Review: The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient #2) by Helen Hoang

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.

As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.

With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

I really wanted to like this book a little more than I did. There was a lot to like about it, but overall it ended up just being ok for me.

What I Liked

  • Learning a little bit about Vietnamese culture. I would’ve liked to have seen a lot more, honestly, but I thought it added a different dimension to the story than a lot of other “arranged marriage” type books I’ve read and I liked that.
  • I LOVED the relationship between Khai and his brother Quan. It made the whole book for me. Quan was so understanding and protective and patient with Khai, but he also didn’t treat him with kid gloves, either. I just loved pretty much every scene that had the two of them together and I could’ve used a lot more Quan.
  • Khai is on the autism spectrum and I thought it came across as a pretty accurate portrayal. I liked watching his journey as he learned things about himself throughout the book. I enjoyed the chapters from his POV the most.

What didn’t work for Me

  • This is my fault more than the book’s, but I thought this was a Women’s Fiction book, but it’s straight up Romance. I was expecting something with a little more substance and a little less description of body parts and sex. It left me a little disappointed in the overall plot.
  • I had to continually remind myself that Esme was only 23. I know that she was coming to a new country and all and was naive in some things, but she wasn’t a wide-eyed innocent type of character, either. She just seemed so immature so much of the time and I found myself frustrated a lot by her interactions with Khai.
  • Speaking of her interactions with Khai, I wish that someone would have more fully explained Khai’s autism to Esme earlier in their relationship. So often she’s left frustrated and hurt after their interactions and had she understood him a little more, I felt she would have been able to respond in a more positive way and they could work out their issues together. There are a few times throughout the book that he’s able to explain something about himself and she adjusts how she approaches him and had she understood his autism earlier, they would have had way less issues. I’m not saying that there wouldn’t have been times she wasn’t frustrated or hurt, but I think it would have forced her to communicate her feelings and thoughts to him.
  • I felt like the pace was pretty slow and nothing really happened for long stretches of time. It took me quite awhile to really get into the story and to start caring about the romance between Esme and Khai. There were a few cute moments, but I never really fell in love with them.

Overall

Overall, The Bride Test was just ok for me. I liked the inclusion of Autism and Vietnamese culture, and loved the brotherly relationship between Khai and Quan, but Esme’s immaturity and the heavy Romance content left me a little underwhelmed. It’s not a book I would plan on reading again, but I think there will be a lot of people out there who will really enjoy it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

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Review: Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.

I received a copy of this title via the publisher. It does not impact my review. 

Serious Moonlight will be available April 16, 2019. 

Serious Moonlight may not have ended up being exactly what I thought it was going to be, but it was still the type of enjoyable, quick read I’ve come to expect from Jenn Bennett.

I thought that the mystery and the historic hotel that Birdie and Daniel work at would play larger roles in the story. I expected a little bit of a creepy vibe, as well. However, the book stays firmly Contemporary in tone. Which isn’t a bad thing at all, I was just expecting something a little bit different. The mystery left a lot to be desired for me. I never really understood why they cared that much about it and it wasn’t until the final “twist” that it made sense why one of them was interested. However, it was a good excuse for Birdie and Daniel to spend time together and get to know each other and have fun, bantery conversations that I quite enjoyed. I definitely shipped them together.

The story wasn’t all cute and lightness, though. Deceased parents, unplanned pregnancies, deadbeat dads, Narcolepsy, depression, suicide, isolation, and abandonment issues are all explored. It was kind of a lot to juggle, but Bennett did a pretty good job of it. I especially thought the inclusion of Narcolepsy was really interesting. I’ve never read a book where a character suffered from that and it involves a lot more than just randomly falling asleep, like I thought.

One thing I didn’t like about the book, however, is the irresponsible view on sex. I think that it had the opportunity to really explore the emotional repercussions of casual sex, but it never really went there. The “advice” Birdie gets from the adult in her life is basically not to take things so seriously. In a book meant for adults I could probably ignore it, but for one marketed to teens, I wish there was a better message on the subject.

Overall, I enjoyed Serious Moonlight. While there were a lot of heavier topics to deal with, at it’s heart it was a cute contemporary romance that I shipped. I really liked Birdie and Daniel together. There were many cute moments between them, including one of the coolest first date experiences I’ve ever heard of. I think fans of more serious YA contemporaries will enjoy it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

For fans of JP Delaney’s The Girl Before and Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10 comes this hair-raising novel of deception and revenge that will blow readers away.

Vincent, Jules, Sylvie, and Sam are ruthlessly ambitious high-flyers working in the lucrative world of Wall Street finance where deception and intimidation thrive. Getting rich is all that matters, and they’ll do anything to reach the top.

When they are ordered to participate in a corporate team-building exercise that requires them to escape from a locked elevator, dark secrets of their team begin to be laid bare.

The biggest mystery to solve in this lethal game: What happened to Sara Hall? Once a young shining star—now “gone but not forgotten”.

This is no longer a game.
They’re fighting for their lives.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Escape Room will be available August 6, 2019. 

The Escape Room started out well, but seemed to lose steam as the story progressed. While it was still overall an enjoyable read, it didn’t quite live up to it’s potential, or my expectations.

The story is told in alternating chapters between past and present. In the present, we get the third person perspectives of investment bankers Vincent, Jules, Sam, and Sylvie who are stuck in an elevator in what they were led to believe is a team building escape room challenge. The past chapters are from the first person POV of Sara Hall detailing how she came to work at the firm with the others and what it ultimately led to. At first, I had a hard time caring about Sara’s chapters because she felt removed from the more pressing action going on in the elevator. After awhile, though, I became more invested in her.

While I was initially much more interested in what was going on with the group in the elevator, their appeal wore off rather quickly. The clues for the escape room were few and far between and what should have felt suspenseful and nerve-wracking just became a little boring and drawn out. Most of the chapters were made up of character exploration, which isn’t a bad thing in itself, but when each and every one of the characters are so detestable, it’s kind of chore to get through. There was absolutely nothing sympathetic or redeeming about any of them. They were all selfish and shallow and manipulative. It made me not care about the stakes because I didn’t really care what happened to any of these characters. I also wish the atmosphere was a little more claustrophobic and stressful. For the most part there was a lot of repetition about how they bumped into each other in the dark and the heater was on really high and it didn’t really do anything for me.

Overall, I did find The Escape Room enjoyable, but it fell a little flat for me. The character development was really well done. I just wish that any of characters were worth caring about. I figured out what I think was supposed to be a twist pretty early on in the story and I found the ending a little anticlimactic, as well. However, I think there will be a lot of people that find this a fun summer read and I would be interested in seeing what else Megan Goldin does in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Wedding Deal (Heart in the Game #1) by Cindi Madsen

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Former quarterback Lance Quaid just inherited the most losing team in the NFL. He’s got only a few weeks until draft day to turn things around, and after firing more than half his staff, he can’t do it alone. Thankfully, his HR manager is more than capable, if only she’d stop focusing on “due diligence” and stop looking so sexy while she’s yelling at him.

Charlotte James has made a life out of following the rules. But nothing could have prepared her for Lance Quaid––he’s a human resources nightmare. The man is brash, has no filter, and, as her new boss, is constantly relying on her to cover his ass. Which is admittedly quite nice.

When Lance begs her to join him on a trip down the coast for his brother’s wedding so they can finalize details––on a strictly business basis––she agrees…after they fill out the necessary forms, of course. Away from the office, though, sparks start flying as the team starts coming together. But both of them know anything more than the weekend would be a colossally bad idea––after all, the extra paperwork would be a nightmare.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Wedding Deal will be available March 25, 2019. 

I’ve enjoyed several Cindi Madsen books and thought The Wedding Deal looked like the perfect book to feed my Contemporary craving. While I did like it, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I hoped I would.

I felt the book was much longer than it needed to be. I thought there was too much repetition and the story dragged a little bit. There’s only so many times I need to hear how distracted a character is by their attractive co-worker’s [insert body part here]. I also really dislike long chapters and the majority of the chapters were much longer than I prefer.

That said, I did really enjoy the romance. I thought Lance and Charlotte complemented each other so well, professionally and personally. While there was a little too much of the whole “he/she is so attractive” rhetoric, there was also a lot of discussion about how smart, caring, funny, and hard-working each other were. They helped make each other better, too. I really appreciated that the romance was based on so much more than the physical and I definitely shipped them.

Overall, I enjoyed The Wedding Deal. While it was a little too long for my taste, I did really like the romance and the sweet relationship Charlotte and Lance developed. I also thought the story was set apart a little bit from the normal Sports Romance by focusing on the owner of a team instead of a player. I would recommend it to someone looking for a light romance and doesn’t mind long chapters.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Passion on Park Avenue (Central Park Pact #1) by Lauren Layne

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the author of the New York Times bestselling Stiletto and Oxford series, the first in a sizzling new series following the unlikely friendship of three Upper East Side women as they struggle to achieve their dreams and find true love and happiness in the city that never sleeps. 

For as long as she can remember, Bronx-born Naomi Powell has had one goal: to prove her worth among the Upper East Side elite—the same people for which her mom worked as a housekeeper. Now, as the strongminded, sassy CEO of one of the biggest jewelry empires in the country, Naomi finally has exactly what she wants—but it’s going to take more than just the right address to make Manhattan’s upper class stop treating her like an outsider.

The worst offender is her new neighbor, Oliver Cunningham—the grown son of the very family Naomi’s mother used to work for. Oliver used to torment Naomi when they were children, and as a ridiculously attractive adult, he’s tormenting her in entirely different ways. Now they find themselves engaged in a battle-of-wills that will either consume or destroy them…

Filled with charm and heart and plenty of sex and snark, this entertaining series will hook you from the very first page.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

Passion on Park Avenue will be available May 28, 2019.

I’m a big fan of Lauren Layne and always look forward to her books. While Passion on Park Avenue was enjoyable, I have to admit I found it a little underwhelming.

I’m going to start with the things I liked:

-I loved Oliver. He was smart and sweet and loyal and I just adored him. I liked his dedication to his family, even though they had their issues. I liked the romance between him and Naomi, even if it was frustrating sometimes.

-I liked Naomi’s new friends, Audrey and Claire. We actually don’t see as much of them as I expected, but I’m interested in both of their upcoming stories.

-While Lauren Layne is one of my favorite Romance authors, my usual complaint with her books is that there are always a few scenes more graphic than I care for. I’m so happy to report that that was not the case with this book! There’s innuendo and suggestive talk, but there are no sex scenes and I really appreciated it. I thought it put the romantic focus much more on emotions and actual relationship details instead of just physical stuff and I found it much more meaningful.

Ok, so now onto the things that didn’t quite work for me:

-For a good long while in this book, I did not like Naomi at all. She just came across so shallow to me. Everything was just about status and money and expensive stuff and I just couldn’t care about it. Also, her big revenge plan was to move back into her old apartment building and then let her mom’s former employer and his son know who she was and how she had as much money as them now. I wasn’t really sure what that would accomplish? It’s not like she was buying the building and kicking them out. Or buying their business out from under them. It just didn’t make a lot of sense to me.

-I also thought Naomi was an odd choice for the first book in the series. She was that brash character that always speaks her mind, even if it could be hurtful. The kind of character that is usually the main character’s best friend that you don’t really like until she gets her own book and then you get to know her better. I did eventually like her, but it took me awhile. I’m much more interested in Claire and Audrey’s stories (particularly Audrey and Clarke).

-One of the subplots include the development of a tv show based on Naomi’s rags to riches story. I found that interesting, but thought it could have been explored much more than it was.

Overall, I did enjoy Passion on Park Avenue. I liked the friendship and Oliver and how the romance focused more on the relationship than on the physical stuff. I felt like not a whole lot really happened in the story, though, and it took me a really long time to start caring about Naomi, so I’m giving this a little lower rating than I do most Layne books. However, I am definitely looking forward to the next books in this series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Romancing His Rival (Accidentally Yours #3) by Jennifer Shirk

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Hopeless romantic Elena Mason doesn’t often hate people, but she hates her ex-fiancé’s insufferable best man, Lucas Albright III. She just knows Lucas is the one who talked her ex out of getting married—so Lucas is clearly the cause of all her problems.

And now she’s expected to work with him? Oh, heck no.

Lucas Albright wants nothing more than to make partner at his advertising firm, and he knows he works best alone. But then Elena ends up as his partner on an account that could win him a promotion. He had a great reason to end her engagement, not that she’d ever believe him. Still, he’s willing to try working as a team.

Unfortunately, his new “partner” wants him dead.

Elena knows she’s going to have to give in and work with her nemesis, though nobody said it had to be easy for him. But what happens when fighting starts feeling a whole lot like falling in love?

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Romancing His Rival will be available February 11, 2019. 

Jennifer Shirk always writes such sweet romances and Romancing His Rival was a great addition to the Accidentally Yours series.

The story was a little Hate-to-Love, which I always enjoy, though the hating was really only on Elena’s side. I liked seeing Lucas eventually win her over as she realized her preconceived ideas about him were wrong. I thought they had good chemistry together and I shipped them.

I was often frustrated by Elena, though. It’s so obvious that Scott is an awful choice for her, but she’s so desperate to be in a relationship that she refuses to see it. I have seen many women settle for a bad relationship that eventually ended and brought more pain just because they were so desperate not to be alone and I will never understand it. However, I did really love the lesson Elena learned about having to find happiness yourself and not depending on other people for it. So many Romances have the love interests “saving/fixing/healing” each other and it’s really refreshing to see a story that shows how romantic love can enhance your life, without being the reason for your whole life.

One thing I didn’t like, which isn’t really a comment on the story itself, is how I don’t feel the title represents the book well. The title, along with the synopsis, makes it sound like they’re both in the same field and have been competing against each other when they’re paired up on a project and have to work together. In reality, Lucas kind of has to beg Elena to help him on his project, as a freelancer. I think something like “enemy” would have been a better choice than “rival”. Also, Lucas never hated Elena, so while he might be her enemy/rival, she was never his. I know this is super picky to point out and while it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the book at all, it still bugged me.

Overall, I enjoyed Romancing His Rival. The romance was cute and I was glad to see Elena get a happy ending. I also really appreciated the message of not depending on other people to be happy. I recommend this one to fans of sweet Romances.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: Lovestruck by Kate Watson

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Sixteen-year-old cupid-in-training Kali is in an Olympus-sized mountain of trouble. Rule number one in arrow-toting matchmaking: don’t stick yourself. But accidents happen, and Kali instantly falls hard for her indie rock, bass-playing target, Benicio.

The God of Love is going to kill her. Even if he is her dad.

Being the daughter of Eros isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. For one thing, a girl can get jaded when her parents have the most beautiful and fatalistic love story in history. For another, immortality royally sucks when the Oracle condemns you to eternity in the wrong profession. Do the Gods care that Kali wants to ditch the love stuff and be a muse?

Nope.

To reclaim her heart and her destiny, Kali is left with no choice but to defy the Gods, tempt the Fates, date the mortal love-of-her-life, and hope she doesn’t lose her best friend, Hector, in the process.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

Lovestruck will be available April 2, 2019

I have enjoyed Kate Watson’s previous books and was very excited for Lovestruck. While I enjoyed some of it, for the most part I think it’s a case of just not being the right book for me.

I thought the first half or so of the book was kind of messy. The world-building left a lot to be desired for me. It mostly consisted of throwing out random bits of information on different characters from Greek mythology – most of whom had absolutely nothing to do with the plot. I think it also relied on the assumption that the reader was already familiar with the subject, which I’m not super into. I know there are a lot of fans of Greek mythology out there, so I can see a different audience really appreciating it.

The characters were ok and sometimes humorous, which I enjoyed, but I never really fully connected to them. Another reason why this may not be the right book for me is that there was a lot of teenage, love-triangle angst. It was one of those situations where I just felt a little too old for what was going on. However, I did like how the love-triangle resolved. Just from reading the synopsis I felt like I knew exactly how it was going to play out, but once I got into the book I realized it might go down the less obvious path and I shipped it.

Overall, I thought Lovestruck was an ok read, but just not for me. I think a younger audience and fans of Greek mythology will appreciate it a lot more than I did.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars