ARC Review: The Secret Bridesmaid

The Secret Bridesmaid was a surprise hit for me! It sounded like it could have been a book that was a bit too dramatic for my taste but I ended up really enjoying it and getting surprisingly emotional! If you want a light-hearted read set in the UK that doesn’t get too over the top, this is the book for you.

Star rating: 4 stars

Sophie Breeze is a professional bridesmaid – hired to take the pressure off of the bride without them giving control over to a wedding planner. A successful wedding leads to a former client recommending her to the mother of Lady Cordelia Swann, handing Sophie her biggest job yet. As Emily Taylor, she becomes Cordelia’s only bridesmaid, though Cordelia herself is less than impressed with the idea. Her time as Emily is filled with ridiculous requests, fending off bullies and trying to be a bridesmaid to someone who is just not interested, but can Emily crack Cordelia’s hard exterior to help her have the perfect wedding?

My favourite thing about this book was the dynamic between Sophie and Cordelia. Cordelia has been through a lot – some of it typical rich girl in the limelight stuff which was a bit cliché but I didn’t dislike it. Also the characters felt a bit on the young side for their age of 30ish. The bond between them develops perfectly throughout the book and I really enjoyed all of their interactions, which were part funny, part emotional. I don’t think Cordelia had ever had real friends before so it was kind of sweet to see her realise what that entailed.

The romance between Sophie and Cordelia’s brother Tom was a small part of the book – it was a little bit insta love and could have had more development, but I generally enjoyed it even if Tom only knew her as Emily. Again, predictable, but the kind of smushy that makes me smile.

Overall I actually had a really good time reading this book despite some of the friendship drama and predictable nature. It made me smile in all the right places and I even got a bit emotional. Definitely a good, fast read if you want a pick-me-up with love and humour.

ARC Review: The Witch’s Heart

I don’t know much about mythology but it didn’t take away from how much I loved this book. No, seriously, I read it in two chunks of reading that’s how gripped I was. This is a book for women, it’s so beautifully powerful. If you like retellings with gorgeous prose then you must pick up The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec. (And it’s already out in the US, and is coming to the UK on 4th May).

Star rating: 5 stars

After being burned by Odin for not sharing the future with him, Angrboda flees to a far away forest. There she is discovered by Loki, and love blossoms between them. Together, they have 3 children all who are unique – Hel who has dead legs, Fenrir who is born a wold, and Jormungand who is born a snake. Each have their own roles to play in the future that Angrboda prophesises.

Motherhood is a strong theme as Angrboda raises her unusual children all the while Loki travels back and forth to Asgard where he has another wife and children. Some of the book’s most emotional moments for me involved Angrboda trying to hard to do best by her children while Loki causes nothing but trouble. The children’s’ stories are traumatic with some really dark, hard to read moments. Love and forgiveness also feature in all forms, between family, friends and lovers. Mostly I can say I was captivated by the strength of women in this story, whether it be from characters I liked or characters I disliked but empathised with. Skadi, who befriends Angrboda, is definitely my favourite though!

In terms of writing, one of Genevieve Gornichec’s strengths is in the dialogue. I found the interactions between the characters to be so engaging that the pages just flew by. I also really liked the pacing – the book really took its time to pack emotional punches while progressing the plot. There’s no doubt that this is an impressive piece of work.

Overall I can confidently say this is the best retelling I’ve ever read. It now has a place in my favourite books and I can’t wait to read what Genevieve Gornichec writes next because this one was sheer brilliance on paper.

ARC Review: The Ones We’re Meant to Find

I went into this book not really knowing what it was about and it blew my mind. The Ones We’re Meant to Find is a science fiction novel set in a world where climate change and polluting the Earth has caused people to adapt, living in eco-cities with a whole range of interesting world-building features. At the centre is a compulsive story of two sisters that didn’t immediately draw me in but once gripped I could not stop reading.

Star rating: 4 stars

The story is told in two perspectives – sisters Celia and Kay. Cee has been trapped on an abandoned island for 3 years alone with few memories and the goal to find her sister Kay. Kasey lives in one of 8 eco-cities built for the people who tried to protect the planet. She’s a STEM prodigy and prefers time to herself than being around others. Kasey is determined to find out the truth behind what happened to her popular, fun-loving sister and that forms the basis of the plot.

The world-building is exceptional and thought-provoking. Eco-cities protect their residents from the natural disasters that plague Earth, but in return the humans living there spend a third of their time in stasis – conducting activities virtually through holos. I really enjoyed the details from the holos to the resident ranking system, and the examination of rank privilege.

There is a lot of mystery in this book, with the world revealed slowly to the reader through the eyes of the characters. This can make it difficult to follow in the beginning, and I was a bit confused at times. Both Celia and Kay were compelling protagonists and I enjoyed figuring out the mysteries throughout the plot. Overall, The Ones We’re Meant to Find is a unique science fiction novel with a lot of discussion points that would make it perfect for a book club read.

Will you be picking up Joan He’s latest novel? If you like books that you have to think about, The Ones We’re Meant to Find is perfect.

Book Review: Last Night at the Telegraph Club

Last Night at the Telegraph Club was one of the choice for Book Coven book club in April. I didn’t really know anything about the story before picking it up, but it taught me about a period in history I didn’t know much about. The book is an interesting perspective on what it was like to be American-born Chinese in the 1950s, along with the LGBTQ+ community.

Star rating: 4 stars

Lily Hu is our protagonist, a 17 year old girl discovering her sexuality for the first time. She’s spent her whole life so far being a good Chinese girl, dressing sensibly and hanging out with her parent-approved best friend Shirley. But when Lily discovers the Telegraph Club, she starts to learn more about who she really is, befriending Kath, the other girl in Advanced Math at school and being true to herself for the first time.

I really enjoyed Lily’s desire to work in the space industry and her passion for mathematics and physics. It definitely wasn’t easy for woman in STEM back then, so it was good to see this representation. I loved that Kath appreciated Lily’s passions and understood wanting to work in a male dominated field with ambitions to be a pilot herself. This is in contrast to Shirley and her friends, who Lily starts to feel really separated from the more she spends time with Kath.

Communism is also featured in the book, though not heavily. As mentioned in the blurb, Lily’s Dad is threatened with deportation for being a suspected communist sympathiser, but this isn’t explored in much detail with the book choosing to focus more on the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community in the time period. There are also some historical flashbacks from the perspective of the adults in the story which added to the richness of the time period.

Overall, I feel this book was very well written – Malinda’s writing voice was a perfect match for the story she told which made it an addictive read, particularly as the plot progressed.

Book Review: The House in the Cerulean Sea

I have been meaning to read The House in the Cerulean Sea for a long time (or since it came out really). All my friends loved it. The time finally came for me to pick it up. I put it off for so long as I was afraid I’d be disappointed but how could I be at this beautiful story?

Star rating: 5 stars (new favourite)

We begin with Linus Baker, a forty year old man who works as a caseworker investigating orphanages that house magical children in a world that is very prejudiced against magical children and adults. His life is lonely and repetitive but he doesn’t really observe this himself just going from day to day following the rules and regulations he holds dearly. Due to his diligence, the senior management where he works send him on a classified mission to a far away island in order to investigate the orphanage there and its ‘master’.

Linus doesn’t really know what to expect – he isn’t allowed to read the files of the children he will be observing until he arrives. These children are more than just magical children – they are unique and different to any he has ever met before. Not to mention the man who looks after them, Arthur, is not the man the management made him out to be.

I couldn’t help but love this story mostly because of the characters. Linus goes through such a transformation as he is slowly welcomed by these magical children who had very troubled pasts. I enjoyed seeing the children open up to Linus as he befriends them (against his head that follows the rules and regulations). The book really preaches belonging and found family, it warmed my heart from start to finish.

The House in the Cerulean Sea is the kind of book that makes you squeal at its cuteness. There are so many touching moments that build up happy tears. Each and every child has unique magical abilities and personalities and a journey of their own to go on throughout the book. I also loved the romance which just felt right in this story.

Overall, one of the best books I’ve ever read due to the emotion it made me feel. I am looking forward to reading other books by TJ Klune given the strong effect this one had on me.

Monthly Wrap-Up: March 2021

Hi everyone! Welcome to my March 2021 wrap-up post. For these wrap-ups I include Book Coven book club, fave books you can buy now, books to look out for and books I want to read soon. March has been a slow reading month – I only completed 7 books. Mostly because I got the COVID vaccine and I had side effects, but also because I re-read some Leigh Bardugo and I love to take my time with her books.

Book Club

Every month the mods of the Book Coven get us to suggest books that make up the book club bracket. We then vote all the way through to a final, and that’s the book we read together over the course of 3 weeks. Then the amazing Paragraphs and Pages asks us some super insightful questions and off we go. This month the club read two books:

  1. Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers
  2. Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell.

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers is a book that spoke to my soul. I read it back in February. because I couldn’t have been more eager to get to it. Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell is an excellent science-fiction romance and that filled the Wayfarers shaped hole in my heart after that series ended. I highly recommend both books!

Next month, since we struggled again to choose just one book, or even two, we have four! We decided to nominate lots of books by Asian authors in the bracket and these are the ones who chose:

  1. Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao
  2. A Pho Love Story by Loan Le
  3. Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee
  4. Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malidna Lo

I’m really excited to read these books, though I’ve already read A Pho Love Story which was absolutely excellent,

Favourites

I can’t talk about what I read in March without mentioning Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom and King of Scars. I read these in preparation for the release of Rule of Wolves and honestly it took so long to read them even though it was the third or second time I’ve read each one. I love Leigh Bardugo’s attention to detail without it being overwhelming, and the characters are some of the best out there.

I think Nina Zenik is one of my favourite of Leigh’s characters and I can’t wait to see where her story goes in Rule of Wolves after the ending of King of Scars. I also love Zoya so much!

Books to Look Out For

I read a couple of arcs this month, the first being Dial A for Aunties! This book by Jesse Sutanto was just brilliant, it made me laugh so much. It comes highly recommended from me!

The other ARC I choose to read this month is Sweethand by N.G. Peltier. This romance blended baking with music and I enjoyed it very much. I can’t wait to see what else the Island Bites series has to bring.

Next month?

In April I’m going to read Rule of Wolves (OK I’m about 100 pages in and loving it so far). In the Book Coven we are also doing ARC April to try and get some of our ARCs read. I have a few good ones ready to go which is super exciting.

Anyway I hope you have had a better March than I have. It’s been long and tiring, but I’ve got a week and a half off work now to rest and try and get an offer accepted on our first house.

What are your plans for April? Looking forward to all of your April blog posts.

ARC Review: Sweethand

Sweethand was on my most anticipated romances books of 2021 – and I’m not going to lie, it was because of the gorgeous cover design (the dress! the cat!). It also appealed to me because it involved baking and music which I anticipated to be a great combination for a romance novel. Naturally, I wasn’t disappointed and really loved the characters in this book.

Star rating: 4 stars

So the beginning of the blurb sounds like this book is going to be full of drama, and don’t get me wrong there is some but it’s tasteful and doesn’t detract from the romance. Cherisse is a baker, recently coming off the back of a baking show that she dropped out of when it was leaked that her musician boyfriend was cheating on her. Now she’s baking the cakes for her sister’s wedding, and the pressure from her family to settle down herself couldn’t be greater.

Keiran is a producer that’s slowly making a name for himself with his coworker. Having also been burned by an ex, he’s in a similar position to Cherisse herself. The two are re-united after years apart as best man and maid of honour at the wedding – they only problem is that they hate each other!

I’m not always a fan of hate to love but I really liked Cherisse and Keiran together. I enjoyed them learning about each other – and that all their preconceptions about each other are completely wrong. It was also good to see them appreciate each other’s work more, given Keiran didn’t have much respect for Cherisse’s baking business at the beginning.

Another part of the book I loved was Cherisse and Keiran’s friends – both characters had good friends who cared about them. Cherisse’s cat Jell-O was also a little superstar. Keiran is also bisexual – I really appreciated a lead man who is bisexual because it’s something I don’t see very often in romance novels (or at all really).

Overall this was a fun read with lots of mouth-watering baking and great characters. It took me a little while to get into but then I was flying through it, eager to see if these two would finally get a grip. I will be very interested to see what other characters in the Island Bites series get books about them!

ARC Review: Dial A For Aunties

Dial A For Aunties is a romance with a twist. It’s dark humour, hilarious family dynamics and generally wild plot had me in stitches from start to finish. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much at a book! Jesse Sutanto takes us on a ride in this book, and yes it is a bit silly! If you like dark humour and want some laugh out loud fun in your life then this is the book for you. I can’t help but give it the best of ratings as it brought me so much joy.

Star rating: 5 stars.

Meddy Chan is a wedding photographer at her family business along with her Ma and Aunties. As the blurb tells us, one night Meddy accidentally kills the man her Ma catfished (classic parent fakes being daughter on dating app style), and calls her family over for help. This initiates the rollercoaster ride that is this book. What will the family do with a dead body, especially when they’ve got a big wedding the next day? I guess you’ll have to read to find out.

I absolutely adored the family dynamics in this book. The majority of the plot is set over the course of the wedding day, which meant it flew by right to the end as the family end up in awkward situation after awkward situation. I enjoyed the barriers the family faced as they are essentially trilingual as Chinese-Indonesians living in America – with Meddy knowing English best and her family more comfortable with Mandarin. Meddy’s journey is also really good as she learns to balance her loyalty to the family with what she wants from life.

Meddy’s ex from college also returns to her life in an unexpected way. Meddy and Nathan are not the focus of the book but I enjoyed their romance all the same – we love a second chance romance like this one. It was also interesting to see how Meddy would handle her family meeting the ex she never introduced them to.

Overall this is a great comedy, though it does involve a dead body in various situations so if that’s not your kind of humour I’d probably avoid it. Personally, I couldn’t stop laughing throughout and I tend to have strange humour! I really adored the characters which helped make this book so gripping for me. Will definitely be reading more book by Jesse Sutanto in the future.

Book Review: Six of Crows

Hi everyone! It’s been a couple of weeks, I’m sorry! I have only read three books in March so far and two were disappointing and the other was Six of Crows. This is the third time I’ve read Six of Crows so I wasn’t sure about reviewing it, especially as it’s already so popular, but whatever. I love this book. It’s clever, thrilling and a great example of how to manage multiple points of view. It will always be on my favourites list for that reason (plus the special edition is really nice to read from).

Star rating: 5 stars

Six of Crows is the beginning of a follow on duology from Shadow and Bone, though you don’t have to have enjoyed or read that series to love this one. For me it shows Leigh’s growth as a writer, which has continued to grow right through to Ninth House. For a book with five points of view (missing Wylan in this first book), I think the plot moves magnificently, Each character really does bring a different personality and a new perspective on the events that occur within the book.

So what’s the plot about? Well, 6 teens take on the most secure location known to them to kidnap a scientist who can make a super scary drug that makes Grisha super powerful but also addicted leading to inevitable death. A drug like that could change their world and they would rather it didn’t leak into the world any more.

Kaz is their obvious leader, a teen who lost everything when he was a child (not unlike the other characters to be honest). Nina is a Grisha who has a particularly interesting backstory with Matthias, a guy from Fjerda that makes for a very interesting enemies to lovers pairing as they’re from two opposing nations. Inej is Kaz’s secret right hand – known as the Wraith she can climb anything and break in anywhere. Her backstory is also heartbreaking, and she seems to be the only person Kaz lets get remotely close. Jesper is a fascinating character – he’s a bit of a mess in all honestly. He has a lot of room to grow as a character given his gambling problem and tendency to accidentally reveal stuff he’s not supposed to. Finally there’s Wylan, a kid who knows his way around making explosives. He’s the only one of the six that doesn’t get a point of view in Six of Crows, but I feel like this would have revealed too much of the plot.

These characters and their dynamics make for an excellent story, especially one as high stakes as a heist that could get them all killed. There are so many powerful, iconic moments that I’m really excited to see on Netflix when Shadow and Bone comes out, likely to be in later seasons. It always takes me a good week to finish Six of Crows, and that’s because I savour every detail, right through to the explosive ending.

Overall, my third read was just as thrilling as the first, and I’m so exciting to re-read Crooked Kingdom and King of Scars before Rule of Wolves arrives later this month.

Monthly Wrap-Up: February 2021

Hi everyone! Welcome to my first February 2021 wrap-up post. For these wrap-ups I include Book Coven book club, fave books you can buy now, books to look out for and books I want to read soon. February has been a speedy month – I read quite a few books too!

Book Club

Every month the mods of the Book Coven get us to suggest books that make up the book club bracket. We then vote all the way through to a final, and that’s the book we read together over the course of 3 weeks. Then the amazing Paragraphs and Pages asks us some super insightful questions and off we go. This month the club read FOUR books

  1. Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco (actually won the voting haha)
  2. The Project by Courtney Summers (to break our hearts)
  3. The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon (for the month of romance!)
  4. Shipped by Angie Hockman (the book we all thought would win the vote…)

I read the latter three, having read Kingdom of the Wicked last year. I really loved both The Project and The Ex Talk as you can see from my linked reviews. The Project is a YA mystery / thriller set around a cult, and The Ex Talk is a romance about two radio show co-hosts pretending they are exes and falling in love. Shipped is another workplace romance, but I just didn’t vibe with the characters hence only receiving a 3 star rating from me and no blog review.

Next month, since we struggled again to choose just one book, we have two book clubs going on! Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers and Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell. I have read both before but will definitely be joining in the discussions.

Favourites

In terms of favourite books this month, there are 3 standouts.

As mentioned previously in book club nominations, I read Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers. This is a contemporary book that has a poetic writing style (almost like Addie LaRue). I felt this book strongly – it focusses on the weight of expectations from yourself and others, and not knowing what to do with your life after academia when your plans aren’t working out. This debut blew me away, but be warned, the romance isn’t the main plot point and the love interest isn’t actually in the story a lot.

On the Young Adult side of things, I read Parachutes by Kelly Yang (audiobook!!) This one really was an amazing story, and taught me so much about the experience of international students in American prep schools. It’s told from two perspectives – Claire a parachute, and Dani a Filipino student whose mom decided to let out the spare room to Claire. It has a really knotty, twisty friendship, and two plotlines that focus on sexual harassment and assault. It’s not a light read but it is really empowering.

And on to fantasy…what else could I talk about except A Court of Silver Flames! Sarah J Maas blew me away with this story – I think it’s her best book. She took me from disliking Nesta to loving her, and I found it to be a really gritty, emotional read on trauma and recovering from it. I also really loved the friendships Nesta developed in this one – can’t wait to see what Sarah writes next because this was such an improvement.

Books to Look Out For

I didn’t read a lot of ARCs that I loved this month, but one that stood out was a romance called Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron. This one follows Reena, a woman who is great at cooking and baking, and Nadim, a guy who moved in across the corridor from Reena and happens to work for her Dad. I loved these two, and the plot that draws them together. Who doesn’t love a cooking competition? Really love the cover too.

And that is unfortunately it in terms of books I loved this month. A lot of my reads were disappointing, or really mediocre. Hopefully March will be better.

Next month?

In March I still have to read Six of Crows (and Crooked Kingdom and King of Scars…sigh), in time for Rule of Wolves. I’m actually really looking forward to diving into this world again, but there are so many pages to get through! Some others I want to get to are Intercepted by Alexa Martin, Dear Martin by Nic Stone, and Love Frankie by Jacqueline Wilson.

Hope February has been a good month for you all! I for one am really excited for March because it’s my birthday month! I am also ecstatic that Honey Girl and Winter’s Orbit are being discussed for book club, because both of them were 5 star reads for me.

Do you think you’ll be reading any of the books I read in February? What are you plans for March? Let me know in the comments.