Book Review: Honey Girl

In the Author’s Note, Morgan Rogers mentions her agent, Holly Root, describing her writing voice as a vibrant blue house – some people would love it, and some people would think it is too much. Well, along with Holly, I love this blue house. Honey Girl is a romance for sure, but romance isn’t it’s central theme. It centres on perfectionism, on expectations set by your family that you take on yourself. I felt it and it hurt and warmed my heart. This blue house felt like home.

Star rating: 5 stars

The one time Grace Porter decides to really let loose after she is awarded her PhD, she gets married to a woman she just met in Las Vegas. The trip is just a catalyst for Grace, who has spent the last 11 years of her life throwing everything she has into her education in order to be the best astronomer only to find the world of astronomy doesn’t want a young Black queer girl.

Back home in Portland, Grace finds herself falling apart. Rejection after rejection sends her spiralling. She has pressure from her Dad, who she refers to as Colonel. He’s a really interesting character in the story, having been injured while deployed, and clearly suffers some PTSD. Colonel hoped Grace would study medicine, but she had her own ideas. He is the driving force behind her perfectionism, and adult Grace has turned his expectations into her own. Their relationship was one I felt deeply, for reasons.

Grace also has a complex relationship with her mother, who is opposite of Colonel in many ways. She’s been away travelling for a lot of Grace’s life trying to find herself. Now she is looking to get married again.

Grace leaves behind her friends (Ximena ,Agnes, Raj and Meera) to stay with the woman she married, Yuki, hoping some space will help her work out what she is going to do. They have a really strong connection, both women lost, lonely and romantic. Grace befriends Yuki’s flatmates (Fletcher, Sani and Dhorian), who become a found family away from home.

Honestly, Yuki and Grace do not spend a lot of time together in this book, but that’s because it focusses on Grace’s journey to heal all these wounds she has been carrying for so long. I really loved that, even if I did go into it expecting it to be more about romance. I feel like it was a book I needed to read – how best doesn’t have to mean the most prestigious, how you have to have room in your life for family, friends and all kinds of love. I loved all of the friendships, and the family dynamics. I loved the positive representation of therapy. I cursed all of the people that never gave Grace a chance because of her race and sexuality, who didn’t believe her work was her own.

Overall this is an amazing debut, and I can’t describe it but the book felt like honey to me. Goopy, thick, sticky and sweet when you taste it. I am very excited to see what Morgan Rogers writes next.

Book Review: Parachutes

You can tell that Parachutes is a story very close the Kelly Yang’s heart from her heart-breaking author’s note where she writes her own experiences of sexual assault and lists some of the statistics surrounding it in high school. I did not imagine that it would be such an emotional, complex and realistic story based on the marketing comparison to Gossip Girl (that does not do it justice at all, the only link is rich teenagers). This book will make you angry. Angry at the system, angry at the adults who sweep assault under the rug because of money and reputation, and angry at men and boys that prey on teenage girls (and all women for that matter).

Star rating: 5 stars

The book has two points of view. Dani is a Filipino-American who lives alone with her Mom. The two both work at a cleaning company – Dani after spending the day at prep school where she has an academic scholarship. One day Dani’s Mom decides to rent the spare room to an international student for some extra money, and so Claire arrives. We are introduced to the concept of a Parachute – an international student parachuted in to American prep school in order to get an American education and get into a good college. Claire is furious at her parents for sending her away, and is less than impressed with her new accommodation.

Dani’s story focusses on her time on the debate team where she’s aiming to win a national competition to help with her application to Yale. She’s competing against rich kids with private coaches, but her debate coach sees talent in her and coaches her one on one. Claire’s story follows her integration into American Prep School, as she joins the other Chinese parachutes and explores her new freedom. Through both characters racism and class differences are explored. The two girls struggle to make friends despite encountering problems where they could lean on each other.

Both characters stories feature an aspect of sexual harassment / assault or rape. Dani is harassed / touched inappropriately by her teacher, and Claire has issues with her ex-boyfriend and is raped by a classmate. The author really explores the girls’ trauma, and this book with make you furious at the lengths adults will go to cover up things like this for financial or reputational reasons.

The only plot point I didn’t really enjoy was that Dani and Claire share a love interest in Zack (I listened to audio so this may be spelled incorrectly). Kelly uses Zack to show what consent looks like, but I just didn’t want the girls to fight over a guy in a book like this.

Overall, an excellent book that far exceeded all expectations I had. It is a lot, and so much is crammed into these 500 pages, but I think it was ridiculously important messages. The system is a mess, and it allows the things covered in this book to keep happening. If you want a read that will leave you horrified, this is the book for you. And definitely look up the trigger warnings.

ARC Review: Accidentally Engaged

I absolutely love romances set around food so was ecstatic to get my hands on this book by Farah Heron. The book promised a blend of romance, family dynamics and food so I was super excited to get to know our protagonist and her love interest. Also, it has such a cute cover!

Star rating: 5 stars

The protagonist is Reena Manji, a single woman who isn’t enamoured with her job but has a passion for cooking and baking in her free time. Her family also makes up an important apart of the book – her Dad is a rich business man who wants her to work for the family business, her Mum just wants her to marry someone as soon as possible, and her sister Saira is suffering from a mental illness after a disaster relationship. Reena and Saira’s relationship is complicated, which the book definitely takes a dive in to.

The love interest is Nadim, a guy who just so happened to move across the corridor from Reena. Oh, and it turns out he works for her father and is expected to marry Reena. Both Reena and Nadim just want control over their own lives and find that they have a lot in common, especially their love of the food from their culture. So when Reena gets an opportunity to enter a cooking competition, but needs a partner to do it, she and Nadim pretend to be engaged.

My favourite things about this book were the family dynamics (equal parts emotional and hilarious), and the food. I was introduced to so many new foods throughout the book. I loved the plot centring around a competition that involved making videos, and how it showed Reena and her friends working together to create something really cute. Reena and Nadim had such natural chemistry throughout the book, and it was interesting to see how they overcame the challenges that family and culture threw at them.

Overall, a really fun romance (though the sex scenes are fade to black), where I really enjoyed learning a little about Indian/Tanzanian culture and food.

Will you be picking up Accidentally Engaged? It comes out next month!

Book Review: A Court of Silver Flames

In all honesty, I had no idea what I’d think of this book going in. Let’s just say that after the A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy, I was not a fan of one Nesta Archeron. However, I was very curious to see how Sarah J. Maas would approach her story, and so I started this book eagerly on release day. Did I like this book? Did my feelings about Nesta change? Read my review to find out.

Star rating: 5 stars (Spoiler alert, this is my favourite Sarah J. Maas book now.)

I’ll admit I was sceptical about opening up this world again but I was absolutely wrong. Nesta Archeron is an absolute queen and I am officially a stan now. We open the book in a similar place to the end of A Court of Frost and Starlight, with Nesta revelling in alcohol and sex, isolated from her sisters and their new Night Court family. They decide to extract Nesta from her life of seedy taverns (and seedy males), giving her an ultimatum. She must live with Cassian in the House of Wind until she heals.

Don’t get me wrong, the romance in this book is great, but where it really shines is in Nesta’s journey. It was going to take a miracle to make me like her, but I felt her pain almost instantly and was completely drawn into her story. She is far from perfect, but a completely engaging character with so much depth. Nesta’s relationship with the House of Wind is unique and heart-warming, and the friendships she developed with some of the other characters had me in tears at times (both happy and sad).

This is a book about overcoming the self-loathing that comes with trauma, and it does not let the reader forget Nesta’s experiences. It incorporates exercise, mindfulness, purpose and friendship to show Nesta and her new friends’ healing journeys. We also get more insight into the history between Nesta and Feyre and the complexities of their relationship and how fractured their family had become. Sarah J. Maas has grown dramatically as a writer, this was not an easy story to tell and she did it with such care and empathy for her character.

Not forgetting Cassian, who has is own demons to deal with. I enjoyed his arc too, loved the journey Nesta and he went on together. There is so much more depth to him in this book too, giving him a role that distinguishes him from Azriel. I wasn’t that drawn to him in the original trilogy, but that has all changed. (But oh, there is so much smut in this, no holding back from Sarah J. Maas this time).

Overall, I loved this book. It was heart-breaking and heart-warming, and ended so perfectly that I wouldn’t change a thing. Mostly, the empowerment of women is such a strong story and I felt every word.

Will you be picking up A Court of Silver Flames? Let me know! I hope I get to be united with these characters again (Azriel book please?).

Book Review: The Ex Talk

I can’t say I know a lot about public radio in America, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this book overall. Rachel Lynn Solomon writes a romance unlike others, and sure, I had mixed feelings on our romantic pairing, but I don’t think it stopped me from having a good time when reading this.

Star rating: 4 stars

Our protagonist is Shay Goldstein, a producer at a public radio station in Seattle. She has been working the same job for 10 years (right since she left college), and has managed to convince herself that she’s happy just being a producer even though she always dreamed of being on the radio.

In comes Dominic Yun, fresh out of a Masters Degree at Northwestern. He is the new prodigy of the small team at PPR, and Shay can’t help but be jealous of the opportunities he is given. Personally, I felt this was Shay’s way of expressing her suppressed unhappiness at her own progression. But it’s not really Dominic’s fault as such, he creates his own opportunities and is lucky to have a sexist boss who gives him so much freedom. Shay, unfortunately, is only a good note taker that’s good with detail in Kent’s eyes.

PPR is really struggling for cash, so when opportunity presents itself, Shay and Dominic are roped into faking being each other’s, presenting their own show called The Ex Talk. Plot twist, they start to fall for each other.

So what did I like about this book? I liked it’s representation of adult loneliness – both Shay and Dominic have few friends and it shows. The characters are far from perfect but I could empathise with them. I genuinely had a good time reading this, especially in the first 75% or so. I felt Shay an Dominic had really good sexual chemistry which was a pleasure to read. The mixed media approach to story-telling (extracts from transcripts and social media) were fun to experience and added to the humour.

There were some aspects that I didn’t like but didn’t really affect my enjoyment for the most part. I just can’t see Shay and Dominic lasting as a couple – Dominic has so much to figure out in his life since he’s only 24 and his immaturity definitely shows in the latter parts of the book. Shay is at a different stage of her life than he is, and I feel like she still has some healing to do before settling down. Also, I feel like their loneliness drew them together but they have to work out whether there’s more than just sexual chemistry between them.

Overall, a great adult debut for Rachel, that I had a great time reading. One thing that really did make me angry though was Shay’s whole adoption of her dog? The rescue centre really wanted an experience dog owner yet they just let her adopt Steve? And then she’s barely ever home because she works until 8pm, no dog should be left alone for that length of time never mind a rescue with issues!

Anyway, this is a long review. Have you read The Ex Talk? What did you think?

Book Review: The Project

I read Sadie last year after my friends recommend it as a book that would make you kill all men. They weren’t wrong. So after that amazing book, I had to get my hands on The Project as soon as it released. This is a YA thriller that is really, really twisted, with five parts that increase in what-the-hell moments. There are some really nasty people in the world, that’s all I’m saying.

Star rating: 4 stars

The Unity Project is a big help in the community. It has a good reputation thanks to its community outreach and charity work, but Lo knows there’s more to it than that. Her sister Bea joined after Lo and her parents were in an accident, seizing contact with Lo and leaving her alone.

When a man shows up at Lo’s workplace (journalism), claiming that The Unity Project killed his son, Lo is one of the only people who believe him. She’s spent the last 6 years of her life trying to prove it herself, but now it’s time to really prove herself to be the writer she knows she can be and find the truth of The Unity Project and its leader Lev for good.

This book is a story of a master manipulator and his power over people. It takes place over two timeframes in two perspectives – older sister Bea joining and becoming part of The Unity Project, and younger sister Lo trying to prove that they aren’t what they say they are. Lev worms his way into people’s thoughts, praying on their trauma, their poor self-esteem, and their vulnerability. It is painful to watch him do this to our protagonists, who have been through so much during their lives.

I think I was expecting the ending to be more explosive, which is why I haven’t given the book 5 stars. I was expecting a mystery to be sold, but the book isn’t told like that. The rating may increase on a re-read knowing where the story is going to end up. But my heart felt so much for Bea and Lo, and the others in The Unity Project who deserved so much more love and compassion than they were receiving.

Overall another heart-breaking book by Courtney Summers – it has lots of content warnings so I recommend looking them up in goodreads reviews beforehand. Who knows what this author will throw at us next?

Monthly Wrap-Up: January 2021

Hi everyone! Welcome to my first monthly wrap-up post of 2021. 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. January has been so long. Working from home takes its toll to be honest, but I’m lucky I have the option.

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 – These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong and The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart (naturally we couldn’t choose between the two). After not vibing with the ARC of These Violent Delights, I only participated in The Bone Shard Daughter this time.

What an amazing story! The Bone Shard Daughter is full of twists, characters you can’t help but love and gets really, really creepy and dark unexpectedly. I have a full review on my blog! (Spoiler Alert – it received 5 stars from me – and most of book club in fact).

Next month, since we struggled even more to choose just one book, we have four book clubs going on!

  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…)

Favourites

I have read 25 books in January, somehow, and quite a few have been fantastic. I’ve already mentioned The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart, but there were many more!

In terms of Fantasy, I really enjoyed Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore. It really gave me that Graceling series nostalgia whilst also bringing new world-building and characters. You can read my review here.

I think I found a new book for the favourites list! The Switch by Beth O’Leary is a cute contemporary with a heart-warming take on generational differences. Leena and Eileen swap houses for a bit after Leena is made to take two months leave from her job in London. It made me cry, a lot and I think people of all ages will love it. You can read my review here.

In terms of re-reads, I think Such a Fun Age is also one of the best books I’ve read. It follows Emira, a Black girl in her twenties who babysits for Alix, a rich white woman with two young girls, Briar and Catherine. The character dynamics are absolutely gripping, and its messages strong. You can read my review here.

Finally, let’s talk audio. Listening to Audiobooks was one of my 2021 goals and I’m pleased to say I listened to 5 this month. My favourite was Monday’s Not Coming, a young adult mystery / thriller about a girl whose best friend Monday goes missing but nobody seems to care. The audio is great, with narration that really makes you believe that the protagonist is talking to you. You can see my review here.

Books to Look Out For

I read so many ARCs this month, and there were some absolute crackers! Let’s start with a romance that definitely made my favourites list. Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert is the final book in The Brown Sisters series. I think it was my favourite of all 3, partly because I related to Eve so much. I love this series so much that I pre-ordered signed copies from Words and Kisses. You can find my review here, be sure to check this out when it releases in March!

Science Fiction time! Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell was such a brilliant surprise. It follows Kiem and Jainam on an arranged marriage style romance in a unique planet setting. This book is such a sweet take on sci-fi, it was such loveable characters and a really gripping plot. You can check out my review here, plus pick it up in early February really soon!

Next, let’s talk YA. I read A Pho Love Story by Loan Le, and honestly it was so, so heart-warming that I had tears in my eyes for the last quarter of the book? This is so much more than a romance as it delves into the lives of the children of Vietnamese immigrants, who happen to be the kids of rival restaurant owners. This one is out in the US in February, and the UK in April, so be sure to check it out then! You can see my review here.

Finally, I was really, really lucky to get my hands on an eARC of Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid, who might just be my favourite author ever. This book did not disappoint – you can see why people are googling if Taylor’s characters are actually real people because there is so much depth and history that goes into their stories without it being overwhelming. You can see my review here, but the book doesn’t release until May. I’ll be for sure reading it all over again then with a physical copy in my hands!

Next month?

Next month I have so much I want to read. I have more ARCs (Girl in the Walls, Friends and Strangers, Falling Down Under to name some…), some rereads (Six of Crows, The Winner’s Curse…) and some audio (Luster) planned.

How has January been for you all? Hope you’ve been doing well, keeping safe and enjoying lots of good books!

Do you think you’ll be reading any of the books I read in January? I’d love to know your thoughts!

ARC Review: A Pho Love Story

I haven’t really known what to expect from YA romance novels lately – they’ve been a bit disappointing. But A Pho Love Story by Loan Le gave me all the feels, honestly I felt like I had tears in my eyes for the last quarter of the book. If you want a book where you’ll care for all the characters, that has a deep, emotional plot, and will make you very, very hungry, then this is the story for you.

Star rating: 5 stars

The book has two points of view – the teenage kids of rival Vietnamese restaurant owners with businesses across the street from each other. Bao moves through life with no aims, assuming that he is destined for mediocrity. Linh has goals – she wants to be a painter, but her parents, Vietnamese immigrants, do not want her to have a hard life like they did and so disapprove.

Both characters had such strong stories and journeys that I couldn’t help but read this book in one sitting. Their parents both have different attitudes towards their kids, Bao’s just want him to have something, but Linh’s want her to have a secure career and life. One thing their parents do agree on is that they should avoid each other – and they often try to outcompete each other as restaurant owners. But is there more to these families than just being business rivals?

What captured me the most about this story was the family dynamics. Both Bao and Linh learn so much about their parents’ histories and it helps a reader see the disagreements from all perspectives. When Linh and Bao decide to put rivalry aside and get to know each other, as they tried to as young children, it really makes for a heart-warming story of growth, forgiveness, love and friendship.

With divine food descriptions (I really want to try Vietnamese food now), and a story I felt with every word, A Pho Love Story is not one to miss. It’s so much more than a love story, it’s the story of escaping war and wanting what is best for your kids, of realising they might not always be who you expected them to be and accepting it.

Will you be picking up A Pho Love Story? I truly believe this is a great book choice for teens and adults alike.

Book Review: The Bone Shard Daughter

The Bone Shard Daughter was one of the Book Coven’s book club picks for January, so I’ve been reading it over the last couple of weeks. The book is full of chapter cliff-hangers, tension, twists and characters the grow on you throughout the course of the story. This is an ambitious debut with lots of points of view, and unique world-building that will leave you very curious.

Star rating: 5 stars

Lin is the daughter of the Emperor – in constant competition with his foster son to be his heir. The only trouble is, a sickness took her memories when she was young and the Emperor won’t approve of her unless she gets them back.

Jovis is a criminal who gains a reputation for saving children from the Tithing. One day while out at sea he saves a strange creature, and the two are bonded in a way he can’t explain.

Phalue is the daughter of a governor – sheltered with no idea how her people really live. But with the help of her girlfriend Ranami, will she change her worldview?

Ranami grew up on the streets but now she’s dating the governor’s daughter. She’s mixed up with rebels, but can she get Phalue on side to really make a difference in the world?

Sand is the final point of view, with rare chapters brimming with tension. Who is Sand? Who are the others she lives with? Why don’t they remember where they came from? It’s one of the biggest mysteries in the book.

I’d describe this book as fast paced with plenty of mysteries to keep a reader gripped, revealing just enough with each chapter. The world-building is revealed gradually with the characters, with no info dumps in sight (much appreciated). The magic system is unique, and I felt like the book had just enough darkness to not be too overwhelming.

What really makes this book is the last third when it all comes together at a ridiculous speed. The end quite literally flies right before your eyes. It took me a while to warm to the characters but the definitely have my heart now.

I’m really excited to see what Andrea Stewart brings in the sequel given the reveals in book one! Have you read The Bone Shard Daughter yet? If you want a book with characters that really make you think, this is the fantasy for you.

ARC Review: Malibu Rising

Taylor Jenkins Reid’s ability to create such rich, character driven stories made Malibu Rising one of my most anticipated reads of 2021. I’ve loved every book she’s ever written so I wasn’t even a bit nervous going into this. Again, she has created an emotional story with characters that just evoke all sorts of feelings in a reader – they all have detailed back stories and a million dimensions to them. Not to mention that Taylor manages this in a story that takes place over 24 hours (albeit with flashbacks included).

Star rating: 5 stars

If you read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, you’ll be familiar with Mick Riva, the overnight husband. This is not his story, but rather the story of the wife and four kids he abandoned multiple times.

Nina is the oldest, the responsible one, the one who does anything for her family including becoming a swimsuit model which isn’t exactly her thing. Jay is next, a talented up and coming surfer, followed around the world with his brother, Hud, an amazing photographer. Finally, there’s Kit, the youngest, always being looked after, never treated like a grown up even though she’s 20 now. Together, they are the Rivas, having made their own way despite their deadbeat superstar father who left them alone.

I was definitely drawn to the female characters in this story the most. Nina’s sense of responsibility was heart-breaking, Kit was so confused about who she wanted to be in life. We also get flashbacks about their mother, June, Mick’s first wife. Basically, Mick Riva can choke for what he did to his family, he evoked a lot of hatred from me!

Between the flashbacks and the activities of the present day, there is so much going on but it is also easy to follow. I cried at the end of this story of complex family dynamics. The tension builds all the way through to the stunning conclusion. There are also random insights into side characters’ lives that were a little odd – I’m still not sure how I feel about them but it didn’t take away from my love for this story.

Overall, another 10/10 for Taylor Jenkins Reid. I’m not sure it’s my favourite novel of hers, but it’s 5 stars all the same.

Have you read any Taylor Jenkins Reid? She is probably my favourite author.