Review: Insomnia

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

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

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

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

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

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

Review: The Book of Cold Cases

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

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

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

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

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

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

Review: Vladimir

Vladimir by Julia May Jonas
Publisher: Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster
Pub Date: 2/1/2022

Thank you to Avid Reader Press for the free advanced copy on NetGalley and Simon Audio for the advanced listening copy on LibroFM in exchange for my honest review.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: “When I was a child, I loved old men, and I could tell that they also loved me.”

And so we are introduced to our deliciously incisive narrator: a popular English professor whose charismatic husband at the same small liberal arts college is under investigation for his inappropriate relationships with his former students. The couple have long had a mutual understanding when it comes to their extra-marital pursuits, but with these new allegations, life has become far less comfortable for them both. And when our narrator becomes increasingly infatuated with Vladimir, a celebrated, married young novelist who’s just arrived on campus, their tinder box world comes dangerously close to exploding.

With this bold, edgy, and uncommonly assured debut, author Julia May Jonas takes us into charged territory, where the boundaries of morality bump up against the impulses of the human heart. Propulsive, darkly funny, and wildly entertaining, Vladimir perfectly captures the personal and political minefield of our current moment, exposing the nuances and the grey area between power and desire.

Review: Vladimir is Julia May Jonas’s debut. This dark academia literary fiction explores desire, obsession, feminism, and society expectations. I initially heard of this book through Book of the Month and was intrigued by the premise and the interesting cover.

Before I go into my review, I say the cover is interesting and not “unfortunate” as others have mentioned because it’s not what we typically see on covers. It kind of reminds me of those historical fiction or smut romances back in the ‘90s when they had people on covers. Do I agree with the cover choice? Maybe not, but because of the conversation around it, it did make me more interested in the book which I have to say was a clever and powerful move from the publisher from a marketing perspective. If you want to learn why the U.S. cover was picked, go check out the video “our CEO explains how a book cover is made” on @simonandschuster. I found this video to be extremely fascinating and loved learning more on what their vision for the book was.

Now onto the review, I actually really liked this book! When I was reading the first chapter in the ebook, I was intrigued by the story, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about it. I started listening to the audio and absolutely loved the audiobook narrator, Rebecca Lowman. She really brought out the narrator’s perspective for me. In terms of the storyline, this is a very character driven story and liked the pace of it. I also really enjoyed the writing style as well. The perspective is from a late 50s college English professor where her professor husband is under investigation for inappropriate relations with his students. In the midst of that, she starts becoming infatuated over a new celebrated married novelist in his 30s, Vladimir. The narrator explains her open relationship with her husband, her desires, and her innermost thoughts and reflections. Though the unnamed narrator is unlikable, her perspective is fresh, bold, pushes boundaries, and explores the gray area between desire and power. I definitely recommend this to readers who love dark academia! I would recommend reading a sample of the first few pages to see if it’s right for you.

Review: The Accomplice

The Accomplice by Lisa Lutz
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pub Date: 1/25/2022

Thank you to Random House for the free advanced copy and PRH Audio for the advanced listening copy in exchange for my honest review. 

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Owen Mann is charming, privileged, and chronically dissatisfied. Luna Grey is secretive, cautious, and pragmatic. Despite their differences, they begin forming a bond the moment they meet in college. Their names soon become indivisible–Owen and Luna, Luna and Owen–and stay that way even after an unexplained death rocks their social circle.

Years later, they’re still best friends when Luna finds Owen’s wife brutally murdered. The police investigation sheds some light on long-hidden secrets, but it can’t penetrate the wall of mystery that surrounds Owen. To get to the heart of what happened and why, Luna has to dig up the one secret she’s spent her whole life burying.

The Accomplice examines the bonds of shared history, what it costs to break them, and what happens when you start wondering if you ever truly knew the only person who truly knows you.

Review: The Accomplice is a thriller that dives into best friends, secrets, shared history, and trust. This is the first book I’ve read from Lisa Lutz and enjoyed this! I really liked how character driven this story was. I surprised by a few of the twists. However, I did feel that there were a bit too many subplots which made it difficult to keep track. I loved the alternative past versus present chapters. But I did feel that the middle of the book was a bit slow for my liking. Overall, I’d recommend picking this up if you’re a thriller lover.

Review: You Can’t Be Serious

You Can’t Be Serious by Kal Penn
Publisher: Gallery Books
Pub Date: 11/2/2021

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

GoodReads Synopsis: In this refreshingly candid memoir, Kal Penn recounts why he rejected the advice of his aunties and guidance counselors and, instead of becoming a doctor or “something practical,” embarked on a surprising journey that has included acting, writing, working as a farmhand, teaching Ivy League University courses, and smoking fake weed with a fake President of the United States, before serving the country and advising a real one.

You Can’t Be Serious is a series of funny, consequential, awkward, and ridiculous stories from Kal’s idiosyncratic life. It’s about being the grandson of Gandhian freedom fighters, and the son of immigrant parents: people who came to this country with very little and went very far—and whose vision of the American dream probably never included their son sliding off an oiled-up naked woman in a raunchy Ryan Reynolds movie…or getting a phone call from Air Force One as Kal flew with the country’s first Black president.

With intelligence, humor, and charm on every page, Kal reflects on the most exasperating and rewarding moments from his journey so far. He pulls back the curtain on the nuances of opportunity and racism in the entertainment industry and recounts how he built allies, found encouragement, and dealt with early reminders that he might never fit in. And of course, he reveals how, after a decade and a half of fighting for and enjoying successes in Hollywood, he made the terrifying but rewarding decision to take a sabbatical from a fulfilling acting career for an opportunity to serve his country as a White House aide.

Above all, You Can’t Be Serious shows that everyone can have more than one life story. Kal demonstrates by example that no matter who you are and where you come from, you have many more choices than those presented to you. It’s a story about struggle, triumph, and learning how to keep your head up. And okay, yes, it’s also about how he accidentally (and very stupidly) accepted an invitation to take the entire White House Office of Public Engagement to a strip club—because, let’s be honest, that’s the kind of stuff you really want to hear about.

Review: Kal Penn’s memoir, You Can’t Be Serious, was one of my most anticipated books for Nonfiction November. In his memoir, Kal gives us insight into his childhood, his experience in Hollywood as a South Asian man, his political experience working as a White House administrator during the Obama administration, and how he found his partner. Overall, I enjoyed this book! Highly recommend listening to the audiobook for this one!

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: First Love, Take Two

First Love, Take Two by Sajni Patel
Publisher: Read Forever Pub
Pub Date: 9/21/2021

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

GoodReads Synopsis: On the verge of realizing her dream of being a doctor, Preeti Patel should be ecstatic. But between the stress of her residency, trying to find a job, and managing her traditional, no-boundaries family, Preeti’s anxiety is through the roof. Relationships and love aren’t even an option. Fortunately, Preeti’s finally found a new place to stay . . . only to discover that her new roommate is her ex.

Preeti never quite got over Daniel Thompson. Super-hot, plenty of swagger, amazing cook—the guy is practically perfect. And if it weren’t for their families, there might have been a happily ever after. But it’s hard to keep her sanity and libido in check when the man of her dreams is sleeping mere feet away. Can Preeti and Daniel find a way to stand up and fight for each other one last time . . . before they lose their second chance?

Review: First Love, Take Two is the second book in The Trouble With Hating You series. This romance book explores second chance romance, anxiety, interracial relationships, social pressure from community, and friendship. I appreciated that the author had a note in the beginning expressing that the story contains heavy and sensitive subjects including mental health and racism. Overall, I liked reading this one. I’m usually not a fan of second chance romances, but the chemistry between Preeti and Daniel is clearly shown in the pages. One of my favorite aspects of the book is that the author doesn’t hold back. She shows the good, the bad, the ugly. The book shows the social and cultural conflicts that the older and younger generations have against each other. Personally, I loved The Trouble With Hating You more, but this is such a strong sequel. I would recommend picking this up, but keep in mind of the author’s note before you do.  

5 Romance Books Paired With Taylor Swift Songs

What better way to celebrate romance awareness month than to match some of my recent romance reads with Taylor Swift songs? Hope you enjoy these pairings!

So We Meet Again by Suzanne Park
The Man – Taylor Swift
Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall
London Boy – Taylor Swift
Happiness for Beginners by Katherline Center
Out of the Woods – Taylor Swift
The Dating Playbook by Farrah Rochon
End Game – Taylor Swift
The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang
Delicate – Taylor Swift

Review: The Heart Principle

The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang
Publisher: Berkley Romance
Pub Date: 8/31/2021

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

GoodReads Synopsis: When violinist Anna Sun accidentally achieves career success with a viral YouTube video, she finds herself incapacitated and burned out from her attempts to replicate that moment. And when her longtime boyfriend announces he wants an open relationship before making a final commitment, a hurt and angry Anna decides that if he wants an open relationship, then she does, too. Translation: She’s going to embark on a string of one-night stands. The more unacceptable the men, the better.

That’s where tattooed, motorcycle-riding Quan Diep comes in. Their first attempt at a one-night stand fails, as does their second, and their third, because being with Quan is more than sex—he accepts Anna on an unconditional level that she has just started to understand herself. However, when tragedy strikes Anna’s family she takes on a role that she is ill-suited for, until the burden of expectations threatens to destroy her. Anna and Quan have to fight for their chance at love, but to do that, they also have to fight for themselves.

Review: The Heart Principle is the third book in The Kiss Quotient series which features Quan and his love interest, Anna. This has been one of my most anticipated reads this year. Before reading this novel, I read a post from the author that this book is not a romcom, but there is a love story and character growth. Overall, this is an intense and emotional book. I adored this story and I loved reading about Anna and Quan’s journeys. One of the aspects I really loved about this book was how real the situations were and that Anna and Quan were portrayed as real people instead of putting a rose colored lens on them. I also loved the author’s note that even though this was fiction, part of this was kind of like a memoir especially Anna’s part. The author addresses so many sensitive subjects in a realistic way: grief, terminal illness, caregiving, cancer, gaslighting, suicidal ideation, and gaslighting. I would highly recommend reading this novel if you loved the previous books in this series.

4 Anticipated August Romance Reads

There are so many exciting new releases coming out this month! August is romance awareness month and below I’m sharing four of my most anticipated romance reads this month. Are any of these on your radar?

(All images from GoodReads)

So We Meet Again by Suzanne Park
Publisher: Avon Books
Pub Date: 8/3/2021

The Dating Playbook by Farrah Rochon
Publisher: Read Forever Pub
Pub Date: 8/17/2021

Battle Royal by Lucy Parker
Publisher: Avon Books
Pub Date: 8/17/2021

The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang
Publisher: Berkley Publishing
Pub Date: 8/31/2021