Audiobook Review: In the Beautiful Country by Jane Kuo

Title: In the Beautiful Country
Author: Jane Kuo
Genre: Middle Grade Historical Fiction / Realistic
Publication Date: June 28th, 2022
Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Anna can’t wait to move to the beautiful country—the Chinese name for America. Although she’s only ever known life in Taiwan, she can’t help but brag about the move to her family and friends.

But the beautiful country isn’t anything like Anna pictured. Her family can only afford a cramped apartment, she’s bullied at school, and she struggles to understand a new language. On top of that, the restaurant that her parents poured their savings into is barely staying afloat. The version of America that Anna is experiencing is nothing like her dreams. How will she be able to make the beautiful country her home?” (Goodreads)

I was hesitant on picking this one up because in verse novels just aren’t my thing. I’m glad that I pushed myself to do it though, because it was worth the listen and understand another perspective better.

The book is told through the eyes of a girl named Anna. She has only known Taiwan until her father decides to move him family over to America. Sadly, it isn’t what her family expected and it comes with a lot of hardship they must face.

This was a sad book for a majority of it. The language that people use to describe those that are different from them hasn’t changed. It’s a real shame that we haven’t learned over the years. Anna deals with a lot of bullying because of her differences and her parents deal with property damage at their restaurant. These things still happen.

Even though they go through all of that, they find true friends and it feels like their luck changes after that for the better. Their friends were amazing and helped them a lot, especially when it came to putting an end to the vandalizing.

From beginning to end to really painted a picture of what its like to move from a place you are familiar with to the unknown. Life isn’t always fair and sometimes it sucks to have to toughen it out but in the end it may just turn to a brighter day.

Overall, this was well done!

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Audiobook Review: Love Times Infinity by Lane Clarke

Title: Love Times Infinity
Author: Lane Clarke
Genre: YA Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: July 26th, 2022
Publisher: Poppy
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

“High school junior Michie is struggling to define who she is for her scholarship essays, her big shot at making it into Brown as a first-generation college student. The prompts would be hard for anyone, but Michie’s been estranged from her mother since she was seven and her concept of family has long felt murky.
Enter new kid and basketball superstar Derek de la Rosa. He is very cute, very talented, and very much has his eye on Michie, no matter how invisible she believes herself to be.
When Michie’s mother unexpectedly reaches out to make amends, and with her scholarship deadlines looming, Michie must choose whether to reopen old wounds or close the door on her past. And as she spends more time with Derek, she’ll have to decide how much of her heart she is willing to share. Because while Michie may not know who she is, she’s starting to realize who she wants to become, if only she can take a chance on Derek, on herself, and on her future.” (Goodreads)

I picked this one up after finishing my latest audiobook. I had seen a lot of reviews for it when it first came out and knew it would be one I would want to read eventually.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Michie. She is a high school student who has plans for college and where she would like to be. Besides that, she is in a therapy group for those that have parental issues. Hers being that her mother had told her she wished she had never been born. Abortion is not just talked about in that context, but it also is brought up when it comes to someone at her school. It was interesting how it was done and I do think that it is an important topic and was well done. I liked learning about Michie’s thoughts as well as those in her group. They were, for the most part, a close knit group and I liked seeing them all communicate with one another.

Michie deals with a lot, as mentioned above, but also finds what it means to have family or those in your corner that aren’t blood related. She learns to love and have people care for her throughout the book. Michie even goes on to confront her mother which in a way opens a door but also closes one at the same time. She also gains a boyfriend who was great! Through all of this, she is strong and learns to lean on people. I enjoyed her journey.

The romance is very much a slow-burn, but I loved it. They become friends and gradually continue on, especially taking the step of meeting parents. It was cute when they hung out!

Overall, this was an enjoyable book. It talks about a difficult topic and makes it the center of the book. I liked learning about Michie and her journey and understanding what it means to love and be loved by the end.

Manga Review: The King’s Beast Vol. 2-7 by Rei Toma

Title: The King’s Beast Vol. 2-7
Author: Rei Toma
Genre: YA Manga / Fantasy / Romance
Publication Date: May 4th, 2021 – August 2nd, 2022
Publisher: VIZ Media LLC
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Ajin boys who show signs of special abilities are conscripted to serve in the imperial palace as beast-servants—status symbols and shields for their royal masters, to be kept or discarded on a whim. When they were children, Rangetsu’s twin brother Sogetsu was ripped from her arms and sent to the palace to attend Prince Tenyou as a beast-servant, where he quickly fell victim to bloody dynastic intrigues. Now in a world that promises only bitterness, Rangetsu’s one hope at avenging her brother is to disguise herself as a man and find a way into the palace!
Rangetsu knows she must keep a low profile in the palace if she’s to have any hope of tracking down her brother’s killer. But when an Ajin is wrongly accused of murder, can Rangetsu stand idly by knowing that Prince Tenyou has the power to prevent another horrible injustice?” (Goodreads)

This series just gets better and better!

I’m glad that my library had them all to borrow because I binged them all in one day, haha.

Rangetsu and Prince Tenyou are definitely great characters and I love how their development is going. It also has a great trope of secret identity which makes for some jaw dropping moments! One in particular wasn’t my favorite though because it had to do with taking advantage of someone which kind of just felt icky.

The solving of the murder has been slow going, but I understand why. It is very complex and Rangetsu must get to know the other princes since they are all suspects. Each of the princes are very different and so are their beast servants. She can get under their skin easily but I also think she makes them better in some ways as well since her view of the world is very different. She is committed to seeing her kind be treated differently and she won’t stop until it happens.

Their has been hints of romance with Tenyou being more forward. I wouldn’t say there is a love triangle but you can tell that one of the other princes wants more from Rangetsu. It adds a lot of jealousy!

Overall, this has been great so far. I love the illustrations and the development of the characters. There have been some major cliffhangers going on so I am looking forward to seeing where it all goes.

Audiobook Review: Empty Smiles (Small Spaces #4) by Katherine Arden

Title: Empty Smiles (Small Spaces #4)
Author: Katherine Arden
Genre: Middle Grade Paranormal / Horror
Publication Date: August 9th, 2022
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

“It’s been three months since Ollie made a daring deal with the smiling man to save those she loved, and then vanished without a trace. The smiling man promised Coco, Brian and Phil, that they’d have a chance to save her, but as time goes by, they begin to worry that the smiling man has lied to them and Ollie is gone forever. But finally, a clue surfaces. A boy who went missing at a nearby traveling carnival appears at the town swimming hole, terrified and rambling. He tells anyone who’ll listen about the mysterious man who took him. How the man agreed to let him go on one condition: that he deliver a message. Play if you dare.

Game on! The smiling man has finally made his move. Now it’s Coco, Brian, and Phil’s turn to make theirs. And they know just where to start. The traveling carnival is coming to Evansburg.
Meanwhile, Ollie is trapped in the world behind the mist, learning the horrifying secrets of the smiling man’s carnival, trying everything to help her friends find her. Brian, Coco and Phil will risk everything to rescue Ollie—but they all soon realize this game is much more dangerous than the ones before. This time the smiling man is playing for keeps.
The summer nights are short, and Ollie, Coco, Brian, and Phil have only until sunrise to beat him once and for all—or it’s game over for everyone.” (Goodreads)

I’ve been dying to know what would happen to these kids and I finally do! Plus, it’s another series off my list. I am sad to see these characters go. Although, I think Arden could continue with a spin-off series and write more about the smiling man.

The book is told from a third person narrative that follows multiple perspectives. I can’t recall but I believe that this is how it was for maybe the third book? I honestly could be wrong. I did like how this was done since the characters weren’t always in the same place.

I do think that there was more character growth for Coco, Brian, and Phil. They learn to be brave and speak up! It’s a good message for a lot of kids and even adults.

I was actually very surprised with how interesting the smiling man was. He seemed more friendly and I think it was easier to understand why he wanted someone around, although he obviously goes about it the wrong way. I still don’t feel like I know him all that well and wish that there would have been more background to him. This is why I want a spin-off series!

The first book was the scariest and I think this would be the second. Creepy clowns and humanlike dolls? No, thank you! I don’t know if I will want to go in my basement ever again haha.

Overall, this was a great way to end the series. I’m sad to see it go but I know that they will be books I come back to around the spooky season.

Arc Review: Seoulmates by Susan Lee

Title: Seoulmates
Author: Susan Lee
Genre: YA Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: September 20th, 2022
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

The last person Hannah wants to see is her former best friend, Jacob. Until blackmail and a bucket list, along with two meddling mamas, push them together for a summer worthy of a K-drama…
Hannah Cho had the next year all planned out—the perfect summer with her boyfriend, Nate, and then a fun senior year with all of their friends.
But then Nate does what everyone else in Hannah’s life seems to do—he leaves her, claiming they have nothing in common. He and all her friends are newly obsessed with K-pop and K-dramas, and Hannah is not. After years of trying to embrace the American part and shunning the Korean side of her Korean American identity to fit in, Hannah finds that’s exactly what now has her on the outs. 
But someone who does know K-dramas—so well that he’s actually starring in one—is Jacob Kim, Hannah’s former best friend, whom she hasn’t seen in years. He’s desperate for a break from the fame and someone to trust, so a family trip back to San Diego might be just what he needs…that is, if he and Hannah can figure out what went wrong when they last parted and navigate the new feelings developing between them.” (Goodreads)

I am not usually a fan of childhood friends-to-lovers but this was great and gives me hope that I will enjoy this trope in the future!

The book is told from multiple point-of-views, mostly coming from Hannah and Jacob. I liked the dual perspective for their relationship because each one is going through something on the side, whether it be a break-up or dealing with an entertainment agency. It brings a wedge between them, but it was nice to see Hannah and Jacob try to make it all work even if they felt like it was all hopeless at times.

Hannah is also dealing with the craze of K-Pop and K-dramas. It has affected her relationship and even her friend group. She talks about always trying to hide away her Korean identity and wanting to just be American. She wanted to just fit in with everyone else. I feel like that can hit home for a lot of people. Hannah also feels like everyone she cares about eventually moves on and away from her. It’s a sting that is hard to let go of.

Jacob is pushed around by his agency and even his co-star. He has no time alone but feels like he must do what he does to help his family out after his dad died suddenly. That’s a lot for a kid to have on his shoulders. It’s all so often that a child becomes the head of the household and never gets out of the mentality, never having a childhood.

It was tough to read about both of their experiences, but it was also nice to seem them work through it and decide for themselves what they needed going forward. I think it helped to have each other back in their lives. It gave them a push!

Their mothers were hilarious and I also enjoyed Jacob’s sister! They meddle a lot and I was never disappointed when they graced the page.

The plot is filled with a lot of drama and so if you like K-dramas then this would be perfect for you! If you aren’t one for drama, I think that it is milder compared to others. I am not one for excessive mindless drama and this plot didn’t feel like that at all. It had me hooked and I finished it within a day!

Overall, this was an enjoyable read. I loved the childhood romance and can’t wait to see what else this author writes in the future.

Arc Review: Defend the Dawn (Defy the Night #2) by Brigid Kemmerer

Title: Defend the Dawn (Defy the Night #2)
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: September 20th, 2022
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“To save their kingdom, they must embark on a dangerous journey…
The kingdom of Kandala narrowly avoided catastrophe, but the embers of revolution still simmer. While King Harristan seeks a new way to lead, Tessa and Prince Corrick attempt to foster unity between rebels and royals. But the consuls who control the Moonflower will not back down, and Corrick realizes he must find a new source for the lifesaving Elixir.
When an emissary from the neighboring kingdom of Ostriary arrives with an intriguing offer, Tessa and Corrick set out on an uncertain journey as they attempt to mend their own fractured relationship.
This could be their only chance to keep the peace and bring relief to the people of Kandala, but danger strikes during the journey to Ostriary, and no one is who they seemed to be. . .” (Goodreads)

What a ride this book was! I thought I had it all figured out but this author knows how to keep me on my toes and a grin on my face, just admiring how well she crafted this plot. It’s definitely one of the best sequels I have read this year!

The book is written in the same way as the first, multiple point-of-views with one being a mysterious character. I thought this was well done again and I was guessing for quite some time on who the mysterious character could be. It wasn’t until some clues were given that it all clicked! I liked seeing a different side to that character.

The other characters were just as great as they were in the first book. Tessa and Corrick are very sweet together but there relationship is definitely tested. I can understand where both are coming from. They are both trying to figure themselves out as well as learn to navigate this budding relationship they have found themselves in after the masks have come off. It’s harsh waters ahead but they do manage to keep their heads up.

New characters are introduced and I couldn’t help but take a liking to a certain captain! He was very charming and a sailor. What isn’t there to like?

There was a lot to unpack from the beginning to the end. After the first book ended, I wasn’t sure what to expect with the sequel. It felt like everything kind of wrapped up, but I was wrong. There is still a lot going on when it comes to the medicine, rebels, and politics. I was very much shocked when certain events happened and the last 25% was very intense!

A few of the plotlines, mostly one in particular, were kind of eh and I still don’t know how I feel about the pulling and tugging that happened for the particular one.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read. I loved reading about these characters once again and meeting the newer ones. It was a fun adventure and I can’t wait to see how the rest unfolds in the next book.

Arc Review: The Girl in White by Lindsay Currie

Title: The Girl in White
Author: Lindsay Currie
Genre: Middle Grade Paranormal / Mystery
Publication Date: September 6th, 2022
Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“Sweet Molly once lived in Eastport
Sweet Molly once loved the sea
Sweet Molly lost Liam to the shadows
Now Sweet Molly is coming for ye …
Mallory hasn’t quite adapted to life in her new town of Eastport yet. Maybe it’s because everyone is obsessed with keeping the town’s reputation as one of the most haunted places to visit.
And thanks to the nightmares she’s had since arriving, Mallory is having a hard time sleeping. Combined with the unsettling sensation of being watched and losing chunks of time, she’s worried that maybe the ghost stories she’s been quick to dismiss might actually be real.
When Mallory has a terrifying encounter with the same old woman from her dreams, she’s not sure what to do. With Eastport gearing up to celebrate the anniversary of their first recorded legend Mallory is forced to investigate the one legend she’s always secretly been afraid of . . . Sweet Molly.” (Goodreads)

Another great spooky read from Lindsay Currie!

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Mallory. She has been living in a new town and she isn’t a fan, literally. The fandomish cult that follows the curses of the town is too much for her. Her parents even own a restaurant that deals with the morbid and has fancy spooky names for all their dishes. I will say that this book made me very hungry while reading! Mallory does her best to deal with it all, but the nightmares are becoming too much to handle.

Mallory is a skeptic which I liked. Along with her friend, they both don’t care about what the town does. They think it’s all crazy talk and don’t believe in the paranormal, but it’s becoming hard to deny with everything that continually happens to Mallory. I like that even though her friend is an even bigger skeptic she trusted her enough to let her in on what has been going on. That is true friendship. There are a couple other kids that form bonds with Mallory as well. One has more in common with Mallory and it’s pretty wild how they are connected!

The plot surrounding the paranormal was very interesting and kept me on edge the whole time. I loved learning more about Sweet Molly and how she fit into everything going on with Mallory and the town. It was cool to see all the plotlines match up. It was easy to understand Sweet Molly and her feelings, even though she didn’t actually communicate well haha. It was more scaring than anything but it worked! I also liked that we got a glimpse of what happened after everything.

Overall, this was another great book by this author! I hope she continues with this genre because I need more spooky stories from her!

Audiobook Review: I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

Title: I’m Glad My Mom Died
Author: Jennette McCurdy
Genre: Memoir / Mental Health
Publication Date: August 9th, 2022
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Jennette McCurdy was six years old when she had her first acting audition. Her mother’s dream was for her only daughter to become a star, and Jennette would do anything to make her mother happy. So she went along with what Mom called “calorie restriction,” eating little and weighing herself five times a day. She endured extensive at-home makeovers while Mom chided, “Your eyelashes are invisible, okay? You think Dakota Fanning doesn’t tint hers?” She was even showered by Mom until age sixteen while sharing her diaries, email, and all her income.

In I’m Glad My Mom Died, Jennette recounts all this in unflinching detail—just as she chronicles what happens when the dream finally comes true. Cast in a new Nickelodeon series called iCarly, she is thrust into fame. Though Mom is ecstatic, emailing fan club moderators and getting on a first-name basis with the paparazzi (“Hi Gale!”), Jennette is riddled with anxiety, shame, and self-loathing, which manifest into eating disorders, addiction, and a series of unhealthy relationships. These issues only get worse when, soon after taking the lead in the iCarly spinoff Sam & Cat alongside Ariana Grande, her mother dies of cancer. Finally, after discovering therapy and quitting acting, Jennette embarks on recovery and decides for the first time in her life what she really wants.” (Goodreads)

I’ve been wanting to read this one ever since hearing about it! I remember watching her shows and liking her character. This was a way to get to know her better and understand who she was as a person and not a character on a tv show. It also adds to the talk already in place about kid actors and what they deal with on a daily basis. It isn’t always rainbows and sunshine. She paints a dark picture of the reality of it all and its just shocking.

The book follows her from the beginning of her career to about where she is now (I think). I didn’t like how the chapters were formatted and sometimes it was confusing, but I still liked her story nonetheless.

There are things that Jennette had to deal with that I would never be able to understand, but I do understand the struggle of eating disorders. It’s something I don’t like to talk about but I totally get her when it came to that and I really felt every word she said about it. She had her mother pushing her into the disorder and telling her that her looks weren’t good enough. I have had family members make comments, even after having a baby, and it sucks. It’s not a habit that is easily broken either. I hope she is doing well in her recovery.

A lot of the book talks about her career in Hollywood and what stardom was like for her. It took up a lot of time in the beginning and so it seems like she never really had a childhood. Her mother used her more than anything, especially for fame and money, and gaslighted her all the way. I can’t imagine the trauma it brought. A lot of this boiled over into puberty and relationships. No one taught her the bare minimum about anything. It was really sad to listen to.

I had already read somethings about the director she calls “The Creator”. He sounds like a sick guy and who knows what he has said or done to others. More and more celebrities are speaking up about the behind-the-scene stuff that goes on and hopefully something will be done about the creeps. Child actors are very much taken advantage of.

Overall, this was great listen and I’m glad that she narrated it herself. It was very personal and it definitely spoke to me at times. I’m happy that she is finally able to tell her story and hopefully it’s another way to heal from what has happened to her over the years. We are rooting for you, Jennette!

Audiobook Review: The Duke and I (Bridgerton #1) by Julia Quinn

Title: The Duke and I (Bridgerton #1)
Author: Julia Quinn
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction / Regency Romance
Publication Sate: January 5th, 2000
Publisher: Avon Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

“In the ballrooms and drawing rooms of Regency London, rules abound. From their earliest days, children of aristocrats learn how to address an earl and curtsey before a prince—while other dictates of the ton are unspoken yet universally understood. A proper duke should be imperious and aloof. A young, marriageable lady should be amiable… but not too amiable. Daphne Bridgerton has always failed at the latter. The fourth of eight siblings in her close-knit family, she has formed friendships with the most eligible young men in London. Everyone likes Daphne for her kindness and wit. But no one truly desires her. She is simply too deuced honest for that, too unwilling to play the romantic games that captivate gentlemen.

Amiability is not a characteristic shared by Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings. Recently returned to England from abroad, he intends to shun both marriage and society—just as his callous father shunned Simon throughout his painful childhood. Yet an encounter with his best friend’s sister offers another option. If Daphne agrees to a fake courtship, Simon can deter the mamas who parade their daughters before him. Daphne, meanwhile, will see her prospects and her reputation soar. The plan works like a charm—at first. But amid the glittering, gossipy, cut-throat world of London’s elite, there is only one certainty: love ignores every rule…” (Goodreads)

Ever since finishing up the first two seasons of Bridgerton it made me want to try reading regency romance. I know. Who am I? A subgenre I had sworn off, lol. I’ll be honest, it was hard to not compare it to the show. There were some things the show did better and others the book did. I was pleasantly surprised with how much I liked it though.

The book is told from a third-person narrative which I think fits the book just fine. I liked being in Simon and Daphne’s head to understand how they were feeling towards one another from beginning to end. Sure, their romance is very fast paced and maybe I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much if I hadn’t watched the show but I still binged through the audiobook.

There isn’t a lot of drama in the book like there is in the show. I can understand why they added it, as well as more character development from the minor characters, because they definitely needed more in the book. Personally, I liked Anthony more in the book. He was very comical when it came to his sister and Simon. The start of their “romantic” intensions was much different and I think I liked how it played out in the book more. Colin was also another favorite. I do wish there was more from Eloise though.

Even though this was very simplistic, I still enjoyed what it had to offer. The narration was very nice and like I said above, I binged it in less than a days time. It was just what I needed after reading a lot of fantasy.

Arc Review: The Unmatchmakers by Jackie Lau

Title: The Unmatchmakers
Author: Jackie Lau
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: June 28th, 2022
Publisher: Kobo Originals
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“You’d think my mother would be trying to set me up with architect Neil Choy, the unmarried son of her best friend. But you’d be wrong.

My single mother has always been fiercely independent. Since I was a small child, she’s always told me not to believe in fairy tales and that I don’t need a man. So she’s failed to mention that Neil is a total hottie in glasses. When I see him for the first time in a decade, on a multi-family cottage vacation, I’m in for quite a shock. (In fact, I nearly fall in the lake, but let’s keep that a secret.)

He sure can grill a mean steak and mix a killer cocktail, plus he’s pretty impressive in a kayak. Yes, he’s a little stern and grumpy, but that just makes him more fun to tease—and makes it more satisfying when he quirks his lips in my direction.

Even though my mind is spinning romantic fantasies, I’m not entirely sure how he feels. And I’m afraid that if anything happens between us, it’ll screw up the friendship between our staunchly anti-relationship mothers. Especially since they’ve been acting increasingly weird since we arrived—I will never forgive them for the S’mores Incident. In fact, I think they’re trying to sabotage my love life, and I’m starting to worry that I won’t make it through this bizarre summer vacation…” (Goodreads)

Usually I am not one for a shorter story but this one was cute and I really enjoyed it. Obviously, one of the reasons for requesting this one was because of the cover. Haha, I’m predictable at this point when it comes to that!

The book follows one point-of-view and it comes from Leora. She is meeting her mom and childhood friends for a week long trip on a lake. There isn’t much character development and what we do get is about growth. There are quite a few characters that have growth and it was nice to see how each one dealt with the situations that were handed to them for the growth to happen. I feel like her mom and auntie had the most since they really don’t believe in love.

The families reminded me a lot of Dial A for Aunties. Leora’s mom and aunties were hilarious. I never thought I would read a book where the moms will do anything to break up their children. It was insane the lengths they would try to go. It definitely made the book very comedic.

If you are a steamy romance reader, there are two scenes that take place between the couple and a lot of lead-up to it all.

Overall, this was cute and would be a nice book to take on a summer vacation, especially because it is on the shorter side. I’m not one for friend-to-lovers but this one sure makes me want to change my mind.