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Book Review: The Bride Test

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang is the second book of The Kiss Quotient trilogy. The main characters of this installment are Khai Diep (Michael Phan’s cousin from The Kiss Quotent and Quan Diep’s younger brother) and Esme Tran. This whole romance trilogy is connected by a couple themes: various shades of autism, Vietnamese-American immigrant perspective, and the Michael-Quan-Kai big family.

Plot

Khai Diep steadfastly avoids relationships because he thinks he is unable to love due to the way he processes emotions. His mom takes it into her own hands and goes to Vietnam to find him a bride. Esme Tran, chosen by Khai’s mother, flies to California to seduce Khai into marriage. With such a premise, you can be sure there will be lots of LOL and fun awkward moments!

One thing I didn’t expect was how big of a role Quan Diep played in this book. That just makes me love his character more, especially going into The Heart Principle (No 3).

Own Voice

I love that Helen Hoang is writing stories based on her experiences. The authenticity shines through all the books. Perhaps more so in The Bride Test than in the other two because the female protagonist is Vietnamese. In the first one Stella Lane (I think) is white and in the third one Anna Sun is Chinese-American. I’d definitely say I liked Esme’s voice best because she’s such a fighter. I mean, Stella and Anna are endearing too, however, they are extremely privileged with regard to their economic backgrounds.

Steam

I gotta say, Helen Hoang is pretty steamy. The Bride Test has some fun scenes, but I think The Kiss Quotient had more smutty content. The Bride Test for me has more humor and heart.

All of the books can be read as a stand-alone and not in order, but trust me, I think you’ll fall in love with these boys!

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Adult Book Review: Wicked Beauty

Wicked Beauty by Katee Robert is the 3rd book in Dark Olympus series. In this series Katee Robert does a freestyle retelling of Greek mythology and Olympians. I’ve very much enjoyed the previous ones on the series: Neon Gods and Electric Idol, so I knew I’d enjoy Wicked Beauty also.

Achilles, Patroclus….AND Helen???

I am utterly convinced to get the full impact one must read Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles first. Get your heart utterly destroyed by the whole Achilles and Patroclus tragedy. Then, for a mood booster, pick this one up! It’s a happy ever after take on the two hot boys plus a certain woman for whom they went to war: Helen. Obviously, if you’re not a threesome person then this is not your thing. I found it quite fun 😀

Character Explorations

Katee Robert must have had so much fun with the archetype of these characters and turning them on their head. Achilles went through failure (gasp!) and picked back up his shattered ego for his loved ones. Patroclus faced his deepest insecurity, and the best character development of the three yet: Helen.

Our Helen in this book was just coming out of an incredibly toxic relationship with (who else) pretty boy Paris. Then her brother announced her to be the prize of the trials for the Ares position. In a truly feminist power roar, Helen enters herself into the competition. Her growth through the Ares trials and with the two men was sky high! Don’t expect a weak limpid Helen who just sits around looking scandalous. Expect Katniss Everdeen badassery in combination with Cersei Lannister’s sharp politic skills.

Steam

No need to doubt the steam with KR, she always delivers.

I’m a real convert to Katee Robert’s books and I’m so glad she has SO MANY. I’ll not tire of them anytime soon!

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Steamy Book Review: Electric Idol

Electric Idol is the highly anticipated sequel to Neon Gods from the Dark Olympus series by Katee Robert. I’m so glad to say I loved it. I picked this up after finishing The Folk of The Air series (review coming soon for that) and it’s the perfect little rebound book after the hollow emptiness of finishing a great series.

Plot

The plot of Electric Idol is a modern retelling of Eros (Cupid) and Psyche. Eros is the most dangerous killer who does his mother Aphrodite’s will, while Psyche is the “good girl” third daughter of Demetrius and Persephone’s sister. Aphrodite is jealous of Psyche, so she asks her son Eros to finish the girl off. As these stories go, they fall in love and pretty much kick Aphrodite out of the picture. Straightforward. But of course, we pick up Katee Robert for her brilliant balance of smut, steam, and worldbuilding.

Steam

Loved it. Off the charts, just like the first one. What I found surprising, though, is that Electric Idol is actually really “traditional” in terms of the sexual acts in comparison to her other books which usually have much wilder play. Here it’s just the two of them, no BDSM, no dungeons, no toys. And I think that’s where Katee Robert’s skills are really shown off: even with only traditional elements, the book is still super hot.

Plus!!!

Oh and. A real winning reason to pick this up is that Psyche is plus size!!! I’ll be honest this is the first steamy romance book I’ve read where the heroine is plus size with stretch marks and all. It’s really refreshing and totally liberating. I wish teenage me read more books about hot fat girls, that might have helped me to avoid 10 years of bulimia. Anyway, I’m going to be looking out for more such characters for sure. In the meanwhile, Katee Robert is now most definitely my favorite smut author.

Oh bonusies, I made this short video on my booktok account which viraled and got more than 10K views, yeay!

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Book Review: The Love Hypothesis

The Love Hypothesis book is such a sensation on booktok! It comes up in my feed at least once a day. Which is a good thing. When the tide rises, everyone benefits – in this case when people start to get into romantic comedies with women in STEM protagonists…now that is COOL. My review does have SPOILERS so beware!

I just love that the author herself is a scientist. In fact Ali Hazelwood has a PhD and is a neuroscientist professor. That’s what I’m talking about! Women can rise as high as we let ourselves be. We can encompass as many different fields as we want. Life is too short to downplay ourselves so GO TAKE THAT SHOT.

That aside my thoughts for this book is like almost everyone else’s. It’s cute, sweet, and I definitely couldn’t put it down. The hype is real, unless you hate the fake-dating trope then well, maybe pick up something tragic. Like Romeo and Juliet-sorry I just watched the new West Side Story directed by Steven Spielberg and am all tragic-ked up. Anyway in order to make this not just another book review about The Love Hypothesis, let me try to take a different angle.

One Thing I Wished Was Different

There is just one thing that I kind of wish could have been different about this book. In the part where Tom sexually harassed Olive, she was able to overcome the issue because of an accident. Olive accidentally recorded the harassment on her phone. Then she accidentally played the recording for her friends, which is how they found out. Thus she accidentally has proof.

Then, she goes to Adam, who luckily is an awesome guy (we all love Adam). He takes care of the problem for Olive. Sweet. Really, it’s melting. But sadly, more often is the case where survivors don’t have proof at all. Because of that, they get even more abused. And even more often still is the case where survivors tell their loved ones, but even with proof their loved ones blame them. Victim blaming.

So instead of getting comfort and help, survivors often get shamed on even more. I know this from my own experience, and from my work as an activist in sexual harassment campaigns in Indonesia. So if it could be different, I wished Olive had intentionally spoken up, and then have Adam help her take care of the problem, instead of letting Adam simply take care of it for her. Because then, Olive wouldn’t just be sweet, she would also be kick-ass.

All in all though, I really enjoyed this rom-com and will be opening myself up to the genre more.

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Book Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Alright, here goes me reviewing a very hype book. By now, I’m quite aware my taste in books are somewhat different than the trendy ones – although I do get curious every now and then.

Quick Description

Our main character is a journalist named Monique Grant, who was chosen by retired Hollywood star Evelyn Hugo to write her biography. Throughout her glamorous and scandalous life, Evelyn Hugo has collected and outlived 7 husbands, including outliving a daughter. Evelyn has engineered her public image in such a way to hide unflinching truths, which she now gives to Monique. A question runs throughout the whole narrative: why Monique?

My Thoughts

I rated it 3 stars on Goodreads because I think it was so-so for me. I can understand the hype – who isn’t interested in the glitzy behind-the-scenes of Hollywood? The empowerment themes for people of color and LGBTQ are also a plus point going for this book.

However, some things didn’t sit right with me because the author does a lot of “forcing a point” through Evelyn’s story. There was not much room for the reader to arrive at their own opinions nor to disagree. The whole book feels like it’s teaching how to live life, and it had some alright lessons, but also some I disagreed with.

An example is this quote:

“When you’re given an opportunity to change your life, be ready to do whatever it takes to make it happen. The world doesn’t give things, you take things.”

The Seven husbands of evelyn hugo

My Kindle has automatic highlight function, and it’s showing me that 8 thousand other readers highlighted this quote. So I guess a lot of readers like it. For me though, I disagree. The statement actually contradicts itself, having stated “opportunities are given” then in the next breath “nothing is given, you have to take it.” But didn’t the text just say that opportunities are given?

The world gives so many things to us – life itself is a gift from the world. If we’re reading and breathing, we’ve already taken free clean oxygen, burned some fossil fuels, or used up some tree bark.

The world gives free air for us to breathe, soil for us to grow crops, a whole planet for us to enjoy. And from the moment we popped out of our mothers’ wombs to the moment we decompose, all we do is take from the world and emit harmful poisons to our planet. Unless we are very careful with our lifestyles and have a strong commitment to leave this earth a better place, then I assure you that both you and I are criminals in nature’s eyes. I am guilty of it myself.

Personal Bias

Obviously this book is not about relationships with nature and with our environment, it’s more about human relationships and it’s got some great lessons on that. Yet my personal bias is kicking in whenever I read narratives that are only about humans. Because the world isn’t just about humans.

We know that after the pandemic. A tiny virus slammed down our activities and plans, and we had no choice but to work around how to survive with a constantly mutating virus in the air.

Ending (Spoiler Alert!)

The ending is controversial, as the whole book tries to be. And here is one point where I do agree with the author. Yes, I honestly believe that individuals in their right mind should be able to exercise their right-to-die. Done properly, it can be a meaningful and relieving experience for everyone. Take the case of Betsy, who was diagnosed with ALS, a neurodegenerative disease.

“Dying is easy, try living in this body.”

Betsy (VOX.Com)

So all in all, I thought The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was so-so. If you like scandalous, empowering, well-rounded tragedy narratives, try the classic Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.

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Steamy Book Review: Neon Gods

Adult steamy book review time! One of my guilty pleasure reads is steamy fantasy romances, and I just recently discovered Katee Robert. Wow, nice stuff here! The first book I read from her was Neon Gods (Dark Olympus #1). Neon Gods is a retelling of the eternally fascinating Hades and Persephone myth.

Premise

I enjoyed the premise: a modern Olympus ruled by thirteen power roles according to the names of the gods and goddesses. Zeus in this series is a real evil head of the thirteen. He’s set his desires to marry Persephone, the daughter of Demeter. Persephone runs away from this scheme and escapes into the “underworld”, which is basically the whole lower side of the city under the governance of Hades.

Surprise surprise, Hades is not as evil as his reputation! Persephone also turns out to be not as plasticky as all the tabloids portray. The development of their relationship is quite cute and well done in my opinion. Some dialogue was cringeeee but hey the steam was 5 stars, I really enjoyed it.

Another aspect I enjoyed was Persephone’s relationship with her sisters Psyche, Eurydice, and Callisto.

The lower side of the city under Hades’ rule also gets some nice world-building scenes via Hades and Persephone’s excursions slash dates. These scenes provide a nice balance to the growth of their relationship, making it more fleshed out-not just from the sexual perspective.

Consent and Safe Words

In their role play games, Hades always reminds Persephone that of the safe word, and should she say it then the role-play would stop immediately. Several times Persephone checks in on herself to see if this was indeed what she wanted to be doing with Hades, a man she barely just met. Remember, it’s not about judgment, it’s about consent!

It’s not about judgment, it’s about consent.

The ending is very cute, and honestly I really enjoyed this 5-star steam read. Can’t wait for the second in the series: Electric Idol!

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Series Review: The Book of Isle

After I finished all of the Enola Holmes series (check out that review), I decided author Nancy Springer must be on my favorite writers’ list. Imagine my delight when I saw that she also wrote my favorite genre: fantasy! In fact, she is more known as a fantasy writer than for mystery series. One of her favorite sets was the Book of Isle (in 5 novels).

I bought the Kindle boxset for 21.99USD – making it just over 4USD per book. GREAT DEAL readers! Alert!

The 5 books were my 4th to 8th reads of this year for the read 60 in 2021 Goodreads challenge. I finished the whole thing in 2 weeks. That should tell you how irresistible her stories were. The Goodreads description of the series called it a “classic epic fantasy in the grand tradition of J. R. R. Tolkien.”

Synopsis

On the island of Isle, gods, goddesses, and magical beasts lived together with humans. Some were good, some corrupt, some downright evil. Ellid, a lady as fair as the sun fell in love with Bevan, son of the High King and the goddess of the moon. Their relationship triggers events that resulted in the rebuilding of a peaceful kingdom. Generations and legends go by until the changeling Dair befriends the cursed wanderer Frain, and through their bond peace in the mainland is able to be restored. Ok, so it’s the usual fantasy plot. But isn’t that why fantasy readers read fantasy?

Ok, so it’s the usual fantasy plot. But isn’t that why fantasy readers read fantasy?

The magic is ancient good against evil, not unlike CS Lewis’ Narnia. It’s not children’s fantasy though. It’s for adults, although thank goodness she writes so much better than GRRM (Game of Thrones slowly became only about sex, war, and food). Nancy Springer delves deep into human nature, exposing love, lust, greed, ego, and a longing for death that is a constant theme from Book 1 to Book 5. Her battles were fast and action-oriented, but never more violent than is necessary.

A feminine epic fantasy.

One of my favorite things about the Book of Isle was how un-patriarchal it was. Goddesses were as powerful as gods, sometimes even more so. The One (the creator of the world) was genderless, never mentioned as “he”, nor “she”. In Book 5, a goddess gets the revenge that she sought because a human king had shamed her. This act was not seen as an act of revenge that spiraled out of control. Rather it was portrayed as a fair act because the king completely deserved it.

Like Lord of the Rings, the Book of Isle often used poetry form to communicate older myths that existed within the island. It worked very well, adding an air of grace to the tales. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my time reading the Book of Isle.

Do you like fantasy? Have you read this series? What did you think?