Review: Tokyo Dreaming (Tokyo Ever After #2)

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Rating: ★★★★

I received an ARC of this book for free as part of a blog tour.

First off, I loved the first book in the series, Tokyo Ever After. It was one of my favorite books of 2021 which made me very excited to read the sequel. I still think that the first book was a tiny bit better, but for the most part I found the sequel to be a worthy successor. 

This book picks right up where the last book left off and from there continues Izumi’s story. It does not miss a beat and gets right into the drama of royal life. Like the first book, the writing style is easy and a breeze to read. 

I loved the character development, especially the development of Akiko and Noriko (aka the Shining Twins). I enjoyed seeing them get more of a spotlight and how dimensional they became. They could have easily stayed the villains, but instead got more depth. 

I also liked how the book explored growing up and maturing. The story explores Izumi’s post-high school life and contrasts it with her friends. The juxtaposition highlighted Izumi’s coming of age journey well. 

There was a love triangle, which I didn’t think was necessary. The book would have still worked without it. 

Overall, this was a sweet sequel and I hope Izumi’s story continues! 


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Review: Tokyo Ever After

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Rating: ★★★★½

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher (Flatiroin exchange for an honest review.

This was such a cute read! 

The premise is everything. A Japanese American girl discovering she is a princess? Yes please! As a whole, I thought the premise was well executed. There was a good balance between the humorous adjusting to royal parts and the more serious discovering who she is parts.   

I really liked that the book included a family tree with a brief description of everyone in the family. It made the book so easy to follow. 

Character-wise, I loved Izumi’s all Asian friend group (nicknamed Asian Girl Gang, or AGG for short). It was so nice seeing a female lead with a large friend group to support her. Also, one of her friends was half-Filipino just like me. I always love seeing Filipino representation in books, even if it’s just a small side character. 

I also enjoyed the writing style. It was engaging and flowed well. 

The Own Voices aspect was also really strong, especially in regards to feeling like a foreigner. The book highlighted how visiting Japan while being Japanese American feels strange since she’s not “Japanese” enough. That is so true. Being American is an added layer of identity and affects how others perceive you. I’m Filipino American and there is a difference in how people in the Philippines view you if you’re American born versus Philippines born. 

However, the book is on the predictable side. If you’re familiar with the lost royalty trope or have seen The Princess Diaries movies, then a lot of the plot points are nothing new. 

Additionally, the romance in this book is a little insta-lovey. I felt like the book didn’t even need a romance sub-plot; it was already strong on its own. 

Overall, I throughly enjoyed this Own Voices take on lost royalty! I recommend it if you love stories about royal families. 


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Review: Loveboat, Taipei (Loveboat, Taipei #1)

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Rating: ★★★

I received an ARC of this book for free from the publisher (Harper Teen) for promotional purposes. 

I was really looking forward to reading this one since it is an Asian American Own Voices novel, but unfortunately, it did not live up to my expectations. 

The whole beginning and middle section felt like an early 2000’s teen book. There was a lot of unnecessary drama and it felt so unrealistic. The main character, Ever, went from total good girl to rebellious teenager so quickly. Also, the students in the program would often get in trouble for some things, but for other things, the faculty had no clue what was going on. (Sorry if that sounds super vague, I’m trying to remain spoiler free). 

Additionally, I didn’t love either of the two potential love interests for Ever. I just didn’t see any chemistry between Ever and either one of them. 

The book did get better towards the end (around the last quarter). Once a lot of the initial drama was resolved, the book became more enjoyable. There was actually time spent on character development, which was sorely missing for a large part of the book. Also at the end, the message and lessons really shined through. 

Overall, parts of this book were lacking, while other parts were satisfying. 


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Review: Super Fake Love Song

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Rating: ★★★★

I received an ARC of this book for free from the publisher (Penguin Teen). Since I received an ARC, my quotes from the book are tentative.

I had previously read Yoon’s other novel, Frankly In Love, and loved it, so I knew I had to pick this one up.

It should first be said that this book is different than Frankly in Love. This book is less serious and more light hearted, so don’t go into this book expecting it to be just like Frankly in Love. 

I thought this book was so fun. I found the whole “fake being in a band to impress a girl” premise to be well executed. I loved seeing how it all came together. 

As for the actual romance, it was not the most exciting thing. I didn’t find Sonny and Cirrus’s relationship to be all that interesting or compelling. I just didn’t see the chemistry. In terms of relationships and dynamics, the book really shined in regards to Sonny and his brother. I loved seeing them reconnect. I also liked the friendship dynamic between Sonny and his two best friends, Milo and Jamal. 

I was really glad that Gunner, the school bully, was so much more than that. Oftentimes YA authors just use bullies as an adversarial cliche, but in this book we discovered that there was more lurking under his tough exterior. 

Lastly, I just love Yoon’s writing style. It flows so well and is highly entertaining. He is also so good at making big points in very subtle ways. For example, there is a short mention of the racist background of the national anthem. He writes, “ the crowd groaned along with its hoary antiquated lyrics, as always omitting the third stanza threatening murder for free former slaves” (pg 107). It was a brief nod, but I liked how it brought attention to it. 

Overall, I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading what he writes next! 


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Review: Secret Crush Seduction (The Heirs of Hansol #2)

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Rating: ★★★★

I received this book for free from the publisher (Harlequin Books) in exchange for an honest review.

After reading the first book in the series, I was very excited to read this one since I loved Adelaide in the first book.

This installment was definitely a step up from the first book. The first book had a lot of awkward time jumps, while this book luckily avoided that. 

As a whole, I really liked Michael and Adelaide as a couple. They had sizzling chemistry and I liked the fire Adelaide had. She was so driven in what she wanted in terms of both career and personal life. 

I also loved that Adelaide’s fashion show centered on creating fashionable and sensory friendly clothes for people on the autism spectrum. I was happy to see attention brought to autism awareness. I was not expecting that from a short Harlequin romance novel.

Since this is part of series, the two main characters from the previous book have cameos in this book. It was nice to see what they were up to and how their relationship had strengthened. 

My one critique of the book is that the ending could have been fleshed out a bit more. It ended rather abruptly and I wanted a little more closure. 

Overall, this was an enjoyable installment to the series! 


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Review: Loathe at First Sight

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Rating: ★★★

I received an ARC of this book for free from Books Forward in exchange for an honest review. 

So first off, this book is Own Voices (Korean American). I was happy to see that since this book is about gaming, which is typically a white male dominated field. 

The title of the book is a little misleading. Loathe at First Sight implies that this is an enemies to lovers romantic comedy. In actuality, there was not much of that. The romantic storyline was not the main focus of the book and the two characters were hardly enemies to begin with. As a whole, the love story was not that exciting. I never really felt the chemistry between the two. 

One thing that took me as a surprise was all the harassment. This book has a lot of harassment. From racism to misogyny this book covered it all. On one hand I liked that it went there and tackled that issue. But on the other hand, it was a little off-putting at times because it was so heavy. The book tries to be light at times with some humorous scenes (I really liked some of funny scenes), but all the harassment takes away from it.

I did like the ending. It all worked out and a lot got resolved at the end so I was left feeling very satisfied. 

As for the writing style, I liked how easy the book read. 

Overall, this book didn’t live up to my expectations but I was able to enjoy some parts of it. 


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Review: Temporary Wife Temptation (The Heirs of Hansol #1)

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Rating: ★★★

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

First off, I just want to say that I was very happy to see that this was an Own Voices (Korean American) romance. It’s nice to see Harlequin embracing other cultures since they aren’t typically the most diverse. I really liked how Korean culture was incorporated in the book. It added a more personal touch to the story.

Another aspect I liked was the big emphasis on family and becoming a family. I found all the family moments to be very sweet. 

One thing I didn’t like was the time jumps. The pacing of the book moved super fast. From one chapter to the next, a lot of time would pass. There were quite a few things that we didn’t get to see since it happened off page.

As for the plot, it is fairly basic but that is to be expected from this sort of romance. I didn’t love the conflict at the end. It felt a little out of left field. It only seemed to serve the purpose of having a last minute conflict. 

Overall, despite its shortcomings, this was a solid Harlequin romance. I am planning on continuing the series. I hope that Harlequin continues to publish more Own Voices romances.


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Review: Dating Makes Perfect

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Rating: ★★★★★

I received an ARC of this book for free from the publisher (Entangled Teen) in exchange for an honest review. Since I received an ARC, my quotes from the book are tentative. 

This was the cutest YA rom-com! 

Okay so first I just have to talk about the #OwnVoices aspect. As a Filipino American, I know how important it is to have your stories told, so I was so happy to finally see a book about the Thai American experience. I had never read a book about the Thai American experience before so I was super eager to read this. From food to the Songkran festival, there was a lot of Thai culture woven throughout the novel. 

The premise of this book is adorable. I loved how the dates were inspired by romantic comedies including some of my favorites, “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” and “Always Be My Maybe.” 

I found this book to be highly relatable. As an Asian American, I could relate to some of Winnie’s experiences. For example, at one point, Winnie’s mom jumps to the conclusion that Winnie could be pregnant. Winnie replies, “Must you always skip fifty million steps? I haven’t even kissed him yet” (pg 126). Yup. My mom is like that too. You start dating a boy and their mind immediately goes to pregnancy. There’s also the quintessential bringing weird food to school moment that Winnie mentions in passing. Lastly, I related to how Winnie talks about respect towards her parents. She states,

“Sometimes, I get so bored of this respect. Yes, it’s important, and yes, it’s my parents’ due. But respect also prevents us from admitting our infractions— and talking about them. That’s what I want. For us to talk. Not as friends, exactly, but certainly without this yawning chasm between us.”

pg. 237

I think that is so true. There can often be this divide between Asian parents and their children because of this notion of respect. 

As for the romance, I thought it was so cute. It’s the classic childhood friends to lovers and enemies to lovers tropes but I thought it was done very well. Winnie and Mat had a lot of chemistry so I loved them as a couple. 

Overall, I recommend this #OwnVoices romance! This book gave me a ton of “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” vibes, so if you like that movie or the books, you’ll probably like this! 

Review: The Kiss Quotient (The Kiss Quotient #1)

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Rating: ★★★

I read this book as a buddy read so it took me a little longer than usual to finish this since I was going at the other person’s pace. I originally wasn’t planning on writing a review, but I ended up having a lot of thoughts on this book. 

I really wanted to love this book, but I didn’t. For some reason, it just never resonated with me. 

The whole book was pretty unbelievable. I’ve read a ton of romances so I know that they often err on that side, but this was a little too much for me. I don’t want to get spoilery so I’ll just say that my main issue was how everything wrapped up way too perfectly at the end. Every loose end was tied up. 

I also felt that for a leading lady,  I never truly got to know Stella. One topic of debate online in regards to the book is what ethnicity Stella is (I personally got the vibe that she was Asian). I think that just goes to show that she was not as developed as she could have been. I wish I knew more about her. Like what was her childhood/upbringing like? We learned a lot about Michael and his family life, but we only skimmed the surface of Stella’s. 

As for the positives, the book is a cute love story. I adored Michael. I thought he was a great love interest and I loved that he was a fashion designer (way to break stereotypes!) I also loved that it took place in the Bay Area (where I am from). 

Overall, this didn’t live up to the hype for me. It’s a sweet and (sometimes steamy) romance, but it is not my favorite. 


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Patron Saints of Nothing blog tour: author guest post!

Hello beauties! Today I am so thrilled to be a stop on the Patron Saints of Nothing blog tour. As a biracial Filipino American like the main character, this book means the world to me because representation matters! I have written a review for this book (which will be up on a later date, spoiler alert: I gave it 5 stars), but for today I have an awesome guest post from the author, Randy Ribay, where he describes why he decided to tackle the heavy subject of President Duterte’s war on drugs.

Without further ado, here is the post written by Randy Ribay:

In the novel Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami writes, “Closing your eyes isn’t going to change anything. Nothing’s going to disappear just because you can’t see what’s going on. In fact, things will even be worse the next time you open your eyes. That’s the kind of world we live in. Keep your eyes wide open. Only a coward closes his eyes. Closing your eyes and plugging up your ears won’t make time stand still.”

I think about this concept a lot, and I think it helps explain why I’ve always been drawn to “heavy” subjects, as the books and TV shows and movies I love the most are usually stories grappling with very serious issues. I feel as though such stories get at the core of what’s real. They show us who we truly are—as individuals, as humanity—at our best and our worst. I believe it’s important to confront these moments to figure out what leads us down one path or another. 

As a Filipino American, I wanted to explore the drug war in the Philippines because the thousands of extrajudicial killings comprise such a moment. I wanted to think through why President Duterte and other politicians believe it’s a good solution, why so many Filipinos support it, why some fight it, and why so many people (Filipino and otherwise) choose to ignore it. Of course, it’s one thing to try to understand this at the macro-level as a matter of policy, but there’s also a human impact of these cumulative actions/reactions/inactions, and that’s what I wanted to look at through Patron Saints of Nothing

The main character, Jay, is a Filipino American only vaguely aware of the drug war going on in the country where he was born. But when he gets news of his cousin’s death as a result of that drug war, he decides to try to figure out what really happened. Pursuing that question causes him to also confront a whole host of other questions about identity, family, faith, morality, truth, etc., that he likewise hadn’t given much thought to before. I think it’s only by struggling with such questions that can we develop a better understanding of who we are as individuals and who we are as a community. With that, we have a much better chance of becoming who we want to become. 


BOOK DESCRIPTION

A powerful coming-of-age story about grief, guilt, and the risks a Filipino-American teenager takes to uncover the truth about his cousin’s murder.

Jay Reguero plans to spend the last semester of his senior year playing video games before heading to the University of Michigan in the fall. But when he discovers that his Filipino cousin Jun was murdered as part of President Duterte’s war on drugs, and no one in the family wants to talk about what happened, Jay travels to the Philippines to find out the real story.

Hoping to uncover more about Jun and the events that led to his death, Jay is forced to reckon with the many sides of his cousin before he can face the whole horrible truth — and the part he played in it.

As gripping as it is lyrical, Patron Saints of Nothing is a page-turning portrayal of the struggle to reconcile faith, family, and immigrant identity.


AUTHOR BIO:

Randy Ribay was born in the Philippines and raised in the Midwest. He is the author of After the Shot Drops and An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes. He earned his BA in English Literature from the University of Colorado at Boulder and his Master’s Degree in Language and Literacy from Harvard Graduate School of Education. He currently teaches English and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.