of the characters. One of the main issues I had with this book was that there were way too many characters. I liked the various chapter perspectives, but it feels like it was more of just a third party narrative than individual narratives. Also this is one of those times in a book where I wish we were given the present versus the past instead of just the present. I kept switching from reading the physical book that Berkley gifted me and the audiobook I bought. If you decide to read this, I recommend going with the audiobook because Julia Whelan narrates it. Her audiobook narration is the reason I was able to enjoy the book. I’d recommend reading this if you’re looking for a fun family drama summer read.

Review: Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake

Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall
Publisher: Read Forever Pub
Pub Date: 5/18/2021

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced digital copy of this book from Read Forever Pub and a finished audiobook copy from Hachette Audio in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: Following the recipe is the key to a successful bake. Rosaline Palmer has always lived by those rules—well, except for when she dropped out of college to raise her daughter, Amelie. Now, with a paycheck as useful as greaseproof paper and a house crumbling faster than biscuits in tea, she’s teetering on the edge of financial disaster. But where there’s a whisk there’s a way . . . and Rosaline has just landed a spot on the nation’s most beloved baking show.

Winning the prize money would give her daughter the life she deserves—and Rosaline is determined to stick to the instructions. However, more than collapsing trifles stand between Rosaline and sweet, sweet victory.  Suave, well-educated, and parent-approved Alain Pope knows all the right moves to sweep her off her feet, but it’s shy electrician Harry Dobson who makes Rosaline question her long-held beliefs—about herself, her family, and her desires.

Rosaline fears falling for Harry is a guaranteed recipe for disaster. Yet as the competition—and the ovens—heat up, Rosaline starts to realize the most delicious bakes come from the heart.

Review: Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake is the first book I’ve read from Alexis Hall. This contemporary romance novel explores expectations vs. desires, confidence, strained familial relationships, and cut-throat baking competition. I was initially drawn to this book because Estelle from Read Forever Pub has the best contemporary romance book recommendations and I adore food competition settings in romcoms. All the characters were well-developed and it was great to see how some of them changed for the better (or for the worse) throughout the story. As for the writing style, I really enjoyed the hilarious moments and also the way that the author was able to discuss sensitive subjects as well. I also loved that the author not only had romance in here, but he also weaved in personal growth. Overall, I’d highly recommend picking this one up if you’re a romance reader! I can’t wait for the book book in the series. 

Review: The Soulmate Equation

The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren
Publisher: Gallery Books
Pub Date: 5/18/2021

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

GoodReads Synopsis: Single mom Jess Davis is a data and statistics wizard, but no amount of number crunching can convince her to step back into the dating world. Raised by her grandparents–who now help raise her seven-year-old daughter, Juno–Jess has been left behind too often to feel comfortable letting anyone in. After all, her father’s never been around, her hard-partying mother disappeared when she was six, and her ex decided he wasn’t “father material” before Juno was even born. Jess holds her loved ones close, but working constantly to stay afloat is hard…and lonely.

But then Jess hears about GeneticAlly, a buzzy new DNA-based matchmaking company that’s predicted to change dating forever. Finding a soulmate through DNA? The reliability of numbers: This Jess understands. At least she thought she did, until her test shows an unheard-of 98% compatibility with another subject in the database: GeneticAlly’s founder, Dr. River Pena. This is one number she can’t wrap her head around, because she already knows Dr. Pena. The stuck-up, stubborn man is without a doubt not her soulmate. But GeneticAlly has a proposition: Get to know him and we’ll pay you. Jess–who is barely making ends meet–is in no position to turn it down, despite her skepticism about the project and her dislike for River. As the pair are dragged from one event to the next as the “Diamond” pairing that could make GeneticAlly a mint in stock prices, Jess begins to realize that there might be more to the scientist–and the science behind a soulmate–than she thought.

Funny, warm, and full of heart, The Soulmate Equation proves that the delicate balance between fate and choice can never be calculated.

Review: Christina Lauren is one of my favorite duo romance authors! The Soulmate Equation is a fake dating troupe that takes place in lovely San Diego. This contemporary romance novel explores using DNA testing to find your true love. Overall, I enjoyed this one! I really loved the supporting character’s: Fizzy (Jess’s best friend) and Juno (Jess’s 7 year old daughter). This is definitely a slow burn romance. I liked the descriptions of the setting in San Diego as well. The only part that didn’t work for me was River’s character. There were times where I felt like we didn’t know much about him or something felt out of character. Besides that, this was a 3.5 star read for me which I rounded up to 4 stars on GoodReads. I really hope there’s a sequel so we can get Fizzy’s love story!

Review: Dial A for Aunties

Dial A For Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto
Publisher: Berkley | Penguin Random House
Pub Date: 4/27/2021

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

GoodReads Synopsis: A hilariously quirky novel that is equal parts murder mystery, rom-com, and a celebration of mothers and daughters as well as a deep dive into Chinese-Indonesian culture, by debut author Jesse Q. Sutanto.

1 (accidental) murder
2 thousand wedding guests
3 (maybe) cursed generations
4 meddling Asian aunties to the rescue!

When Meddelin Chan ends up accidentally killing her blind date, her meddlesome mother calls for her even more meddlesome aunties to help get rid of the body. Unfortunately, a dead body proves to be a lot more challenging to dispose of than one might anticipate, especially when it is accidentally shipped in a cake cooler to the over-the-top billionaire wedding Meddy, her Ma, and aunties are working, at an island resort on the California coastline. It’s the biggest job yet for their family wedding business—“Don’t leave your big day to chance, leave it to the Chans!”—and nothing, not even an unsavory corpse, will get in the way of her auntie’s perfect buttercream cake flowers.

But things go from inconvenient to downright torturous when Meddy’s great college love—and biggest heartbreak—makes a surprise appearance amid the wedding chaos. Is it possible to escape murder charges, charm her ex back into her life, and pull off a stunning wedding all in one weekend?

Review: Dial A For Aunties is the first book I’ve read from Jesse Q. Sutanto. This hilarious contemporary romance takes place in Southern California and explores second chance love, family, self discovery, and filthy rich weddings. Overall, I enjoyed this novel. From the first page, it’s over-the-top and cheesy filled with hilarious characters. I loved the main character Meddy and felt for her in terms of putting her family’s needs over her own desires. This book is a great one to pick up if you need something lighthearted and want a laugh. Definitely recommend!