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!

Review: Gold Diggers

Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Pub Date: 4/6/2021

Disclaimer: I received a finished listening copy from Penguin Random House in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: A floundering second-generation teenager growing up in the Bush-era Atlanta suburbs, Neil Narayan is authentic, funny, and smart. He just doesn’t share the same drive as everyone around him. His perfect older sister is headed to Duke. His parents’ expectations for him are just as high. He tries to want this version of success, but mostly, Neil just wants his neighbor across the cul-de-sac, Anita Dayal.

But Anita has a secret: she and her mother Anjali have been brewing an ancient alchemical potion from stolen gold that harnesses the ambition of the jewelry’s original owner. Anjali’s own mother in Bombay didn’t waste the precious potion on her daughter, favoring her sons instead. Anita, on the other hand, just needs a little boost to get into Harvard. But when Neil–who needs a whole lot more–joins in the plot, events spiral into a tragedy that rips their community apart.

Ten years later, Neil is an oft-stoned Berkeley history grad student studying the California gold rush. His high school cohort has migrated to Silicon Valley, where he reunites with Anita and resurrects their old habit of gold theft–only now, the stakes are higher. Anita’s mother is in trouble, and only gold can save her. Anita and Neil must pull off one last heist.

Gold Diggers is a fine-grained, profoundly intelligent, and bitingly funny investigation in to questions of identity and coming of age–that tears down American shibboleths.

Review: I was initially intrigued by Gold Diggers by the vibrant cover and that Mindy Kaling is adapting this novel into a TV series which I’m sure will be amazing! This magical realism novel explores family pressure, mental health, finding your identity, and Indian culture. The writing style in this novel will capture you from page one especially with the complex flawed character and the intriguing backstory of the older generations. The audiobook narrator did an incredible job narrating this novel. The way he did the different characters voices made the story come alive. I loved the audiobook so much that I went out to buy a physical copy from Barnes & Noble to add to my bookshelf last night. Highly recommend picking this one up!

Review: Second First Impressions

Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne
Publisher: William Morrow
Pub Date: 4/13/2021

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

GoodReads Synopsis: From the USA Today bestselling author of The Hating Game and 99 Percent Mine comes the clever, funny, and unforgettable story of a muscular, tattooed man hired as an assistant to two old women—under the watchful eye of a beautiful retirement home manager.

Distraction (n): an extreme agitation of the mind or emotions.

Ruthie Midona has worked the front desk at the Providence Luxury Retirement Villa for six years, dedicating her entire adult life to caring for the Villa’s residents, maintaining the property (with an assist from DIY YouTube tutorials), and guarding the endangered tortoises that live in the Villa’s gardens. Somewhere along the way, she’s forgotten that she’s young and beautiful, and that there’s a world outside of work—until she meets the son of the property developer who just acquired the retirement center.

Teddy Prescott has spent the last few years partying, sleeping in late, tattooing himself when bored, and generally not taking life too seriously—something his father, who dreams of grooming Teddy into his successor, can’t understand. When Teddy needs a place to crash, his father seizes the chance to get him to grow up. He’ll let Teddy stay in one of the on-site cottages at the retirement home, but only if he works to earn his keep. Teddy agrees—he can change a few lightbulbs and clip some hedges, no sweat. But Ruthie has plans for Teddy too.

Her two wealthiest and most eccentric residents have just placed an ad (yet another!) seeking a new personal assistant to torment. The women are ninety-year-old, four-foot-tall menaces, and not one of their assistants has lasted a full week. Offering up Teddy seems like a surefire way to get rid of the tall, handsome, unnerving man who won’t stop getting under her skin.

Ruthie doesn’t count on the fact that in Teddy Prescott, the Biddies may have finally met their match. He’ll pick up Chanel gowns from the dry cleaner and cut Big Macs into bite-sized bits. He’ll do repairs around the property, make the residents laugh, and charm the entire villa. He might even remind Ruthie what it’s like to be young and fun again. But when she finds out Teddy’s father’s only fixing up the retirement home to sell it, putting everything she cares about in jeopardy, she’s left wondering if Teddy’s magic was all just a façade.

Hilarious, warm, and romantic, Sally Thorne’s novel delivers an irrepressibly joyous celebration of love and community for fans of 99% Mine and The Hating Game.

Review: Sally Thorne’s third book, Second First Impressions, has been on my radar! I was a bit hesitant to read this because I adored The Hating Game, but wasn’t a fan of 99 Percent Mine. Second First Impressions is a sweet romance that explores taking chances, self discovery, community love, and finding happiness. I enjoyed the cast of characters in this storyline and seeing the character growth in the main characters. Though I enjoyed the storyline and hilarious side characters, I wasn’t a big fan of the main characters. I really love the banter and friendship all the characters had with one another, but I kind of felt that the relationship was forced between the two main characters. Towards the last quarter of the book, things seemed to wrap up too quickly. Other than that, I would recommend this novel if you loved The Hating Game!

Review: The Bad Muslim Discount

The Bad Muslim Discount by Syed M. Masood
Publisher: Double Day Books 
Pub Date: 2/2/2021

Disclaimer: I received a finished listening copy from Penguin Random House Audio in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: Following two families from Pakistan and Iraq in the 1990s to San Francisco in 2016, Bad Muslim Discount is a hilarious, timely, and provocative comic novel about being Muslim immigrants in modern America. For fans of Hanif Kureshi, Mira Jacob, and Mohammed Hanif.

It is 1995, and Anvar Faris is a restless, rebellious, and sharp-tongued boy doing his best to grow up in Karachi, Pakistan. As fundamentalists in the government become increasingly strident and the zealots next door start roaming the streets in gangs to help make Islam great again, his family decides, not quite unanimously, to start life over in California. The irony is not lost on Anvar that in America, his deeply devout mother and his model-Muslim brother are the ones who fit right in with the tightly knit and gossipy Desi community. Anvar wants more.

At the same time, thousands of miles away, Safwa, a young girl suffocating in war-torn Baghdad with her grief-stricken, conservative father will find a very different and far more dangerous path to America. These two narratives are intrinsically linked, and when their worlds come together, the fates of two remarkably different people intertwine and set off a series of events that rock their whole community to its core.

The Bad Muslim Discount is an irreverent, dramatic, and often hysterically funny debut novel by an amazing new voice. With deep insight, warmth, and an irreverent sense of humor, Syed Masood examines quirky and intense familial relationships, arranged marriage, Islamic identity, and how to live together in modern America.

Review: The Bad Muslim Discount is a contemporary novel that explores traditional vs. modern beliefs, immigration, family, and self- identity. I am not an own voices reviewer so please take my review with a grain of salt. I loved the dual perspective and the audiobook narrators did a phenomenal job bring these out! The storyline is entertaining, but I found it to be a bit all over the place. I wasn’t a fan of the romance in here. It just didn’t fit well with the rest of the story. The main characters, Safwa and Anvar, are complicated individuals. Safwa has a heartbreaking story, but her actions are so out of character which makes it a bit confusing. I liked Anvar’s relationship with his grandmother and his dry humor, but I couldn’t feel any empathy towards him. The author did an excellent job making their voices as distinct as possible which I appreciated. Overall, I had mixed feelings about this book.

Review: The Truth About Melody Browne

The Truth About Melody Browne by Lisa Jewell
Publisher: Atria Books
Pub Date: 1/26/2021

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

GoodReads Synopsis: When she was nine years old, Melody Browne’s house burned down, taking every toy, every photograph, every item of clothing and old Christmas card with it. But not only did the fire destroy all her possessions, it took with it all her memories – Melody Browne can remember nothing before her ninth birthday. Now in her early thirties, Melody lives in a council flat in the middle of London with her seventeen-year-old son. She hasn’t seen her parents since she left home at fifteen, but Melody doesn’t mind, she’s better off on her own. She’s made a good life for herself and her son and she likes it that way. Until one night something extraordinary happens. Whilst attending a hypnotist show with her first date in years she faints – and when she comes round she starts to remember. At first her memories mean nothing to her but then slowly, day by day, she begins to piece together the real story of her childhood. Her journey takes her to the seaside town of Broadstairs, to oddly familiar houses in London backstreets and to meetings with strangers who love her like their own. But with every mystery she solves another one materialises, with every question she answers another appears. And Melody begins to wonder if she’ll ever know the truth about her past. 

Review: I didn’t realize that The Truth About Melody Browne is actually one of Lisa Jewell’s earlier books and that this book is more contemporary than thriller. Overall, I enjoyed the storyline and loved the fast paced writing style. Switching from past to present really kept me on my toes as I didn’t have an idea on how the story would end. I also really liked the way we got introduced to so many different characters. The only part that didn’t work for me was the ending which seemed to wrap up in a bow. If you enjoyed Lisa Jewell’s other books, I’d recommend picking up The Truth About Melody Browne

Review: Accidentally Engaged

Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron
Publication: Read Forever
Publication Date: 3/2/2021

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

GoodReads Synopsis: Reena Manji doesn’t love her career, her single status, and most of all, her family inserting themselves into every detail of her life. But when caring for her precious sourdough starters, Reena can drown it all out. At least until her father moves his newest employee across the hall–with hopes that Reena will marry him.

But Nadim’s not like the other Muslim bachelors-du-jour that her parents have dug up. If the Captain America body and the British accent weren’t enough, the man appears to love eating her bread creations as much as she loves making them. She sure as hell would never marry a man who works for her father, but friendship with a neighbor is okay, right? And when Reena’s career takes a nosedive, Nadim happily agrees to fake an engagement so they can enter a couples video cooking contest to win the artisan bread course of her dreams.

As cooking at home together brings them closer, things turn physical, but Reena isn’t worried. She knows Nadim is keeping secrets, but it’s fine— secrets are always on the menu where her family is concerned. And her heart is protected… she’s not marrying the man. But even secrets kept for self preservation have a way of getting out, especially when meddling parents and gossiping families are involved.

Review: I loved The Chai Factor so I was super excited to hear that Amira’s best friend, Reena, would be the focus in Accidentally Engaged. This contemporary romance is explores self-discovery, family pressure, culinary delights, and cultural expectations/values. This was such a cute heartfelt romance read! All the characters felt so real and were entertaining to read. The chemistry between Reena and Nadi forming a friendship into a fake engagement was organic. I really liked the way the author portrayed Reena and Nadim’s overbearing but loving parents and shed light into Indian culture. The secondary characters like Saira, Marley, and Shayne were sweet and encouraging. I also loved that we get cameo appearances from Amira and Duncan from The Chai Factor. If you loved The Chai Factor or love contemporary romance books in general, I highly recommend picking this one up. FYI Accidentally Engaged can be read as a stand alone, but I think you would enjoy it more if you’ve already read The Chai Factor.

Rating: 4/5

Review: Super Fake Love Song

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 2/5