Hot Mess by Emily Belden Blog Tour

Imagine if your recovering boyfriend relapses on you a week after you put $30,000 down to help make his chef dreams come true. What would you do?

This story explores passions, career goals, being thrust in a difficult situation, and a whole lot of food.

Here’s a little bit more about the book

9781525811418.inddTwenty-something Allie Simon never imagined she’d fall for a recovering drug addict—but that was before she met Benji Zane, Chicago’s hottest up-and-coming chef, who’s known as much for his hard partying ways as for his unparalleled culinary skills. Six months into their relationship, the food and chemistry are out of this world, but the reality of living with a cooking wunderkind hasn’t exactly been all hearts and flowers. 

Still, Allie’s convinced that her love is the key to fixing this talented man’s broken soul—so when Benji is offered his dream job as chef de cuisine for a new restaurant opening on Randolph Street, Chicago’s foodie hot spot, Allie agrees to invest her life savings in his future. But less than a month after she goes all in, Allie learns a heartbreaking lesson: addicts lie. Benji cracks under the pressure, relapses and disappears, bagging out not only on the restaurant, but on her, too.

Left with nothing but a massive withdrawal slip and a restaurant that absolutely must open in a matter of weeks, Allie finds herself thrust into a world of luxury and greed, cutthroat business and sensory delight. Lost in the mess of it all, she can either crumble completely or fight like hell for the life she wants and the love she deserves.

This was an incredibly fun book to read. Even though there are some darker themes to the book like having your boyfriend relapse on you and leave you with 10% ownership of his restaurant, it was still cute. The writing is pretty easy and since it’s in the first person, you’re reading it from Allie’s point of view. While Allie doesn’t seem like the most literary person in the world, the writing keeps the story breezy and allows you to continue reading to find out what happens next. It doesn’t get too caught up in the whole drug life of Benji (and honestly, you hold your breath waiting for him to appear again), but in Allie’s actions after Benji leaves.

You follow Allie as she takes this difficult situation of helping open her now ex-boyfriend’s restaurant without him there. What do you do with a situation like that?

I would have probably broken down and ran away from the restaurant as fast as my feet could take me, but Allie luckily has business partners who weren’t willing to give up. They push her to quit her full-time job and start thinking of this abandoned restaurant as her new passion and new career.

I think the most appealing part of this story is how Allie is able to continue to push herself forward even though she’s heartbroken and broke. She could have easily cried about her boyfriend relapsing and disappearing all of a sudden. She could have cried about losing all that money. Instead she picks herself up, puts herself into creating a great restaurant and all while nursing the wounds her boyfriend left. It feels to me like this is what the story is real about.

I think the only disappointing thing about this book is the way chefs are portrayed. While some chefs are recovering from one thing or another, a majority of chefs worked hard to where they got without the help of mind-altering substances. I think this whole bad boy chef trope is a little cliched.

However without the chef, this book wouldn’t have a conflict presented to Allie.

The story is about a woman who is thrust down a path she had never thought to take herself, with absolutely no experience, and she came out on top. Of course there’s a lot of pain and anger when it comes to Benji, but Allie kept just pushing herself through it. That’s a strength that not many of us can muster and Allie did. It’s not about her boyfriend and it’s not about drugs and what it does to people, but it’s about the ability to see the “hot mess” in front of you and just make it your own. It’s about kicking your own butt and worry about the details later.

It also helps that there’s a lot of food.

  • Paperback: 444 pages
  • Publisher: Graydon Publishing House (March 20, 2018)
  • Rating: 3/5 stars

I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

Little Reads – March 9, 2018

Happy Friday everyone!

I’ve decided that I’m going to take my favorite links from the Internet series and turn it into a spotlight on short stories and essays I find. I’ll be featuring one or two articles at the end of the week in a new series I like to call Little Reads. 

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Image from Catapult article by Shing Yin Kor

Today’s article is a little comic I found on Catapult’s page. It’s a beautiful story about a young woman who expresses her love and appreciation for people in the only way she knows how; through cooking food.

This story resonated so much with me both as a food person and because my family was never openly hugging or kissing each other. We were reserved people that really only know how to love by feeding each other. If it’s through a beautifully home-cooked meal or at a restaurant, we are always making sure that the ones we love are fed.

It reminds me of this “thing” that we do. When you love someone, you put a little food on their plate. It could be a piece of chicken or even just a pickle, but the simple act of putting some food on a plate is like saying you love them without the words. You want to see them eat and make sure that they are healthy and fed.


Hope you enjoy this literary snack! Have a great weekend!

If you have any short stories or essays you’d like to see featured, reach out to me at simonelikesbooks [at] gmail dot com.


The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory


I loved this book. It’s just quirky and fun with a hint of seriousness in it. If you’re looking to get away from some heavy diverse reading, then this diverse contemporary romance will whisk you to better and more fun-loving days.

Here’s some more about the book

33815781Agreeing to go to a wedding with a guy she gets stuck with in an elevator is something Alexa Monroe wouldn’t normally do. But there’s something about Drew Nichols that’s too hard to resist.

On the eve of his ex’s wedding festivities, Drew is minus a plus one. Until a power outage strands him with the perfect candidate for a fake girlfriend…

After Alexa and Drew have more fun than they ever thought possible, Drew has to fly back to Los Angeles and his job as a pediatric surgeon, and Alexa heads home to Berkeley, where she’s the mayor’s chief of staff. Too bad they can’t stop thinking about the other… 

They’re just two high-powered professionals on a collision course toward the long distance dating disaster of the century–or closing the gap between what they think they need and what they truly want…

I was really hungry for a cute romantic comedy recently after reading so many heavy and high fantasies for reviews. While doing some crowd sourcing on my next read, many bookstagrammers suggested I read The Wedding Date. I was quick to jump into that advice because if a bookstagrammer suggests a book, it has to be good.

So I picked up a copy of the book at Target and promised to read it at the beginning of March. The timing was perfect because I was able to finish my last book for February, take a few days to decompress, and then read something fun.

And boy, I got a seriously fun book. This review is going to be in an entirely different voice than I’m used to because this book was so cute. When a book is cute, I squee with joy when I share my thoughts. I apologize in advance.

The two main characters in this relationship are Alexa and Drew. Alexa is the Chief of Staff for the Mayor in Berkeley, CA. From what it sounds like, it’s a high-stress job with tons of responsibility and pretty much no room for any kind of romantic life.

Drew seems like the hottie playboy who just happens to be a pediatrician. When I read that Drew was a pediatrician, I seriously shouted “AND HE SAVES KIDS’ LIVES?!” like it was some cherry on the top.

The “meet-cute” is when they’re stuck in an elevator together. Drew wants to avoid embarrassment as his ex-girlfriend’s wedding so he asks Alexa to be his fake date. What was supposed to be a couple of nights of harmless fun turned out to be much more.

I absolutely loved this dynamic. You always see the “Dr. Dreamy” or “Dr. Steamy” but you never think that as a person of color you would ever be good enough for them. I know that I’m probably over-exaggerating, but when you see the hot and sexy doctor that saves kids’ lives you wish to God that maybe he would be into me and not into the blonde girl who looks 100x better than what I look like on a good day. It’s my own head being prejudice I suppose.

But when I read that Alexa was African American and basically that was the end of that convo, it felt so natural and so normalized that a white man can be absolutely crazy in love with a black woman.

There were a couple of race concerns mostly from Alexa, but Drew never mentioned anything about her race. He loved her because she was a beautiful woman, a smart, driven human being who is trying to bring some good to the world through politics. I mean, you can’t find a more authentic and accepting love story than that.

Of course they have their own issues, but they’re centered around the distance. Drew lives in LA while Alexa lives in SF and their jobs make it very difficult for one to leave the other for too long. But the time they spend together on the weekends seems to be filled with more love than any relationship I’ve read.

Also, I can’t leave out that the sex scenes were so steamy that I could feel my cheeks warm.

I think the only flaw was the fact that neither Alexa or Drew were willing to talk about their feelings. Alexa was always waiting for the other shoe to drop and Drew was trying to plan out when he’ll drop the shoe. It seemed kind of immature when it comes to relationships especially if they feel such strong feelings for each other. But I will say that you’re not disappointed in the end.

This isn’t your smart book about inter-racial relationships, but coming from one I totally understand where Alexa and Drew are coming from. My husband sees me for who I am and not where I’m from. It makes me so happy to see that in relationships and in books.

Reading books and dealing with triggers


Recently there has been some buzz around the new novel The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. Naturally, I was really interested in reading this book because the rest of the world was interested.

I went to Goodreads to check out what the book was about and add it to my list of books to read. Here’s some more about that particular novel:

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The moment I finished reading this summary, I decided I wasn’t going to read this book.

You must be wondering why I would give up on reading a book that has been praised over and over again as an immensely beautiful read. Well, because this novel’s synopsis sounds like the book would hit one of my emotional triggers.

I don’t want to go into my triggers, but one of them has to do with existential feelings and knowing/expecting your life to end. For example, I couldn’t read Water for Elephants because the parts that cut to the old man dying and telling his story gave me so much anxiety that I couldn’t go to sleep at night. I had anxiety attacks for a week after watching the series finale of Six Feet Under.

I’ve been seeing a therapist about this for a little less than a year and he believes that my anxiety here is actually triggered by my OCD. I’m worried about dying and death and what happens to you afterward, so it’s not uncommon for those thoughts to spiral out of control and you’re in the throes of an anxiety attack.

So I decided not to read The Immortalists for the sake of my mental health. However, I do know there are many books with many different triggers in them. I really wish that there was some disclaimer on novels where the book will hurt you mentally if you read it. I have some friends who can read about domestic abuse or humiliation because those are feelings they’ve experienced in their life or they have trouble digesting those kinds of brutality even if it is fictionalized.

Mental health is super important to me and I do a lot to try and keep my health up. I don’t go on my phone and do social media after a certain hour and I try to identify and avoid my emotional triggers. But when it comes to books especially when I’m diving into a book I’m not sure of, I have to be super careful. I  hate when I come across a book that I love, but I have to put down because it’s so emotionally triggering. It’s better for me to preserve my mental health than to read a book everyone has been loving.

However, if you do get caught in a book that’s causing some anxiety or triggering you, here’s some steps I suggest you take before moving forward.

Take a minute to breathe

Look up. Breathe in through your nose for a four count. Then hold your breath for seven counts. Finally, release your breath through your mouth at an eight count. This breathing technique helps not only with triggers, but also if you’re having trouble falling asleep at night or if you’re feeling some bout of anxiety.

Focusing on your breathing is a meditative exercise that allows the brain to move away from the spiraling hole of your trigger. It makes you present. It makes you come back to the state you were once in.

Put down the book

This is a heavy decision for anyone that loves to read, but it’s a big one. If the book you’re reading is hitting your triggers, try and see if you can skip over those passages. Was it only that section of the book that was causing you to trigger? Is it a recurring theme?

If so, then take the time and judge if this is the right book for you. There are literally millions and millions of books in the world and while this one may be the next best book in literary history, I don’t think it’s worth your mental health.

If you’re feeling anxious or if you can’t seem to finish a passage without going into a full blown anxiety attack, then stop and put down the book. Perhaps it was a temporary thing that you can just skip over, but if it’s a recurring theme and you’re worried you’ll end up triggered some more, then it might be time to DNF.

Distract yourself

This sounds silly, but one of the issues with OCD is that your brain is telling you one thing and it focuses on it until it spirals out of control. When this happens, a good mental health exercise is to change the subject. Distract yourself by talking to a friend or working on a project.

I’m not saying that this is the solution to all of your issues, but distracting your brain will cause it to reroute and focus on the distraction. For me, I have Candy Crush downloaded to my iPad. I tend to get a lot of triggers at night (night triggers?), so when I’m watching TV and vegging out on my couch, I like to keep my brain occupied by playing Candy Crush. The game is just difficult enough for me to use my brain on strategizing my next move. It keeps me in the present, which is super important for someone with OCD. The pretty colors also helps me with getting out of the darkness as I like to call it.

If you ever see me in public playing Candy Crush, it’s not because I’m bored and waiting for someone. It’s because I somehow hit one of my triggers and need to step away for a minute.

See your therapist

This is probably the most important step and maybe I should reorder these as the number one step. But if you have a therapist, make sure to bring up your triggers with them. Speaking with someone about your feelings and your mental health has been so cathartic to me. It’s like getting another person’s perspective from someone who won’t interject with their own thoughts or try and find you a solution to your problem.

Venting helps as well, but being able to chat and explain that what’s going on in my head is not a bad thing makes living with triggers a little bit easier for me.


My Most Anticipated Reads of March 2018


Since March has a ton of new releases coming out (and it’s also the start of the Spring season), I wanted to share some of my anticipated reads for the month. Many of these are hitting the bookstores on March 6th, but the month will have a ton of great reads as well. While there’s a ton of books coming out, I do want to highlight the ones that I’m super excited about. You can always find more on Goodreads, but here’s what I’m anticipating in March:

Bachelor Girl by Kim Van Alkemade (March 6)

35297281When the owner of the New York Yankees baseball team, Colonel Jacob Ruppert, takes Helen Winthrope, a young actress, under his wing, she thinks it’s because of his guilt over her father’s accidental death—and so does Albert Kramer, Ruppert’s handsome personal secretary. Helen and Albert develop a deepening bond the closer they become to Ruppert, an eccentric millionaire who demands their loyalty in return for his lavish generosity.

New York in the Jazz Age is filled with possibilities, especially for the young and single. Yet even as Helen embraces being a “bachelor girl”—a working woman living on her own terms—she finds herself falling in love with Albert, even after he confesses his darkest secret. When Ruppert dies, rumors swirl about his connection to Helen after the stunning revelation that he has left her the bulk of his fortune, which includes Yankee Stadium. But it is only when Ruppert’s own secrets are finally revealed that Helen and Albert will be forced to confront the truth about their relationship to him—and to each other. 

Inspired by factual events that gripped New York City in its heyday, Bachelor Girl is a hidden history gem about family, identity, and love in all its shapes and colors.

The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs (March 6)

35297219Just days after mathematician and family patriarch Isaac Severy dies of an apparent suicide, his adopted granddaughter Hazel, owner of a struggling Seattle bookstore, receives a letter from him by mail. In it, Isaac alludes to a secretive organization that is after his final bombshell equation, and he charges Hazel with safely delivering it to a trusted colleague. But first, she must find where the equation is hidden.

While in Los Angeles for Isaac’s funeral, Hazel realizes she’s not the only one searching for his life’s work, and that the equation’s implications have potentially disastrous consequences for the extended Severy family, a group of dysfunctional geniuses unmoored by the sudden death of their patriarch.

As agents of an enigmatic company shadow Isaac’s favorite son—a theoretical physicist—and a long-lost cousin mysteriously reappears in Los Angeles, the equation slips further from Hazel’s grasp. She must unravel a series of maddening clues hidden by Isaac inside one of her favorite novels, drawing her ever closer to his mathematical treasure. But when her efforts fall short, she is forced to enlist the help of those with questionable motives

Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao (March 6)

34275212When Poornima first meets Savitha, she feels something she thought she lost for good when her mother died: hope. Poornima’s father hires Savitha to work one of their sari looms, and the two girls are quickly drawn to one another. Savitha is even more impoverished than Poornima, but she is full of passion and energy. She shows Poornima how to find beauty in a bolt of indigo cloth, a bowl of yogurt rice and bananas, the warmth of friendship. Suddenly their Indian village doesn’t feel quite so claustrophobic, and Poornima begins to imagine a life beyond the arranged marriage her father is desperate to lock down for her. But when a devastating act of cruelty drives Savitha away, Poornima leaves behind everything she has ever known to find her friend again. Her journey takes her into the darkest corners of India’s underworld, on a harrowing cross-continental journey, and eventually to an apartment complex in Seattle. Alternating between the girls’ perspectives as they face relentless obstacles, Girls Burn Brighter introduces two heroines who never lose the hope that burns within them. 

Camp Austen by Ted Scheinman (March 6)


The son of a devoted Jane Austen scholar, Ted Scheinman spent his childhood eating Yorkshire pudding, singing in an Anglican choir, and watching Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy. Determined to leave his mother’s world behind, he nonetheless found himself in grad school organizing the first ever UNC-Chapel Hill Jane Austen Summer Camp, a weekend-long event that sits somewhere between an academic conference and superfan extravaganza.

While the long tradition of Austen devotees includes the likes of Henry James and E. M. Forster, it is at the conferences and reenactments where Janeism truly lives. In Camp Austen, Scheinman tells the story of his indoctrination into this enthusiastic world and his struggle to shake his mother’s influence while navigating hasty theatrical adaptations, undaunted scholars in cravats, and unseemly petticoat fittings.

In a haze of morning crumpets and restrictive tights, Scheinman delivers a hilarious and poignant survey of one of the most enduring and passionate literary coteries in history. Combining clandestine journalism with frank memoir, academic savvy with insider knowledge, Camp Austen is perhaps the most comprehensive study of Austen that can also be read in a single sitting. Brimming with stockings, culinary etiquette, and scandalous dance partners, this is summer camp like you’ve never seen it before.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (March 6)

34728667Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. 

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. 

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.

The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk (March 6)

29736467Autumn always knew exactly who she was—a talented artist and a loyal friend. Shay was defined by two things: her bond with her twin sister, Sasha, and her love of music. And Logan always turned to writing love songs when his love life was a little less than perfect.

But when tragedy strikes each of them, somehow music is no longer enough. Now Logan can’t stop watching vlogs of his dead ex-boyfriend. Shay is a music blogger struggling to keep it together. And Autumn sends messages that she knows can never be answered.

Despite the odds, one band’s music will reunite them and prove that after grief, beauty thrives in the people left behind. 

Master Assassins by Robert V.S. Redick (March 6)

35437058Kandri Hinjuman was never meant to be a soldier. His brother Mektu was never meant for this world. Rivals since childhood, they are drafted into a horrific war led by a madwoman-Prophet, and survive each day only by hiding their disbelief. Kandri is good at blending in, but Mektu is hopeless: impulsive, erratic—and certain that a demon is stalking him. Is this madness or a second sense? Either way, Kandri knows that Mektu’s antics will land them both in early graves.

But all bets are off when the brothers’ simmering feud explodes into violence, and holy blood is spilled. Kandri and Mektu are taken for contract killers and must flee for their lives—to the one place where they can hope to disappear: the sprawling desert known as the Land that Eats Men. In this eerie wilderness, the terrain is as deadly as the monsters, ghouls, and traffickers in human flesh. Here the brothers find strange allies: an aging warlord, a desert nomad searching for her family, a lethal child-soldier still in her teens. They also find themselves in possession of a secret that could bring peace to the continent of Urrath. Or unthinkable carnage.

On their heels are the Prophet’s death squads. Ahead lie warring armies, sandstorms, evil spirits and the deeper evil of human greed. But hope beckons as well—if the “Master Assassins” can expose the lie that has made them the world’s most wanted men.

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo (March 6)

34499221Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy? 

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (March 6)

33294200A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent. 

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw (March 6)

35297394Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.

Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself. 

Laura and Emma by Kate Greathead (March 13)

35297416Laura hails from the Upper East Side of Manhattan, born into old money, drifting aimlessly into her early thirties. One weekend in 1981 she meets Jefferson. The two sleep together. He vanishes. And Laura realizes she’s pregnant.

Enter: Emma.

Despite her progressive values, Laura raises Emma by herself in the same blue-blood world of private schools and summer homes she grew up in, buoyed by a host of indelible characters, including her eccentric mother, who informs her society friends and Emma herself that she was fathered by a Swedish sperm donor; her brother, whose childhood stutter reappears in the presence of their forbidding father; an exceptionally kind male pediatrician; and her overbearing best friend, whose life has followed the Park Avenue script in every way except for childbearing. Meanwhile, the apple falls far from the tree with Emma, who begins to question her environment in a way her mother never could.

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan (March 20)

35604686Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles (March 20)

35604682When Marvin Johnson’s twin, Tyler, goes to a party, Marvin decides to tag along to keep an eye on his brother. But what starts as harmless fun turns into a shooting, followed by a police raid.

The next day, Tyler has gone missing, and it’s up to Marvin to find him. But when Tyler is found dead, a video leaked online tells an even more chilling story: Tyler has been shot and killed by a police officer. Terrified as his mother unravels and mourning a brother who is now a hashtag, Marvin must learn what justice and freedom really mean.

Hot Mess by Emily Belden (March 20)

9781525811418.inddTwenty-something Allie Simon never imagined she’d fall for a recovering drug addict—but that was before she met Benji Zane, Chicago’s hottest up-and-coming chef, who’s known as much for his hard partying ways as for his unparalleled culinary skills. Six months into their relationship, the food and chemistry are out of this world, but the reality of living with a cooking wunderkind hasn’t exactly been all hearts and flowers. Still, Allie’s convinced that her love is the key to fixing this talented man’s broken soul—so when Benji is offered his dream job as chef de cuisine for a new restaurant opening on Randolph Street, Chicago’s foodie hot spot, Allie agrees to invest her life savings in his future. But less than a month after she goes all in, Allie learns a heartbreaking lesson: addicts lie. Benji cracks under the pressure, relapses and disappears, bagging out not only on the restaurant, but on her, too. Left with nothing but a massive withdrawal slip and a restaurant that absolutely must open in a matter of weeks, Allie finds herself thrust into a world of luxury and greed, cutthroat business and sensory delight. Lost in the mess of it all, she can either crumble completely or fight like hell for the life she wants and the love she deserves.

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi (March 27)

35297272For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him. 

When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.

I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon (March 27)


Russia, July 17, 1918 Under direct orders from Vladimir Lenin, Bolshevik secret police force Anastasia Romanov, along with the entire imperial family, into a damp basement in Siberia where they face a merciless firing squad. None survive. At least that is what the executioners have always claimed.

Germany, February 17, 1920 A young woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Anastasia Romanov is pulled shivering and senseless from a canal in Berlin. Refusing to explain her presence in the freezing water, she is taken to the hospital where an examination reveals that her body is riddled with countless, horrific scars. When she finally does speak, this frightened, mysterious woman claims to be the Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia.

Her detractors, convinced that the young woman is only after the immense Romanov fortune, insist on calling her by a different name: Anna Anderson.

As rumors begin to circulate through European society that the youngest Romanov daughter has survived the massacre, old enemies and new threats are awakened. 

See any books on this list you might be interested in?

March 2018 TBR


Being a book blogger and reviewer is tough. There’s tons of books you want to read and then there’s tons of books you have to read. How do you balance the two? I’m still trying to figure that out.

But March, I’ve decided I want to make it all about me. I only have a few books I actually need to read, so most of my reads will be all for me. I love it when I can treat myself to some great books and not be bogged down with obligations. Obligation reading still makes me so frustrated even though it’s been years since I was in college and had to read a book to pass a class. I guess we never really grow out of that mindset.

This month I’m really excited and I’ve decided that I just want to read stories about love. I know February is the love month, but I can make any month about love by just choosing the right books. Here’s what I’ll be reading:

Of course there will be some books I borrow from the library which I haven’t received yet and books I’ll be reading for Netgalley. I do want to keep strictly to this list and not wander too far off. Let’s see if I can read them all!

What are you reading this month?

February 2018 Wrap Up


February has ended and we’re fast approaching the next month. Can you believe the time moving so quickly? I guess it moves quickly through the shortest month of the year. But I feel the green shoots of Spring starting to break through the ground. I can feel the winter finally thawing out. I think it’s going to be a good one, that March.

For February, I was only able to read four books this month, which feels like a lot but also it feels like I could have done better. I got completely sidetracked by this Korean drama called Goblin that my friend Michaela and I couldn’t resist and it basically took over our lives. I started watching the show on Valentine’s Day, finished the show maybe a day later, and then felt the worst hangover from it for pretty much the rest of the month. It wasn’t until the last full week of February that I felt like I could read a book again without going back to thinking about that show. If you ever get a chance to watch Korean dramas, definitely check out Goblin.

But onto the books! Again, I’ve only read four and most of them were because I requested those copies. Here’s what I read:

The City of Brass by SA Chakraborty


While this felt like a pretty tough read for me (the language was a little too wordy for me), I loved this book. It was a great entrance into a new fantasy series that takes place in the Middle East and uses a lot of Middle Eastern folklore to lend a hand in writing it.

The story follows a girl named Nahri who finds out that she’s part Daevabad, a tribe of folks who were born of fire. Her friend, a djinn, helps her to get back to Daevabad and rightfully belong with her own people again. However, the journey is treacherous with a lot of sabotage and twists. It’ll keep you on the edge of your seat and you’ll definitely fall in love with these characters.

Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik


This novel is inspired by the life of Forough Farrozhkad, an female Iranian poet around the early 1960s. I thought this book was so captivating and Forough Farrozhkad’s life wasn’t anywhere from dull. If you’re a fan of her poetry or of women, then you’ll definitely want to read this one.

While the book is based on the life of a real poet, it’s actually fiction. The story Jasmin Darznik writes is basically what she could provide with the research she’s done. Many pieces of Forough’s life was destroyed by her family after she died, so not much exists about her. I also did some research online and really couldn’t find much.

However, you’ll love this story of a modern woman living in the wrong place at the wrong time. Reading through her struggle, you really start to appreciate the freedoms women have nowadays. It’s not perfect, but it’s more than what she’s experienced.

Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee


I read Free Food for Millionaires as the first book for Words Between Worlds. The story follows a young woman named Casey Han who just graduated from college and figuring out what she wants to do next. However, coming from an immigrant family, it’s difficult to make decisions on your own life when your family wants you to be successful.

Our book club talked a lot about the struggle to make your parents happy and also make yourself happy. How do you choose between the two? How do you show your family that there isn’t failure if you take up a vocation or do something outside of being a doctor or lawyer.

The book resonated a lot with me and the way I grew up, but it definitely reflect my life completely. If you loved Pachinko, then you’ll love this one. I’m not a fan of Min Jin’s wordy writing (I don’t like wordy writers), but it definitely is a great read.

Master Assassins by Robert VS Redick


This final read is for a late blog tour I was participating in. It’s a great read with a few tiny flaws, but it’s also my first foray into male-written Fantasy novels. Seriously, I haven’t even read George RR Martin.

I can definitely see the differences between male and female writers (like more vulgar language and more action and adventure). If you’re into a good action movie, then you’ll definitely like this one. This story follows two brothers (Kandri and Mektu) who accidentally murdered two sons of this vengeful Prophet. Now they’re on the run to save their own lives.

On the way, they meet a ton of people who help them along sharing the same feelings they have about the state of their village’s government. It is a super compelling read with excellent world-building. This has got to be the best example of world-building I’ve ever seen. Without taking away from the story, Robert VS Redick is able to fill in the backstory. It’s pretty well written and I would recommend it (trigger warning: there is some mention of rape and human trafficking).

What did you read this month?