Review: Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: Arsenic and Adobo
Author: Mia P. Manansala
Series: Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery #1
Genre: Mystery
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Danice Cabanela
Length: 9 hours (316 pages)
Publisher: Berkley; Penguin Audio
Release Date: May 3, 2021
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: Dial A for Aunties, cozy mysteries

SYNOPSIS

The first book in a new culinary cozy series full of sharp humor and delectable dishes—one that might just be killer….

When Lila Macapagal moves back home to recover from a horrible breakup, her life seems to be following all the typical rom-com tropes. She’s tasked with saving her Tita Rosie’s failing restaurant, and she has to deal with a group of matchmaking aunties who shower her with love and judgment. But when a notoriously nasty food critic (who happens to be her ex-boyfriend) drops dead moments after a confrontation with Lila, her life quickly swerves from a Nora Ephron romp to an Agatha Christie case.

With the cops treating her like she’s the one and only suspect, and the shady landlord looking to finally kick the Macapagal family out and resell the storefront, Lila’s left with no choice but to conduct her own investigation. Armed with the nosy auntie network, her barista best bud, and her trusted Dachshund, Longanisa, Lila takes on this tasty, twisted case and soon finds her own neck on the chopping block…

MY THOUGHTS

I really enjoyed this cozy mystery about the small town murder of a a restaurant critic. I loved the vivid characters, the Filipino culture, and all the mouthwatering descriptions of food from restaurants around town.

While the story was funny and heartwarming, I thought the mystery aspect fell a bit flat. A big reveal that helped Lila identify the killer was news to her since she had been away for years, but it shouldn’t have been a surprise to the police. The case could’ve been solved much sooner.

At its heart, this is a book about family, friendship, and food. I loved the special touch of including recipes from the story in the back of the book! These recipes are even narrated in the audiobook, so listeners won’t miss out on this bonus content.

Review: Walk With Wings by Tene Edwards

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: Walk with Wings
Author: Tene Edwards
Genre: Poetry
Audience: Adult
Format: Paperback
Length: 166 pages
Publisher: The Good Quote Publishing
Release Date: July 1, 2018
Source: gifted from author

SYNOPSIS

Walk With Wings by Tene Edwards is a poetry collection split into five chapters: Monsoon Love, Winter Sorrow, Autumn Grace, Spring Resilient, and Summer Freedom. In short, poignant verses, Tene’s poems are a compilation of reflections on her experiences, thoughts, and feelings through love, loss, pain, healing and resilience.The collection takes you through the life story of the author while offering advice, notes, and affirmations, which were written to empower the author during difficult times. Walk With Wings tells the story of Tene falling in love, making bad decisions, learning from her mistakes, and discovering how to love her life and herself.

MY THOUGHTS

I found these poems very relatable and emotional. The way Edwards reflects on relationships, heartbreak, and womanhood reminded me of musings from my own journals.

I kept wishing some of the poetry reached greater emotional depths; several short poems felt more like inspirational quotes that skimmed the surface of the feelings the words were meant to evoke. However, I found myself uplifted and inspired by the time I reached the end of this collection.

Thank you to the author for the gifted review copy.

Review: The Dating Plan by Sara Desai

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆.5
Title: The Dating Plan
Author: Sara Desai
Series: Marriage Game #2
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators: Soneela Nankani
Length: 11 hours (352 pages)
Publisher: Berkley; Penguin Audio
Release Date: March 16, 2021
Source: Library
Content Warnings: domestic abuse

SYNOPSIS

Daisy Patel is a software engineer who understands lists and logic better than bosses and boyfriends. With her life all planned out, and no interest in love, the one thing she can’t give her family is the marriage they expect. Left with few options, she asks her childhood crush to be her decoy fiance.

Liam Murphy is a venture capitalist with something to prove. When he learns that his inheritance is contingent on being married, he realizes his best friend’s little sister has the perfect solution to his problem. A marriage of convenience will get Daisy’s matchmaking relatives off her back and fulfill the terms of his late grandfather’s will. If only he hadn’t broken her tender teenage heart nine years ago…

Sparks fly when Daisy and Liam go on a series of dates to legitimize their fake relationship. Too late, they realize that very little is convenient about their arrangement. History and chemistry aren’t about to follow the rules of this engagement.

MY THOUGHTS

I loved this enemies to lovers, fake dating, second chance romance. It was so funny and heartfelt.

I really liked the different portrayals of complicated family dynamics in this book, which fleshed out the backstory and provided depth to this rom com. Daisy comes from a large, close-knit Indian family who are always in each other’s business but full of love, whereas Liam came from an abusive home, was estranged from his family, and had a tense relationship with his brother.

I also loved the business and self-worth plotlines. I love when the female protagonists in romances are strong independent women who work hard to live the life they want!

Some of the events toward the end were a bit ridiculous, but I still just loved the characters and story so much.

Review: Rage and Ruin by Jennifer L. Armentrout

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Rage and Ruin
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Series: The Harbinger #2
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang
Length: 17 hours (576 pages)
Publisher: Inkyard Press; Harlequin Audio
Release Date: June 9, 2020
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: Crave, The Dark Elements, Supernatural

SYNOPSIS

A half human, half angel and her bonded gargoyle protector must work with demons to stop the apocalypse while avoiding falling in love. The Harbinger is coming… but who or what is it? All of humankind may fall if Trinity and Zayne can’t win the race against time as dark forces gather.

As tensions rise, they must stay close together and patrol the DC streets at night, seeking signs of the Harbinger, an entity that is killing Wardens and demons with no seeming rhyme or reason. Forbidden to be with each other, Zayne and Trinity fight their feelings and turn to unusual sources for help—the demon Roth and his cohorts. But as deaths pile up and they uncover a sinister plot involving the local high school and endangering someone dear to Zayne, Trin realizes she is being led – herded – played for some unknown end. As anger builds and feelings spiral out of control, it becomes clear that rage may be the ruin of them all.

MY THOUGHTS

This series is like Supernatural meets Crave, and I am here for it. I love the direction this apocalyptic tale is going. I am very intrigued by the firstborn grace powers and the angelic lore. JLA also expanded upon the ghosts and spirits in this world by introducing shadow people. And you know I am always a sucker for forbidden romance.

I should have seen the villain’s true identity coming, but I was surprised by the reveal. This book has a classic JLA explosive ending, and I cannot wait to see how this series concludes in Grace and Glory!

Review: Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutano

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆.5
Title: Dial A for Aunties
Author: Jesse Q. Sutano
Genre: Contemporary Fiction (Mystery/Humor/Romance)
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Risa Mei
Length: 10 hours (320 pages)
Publisher: Berkley; Penguin Audio
Release Date: April 27, 2021
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: Finlay Donovan is Killing It, Arsenic and Adobo

SYNOPSIS

A hilariously quirky novel that is equal parts murder mystery, rom-com, and a celebration of mothers and daughters as well as a deep dive into Chinese-Indonesian culture, by debut author Jesse Q. Sutanto.

1 (accidental) murder
2 thousand wedding guests
3 (maybe) cursed generations
4 meddling Asian aunties to the rescue!

When Meddelin Chan ends up accidentally killing her blind date, her meddlesome mother calls for her even more meddlesome aunties to help get rid of the body. Unfortunately, a dead body proves to be a lot more challenging to dispose of than one might anticipate, especially when it is accidentally shipped in a cake cooler to the over-the-top billionaire wedding Meddy, her Ma, and aunties are working, at an island resort on the California coastline. It’s the biggest job yet for their family wedding business—“Don’t leave your big day to chance, leave it to the Chans!”—and nothing, not even an unsavory corpse, will get in the way of her auntie’s perfect buttercream cake flowers.

But things go from inconvenient to downright torturous when Meddy’s great college love—and biggest heartbreak—makes a surprise appearance amid the wedding chaos. Is it possible to escape murder charges, charm her ex back into her life, and pull off a stunning wedding all in one weekend?

MY THOUGHTS

I loved this so much. It was absolutely hilarious and kept me laughing out loud throughout! I am very into the current trend of humorous mystery/crime books.

The story was antics upon antics. If something could go wrong, it did, in the most hilarious fashion. I also loved the family dynamics, the second chance romance, Meddelin’s new confidence, and the way that a book about accidental murder and hiding a body always felt delightfully ridiculous.

Review: The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy: The Shocking Inside Story
Author: Ann Rule
Genre: True Crime
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Lorelei King
Length: 18 hours (548 pages)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Release Date: August 1, 1980
Source: Library
Content Warnings: graphic descriptions of crimes against women

SYNOPSIS

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Ann Rule, “America’s best true-crime writer” (Kirkus Reviews), her unforgettable classic account of the horrifying murders in the Pacific Northwest and her shock when she discovered her friend—Ted Bundy—was not only a suspect but also one of the most prolific serial killers in American history.

Meeting in 1971 at a Seattle crisis clinic, Ann Rule and Ted Bundy developed a friendship and correspondence that would span the rest of his life. Rule had no idea that when they went their separate ways, their paths would cross again under shocking circumstances.

The Stranger Beside Me is Rule’s compelling firsthand account of not just her relationship with Bundy, but also his life—from his complicated childhood to the media circus of his trials. Astonishing in its intimacy and with Rule’s clear-eyed prose, you can’t help but share in her growing horror at discovering that her friend was one of the most notorious American serial killers.

An unforgettable and haunting work of research, journalism, and personal memories, The Stranger Beside Me is “as dramatic and chilling as a bedroom window shattering at midnight” (TheNew York Times).

MY THOUGHTS

Ted Bundy is the serial killer who sparked my interest in true crime. The case is horrific, tragic, and fascinating. It is hard to understand the charismatic effect he had on people.

This book is interesting because it is written by a crime writer who also happened to be a close personal friend of Ted Bundy. The coincidences that made this book possible are wild.

I learned a lot of new details about the case that I didn’t get from documentaries and podcasts I’ve previously explored, but all those details made the book a bit long, especially with the never-ending updates about the case after the first edition of the book was published. The audio definitely helped me get through this bulky story. I haven’t read a lot of true crime books, but this made me want to pick up more, and maybe even check out some of Ann Rule’s other books.

Review: Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Sky in the Deep
Author: Adrienne Young
Series: Sky in the Deep #1 (Standalone)
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 340 pages
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release Date: April 24, 2018
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: Vikings and Norse mythology
Content Warnings: sexual assault, slavery, gore

SYNOPSIS

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.

Part Wonder Woman, part Vikings—and all heart.

MY THOUGHTS

This is a harsh story of survival. Eelyn grew up on one side of a rivalry between warring clans. When she is captured and taken in by the enemy, she discovers their way of life is not so different from her own…but with generations of strife between the two clans, she does not see how lasting peace could ever be possible.

Eelyn is a perfect YA heroine. She is a strong warrior, fiercely loyal, and deeply. compassionate. There is a slow burn romance, but you never get the sense that Eelyn needs a man to be a complete; she is fully capable on her own without him.

This slow building story focuses on survival and emotional connections between people. The writing was incredible, but I wanted a little something more from the story. The book was slow to get into, and the ending wrapped up a bit too quickly. I also thought some of the depictions of war and torture were a bit gory for YA. Still, I loved the depth to this story, and I can’t wait to read more of Adrienne Young’s books!

ARC Review: A Fate of Wrath and Flame by K.A. Tucker

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆
Title: A Fate of Wrath & Flame
Author: K.A. Tucker
Series: A Fate of Wrath & Flame #1
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Adult
Format: ebook
Length: 533 pages
Publisher: self-published
Release Date: May 25, 2021
Source: Valentine PR
Content Warnings: sexual assault, slavery

SYNOPSIS

Gifted thief Romeria has flourished from her days as a street kid pilfering wallets to survive. Now she thrives, stealing jewels from the rich under the involuntary employ of New York City’s most notorious crime boss. But when an enigmatic woman secures her services at swordpoint, Romeria is plunged into a startling realm of opposing thrones, warring elven, and elemental magic she cannot begin to fathom.

Her quest is straightforward: Steal a stone from Islor’s sacred garden without anyone discovering her true identity, which would earn her certain death. But the identity she has inexplicably assumed is that of the captured Ybarisan princess—an enemy to Islor after she poisoned their beloved king and queen on the day she was to marry the prince.

Her betrothed, the newly crowned King Zander, detests her with every grain of his handsome being. Fortunately for Romeria, she is more valuable to him alive than dead. Zander gives her a choice: life in a cell, or an acquittal of all charges in exchange for her help in exposing the growing plot against him.

Romeria sees no other option and embraces the tricky role of smitten queen-to-be until she can escape, a ruse that brings her far closer to the king than she anticipated and threatens more than her safety. As she digs deeper into this sacred garden and the ancient feud between Ybaris and Islor, she discovers monstrous truths that could spell ruin for all.

She would know the world of vengeful gods and monsters, and the lengths one would go for love. And nothing would ever be the same for her again.

MY THOUGHTS

I was very excited to read this book because I really enjoyed K.A. Tucker’s writing in her contemporary romances like The Simple Wild and I love fantasy, but this book just wasn’t for me.

This portal fantasy sees Romeria, a jewel thief in modern day New York City, transported into another realm with a Medieval-inspired, magical society where she is forced to assume the identify of a traitorous princess. I admire Romeria’s compassion, resourcefulness, and determination to make the most of her unexpected situation.

Tucker constructs a complicated political and magic system driven by Fates (deities), elven, and elementals. I often found myself identifying with Romeria’s confusion when it came to the complex world building. I also expected more from the romance in this book, which was a bit too slow of a burn to consider this a fantasy romance.

Overall, I found the story to be a bit slow in general between all the secrets, political intrigue, and history. The pace picked up toward the end leading to a cliffhanger, and I expect the next book in this series to have better pacing with the bulk of the world building out of the way.

Thank you to Valentine PR for the gifted ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Storm and Fury by Jennifer L. Armentrout

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Title: Storm and Fury
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Series: The Harbinger #1
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang
Length: 14 hours
Publisher: Harlequin Audio
Release Date: June 10, 2019
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: The Dark Elements series

SYNOPSIS

Enter a world of gargoyle protectors, rising demons and one girl with an explosive secret.

Eighteen-year-old Trinity Marrow may be going blind, but she can see and communicate with ghosts and spirits. Her gift is part of a secret so dangerous that she’s been in hiding for years in an isolated compound guarded by Wardens—gargoyle shape-shifters who protect humankind from demons. If the demons discover the truth about Trinity, they’ll devour her to enhance their powers.

When Wardens from another clan arrive with disturbing reports that something is killing both demons and Wardens, Trinity’s world implodes. Not least because one of the outsiders is the most annoying and fascinating person she’s ever met. Zayne has secrets of his own that will upend her world yet again—but working together becomes imperative once demons breach the compound and Trinity’s secret comes to light. To save her family, and maybe the world, she’ll have to trust Zayne. But all bets are off as a supernatural war is unleashed…

MY THOUGHTS

This is the first book in a spin-off series of The Dark Elements. I recommend finishing The Dark Elements series (starting with White Hot Kiss) before starting Storm and Fury to fully understand the world building. These YA paranormal romance series include demons, gargoyles (Wardens), and some other supernatural creatures.

I was pleasantly surprised by the disability representation in this book: Trinity has a genetic eye condition that causes her vision to deteriorate despite her supernatural heritage.

I enjoyed the romance and the mysteries surrounding Trinity’s true background and the unusual demonic activity. I thought this was a very typical JLA book; now that I’ve read a few of her series, I’m starting to notice some similarities. I was leaning toward giving this book three stars, but the shocking twists at the end pushed my rating up closer to four stars.

It was really interesting seeing Layla and Roth from an outsider’s POV, and I am so looking forward to continuing the series!

May 2021 Wrap Up

In May I finished 18 books, including 3 physicals books, 3 ebooks, and 12 audiobooks. I read a really fun variety of books this month!


PHYSICAL BOOKS

Evernight by Claudia Gray ☆☆.5
Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young ☆☆☆☆
Walk with Wings by Tene Edwards ☆☆☆

EBOOKS

People We Meet on Vacation [ARC] by Emily Henry ☆☆☆☆☆
Malice [ARC] by Heather Walter ☆☆☆☆☆
A Fate of Wrath & Flame [ARC] by K.A. Tucker ☆☆

AUDIOBOOKS

Crooked Kingdom [reread] by Leigh Bardugo ☆☆☆☆☆
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien ☆☆☆
Leave it to Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse ☆☆☆☆
The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule ☆☆☆☆
The Dating Plan by Sara Desai ☆☆☆☆.5
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas ☆☆☆☆
Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutano ☆☆☆☆.5
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid ☆☆☆☆
Rage and Ruin by Jennifer L. Armentrout ☆☆☆.5
Wildcard by Marie Lu ☆☆☆☆
Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala ☆☆☆
Faraway: Fairy Tales from the Here and Now by Various Authors ☆☆


2021 READING GOAL PROGRESS

At the beginning of the year, I shared my 2021 reading goals. When I post my wrap up at the end of each month, I also want to reflect on the progress I’m making toward reaching my goals.

Read 100 books: 96/100

Finish 5 series in progress: 0/5 – Yikes!

Read 12 graphic novels: 4/12 – none this month

Read 12 books of poetry/verse: 5/12 – Walk with Wings

Read 6 nonfiction books: 2/6 – The Stranger Beside Me

Read 3 classics: 3/3 – The Hobbit, Leave it to Psmith (I still need to read one that’s pre-20th century, though!)

Reread 10 books: 5/10 – Crooked Kingdom

Host monthly backlist buddy reads: 5/12 – Sky in the Deep


How did your month go? What was the best book you read in May?