Spoiler Free Review: Love On The Brain by Ali Hazelwood

Title: Love On The Brain

Author: Ali Hazelwood

Pub. Date: August 23rd 2022

Genre: Contemporary Romance/Rom-COM

Format: eARC

Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group

Pages: 368

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☆☆ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review☆☆╮

*•.¸♡ 𝐘𝐨𝐮 𝐝𝐨𝐧’𝐭 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐧 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐚𝐝𝐦𝐢𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐬𝐞𝐥𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐥𝐨𝐯𝐞 𝐦𝐞, 𝐁𝐞𝐞. 𝐆𝐨𝐝 𝐤𝐧𝐨𝐰𝐬 𝐈 𝐥𝐨𝐯𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐞𝐧𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐛𝐨𝐭𝐡 𝐨𝐟 𝐮𝐬 – 𝐋𝐞𝐯𝐢 𝐖𝐚𝐫𝐝 ♡¸.•*

Bee Königswasser has been given the opportunity to work as the lead on a neuroengineering project with NASA to create a helmet for astronauts that would improve their focus. She’s excited up until she finds out Levi aka the guy who she believes hates her, will be the co-lead engineer on the project. She feels he made his feelings toward her known during grad school and the last thing she’d fathom is having to work in close proximity with someone who loathes her. She asks herself what would her idol the French Physicist Marie Curie do if she were in her shoes? readily acknowledging that Marie would accept this opportunity no questions asked, Bee decides to accept. Soon after she introduces herself to the team (all dude bros), all sorts of hijinks occur to prevent Bee from actually doing her job. We see Levi begin to back her up as she’s presenting her ideas/suggestions and quickly turns into more of an ally than enemy. Bee is very aware of his presence and stolen glances so much so that she starts to enjoy their collaboration. All the while reminding herself that Levi still fundamentally hates her. 

I’ll preface this part of my review by mentioning that I’ve seen many reviews since I finished my read and although I agree that there’s a specific formula to all of these “Steminist” books, I enjoyed this more than The Love Hypothesis. The biggest standout difference for me is that both leads/romantic love interests are thoroughly fleshed out making it easy to connect and root for this ship. I LOVED the insider look we get to the actual project and seeing Bee leave a lot of dude bros in awe as she strutted her knowledge in her area of expertise. I also loved seeing Levi go from silent bystander to someone in Bee’s corner who can’t stand when his male colleagues make it difficult for her to work. I loved the fact that Bee hates that it takes Levi backing her in order for the team to give her the time of day. She draws parallels between her current situation and that of Marie Curie who had to fight for an ounce of respect/recognition as a female Physicist during the early 1900’s. It’s not often that I end up LOVING the male lead but Levi has my whole heart simply because he’s a feminist that genuinely wants to see change in their field of work. If you can get past the many mentions of Levi’s large manly frame 😂 and Bee being overly oblivious, there’s a lot to love:

🧪Empowered women in STEM
🧪Tropes: Hate to love (kinda)/Close proximity
🧪Twitter threads/wars for entertainment
🧪feisty invisible 🐈
🧪Vegan love
🧪🧠 talk as they race to perfect a helmet for NASA
🧪Male lead is a feminist
🧪The humor was 👌🏽if it can get me to laugh out loud, then and only then it gets placed on my rom-COM faves shelf 😉


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Spoiler Free Review: The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas

Title: The Hacienda

Author: Isabel Cañas

Pub. Date: May 3rd 2022

Genre: Paranormal/Historical Fiction

Format: eARC

Publisher: Berkley

Pages: 352

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☆☆ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review☆☆╮

Characters: 7/10   Atmosphere: 7/10  Writing Style: 8/10  Plot: 6/10  Intrigue: 7/10  Logic/Relationships: 7/10  Enjoyment: 6/10

Rating: 48/6.8 =  ☆☆ 3 Stars☆☆╮

Rating system created by The Book Roast 

Isabel Canas’ Gothic Historical Fiction set in the aftermath of the Mexican War of Independence has been compared to the likes of Mexican Gothic & Rebecca. The story starts off with Beatriz whose father has been killed as a rebel and their home destroyed, leaving her and her mother in poverty. Begrudgingly taken in by her mother’s Criollo side of the family, Beatriz is constantly reminded of her Mestizo blood and slightly darker complexion. She’s delegated to the kitchen in an effort to avoid having to recognize her as being a part of their family up until she gets noticed by wealthy widower/Hacendado Rodolfo. Seeing no way out of her situation, she takes his marriage proposal even though it goes against everything her father fought for. It also means being disowned by her mother as she leaves for San Isidro to live in the Hacienda. A home she believed to make her own, a home that has a soul of it’s own and is haunted by the horrors that have taken place there. The Hacienda doesn’t accept Beatriz as it’s new Dueña and makes sure she knows this. With her husband away from home on business, Beatriz seeks help from the local priest Andres for a home spiritual cleansing. What she didn’t expect was to learn her husbands dark secrets or to fall for the mysterious priest with secrets of his own.

Atmospheric and dark, It was easy to get sucked in and get spooked right along with our Main character as she unraveled the mystery at the core of this story. This had exorcist vibes all along, and I’ll admit that because of this I was much more interested in our priests POV than Beatriz. There’s teasing of a forbidden romance but that’s just what it remains all throughout the book. We also don’t see much interaction between Beatriz & her new husband. I would say this was more of an exploration of the Casta system and the tension/animosity between Criollos and Mestizos. There’s social commentary with regards to the Hacendados vs. the families who’ve worked the lands, and who then really has rights to the land. As I was reading I kept telling myself this was really well researched which makes sense seeing as Cañas has a doctorate in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. I enjoyed the writing but ultimately felt something was missing and I couldn’t pinpoint what that was. I’m a lover of character driven stories and that may very well be where I felt the disconnect. I’m open to reading more from this author seeing as they cover themes I’m very interested in. This debut novel covers themes of racism, religion, war, colonialism, colorism, bodily autonomy, and the Casta system.

CW: mention of rape and murder, colorism, racism


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Spoiler Free Review: The Book Of Cold Cases by Simone St. James

Title: The Book Of Cold Cases

Author: Simone St. James

Pub. Date: March 15th 2022

Genre: Mystery Thriller/Paranormal

Format: eARC

Publisher: Berkley

Pages: 344

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☆☆ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review☆☆╮

Characters: 7/10   Atmosphere: 10/10  Writing Style: 9/10  Plot: 7/10  Intrigue: 7/10  Logic/Relationships: 7/10  Enjoyment: 7/10

Rating: 54/7.7 =  ☆☆ 4 Stars☆☆╮

Rating system created by The Book Roast 

𝗧𝗛𝗘 𝗕𝗢𝗢𝗞 𝗢𝗙 𝗖𝗢𝗟𝗗 𝗖𝗔𝗦𝗘𝗦 is my first Simone St James read even though I have their other books on my shelves. St. James just happens to be one of those authors I had a hunch that I would vibe with their writing style and I’m satisfied with this taste test. Opting for the audiobook was a solid choice considering that we get three narrators who slowly unwind this tale in past and present timelines. The mystery suspense is super amped up while we follow our narrator Shea Collins, a receptionist who spends her evenings working on her crime blog. Shea is a survivor from an attempted abduction at the age of nine. She lives with some PTSD that prevents her from ever riding in cars and what some may view as an obsession with cold cases. Shea goes down a rabbit hole when she crosses paths with Beth Greer, the towns wealthy resident who was once accused of murder. How’d she clear her name? Did she really kill her own father or those other random family men? Why does she still live in her family home surrounded by her parents things stuck in time? Shea gets the opportunity of a lifetime when Beth who was acquitted of all charges decides to grant her an interview. There are aspects of this book that are absolutely reminiscent of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, just in a small town setting sprinkled with a bit of paranormal happenings.

This was a solid 4 💫 read that I really enjoyed, my only wish was that it had been a bit more eerie. Even though it is a mystery, I found myself quickly piecing together certain aspects. That being said, the paranormal direction that it took introduced a whole other theory in this whodunnit. I’ve heard from other readers that of all the St. James books, this one did scale it down a bit with the haunted aspects. I haven’t read any of their other books to compare however, I felt that I would’ve much rather enjoyed if the introduction of the paranormal aspects was executed earlier on in the story. There’s also a super slow burn romance that doesn’t take center stage to the story but I found myself rooting for. One things for sure, St. James is anuthor I’ll be keeping on my radar and The Broken Girls will be the next book I read by them 🖤


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Thriller Thoughts…

The Thriller genre isn’t where you’d typically find me but this year has already started off oddly and we’re just going with it at the moment. I have found Thrillers to be easier to digest as audiobooks while I’m multi-tasking indoors and outdoors. Funny observation, I run faster on the treadmill when I think someone is chasing me while listening to ANY thriller smh. No idea how this looks but if I had to guess, I’d say it’s possible my Pheobe Buffay style of running keeps anyone from coming up behind me 😂  it’s a work in progress. I listened to the audiobook for each of the thrillers down below, and they’re listed in order of enjoyment.

In My Dreams I Hold a Knife (5 STARS) Did I stay up until 2am finishing this book? Yes…yes I did and although I payed for it dearly the next morning, I had zero regrets while living in the moment. Hands down a compulsive read that is equal parts character and plot driven, this is one you can’t put down for long. Some reviewers say this has Riverdale Vibes and I’d have to agree. We have an academic setting with seven characters who’ve gravitated towards each other and have a complex friend group. It’s told in past and present timelines from mostly Jessica’s point of view, she is an unreliable character with one hell of a narcissistic personality and fits the bill as far as unlikeable characters go. We get to slip into some of the other characters points of view as they recount their version of events. Ten years ago, one of the friends was murdered on campus and most walked away ready to leave that all behind. Someone decides to make Homecoming the time to lure out the killer to carry out overdue justice which triggers the unraveling of secrets, lies and betrayals within their friend circle. This was fast paced with the first half reading a bit lighthearted (when compared to the latter half this almost seemed like the “good times”) as we see these characters living their best college lives, dating, and dealing with baggage that stems from unhealthy/toxic relationships with their parents. The second half was like watching the domino effect set off, at which point there is no turning away. Dark & filled with obsession, greed, vanity, violence and narcissism…I don’t think I’ve ever read something so wrong yet also satisfying that I couldn’t stop thinking about the way it ended.  Also, other than Coop I can’t really say I liked any of these characters but I found myself 100% invested in all of their lives. In any case, this author is now on my radar for future reads.

A Flicker In The Dark (4.5 STARS) – I’m not well read with thrillers like I am with Fantasy but as I’ve been reading more from this genre, I’m beginning to spot the red herrings. We follow Chloe who is a psychologist in a small Louisiana town where her father is serving time for having killed 6 young girls twenty years ago. Like many children of killers in small towns, your last name haunts and shames you. She’s trying to create a new life detached from her dad but when girls begin to go missing again, she’s thrust back in time to the days leading up to his arrest. This doesn’t read like a debut at all, the writing is engrossing and almost plays out like a movie. I say this while also acknowledging the fact that it wasn’t too difficult to piece together certain things. I still ate it up and appreciated the whole cinematic vibes it was giving as we flash back and forth between Chloe’s childhood and present timelines. Our MC is addicted to prescription medication and with her easy access to them, it makes for moments where you start feeling as paranoid as she’s acting half the time. I lost count of the times I thought to myself “but what if” or “but then that can’t be” safe to say there was an abundance of plot twists. I also wasn’t surprised at all to see that it has already been picked up by HBOMAX, my true joy kicked in when I saw Emma Stone tapped in for the lead 👏🏽 we Stan Emma in this corner 🙌🏽

The Collective (4 STARS) – “𝐈’𝐯𝐞 𝐥𝐨𝐬𝐭 𝐭𝐰𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐲-𝐞𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐩𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐬 𝐬𝐢𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐄𝐦𝐢𝐥𝐲’𝐬 𝐝𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐡. 𝐈’𝐯𝐞 𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐩𝐩𝐞𝐝 𝐜𝐨𝐥𝐨𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐦𝐲 𝐡𝐚𝐢𝐫 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐰𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐦𝐚𝐤𝐞𝐮𝐩 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐈 𝐡𝐚𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐛𝐨𝐥𝐭-𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐫𝐞𝐦𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐝, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐬𝐨 𝐈 𝐚𝐦 𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲 𝐧𝐨 𝐥𝐨𝐧𝐠𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐨𝐦𝐚𝐧 𝐈 𝐨𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐬. 𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐧𝐨 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐨 𝐰𝐚𝐭𝐜𝐡 𝐦𝐞. 𝐍𝐨 𝐟𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐨𝐧, 𝐚𝐧𝐲𝐰𝐚𝐲.”

Ever find yourself reading a book where you’re just as conflicted as the protagonist? The premise of this book lured me in possibly because as a mom myself, the thought of a group of anonymous women (who’ve all lost a child) working together to deliver justice is hard NOT to get behind. The MC Camille has been grieving the death of her 15 year old for the past 5 years and there isn’t a day that goes by that she isn’t angry and obsessed with the killer. Her marriage has come to an end and she’s left to live in this big colonial style house where the memories of her daughter haunt her. Camille follows the life of her daughter’s killer via social media and ends up showing up at an event where her actions grab the attention of this secret group of women. This is a trip down the dark side of justice that had me back & forth with my feelings but I believe that to be the intent here. Camille at some point finds herself trying to figure out whether the group is strictly operating in the name of avenging these children or if they too are like the monsters they seek to eliminate in the name of justice. I’m very curious to see how this all ends, in many ways the MC disregards logic and comes more from an emotional headspace. I can’t say I blame her for it but things snowball rather quickly once she acts upon her darkest fantasy. If you can read from the POV of someone who in an obsessive cycle and very angry, this is worth a go.


Spoiler Free Review: The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina by Zoraida Cordova

Title: The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina

Author: Zoraida Cordova

Pub. Date: September 7th 2021

Genre: YA Fantasy/Magical Realism

Format: Hardcover BOTM

Publisher: Atria Books

Pages: 336 pages

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The Montoya family is used to the oddities that come with having Orquidea Divina for a Matriarch. They’ve stopped asking if the fantastical stories she told them were true…how she managed to make a barren land fruitful? or how the pantry never seems to run low? One by one her grown adult children and grandchildren get summoned to their childhood home in Four Rivers for what appears to be her funeral. Orquidea wishes to dine with them and give them their inheritance however when they arrive, they find she has already begun her transformation. She is literally transforming into a large tree with roots when her family arrives with a lot of questions and frustrations. They want answers but Orquidea has never been a woman of many words and will make them all work for the answers they seek. She gives Marimar, Rey and Tatinelly’s small child Rhiannon special gifts that they don’t quite understand. In order to get answers they need to dig deep into Orquideas past which means they must travel to Ecuador. It’s through this journey that they get to know Orquidea, a woman that didn’t speak much and came across as cold but was filled with magic and mystery.

╰☆☆ “тнє ѕριяιтѕ αтє αи∂ αтє. тнє ℓινιиg нυяяιє∂ тσ тєℓℓ тнєιя ѕтσяιєѕ, тнєιя α¢¢σмρℓιѕнмєитѕ, тнєιя ωιиѕ, тнєιя ρяσgєиу. мαятιи ναиιѕнє∂ fσя α мσмєит, тнєи яєтυяиє∂ αи∂ тнє ѕσυи∂ѕ σf σяqυί∂єαѕ fανσяιтє ѕσиgѕ fιℓℓє∂ тнє нσυѕє, ωнι¢н нα∂ вєєи ємρту αи∂ ѕιℓєит fσя тσσ ℓσиg” ☆☆╮

This story was EVERYTHING and so much more than what I thought we were going to get! I’ve always loved Magical Realism (I’m lookin’ at you Anna Marie-McLemore) and know that some readers have a hard time suspending their disbelief with this style of writing, however here is a story that makes it easy for you. Each of her descendants ALSO have a hard time digesting what they’re seeing but they kinda have to because they’re being hunted and killed off one by one. Cordova takes you by the hand as you travel to Ecuador with this tale of roots, the ties that bind us, and finding where you belong. I wanted to know so badly what transpired in Orquedias past to make her flee the country she was born in. Other than The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, I’m not really a fan of circus themed settings so I was a bit hesitant to learn from early readers that we’d be visiting one in this story. Atmospheric and tantalizing, my eyes couldn’t absorb it all in fast enough and those last 100 pages flew right by! This was beautifully written and heartfelt, really no surprise to me when the tears started flowing and the page tabs were growing. This is hands down a 6 star read and going on my favorites list for 2021! ❤ 


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Spoiler Free Review: The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

Title: The Love Hypothesis

Author:Ali Hazelwood

Pub. Date: September 14th 2021

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Format: Physical Book

Publisher: Berkley Books

Pages: 384 pages

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Olive is a third year PHD candidate focused on science and not quite sure if she’s interested in love. In fact she’s questioning everything about how she views attraction, sex, and romance. Olive’s best friend Anh on the other hand is a romantic at heart and it just so happens that she has amazing chemistry with Jeremy who is Olives ex. She feels terrible for having these feelings and decides to keep them hidden but everyone in their friend circle can see they’re perfect for one another. Olive truly didn’t have any deep emotions for Jeremy but convincing Anh that she’s more than OK with them dating is proving to be challenging. The only way would be if she can show Anh that she’s since moved on into a new relationship. The idea of fake dating someone doesn’t have much time to brew in her mind before she finds herself ambush kissing Professor Adam Carlsen. The professor known to break the hearts of budding scientists leaving them in tears and rethinking their entire career paths. What’s even more surprising is that the forever grumpy Adam surprises her by agreeing to an arrangement that would help them both.
🔬🧪💞
*•.¸♡ ωнαт ι ℓσνє∂ ♡¸.•*
🧪Women in STEM
🔬Queer and diverse characters
🧪Positive healthy female friendships
🔬Academic settings
🧪Forced proximity situations that’ll have you blushing alongside our MC
🔬Flirting & banter *Chefs Kiss*

I don’t think I ever really considered the Fake Dating Trope to be one that I’d be totally into but it absolutely is now! I lost count of the times I found myself blushing and smiling from second hand embarrassment. We also get the Grumpy/Sunshine Trope which I’ve personally always enjoyed. Does it help that as soon as I heard this story is Kyloren Fanfic inspired, that I immediately envisioned Adam Driver as the lead male interest? ABSOLUTELY! he perfectly fits the description and mannerisms. I’ll admit I wasn’t too keen on the premise of a best friend falling for the other friends ex however, I felt Olive’s feelings on the whole thing were very well explored. She has a moment of introspection that even though it wasn’t spelled out on the page, I understood it to be that Olive may be Asexual. I appreciated reading a character’s POV who experiences love and sexual attraction differently than what we’re used to seeing in books.

I also LOVED how well balanced this read was with regards to the science in an academic setting and the actual romance. There was an emphasis on highlighting the many hurdles women in STEM go up against in a field where their counterparts are predominantly Caucasian males. Olive’s BFF Anh is a Vietnamese PHD Candidate who is very driven to creating more resources for BIPOC women in STEM. These themes were woven in organically which I feel is probably because the author themselves is a Neuroscientist with plenty of time in an academic setting. There’s honestly so much to love here! last but not least…The STEAM factor was so satisfying! It is well deserving of my 6 star rating simply because I am STILL thinking of these characters and the *Chefs Kiss* flirting that took place. 


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WWW Wednesday: 9/8/2021

It has been way too long since I posted a WWW Wednesday mainly because I’ve been mood reading and partly because I’ve been on the go. It’s a wrap on this rainy summer and even though I didn’t get as much beach time, I have been safely traveling and working on my little indoor garden. Currently I’m nurturing a Monstera Deliciosa aka My Baby! in hopes she thrives in my home. Physical fitness has taken center stage and for the first time in a really long time, I’m actually really enjoying my new workout routine because of the variety I’ve included. Audiobooks come in clutch when i’m working out and pretty soon they’re going to be my best friend while I tackle painting my apartment. It took me some time to decide on whether or not to paint but seeing as I’m in NYC for at least the next couple of years, might as well bring my vision for Desert Chic to realization. Besides reading, I started watching Fear Street on Netflix and this scares-very-easily person is loving it! What are you lovelies reading/watching/planting/cooking? lemme know down below!

I started The Love Hypothesis last night and while I may not be a Star Wars fan, I did love me some Adam Driver! Our male love interest is most definitely Kylo Ren fanfic inspired. I AM HERE FOR IT! We get the fake dating trope between two scientists that promises to be cute and steamy, what more can we ask for? I’m hoping to get some reading in tonight while doing the laundry but can easily see this one keeping me up past the midnight hour. 

I also sporadically decided to start listening to The King of Scars audiobook while I work. This is a re-read for me since I originally read my physical copy in 2019 and three starred it. YUP. It was not a great moment. In any case, seeing as I’ve had a copy of Rules of Wolves sitting on my shelves for quite some time and I’ve been reading from my shelves…figured I’d give it another go. It may still be a three star but so far I’m enjoying the audiobook way more than the physical. Zoya is EVERYTHING and her accent makes me smile. 

I actually binge read The Kiss Quotient trilogy, I listened to The Heart Principle on my flight back to NYC. The narrators did a fantastic job with all three books, Helen Hoang is now a new favorite Contemporary Romance author. The Heart Principle did have a different feel than it’s predecessors seeing as it was birthed after a year of grief and loss for the author. I had the chance to read the author’s interview on Goodreads where she discusses what she experienced in 2019/20 and the therapy she sought out to help her cope with her grief. The Heart Principle felt raw and vulnerable, I deeply resonated with Anna who I embodied at one point in my life. Quan, her love interest is reclaiming his life and self love after also experiencing a tough battle. Although very different in tone, I can honestly say this book is my favorite of the three. Please check for content warnings, my review is in the works. 

I also had the chance to read an early copy of A Curse In Ash by Julie Zantopoulos (my reviewand LOVED it! this was a book I picked up on my day off and read it start to finish in one day. If you enjoy sexy fae times and fantasy that is set in a contemporary world, then this is for you. If you love friendship circles that portray healthy relationships, this is for you. Lastly, if you enjoy a steamy AF Fantasy…I mean all the way off the meter…the meter is broken my loves! then I HIGHLY recommend giving this one a go 😉

Never has a book been easier to select off my shelves than The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina by Zoraida Cordova what better way is there to bring in Latinx Heritage Month (begins September 15th) than with a new book by one of my favorite authors, Zoraida Córdova?!?! this is an adult fantasy that also spends time in Ecuador which is where Córdova was born in. I’ve heard only positive reviews and cannot wait to dive in to the Ecuadorian folklore I’ve heard our author weaves in. My boyfriend also happens to be Ecuadorian and as with most books I read, I’ll be sharing this one with him for thoughts 😉


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June 2021 Reading Wrap-Up

Who else is falling short of TBR goals simply because you’re having one HOT person summer?!?! Well June threw a wrench in my reading goals in the best of ways so there’s no complaining here but I am back on track with my July Possibility Pile. I only read 4 books in June but they were quality reads (one of them is a bit iffy as the days go by lol) I traveled with and enjoyed. I haven’t really been in the Fantasy reading mood lately, leaning instead into Romance & Contemporary Fiction. That being said (Ha!), this weekend during my post work-out soak I started She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan (The Radiant Emperor #1) & already I’m MIND BLOWN (hits shelves 7/20/21) by the vivid imagery and the main character’s self awareness. Drop some love down below in the comment box with what you’re currently reading/watching/listening to ❤ ❤ ❤

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Dial A For Aunties by Jesse Q Sutanto – ✨3.5 𝓢𝓽𝓪𝓻𝓼✨If you can manage to suspend all disbelief, Dial A for Aunties will take you on a WILD hilarious ride! I listened to the audiobook on Librofm and I’m so glad I did, the narrator did such a phenomenal job of making this family feel real. We follow Meddelin Chan who goes on a blind date & somehow accidentally ends up killing her date. When she calls her mom freaking out, her mom calls in the Aunties who quickly come to help cover up & hide the body. Meddelin and her family all are in the family business of weddings & they end up concealing the body on the island where the wedding is taking place. This is a romantic comedy that is laugh out loud & over the top! What I loved? the beautiful descriptions of Chinese-Indonesian culture specifically wedding traditions. Also, the amazing support this family offers one another to ensure they’re all successful in their family business. Lastly, the AUNTIES!!! their in-fightings had me chuckling and shaking my head on more than one occasion. Overall a good time!

Survive the Night by Riley Sager – ✨3 𝓢𝓽𝓪𝓻𝓼✨ Unlike many of my friends who’ve read all of Sager’s backlist, this is only my second read by this author. It’s undeniably a page turner with a unreliable narrator. It has a very dreamlike feel that makes you wonder if the narrator really is hallucinating. I’ve changed my rating several times since reading it & not for the better, it sits at 3 stars because I couldn’t detach from it and ended up binge reading. Would you get in a car with a perfect stranger all the while knowing a campus killer is on the loose? Our MC Charlie is trying to leave campus for good after the murder of her roommate. A chance meeting at the campus ride board leads her to Josh Baxter. Josh who is on his way to care for his sick father and offers Charlie a ride. Set mostly in the car on dark roads, this story will have you flipping pages into the night. Charlie is an unreliable narrator & things get interesting when she begins to think she’s in the car with her roommates killer. It’s a game of cat and mouse that plays throughout the night and you really start to fear for Charlie. The problem is, some pieces don’t fit no matter how you try to make them and doing so will make the writing seem forced…that’s how I felt about the way all was wrapped up.

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid – (My Review) ✨4 𝓢𝓽𝓪𝓻𝓼✨This book hit on a more personal level for me, it didn’t dethrone TJR’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo but it does hold a special place in my heart. Overall, this is a story of childhood/sibling trauma and breaking free from the toxic cycles as adults. I love books that remind us how perfectly imperfect we can be, especially when you’re a parent because so often that role is one to look up to. When you fall from that pedestal you’ve been placed on, how you get back up or don’t…can possibly affect your children later on down the road. Nina (the oldest) in some ways was repeating relationship patterns her mother got caught up in. This story is told in past & present tense, in the past we follow Mick Riva and his wife as they struggle through infidelity and drug/alcohol abuse. In the present, it’s all about the Riva kids who are famous because of their father and are hosting their yearly party. Over the course of 24 hours we see them deal with their personal relationships & demons. I docked it one star because of the climax and how much I didn’t really care for it…that is to say, the party itself was just not it for me. it only detracted from what I really cared about and that is the characters themselves. For the most part we see Nina’s character development and then it’s surface level with the other siblings. I’m hoping we get a book following Kit who intrigued me so much! *fingers crossed*

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé – (My Review) ✨5 𝓢𝓽𝓪𝓻𝓼✨Save the best for last! One of the better debuts I’ve read this year, I honestly couldn’t put it down! This year has been really hard for me to find YA I enjoy which has me being way more selective with what I pick up. Ace of Spades had a little of Gossip Girl mixed with Jordan Peele’s Get Out mixed with Alyssa Cole’s When No One is Watching, check out my recent review in the link above.

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*Confession* I binged all 5 seasons of Workin’ Moms in 48 hours SMH #NOREGRETS I FELT SEEN! LMAO! The title really does say it all, we follow these four ladies as they juggle life with being modern career women. They all have such different approaches that it makes for a very unlikely group of friends but also, I think that’s what makes it work. Everything from marriage to raising tweens and having healthy supportive female friendships is explored. I had a GREAT time, laughed a whole lot and also shed some tears along the way. Come on season 6! 

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PIXAR! why do you always leave me ballin’ my eyes out?!?! Luca and Alberto’s friendship really is top tier, I was smitten with their adventures on land. We follow these two sea monsters as they explore a fishing village that doesn’t like and actually hunts sea monsters for cash rewards. This is a story of acceptance and being judged by those who fear what you are. Disney has received some backlash for Queer baiting as many (including myself) wondered if there was more to Luca & Alberto. Regardless of what was intended, I found their human connection to be beautiful and a story that everyone can appreciate.


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Spoiler Free Review: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

55404546Title: Malibu Rising

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Pub. Date: June 1st 2021

Genre: Adult/Historical Fiction

Format: eGalley

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Pages: 384 pages

 

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The 411..

“She had to choose what, of the things she inherited from the people who came before her, she wanted to bring forward. And what, of the past, she wanted to leave behind.”

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Taylor Jenkins Reid delivered yet another set of characters I found myself easily getting invested in. I spent a Saturday morning binge reading Malibu Rising while at the beach which often can be hard to do, the waves have a way of demanding my full attention. This time, I found myself traveling through history in Malibu as the story unfolds in past & present timelines. There are four siblings who’ve bonded over their love of surfing, each carrying some heavy baggage stemming from childhood. We get an inside look at Mick Riva (their dad) and his marriage to their mom, a toxic one plagued with infidelity which eventually leads to divorce. A mom who has turned to alcoholism to grieve over the life she thought she’d have, that of a happy home with a husband and their kids. We see each of the siblings cope with their abandonment and fend for themselves as they become adults. Nina the oldest of the siblings, finds herself literally walking in her mothers footsteps at the beginning of this journey. However, Nina’s sense of duty and responsibilty keep her bound to her siblings who in many ways she has had to finish raising while also looking after their mom. Tradition is very important to these siblings, and so the present timeline is told over the course of one day at their yearly party. One that started off really intimate between the siblings but eventually morphed into THE party for celebrities from all walks of life. Carrying the Riva name meant fame was their birthright.

CW: Domestic abuse, abandonment, death of a loved one, drug/alcohol abuse, Infidelity

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While The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo still remains my all time favorite, I did really enjoy my time spent in this story. I also found some parts sadly relatable which made me feel more connected to certain characters. I didn’t really care much for the party itself which the story leads up to all throughout. If anything, that took me away from the book more than I would’ve liked and made the main story arc feel a bit disjointed. Things I loved: the sibling bond, atmospheric surfing vibes, women surfers, how compulsively readable it is, the Historical Fiction feel of it all…TJR’s signature writing style really does make you almost believe these aren’t fictional characters. All in all, Malibu Rising is yet another hit for this book lover 🙌🏽


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May Wrap-Up & Book Haul…

Hola Hola Book Lovers! May was somewhat of a return to normalcy month for me after a rocky couple of months caused by health concerns. I kept my reading light (with the exception of one book that I mentally prepared for; The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore) and instead leaned more towards small towns both on Netflix and in real life. Road trips with the windows down paired with good music were my lifeline. New York City put on its best Spring dress after a long period of hibernation and like many others, I welcomed it with arms wide open (safely of course). Mother’s Day was SUPER special thanks to two tiny humans and my boyfriend who really marked the day with a variety of heartfelt gestures and gifts. Winter clothes officially went in drawers and out came my Spring/Summer dresses, shorts, skirts and sandals. My fridge is stocked with fruits for all your fruit bowl/smoothie/juicing needs. Last but not least, I went from drinking my Cafe Bustelo to Starbucks Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew cause ya girl is too hot to be drinking hot coffee. Summer is almost here Luvs!!!

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The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren (my review) -*4 Stars* The Romantic Comedy that had me once again pulling out all of my unread Christina Lauren books with plans to read this summer. Hate to love (sort of) romance, dating apps, BFF who writes the MC into her Romance novels, and super supportive grandparents. I smiled more times than I could count whenever Jess & Fizzy sat at the cafe talking about the odds of GeneticAlly truly finding their soulmate. This is one I’d watch a movie adaptation of in a heartbeat!  

 The Mirror Season by Anna Marie-McLemore – *5 Stars* I have yet to write my review and have no real promises to make. This was the hardest read I’ve picked up from one of my all time favorite YA authors. The subject matter being rape that is detailed on the page is utterly heartbreaking. To then read the afterward and see that it’s based on real life events the author and a friend lived through was devestating. This was still playing out in court in an open case at the time of publication and truly speaks to the strength of the author to bring awareness to something that many teens have experienced. I fully advise looking into content warnings. 

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala – *4 Stars* My very 1st cozy mystery and it did NOT dissapoint! I was excited to see the author’s cover reveal of the sequel (Homicide and Halo-Halo) that’ll be releasing in February 2022. Arsenic and Adobo was a fun murder mystery set in a small town, following a Filipino MC who is trying to find her path after a rough break-up. She returns home where her many aunties descend and begin to apply some pressure with a lot of love. Fun & addictive!

Black Water Sister by Zen Cho (my review) -*3.5 Stars* We follow 23 year old Jessamyn who has left the states with her parents to return to Malaysia and find her footing. Jess is a stressed out Zillenial Queer trying to maintain a long distance relationship with her girlfriend who no one in her family knows about. That is why when she begins to hear voices she thinks it’s a byproduct of those stressors and NOT the ghost of her Ah Ma who she never met. Ah Ma is her grandmother who when alive, was a Medium for a quiet and mysterious spirit called Black Water Sister. Ah Ma needs Jessamyn’s help in settling a score on behalf of this God or risk her wrath. Dark but also well balanced with snark and humor between Jessamyn and her Ah Ma. I’d also advise looking into content warnings.

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston (my review) – *6 EPIC STARS* Save the best for last amiright?!? Truly wasn’t expecting this since I admittedly fell into the unpopular opinion of not really loving Red, White, and Royal Blue. I ADORED this book to pieces and the fact that it dropped on June 1st, the first day of Pride month is 100% apropos! If I start writing I’ll never stop so instead I ask that you click on my review link so that you can read my GUSH review on the Q train. That is all. 

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ARIADNE | THE HUNTING WIVES | LAST SUMMER AT THE GOLDEN HOTEL | REALM BREAKER | ILLUSIONARY | THE PRISON HEALER | SON OF THE STORM | BLACK WATER SISTER | THE INHERITANCE OF ORQUÍDEA DIVINA (ARC)

It was a heavy on the Fantasy type of haul with the exception of my Book of The Month picks. Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard is very special being that it is the first Bookish Mother’s Day gift I received from my little human, she went straight towards the sword on the cover which made me so proud haha! Then I was sent a ARC copy of The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina from Atria Books (very thankful), Zoraida Cordova is a favorite author of mine so this was an exciting package to open. I LOVE the Fairyloot edition of The Prison Healer with its beautiful purple sprayed edges *heart eyes* Son of the Storm was an impulse buy while on a road trip, book store sighting always is a good reason to pull over. My review for Black Water Sister is linked up above in the Wrap-Up.

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CRUELLA (IMDB)

WOW! I should’ve known once I saw Emma Stone was chosen to play Cruella that it would be a solid performance. I was not prepared for this villains backstory but it is absolutely the BEST one I believe Disney has produced! While writing this post I had to stop and hop over to Spotify to download the soundtrack which was ON POINT! as were all of the costumes Cruella dons throughout the movie. The duality of this character is so well delivered that I honestly will always see this version as THE story of how she came to be who we all know. HIGHLY reccomend for those who love a good villain rising backstory, however It may throw off some of the younger viewers who only know the 101 Dalmations version. Still! This was EPIC!

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VIRGIN RIVER (IMDB)

My go-to for whenever I need a pick me up, are books and movies/tv shows that are set in small towns with a cast of characters that feel like family. This was it! Jess over at Litnoob on Bookstagram recommended Virgin River and from the very first episode I knew I would be binge watching the first two seasons on Netflix. We follow a nurse who has just lost her husband and decides to sell her house in L.A. and relocate to a remote Northern California town. The job ad she responds to online however, isn’t quite what it claimed to be. Instead she arrives at a beat down cabin, a curmudgeon doctor/employer, and a town full of neighbors who are ALL up in one another business haha! I LOVED it! anxiously anticipating season 3 streaming in July.


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