Review: The Wicked Ones (Dark Ascension #1)

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Rating: ★★★★★

I received a copy of this book for free for promotional purposes. 

This book serves as a prequel to the Disney movie, Cinderella, and explores how Drizella and Anastasia became evil stepsisters. 

The plot was well executed. I liked that the book started off with a prologue in the viewpoint of their father, which helped set up the story and shed some light on Lady Tremaine and her motives. The rest of the book is told in alternating points of view between Drizella and Anastasia, with an epilogue in the viewpoint of Lady Tremaine. The story is fairly basic, but it works. It highlights how the sisters weren’t born being evil, they became evil. 

The character development was also well done. The sisters are very likable in the beginning and you can’t help but root for them to pursue their dreams. By the time you reach the end, you understand how and why they became evil and why they dislike Cinderella so much. 

I do want to note that there is bullying, abuse, and neglect in the story and there isn’t a happy ending. If you’re looking for a light hearted Disney read, this book isn’t for you.

Overall, I really enjoyed this dark dive into the world of Cinderella. If you like villain stories, consider picking this book up!


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Review: Blame It on the Brontes

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Rating: ★★★

I received a copy of this book for free from Books Forward for promotional purposes.

I was very excited to read this book because I love the premise (I love books about books/literature and I love the Brontes). Unfortunately, it did not live up to my expectations. 

My main critique is that the book is too long. The book is roughly 370 pages (not including title pages, acknowledgments, etc.), but could have been whittled down to around 300. The book is very light on events that drive the plot forward. After the main character, Athena, moves back to her hometown to work on her book, not much really happens until the end. As for the romance aspect, there weren’t many fun rom-com moments to keep the book interesting. 

The mystery surrounding the identity of C.L. Garland (the subject of her book) was also not very exciting. I was expecting there to be a lot of crazy hijinks from Athena while she tries to uncover the truth, but those moments were also very limited. 

I did like some things about the book. I liked the small town vibes, especially with Athena working at the cafe. It felt very cozy. The townspeople made great supporting characters and added some humor to the story. I also enjoyed the literary references made throughout the book and the Bronte quotes that headlined every chapter. 

Overall, the book didn’t work for me. However, it might work for you if you want a second chance romance with some literary references and cozy vibes. 


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Review: Diary of a Contemporary Woman

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Rating: ★★★★

I received a copy of the book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review.

This book was quite the ride!

First, I want to preface this review and mention that the story does contain multiple explicit sexual scenes. If that is not your thing, then you probably should skip this one. But I will also say that this book is so much more than just sexy scenes. 

There was a good balance between the sexy and the more serious. The book delves deep into the main character and her journey of self discovery. It also heavily explores complex family dynamics. The main character’s family is a piece of work to say the least! 

I loved the conversational tone of the book. It really felt like I was reading the main character’s diary and that she was talking directly to me as a friend. It made it such an easy and pleasant read.

As a bonus, the author made a Spotify playlist of the songs mentioned in the book. I love it when authors incorporate music into their books. It helps bring the story to life! 

My one critique is that the book ends rather abruptly and on a major cliffhanger. I believe this is just the first book but I wanted a little more closure.

Overall, if you’re looking for a quick and easy women’s fiction book, and don’t mind some hot and steamy scenes, consider reading this one! 


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Review: Angels of the Pacific

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Rating: ★★★★★

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher (William Morrow) for promotional purposes.

What a book! I personally found it to be a brutal and heart-wrenching read because the story really hit home for me. Short personal story: I am half Filipino and my maternal grandparents lived through World War II in the Philippines. My grandpa lived in Bataan, which was one of the centers of the war. My mom told me that my grandpa would describe that time in life as always running and never having any shoes. In fact, his birth records were destroyed during the war. When he came to America, he had to have a paper from the Philippine government certifying that his birth certificate was destroyed during the war. It’s crazy to think that my grandparents lived through some of what happened in the book. 

This book gave me goosebumps multiple times while reading it. I knew the Japanese occupation was harsh, but reading about the reality of it was something else. I’m so glad that the book shed light on life under their occupation and didn’t hold back on its depictions. It is so overlooked and needs to be acknowledged. I also liked how the book subtly touched upon the Philippines and their previous colonizers (Spain and the US). 

It is evident the author put in a tremendous amount of research in writing this story. Both Tess and Flor’s storylines were compelling, engaging, and well thought out. I liked how their stories showed two different points of view (one from an American nurse and one from a native Filipino working as part of the resistance) and how their stories intersected.  

Overall, if you are looking for a different take on World War II or just want to learn more about the Philippines during the war, I highly recommend this book! 


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Review: Counterfeit

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Rating: ★★★★★

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher (William Morrow) for promotional purposes. 

This was such a fun and clever story! 

First off, I have always loved luxury goods, especially handbags so the premise of this book was right up my alley. 

Plot-wise, the twist halfway through was so smart and I did not see it coming. As soon as I got to the twist, I thought to myself, “This book is brilliant.” I won’t say much about the twist but I will say that it kept the book interesting. 

I enjoyed the author’s writing style. It’s very effortless and flows well. It made the book an easy and smooth read. 

The book also had some relatable quotes about being Asian American. For example at one point Ava reflects, “Asian families are different from white families. We don’t talk the way you all do. I mean, we talk, of course we talk, but not about our fears, our pain, our deepest, darkest secrets” (pg. 211). As an Asian American I find this quote to be so true. My (Asian) family talks, but it’s definitely not anything deep or soul searching. There is a lot of repression happening. 

I found that this book would make a great movie. I hope it gets adapted one day because the luxury handbag aspect would make for a very stylish film. 

Overall, I recommend this book to readers who love designer bags. Also, it gave me some Crazy Rich Asians vibes, so if you like that book, you’ll probably like this one. 


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Review: Darling Girl

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Rating: ★★★★★

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher (Dutton Books) for promotional purposes. 

Wow! What a book! This was a dark retelling/reimagining of Peter Pan that managed to creep me out quite a bit. This book won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but for me it worked. 

I loved the dark take on Peter Pan. There is something inherently a little sinister about the original story and this book really delved into that. It made me rethink the classic story and want to rewatch the Disney movie. 

The story moved at a good pace, with everything unraveling at the right time. There were a lot of twists and turns that kept me hooked and turning the pages. This book kept me guessing until the very end. 

As for the characters, I liked the incorporation of the original Peter Pan characters. The main characters from Peter Pan (Peter, Wendy, John, Michael, Tinker Bell, and Captain Hook) are either characters in this book or mentioned/incorporated in some way. I also enjoyed the dynamic between the main character, Holly Darling, and her mom, Jane Darling (the daughter of Wendy). They had a very complex mother-daughter relationship that grew as the story went on. 

Overall, if you love Peter Pan and want to explore a darker side to the classic tale, then read this book! 


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Review: Alliana, Girl of Dragons

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Rating: ★★★

I received an ARC of this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review.

I previously read one of the author’s other books, Eva Evergreen, Semi Magical Witch, and absolutely loved it. I was very excited to read this one since it acts as a prequel to the Eva Evergreen books. Unfortunately, I didn’t like this book as much as Eva Evergreen. 

This is a Cinderella retelling and because of that, the book felt constrained plot wise. I didn’t feel as though the story benefitted from being a Cinderella retelling. If the book was just a regular middle grade fantasy without the Cinderella aspects, it still would have worked. I also felt that the book wasn’t as magical as Eva Evergreen. Eva Evergreen had a certain charm about it and I was hoping this book would too since it is set in the same universe. 

Additionally, for a book with the word “dragons” in the title, it was light on the dragons. The book never seemed to fully explore the dragons and Alliana’s relationship with them. (Maybe this will come in a later book?)

Don’t get me wrong, I did like some things about the book. I enjoyed the supporting characters, especially Grandmother Mari and Nela. Each of them had such a special relationship and bond with Alliana that was heartwarming to see. I also liked the parts that did feature the dragons. 

Overall, there were some things I liked about this and some things I had issues with. I hope there is a sequel to this book since there’s still more to explore with Alliana. If you are looking for a middle grade fantasy, I would say to give it a shot! 


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Review: Know You By Heart (Heart Resort #2)

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Rating: ★★★★

I received a copy of this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. 

I read the first book in the series last year and liked it, but didn’t love it. This book was definitely a step up from the last one. 

The premise is the classic romance trope, marriage of convenience. However, it takes places when the marriage of convenience is nearing its end, which is a cool twist to the trope. I found that twist very refreshing and it offered a unique perspective to the trope. I enjoyed seeing the main characters, Chris and Eden, discover their true feelings for each other. 

I also liked that Eden and Chris went on a couple’s retreat at the resort. The couples resort was talked about in the first book, but this book really delved into how it operated and what the program was like. The couple’s retreat was fun to read about and also aided in Chris and Eden’s character development. 

I just have to point out that I love that this series has so much Filipino representation. As a Filipino American, I love seeing Filipino culture highlighted.  

Lastly, like the first book, I do feel like there were some pacing issues with this one. Some parts seemed to move slower than others. 

Overall, this was a great installment to the series and I am looking forward to the next one! 


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Review: Tripping Arcadia

Rating: ★★★

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher (Dutton Books) for promotional purposes. 

This book had such a great premise. I love gothic novels, however, the execution could have been better. 

The book started off strong. As soon as the main character, Lena, started working for the mysterious Verdeau family, I was intrigued and was excited to see where the story would go. The book held steady until the last 1/3. The story seemed to be losing its momentum by that point, like it didn’t quite know where it should go. By the end, I felt let down. I was expecting a big reveal or twist but nothing shocked me or made me have an “aha” moment. 

One thing I did like about the book were the supporting characters of the Verdeau siblings, Audrey and Jonathan. They were both fascinating characters with well developed character arcs. Audrey was stuck in the middle trying to balance what she wanted versus what her dad wanted, while Jonathan was such a melancholy and tragic character who was obsessed with death. Their separate relationships with Lena was also interesting to see unfold. They each had such different relationships with Lena. It made for a nice juxtaposition. 

The author’s writing style worked with the overall vibe of the book (gothic with a touch of dark academia), although it could be a little wordy at times. 

As a whole, the plot itself was on the weak side, but the strong supporting characters helped the story. If you’re into gothic novels or stories about poison (this book is all about poison), then I would still say to give the book a shot! It might work for you. 


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Review: Fake

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Rating: ★★★★½

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher (Harper Books) for promotional purposes. 

I previously read the author’s debut book, The Boys’ Club, and loved it, so I knew I just had to read this one. Once again, I was not disappointed! 

Like her previous novel, this one is highly engaging. From the very beginning it takes you on a roller coaster of a ride through the glamorous world of high art. 

The storyline unraveled at a steady pace. The use of the interview transcripts at the beginning of each chapter were a great foreshadowing tool. The book was a little predictable towards the end, but it was still an entertaining read. 

The characters are all fascinating and dynamic. I particularly liked the juxtaposition of Emma’s three friends, Sienna, Leah, and Jules. It was interesting to see her friend dynamic with each of them since they all came from different art backgrounds. 

I enjoyed the theme of being a “fake” and how it was explored throughout the book. I liked how the book incorporated being an Instagram influencer. I found its portrayal of what is “real” and what is “fake” to be so relevant and current. 

Overall, I found this book to be an enthralling read. I can’t wait to see what the author comes up with next!


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