Posted in book review

A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons

Title: A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons

Author(s): Kate Khavari

Genre: Mystery

Format: Ebook

Would I Recommend it? Yes!

Book Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Spice Rating:

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Synopsis

It’s a race against the clock to find who the true criminal is or else your mentor professor ends up behind bars. This is no faint task as we are dealing with poisons, which thankfully you are knowledgeable about. But will that be enough?

Saffron Everleigh works with Dr. Maxwell at the University College of London in the botany department. As the two attend a dinner party, an unexpected crime occurs. A fellow professor’s wife is unexpectedly poisoned and in a coma. The police immediately put Dr. Maxwell into custody. While Saffron knows that Dr. Maxwell could never do this, everyone else is preoccupied with the university’s upcoming expedition to the Amazon. Saffron will have to navigate all these obstacles, plus being a women in the 1920’s. With the help of Alexander Ashton (a fellow researcher) the two have their handful while attempting to find the culprit.

Content Warning: Poisoning, mentions of sexual assault, some violence, mention of war, off-page death of parent in war.


Thoughts?

Thank you to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for this eARC in exchange for my honest review.

Before I get into the story review, can we please talk about this cover! Immediately when I saw this book I was attracted to the cover. The colors are vibrant and classy. Once I read the book it matched the vibe of the mystery and Saffron as a character. I would 100% want this book on my shelf.

Once I started this book I had a hard time stopping. I thoroughly enjoy a good historical fiction, but when you add in the mystery side of things its a new dynamic that keeps things interesting. Saffron is a character who is well advanced for her time. She sees the struggles of being a women in academia and society, but that does not stop her from finding out the truth. She is determined no matter what happens.

While she is partnered with Alexander Ashton for this story, she is still the primary lead and the attraction the two characters have does not take away from the story. I was following along with their mystery and attempting to figure out who could have poisoned Mrs. Henry. I did not see the criminal coming which allowed me to stay engaged in the mystery.

The one thing about writing reviews for mystery books is to make sure to not reveal too much that will spoil the mystery. I guess the main notable points that I would mention is that the characters are developed well, but I feel like there are parts of the story missing (specifically from Alexander’s perspective). Saffron introduces the world of women in the 1920s and in academia, and it is done well. I was far more intrigued by the ideas of poisons then I should have comfortably been. Lastly, that cover is something I have a hard time forgetting.

I now wonder what the next mystery will look like for Saffron and if Alexander will be involved after that ending?

Final Review

Do I think this is a good book?

Absolutely! I wish that there were more books in the series ready to go, I would have immediately started the next one.

Would you classify this as a cozy mystery?

Uhh…I know that some people will classify historical mysteries as a cozy mystery, but I would say that this one can fall into the category of standard historical mystery.

Would I recommend this to anyone and everyone?

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction and mysteries.


Posted in book review

The Lady or the Lion

Title: The Lady or the Lion

Author(s): Aamna Qureshi

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Audiobook

Would I Recommend it? Yes

Book Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Spice Rating:

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Synopsis

Would you choose love or fate? If you were forced to choose a random door with a beautiful woman or a fierce lion would you select it with ease or terror?

Durkhanai Minagul is the crowned princess of Marghazar. She is passionate about her people and seeks truth and sincerity wherever she goes to represent her people. However, her family’s past does not follow those morals. Rumor has it that her grandfather is at fault for the mass assault. This causes the neighboring kingdoms to threaten war. As a servant to her people, Durkhanai will do what it takes to cease the pending violence.

Unfortunately there is more history that she is about to uncover, one that tests the waters of family over duty. Throw in a spice of love and you get a whole lot to deal with as the future queen.

This story is inspired by the “The Lady and the Tiger” a Pakistani tale of forbidden love and royal obligations.


Thoughts?

Thank you to NetGalley and CamCat Books for this audiobook ARC in exchange for my honest review.

As I have mentioned numerous times throughout this blog, I thoroughly enjoy audiobooks. They allow me to escape to a new world while I am driving (this does not distract me and I promise I am a safe driver), cleaning, and getting ready for work. I enjoy a narrator who is able to bring the character to life and keep me engaged in the story.

The narrator for this story was Deepti Gupta. I did a little research on this narrator, as she was one I have not heard before. She is a home based narrator, with degrees in Acting (MFA), Theater Studies (MA), and English Literature (BA). She has narrated more than 30 audiobooks and has used her diverse accent (Indian, American, and British) to her advantage (Thank you http://deeptiguptanarrates.com/about/ for all the wonderful information). No one in their right mind would argue that Deepti Gupta does not have the talent or the ability to narrate a book well. Honestly, for this particular choice I think she was a good choice for her background. Her ethnicity and accents also were crucial to this role. I was grateful that for a Pakistani inspired tale they did not use a white narrator… not appropriate or needed (in my opinion). I was able to distinguish MOST of the characters just from the way she presented them. With that being said however, I found that her narration was very slow (even for 1.5x speed) and had moments where she was monotone that distracted from the experience. It made it difficult to stay focused at times, but if it was not for the ability to increase speed, I do not know if I could have finished it. But I was able to increase speed and I am happy to report that I finished the book and loved it.

Enough about the narrator, time for the meat and potatoes (AKA the story). I really haven’t read much South Asian, Pakistani, or Muslim based works. I have never read anything written by a Muslim American either. I wasn’t avoiding it, I just never found anything….until now.

Forbidden love is not really my favorite trope. If forbidden love is in a book I already know one of two things is going to happen (1) they are going to fall in love anyways or (2) one or both of them is going to be killed. It is kind of a deterrent for me; however, this one had so many other components happening within it, that even with knowing what would happen with the forbidden love (or at least thinking I would know) I was preoccupied. I was most intrigued by royal role that Durkhanai played and the way she was going to prevent any impending doom. Not only that but the backstories related to her family were in-depth and well-thought out. I often forgot that there was a romance side to this story.

Character wise, each character was detailed and intricate. I understood what their personalities were and their descriptions were well done.

While the audiobook was good, I think that I would have enjoyed physically reading the book better. I think I will attempt a physical read with book two in this series.

Final Review

Do I think this is a good book?

Yes, I think that this is a good book. In a single book, the author was able to establish characters, plot, and create an engaging read. While I did struggle a bit with the audiobook, I was continually wondering what next.

Is this a stand-alone fantasy or a series?

This is a fantasy series. The Lady or the Lion is book one in the “The Marghazar Trials Series”. The second book in the series (release date August 30, 2022) is titled “The Man or the Monster.”

Would I recommend this to anyone and everyone?

Likely yes. The main demographic that I would recommend this to are readers who like folktale inspired retellings. Any reader who also enjoys forbidden love tropes and underestimated, yet strong female protagonist will also enjoy this book.


My disclaimer notice relating to a white person reviewing the works of a BIPOC author.

Since I am white with very little diversity in my genetics (LGBTQIA+ is about where that diversity stops), I purposely try to read books from other perspectives. I embrace the ideas and words that the authors present me and choose not to address anything that I do not really understand from a cultural perspective (until I have been properly educated on it, then I will share what I learn for more conversation). I will acknowledge when I do not understand something or do not connect with a character because of their different background than my own. That does not mean that it is a bad book or story, it is just something different than my own. My goal is to continually be respectful and enjoy various works of literature.


Posted in Monthly Reads, TBR

September 2022 Reads

  1. September TBR
  2. Successful September Reads/Listens

September is going to be busy, but I have so many things I want to read!

September TBR

  1. Court of the Vampire Queen by: Katee Robert
  2. The Lady or the Lion by: Aamna Qureshi
  3. Their Vicious Darling by: Nikki St Crowe
  4. Manga Classics: Anne of Green Gables
  5. Rethinking Gender: An Illustrated Exploration by Louie Lauger
  6. The Umbrella Academy Volume 2: Dallas
  7. Home Body by Rupi Kaur
  8. Upgrade by Blake Crouch
  9. Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More than Ever By” Gavin Edwards
  10. The Hate You Give by: Angie Thomas
  11. A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons by: Kate Khavari
  12. Small Angels by: Lauren Owen
  13. Other Birds by: Sarah Addison Allen
  14. The Do-Over by: T L Swan
  15. Just One Chance By Carly Phillips
  16. Love on the Brain by: Ali Hazelwood

Successful September Reads/Listens

Fantasy

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Mystery – Historical

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Posted in monthly wrap-up

August Wrap Up

August was unexpectedly busy with work and planning for the academic school year. It took a toll on my mental health and, honestly my reading time. I use my books as a coping tool for the busy and crazy life I live, but when things get too overwhelming, I make do with what I can.

While my results are not as impressive as July, I definitely had some good listens.

  1. Books Complete by Format
  2. Genre Breakdown
  3. Books by Ratings

Books Complete by Format

In August, I finished 10 books: 0 were physical reads, 9 were audiobooks, and 1 was an eBooks.

Genre Breakdown

There was not a lot of variety in my genre selection this month. I was in a mental health place that was not great and because of that my book selection for the most part was simple. I stuck with romance and fantasy. The fiction books were from book club and a buddy read. Those two books were a struggle, but they made it on the list.

Books by Ratings

There is not much to the book ratings this month. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of high ratings. There were some books I gave a blind chance to and others I was hoping for the best, with mixed reviews.

Last but certainly not least, the Best and the Worst of the month. This one is super easy for me to identify and should come as no surprise based on my reviews.

The Best
The Worst

August was a rough one for me personally, but hopefully September will be better.

What did your August look like? What were your best and worst reads/listens?

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Posted in book review

Just One Night

Title: Just One Night

Author(s): Carly Phillips

Genre: Romance

Format: Audiobook

Would I Recommend it? YES!

Book Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Spice Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis

Linc Kingston has high expectations for himself, the company, and his family. He will protect his family no matter what and is determined to have perfection. He likes order and control. One thing he doesn’t expect and can’t control is his relationship with long-time friend and personal assistant Jordan.

Jordan is the daughter of a Kingston housekeeper. She and Linc met at a young age and connected instantly. From that point on, they were the best of friends. One problem, Jordan has always had a crush on Linc, but they are from two very different worlds; nothing like that could ever happen.

Although Jordan may be the only one who can handle Linc and all his quirks, neither is prepared for the one and “only” steamy, sexy, and intimate night. On a trip to meet Linc’s new step-sister [thanks, dad], the trip ended up being way more than he bargained for.

When worlds collide, friends become lovers, and the unexpected happens, you just have to chalk it up to that one night


Thoughts?

From the second I started to listen to the audiobook I knew I was going to love it. If I have learned anything about my reading habits, its that I thoroughly enjoy romances that intertwine characters to allow for a series to develop. In this case the focus remains on the two main characters Linc and Jordan, but you get glimpses of his family. I suppose that one of the subplots does revolve around The Kingston’s meeting their stepsister; but the reader sees more of the backend of that interaction and more of the sexual tension between Jordan and Linc.

The narrators, Mackenzie Cartwright and Connor Crais, did an excellent job not only animating the characters based on Carly Phillips’s vision, but they were able to immerse the reader in all the family drama that ensued. And boy, let me tell you, there was a lot. When narrators are responsible for narrating spicy scenes, I get nervous that it will sound like a sex phone operator. Thankfully this is not the case with these two.

Let’s talk length. Get your head out of the gutter :).

The book itself is 5 hours and 42 minutes long as an audiobook and 282 pages if you are physically reading it. This is a short little book that packs a lot of punch. I did not feel that the storyline was rushed or missing elements to make it intriguing. You were able to still feel connected to the plot and characters through the development of the story. Each person in the story was described in a manner that allowed for basic imagery and room for interpretation of appearance. Their personality was evident without a doubt.

My favorite thing about this book was easily Jordan. The girl went through a lot. She has major insecurities and yet was able to continually be strong and independent. No matter what life threw at her, she was determined to get through it with or without a man. In addition to that, she knew what she wanted and was at least willing to attempt it. On their first night together, she easily initiated it and secretly controlled the situation, even if Linc thought he was in charge.

By the time I got to the end of the book, I had become interested in another relationship; Linc’s sister Chloe and her soon-to-be husband. Then the cliffhanger happened… honestly that was the point that I was hooked. I have yet to listen to the next book in the series, but I will definitely be.

Final Review

Do I think this is a good book?

Yes. I think that the story covered all the bases and kept me engaged. I continually wanted to see how these two would connect and manage all the twists and turns life threw them.

Is this book a series or a stand alone?

Just One Night is book one in the Kingston Family series. As of today [08/25/22] there are 6 completed books, 1 novella, and 1 publication pending.

Would I recommend this to anyone and everyone?

I would say that this book is a good starter book for anyone interested in steamy romance. The plot relies heavily on the friends-to-lovers aspect, the spice is manageable [nothing kinky], and it flows at a nice pace. The only major content warning I would add is that there is mention of parental death [off page] and cheating [off page].


I was delighted to finish listening to this book. The cliffhanger at the end made me want to start the next book immediately. Unfortunately, it was not available as part of my kindle unlimited membership….so I have been patiently waiting until I have a credit to spend. That said, if you like a friends-to-lovers, rooting for the underdog with some spicy scenes, then I recommend this book to you.

Posted in book review

Remarkably Bright Creatures

Title: Remarkably Bright Creatures

Author(s): Shelby Van Pelt

Genre: Fiction

Format: Physical Read

Would I Recommend it? Probably.

Book Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Spice Rating:

Rating: 0 out of 5.

Synopsis

You have a mystery to solve. Who are you going to call? Clearly a 60-pound octopus.

Remarkably Bright Creatures follows the stories of Tova Sullivan and Cameron. Tova is recently widowed and many years ago lost her son in a tragic accident. Cameron can’t keep a job, has had some rough patches in life, and is ready to learn more about his parents.

How are they connected? They both have a unique experience with the aquarium. Tova is the cleaning lady who befriends the octopus. Cameron gets a job at the aquarium.

Marcellus has decided to help his new friend Tova learn the truth about what happened to her son Erik. Can he find the truth? What other mysteries will be solved throughout this story?


Thoughts?

In June, my co-workers and I decided to start a book club. This book club’s guidelines are that each month a member will be randomly selected to pick the book. That book needs to be one that no one else has read. Otherwise, the genre, topics, and format are up to you. At the end of the month, we meet to discuss our thoughts on the book.

Since this is a book club pick, I will provide my review and the consensus of the book club.

My Thoughts

In June, I was the lucky winner. When it comes to picking books, it has already intrigued me if it has a pretty cover. So, as I was walking down the aisles of books and saw this book just sitting there, it immediately caught my attention. It was gorgeous. As soon as you open the book, you are greeted with some wonderful page art. I was pleasantly surprised.

Now that we have covered the cover, let’s look at the inside of the book.

I went back and forth on the rating for this book. The big question that I usually ask myself when I’m stuck between a 3 and a 4 is whether or not I’d recommend the book to someone else. In this case, yes, I probably would. The easier option would have been to give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars, but that would have made logical sense. (Also, Goodreads doesn’t give the option of halves.)

To describe Remarkably Bright Creatures in one word is slightly difficult. Perhaps heartwarming is the direction I’d go. But it’s not really heartwarming, more so intriguing. But no, that doesn’t work either. Hmm… emotional? I honestly have no idea the best way to describe this book. It truly is just a unique experience.

There are three main characters to this story, each with their own personality and backstory. Tova, the 70-year-old aquarium cleaning lady, Cameron the 30 something “failure” and of course Marcellus, the 60 pound Octopus.

While this story was predictable, had numerous chapters that I had to push through from sheer boredom, and a writing style that was odd at times, the story’s savior was Marcellus. His chapters were life-saving in more ways than one. They often made me laugh, and I always looked forward to them. Otherwise, when a chapter was good, I did not want to put it down.

I noticed that the character development was different as well. I felt like I never really understood or could picture what the characters were like until the end. And even then, it was more guessing. The author established one main feature about each character and then covered portions of their back story.

If I am being completely honest, the story is 3 stars, but with Marcellus plus the beautiful cover, it becomes 4 stars. Overall this is an emotionally driven story with a clear and solid ending. You will not be overly emotional with this book, but some moments made me tear up, laugh, or smile.

Marcellus McSquiddles was easily my favorite character, and I secretly wish more chapters were dedicated to him. He was the show’s star.

Book Club Consensus

While my book club didn’t hate the book, they also did not like it. Here were the *BIG* concepts that we covered.

  • Cameron was way too whiny, ran away from everything, and encompassed every stereotypical thing related to a child without parents.
  • Cameron blamed everyone else for his mistakes and took zero responsibility.
  • There were so many little details that were completely unnecessary and drawn out. For example, the cleaning routine at the aquarium was described in so much detail that I could clean it with my eyes closed.
  • The book would have been better as a screenplay rather than a novel. We literally cast the entire movie for it when we came to this realization.

Final Review

Do I think this is a good book?

Yes, I do. I think it was overhyped because it was a “Jenna Reads” book. But overall, I enjoyed it.

Can the octopus talk to humans? Is this realistic?

No, the octopus does not talk to the humans with his words. You are shown his internal thoughts and feelings, but no direct words are exchanged. They do communicate in other ways but not in words.

Would I recommend this to anyone and everyone?

Kind of. I would recommend it to anyone looking for something different, enjoys reading about family connections, and loves a good cover.


Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt is a debut novel. While it is noticeable that it is a debut, there was a wide range of wonderful components to this story. I am not sure if she will write another story, but it would be interesting to see what she writes next.

On a side note, if you like documentaries, you may also like “My Octopus Teacher”. It has similar vibes to this book.


Posted in book review

The Dead Romantics

Title: The Dead Romantics

Author(s): Ashley Poston

Genre: Contemporary Paranormal Romance

Format: Physical Read

Would I Recommend? Yes!

Book Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Spice Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Synopsis

Some writers take their stories and put them into a book. Others, have ghostwriters share the stories instead. Is one better than the other? No, but it makes for an interesting tale.

Florence Day is a ghostwriter for a notable romance author. She has a book contract she needs to finish and the deadline has past…by a lot! Should be easy enough, she has written several other books with ease. WRONG! After a horrible break-up, Florence has decided that love is dead. How is a romance writer supposed to write romance if they no longer believe in it? Great question. If you have the answer, Florence would love to hear it. Her current plan is to meet her new editor and ask for another extension.

When she walks into the new editor’s office, she was not expecting this gorgeous man to be behind the desk. To say this flusters her a bit is an understatement. Unfortunately, the deadline extension is denied and Florence has three days to finish the book.

As the deadline day creeps closer, Florence receives some unsettling news; her father has passed away. If that isn’t bad, she has to return to the town that runs her out for being a little different. Anxiety, sadness, and stress are at an all-time high, but she heads home to the funeral home. Oh, yeah, did I mention that the family owns a funeral home, and her father was the mortician?

In addition to her family running a funeral home, Florence (and by extension, her family) is hiding a secret; Florence and her father can see/speak/listen to ghosts as they attempt to resolve their unfinished business. Guess who shows up recently dead…her editor, and she has to help him with his unfinished business (which they have no idea what it is); she has to plan a funeral, navigate her emotions, and deal with her family. To say her hands are full is an understatement, but things must be done, including her final book.


Thoughts?

This book…oh, this book. If you are the oldest child, then you will likely relate to Florence. Her personality is stressed; wanting to take care of everything, feels responsible for everything, has so many things on her plate, and forgets to take care of herself. Sound familiar? No, just me? Okay, Florence has a lot to process and handle, but figuring out what to start with is a bit of an obstacle. Instead of tackling one thing at a time, naturally, she tries to do it all at once by herself (sort of) her dead editor is there too.

I enjoyed that this book was a little unconventional. I was able to connect with the characters or at least empathize with them. If you haven’t figured it out yet, when I read a book, I like a well thought out character that I can connect to or empathize with. I felt many of the things Florence is experiencing and was enthralled by this relationship.

The one downside for me was that I was able to predict 80% of the ending and story progression. There were still parts that I was not expecting, but generally speaking I knew the story.

Romance books and tropes go hand-in-hand. This book takes on enemies to lovers (this is a really loose enemy to lovers since technically they are not enemies, Florence just has a major deadline, and he is not making it easy), proximity relationship, and human/non-human relationship. It is a bit odd but it works.

Speaking of romance… how do you fall in love with a ghost and make it romantic? Without spoiling anything you let attraction take its course and get really good at dirty talk. The spice in this look is a solid level three. While there is not necessarily any sex that occurs, there is sexual tension, explicit comments, and some other details that take place. I would say it is still a safe public read if you are comfortable with discussions of sex and sexual behaviors.

Shifting gears a bit, let’s look at the emotional side of the story. This book had me in my feelings at times. Sometimes it was happy feels; others, it was sad feels. There were moments when Florence was self-criticizing that I could feel her defeat. It was the vulnerability of both characters that drew me in. What can I say? I think vulnerability is attractive, even if I am horrible at it. It has been a while since I felt connected to a character the way I did with Florence, and in a way, it was kind of like a strange therapy session.

I want to share a few quotes that gave me those feelings and made me fall in love with the characters, relationship, and story. I suppose these can be small spoilers, so skip ahead to the final review to avoid them.

“He hoped I asked for help because asking was not a weakness-but a strength. He hoped that I would ask more often, because I would be surprised by who would come into my life if I let them.”

The Dead Romantics, Ashley Poston, pg. 285

Because people always left. If they had a choice – they left. And Ben wanted to stay.

The Dead Romantics, Ashley Poston, pg. 276

This vulnerability made me love where Ashley Poston was going with this story. Gus and Florence’s chemistry was evident from the start, yet you, as the reader, can see their relationship morph into something different. Not only that, but you can also see the character’s own personal growth.

Final Review

Do I think this is a good book?

Yes, yes, I do! I loved this unique concept. I could connect with the main character on various levels (oldest child, death of a father, and the stress/pressure of my personality).

Was it weird that the main character fell in love with a ghost?

Not really. There were moments when I forgot he was a ghost, but I also predicted one of the plot twists, so I wasn’t too disappointed in their relationship. The only awkward encounter I felt was when there was a large sexual tension moment between the two characters (once you read it, you will get what I’m saying).

Would I recommend this to anyone and everyone?

Yes! Yes, I would. For people who like paranormal romances, something a little different, and/or a relationship that you will keep thinking about, then this is for you.


The Dead Romantics was a book I did not realize I would like as much as I did. Initially, I was a little skeptical, but I did not want to finish once I started reading it. While I did find it SUPER predictable, it was a book that made me happy to be able to sit down and physically read again.


Posted in book review

The Measure

Title: The Measure

Author(s): Nikki Erlick

Genre: Fiction

Format: Audiobook

Would I Recommend? Probably

Book Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Spice Rating:

Rating: 0 out of 5.

Synopsis

One day, you open your door and notice a little brown box. The box has your name on it but no sender. You know you didn’t order anything, so what could it be? You look around because, of course, you are a little nosy, and sure enough, every door has a box; some even have several. You later learn that every person 22 years old and older received a box on the same day at the exact same time. What on earth is happening? Do you choose to open the box or wait for more information?

The Measure by Nikki Erlick tells the stories of eight individuals and their journey with their box. Some will open it and let the contents decide their life decisions; while others will continue with life as it was (or to the best of their abilities) and never open the box. Their stories are interconnected and unique in their own way.


Thoughts?

This is the type of book where if you say too much, you will change the reader’s experience. The reason is that every detail of this story adds to the character(s), the plot, and their decisions. Therefore, to avoid going into too many details, I will highlight different aspects of the book.

The best way that I can describe this book is if you have seen movies like Crash (2005), Valentine’s Day (2010), New Year’s Eve (2011), and from what I have been told, every Tarantino movie ever made, then you will understand the vibes of this book. The weaving of the characters story’s were done in a way that was at times a little difficult to follow yet provided insight into their personality, emotions, and internal dialogue. Part of the reason that I think it was so difficult to follow was that I chose to listen to the audiobook.

While the narrators did a great job depicting each character and their relationships/stories, there is a good amount of things to keep track of that can get lost in the narration. I think it would have been easier to connect and engage in the story if I physically read it instead.

Let’s talk about individual characters. As I mentioned, there are eight main characters and many supplemental characters.

  • The politician (and his wife – she isn’t a main character, but is mentioned enough in the politician’s story that I am going to mention her)
  • The doctor
  • The lesbian couple (is it necessary to highlight their sexuality? Kind of. It plays into their story and some of the struggles that they encounter)
  • The two accidental pen pals (A & B – they do have names, but for the first half of the book they do not know their real names)
  • The two military best friends

A wide range of characters and a wide range of experiences. It is enlightening to see the various perspectives and perceptions of their world. I would argue that many topics are relevant to present-day society. On that note, conversations revolving around discrimination, prejudice, daily struggles, death, and overcoming challenges may be difficult for some people to read about. I appreciated the discussions and could see how they mirrored the present day. That being said, I like to read to escape not to see a different perspective of the same messed up world we live in today. I need to be in the mood for that.

This book made me think, feel, and reflect on the main characters’ topics and experiences. The one question I constantly kept asking myself was if this happened tomorrow, would I open my box? My answer…I honestly don’t know. I want to believe I wouldn’t because life will happen however it happens, but I also feel that my anxiety and curiosity would get the better of me.

Final Review

Do I think this is a good book?

Yea, I would say it was pretty good. Sometimes it was difficult, but that didn’t deter me from listening more.

Would you have read the book instead of listened to it?

This is one of those instances where I think I would have preferred to read it rather than listen to it. There were a lot of characters and different plot lines, and while the narrators did a good job differentiating themselves, this was the type of book where I would have liked to make the connections.

Would I recommend this to anyone and everyone?

Probably to anyone who likes fiction that covers tough topics, allows readers to connect and be emotional with the story, and allows you to think, “what if this were real? What would I do?”


If there were two main takeaways from this story for me, they were: (1) Stop taking life for granted, (2) Live every day like it’s your last, striving toward what is most important to you. This book took an approach that allowed me to live in a world where things were the same yet different. I am unsure if it made a difference, but I am still thinking about some of their stories a week after finishing this book. Did I have a favorite set of stories? Yes, I really liked A & B.

If you read/listened to this book, whose story did you connect with or enjoy the most? Would you open your box?


Posted in Monthly Reads, TBR

August 2022 Reads

  1. August TBR
  2. Successful August Reads/Listens

After ending July on a high note, I have hopes that August will be a good one. My TBR list for August is a little long, but I am hopeful that I can complete most of it.

August TBR

  1. The Setup by Falguni Kothari
  2. The Measure by Nikki Erlick
  3. The Dragon’s Bride by Katee Robert
  4. Just One Night by Carly Phillips
  5. Upgrade by Blake Crouch
  6. The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah
  7. Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More Than Ever
  8. The Dark One by Nikki St. Crowe
  9. Hades by Carly Spade
  10. Home Body by Rupi Kaur
  11. The Umbrella Academy Volume 2: Dallas
  12. Punderworld by Linda Seiji
  13. Steel Scars by Victoria Aveyard
  14. Home is Where You Are by: Melissa Grace
  15. Something Wild by Christina Lauren
  16. It Happened One Summer By: Tessa Bailey
  17. Ella Minnow Pea By: Mark Dunn
  18. Small Angels by: Lauren Owen
  19. Just One Scandal by: Carly Phillips
  20. Darling Girl by Liz Michalski
  21. Friends without Benefits By Penny Reid
  22. Neanderthal seeks Human by Penny Reid
  23. The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

Successful August Reads/Listens

Contemporary Romance

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
Fiction

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Romance

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Romance

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Fantasy

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Dark Fantasy Romance

Rating: 5 out of 5.
LGBTQIA+ Romance

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Cozy Mystery

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Romance

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
Fiction

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Posted in book review

The Set Up

Title: The Set Up

Author(s): Falguni Kothari

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Format: Audiobook

Would I Recommend? No

Book Rating:

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Spice Rating:

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Synopsis

“Just three dates…”

Aditi Gupta is a pediatric resident. She has been busy with med school and work, not having time for dating. Well her grandfather disagrees. His compromise is to have his granddaughter go on three dates, that’s it. Aditi begrudgingly agrees but wants to make it clear that this is not an arranged marriage setup. Her grandfather agrees, and so the dates begin.

While Aditi wants to one day find the love of her life, she does not have high hopes for these dates. On her first date she meets the handsome Krishna Lal and as expected is does not go well.

Does she have high hopes for the other three dates? Nope, but these dates are nothing like she expected.


Thoughts?

This is a rom-com novella presented by Audible, which means if you are listening to it on 1.5 speed, it will take you a little over an hour to listen to. I sometimes forget when I am listening to a novella versus a novel that the development of the characters, plot, and emotion can feel lacking. In reality it is the authors attempt to balance out everything in a short amount of time. The question then becomes how well did they balance them out.

Falguni did a decent job at this task. I enjoyed the overall plot line more than I enjoyed the characters. I was really turned off by Krishna’s character early on in the story. He made some comments throughout their date that made me wonder if looks outweighed a shitty personality. Aditi seems independent, strong-willed, and compassionate. She has a lot of responsibility and pressure, but she wants to fall in love one day. Honestly, I just had a hard time connecting with these characters. I think part of it is because their experiences are rooted in a culture I am unfamiliar with. The other part is I just don’t think they were super likable characters.

Its a cute story, but I think I like the side story better (avoiding those spoilers). How the plot wraps up was delightfully sweet and slightly unexpected, but it made me smile nonetheless.

Like all audiobooks, the narrators can make or break a story. If they do not depict a character well or make it uninteresting and monotone, then why bother continuing? This did not happen for The Setup. I think the narrators did well with the material they were given.

Final Review

Do I think this is a good book?

Meh. It was fine for a rom-com novella.

Was the romance good?

I would classify it as a level 1 romance. There are cute scenes but nothing that makes me go “Awe…” Plus, with Krishna having some not-great monologue I just couldn’t see how these two worked together.

Would I recommend this to anyone and everyone?

Uh… No. I thought the cover was cute, which drew me in, but it wasn’t really for me. As I mentioned, I think there are some cultural aspects that I just don’t understand. I can appreciate them, but I don’t connect with them. That being said, maybe if you have similar family experiences, you may get a kick out of this.

Overall, it wasn’t bad. As I was writing this review, I realized that I needed to change my rating on this book. Initially, I gave it 3 stars because I didn’t think it was bad, but it wasn’t my favorite. After looking at all my thoughts… I didn’t think it was great. Not because the writing was bad or the plot was uninteresting, but I couldn’t connect or empathize with the characters. That and there seemed to be some toxic traits I was not a fan of. Regardless if you are interested in the cute plot ending, it’s worth a listen; otherwise, you can pass on this one.