Thursday, February 25, 2021

Book Review: "Much Ado About You" by Samantha Young

Samantha Young's Much Ado About You is a steamy, emotional rom-com that confronts lots of issues, plus it features a book-loving protagonist, so how can you lose?

After one last attempt at dating fails and she gets a disappointment on the job front, Evie Starling has had it. She needs to get away from Chicago for a while. And she finds the perfect escape—she can run a bookshop in the English countryside for four weeks and rent the owner’s flat. For a voracious reader, this is a dream come true. (It would be for me, too!)

She heads across the pond, ready to recharge herself and avoid dating for a month. And wouldn’t you know she has a run-in with gorgeous country farmer Roane Robson within a day of arriving? After she saves his dog, Roane is totally smitten, and as much as Evie feels herself falling for him, she is determined that they just stay friends.

But as Evie’s time flies by, she quickly gets acclimated to life in the small village and can’t really imagine going back to Chicago, despite friends and family being there. As she fights her growing attraction to Roane, and starts getting involved in helping (or meddling) some neighbors with their problems, has she found home? And can she let her guard down enough to trust her heart?

Much Ado About You is a sweet, fun, sexy book with lots of steam, and it takes some inspiration from Much Ado About Nothing, but it isn’t a retelling by any means. Along with being a rom-com the book also confronts serious issues like racism, sexuality, abusive relationships, and being the child of an alcoholic, so there’s definitely some poignancy and emotional weight thrown in.

This is definitely another good rom-com to add to your list!!

Book Review: "The Secret Recipe for Moving On" by Karen Bischer

Karen Bischer's upcoming book, The Secret Recipe for Moving On, is a cute YA rom-com about overcoming heartache and finding your place.

Having to switch high schools junior year was hard for Ellie, but after she quickly met and started dating Hunter, a handsome classmate, she quickly became part of his circle of friends and started doing things they wanted to do. But things between them seem strained just before senior year starts, although Hunter tells her everything is fine.

On the first day of school, Hunter dumps Ellie unexpectedly, and it’s not long before she finds out he’s already hooked up with his longtime friend, Brynn. (Perhaps even before he and Ellie broke up.) To make matters worse, she has to share a life skills class with both of them and watch everyone ship the adorable couple, saying how great it was that they finally got together.

When Ellie gets teamed up with a group of misfits for a year-long competition in class, at first she feels like an outsider. But when her competitive spirit is awakened, and the team focuses on beating Hunter and Brynn’s team, Ellie allows herself to have fun with her new friends, especially Luke, a tattooed stunt-biker who is much more complex than she imagined.

But is Ellie willing to trust someone again after Hunter’s lies? The more she focuses on competition the more she ignores the needs of those around her. She’ll need to figure out what she really wants—and whom she wants to be with.

The Secret Recipe for Moving On was a really cute high school-based rom-com. There’s nothing quite like teenage drama!

I was grateful to be part of the blog tour for this book. Storygram Tours, Fierce Reads, Swoon Reads, and NetGalley provided me with an advance complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making it available!

The Secret Recipe for Moving On publishes 3/23/2021!

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Book Review: "The Bad Muslim Discount" by Syed M. Masood

The Bad Muslim Discount, the new novel by Syed M. Masood, is a funny, emotionally searing, and thought-provoking look at the experience of Muslim immigrants in the U.S.

“There is no true measure of pain. Each hurt is unique, and even small wounds can bleed a lot.”

Anvar Faris and his family live in Pakistan until fundamentalism becomes more prevalent and his father moves them to California. His devout mother, for whom Anvar’s sarcasm and nonchalance toward their religion is a constant source of frustration, and his older brother, who always does the right things, quickly adjust to life in America. Anvar decides he’ll do everything he can to be a bad Muslim.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, Safwa, a young woman, is living a life full of grief, violence, guilt, and anger. When circumstances grow ever-more dangerous, she must make an untenable bargain in order to get her and her father to America. It is a necessary but dangerous agreement.

When Anvar and Safwa’s lives intersect in the mid-2010s, both are struggling in different ways. But how they choose to survive—and depend on one another to do so—will have powerful repercussions on their lives and those they care about.

This book was so powerful and unforgettable, an amazing look at relationships, family obligations, religion, prejudice, love, pain, and salvation. I was so moved at times and at others I laughed out loud. The characters Masood created, even the supporting characters, were so appealing and memorable.

Thanks to my friend Louis, a fellow Bookstagrammer, for reading The Bad Muslim Discount with me. It’s always fun to discuss books with you, and to find one we both loved that didn’t depress us!!

Book Review: "The Long Road Home" by Braden Hofeling

Braden Hofeling's The Long Road Home is a beautifully written and heartfelt collection of poems, prose, and personal essays.

So, what’s your feeling on poetry? Do you read any? Do you read it occasionally or are you a big fan? Is it a genre that you know you’d like to read more of but there never seems to be enough time?

I definitely fall into that latter category. When i read poetry I often marvel at how much it touches and/or moves me, but it’s not a genre I gravitate toward frequently. But when my friend Braden Hofeling asked if I’d be interested in reading his new collection, I jumped at the chance.

This is a fairly short book, and many of his poems are very brief, so there are a good number of them. I can’t tell you how often I marveled at his use of language, emotion, and imagery to draw the reader in. There were so many poems that made me say, “YES!”

These are poems about love, relationships, family, dreams, nature, fears—and they are punctuated with beautiful artwork from Madison Bird.

There were too many poems to choose a favorite from, so here’s a brief one I really enjoyed, called “Slippery”:

When I tell you I’m falling
I don’t mean in love
I mean I’m slipping through your fingers

If you enjoy poetry or are curious about it, The Long Road Home is a beautiful collection to try. Braden Hofeling provided me with a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making it available!

Monday, February 22, 2021

Book Review: "Troubles in Paradise" by Elin Hilderbrand

Troubles in Paradise is a dramatic and romantic conclusion to Elin Hilderbrand’s Paradise trilogy—but I want more!

Irene Steele and her adult sons, Baker and Cash, are still trying to come to terms that Russ, their late husband and father, wasn’t the man they thought he was. It’s been an emotional and difficult realization, particularly for Irene.

If learning he was leading a double life with a secret family on the island of St. John wasn’t hard enough to reconcile, now the federal government has seized both his villa on the island, where Irene, Baker, and Cash have been staying, as well as Irene’s home in Iowa. They have no money, no clothes, and all of Irene’s possessions have been seized, and they have to depend on the kindness of new friends.

But trying to make sense of it all causes friction for Irene and Huck, who has become both her boss and a friend with some potential. Baker and Cash experience difficulties in their romantic relationships, too. All three are at a crossroads in trying to figure out what their next steps will be, but they know they want to stay on St. John.

Yet with a mysterious figure watching them from a jeep, and a hurricane threatening the island, will they be able to get closure of any kind? And will the island survive?

I have become a big fan of Hilderbrand’s books over the last six months, and I really enjoyed this series. She has such a talent for imagery—I’ve never been to St. John but I could see it in my mind’s eye. She’s also really skilled at creating tension and obstacles in romantic relationships.

There were times I really wanted to shake these characters for not saying what was on their minds. (I feel like that a lot when I read, lol.) I definitely felt invested in this series and I’m sad it’s over. But at least I have more of her books to read!

Book Review: "A Meeting of Two Prophets" by Judah Tasa

Judah Tasa's A Meeting of Two Prophets is a beautifully written, poignant story of a connection between two young men who recognize that beyond their vast differences they share some real similarities.

Moishe is an 18-year-old Hasidic Jew from London. He dreams of a lifetime of study, of marrying and being a good father and provider. But there’s also a part of him that has feelings he’s fought to ignore, feelings he doesn’t quite understand.

Mo (short for Muhammad) is a young Muslim man living in Manchester with his family. He is smart, devout, and has been struggling with depression. He, too, can’t seem to reconcile the feelings he has with the commandments and customs of his religion.

The two young men meet on a plane to Jerusalem, where Moishe plans to spend the summer studying and Mo will be visiting his grandmother, in the hopes a change of scenery might help with his depression. Another chance encounter encourages their friendship despite their differences.

“Moishe, the greatest prophet in Judaism, and Muhammad the greatest prophet in Islam are our namesakes. Looking out the window, I wonder what my neighbors would think about this scandalous meeting of two prophets.”

The more time they spend with one another, the more their feelings deepen and yet still worry and confuse them. They talk about everything—their religions, their families, the political climate toward both Muslims and Jews—except how they feel.

A short vacation helps both crystallize and confuse things further. Ultimately, both have to decide whether they can reconcile their hearts with their family and their religion, or whether they should follow the path they’ve always been expected to.

I really enjoyed this emotional story. To find a book like A Meeting of Two Prophets, which confronts issues like homosexuality and depression against a backdrop of Judaism and Muslim customs is so rare, and even rarer is that Tasa never forces you to take a side or confront some of the more dramatic issues I expected to arise in a book like this.

This was a find, a sweet story I won’t soon forget. I loved this kind of representation and can’t wait to see what Tasa does next!

Book Review: "The Ex Talk" by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Everything is true if you heard it on public radio, right? See what Rachel Lynn Solomon's The Ex Talk has to say about that!

Shay Goldstein has been working at a public radio station in Seattle for 10 years now, and she’s the youngest senior producer the station has had. She loves her job, and while she wishes she could one day make it on the air, she knows she doesn’t quite have a radio voice, so she’s content at doing what she does.

Dominic Yun is the station’s new wunderkind. Straight out of graduate school, he somehow has charmed his way on air already and he thinks he knows more about journalism and radio than everyone, especially Shay. Of course, she’s jealous of his success, and if he wasn’t so damned handsome (and tall), she’d hate him even more. (Or maybe she hates him more because of those things.)

During a brainstorming session, Shay suggests a great new show idea: a program hosted by two exes, discussing relationship advice, etc. Shay’s boss thinks “The Ex Talk” is just what the station needs, and he proposes that Shay and Dominic host the show, given their issues with each other. It doesn’t matter that they haven’t dated—they’re storytellers, right?

Faced with lying to listeners or unemployment, the two decide to host the show. Of course, it’s a big hit: people love the on-air chemistry and banter the two share, and some even hope they’ll “get back together.” And as their relationship becomes more complicated and intense, the show gets even better.

The problem is, they’ve lied to nearly everyone—their colleagues, their families, and, of course, their listeners. The deeper they fall for one another, the bigger of an issue their deception becomes.

The Ex Talk is such a playful, romantic, and sexy story. I loved Solomon’s last book, a YA novel called Today Tonight Tomorrow so much, and this was terrific, too. Sure, you know much of what will happen, but I couldn’t get enough of this deliciously fun rom-com.