Reading Challenge: Rowena's 2021 Review Pile Challenge

Review: The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He

Posted September 6, 2021 by Rowena in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan HeReviewer: Rowena
The Ones We're Meant to Find by Joan He
Publisher: Roaring Brook
Publication Date: May 4, 2021
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: First Person
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2021 Goodreads Challenge, Rowena's 2021 New to Me Challenge, Rowena's 2021 Review Pile Challenge
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three-half-stars

One of the most twisty, surprising, engaging page-turner YAs you’ll read this year—We Were Liars meets Black Mirror, with a dash of Studio Ghibli.

Cee has been trapped on an abandoned island for three years without any recollection of how she arrived, or memories from her life prior. All she knows is that somewhere out there, beyond the horizon, she has a sister named Kay, and it’s up to Cee to cross the ocean and find her.

In a world apart, 16-year-old STEM prodigy Kasey Mizuhara lives in an eco-city built for people who protected the planet―and now need protecting from it. With natural disasters on the rise due to climate change, eco-cities provide clean air, water, and shelter. Their residents, in exchange, must spend at least a third of their time in stasis pods, conducting business virtually whenever possible to reduce their environmental footprint. While Kasey, an introvert and loner, doesn’t mind the lifestyle, her sister Celia hated it. Popular and lovable, Celia much preferred the outside world. But no one could have predicted that Celia would take a boat out to sea, never to return.

Now it’s been three months since Celia’s disappearance, and Kasey has given up hope. Logic says that her sister must be dead. But nevertheless, she decides to retrace Celia’s last steps. Where they’ll lead her, she does not know. Her sister was full of secrets. But Kasey has a secret of her own.

The Ones We’re Meant to Find isn’t the kind of book that I would normally be interested in but after browsing Goodreads and reading the blurb, I was curious enough to get it for review. It took me three tries to finish this book. I kept putting it down because the first part, through the middle of the story moved super slow for me. Like, at a snail’s pace and I had trouble trying to keep paying attention because I just didn’t care. I almost gave up completely on the third try but I am glad that I finished it because the second half of the book is much better and moves much faster than the first.

This book is about two sisters. Cee is stuck on a deserted island, trying her damndest to get back and find her sister, Kasey. Kasey lives in a dystopian world, in these eco-cities that keeps them safe from living on actual land where there is a number of climate damage and is probably where our earth is headed if we don’t get our shit together. There’s a mystery that is woven throughout the story and I’ll admit that a lot of that shit was lost on me in the first half of the book.

Of the two sisters, I connected more with Cee on that deserted island. Kasey wasn’t a bad character but there was something that kept me from completely loving her as much as I did Cee. Kasey is smart as hell and I did eventually warm up to her character but yeah, I was still Team Cee.

I will also say that there’s a huge twist that I didn’t see coming but when it started coming together, I stood up and took notice. I won’t say what it is but I will say that it surprised me and I was delighted with the twist. There’s an open ending to this book as well that might rub some folks the wrong way but I was surprised, that I was okay with it. I did wonder a bit over Kasey’s last words to Celia in her dreams but I let it go as I was ready to move on.

Overall, this was a solid story. If you make it past the first half then the author rewards you with a very strong second half. Things come together, other things are revealed and both Kasey and Cee’s stories reel the reader in and I’m glad that I finished it. The story highlighted some stuff that I already think about climate change and made me take notice of what I’m doing for my part in trying to clean up our planet. The story really does come together in a satisfying and meaningful way but the slowness of the first half kept this book from getting rated higher. Still, I’m not mad that I read this.

3.25 out of 5

three-half-stars


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Review: To Sir, with Love by Lauren Layne

Posted August 11, 2021 by Rowena in Reviews | 3 Comments

Review: To Sir, with Love by Lauren LayneReviewer: Rowena
To Sir, with Love by Lauren Layne
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: June 29, 2021
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: First Person
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 288
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2021 Goodreads Challenge, Rowena's 2021 Review Pile Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars

Love Is Blind meets You’ve Got Mail in this laugh-out-loud romantic comedy following two thirty-somethings who meet on a blind dating app—only to realize that their online chemistry is nothing compared to their offline rivalry.

Perpetually cheerful and eager to please, Gracie Cooper strives to make the best out of every situation. So when her father dies just five months after a lung cancer diagnosis, she sets aside her dreams of pursuing her passion for art to take over his Midtown Manhattan champagne shop. She soon finds out that the store’s profit margins are being squeezed perilously tight, and complicating matters further, a giant corporation headed by the impossibly handsome, but irritatingly arrogant Sebastian Andrews is proposing a buyout to turn the store into a parking garage. But Gracie can’t bear the thought of throwing away her father’s dream like she did her own.

Overwhelmed and not wanting to admit to her friends or family that she’s having second thoughts about the shop, Gracie seeks advice and solace from someone she’s never met—the faceless “Sir”, with whom she connected on a blind dating app where matches get to know each other through messages and common interests before exchanging real names or photos.

But although Gracie finds herself slowly falling for Sir online, she has no idea she’s already met him in real life…and they can’t stand each other.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a Lauren Layne book and I’m happy to report that To Sir, with Love was another fun one that took me no time at all to read from beginning to end. Layne writes such witty, fun, and charming romances and this was no exception. This wasn’t my favorite of her books but it was still a good one and I expected no less from Mrs. Layne.

This book follows our heroine, Gracie Cooper, a wine shop owner, and, Sebastian Andrews, the guy who wants to buy her shop space as they fall in love. Gracie isn’t a fan of Sebastian’s because, at every turn, he’s trying to run her out of the shop space where she runs her family wine shop. Sure, the wine shop isn’t doing as well as she would hope and sure, the wine shop was more her Dad’s thing than hers but for the time being, she was running the shop and out of love for her father, she kept his dream alive even long after he was gone.

She doesn’t have much of a love life but she does have a fun and flirty online relationship with a man named “Sir” and even though she’s sporting a mean crush on him, it’s not going to go anywhere because Sir is already taken. Their online friendship will make more sense if you read it but I thought it was cute. I also enjoyed seeing Sebastian and Gracie circle each other in real life and then being the complete opposite online without knowing it. Lauren Layne does humor really well in her books and it’s showcased here in this book.

Overall, this book was a light, fluffy romance that made me smile throughout. Gracie and Sebastian ended up being a great couple and their story was a fun one. Sebastian was a swoony hero and Gracie was a strong heroine who went through a lot to finally be able to stand on her own two feet and live her own life without the strings of family obligations. I was glad for her and loved seeing her and Sebastian fall in love. The secondary characters added more charm to this story and I really loved the relationship that Gracie had with her siblings and her friends. Gracie and her siblings didn’t have the perfect relationship and Gracie had some resentments that she was working on but I enjoyed seeing how much they cared about each other and how supportive they were of each other as well. I definitely recommend this book if you’re already a fan of Lauren Layne because it’s a great addition to her backlist but if you’re also looking for a sweet romance with humor, this one fits the bill.

4 out of 5

four-stars


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Review: So We Meet Again by Suzanne Park

Posted July 28, 2021 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: So We Meet Again by Suzanne ParkReviewer: Rowena
So We Meet Again by Suzanne Park
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: August 3, 2021
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: First Person
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 368
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2021 Goodreads Challenge, Rowena's 2021 New to Me Challenge, Rowena's 2021 Review Pile Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars

When up-and-coming investment banker Jess Kim is passed over for a promotion, laid off in a virtual meeting, and then overhears why (“she’s already being overpaid anyway for a woman” and “Asians are worker bees, not someone who can drum up new deals”) she delivers an “eff you guys” speech and storms out of the building. Not sure what’s next, she moves back home to Tennessee with her domineering Korean mom, who tries to set her up with her pastor’s son Daniel Choi, an M&A lawyer by day and a successful video game streamer by night. Turns out he’s swoony and smart, not the awkward preacher’s kid she remembers. With his help, Jess launches a Korean cooking YouTube channel focused on easy meal prep for busy professionals.

All is going well until her mom walks on the show mid-live recording and argues about cooking technique. While she hates being berated by her mother in front of the world, it actually works in their favor—they go viral!

Soon her cooking channel becomes an actual media company and brand. When a client is suddenly interested in buying Jess out, she finds herself sitting across the table from the very investment firm she quit not so long ago. But there’s just one other problem: Daniel, the guy whose been helping her and that she’s been falling for, is the firm’s new general counsel.

So We Meet Again is the first book that I’ve read by Suzanne Park and it definitely won’t be the last. I was expecting a cutesy romance with a strong heroine and a super hot hero and that’s exactly what I got so I was happy. This was a really quick read and I read it almost in one sitting because I was all up in their business from beginning to end. I liked the pacing of this story and thought the Korean American culture was fun to experience through both Jess Kim and Daniel Choi’s families. The Korean American culture isn’t too far off from my own Samoan American culture experiences so it was nice to connect with characters in a book that I’ve read.

This book follows our protagonist, Jess Kim, who was laid off from her Wall Street job and has to move back home to Tennessee and figure out her next move. Moving back into her childhood room at her parent’s house and feeling like a failure is something that plenty of people (myself included) have experienced in their lives at one point or another so right from the jump, I was interested in seeing where Jess back at home would take us. When she runs into Daniel Choi, the boy that she used to compete with to get the best grades and just beat, he’s driving a nice ass car and seems to be winning hearts left and right still so obviously, she’d be jealous that he’s still at the top while she’s struggling at being pushed back down to the bottom.

So the romance between Daniel and Jess was cute and super fun to read about except for the times when Jess was being super extra and blaming Daniel for more than he should have been blamed for. They had a lot of cute scenes that had me grinning like a lunatic. Like when Jess and her work besties go to the Dolly Parton bar and Daniel comes with his friend and everyone disappears, leaving Daniel and Jess alone and she’s like, “So, do you want to come over and see my spreadsheet?” I laughed out loud because that is totally something that I would love to invite someone over to see.

On top of the romance, this book is about Jess starting the next chapter in her life after Wall Street. She was kind of a smartass where Daniel Choi and her parents were concerned. Those things annoyed me from time to time but I’m glad that I stuck with the book because she fixes those attitude issues and you see her actively fix them so I was glad. Instead of finding another Wall Street or financial banker job, she sets out on the entrepreneur adventure. She revives her YouTube page where she used to film foodie videos for the busy professional. She starts a food business and seeing her work through idea after idea and really build an actual company made the story even more interesting to me. I liked seeing her work and build a business that included her family.

The secondary characters were a great addition to the overall story being told. I loved her friends (even the grocery delivery girl), Daniel Choi, her parents, and even Daniel Choi’s parents. The only person that I remember that I actually hated was dumbass Wyatt. If I had a gripe with this story, it would probably be that I wished we had gotten into Daniel Choi’s head. It would have been nice to see what he was thinking at certain parts of the story but Jess was a great protagonist so I wasn’t mad about it or anything. It was more of a “I wish” kind of thing.

Overall, this was a fun story about a woman moving on with her life after a life setback. There’s a sweet romance with a great love interest and charming secondary characters that will have you cheering for everyone involved. I would definitely recommend it if you’re in the mood for a light romance and enjoy Korean cuisine.

4 out of 5

four-stars


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Review: The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary

Posted July 14, 2021 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: The Road Trip by Beth O’LearyReviewer: Rowena
The Road Trip by Beth O'Leary
Publisher: Quercus
Publication Date: April 29, 2021
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: Alternating First Person
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 400
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2021 Goodreads Challenge, Rowena's 2021 Review Pile Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-half-stars

Two exes reach a new level of awkward when forced to take a road trip together in this endearing and humorous novel by the author of the international bestseller The Flatshare.

What if the end of the road is just the beginning?

Four years ago, Dylan and Addie fell in love under the Provence sun. Wealthy Oxford student Dylan was staying at his friend Cherry's enormous French villa; wild child Addie was spending her summer as the on-site caretaker. Two years ago, their relationship officially ended. They haven't spoken since.

Today, Dylan's and Addie's lives collide again. It's the day before Cherry's wedding, and Addie and Dylan crash cars at the start of the journey there. The car Dylan was driving is wrecked, and the wedding is in rural Scotland--he'll never get there on time by public transport.

So, along with Dylan's best friend, Addie's sister, and a random guy on Facebook who needed a ride, they squeeze into a space-challenged Mini and set off across Britain. Cramped into the same space, Dylan and Addie are forced to confront the choices they made that tore them apart--and ask themselves whether that final decision was the right one after all.

The Road Trip was one of the first books that I read by Beth O’Leary and while I did enjoy it, there were things about it that I didn’t really care for. The biggest thing was the back and forth between the past and the present. I almost DNF’d this book because I hated the jumping between the past and the present. If I wasn’t so invested in what happened to break Dylan and Addie up, I probably wouldn’t have finished this one. Also, the lightness of the illustrated cover made me think this was going to be a lighter romance than it actually was, and normally, it’s not a big deal to me but for some reason, it just didn’t completely work for me in this one. It might have been a mood thing because while I didn’t LOVE the book, it was still a pretty solid story.

This is a second chance love story between Dylan and Addie. They met while Dylan was vacationing in the house that Addie was working at over the summer. Dylan comes from money and Addie works for every penny she has but they found love in that French villa and things were going swimmingly…until it wasn’t and they break up. It’s been two years since they’ve broken up and they haven’t spoken to each other since. When their mutual friend, Cherry, gets married they know that they’ll probably see each other at the wedding but they didn’t expect circumstances to make it to where they had to squeeze into the smallest car on the planet and road trip it to the wedding together.

Like I mentioned earlier, this story is told between the past and the present, and in the beginning, it gave me whiplash. I was so anxious to find out what happened in the past to make their present so weird and awkward that it made me a little grumpy when the story didn’t move fast enough to suit me. I preferred the past until the shit hit the fan and the road trip to the wedding was full of Dylan longing for Addie that I rolled my eyes a lot. I also wanted to punch Markus in the junk at every turn too. Past and present, though present Markus less so. Sure, I wanted to knee him in the balls in the present a time or two but he’s a different Markus from the past and I eventually came to not hate him.

This was a heavier book than I anticipated but I am glad that I finished it. I was satisfied with the way that the book came together in the end. I did end up enjoying Dylan and Addie’s characters and seeing them come together again after years and years of pain made for a satisfying end so I would recommend that you read this book if you’re in the mood for a love story that is heavy on the angst, but solid all around.

3.5 out of 5

three-half-stars


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Review: Heart and Seoul by Jen Frederick

Posted May 10, 2021 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Heart and Seoul by Jen FrederickReviewer: Rowena
Heart and Seoul by Jen Frederick
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: May 11, 2021
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Women's Fiction
Pages: 352
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2020 Goodreads Challenge, Rowena's 2021 Review Pile Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-half-stars

From USA Today bestselling author Jen Frederick comes a heart-wrenching yet hopeful romance that shows that the price of belonging is often steeper than expected.

As a Korean adoptee, Hara Wilson doesn’t need anyone telling her she looks different from her white parents. She knows. Every time Hara looks in the mirror, she’s reminded that she doesn’t look like anyone else in her family—not her loving mother, Ellen; not her jerk of a father, Pat; and certainly not like Pat’s new wife and new “real” son.

At the age of twenty-five, she thought she had come to terms with it all, but when her father suddenly dies, an offhand comment at his funeral triggers an identity crisis that has her running off to Seoul in search of her roots.

What Hara finds there has all the makings of a classic K-drama: a tall, mysterious stranger who greets her at the airport, spontaneous adventures across the city, and a mess of familial ties, along with a red string of destiny that winds its way around her heart and soul. Hara goes to Korea looking for answers, but what she gets instead is love—a forbidden love that will either welcome Hara home…or destroy her chance of finding one.

Heart and Seoul is about the emotional journey of Hara Wilson. Hara was abandoned when she was just a baby, outside of a police station in South Korea. She was adopted and raised by Pat and Ellen Wilson in Des Moines, Iowa. She grew up being the only Korean in a sea of white faces and she was uncomfortable being the only one that didn’t look like everyone else. Being teased about the way she looks, the way she smells and the Korean food her Mom tried to make for her made her want nothing to do with being Korean. So when you grow up rejecting your ethnicity, when it finally hits you in the face that no matter how far you run away from what you are, it doesn’t change a hot damn thing.

When she hears an offhand comment at her father’s funeral, Hara begins to question who she is and becomes curious about where she comes from so she books a trip to Seoul to find some answers for herself. What she finds over there is a whole lot more than she bargained for and her life is upended. The truth about her present, the truth about her past, and where she goes from here is enough to drive anyone crazy and it’s driving Hara crazy. Her entire life has been thrown for a loop and she spends the whole of this book trying to sort through how she feels about the truths uncovered and it hurt my heart more than once.

Getting to know Hara reminded me a lot of myself when I was younger. Growing up in the states, as a person of color, your culture is always weird and the food you eat, the way that your home is set up is always a discussion that made me feel uncomfortable with my white friends. So I understood Hara when she said that she rejected being Korean in Iowa. I did pretty much the same thing when I was in high school because it was easier to blend in when you liked the same things that everyone else did. I remember getting so embarrassed when my Mom and Dad would speak Samoan when they came to my school or if we were out and about. I just wanted them to blend in with everyone else around us and speak English. Like Hara, I finally wised up and decided that blending in and denying that I’m Samoan was not something I wanted to do anymore. I never hated being Samoan, I just hid it when around my non-Samoan friends. So I really connected with everything Hara went through in this story. My heart went out to her and I rooted for her to really come into her own.

The love interest in this one melted me a little and I pictured Park Seo Joon from What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim as Choi Yu Jun. I liked seeing him try to woo Hara and I really enjoyed seeing him try to get Hara to understand that no matter where she grew up or how little she knew about the Korean culture, she was still Korean. Nobody could take that away from her and their romance was just super cute and I enjoyed it.

I will say that while I did really enjoy the story and Hara’s journey, there were parts of this story that I felt weren’t needed and kind of dragged the story a bit. There was a lot going on with Hara’s trip and everything she was going through internally that a lot of the stuff that happened directly to her felt unnecessary. I was also not super thrilled with the ending. It felt too unresolved. I get that this was more of a women’s fiction story than a romance but I really just needed more of a solid resolution to everything that happened at the end. I’m wondering if there’s going to be a follow-up book to this one. I’m so on board for another one if that’s the plan.

Final Grade

Grade: 3.5 out of 5

three-half-stars


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