Tuesday, August 25, 2020

You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria

It's been a minute since I devoured a book in less than a day, but Alexis Daria's You Had Me at Hola drew me in from the first page with her leading lady, Jasmine, and her male counterpart, Ashton. I love stories with big, messy but loving families, sexy men with secrets, and women who know what they want. Daria did not let me down!

From the beginning, readers are introduced to Jasmine and her cousins Ava and Michelle, and I immediately want books about Ava and Michelle too because they are snarky and awesome and insightful and I want to see more of this family, especially their abuela. It's said that cousins are your first friends and Ava and Michelle know Jasmine's history of falling for men better than most and are determined to keep her on track with her plan to becoming a leading lady.

Ashton Suarez is a sexy man with secrets. As soon as I understood he came from the telenovela world and was hoping to go more "mainstream" by doing a bilingual show, I immediately thought of Rojelio De La Vega from Jane the Virgin and couldn't get him out of my head, which is fine because have you seen Jaime Camil? You haven't? Ok, I'm going to pause while you go Google him because you need to understand the levels of fineness we're talking about. 💃🏾salsas to Celia while I wait💃🏾 Ok, you've seen him? Good, let's continue.

Jasmine has a plan, Ashton has a plan, can they both get what they want and stick to the plan? Yes and no.They can get it but there has to be some compromising on the parts of the both. Do they slide into the sheets and do the horizontal hokey pokey? Yes, it's a telenovela within a telenovela, did you really think there'd be no sex? And it's hot and steamy and whew!

As you can tell, I really enjoyed You Had Me at Hola, so much so that I'm adding Alexis Daria's backlist to my TBR!

The Secret Women by Sheila Williams

Elise, Carmen and DeeDee meet in a yoga class and quickly bond over the loss of their mothers. Whether their mothers passed years ago or recently, all of the women have some healing to do. Since all three have or need to sort through their mother's things, they decide to tackle the tasks together, leading to the discovery of the secrets their mothers kept from them when they were alive.

This book was an absolute "can't put down, must finish reading this or I won't be able to sleep because I'll be wondering what the characters are doing" read. I loved that the women were older and that their ages ranged from their 40s to their 60s, because that's life, right? Growing up, your friends tend to be your age, but as an adult, you make friends with people you have things in common with. So at 21, you probably never imagined you'd be hanging out with a 45 year old, but at 40something, the concept of age-based friendship becomes an illusion.

The other aspect of the book that I was really loved as the recognition of mothers are fully realized beings outside of being mothers. Ask yourself how old you were when it first dawned on you that your mother had a whole life before you came along, one that didn't include you. She didn't just wake up as your mother, she was out doing things, living (and probably well) long before you came along. These are things that all three ladies discover in The Secret Women. And learning these kinds of things then lead you to reconcile what you knew and what you thought you knew about your mother. Talk about a wig snatching read!

Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan

Can you go through a sophomore slump with your fourth book? If you count Crazy Rich Asians, China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems as one book, and I tend to see series that way, then yes, a sophomore slump with your fourth book is totally possible. I tried really hard to like Sex and Vanity, even contemplated quitting the book about a third in, but it's Kevin Kwan, right? So I persisted.

The book opens in Italy with an elaborate over the top wedding and the extravagant events leading up to it, so we're still looking at life through the crazy wealth lens. And that would be fine if the story line and characters weren't so dreadfully boring. Kwan spends a great deal of time telling readers what schools each character attended, from nursery school all the way through college or finishing school. Honestly, who cares? It didn't make any of them any more interesting.

The most interesting characters, in that they weren't so boring, so bland, SO vanilla, were the protagonist's mysterious love interest and his mother. Even the protagonist, Lucie, is boring. Though she's biracial (white and Chinese), her world is ridiculously white and she absorbs microaggressions daily from her family and friends without ever clapping back. I just ... Kevin Kwan, what were you trying to do with this book? Because you didn't.

Destination Wedding by Diksha Basu

Diksha Basu's The Windfall had just the right amount of quirkiness so Destination Wedding was high on my TBR list. That same quirkiness that shone through in The Windfall makes an appearance again in Destination Wedding, but where Basu mostly focused on a small cast of characters previous work, she does the opposite in her latest.

There were almost too many characters to keep up with, which made it difficult for me to initially keep them straight and/or care about their story line. At times, it felt like the story lines were meandering and characters who could have made the overall book more enjoyable were relegated to minor roles (e.g., the bride and groom).

It's also interesting to note the gratuitous white characters who were included in a story that centered Indian protagonists. I honestly can't say that the presence of either of them added much to the story and have to wonder if their addition was meant to broaden the writer's audience.

Always the Queen: The Denise LaSalle Story by Denise LaSalle

I came to Denise LaSalle's music in the latter part of her career, so I was surprised to find that she saw herself as a soul singer before she was ever a blues singer. I was delighted to see she was friends with some of my favorite blues musicians, e.g., Millie Jackson, Bobby Rush and blown away when I found out she wrote ZZ Hill's Someone Else is Steppin' In.

 Written in a conversational tone, Always the Queen felt like I was sitting at my aunt's house listening to her reminisce about her version of the good old days, whether factual or as she remembered them. At times, I had a difficult time determining whether the events Ms LaSalle wrote about were real or simply embellishments. Regardless, this was a quick and enjoyable read for anyone familiar with her music and her many business adventures.

Love's Recipe by Mila Nicks

I do love a good small town romance with a protagonist who's recently returned home. Usually there's some history between the love interests, but there's not the case with Love's Recipe so there are no serious hurdles to overcome as far as that's concerned. Nicks does highlight a contentious mother-daughter relationship, which is a bit of a departure from what we usually see in the small town romance genre, but it feels honest and refreshing in a genre where everything and everyone tends to be practically picture perfect.

The author does characters and their story lines really well. There's a bit of her next book, Wild, Dark Horses included at the end of Love's Recipe. Sign me up because the little I read of it already has me hooked.