Sunday, February 12, 2023

The Bride Test - Helen Hoang


Title: The Bride Test
Author: Helen Hoang 
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 4 Stars 


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 the first book I've read by Helen Hoang, and I loved it.  It was such a great, cute romance that hit me right in the feels. 


- The two main characters.  They were amazing, I think.  It must have been really hard for Esme to come to a new country, and to meet Khai, and go through trying to get him to fall in love with her - even if it was a ploy in the beginning.  Khai was written so well, as was Esme.  Watching the way Khai was developed as an autistic person and what he could handle, and how he approached having Esme touch him was great.  I am not autistic, so I won't even pretend to know how it feels.  I will say that I think the author wrote Khai very well, and with so much depth - it's great to know that the author understands that autistic people are not just one dimensional, and that they are people like the rest of us.  Esme was written very well also, and was such a great character.  I think both characters really learned a lot about each other and themselves throughout the course of this book and that was great.

- The settings and the build up of the story were fantastic.  The author really developed everything well, and showed a lot of great development in what was happening around Khai and Esme as their relationship developed.  For example, showing how Khai managed things at big events like weddings was great because it gave us even more insight into his character and who he was as a person.  Being in large social settings like that was difficult for him, and you could tell he was growing and making an effort when he went from bringing a book to these events to not bringing one at all. Those little things really added to the story and helped bring me into what was happening. 

- Khai's family was awesome.  I really liked his mom and brother.  They were as well developed as the two main characters, and seeing how they reacted to Khai, to Esme, and to each other and their friends and family was great.  As secondary characters they really felt real and well written to me. Khai's family was also I think mostly understanding of why he lived the way he did, but they also weren't afraid to tell Khai what was what. His brother was honest with him to the point that Khai really did learn things about himself and what he needed in his life and I loved that. 

- Esme finally being open with Khai about her daughter was so wholesome to me.  He met her daughter and was like cool, cool, here's my family.  It was just a great moment of acceptance to me showing that Khai had really grown when he realized that he loved Esme and was going to accept her wholly no matter what. 

Overall this book was wonderful and I am so glad I finally had a chance to read it.  (I am now onto The Heart Paradox, and I'll review that soon - but so far I'm loving it!)

If you've read The Bride Test, leave me a comment and let me know what you thought!  

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Dread Nation - Justina Ireland


Title: Dread Nation
Author: Justina Ireland 
Format: Audiobook
Rating: 5 Stars 


At once provocative, terrifying, and darkly subversive, Dread Nation is Justina Ireland's stunning vision of an America both foreign and familiar—a country on the brink, at the explosive crossroads where race, humanity, and survival meet.

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania—derailing the War Between the States and changing the nation forever.

In this new America, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Education Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead.

But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It's a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston's School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose.

But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. 

And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.


FRIENDS - I have hit it!  My FIRST FIVE STAR BOOK OF 2023!  

Words cannot describe how much I loved this book.  From the first page to the falling of Summerland, this book was everything I could have hoped it would be and more.  I loved the character development, the intrigue, the way that there were so many people in this book willing to stand up for what was right in the face of severe racism and prejudice.  

Jane, the fierce and independent MC and narrator of this book, is, hands down, my favorite character.  She is so strong and always willing to make her voice heard, even when she knows she's in a place where it could end very badly.  The story takes a look at "post slavery" United States, which, of course, meant nothing during those times, and Jane knew that black people like her were still treated so badly and were seen as people who couldn't be susceptible to the zombie virus because they were black.  That's crap, of course.  Watching Jane and Kathryn stand up for what's right, even in the face of other people who don't believe her, and people who don't want to fight is amazing.  Jane uses her fierce belief in what's right lead her, and helps her help Kathryn stay safe when they are shipped of to Summerland. 

When I first encountered Kathryn, I wasn't sure how I felt about her.  She seemed spoiled and arrogant, and her unwillingness to be flexible in regards to what it took to help the people around her (TAKE OFF THE DAMN CORSET!!!)  But she grew as a character, I feel, and she really showed that she had what it took to fight hard to keep people safe in an unsafe place. 

There was not only excellent character development and growth in this book, there was wonderful foreshadowing and story building.  The way the author develops the whole story and builds up what's happening from beginning to end is AMAZING. 

It's so amazing, it deserves all the awesome Schitt's Creek memes and gifs (minus the ones where Moira and David are being, you know, Moira and David.)

This book also looks at the way black people were treated during that time and develops the story and characters around that so that they are fighting on the side of right, and that's great.  They're going into this world knowing that they are being treated unfairly, and they are doing what they do to let people know that's not okay. 

The whole book was so well written and I will absolutely be reading basically anything Justina Ireland writes from here on out.  The way she develops everything and fills in her plot and characters so well is worth it.  This is a book I'd recommend to everyone who loves good writing, a well developed plot, great characters, and zombies.