The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston // Book Review

The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston // Book Review

I picked this book on a whim. One of my reader friends loved it. It’s a Good Morning America Book Club pick. And someone asked me to read it. So I thought why not? Well, it definitely exceeded my expectations and even brought a tear to my eye. If a book can make me cry, then it’s a pretty good book in my opinion.

Here’s more about The Dead Romantics

Florence Day is the ghostwriter for one of the most prolific romance authors in the industry, and she has a problem—after a terrible breakup, she no longer believes in love. It’s as good as dead.

When her new editor, a too-handsome mountain of a man, won’t give her an extension on her book deadline, Florence prepares to kiss her career goodbye. But then she gets a phone call she never wanted to receive, and she must return home for the first time in a decade to help her family bury her beloved father.

For ten years, she’s run from the town that never understood her, and even though she misses the sound of a warm Southern night and her eccentric, loving family and their funeral parlor, she can’t bring herself to stay. Even with her father gone, it feels like nothing in this town has changed. And she hates it.

Until she finds a ghost standing at the funeral parlor’s front door, just as broad and infuriatingly handsome as ever, and he’s just as confused about why he’s there as she is.

Romance is most certainly dead . . . but so is her new editor, and his unfinished business will have her second-guessing everything she’s ever known about love stories.

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My thoughts

This was such a complex story centered on one character, Florence, and her very unique life. She’s a ghostwriter that can see and speak to ghosts. Her father has recently passed, so she’s heading back to the hometown that’s bullied her to leave. She’s also finding out that her new very good looking editor, Ben, has recently passed and his ghost is showing up as she mourns her father, understands why she can’t write romance anymore, and figures out how to come to terms with her past. There’s a lot going on for Florence.

And the great part is that Ashley Poston expertly interweaves all the parts of this book together. It’s like a symphonic orchestra of themes and conflict that all somehow make the most beautiful music. It also helps that Ashley Poston’s writing is lyrical and beautiful sharing wisdom about life, death, and love throughout the story.

I found myself tearing up at so many different parts of this book. I cried during the funeral for her father. I cried during the end. I cried when the family was dancing around the funeral home and reminiscing about their lives in that place. And they were all tears of joy. It takes a lot for an author to make me cry, but it truly touched me to see how beautifully you can imagine death despite it being such a heavy subject.

Ashley Poston also doesn’t shy away from the conversation of death. In fact, she leans into it really hard but in a way that makes you happy. Yes, you’ll be happy about death by the end of this book! It did trigger my anxiety on the entire subject, but it also comforted me.

I know that the romance folks won’t like this one as much because it’s not too centered on the romance, but I fell in love with Florence and Ben. Yes, Ben is a ghost and yes they can never be together until Florence probably dies, but I had so many Casper vibes between the two of them and it made me wish so hard that Ben was real. While they may not have been able to touch each other or be intimate the way a couple would be in a romance, I think Ashley Poston really nailed the emotional and supportive components of a relationship; the parts that truly make a partnership between two people rather than just the sex. It was kind of beautiful.

I think the only thing I didn’t like is that the language got repetitive. There were some things that Ashley Poston tended to repeat over and over again, which made for a little dislike, but not enough to hate the overall story.

But in the end, I absolutely adored it. I’m so glad my friend loved it and influenced me to read it. I’m so glad someone brought it up and asked for my opinion. I’m so glad that I got a “skip the line” on my Libby app because this truly brought me comfort and joy in a time that feels really dark.

I Was Told It Would Get Easier by Abbi Waxman // Book Review

I Was Told It Would Get Easier by Abbi Waxman // Book Review

I was pleasantly surprised with this one. I really liked Nina Hill and expected a similar story for this one, but a mother/daughter growth story worked and really made me happy to read.

Here’s more about I Was Told It Would Get Easier

Squashed among a bus full of strangers, mother-daughter duo Jessica and Emily Burnstein watch their carefully mapped-out college tour devolve into a series of off-roading misadventures, from the USA Today bestselling author of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill.

Jessica and Emily Burnstein have very different ideas of how this college tour should go.

For Emily, it’s a preview of freedom, exploring the possibility of her new and more exciting future. Not that she’s sure she even wants to go to college, but let’s ignore that for now. And maybe the other kids on the tour will like her more than the ones at school. . . . They have to, right?

For Jessica, it’s a chance to bond with the daughter she seems to have lost. They used to be so close, but then Goldfish crackers and Play-Doh were no longer enough of a draw. She isn’t even sure if Emily likes her anymore. To be honest, Jessica isn’t sure she likes herself.

Together with a dozen strangers–and two familiar enemies–Jessica and Emily travel the East Coast, meeting up with family and old friends along the way. Surprises and secrets threaten their relationship and, in the end, change it forever.

My Thoughts

Jessica is an overworked single mother who’s been balancing her daughter and her job but letting her job win. Emily reminded me a lot of myself; an in-between person who isn’t fully sure what she’s capable of doing but also wants the space to figure it out for herself. Jessica is involved in Emily’s life despite Emily’s want for her to move away from that space and the tension between them and their relationship is palatable from the beginning.

As they journey to different colleges on this weekend tour of the East Coast, not only do Jessica and Emily find out more about themselves, but they find out more about each other. It’s obvious that Jessica and Emily didn’t have that Lorelai/Rory bond. In fact, it seemed on the verge of blowing up with every snarky comment or eye roll.

But I loved the gradual growth between them. Frankly, I was expecting there to be some bigger adventure that would take Jessica and Emily’s experiences to get out of, but it didn’t turn out this way. It was a breezy and funny coming-of-age story (and I’m talking about coming-of-age for everyone) and Jessica and Emily do end up with a better relationship at the end.

I was a little annoyed that Jessica and Emily had this rapport that seemed on the brink of tearing, but then you would read their inner thoughts (because the book is written in dual POV) and want for them to just say what they’re feeling. However, having been a teenager with a tough relationship with their mom, I understood why there were less said than felt.

I wasn’t a fan of all the stuff happening around Jessica and Emily. For example, a school admissions scandal. I’m assuming Abbi Waxman is bringing this up because of the scandals that happened in 2019 with a very prominent school in LA and Abbi being from LA probably wanted to talk about it. The way it was set up felt a bit abrupt and pulled from nowhere. I wished there was a bit more context at the beginning of the novel (and perhaps something Emily is hiding more from Jessica) to bring that scandal into full view by the end. However, there was some interesting things that came out of that part of the book, which I really liked especially the parts discussing how important college is to kids and their parents.

Overall, this was a fun read and reading it on audiobook with the two POVs was excellent. There was a lot of emotions that the narrator put into her characters and it showed when you listen, so highly recommend it if you can get a copy of the audiobook somewhere.

I received a copy of this book from Berkley. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q Sutanto

Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q Sutanto

I’m so glad I decided to pick this one up because it was a mix of a J Lo rom-com, Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians opulence, and Weekend at Bernie’s. It definitely left me with a smile on my face and also missing my family a little bit.

Here’s more about Dial A for Aunties

A hilariously quirky novel that is equal parts murder mystery, rom-com, and a celebration of mothers and daughters as well as a deep dive into Chinese-Indonesian culture, by debut author Jesse Q. Sutanto.

1 (accidental) murder
2 thousand wedding guests
3 (maybe) cursed generations
4 meddling Asian aunties to the rescue!

When Meddelin Chan ends up accidentally killing her blind date, her meddlesome mother calls for her even more meddlesome aunties to help get rid of the body. Unfortunately, a dead body proves to be a lot more challenging to dispose of than one might anticipate, especially when it is accidentally shipped in a cake cooler to the over-the-top billionaire wedding Meddy, her Ma, and aunties are working, at an island resort on the California coastline. It’s the biggest job yet for their family wedding business—“Don’t leave your big day to chance, leave it to the Chans!”—and nothing, not even an unsavory corpse, will get in the way of her auntie’s perfect buttercream cake flowers.

But things go from inconvenient to downright torturous when Meddy’s great college love—and biggest heartbreak—makes a surprise appearance amid the wedding chaos. Is it possible to escape murder charges, charm her ex back into her life, and pull off a stunning wedding all in one weekend?

My Thoughts

Perhaps it’s my personality and why I like reading darker novels that I really fell in love with this one. Like I said, this book was the opulence of Crazy Rich Asians crossed with a very witty rom-com (I like JLo, but insert your favorites here), and Weekend at Bernie’s. If you’re not aware of Weekend at Bernie’s, it’s basically a movie where this billionaire is murdered and these two subordinates from his company try and cover it up. That’s pretty similar to what happened here with a few major changes.

The story started off a bit slow, but only because you’re establishing what the book is going to be about. The characters are especially important in this story, so they needed an introduction and context before they get introduced. There’s a little bit of time jumping as Meddie reflects back on her relationship with Nathan. For the most of it, I thought this would be a second-chance romance, but the scenarios Meddie and her family get caught in took more precedent than the romantic elements of the story.

This book made me laugh so much. It wasn’t just Meddie and her family trying to hide a dead body in a super fancy hotel on the weekend of a very important wedding, but it’s also the rapport between Meddie and her aunties. A lot of it was relatable with my own relatives who try and tell you how they know better than you. But I think what I absolutely loved is that their relationship is stronger than anything else. Meddie and these four women that made up her mother and aunts were probably the strongest group of women I’ve ever seen. They took the situation they found themselves in and made it work for them despite knowing they were committing some pretty big felonies.

And the shenanigans were supremely funny. Everything from carting the dead body around the hotel to the stolen jewelry and gifts to even the surprising ending twist were all the perfect concoction for this story to run and entertain the pants off of you. Like a rom-com, the scenarios kept getting bigger and bigger. It almost felt like there wasn’t a moment to breathe from the moment they arrived at the wedding site to the final vows being uttered from the bride.

I’ll admit, you do have to suspend disbelief a lot in this story. I was so surprised that Meddie’s first instinct wasn’t to call someone about the accident. And then the shenanigans at the hotel especially around her ex, Nathan, were hard to believe would really happen. However, it didn’t matter to me. I know the book is flawed, but it didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment. I think it’s because I needed a good laugh and this book was delivering it despite not being 100% believable.

I think the one thing I wished it did more of was discuss Nathan and Meddie’s relationship. It felt like the entire time, Nathan was trying to get a hold of Meddie so they can discuss the future of their life together. I wished that was brought up more and discussed on the page. Perhaps a hilarious scene of them at dinner with her aunties struggling to hold up the body in the background? LOL.

I will say what I appreciated the most about this story is the inclusion of Indonesian-Chinese culture. I personally don’t know much about this world, so I appreciate the author to include it and bring their own culture to the story. It was a lovely touch.

Overall, it was such a fun read that will leave you laughing. It’s great for days when you’re not feeling so great and want to read someone else’s drama. Also, the dead body isn’t too gruesome, so you won’t spend too much time with the squeamish.

Thanks to Berkley for a gifted copy of this book. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

Pride and Prejudice and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev // Book Review

Pride and Prejudice and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev // Book Review

If you follow me on bookstagram, then you already know that I pre-judged this book as a meh story. I was so set to give it three stars and voice my strong opinions on the writing tearing Sonali Dev a new one in my review. How PREJUDICE of me because this book turned out to be one of my favorite stories and a nice way to get out of the 3-star book slump I’ve been feeling lately.

Before I launch into this review, I do want to mention I read a few reviews where the readers dissect the medical stuff that takes place here. Not being a healthcare worker, I wasn’t aware of those issues, but I thought I would share a couple of reviews that highlight them and share how problematic they are:

Also do want to mention that there are discussions of sexual assault, rape, and terminal illness.

Pride and Prejudice and Other Flavors follows Trisha, a young neurosurgeon dedicating her life to helping blind people see again. She comes from a pretty prominent family of lawyers, doctors, and a brother who’s running for Governor for the state of California. However, her past keeps her from living her present to its fullest potential. DJ is a chef born to cook, but comes from humble beginnings. His sister, Emma, is diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in her head wrapped around her optic nerves. Trisha will do everything in her power to save Emma’s life and hopefully, her eyesight.

When Trisha finally meets DJ for the first time, at an event thrown by her parents, she’s already pegged him as just the hired help. DJ’s already pegged Trisha as a snotty rich girl who never had to work a day in her life. However, their prejudice against each other is the start of a relationship neither of them see coming until the very end.

Let’s talk about some of the big ticket items that I loved about this book. First off, food descriptions. NOMS! I will always love a good food description and the usage of Indian food will keep you salivating while you read. Next, I loved the characters. I didn’t think I would fall in love with the characters as much as I did, but they became so complex that even the secondary characters were really well written and made you want to know more about them.

As I mentioned before, the biggest flaw for me was the writing style. I’m not a fan of overwritten sentences and repetitive info. I understood quite clearly that DJ came from nothing despite the hundred times I was told that he came from nothing (OH BTW, HE CAME FROM NOTHING).

I think having the omniscient voice in this book made reading it a little bit tougher because it almost felt like the narrator knew even more than it was telling. Like it knew the name of a police officer before he’s introduced and then you have to match up the fact that the person they’re referring to was the police officer. It almost felt like Sonali Dev was holding herself back, trying not to write a romance novel so it’s not until the end that Sonali Dev’s writing felt comfortable and maybe it’s because the ending felt like the ending of a romance novel.

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But aside from its flaws, I told myself I wouldn’t DNF. I wanted to read this book for my book club discussion and so I told myself to keep reading. Just one more chapter and if this chapter sucked, then I’ll put it down. But as I kept reading, the book kept getting better and better. Suddenly, I couldn’t put down the book. I needed to know what happened to DJ and Trisha and their families. I think it was at the moment when Julia Wickham is finally introduced that made me stick around to see what happened to these characters.

And I loved the characters so much. I even loved Julia Wickham! The reason why I loved them is because they were so complex. Sonali Dev can write a really great character even ones that you’ll hate for the rest of your life and what I loved about her characters is that they’re real.

I feel like there’s a big cop out for authors to have these complex characters who’s problems all go away by the final page, but I loved that everyone here stayed true to who they were even after the book was done. Real people need a lot of time to change and Sonali Dev provides them that time.

The last thing I want to talk about is the Pride and Prejudice retelling portion. When I was just starting this book, I guffawed at the fact this book didn’t read at all like Pride and Prejudice. There’s gender reversals (Trisha is Darcy and DJ is Elizabeth) and there was usage of the names, but I didn’t see how it was a retelling.

However, when you think about the characters and how they judged each other prematurely, how they were so stubborn about changing their minds about each other, and how they slowly learned that the other person is actually a good person all brought me back to Elizabeth and Darcy and their dynamic. It’s not an exact retelling, but the pieces of Pride and Prejudice are so expertly interwoven that you would love this book if you’ve never read Pride and Prejudice before.

Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane // Book Review

Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane // Book Review

I can’t think of this book’s title without thinking about the song written by Simple Minds. However, the song and the book have nothing in common aside from its title. I picked up this book from Netgalley a few months back when I still had a Netgalley account and requesting books like a fiend.

But after finishing a fantasy trilogy with pretty heavy themes, I wanted to read something lighter to cleanse the palate and since Don’t You Forget About Me was coming out, I figured I’ll give it a shot.

Friends, this book was exactly what I was looking for. Let’s talk some more about it.

44023391._sy475_Don’t You Forget About Me is about Georgina Horspool, a 30-year-old waitress who just got let go from yet another service position for showing a small amount of empathy towards a customer. And if matters couldn’t get worse, she heads to her boyfriend’s house only to catch him getting it on with another woman. Desperate for some money to make rent, Georgina takes a job as a bartender for a wake only to see her first love from high school, Lucas. Funnily, Lucas just doesn’t remember her! As you can tell, the hilarity of that ensues.

The story itself read like Bridget Jones’s Diary. It wasn’t exactly a romance even though there were a few romantic themes, but with Georgie’s group of friends and the guys that she’s involved with definitely gave the same Bridget Jones vibes. It also helps that it takes place in the UK and uses a lot of idioms. I had to look up a few words because they were foreign to me.

But language aside, I really liked this story. It’s a slow burning life story of a young woman coming to terms with what’s happened to her in the past, what’s happening in her present, and if she’ll be okay for the future. And while it was a slow burn, it was filled with so many amazing one-liners specifically around her therapy and her basically thinking through her past and feelings. It’s incredible to see the nuance of her brain and how she thinks because it’s how all of us think sometimes.

I didn’t anticipate this book to be so thought-provoking and challenging for Georgina. I thought this would be another easy love story, but as the themes started to reveal themselves you get the sense that this is much bigger than the cute book cover and the clever title. And when you finally see Lucas remember Georgina, it’s like the icing on top of the cake.

Even the ending surprised me in its direction. I wasn’t expecting the last 50 pages to go the way it did and even Lucas and Georgina’s eventual joining was a surprise and it really made my heart flutter for them.

Overall, a really great story with a funny author and some serious themes. It’s definitely one you want to read if you need something light, but don’t expect it all to be fluff. I look forward to reading other books by Mhairi McFarlane in the future!

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

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman // Book Review

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman // Book Review

For some reason I’ve been on a LA-settings kick. First it was The Friend Zone and now The Bookish Life of Nina Hill.

42379022._sy475_It’s the story of Nina Hill; your introverted reader who works at the independent bookstore in your neighborhood and fills hers nights with fun activities from trivia night to hot yoga. However, Nina is alone. She loves to be alone and lived most of her life that way. With an absent mother and no clue who her dad was, Nina’s adapted herself to enjoy the moments she spends alone. That is until her father’s lawyer finds her and tells her 1) she has a father 2) he just died.

Suddenly, the life Nina lived is filled with a family she’s never met. It also turns out her dad was a complicated man leaving behind a few ex-wives, tons of kids and grandkids, and a little extra for Nina in his will. But can Nina really handle a whole new family when she’s been alone all her life?

I really wanted to like this story and for all intents and purposes I did like it. I read the whole book. I was engaged and interested in what happened to Nina. The setting was in LA in a neighborhood I’ve been to and a bookstore I’ve actually shopped at. It was the perfect storm of cute reading and yet, it was just cute.

While I was reading, I made my notes in my book journal and a few possible outcomes for the story. Sadly, none of my theories actually came to fruition and I was left a little disappointed. In hindsight, I think I asked too much from this book and set my expectations way too high.

I want to emphasize that this book is cute. Lots of cute little scenes and tons of cute feelings for Nina, her friends, and her family. However, I didn’t think there was enough conflict. I thought having found out that you’re a part of a fairly well-to-do family would raise some more suspicions between the family and Nina. I thought that having a love interest would bring some heat to the story, but all of it just felt meh. Everything seemed to resolve too quickly. Nothing seemed like a struggle. I also felt like even Nina’s internal struggles with her personality were a little too quickly resolved.

I think the one thing that really brought this book home for me was the fact Nina was so much like me. Honestly, I think a lot of readers will see a ton of themselves in Nina because she’s exactly us. She’s the overthinker, the reader, the organized force who has to write everything down otherwise she forgets. She’s the awkward shy person who isn’t afraid to tell a guy she doesn’t want to hang out with him tonight. She reminded me a lot of me and really drove the story for myself despite its flaws.

But overall, a super cute read for the summer. I think I’ll be reading more Abbi Waxman in the future and gauging what her other writing is like. Will you be reading The Bookish Life of Nina Hill this summer?

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

What to Read During the Pre-Fall Season

What to Read During the Pre-Fall Season

Welcome to Pre-Fall, everyone! It’s that time of the year where it’s still pretty hot outside, but you get that sudden burst of cool chill coming at you. You fantasize about wearing sweaters and switching from iced coffee to hot coffee. The trees all still have super green leaves on the branches, but perhaps you saw one golden leaf gracefully make its way to the ground.

I know everyone is already up to their elbows in pumpkin spice, but this time of year isn’t Fall for me. Maybe it’s because I grew up in New York and Fall doesn’t officially hit the city until mid-October. We used to call this “Indian Summer,” which is probably not the right vernacular anymore, so I’m dubbing it Pre-Fall.

And for this momentous space in time, I decided to put together some last-minute summer reading right before the big F finally starts. I’ve read probably one book off this list, but plan to read all of them soon. So while everyone is already got pumpkin spice fever, here’s some great reads coming out that’ll get your blood pumping for these last few days of summer.

Continue reading “What to Read During the Pre-Fall Season”