Friday, January 20, 2023

Book Review: "Lunar Love" by Lauren Kung Jessen

Are perfect matches written in the stars, or are they found more practically?

Olivia’s grandmother is a legend in the matchmaking business. Her ability to use the Chinese zodiac to find the perfect matches for her clients has resulted in so much happiness through the decades, and the business she created, Lunar Love, is known through LA’s Chinatown neighborhood and beyond.

After passing the business to Olivia’s aunt when she retired, her grandmother is now ready for the company to be led by the next generation—Olivia. She has so many ideas, so much enthusiasm for how to attract a generation more interested in using their phones to find a match.

Imagine Olivia’s surprise when she discovers there’s a company with an app that utilizes the same principles as her grandmother but focuses on “animal attraction.” She’s furious, especially when she discovers that Bennett, the handsome guy she met cute at the bakery, is behind the app. She will not let him destroy her family’s legacy.

As the two battle and banter, they make a deal: each will try to find a match for the other. The first person to fall in love loses. (But do they really?) Will true love flourish because of tradition or something more modern?

This was a really cute book. I’m a sucker for banter as well as the whole enemies-to-lovers thing, so I enjoyed it!

Book Review: "Mr. Breakfast" by Jonathan Carroll

Jonathan Carroll's new book is a little odd, but it's tremendously powerful and thought-provoking.

“The best thing in the world, the most anyone can hope for, is to wake up in the morning liking where you are, what you do, and, if you’re lucky, who you’re with. Ask or expect more and you’re a greedy fool.”

Graham Patterson is a stand-up comedian, but his career never seems to have gotten the traction he’d hoped for. He needs to figure out what his next steps are, so he buys a car and plans to drive cross-country, and hopes that inspiration will strike and lead him to success.

Along the way, he stops in North Carolina and gets a tattoo. Shortly thereafter, he starts seeing things that don’t make sense. It turns out that the tattoo is tremendously unique, and it will give him the ability to see his parallel lives. He can choose the life he is living, or see two other possible paths he could take, and he can stay in the life he chooses. But once he makes a choice there’s no telling what will happen.

This book is so fascinating and compelling. It looks at the choices we make and the impacts those choices have on ourselves and others. It’s also a story about connection, love, and finding what—and whom—you care about. Obviously there’s some suspension of belief that’s necessary, but I just loved this.

Book Review: "The Most Likely Club" by Elyssa Friedland

It’s never too late to achieve your high school dreams.

In 1997, four best friends—Melissa, Suki, Priya, and Tara—were determined to set the world on fire after high school. Their classmates thought so, too, voting them Most Likely to Win the White House, Join the Forbes 400, Cure Cancer, and Open a Michelin-Starred Restaurant, respectively.

But as their 25th reunion approaches, while Suki has built a business empire and Priya is a doctor, no one is quite satisfied with the trajectory their lives took. Rather than let that get them down, they decide—with the support and help of each other—to finally achieve the superlatives they received in high school, or at least some success that truly brings them satisfaction.

They call themselves The Most Likely Club. But they’ll find that the path they most want to take might not be the easiest or the best, and it may take coming to terms with truths they’ve kept hidden. At least they’ll do it together.

I really enjoyed this book. I loved the nostalgic feel of looking back on your life since high school and seeing how different it is from what you thought it might be. I’m a fan of Elyssa Friedland’s books and the warmth and humor she brings to her stories—not to mention a touch of zaniness.

Thanks to Get Red PR for sending me a copy! I already have Friedland’s next book on my TBR for when it’s published!

Book Review: "The Reunion" by Kayla Olson

Can two former costars find happy ever after when their cast is reunited?

Twenty years ago, “Girl on the Verge” was the quintessential television series. And Liv, the show’s star, grew up on television, although she found it difficult to measure up to the perfection of the character she played. But while the series set her up financially, it definitely took a toll—her father died during the show’s run, and her costar and best friend, Ransom, took a step back from their relationship, leaving her hurt and betrayed.

When a streaming service decides to do a reunion show to celebrate “Girl on the Verge”'s 20th anniversary, Liv feels good about returning. Ransom is now a popular action movie star, and he’s certainly grown into a gorgeous man. Even though they haven’t seen each other in 15 years, the two quickly fall into the same groove, although the chemistry between them is more intense.

As Liv tries to decide whether to let her guard down with Ransom, she’s also trying to decide what path her future should take. Should she consider returning for a reboot of the show, or should she continue choosing films she feels strongly about. And if she decides not to do the reboot, what does that mean for any chance with Ransom?

Trying to determine what is real and what is for publicity can be difficult and nerve-wracking. Will they end up in the same place they did 15 years ago, or will this be the opportunity they both want?

I really enjoyed this. I love second-chance romances and am all about the nostalgia of a popular show reuniting. I’d love to see this made into a movie or Netflix special, because these characters were so well-described I see them in my head!!

Book Review: "The Uncommon Reader" by Alan Bennett

Boy, this novella was utterly charming and delightful!

One day when her dogs are being unruly, Queen Elizabeth leaves the grounds of Buckingham Palace to find that there’s a mobile library just outside. She decides to go inside—much to the shock of the librarian and the one other person in the library—and while she’s there, she might as well pick out a book.

She can’t remember the last time she read something for pleasure, something she didn’t have to. (One doesn’t have hobbies or pastimes as a monarch.) When she returns to the library, she again finds Norman, a young man who works in the palace kitchens. She is taken by his knowledge about books and reading, and she moves him onto her staff.

The Queen’s sudden zeal for reading doesn’t sit well with her private secretary or even the prime minister. Because her reading becomes her singular focus—she doesn’t approach appearances with her usual demeanor, she’s often late, and she always has a book with her. And the truth is, she’s frustrated most of the time because she’d rather be reading.

I thought this was just so enjoyable. The way everyone around the Queen reacts to her sudden love of reading is both funny and a little sad. While I never read this when the book was published in 2007, to read it now, not long after the Queen’s death, gives the book an added poignancy.

How can you not love a book about the love of reading?

Book Review: "Everybody Knows" by Jordan Harper

Jordan Harper's latest is a compelling thriller that reads like a movie.

“…when Mae looks at people, all she sees are secrets.”

When there’s trouble to be covered up, Mae Pruett is on the case. As a “black bag” publicist for one of the most powerful crisis PR firms in Los Angeles, she is one of the people who protects the secrets of the rich and famous, making sure the scandals and foibles are hidden or dismissed away.⁣

One day, her boss and mentor is gunned down, supposedly the victim of a random carjacking. But it was just before he was going to share information on something big he was working on. Coincidence? Mae thinks not. No matter how much she is told not to dwell on her boss’ death, she is determined to figure out what happened. But it will put her in the direct path of companies like hers, shadowy firms paid to keep things secret—no matter the cost.

Thrillers are not my go-to genre but I couldn’t get enough of this book. It read like a movie or crime series and that’s not surprising given that Harper is a television writer. He’s also an Edgar Award-winner, so I’ll definitely be checking out his backlist.

Book Review: "Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute" by Talia Hibbert

If they’re going to succeed, they’re going to have to make peace with their childhood best-friend-turned-nemesis, and maybe even themselves.

Celine has a plan for success which includes studying law at Cambridge, acing her exams, and getting an offer from a leading law firm. But first, she needs an “A” in philosophy, which should be easy—but she has to share a class with Brad.

Brad and Celine were best friends growing up—their mothers were also best friends. But as Brad became interested in sports and started to become popular, he wanted to have other friends too, although those friends might not appreciate Celine’s quirkiness or disdain for most people. So they parted ways, but not until both said hurtful things.

Of course, fate keeps throwing them together. As much as they resent each other, they also are drawn to one another. And when Celine decides to compete in a grueling outdoor expedition in order to set her on the right path to her future, her aggravation that Brad is there too dissipates when they start teaming up. Can they rekindle their friendship—or perhaps turn it into something more?

I’m a huge fan of Hibbert’s. Her Brown Sisters series was sexy, emotional, and funny, and I love the way she creates neurodiverse characters and characters dealing with other physical and emotional challenges. She did a great job portraying Brad’s OCD and his bisexuality, and captured the craziness of high school well.