Publisher: Penguin

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: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 352
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2020 Goodreads Challenge, Rowena's 2021 Review Pile Challenge
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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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Sunday Spotlight: Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q Suntano

Posted May 2, 2021 by Holly in Features, Giveaways | 3 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

The cover of this book caught my attention, and the blurb sealed it for me. I can’t wait to read this. DIAL A FOR AUNTIES by Jesse Q Suntano sounds amazing and hilarious.

Sunday Spotlight: Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q SuntanoDial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: April 27, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 320
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A hilariously quirky novel that is equal parts murder mystery, rom-com, and a celebration of mothers and daughters as well as a deep dive into Chinese-Indonesian culture, by debut author Jesse Q. Sutanto.

1 (accidental) murder2 thousand wedding guests3 (maybe) cursed generations4 meddling Asian aunties to the rescue!

When Meddelin Chan ends up accidentally killing her blind date, her meddlesome mother calls for her even more meddlesome aunties to help get rid of the body.

Unfortunately, a dead body proves to be a lot more challenging to dispose of than one might anticipate, especially when it is accidentally shipped in a cake cooler to the over-the-top billionaire wedding Meddy, her Ma, and aunties are working, at an island resort on the California coastline. It’s the biggest job yet for their family wedding business—“Don’t leave your big day to chance, leave it to the Chans!”—and nothing, not even an unsavory corpse, will get in the way of her auntie’s perfect buttercream cake flowers.

But things go from inconvenient to downright torturous when Meddy’s great college love—and biggest heartbreak—makes a surprise appearance amid the wedding chaos. Is it possible to escape murder charges, charm her ex back into her life, and pull off a stunning wedding all in one weekend?
Story Locale: Southern California

Excerpt

Excerpt from DIAL A FOR AUNTIES by Jesse Q. Sutanto

I open the car door, heart thundering. “Ma, you scared me!”

She frowns at me. “What is it, Meddy? What’s wrong?”

I wasn’t planning on telling her anything. Of course I wasn’t— the last person I want to tell is Ma. She wouldn’t know what to do, or say, or—

“Ma, I killed him.” Tears spring into my eyes when I hear myself say those words out loud. I killed him. How many more times would I have to say that?

“Kill him? Kill what? Aduh, Meddy, how many times must I tell you, don’t drink so much. You see, now you’re not making any sense.”

“I killed him, Ma. Jake. The guy you set me up with!” And now, finally, I let the tears flow, because saying his name is awful. It’s not just some body in my trunk; it’s a body who used to be a someone.

Ma stops her nattering mid-sentence. Her mouth claps shut, and she stares at me for a while. When she next speaks, it’s in halting English. “This is like what you and Selena like to say? You kids always saying, ‘Wah, you killing it!’ Like that, ya?”

“No!” I cry. “I mean I literally killed him, Ma!” Not knowing what else to do, I take out my car key and hit a button. The trunk pops open with a click that might as well be a gunshot inside our small garage. All noise is suddenly amplified; I can hear my own heartbeat, and Ma’s sharp intake of breath.

“Meddy,” she whispers, “this is joke, right? You just joking with me?”

“No, Ma, this isn’t a joke.”

A strangled laugh from Ma; then she shakes her head. “You kids, ya, you always think you are so funny.” She wags a finger at me and strides to the back of the car, still shaking her head. “My daughter, such a joker, so—AIYA wo de tian ah!” She stumbles back, hands covering her mouth.

I wince.

“Meddy,” she hisses. “Meddy! This is not funny.” She looks back and forth between me and the trunk. “Are those fake legs? What you call it—man-ee-kween?”

I shake my head, fresh tears springing to my eyes. “No, Ma, it’s not a mannequin. It’s really Jake, I swear.”

She utters a noise that’s somewhere between a howl and a whimper, then takes a moment to steel herself before peering closer into the trunk. She whimpers again when she sees the rest of the body. I imagine what she’s seeing from her vantage point. First the shoes—brown loafers, no socks—then the legs, the torso, and then the hoodie covering his face.

“Why you cover the face?” she says. “Something horrible happen to it, is it?” She shudders. “Is there something sticking out of the eye? Aiya, don’t tell me, I don’t want to know.” She flaps, grimacing. “Is it broken glass in his eye?”

“No, Ma. There’s nothing sticking out of his eye. I just thought it would be, I don’t know, more respectful.”

“Oh.” She nods. “Yes, you right, more respectful.” She pats me on the cheek. “I raise you so well.”

Hysteria rises from deep in my stomach and I have to swallow it. Trust Ma to take pride in my etiquette when I’ve just shown her my date, whom I’ve killed, in the trunk of my car.

“I did just kill a person, so I don’t know that you can say you’ve raised me well.”

“Oh, he must deserve it.”

I bite my lip to keep from bursting into tears again. I’m so grateful that I don’t have to explain myself to her.

From DIAL A FOR AUNTIES published by arrangement with Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2021 by Jesse Q. Sutanto.

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Sunday Spotlight: May 2021

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About Jesse Q. Sutanto

Jesse Q Sutanto is the author of Dial A for Aunties, The Obsession, and Theo Tan and the Fox Spirit. She has a master’s degree in creative writing from Oxford University, though she hasn't found a way of saying that without sounding obnoxious. The film rights to her women’s fiction, Dial A for Aunties, was bought by Netflix in a competitive bidding war. The novel will be out in April 2021. Jesse lives in Indonesia with her husband, her two daughters, and her ridiculously large extended family, many of whom live just down the road.


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Throwback Thursday Guest Review: Darkfire Kiss by Deborah Cooke

Posted April 29, 2021 by Tracy in Reviews | 0 Comments

Throwback Thursday Guest Review: Darkfire Kiss by Deborah CookeReviewer: Tracy
Darkfire Kiss by Deborah Cooke
Series: Dragonfire #6
Also in this series: Kiss of Fate
Publisher: Signet Eclipse
Publication Date: April 29, 2011
Format: eBook
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Pages: 419
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four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

For one woman, he will risk more than his life...

Rafferty Powell has exchanged challenge coins with his arch-nemesis Magnus Montmorency, and their next battle will be their last. But Rafferty never expected to meet a woman whose desire for Magnus’ downfall matches his own—and whose presence sparks Rafferty’s long-awaited firestorm.

Since facing her own mortality, investigative reporter Melissa Smith has resolved to live without fear. She’s determined to make the seemingly untouchable Magnus pay for his role in ending her friend’s life – no matter the price to herself.

When her quest entwines with Rafferty’s, Melissa finds herself risking more than she ever thought possible. Because the heat between them unleashes the darkfire—an awesome force of Pyr legend, one that won’t be sated until everything they know has been tested and remade.

This review was originally posted on April 28, 2011.

Rafferty is outside the home of his enemy, Magnus, when he spies a thief. She is trying to get into the house and doing a surprisingly easy job of it. He follows her and ends up saving her from Magnus’s fury. Rafferty eventually tracks the woman down while in his dragon form with the intent of getting information from her. Not only does he not get the info he needs but the woman, an out of work journalist, takes pictures of Rafferty fighting another dragon and posts them on her blog.

Needless to say this is horrifying for the Pyr who pride themselves on secrecy but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the shit hitting the fan. You see, Rafferty and the woman, Melissa, are mates and during the eclipse their firestorm begins. But their firestorm contains darkfire and because of extenuating circumstances the firestorm cannot be sated. Darkfire means that life is changing for the Pyr and not everyone is happy about it – especially Erik who is the leader of the Pyr. While Erik deals with his thoughts on the discovery of the Pyr and what that will mean for their kind, Rafferty and Melissa work together to find a solution to not only deal with the discovery but how to deal with Magnus as well as the legacy that was left to Rafferty by his grandfather.

This was a really great book in the Dragonfire series. I was very much looking forward to Rafferty’s firestorm after reading the first five books but wasn’t sure what to expect. I loved that Cooke gave us another view into not only the Pyr but to Rafferty himself. With the firestorm not being able to be sated in the usual way – via conception – Rafferty and Melissa worked together to find a solution. Working so closely with each other and not depending strictly on sex to further their relationship really worked for me. I think showing the reader the intellectual side of the couple during the firestorm was a great idea and was done very well.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens next with the Pyr. We’ve been set up with some stories and I think they’ll be great. There was also an excerpt in the back of the book for Cooke’s spin off series of the kids of the Pyr that were, in this book, toddlers, that was quite good. I’m not sure how that will work with the kids being teens so my curiosity is definitely piqued.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

Dragonfire

four-stars


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Review: Come to Me Softly by A.L. Jackson

Posted April 28, 2021 by Casee in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Come to Me Softly by A.L. JacksonReviewer: Casee
Come to Me SoftlySeries: Closer to You #2
Also in this series: Come to Me Quietly
Publisher: NAL
Publication Date: July 1, 2014
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating First Person
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 384
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Casee's 2021 Goodreads Challenge
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four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

From the New York Times bestselling author of Come to Me Quietly comes a scorching new adult romance in the Closer to You series.

A second chance at life…A second chance at love…

Jared Holt never thought he deserved either—until he found both in the arms of Aly Moore. Aly has loved Jared for as long as she can remember, and she’s more than ready for the future they’re making together. But Jared can’t help remembering his own family. And he’ll never forgive himself for what happened to them. How can he allow himself the very happiness he once destroyed?

To live a life worthy of Aly, Jared knows he has to stop running and finally put his past to rest. But when he decides to face his demons head on, he encounters more than he bargained for: a dangerous mix of jealousy, lies, and dishonest intentions. When those intentions threaten Aly, Jared loses all control, giving into the rage that earned him his bad boy reputation years before. And he’ll fight to protect her no matter what it costs…even if he destroys himself in the process.

This is the second book in the Closer to You series. Toward the end of Come to Me Quietly, Jared leaves Aly. And the very end of the book, he knows that he can’t live without Aly. He knows he’s not good enough nor does he think he deserves happiness after the accident that destroyed his life when he was sixteen. Jared has been doing his penance for killing his mother. Having someone good like Aly in his life has changed him. He still doesn’t think he deserves happiness, but now he knows that he can’t live without her.

Aly is devastated when Jared leaves her. View Spoiler » Now he’s back and he has an almost fanatical need to make her happy and to be sure that she never regrets taking a chance on him. Jared feels like he’s dishonoring his mother’s memory by being happy. It was so heart wrenching to read about Jared’s internal struggle. Jared just about broke my heart in this book.

Aly is sure that Jared needs professional help though he is having none of that. Jared is sure that all he needs in his life is Aly. He has his demons and being with her silences them. He wants nothing to do with therapy. Until he realizes that he could love the only family he has left. Aly and Christopher are all he has. Aly begs him to get help but he refuses. So she does the impossible. She asks him to leave. Holy hell, that was devastating. I could see these characters so clearly and they were on an emotional level that I don’t find very often. These two were born for each other. After Jared once again leaves Aly, he knows he has to decide which direction to go in his life; in both their lives.

I really struggled with reading this book. Not because this wasn’t a good book. Just like the first book, this one was amazing. It was just so emotional. There were times when I would have to put the book down after ten minutes or so because my heart felt like it couldn’t handle anything more. Jared and Aly’s story is a beautiful but tragic tale. The love each other deeply, but this book drives home the fact that sometimes love isn’t enough.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

Closer to You

four-stars


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Review: Heart on a Leash by Alanna Martin

Posted April 26, 2021 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Heart on a Leash by Alanna MartinReviewer: Holly
Heart on a Leash by Alanna Martin
Series: Hearts of Alaska #1
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: April 27, 2021
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: Alternating Third Person
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 368
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Holly's 2021 Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2021 New to Me Challenge
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three-stars
Series Rating: three-stars

A pack of rescue huskies inspires love and romance in a coastal Alaskan town fractured by feuding families—but can young pups really teach frozen hearts new tricks?

Taylor Lipin has made it her life's mission to leave her hometown and its ridiculous, century-old feud with the Porters behind. But when her sister needs help running the family inn, Taylor agrees to return to Helen, Alaska on a temporary, definitely not longer than two weeks, basis. Or so she thinks, until she's quite literally swept off her feet and into enemy territory by three happy huskies and their drool-worthy owner, Dr. Josh Krane.

Though Josh didn't grow up in Helen with the rest of his Porter cousins, he's heard the stories: Porters rescue huskies. The Lipins are cat people. Keep to your pack. But Taylor is too tempting to give up—plus, his dogs love her.

As Taylor and Josh grow closer, tensions in the town escalate and the need for secrecy starts taking a toll. Soon they'll need to decide whether their newfound love is just a summer fling or if they've found their forever home.

I adopted a husky puppy a few months ago, so the cover and blurb immediately caught my attention. I was a little sad the puppies didn’t play a larger part in the story (they were present, but I thought they’d have more on page time or play a larger role), but they were still cute and made this a fun read.

Taylor Lipin left home for college and never looked back. She’s happy living in California – until her sister calls to tell her their parents are getting a divorce and she needs to come back home to help out with the family Inn. Taylor has no intention of agreeing, but an unexpected layoff means she has no good reason to refuse. She’s determined to find another job ASAP, so she doesn’t have to deal with her crazy town and a wacky family feud between her family and another in town. Of course she never planned for a hot romance with Dr. Josh Krane…

Josh moved to Helen, Alaska after medical school to take part in a loan forgiveness program – if he works in Helen for 5 years a major part of his student debt will be forgiven. He didn’t expect to love it, but the town has grown on him. Sure, they have some weird quirks – like that strange family feud – but overall the town is charming. It becomes even better when Taylor moves back. Josh is immediately smitten, but their families are on opposite sides of the feud and no one is happy about them being together.

I liked both Taylor and Josh. I thought their romance was cute. They had really fun, witty banter that made for an easy read. But I had two major issues with this story.

1) Taylor is allergic to dogs and Josh has 3 very fluffy huskies. She mentioned, several times, needing to take her allergy meds to be comfortable around them. I love dogs and I completely understand why she’d want to spend time with them. But spending a few hours with them is not the same as living with them full time. I realize it’s a fictional story, but I kept thinking about how uncomfortable it would be to live your every day life like that. If she and Josh end up married, she’s going to take allergy meds every day for the rest of her life just to be comfortable in her own house? I don’t know, that seemed like a stretch.

2) The family feud was ridiculous. It wasn’t just an argument between two families that was out of control. It was a multi-generational thing that included violence. I expected something kind of light-hearted based on the cover/blurb, but it was very toxic and awful. I was very dissatisfied with the lack of resolution on that score. Breaking and entering, vandalism, smear campaigns against Taylor and Josh both from members of their families…it was horrible. Having that as the mail conflict really took away from the romance and my overall enjoyment.

I enjoyed parts of this story and thought there were some really cute elements, but the family feud thing really made it hard to get through. I don’t know if I’ll continue the series.

Rating: 3.25 out of 5

three-stars


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