Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron

Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron
March 2, 2021 | Forever
Source: ARC via Publisher (thank you Estelle) 
Reena Manji doesn’t love her career, her single status, and most of all, her family inserting themselves into every detail of her life. But when caring for her precious sourdough starters, Reena can drown it all out. At least until her father moves his newest employee across the hall--with hopes that Reena will marry him.

But Nadim’s not like the other Muslim bachelors-du-jour that her parents have dug up. If the Captain America body and the British accent weren’t enough, the man appears to love eating her bread creations as much as she loves making them. She sure as hell would never marry a man who works for her father, but friendship with a neighbor is okay, right? And when Reena’s career takes a nosedive, Nadim happily agrees to fake an engagement so they can enter a couples video cooking contest to win the artisan bread course of her dreams.

As cooking at home together brings them closer, things turn physical, but Reena isn’t worried. She knows Nadim is keeping secrets, but it’s fine— secrets are always on the menu where her family is concerned. And her heart is protected… she’s not marrying the man. But even secrets kept for self preservation have a way of getting out, especially when meddling parents and gossiping families are involved.
I was extremely excited to read Accidentally Engaged from the moment I heard about it. I love cooking and food and fake relationships—especially when it’s South Asian characters—so this book was right up my ally. Reena and I have our share of differences but there were so many moments where I felt like I was reading about myself. And I loved the relationship between Nadim and Reena too! I know that we have had a lot of conversations in the community about representation and who can write what. There was something magical for me about reading Accidentally Engaged that I don't think I could've gotten from a book written by someone who wasn't from the culture. It was the little moments that really changed it for me. For example, Reena made a random comment about how her father was taller than the standard and even had a full head of hair in his 50s which I thought was hilarious. No, neither of the topics are that deep but it’s the subtlety that I love.

I wanted to talk for a moment about how much I loved the infusion of food on this book. I don’t think people think enough about how important food can be in a culture. I am Indian and one of the biggest ways we show our love is through food. Not just the process of making the food but feeding people the food. Our cuisine is not the easiest to master and it is quite literally a labor of love. I’m not Indian Tanzanian so it was incredible to see how Indian and Tanzanian cultures infused in this book. I will admit that I did not expect to love bread so much while reading this book. I mean, I like bread, but there is a level of bread love in this book that made me truly appreciate the art. Now, I just want to bake all the sourdough bread and name my starter Nadim. This is also very random and a little bit minuscule but I loved learning that maani was another name for rotis!

The family dynamics in this book also made me feel seen in such a big way. I don’t have the best relationship with my parents and I don’t always get along with my siblings. My older sister and I have had our moments of arguments and not getting along. I really appreciate the fact that the family dynamics in this book are not perfect. Even as adults we have to work through our relationships and through our issues. The struggle between wanting to be your truest self but also wanting to respect your family is one that I know all too well and one that was portrayed so well in this book.

Now that I’ve talked about all of the representation I loved, let me take a moment to talk about how much I also loved the relationship. I truly felt that Nadim and Reena became friends before anything romantic happened between them. It’s awkward at times, and maybe even a little but uncomfortable but it felt real all the same. Plus, I love nothing more than two people falling in love while cooking! Nadim also surprised me with how sweet he was. I didn’t actually expect him to be such a cinnamon roll and to love him from the beginning. In the end, I loved both characters so much that rooting for them to get together was the easiest thing to do. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

#SnowInLoveBingo TBR

I admittedly fail at read-a-thons and most challenges outside of my GoodReads goal. I am such a mood reader that I tend to want to read a book on day and I'll get bored of it half way through. Romance novels, on the other hand, are some of my favorites to read. It's a lot harder for me to get bored of them so that's why I'm going to create this TBR and stick to it as best as I can. I have three months of complete this, and plenty of books to choose from, so it should be a fun time!

I am going to try and read as diversely as possible. I still have my KindleUnlimited account until February so that should be enough time for me to read as many through there as possible. I have found that KU has a lot of great Black and brown authors who are able to publish their works. For this reason, I won't be sticking to this list in a strict manner. If I end up reading a book that counts for the prompt and it's not on this list, I'll update my Twitter thread. 

Dani of @Danis_bookshelf, Aarya of @ardentlyaarya and Jen of @GraciouslyJen came together for this one!

I found this recommendations post from FireWhiskyReader that was so great in helping me create this TBR. A lot of the books are ones that I own or have access to which makes it a lot easier.  I also created a thread where I will be updating all of the books I've been reading. 

This post is going to be my way of publicly getting myself to read all of these books. I actually want to get 175 books read in this month and I need to read 17 books in December to get there. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Blog Tour: Privilege by Bharat Krishnan

I'm so excited to welcome y'all to my blog for my stop on the Privilege blog tour hosted by Caffeine Book Tours! The tour began on Caffeine Book Tour (which you can see here) and the rest of the stops are listed at the bottom of the post!

Thursday, October 22, 2020

A Break In November

There have been some big life decisions I've made during the month of October that I really want to talk about on the blog today. I don't normally do anything like this anymore but I knew that I had to say something. 

I have decided that I am taking the month of November off from blogging. There probably won't be any posts going live as I had a busy October and wasn't able to plan ahead for scheduled posts. Part of that was being overwhelmed by life, and the other was based on the fact that I wasn't reading.

I've been on the hunt for a job since July, after my company officially closed its doors. I found a job, and really enjoyed it, but I wasn't getting enough hours to make the job worth my time. It was a very difficult decision. I'm so fortunate that my parents allow me to live at home rent free but that has taken a toll on us. I want to be able to help my parents with the mortgage for our home and I can't do that without a job. I was finally able to find another job (well, I will be working part time with an old company) and I am happy with that. 

On another note, I have decided that I will be participating in NaNoWriMo 2020. For those of you who might not know, National Novel Writing Month occurs every November. The basic goal for NaNo is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I say basic, however, because people change and modify the goals to suit their needs. I am very excited about this story and I'm excited to begin writing. 

However, and this is a big however, my overall goal is to once again prepare to take the LSAT in 2021, hopefully in April. It'll be my second time taking the test and I really want to do well on it. I didn't do all that well with my first score and it essentially left me feeling defeated. After a lot (and I mean A LOT) of reflection, I have decided that pursuing a law degree (specifically a JD) is what I want to do. Above the the job and NaNoWrimo is going to be my preparation for this test. 

And so, this break for the month of November is vital for me. 

I can't wait to see y'all on December 1! 

Monday, October 12, 2020

Midnight Sun (The Twilight Saga #5) by Stephenie Meyer

Midnight Sun | The Twilight Saga #5 | Stephenie Meyer
August 4th 2020 | Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 
Source: Library 
When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella's side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward's version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun.

This unforgettable tale as told through Edward's eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting Bella is both the most unnerving and intriguing event he has experienced in all his years as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward's past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he justify following his heart if it means leading Bella into danger?

In Midnight Sun, Stephenie Meyer transports us back to a world that has captivated millions of readers and brings us an epic novel about the profound pleasures and devastating consequences of immortal love.
Before I begin this review, I want to make note of the problematic aspects of this book and the author. First and foremost, the Quileute Tribe has been egregiously hurt by how they have been depicted in this book series. Their history, culture and stories were used in a way that wasn't respectful of the tribe. They are currently raising money to move important buildings to high ground so they aren't damaged by water. We should also acknowledge that this series is racist. Stephenie Meyer made a point to only have Black and people of color in the movies if they were the villains among many other issues. For this reason, I did not buy this book but borrowed it from the library. I will be donating what I would pay to buy this book to the Quileute Tribe. 

I'm not sure what I have to say about this book that hasn't been said already. Without a doubt, I can sum up my experience with this book in one word: boredom. Maybe it's because we've been with this story for many, many years so there's nothing new about it. I went into this book wanting something more. I wanted more about Edward's inner thoughts but it wasn't what I expected. It was so boring, y'all, I can't even begin to tell you. 

Edward spent this entire book wanting to kill Bella, wanting to save Bella from himself, and then wanting Bella for himself. There was one scene where he went several pages where he tried to plan how to kill everyone before killing Bella. When I tell y'all it was a lot, and very uncomfortable, I am not kidding. I know that Edward is supposed to be seen as a "romantic" hero but he wasn't that. Remember all the times he watched Bella sleep before she knew about it? Yeah, it was even creepier being in Edward's head. 

I hate how women are written in this book. Rosalie had an incredibly difficult past that we know. She's been through so much and she's a survivor. I hated how she's only seen as a valid, shallow woman in Edward--and thus, our--eyes. She has every right to be upset. She has every right to her feelings. Why shouldn't she be worried about her brother revealing who they are to the world? We can joke as much as we want to about why the Cullens come back as high schoolers but I can understand why Rosalie wouldn't want to keep doing it. I totally understood why she didn't want to be friends with Bella. I also understand why she had feelings about Bella choosing this life and Rosalie not being able to have that. Again, why do we keep forgetting that Rosalie didn't get a choice to be a vampire? Even more so, why do we keep forgetting the trauma she went through before Carlisle found her? 

Jessica has also been written horribly. Why is it so bad that she's a high school girl who is focusing on homecoming and prom? Why is she also shallow for wanting to date boys and finding pretty dresses? We talk a lot about how we give hell to the things teen girls like but why can't that go to how an actual teen girl behaves? I don't know, maybe none of this makes sense. Bella isn't as interested in dating or the things that Jessica is interested in, but that doesn't mean that Bella is above her or Rosalie. 

Lets talk about other things. Edward and Alice were my favorite sibling pair but their conversations were also very frustrating. There were so many moments where they would have a conversation but we wouldn't get any details about what their conversation was. I also loved all the details we got about how the Cullens became a family but it wasn't enough. Why would you give me almost 700 pages but not more information than what I got the first time around? The *only* part I found remotely interesting was what happened with James in the ending. 

All in all, Edward and Alice were my favorite sibling pair but their conversations were also very frustrating. There were so many moments where they would have a conversation but we wouldn't get any details about what their conversation was. I also loved all the details we got about how the Cullens became a family but it wasn't enough. 

All in all, Midnight Sun wasn't what I expected it to be. But I also didn't have very high expectations. 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

The Tourist Attraction (Moose Springs, Alaska #1) by Sarah Morgenthaler

The Tourist Attraction | Moose Springs, Alaska #1 | Sarah Morgenthaler
May 5th 2020 | Sourcebooks Casablanca 
Source: Library 
When Graham Barnett named his diner The Tourist Trap, he meant it as a joke. Now he's stuck slinging reindeer dogs to an endless string of resort visitors who couldn't interest him less. Not even the sweet, enthusiastic tourist in the corner who blushes every time he looks her way…

Two weeks in Alaska isn't just the top item on Zoey Caldwell's bucket list. It's the whole bucket. One look at the mountain town of Moose Springs and she's smitten. But when an act of kindness brings Zoey into Graham's world, she may just find there's more to the man than meets the eye…and more to love in Moose Springs than just the Alaskan wilderness.
The Tourist Attraction is a book that I should have loved. Everything about the premise of this book screams Kailia. A romance set in Alaska? A grumpy hero? A really sweet, naïve heroine? I wanted all of that. But what should have been a really great reading experience ended up being incredibly frustrating. I’m not entirely sure what it was about this book but it felt like everything that could go wrong had gone wrong.

Characters for the most part will make or break a story for me. The plot doesn’t have to be good and the writing could also be mediocre if I really truly love the characters. But God did I hate the characters in the story. From the moment we meet him, Graham doesn’t come off as a gruffy, lovable guy. Instead, he comes off as just an asshole. He’s one of those guys that you were in your friends against talking to because he literally is an asshole for no reason. All of the interaction he had with Zoe left me feeling like he was really sleazy. I didn’t ship him or Zoe together because I figured that she deserves better.

Zoe, on the other hand, was just too sweet and naïve a character for my liking. I fully understand that not everyone is going to be as vocal or as confident as others, but Zoe became incredibly frustrating. Maybe it was a combination of Graham’s character as well but I really could not get behind her at all. A lot of the times I wanted *more* from her.

I also won’t get into details about all of the other ridiculous characters in the story but they were so annoying. I was astounded to find out that Lana is going to be the main character in the next book and I will not be reading it. It’s been a long time since I’ve met someone so insufferable. Maybe if the author had developed her as a character more of this book I would care more. All I got was that she was a rich friend of Zoey’s who was actually an incredibly bad friend. I find it hard to support someone who will leave her drunk friend alone in a town that her friend has never been in.

The characters aside, the plot also could’ve been so good but it wasn’t. Maybe it was because there were so many random moments between Graham and Zoe that didn’t really do much. I already didn’t like them as characters and these random moments didn’t add anything to their development.

I think the main conflict in the story is an excellent one. Completely understand why a local of a tourist town would not want to get involved with the tourist. That part of Graham was completely understandable to me. But there wasn’t enough of a conversation around that for me. How am I getting up till 80% of the story and you’re still wishy-washy about wanting to be with this person? Why am I getting to the very end of the story and you’re still unsure about pursuing this relationship? I think this is where the plot suffered a lot.

This could go one of two ways, in my opinion. One, the local could decide halfway through the story that they want to end the relationship with the tourist. This could give the author a lot of chances to force the two characters together and really reckoned with their feelings for each other. Two, the local and the tourist decide halfway through that they want to be together. For the remainder of the story they could focus on how they can be together. Obviously a story doesn’t have to follow either of these instances. But for this book specifically, I felt like either of those options would’ve been better than what we got. I am not going to be happy in a story where I get almost to the end and your characters are still unsure about what they want with no resolution in sight.

I’m going to go ahead and in this review now. I think I’ve talked enough about why I wasn’t happy with the story. If you like the story, I am really happy for you. Anyone have any recommendations for a story similar to this I am all ears. Again, I love stories set in places like Alaska and I definitely want more of them in this world.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro (Chronicles of the Bitch Queen #1) by K.S. Villoso

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro | Chronicles of the Bitch Queen #1 | K.S. Villoso
February 18th 2020 | Orbit 
Source: Library 
A queen of a divided land must unite her people, even if they hate her, even if it means stopping a ruin that she helped create. A debut epic fantasy from an exciting new voice.

"I murdered a man and made my husband leave the night before they crowned me."

Born under the crumbling towers of Oren-yaro, Queen Talyien was the shining jewel and legacy of the bloody War of the Wolves that nearly tore her nation apart. Her upcoming marriage to the son of her father's rival heralds peaceful days to come.

But his sudden departure before their reign begins fractures the kingdom beyond repair.

Years later, Talyien receives a message, urging her to attend a meeting across the sea. It's meant to be an effort at reconciliation, but an assassination attempt leaves the queen stranded and desperate to survive in a dangerous land. With no idea who she can trust, she's on her own as she struggles to fight her way home.
This has to be one of the most unexpected books from 2020. Well I’d heard a lot about it on Twitter, I really didn’t have any intention of reading it. That was until people began sharing the first line of this book. That was what sold me and I requested the Wolf of orange arrow right away. I’m genuinely so glad that I did because this was such a fantastic book.

The first thing I wanna make a note of is the pacing for this book. It’s almost a 500 page book that I finished in a single day. Aside from the fact that I was avoiding social media, I really didn’t want to be too far away from the story. I don’t know how she was able to but VS Villoso was able to keep me interested throughout the story. Her ability to integrate the present story and past history of all of the characters was masterful. I was never bored in any aspect of the story, even if we were several years in the past. I truly believe it’s because she has such a strong voice for her main character and the setting.

So let’s talk about Talyien, our titular character, the bitch queen. She has one of the strongest voices I have read in a very long time. From the very first line I was able to get an understanding of who she was as a character. While she had a lot of moments that seemed out of character, I wasn’t bothered that by it at all. Even though she has a reputation as a bitch queen and has been known to be incredibly hard, I found the moments where at Highland wasn’t so strong also great. There was never a moment where I felt that she was out of character.I’m not really sure I have any words that can describe just how incredible her voice is. I am so looking forward to the next two books in this trilogy for that character voice alone.

One of the things I loved about this book is the fact that the setting was also a character on its own. The world building was utterly magnificent. Based a lot on Filipino history, we are really transported into this fantasy world. I really loved learning about the different areas and the different nations that exist in this world. They have their own ways of speaking, food, and so many other cultural aspects that I really loved. A lot of the time fantasy books focus solely on landscapes or names but often leave out language and food and customs. This world I felt so fully formed and even though it’s incredibly rough, I would love to visit. It’s a rare moment where I don’t even care about the roughness of the world because I want to be in it so badly.

I had some issues with the plot because certain aspects kept resurfacing. Maybe a better word is that it was a little bit too repetitive. I’m willing to forgive it because it is a first book in the series and the author admitted that we are very much on the surface of what this world has in store. I’m hoping that the next two books in the trilogy dive deeper into the people of this world, more about their culture, and getting a better idea of the characters we were introduced to in this book. I also want to take a moment to talk about the romance that’s in this book. I’m usually not one to not want romance but I felt that it was a little bit frustrating. For the sake of spoilers, I won’t really go into details but I felt some characters did not need to be a part of a specific romance plot line.

I don’t know if my review makes any sense. I really loved this book so much. The world is incredible and fully formed, the pacing keeps you intrigued, and the characters have such distinct personalities. I read the interview that was included in the paper back I borrowed. The author talked about how she felt like this was a love letter to the Philippines. I truly felt that in how much care she took to build this world, their history, the culture of the peoples and just everything about it was so well done. If you haven’t picked this book up, I would highly recommend that you do. If this book wasn’t on your radar I hope it is now. This is one of the moments where all of the praise is so well deserved.
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