review: the bride test

the bride testTitle: The Bride Test
Author: Helen Hoang
Published in 2019 by Atlantic Books
Genre: Romance (adult)
Rating: ★★★ – it was okay

I received this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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.

my thoughts on june 19

I went into this book with high expectations because I absolutely adored Helen Hoang’s previous novel, The Kiss Quotient. Getting approved for this book on Netgalley was such a joyous moment, not only because it was one of my most anticipated reads of the year but also because being an international reader on Netgalley at the moment is rough.

Unfortunately, I didn’t love The Bride Test nearly as much as I did The Kiss Quotient and I’ll get into the reasons why today.

First, let’s discuss what I liked about the novel.

The autism representation is one of my favorite aspects of Helen Hoang’s novels. It is #ownvoices in that regard as well. Both The Kiss Quotient and The Bride Test have main characters who are neurodiverse. Khai is autistic, like Stella is in the previous novel. While both are autistic, I think the author does a fantastic job at showing that people experience autism in extremely different ways. Khai can’t handle light touch, as it causes him physical pain. He’s not great with touch in general, and needs warning beforehand so he can prepare. I love that the main characters communicate on this, and that Khai tells Esme what he needs and what she can’t do. It’s so important to have a proper discussion, and I’m glad that happened.

Another aspect of the book I adored was the importance of family. I love a good family in novels because I feel that for a lot of people, family is one of the most important parts of life. Khai’s family is so wonderful and supportive, even though his mom went to Vietnam to find a wife for him… In Esme’s life, family is equally (if not even more) important. Her mom, grandmother, and daughter are her entire life and she wants to give them the world.

Lastly, I also really loved Esme’s story. She moves to the US for two months, and has to adapt to living in an entirely different country and culture. Helen Hoang shows the difficulties of that experience through small things like not noticing the smell of fish sauce, startling at the lack of a garbage smell, etc. Esme’s story line is about making your own path in life, and not letting the opportunities you get pass you by. I absolutely loved it.

[Something I forgot to mention before posting this review this morning… I really appreciated how the first sex scene unfolded between these two characters. While it was intensely awkward to read about and I was suffering from secondhand embarrassment the entire time, it was so real. It wasn’t “perfect” like it so often is in romance novels.]

Unfortunately, it’s time to move on to the aspects I didn’t like.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t read a lot of adult romance novels lately, but I was caught off guard by some things in this book. Like the neverending references to Khai’s dick. I’m not even kidding. I can’t tell you how many (terrible) euphemisms I had to endure. In the first 20% of the novel, it’s on almost every page. EVERY PAGE has a reference to his genitals, and I’m tired. I’m also side-eyeing the author for the incredible unsubtle ways of telling the reader that he is… well-endowed. Why did I need to know that??

The sex scene at about 85% of the way through the ARC also made me incredibly uncomfortable. If you’ve read the book, please talk to me about this.

I was also irritated by what I started to call Esme’s absolute idiot moments. Throughout the novel, Helen Hoang tells us that Esme is quite smart through different ways, for example the test she takes at the end of the novel. However, those are all things told to the reader. What we are shown, is the complete opposite. She knows Khai’s mom is rich because of her clothes, bag, restaurant, etc. And while Khai doesn’t live in a villa, he doesn’t hesitate to spend money on things he deems worthy of it – like his car. So why does Esme constantly remind us that she doesn’t understand why everyone thinks Khai is rich? It just makes no sense to me. It’s these small things that undermined what the other told us about Esme.

Lastly, I can’t help but wish they had the conversation about Khai being autistic earlier. They bring Esme to the US for him, make her move in with him, and never tell her about it. It makes absolutely no sense to me? Obviously, if they want her to win his heart wouldn’t it be easier if she knew what not to do at the very start? That way, she would never do something that causes him pain or discomfort. Instead, they let her blunder around, causing both of the characters pain. It makes no sense to me.


While I enjoyed quite a few aspects of this novel, I was a tad disappointed by the overall reading experience. I still adore Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient, and will continue to read the novels she releases. This one simply wasn’t it for me.

Have you read The Bride Test? What did you think of it?

 

My N.E.W.T.s TBR, my quest to become a curse worker continues

It’s almost time for the N.E.W.T.s readathon to take off, and I couldn’t be more excited. The Magical Readathons that are hosted by Book Roast are some of my absolute favorite readathons of the year, and I always try to participate in them. In April, we had the O.W.L.s, and I managed to pass 11 exams! I could pick from a wide variety of careers, but decided to stick with my original choice: becoming a curse breaker.

For all the information on the readathon, you can watch her announcement video here!

To be able to become a curse breaker, I need to pass the following N.E.W.Ts: Ancient Runes (O), Arithmancy (O), Defence Against the Dark Arts (E), and Charms (A). That totals to 9 books to read in August. I hope I’ll be able to do it, even though I have barely read any in the past 2 months. Either way, I’ll try my best. Here are some of the books I plan to read for the readathon!

Ancient Runes

Acceptable – read recommended by a friend
At the moment, I will probably read Shortcake Cake vol. 1 for this prompt. I feel like I consider every content creator I’ve followed for quite a while a friend, and I saw this manga on Pages and Panels’ YouTube channel. I’m traveling at the start of August, and this might be easier to take with me. I could also pick VengefulShit My Dad Says or Under Rose-Tainted Skies which were recommended to me by Inge, Sorcerer to the Crown or Seraphina, recommended by Annemieke, The Falconer which was recommended by Dina, or The Great Believers, recommended by Ely.

Exceeds Expectations – book written in past tense
I could pick sooo many books off my shelves for this prompt, so this is a very loose choice right now. I definitely want to read Blood for Blood soon because I’ve been putting off reading this sequel for way too long already. This readathon might just give me the push I need.

Outstanding – book that has been on your TBR for ages
I’ve had The Miniaturist since early 2015, which is kind of embarrassing to be honest. At first, I saw nothing but glowing reviews on it. Later, a lot of reviewers I trust mentioned it was a boring novel. Now I’m scared to read it, but I can’t let it sit on my shelf unread for much longer either…

Arithmancy

Acceptable – book that ends on even number of pages
Another book that has been featured on countless of my TBRs yet I still haven’t read. I have read and loved two of Ruta Sepetys’ works before, and I know I will probably love Between Shades of Gray too.

Exceeds Expectations – a standalone
I could pick so many books for this prompt! At the moment, I’m leaning towards Mango Summer, which sounds like an adorable romance. Exactly what I need in my life.

Outstanding – book that’s longer than 350 pages
This is technically an omnibus of three manga volumes instead of one novel. However, the edition is 576 pages long, and in my opinion it should count for this challenge. I’ve been loving the Fullmetal Alchemist manga, and this is the 3-in-1 edition vol. 5.

Defence Against the Dark Arts

Acceptable – book that’s black under the dust jacket
I saw on the Magical Readathon discord that it was okay to use a black paperback if you didn’t have a hardcover to fit this prompt. I don’t own many hardcovers, so I might take advantage of that. I believe that the hardcover of Contagion is black underneath the dust jacket, and I recently got that from the library. I also have The Silent Wife and The Girl King out from the library, both being (mostly) black paperbacks.

Exceeds Expectations – first book you remembered just now from your TBR
Honestly, my mind went completely black when I first read this prompt. It’s like I couldn’t remember a single book that’s on my shelves! Then my mind went to Fullmetal Alchemist, perhaps because I’m currently reading one of the volumes. As I added volume 5 of the 3-in-1 editions for one of the earlier challenges, I’m adding volume 6 here.

Charms

Acceptable – read a book you think has a gorgeous cover
I will most likely read Our Dreams at Dusk volume 1another recent manga purchase. However, if I’ve already completed my Acceptable level for Ancient Runes, I might read Shortcake Cake vol. 2 instead, to continue the manga. If by some miracle, I have quite a lot of time left in the month and can pick up a novel instead, I’ll go with Record of a Spaceborn Few, one of the most beautiful books I own.


If I have the time, I might try for more N.E.W.Ts than just the ones I need to become a curse breaker. I highly doubt that though, so I’ll focus on these first. I tried to pick different genres and formats because I find that helps speed up my reading process.

Have you read any of these? Are you participating in the N.E.W.Ts readathon?

a few settings I’d like to see more of

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly post hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is settings we’d like to see more of. Let’s get into it!

space stations/ships

In the past year, I’ve read a few novels that are set in space ships and/or space stations and I’ve loved them all. From The Illuminae Files to Binti to Gravity, all three were incredible. Which means I’m waiting for recommendations from you! Are there any other space station books you’ve enjoyed?

remote universities

the secret history

I know this is incredibly specific, but the setting was a large part of why I loved The Secret History so much. It’s set in a remote college in New England, and is so atmospheric.

(pirate) ships

Why have I barely read any books set on ships? Especially pirate ships? I love that setting, yet I was looking through the books I read and couldn’t really find any. I did adore Red Seas Under Red Skies, which takes place on a ship, as well as Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb.

Middle Eastern/African settings (historical/fantasy)

Once again, two novels that were so atmospheric. I sped through The City of Brass, partly because of the lush descriptions of 18th century Caïro. I’m also currently reading Twelve Kings, which is a fantasy novel in a desert setting I’m really enjoying.

polar fantasy settings

a shiver of snow and sky

I read A Shiver of Snow and Sky last January, and fell in love with the setting. It takes place in a little village on an incredibly cold island, where the ground is always covered in snow and the sky is clear and filled with lights. I can’t wait to read more polar fantasies, even though I will really need some recommendations for this one.

Do you have any recommendations for me? Which settings would you like to see more of?

 

Why you should watch La Casa de Papel right now (if you haven’t already)

Today’s post is dedicated to La Casa de Papel, a Netflix show I absolutely adore. You might know it as Money Heist instead, since Netflix seems to believe you need to have an English title for it to be popular abroad.

la casa de papel

Title: La Casa de Papel (2017)
Country: Spain
Creator: Álex Pina
Episodes so far: 22
Rating: ★★★★.₅ – loved it

A mysterious man, known as “The Professor”, is planning the biggest bank heist in history. To carry out the ambitious plan, he recruits a team of eight people with certain abilities who have nothing to lose. The goal is to enter the Royal Mint of Spain in Madrid, the capital of Spain, and print €2.4 billion. To do this, the team requires eleven days of seclusion, during which they have to deal with elite police forces and 67 hostages.

my thoughts on june 19

Today, I want to share my thoughts on why everyone should watch this show (if you haven’t already, of course). I know it’s quite popular in Belgium, but I don’t know whether that is true worldwide. Let’s talk about one of my new favorite shows!

You should watch it right now because…

⭐️ season 3 will be released tomorrow. On July 19th, Part 3 of the series will release on Netflix, and I can’t tell you how excited I am about it. That means it’s the perfect time for everyone to either start the show, or catch up, because it’s the type of show you’ll want to binge-watch immediately. I watched the second season in a matter of days, which is quite the feat considering how little time I’ve had to myself lately.

⭐️ heist story. If you know me, then this will come as no surprise. I absolutely adore heist stories, whether they are in novel, TV or movie format. The fact that this show centers around a heist in Madrid was the reason I first started watching. If you love heist stories as well, this is the perfect show for you.

⭐️ action-packed, never a dull moment. The first 2 seasons (22 episodes) all take part during the heist, in a timespan of 11 days. At first, I expected it to be quite a slow-paced one, because there’s only so much you can do with 22 episodes on 11 days. However, the show managed to keep me clustered to my screen the entire time. I was never bored. Instead, I found myself fearing for the characters and rooting for them the entire time. I believe the way it was edited plays a large part in making it feel more dynamic and fast-paced.

⭐️ characters you’ll fall in love with. I always seem to root for the criminals, and this is no different. As you’re spending so much time with these characters in a closed environment for days on end, you get to know them pretty well. There are 8 members of the team, and the Professor, and all of them have time to develop their characters. Some more than others, sure, but you’ll end up getting attached to all of them.

⭐️ past and present intertwined. The series switches constantly between the heist taking place and the planning process. As events unfold in the present, their level of  planning and organization reveals itself. This made every twist more exciting to me, because I couldn’t wait to find out how much of the possible outcomes they had foreseen/anticipated.

I honestly can’t recommend this series enough. If you haven’t watched it, for some reason, please do so. Soon, you’ll have 3 seasons to binge-watch! I can’t wait to watch the new season tomorrow, even though I might not be able to actually start it when it’s released. I’m going to try my best and avoid spoilers!

Have you watched La Casa de Papel? Are you excited for season 3?

8 of my auto-buy authors

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly post hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week, we’re talking about auto-buy authors. The ones whose books we’ll buy/read no matter what they’re about. I only have a handful of authors whose books I’ll read without any hesitation whatsoever, so let’s get into it.

Rin Chupeco
> read: The Bone Witch trilogy
After reading The Bone Witch trilogy, Rin Chupeco has earned herself a spot on my list of auto-buy authors. I’m excited to see what she will bring to my bookshelves next, after creating one of my all-time favorite fantasy series.

Brandon Sanderson
> read: Warbreaker, The Way of Kings, Mistborn #1-4
Is anyone surprised? Probably not. I haven’t actually bought all of his books, but I’m working on it. There are a lot of them, okay, and they’re expensive.

Julian Winters
> read: Running With Lions
It only took Julian Winters one book to end up on this list. Isn’t that completely insane? I adored Running With Lions, which I discovered at YALC last year. I managed to finish this in a matter of hours, even though I was incredibly busy. It was such a lovely book, and I can’t wait to see what he writes next.

Courtney Summers
> read: All the Rage, Sadie
A few years ago, I read All the Rage and fell in love with it. It was so dark, real, and honest which is everything I want in a contemporary read. Last year, I picked up her latest release, Sadie, which ended up being one of my favorite novels of the year. I will get to her backlist at some point, but I’m definitely buying her new releases as soon as possible.

Madeline Miller
> read: The Song of Achilles, Circe
The Song of Achilles catapulted Madeline Miller onto this list, and I pre-ordered Circe as soon as it was possible. The Song of Achilles is one of my all-time favorite novels. I cry every single time I read it. While I didn’t love Circe as much as I did her debut novel, I know I’ll buy and read every single book she publishes.

Leigh Bardugo
> read: The Grisha trilogy, Six of Crows duology
I feel like I’m lying here because I haven’t actually bought her latest release, King of Scars, yet. However, I am planning on purchasing it eventually! I don’t buy new releases immediately after they come out often because they tend to be quite expensive. Either way, I’m interested in reading every single book she ever publishes.

Alice Oseman
> read: Radio Silence, I Was Born for This, Solitaire
I find it interesting that I immediately thought of Alice Oseman for this list, even though I haven’t loved all of her books. Radio Silence was the first book of hers I ever read, which is one of my favorite contemporaries. Before meeting her last year, I bought and read I Was Born For This (which I liked) and Solitaire (which I disliked) as well. I will end up buying Heartstopper at some point in time too.

Jessica Townsend
> read: The Trials of Morrigan Crow, The Calling of Morrigan Crow
If you’ve read my reviews on these books, you’ll know that the Nevermoor series has rekindled my love for middle grade fantasy. I hadn’t enjoyed an MG book as much as these ones in ages. Jessica Townsend has reminded me why I love reading fantasy so much, and where I got started with the genre.


I don’t have 10 authors for you this week, because there aren’t that many authors out there whose books I’d buy no questions asked. I wanted to keep this 100% honest, and not include those whose books I might buy without looking at the description. These are some of my all-time favorite authors, and I can’t wait to read more of their works.

Have you read any of these authors’ books? Which authors are on your list?

review: the wrath and the dawn

the wrath and the dawnTitle: The Wrath and the Dawn
Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #1
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Published in 2015
Genre: retelling
Rating: ★★★ – it was okay

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. 

my thoughts on june 19

The Wrath and the Dawn had been on my to-read list since its release in 2015. It was one of the most hyped book in the bookish community at the time, and as always, the hype scared me. I kept putting it off because I didn’t want to end up disappointed. High expectations can really kill a reading experience, which seems rather unfair to the novel. After about 4 years and seeing some mixed reviews pop up, I decided it was finally time to read it. Unfortunately, I still found it to be a disappointing read.

The premise makes it seem like an epic read. Shahrzad volunteers to be the King’s wife, even though he kills them come morning. One of his past brides that was killed was Shahrzad’s best friend, and she is determined to get revenge. Doesn’t that sound incredible?

Unfortunately, this book fell flat for me. Shahrzad hates the king (obviously), who has killed countless of women after marrying them – including her best friend. This level of hatred, these things he has done, you cannot overcome. What I wanted from this book was a revenge story. Yet only a few days after she comes to the palace (I can’t exactly remember how long it took), Shahrzad begins to waver. She starts to notice how handsome the king is, and just doesn’t understand how he could have done such monstrous things. Because we all know attractive people are inherently nice… With every little tiny act of kindness, she proclaims he can’t be a monster after all.

Listen, girl. Killers aren’t going on a rampage every single second. A person can be perfectly charming and kind, and still murder others. They are not mutually exclusive! I hated how fast she gave up on hating him, how their “love” story developed in .2 seconds, and how she seemed to forgive him for everything. I just couldn’t deal.

Let’s be honest, this was a case of insta-love. She hated him, sure. However, after being kind of nice to her for 2 days, she was ready to throw it all away to be with him. I found myself rolling my eyes for the majority of the book, because it just seemed so unrealistic and ridiculous to me.

Of course, I knew there would be a romance in this story, an enemies-to-lovers one. I didn’t expect it to develop so fast though. That took me out of the story, and made me genuinely disinterested in reading it.

For the life of me, I can’t remember what happened in this novel aside from the romance between the two main characters. The only other person I can recall is Tariq, a character I actually enjoyed. He should have ended up with the girl, in my opinion. I guess that could still happen, because I haven’t read the sequel, but I highly doubt it.

Lastly, let’s talk about the reveal on why Khalid kills his brides every morning. Obviously, I won’t spoil what the big secret is, in case you haven’t read it. When I came across the reveal, I honestly couldn’t believe it. It made me so angry, to be honest. If you’ve read this book come talk to me on Twitter in the DMs, because I need to discuss this with you all. To me, this was such an obvious ploy to make Khalid seem more likeable, and I hated it.

All in all, this book just wasn’t for me. The romance killed what could have been an epic read for me. I simply lost interest in the story, and won’t pick up the sequel.

 

using kindle samples to test my tbr, part one

This post is inspired by my try a chapter posts, as well as by Inge – who is a wonderful human being and part of the Of Wonderland team. The past few years, I’ve created a habit of buying books on my Kindle because they are cheap and never actually reading them. There are now quite a few unread ebooks on there, and it’s stressing me out. Then, a few months ago in our Twitter group chat, Inge mentioned that she’d be downloading a Kindle sample of a book she was interested in.

It blew my mind. How had I completely forgotten about the existence of Kindle samples? It would save me so much money and stress if I learned to try out a sample before buying anything. That brings me to today’s post.

I have downloaded Kindle samples of every book that is on my to-read or interested-in-reading list. The only ones that I did not consider for this test are sequels to books I love, novels that haven’t been released yet, and ones that are unavailable on Kindle. Today, I’m going to pick 5 random books off this list, read the samples, and decide whether it’s a book I want to buy or whether it’s one to remove off the TBR.

If this works out the way I want it to, the Kindle samples test should a) lower my TBR, b) save me money, and c) help me make smarter purchases.

madness in civilization: the cultural history of insanity

madness in civilization

Through twelve chapters organized chronologically, from antiquity to today, from the Bible to Freud, from exorcism to mesmerism, from Bedlam to Victorian asylums, from the theory of humours to modern pharmacology, Andrew Scull writes compellingly of the manifestations of madness, its meanings, its consequences and our attempts to treat it.

my thoughts on the sample

While this was a very interesting introduction to the book, I don’t think I will purchase it at the moment. It is a nonfiction book I would want to pick up at some point in time, but I don’t see myself getting to it in the coming year or two. Therefore, it shouldn’t be added to my shelf just yet. I’ll leave it on my to-read shelf on Goodreads, but I’ll mark it as a not-to-buy in my Google Sheet.

darius the great is not okay

darius the great is not okayDarius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s about to take his first-ever trip to Iran, and it’s pretty overwhelming–especially when he’s also dealing with clinical depression, a disapproving dad, and a chronically anemic social life. 

my thoughts on the sample

Darius the Great Is Not Okay is going on my to-buy list immediately. I’m not sure yet whether I’ll buy a hard copy of this book or listen to the audiobook instead, but I’m going to pick this up and read it this year. In the short amount of the novel I read, there were a lot of mentions of tea and Lord of the Rings, which makes it sound like the perfect book for me. I feel like Darius’ voice is one I’ll really enjoy reading from, and I do love family-oriented novels.

one word kill

one word killIn January 1986, fifteen-year-old boy-genius Nick Hayes discovers he’s dying. And it isn’t even the strangest thing to happen to him that week.

my thoughts on the sample

The sample was definitely not what I expected, but I find myself intrigued nonetheless. I don’t actually know all that much about One Word Kill, other than it being a science fiction novel written by Mark Lawrence, and that the entire trilogy will be released in 2019. I’m pretty sure the first book and sequel were released within a month of one another? Anyway, from the sample I now that it’s 1986 and Nick has just been diagnosed with leukemia. The science fiction elements haven’t come into play yet, so this could have been the introduction of a contemporary novel if I hadn’t known better. I’m adding this to the to-buy list because I think it’s fascinating to have a main character who is suffering from cancer and is the hero (I presume) of a science fiction story at the same time.

dracul

draculThe prequel to Dracula, inspired by notes and texts left behind by the author of the classic novel, Dracul is a supernatural thriller that reveals not only Dracula’s true origins but Bram Stoker’s–and the tale of the enigmatic woman who connects them.

my thoughts on the sample

I’m not sure what I was expecting from Dracul, but I hoped it would be spooky, atmospheric, and mysterious. The sample was none of that. In all honesty, it was quite boring. It’s about Bram Stoker’s life, and the first few chapters or so talk about him as a sickly child. No one knows what ailed him, and the disease disappeared at a certain point in his life. His nanny took care of him as a sick child, and there was this pattern where he would get better and she would be sick for two days, then he would get worse again. I honestly don’t really care, and I think this isn’t a book for me. I won’t be buying this one.

the color of our sky

the color of our skyA sweeping, emotional journey of two childhood friends—one struggling to survive the human slave trade and the other on a mission to save her—two girls whose lives converge only to change one fateful night in 1993.

my thoughts on the sample

This was so beautiful! I wish I could keep reading, to be honest. I think this is a novel that’ll end up making me cry… I’m definitely going to buy a copy of The Color of Our Sky. Probably a paperback too, because I feel like I’ll want to annotate this book as I read it. I can just tell there will be tons of quotes and passages I’ll want to highlight. Ones that moved me, others that sparked a discussion within me. I’m so glad I’m doing this experiment, because this novel is one I’d kind of forgotten about after adding it to my to-read shelf on Goodreads. Now, it’s going on the priority to-buy list.

Have you read any of these books? Do you use Kindle samples?