Tag: 3.5 Reviews

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
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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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Review: Make Mine Magic by Shanna Swendson

Posted March 10, 2021 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Make Mine Magic by Shanna SwendsonReviewer: Holly
Make Mine Magic by Shanna Swendson
Narrator: Karissa Vacker
Publisher: Audible Original
Publication Date: January 9, 2020
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible Plus
Point-of-View: First Person
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Length: 7 hours, 28 minutes
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Reading Challenges: Holly's 2021 Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2021 New to Me Challenge
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three-half-stars

Jilted at the altar, small-town librarian Claire is forced to go on her romantic honeymoon in New York City alone. After enduring one too many meals for two as one, Claire invites a seemingly harmless little old lady to join her for afternoon tea at the Plaza. Unbeknownst to Claire, said little old lady is actually a grand wizard, who bestows Claire with a magical amulet that makes her the sitting queen of the magical community. Claire is swept into the gilded world of New York City wizards - and a bitter power struggle for the throne. With the help of a cursed former prince, Claire must untangle this web of deception and find the magical community's rightful leader before her "honeymoon" is over.

Claire’s fiancé dumped her right before their wedding. Instead of getting a refund on their New York honeymoon, she decides to go on the trip herself. Sadly, by the second day of her trip she’s already tired of doing things alone. This is why she invites an old woman she saves from robbers to have tea with her. She walks the old woman home afterward and then strange things start happening to her. It turns out the woman bestowed a magical artifact on Claire, which now makes her the leader of the magical community in New York. A magical community Claire didn’t even know existed. When different factions start trying to butter her up, Claire realizes there’s more going on than she’s aware.

I found this while browsing Audible Plus and decided to give it a try based on the reviews. It was a cute story. There were times I thought the MC made some questionable choices (running off to a party with a guy she just met in a hotel bar, in a city she’s never visited before, without getting the address so she can tell a friend?), but I was interested in how things would play out and I enjoyed the story and characters as a whole. I also really liked the narrator. I will definitely look for other books by Swendson in the future.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

three-half-stars


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Review: Lick by Kylie Scott

Posted March 3, 2021 by Casee in Reviews | 4 Comments

Review: Lick by Kylie ScottReviewer: Casee
Lick by Kylie Scott
Narrator: Andi Arndt
Series: Stage Dive #1
Also in this series: Lick: Stage Dive 1, Lead: Stage Dive 3, Lick (Stage Dive #1), Play, Deep
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Publication Date: July 1, 2013
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: First Person
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Length: 8 hours, 37 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Casee's 2021 Goodreads Challenge
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three-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Waking up in Vegas was never meant to be like this.

Evelyn Thomas's plans for celebrating her twenty-first birthday in Las Vegas were big. Huge. But she sure as hell never meant to wake up on the bathroom floor with a hangover to rival the black plague, a very attractive half-naked tattooed man, and a diamond on her finger large enough to scare King Kong. Now if she could just remember how it all happened.

One thing is for certain, being married to rock and roll's favorite son is sure to be a wild ride.

After waking up in Vegas, Evelyn Thomas has no idea why she’s woken up in a strange man’s room. She has little memory of the night before. Evelyn is then informed by the stranger that not only did they meet the night before, but they also got married. Evelyn freaks out and leaves. She wants nothing to do with a marriage to someone she doesn’t even remember. She has an upcoming internship that she does not want to jeopardize. She heads home from Vegas not knowing that her new husband is one of the most famous rockstars in the world. It becomes apparent that nothing will ever be the same in Evelyn’s life after this. Her internship is canceled and she has no job. The only thing she can do is hope that staying with her husband for awhile will quiet the press and they can get an amicable annulment.

It’s obvious that David has never had such a strong connection to someone. It’s also apparent that he is deeply hurt by the fact that Ev doesn’t remember their night together, their elopement, their matching tattoos. I really enjoyed David. A lot. He was such a great hero. Which is why I don’t know why he ended up with Evelyn. She was pretty awful. And she didn’t get better.

After about two days of being together they decide to give their marriage a try. They like each other, the sex is good, etc. I still couldn’t like Evelyn. She just treated David like crap with her wishy-washy attitude. There wasn’t a lot of redemption for how she treated David from the beginning. I honestly don’t know why David wanted to stay married to her. Honestly the reason I even liked this book a little was because of David. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series. The secondary characters were very interesting and I can’t wait to learn more about them.

I listened to this book on audio. It was really good. I wish we had David’s POV, but Scott did an amazing job of getting his emotions across the page to the reader. Just like in her book Repeat she doesn’t need the hero’s POV because she writes such a good story.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Stage Dive

three-half-stars


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Review: The Wages of Sin by Kaite Welsh

Posted February 22, 2021 by Holly in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: The Wages of Sin by Kaite WelshReviewer: Holly
The Wages of Sin by Kaite Welsh
Series: Sarah Gilchrist #1
Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks
Publication Date: August 8, 2017
Format: Audiobook, eBook
Source: Library, Audible Plus
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Holly's 2021 Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2021 Historical Challenge, Holly's 2021 New to Me Challenge
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three-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Sarah Gilchrist has fled London and a troubled past to join the University of Edinburgh's medical school in 1892, the first year it admits women. She is determined to become a doctor despite the misgivings of her family and society, but Sarah quickly finds plenty of barriers at school itself: professors who refuse to teach their new pupils, male students determined to force out their female counterparts, and perhaps worst of all her female peers who will do anything to avoid being associated with a fallen woman.

Desperate for a proper education, Sarah turns to one of the city's ramshackle charitable hospitals for additional training. The St. Giles Infirmary for Women ministers to the downtrodden and drunk, the thieves and whores with nowhere else to go. In this environment, alongside a group of smart and tough teachers, Sarah gets quite an education. But when Lucy, one of Sarah's patients, turns up in the university dissecting room as a battered corpse, Sarah finds herself drawn into a murky underworld of bribery, brothels, and body snatchers.

Painfully aware of just how little separates her own life from that of her former patients, Sarah is determined to find out what happened to Lucy and bring those responsible for her death to justice. But as she searches for answers in Edinburgh's dank alleyways, bawdy houses, and fight clubs, Sarah comes closer and closer to uncovering one of Edinburgh's most lucrative trades, and in doing so, puts her own life at risk.

An irresistible read with a fantastic heroine, a beautifully drawn setting, and fascinating insights into what it was like to study medicine as a woman at that time, The Wages of Sin is a stunning debut that heralds a striking new voice in historical fiction.

I chose this audiobook because the narrator, Mary Jane Wells, is lovely. I was browsing the audiobooks she’s narrated on Audio Plus and came across this one. I thought the blurb sounded interesting, and I’ve been in the mood for gothic mysteries lately. This novel is set in the Victorian era.

Sarah Gilchrist was sexually assaulted by a peer, and therefore “compromised”. As a result, she’s been sent to Edinburgh to live with her aunt and uncle while she attends medical school. She, and a handful of other girls, are the first female students studying to become doctors. Their plight is difficult, but Sarah loves medicine and truly wishes to help those in need. She volunteers her time at a low-end clinic for prostitutes, which is where she meets Lucy. Lucy, a young proustite, is pregnant and very upset about it, but Sarah sees a lot of herself in Lucy and can’t stop thinking about her. This is why she’s shocked and upset when Lucy’s body turns up as a dissection specimen a few days later. They claim Lucy committed suicide, but things don’t add up and Sarah begins to investigate. Her main suspect is none other than one of her professors, but as she gets deeper into her investigation, the more she realizes she may be in danger as well.

I enjoyed the narration, and the story was told well, but the main character, Sarah, made a lot of questionable decisions. She was forced to spend time in a Sanatorium after her attack because she kept blaming her attacker. Plus, the novel was extremely dark and depressing. Just when I thought things couldn’t be any more bleak, we’d be hit with another sad, sorry fact about the fate of women and their lack of rights in the 1890s.

I appreciated the strength of character it took for Sarah to stay on her current path, despite (or perhaps in spite of) the misfortunes she suffered in the past. But her blithely following said path without a thought to her safety or the consequences of her actions was frustrating. I wasn’t surprised by any of the revelations, but I did enjoy Sarah’s surprise, so I guess there’s that.

Though I enjoyed parts of this, I don’t believe I’ll continue with the series. Sarah didn’t endear herself enough for me to want to read more books from her point of view.

3.25-3.5 out of 5

Sarah Gilchrist

three-half-stars


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Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Posted February 17, 2021 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-GarciaReviewer: Holly
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Narrator: Frankie Corzo
Publisher: Del Rey
Publication Date: June 30, 2020
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Horror
Pages: 304
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Holly's 2021 Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2021 Historical Challenge, Holly's 2021 New to Me Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-half-stars

An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic aristocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets. . . . From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes “a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror” (Kirkus Reviews) set in glamorous 1950s Mexico.

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemí’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

Mexican Gothic was one of my most anticipated books of 2020. I loved the cover and blurb, and I was very anxious to get my hands on it. I requested a copy from the library and it took ages for it to come available. I ended up with the audiobook. I enjoyed the narrator, though I did think the audio was kind of slow. I eventually listened at 3x speed and that worked better for me.

This is a slow-burn horror novel. The first 3/4 slowly built the mystery and introduced us to the characters at High Place. I didn’t necessarily find this to be scary, but there was a definite creep factor that had me anxious to see what would happen next.

I didn’t take me long to figure out what was going on, and I eventually became impatient for Noemí to figure it out (and the end was a little over-the-top). Still, I was pleasantly surprised by the strength of some of the characters, like Noemí’s cousin and a few of the others, and I enjoyed the story overall, even if it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

While not quite the creepy gothic I was anticipating, I did enjoy this novel and look forward to reading more from the author in the future.

3.5 out of 5

three-half-stars


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