book blog · Book Review

Book Review | Virginia Woolf by Hermione Lee

May 16th, 2022

Hi Readers!

So I’ve been really enjoying my non-fiction this year, and I think I’ve discovered a new love for literary non-fiction.

| Published: 1996 by Vintage |
| Genre: Non-Fiction |
| Themes: Literature, 20th Century, Virginia Woolf |
| Length: 893 Pages |
| Age: Adult |
| My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

While Virginia Woolf–one of our century’s most brilliant and mercurial writers–has had no shortage of biographers, none has seemed as naturally suited to the task as Hermione Lee. Subscribing to Virginia Woolf’s own belief in the fluidity and elusiveness of identity, Lee comes at her subject from a multitude of perspectives, producing a richly layered portrait of the writer and the woman that leaves all of her complexities and contradictions intact.  

Such issues as sexual abuse, mental illness, and suicide are brought into balance with the immensity of her literary achievement, her heroic commitment to her work, her generosity and wit,  and her sanity and strength.

This was an incredibly detailed, well-researched biography. It’s admiring, but also a balanced and fair telling of one of the literary greats of the 20th century. Lee doesn’t put Woolf up on a pedistal and forget that she was a flawed human being, and she treats Woolf’s mental health factually and sensitively.

Learning about her life has left me with so much more understanding of her novels. How her relationships and surroundings influenced them, why she wrote them, and the impact they had on her. This book is filled with insights into her books and what is clear is Woolf put so much of herself into her writing. Her pain, grief, joy and hopes are all immortalised.

“Thoby haunted her: she perpetually remembered and reimagine him. She wrote three versions of him in over twenty years, as ‘Jacob’ in Jacob’s Room, as ‘Percival’ in The Waves, and as himself in her Sketch of the Past.”

There’s a reason so many of her books are set around the sea, during the Summer, on the hottest days of London. All of these things had a significence to her and would eventually work their way into her novels.

“Her diary, like her essays and stories and novels, blurs the lines between history, biography and fiction.”

She lived during one of the most exciting times in British literature, and I loved learning about her famous literary friends, the Hogarth press she ran with her husband (I had no idea she owned the house that published all of her books!), her romances and her (slightly half-hearted) political endeavors.

“Virginia Woolf and her contemporaries were poised on the edge of revolution.”

You don’t have to have read Woolf to enjoy this book (although there are a lot of references to Three Guiness, The Waves, The Lighthouse, Orlando, Mrs Dalloway and, of course, A Room of One’s Own). It’s also just an interesting look into a writer born a Victorian and growing into a modernist, living through two world wars, going through immense amounts of loss and battling with her mental illness all her adult life.

“Books are a school for character, she (Woolf) argues, because they change (like people) as we read them, and change us as we read. Books read us.”

What got me, was her unawareness of just how incredible her writing was. Multiple times Lee shared quotes from diary entries and letters where Woolf said her writing was ‘nothing’, “she couldn’t do anything right or anything useful”, she felt she was wasting her time. Despite her successes, she still had moments of self-doubt. Well, if only she could see how her works have stood the test of time.

And of course, her self-doubt could have been part of her mental health problems. It’s a known fact she died by suicide, but from the very beginning of adulthood depression and suicidal thoughts plagued her mind, and writing was an especially strong trigger for it. There’s a lot of references to suicide and depression, but I thought Lee handled it carefully “Virginia was a sane woman who had an illness”and it was very interesting to see how these were delt with by doctors in the early 20th century. Very interesting…

“Everything suddenly became unreal; I was suspended; I could not step across the puddle; I tried to touch something… the whole world became unreal.”

Another theme Lee follows is Woolf’s sexuality and what I loved to see was, despite censorship and laws, almost all of Woolf’s friends were gay or in gay relationships. They were also so open about it in conversations and letter corrispondants as well which I think is brilliant.

“She could not bear to catergorise herself as belonging to a group defined by its sexual behaviour (just as she didn’t want to think of herself as an ordinary ‘wife’ or as a writer of ‘novels’). She wanted to avoid all categories.

I now have the uncontrollable urge to reread all of her novels, starting at the beginning. There’s also a whole lot of non-fiction work by Woolf I had no idea was out there, so I’ll be looking to get my hands on them soon as well.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

book blog

10 Romance Books I Want To Read This Summer

May 13th, 2022

Hi Readers!

What is more idyllic than lying in the sun with a great playlist and a cute (and steamy) romance novel? This is how I want to spend my Summer, and here’s a list of romance novels I’ll be choosing from.

The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang – I read the first two books in this series earlier this year and absolutely fell in love with Hoang’s writing and characters. I’m kind of sad there’s only one left to read, but I also can’t wait to read Quan’s story!

The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas – This is another tik tok romance sensation. They didn’t let me down with the Love Hypothesis. I’m hoping this one will be a hit as well, although I have heard more mixed feelings about this one.

The STEMinist Novellas by Ali Hazelwood – I absolutely adored The Love Hypothesis and I’m so excited that Hazelwood is continuing with the theme. These little novella’s will be perfect to read in the sun!

Book Lovers by Emily Henry – Henry hasn’t let me down yet. I loved her first two novels and this one just sounds like everything I could ever want from a book.

The Spinster Club by Holly Bourne – I couple of years ago I read Am I Normal Yet? and really loved it, and since then I’ve been meaning to continue the series. I have yet to do that, but it will happen this Summer!

It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey – I’ve heard so much about Tessa Bailey. I feel like anyone who reads romance has read her by now and I feel so behind!

The Flatshare by Beth O’leary – I really hope I enjoy Beth O’Leary because I feel like she comes out with 2 books ever year, so fans of her are so well fed. This one sounds especially cute.

Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia HIbbert – The Brown Sisters series sounds like a lot of fun! I honestly can’t believe I still haven’t picked them up!

Maybe In Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid – I’m always quite nervous about going into a new favourite authors backlist. Evelyn Hugo is what put Reid on a lot of our raidors, and I just don’t think her earlier novels can live up to it. But I’m hoping to enjoy them at least.

The Bridgerton Novels by Julia Quinn – I’ve already read the first four books but I’m hoping to continue. I also might reread Benedict’s and Colin’s books first though.

Do you like reading romance in the Summer? What will you be picking up?

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

book blog

Book Review | Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason

May 9th, 2022

Hi Readers!

Before reading this book, I was certain The Island of Missing Trees would win this years Women’s Prize. Now I’m not so sure…

| Published: 2021 by HarperCollins |
| Genre: Contemporary |
| Themes: Mental Health |
| Length: 352 Pages |
| Age: Adult |
| My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

This novel is about a woman called Martha. She knows there is something wrong with her but she doesn’t know what it is. Her husband Patrick thinks she is fine. He says everyone has something, the thing is just to keep going.

Martha told Patrick before they got married that she didn’t want to have children. He said he didn’t mind either way because he has loved her since he was fourteen and making her happy is all that matters, although he does not seem able to do it.

By the time Martha finds out what is wrong, it doesn’t really matter anymore. It is too late to get the only thing she has ever wanted. Or maybe it will turn out that you can stop loving someone and start again from nothing – if you can find something else to want. 

Our protagonist Martha begins by just introducing herself, giving us a kind of surface level glance at her life. We find out she’s seperated from her husband, Patrick, she works as a journalist, she has a sister who’s pregnant with her forth child and parents, a poet and a scultor, who still live in her childhood home.

From these first quick snippets of her life we are given, it’s easy to make assumptions, but then the story slowly unravels to give us more details, and you really come to understand the characters and their actions more.

We’re reading from the point of view of Martha who we find out has periods of crippling depression, and has been unsuccessfully treated for it since she was 17. During these periods she huddles in her bed, or under her desk, struggling to eat or sleep, and is constantly plagued with dark thoughts. This portrayal of MH was so hard to read because it felt like a very accurate one, but I also thought she captured it incredibly.

But as well as those dark and heavy moments, this book is also funny and hopeful. I loved Martha’s relationship with her sister, they have the funniest text conversations. There was also moments between Martha and Patrick that just made them so endearing to me.

This book and these characters just crept up on me. It was getting to about half way through, and I was enjoying it but the characters hadn’t quite captured me yet. But suddenly, like a switch, I fell in love with Martha, her relationships, her conversations, and I did not want to stop reading. The final page was so unexpectedly emotional, and I must admit, I did well up.

Coincidentally, at the same time I was reading this book I was also reading a Virginia Woolf biography, and that also has a lot to do with mental health, and I kept seeing similarities between Woolf and Martha. This almost felt like what would have happened had Virginia gotten properly diagnosed.

I think that’s what got me so emotional, but also the fact it includes all of these other characters, and how it takes into account the pain they’ve experienced seeing Martha struggle with this her whole life. I just want to cry when I think about her father, or her sister, or Patrick and how they cared for her and tried to protect her.

I was so hesitant before going in because I’d heard mixed things about Martha’s character and I wasn’t sure if I would like her and if that would effect how I felt about the book. She definitely isn’t perfect and there are moments I found her frustrating and spoiled. But I loved this flawed character, and I only ever hoped for the best for her.

This was an engrossing novel I flew through within one day, because I just did not want to stop turning the pages. Meg Mason captured my heart, and she’s still holding onto it days later.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

book blog

TTT | Characters Who Love To Read + Book Quotes

May 10th, 2022

Note: Top Ten Tuesday Is A Weekly Meme Hosted by The Artsy Reader

Hi Readers!

I love reading about literary characters. They feel even more like a friend. These are some of my favourites, plus some of my favourite quotes about books and reading.

Elizabeth Bennet | Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

“All this she must possess,” added Darcy, “and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”

Catherine Morland | Northanger Abbey

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” 

Charlie | The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

“And all the books you’ve read have been read by other people. And all the songs you’ve loved have been heard by other people. And that girl that’s pretty to you is pretty to other people. and that if you looked at these facts when you were happy, you would feel great because you are describing ‘unity.”

Lenu and Lila | My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

“Lila was able to speak through writing; unlike me when I wrote, unlike Sarratore in his articles and poems, unlike even many writers I had read and was reading, she expressed herself in sentences that were well constructed, and without error, even though she had stopped going to school, but–further–she left no trace of effort, you weren’t aware of the artifice of the written word. I read and I saw her, I heard her.

Juliet | The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer

“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you to another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive – all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.”

Cath | Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

“You’ve read the books?”
“I’ve seen the movies.”
Cath rolled her eyes so hard, it hurt. (Actually.) (Maybe because she was still on the edge of tears. On the edge, period.) “So you haven’t read the books.”
“I’m not really a book person.”
“That might be the most idiotic thing you’ve ever said to me”

Matilda | Matilda by Roald Dahl

“The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went on olden-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She travelled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village.”

Pearl | My Sister Jodie by Jacqueline Wilson

I was used to bright little paperbacks. These were big blue and green and crimson storybooks with gilt decorations on the spine, and very large leather-bound fairytale picture books. I ran my finger very lightly along their curves.”

Celaena Sardothian | Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

“No. I can survive well enough on my own— if given the proper reading material.”

Nesta | A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas

“I cannot survive without reading”

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

book blog

April Wrap Up | A New Favourite Book, Bridgerton 2 and More Knitting

May 5th, 2022

Hi Readers!

April was a rocky reading month which some surprising disappointments, and then probably one of the best books I have ever read.

The Final Revival Of Opal And Nev by Dawnie Walton – Review

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – Review

Othello by William Shakespeare – I’ve discovered that audiobooks are the way to go with Shakespeare plays.

Still Life by Sarah Winman – Review

Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte – Review

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas – As you can see, I really enjoyed my reread of this and I’m hoping to continue the series in May.

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang – Review

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – Review

The Island Of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak – Review

Emma by Jane Austen – Another reread or an old favourite. It’s always a good time when I’m reading Jane Austen

Virginia Woolf by Hermione Lee – Review

I didn’t get any big projects done this month. I did knit myself a bag for my library books (my tote bag couldn’t really take the weight). But mainly it was a month of planning and I’m excited to get started on some projects in May!

Bridgerton Series Two!

I think most people have probably already seen this, but if you haven’t, spoilers ahead!
I did like season two. It’s fun, bright and beautiful and really does feel like it’s revived period dramas.
But I have a problem with how drawn the romance was. It was just getting a bit ridiculous how far the drama went with Antony and Edwina and I could have done without the engagement, let alone the wedding!
But I still had a great time watching it, and now I will be reading romance books to get me through until season three.

I hope you all had an amazing April, here’s to a marvelous May!

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

book blog · Book Review

Book Review | Still Life by Sarah Winman

May 3rd, 2022

Right after finishing this I was so close to giving it four stars, but I wasn’t sure and after giving it a few days I think it’s got to be three.

| Published: 2021, G.P. Putnams |
| Genre: Historical Fiction |
| Themes: LGBTQ+, War, Art |
| Age: Adult |
| Length: 464 Pages |
| My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

1944, Italy. As bombs fall around them, two strangers meet in the ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa and share an extraordinary evening.

Ulysses Temper is a young British soldier, Evelyn Skinner a 64-year-old art historian living life on her own terms. She has come to salvage paintings from the wreckage of war and relive memories of her youth when her heart was stolen by an Italian maid in a particular room with a view. Ulysses’ chance encounter with Evelyn will transform his life – and all those who love him back home in London – forever.

I wouldn’t have gotten through this book without the audiobook, which is funny because I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve listened to an audiobook. But it was available to borrow from my library and I thought I’d give it a try because I was struggling with the tone of the book and characters. An audiobook was definitely the way to go and I really like that it was read by Sarah Winman herself.

Firstly, this book is funny! It’s a certain type of humour. Very dry, very British, but it had me cracking up and that’s a rare thing to find in a book I think. There’s also a lot about art and references to E.M. Forster, so this really could have been a new favourite for me. It just didn’t end up that way.

It spans a long period of time, from WWII, to the 1960’s, and then back again to early 20th century, but despite the amount it covers, there isn’t really a whole lot of plot to this book. It more just dips in and out of the this tight-knit group of characters from London at significant moments in their lives. Sometimes this works for me, but this time I just felt like I was reading the longest book ever. There were parts where I was really invested, and parts where I just felt bored.

But the characters are captivating and beautifully drawn out for us. You definitely get a sense of who they are, and they became so endearing to me. They’re odd and eccentric, and so full of love for one another.

For a lot of people I’m sure that would be enough, but I just thought this book lacked flow, which was probably due to the lack of plot. It’s felt quite blocky and bulky and it just didn’t draw me into the novel like I wanted it to.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

book blog

May TBR 2022 | Lots of ARCs and Big Biographies

May 2nd, 2022

Hi Readers!

It’s been a while since I’ve gone on a request spree on netgalley but in April… I did exactly that. Now I have quite a few on my kindle shelf that I need to read (my current review ratio is dismal). So May will be partly focusing on that, and also partly spent reading a couple of very long and intimidating biographies!

The Dragons Promise by Elizabeth Lim
This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub
The Last First Date by Hayley Quinn
The 24 Hour Dating Agency by Mary Jayne Baker
A Ladys Guide To Fortune Hunting by Sophie Irwin

Napoleon by Andrew Roberts – This might seem like a random pick up, but I have a reason.Firstly, my school never once touched on Napoleon or the French revolution, or really any European history other than WWII and I just think it’s such a fascinating period. But there’s also so much literature that came out of it and I think knowing the historical fact will help me get the full experience of those books.

The Romanovs by Simon Sebag Montefiore – I bought this last year and it’s beautiful spine has been eyeing me ever since. All I really know about Russian history is Anastasia, so that’s a huge gap in my knowledge and I really felt that when I was reading War and Peace (which I would really like to reread sometime this year).

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J Maas – I can’t wait to continue my reread of this series.

Grown Ups by Marian Keyes – I’ve been seeing people recommending Marian’s books here, there and everywhere at the moment. I need to see what everyones talking about!

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens – I actually also want to read Nicholas Nickleby and Barnaby Rudge as well because I’m hoping to catch up with the Dickens Vs Tolstoy book club. I’m hoping audiobooks will make this possible.

Sorrow And Bliss by Meg Mason – I’ve got until June to read the Women’s Prize shortlist. I have this out of the library so it will be read soon. The others I haven’t read (The Great Circle, The Bread the Devil Knead and The Sentence) I have reserved but I’m not sure when they’ll be coming in.

Assembly by Natasha Brown – This looks like a quick read. I’ve just been seeing so many people picking it up and I’m very intrigued.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
– I’ve actually already started this and already I’m liking this way more than I did when I first read it a few years ago.

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim – Now I have the second book (thanks to NetGalley) I can read the first. I hate waiting for series so I normally wait until all of them are released.

Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney – I want to reread this before the TV show is released.

The House Across The Lake by Riley Sager – I screamed when this came in the mail! Very excited to get to it!

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie – I’m still enjoying the Poirot books so I’d like to get to this one next.

This is a very ambitious TBR and May isn’t exactly going to be a quiet month. We’ll see what I can get through. What are you planning on reading in May?

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

book blog · Book Review

Book Review | Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens…worth the hype

April 28th, 2022

Hi Readers

I really struggled with my rating for this. I kept going back and forth between three and four stars, and I would definitely give it 3.5 if goodreads allowed. I decided to give it a bit of time and all of the good points have stuck in my mind more than the bad, so I’m going with four.

| Published: 2018 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons |
| Genre: Historical Fiction |
| Themes: Loneliness, Mystery |
| Length: 384 Pages |
| Age: Adult |
| My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

For years, rumours of the ‘Marsh Girl’ have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl.

But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life – until the unthinkable happens.

This really wasn’t what I was expecting. Where The Crawdads Sing is insanely popular now, and from the way I’d heard people talking about it, I was expecting a Ruth Ware type book. Something like The Girl On The Train or The Woman In The Window. In the end we get a hint of that, but it’s more comparable to something like To Kill A Mockingbird.

This book follows a ‘marsh girl’ growing up from a violent childhood to a lonely adulthood in 1960’s North Carolina. One thing that will always stick with me from this book is how much I fell in love with its main character. Kya is abandoned very early in the book by everyone she loves and is forced to survive on her own, but she does more than survive. She thrives. She’s incredibly strong and I was rooting for her the entire time.

I loved how this book explored loneliness and violence against women. I most of all loved it’s message about the importance of education and how words, literature, can make a person flourish.

“I wasn’t aware that words could hold so much. I didn’t know a sentence could be so full.”

The only thing that kept this book from becoming a new favourite was the atmosphere and build up of events. This book constantly toed the line between historical fiction and thriller, and whilst the ending definitely took it over the line, there was no build up of tension for me, no uncontrollable need to read on.

But in the end this was a pleasant surprise. I loved the setting, Kya, and the ending blew my little brain. I can’t wait to see what song this inspired Taylor Swift to write.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

book blog · Top Ten Tuesday

TTT | Ten Of The Best Books With Water On The Cover

April 26th, 2022

Note: Top Ten Tuesday Is A Weekly Meme Hosted by The Artsy Reader

Hi Readers!

I’ve always found myself drawn to books with water on the cover. They always promise Summer and warmth, and the sea is one of my favourite views as it reminds me of home. Here are some of the most beautiful covers with water:

The Corfu Trilogy by Gerald Durrell
These books are the essence of Summer. The best type of beach read if you’re not a fan of romance. These non-fiction memoirs are funny, but also a love letter to the island of Corfu, the nature, wildlife and surrounding sea.

Virginia Woolf by The Waves
A lot of Woolf’s books scream Summer and are set by the sea. I’m currently reading a biography of Woolf and there’s actually a reason why she wrote so much about the seaside, as it was very significant to her and her childhood.
The Waves is an incredibly unique novel, and I can’t wait to reread it soon.

The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante
I actually think all of the Neapolitan Novels have the sea on their covers.
Set in Naples, Italy, the sea is an important setting and makes these books perfect Summer reads.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
One of my favourite books ever.
This is an epistolary novel set post WWII surrounding the island of Guernsey and how they survived the Nazi occupation. Despite the hard topics it explores, this is an incredibly light, hopeful, funny book that any book lover should read.

Beach Read by Emily Henry
One of my favourite romantic contemporaries, and another one for book lovers.
It’s kind of a rival, hate to love romance about two writers who write very different genres and have very different personalities, and challenge eachother to swap genres for a project.

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
I loved this book as a teenager and actually I reread it a couple of Summers ago and it still holds up today.
This YA Contemporary romance follows a teenage girl whose father has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and they return to their family lake house for one last Summer together.

The God Of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Another one of the best books I have ever read. They way Roy writes, she just reinvents it and makes it her own.
This is set during a tumultuous time in India and follows two twins from childhood to adulthood.

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This book is all about the beach, Summer vibes. The most perfect book to read during Summer.
It is set in Malibu and follows two timelines, four siblings and their parents turbulant love story.

Tender Is The Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Fitzagerald is another author whose books I just associate with Summer.
This one I have a foggy memory of, I think because the story itself is quite bizarre and random. But it does begin on a beach in the French Riviera, so it at least starts with the right vibes.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
I mean, Percy Jackson is the son of Poseidon so of course there’s water on the cover.
This series is a great introduction into greek mythology. I highly recommend them. I’m also so excited for the TV show! They just cast Percy and I think he’s perfect!

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

book blog · Book Review

Book Review | The Bride Test by Helen Hoang…i love romance!

April 25th, 2022

Hi Readers!

I am absolutely loving romance at the moment, and it feels like every time I read a new one, it becomes a new favourite.

| Published: 2019 by Berkley |
| Genre: Contemporary Romance |
| Themes: Forced Proximity, Autism, Vietnamese Culture |
| Length: 296 Pages |
| Age: Adult |
| Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.

As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.

With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love.

This is a sequel/companion novel to The Kiss Quotient, which I loved reading earlier this year. It follows Khai, a character we meet briefly in The Kiss Quotient, and Esme, a Vietnamese woman Khai’s mother wants him to marry.

I thought this was brilliant. Funny, addictive, fast-paced, slightly melodramatic, but I was here for all of it!

What I love about these books is that they’re romances with substance. They could be enjoyed for the cute scenes, the steamy scenes, the ‘finally!’ scenes. But there’s also the story of immigration, starting over, grabbing opportunities to better yourself and your life. Through Khai we also get autism representation and how it effects and impacts relationships. I love learning about Vietnamese culture, from food to language. It’s a romance with depth.

There’s a lot I could criticise if I wasn’t completely enthralled by it. But honestly, the things I’m sure some would see as faults; the pacing, the tropes, the miscommunication, I loved it all. I also loved how rushed the ending was, because it made it feel so comical. I couldn’t keep up with what was happening and it had me bursting with laughter revelation after revelation.

In fact this book had me grinning and laughing out loud so much! It was also emotionally impactful and completely unputdownable.

I loved this just as much as it’s predecesor. I love the way Hoang builds a story and I can not wait to read more by her!

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X