Saturday, February 27, 2021

Blog Tour: The Surprise Bollywood Baby by Tara Pammi

Amazon link is an affiliate


Welcome to the first of three Blog Tour stops I'm doing for recent or upcoming Harlequin releases. 

This first one falls under the Harlequin Presents umbrella, defined as: 

This is The Surprise Bollywood Baby by Tara Pammi.

I have to be honest, I had absolutely no intention of reading this book. I only wanted to mention it in passing on a Blog Tour stop because I tend to keep choosing the same type of romance books and wanted to show you that Harlequin release different types every month. I do not find anything related to babies or pregnancy remotely romantic (three kids and two c-sections will do that to you) so if you are of a similar persuasion, you may also be pleasantly surprised like I was. My intention was to skim through a few chapters but I got sucked in to it straight away, mainly because of the female lead.

This is book two in a series, which I didn't know, but I don't feel like I missed a whole lot. Anything relevant is explained. Our main characters here are Zara, a 35 year old Bollywood film star, and Virat, a 30 year old movie director & member of a well known family involved in the film industry. Zara takes the lead in the relationship, deciding that a fake engagement with Virat is exactly what they both need to put an end to the sleazy tabloid rumours being published about them. 

This was a super fast read (one-sitting) that provided a very welcome hour and a half of escapism. One thing I enjoyed while reading it was searching some of the terms or words I wasn't familiar with and looking at some of the clothing and decor items mentioned online. There were a couple of really lavish social events in this book so it was lovely to be able to picture them. 

I also appreciated that, during the sex scenes, consent was established. Even more importantly, (and something I haven't seen in a romance novel before) there was an acknowledgment of a woman not being expected to climax through penetration alone. I have read too many novels where the woman melts into a puddle at the mere suggestion of a shaft, so to read this was honestly very refreshing.

The chemistry was cute, but overall the plot was lacking for me. I don't think the title fits with the story - the pregnancy isn't central to the plot and doesn't set the scene for the whole book. I'm not mad, I just really do not think that the cover or indeed the blurb online fit with the story at all. I found this enjoyable mainly because of Zara - I thought she was a really strong character, and felt like her growth from the woman she was a decade earlier was evident even though we didn't get to see her back then. I don't think we needed all the Vikram stuff, although I do realise that it was necessary to tie the two books together. 

The first book in the series, Claiming his Bollywood Cinderella is available on Borrowbox if you'd like to check that out. 

The Surprise Bollywood Baby is part of the March 2021 Harlequin new releases and is available now.

Kindle (Ire/UK)
Kindle (US)

You can keep up to date with the author on her website, or @TaraPammi on Twitter, @Tara_Pammi on Instagram. 

If you are interested in more Harlequin or Mills & Boon books, there are currently a ton on sale at Bookstation, with free delivery within Ireland on orders over €10. If you've never tried one before but would like to, I highly suggest having a look through the titles and seeing if something grabs you. If ever there was a time where a bit of romance and escapism was needed, this is it!

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Blog Tour: Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers

*Review Copy. 


Welcome to the first blog tour of 2021, for the much anticipated Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers.

Grace wakes up slow like molasses. The only difference is molasses is sweet, and this - the dry mouth and the pounding headache - is sour. She wakes up to the blinding desert sun, to heat that infiltrates the windows and warms her brown skin, even in late March.

Her alarm buzzes as the champagne-bubble dream pops.

Grace wakes in Las Vegas instead of her apartment in Portland, and she groans.

She's still in last night's clothes, ripped high-waisted jeans and a cropped, white BRIDE t-shirt she didn't pack. The bed is warm, which isn't surprising. But as Grace moves, shifts and tries to remember how to work her limbs, she notices it's a different kind of warm. The bed, the covers, the smooth cotton pillowcase beside her, is body-warm. Sleep-warm.

The hotel bed smells like sea-salt and spell herbs. The kind people cut up and put in tea, in bottles, soaking into oil and sealed with a little chant. It smells like kitchen magic.

She finds the will to roll over into the warm patch. Her memories begin to trickle in from the night before like a movie in rewind. There were bright lights and too-sweet drinks and one club after another. There was a girl with rose-pink cheeks and pitch-black hair and yes, sea-salt and sage behind her ears and over the soft, veiny parts of her wrists. Her name clings to the tip of Grace's tongue but does not pull free. 

The movie in Grace's head fast-forwards. The girl's hand stayed clutched in hers for the rest of the night. Her mouth was pretty pink. She clung to Grace's elbow and whispered, 'Stay with me,' when Agnes and Ximena decided to go back to the hotel.

Stay with me, she said, and Grace did. Follow me, she said, like Grace was used to doing. Follow your alarm. Follow your schedule. Follow your rubric. Follow your graduation plan. Follow a salt and sage girl through a city of lights and find yourself at the steps of a church.

Maybe it wasn't a church. It didn't seem like one. A place with fake flowers and red carpet and a man in a white suit. A fake priest. Two girls giggled through champagne bubbles and said yes. Grace covers her eyes and sees it play out.

'Jesus,' she mutters, sitting up suddenly and clutching the sheets to keep herself steady. 
Excerpt copyright Morgan Rogers ©

Grace Porter, newly graduated Doctor of Astronomy, has done something VERY un-Grace-Porter-like. She appears to have met a girl in Vegas and gotten married - but she has no idea who the girl is. Left only with a photo and a business card for a late night radio talkshow in Brooklyn, Grace needs to figure out what happened and work out if she has just made the biggest mistake of her well-planned life, or if her future really was written in the stars. 

I adored this book so much. It's beautiful. It's emotional, funny, relatable - the author does such a wonderful job portraying Grace's sheer exhaustion at wanting to stick to "THE PLAN", please her parents, but also find happiness for herself. By Grace's age (28), we're expected to have everything fiured out, but Grace is stuck. Racism and Sexism hinder her job prospects, and she's drowning under the weight of her father's expectations. This beautiful mystery woman may just be the push to the surface she needs - but Grace still has to learn to swim to shore. 

This is a beautiful story about finding your way even when you have a path, and about defining what "success" actually means for you. It's also a look at mental health, familial & societal pressures, and the extra expectations placed upon Black women entering the workplace. A stunning #ownvoices debut. 

This one may be a little harder to track down in Ireland or the UK - but please do, it's worth it. 

Honey Girl is published by Park Row books and was released on February 23, 2021. 

Thank you to Lia at Harper Collins for having me on this blog tour and for the ARC via Netgalley.

I have linked some of the others on the tour below so you can check out their reviews if you're interested in hearing more about this book (or just interested in finding more book blogs to read). 

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Throwback Thursday: The Babysitters Club #12 - Claudia and the New Girl


I've been really looking forward to getting to this book, mainly because Claudia is my favourite member of the BSC (and probably one of my top book characters in general), but also because the style has been thin on the ground throughout the last few books. 

Firstly, the whitewashing is especially strong on the UK/Ireland cover of this one - could be Claudia Kishi, could be Darlene Conner. Who knows. A couple of years ago, blogger Phil Yu (aka Angry Asian Man) re-imagined some of the US covers to reflect what Claudia might have actually had to deal with during her time as a sitter, and while they are intentionally very funny, they're also a stark reminder of how Claudia should have been represented on these covers. 

We kick off with the aformentioned Claudia, who is finding it hard to concentrate in class. We've read in a previous book how Claudia sometimes feels like she's less intelligent than her sister and her peers, and this book is no different. She's struggling with schoolwork and focus. Then, suddenly, all Claudia's prayers are answered when a glam new girl, Ashley, walks into her classroom. 

Claudia knows immediately that she wants to be friends with Ashley - they both have very individual styles of fashion, they're both into art, and Claudia feels like at long last, she will have someone her own age who will understand her passion for art. Ashley does - but unfortunately that's ALL she sees. She's really dismissive of the BSC, and she encourages Claudia to try and spend more time on her art than "the uselessness" of babysitting. Frankly, she's a bit up her own arse and entirely too judgemental for a white girl wearing what's described as "an Indian headband". The club members are really upset when Claudia blows them off to spend time with Ashley, and Claudia ends up being pulled in both directions just trying to make everyone happy and find some time to do what she loves. The girls do some really shitty things to Claudia, including eating and/or hiding all her snacks, leaving her some rotten notes and entries in the club notebook, and short-sheeting her bed (which I had never heard of, but sounds like a really irritating sibling prank). 

The fashion in this book is predictably some of the best we've seen so far:

"[Ashley was wearing] a very pretty pink flowered skirt that was full and so long it touched the tops of her shoes - which I soon realized were not shoes, but sort of hiking boots. Her blouse, loose and lacy, was embroidered with pink flowers, and both of her wrists were loaded with silver bangle bracelets."

"[Ashley] was wearing a long, all-the-way-to-her-ankles dress with three rows of ruffles at the bottom. A strip of black cloth was tied around her head."

"Ashley was wearing a puffy white blouse, a blue-jean jacket, a long blue-jean skirt, and those hiking boots again. Beaded bracelets circled both wrists, and she'd tied a strip of faded denim around her head, like an Indian headband."

"[Claudia] was wearing a very short pink cotton dress, white tights, and black ballet slippers. I had swept all of my hair way over to one side, where it was held in place with a piece of pink cloth that matched the dress. Only one ear showed, and in it I had put my big palm tree earring."

This is the first time where we see how passionate Claudia is about art - when Ashley's last name is announced as Wyeth, Claudia asks her if she's related to the famous painter Andrew Wyeth (who painted one of my all time favourite pictures, Christina's World).  Claudia struggling at school and prioritising her artistic endeavours over her education was important representation - especially in the late 1980s. So important, in fact, that it inspired a generation of Asian women to follow their creative passions and continue to proudly break traditional stereotypes often placed upon them by society. There's an short documentary on Netflix about it, I really recommend you watch it - it's called "The Claudia Kishi Club". 

Meanwhile, Dawn's brother Jeff is still having problems adjusting after their parents divorce, and in a frankly bizarre scene, he calls Dawn when she's babysitting the Perkins girls and tells her he has been called in to the Principal's office at school but he can't get a hold of their mother. Dawn rocks up to the office, two little kids in tow, to try and speak to Jeff's teacher. Dawn is twelve? Thirteen? 

As usual, everything works out in the end, and Claudia even ends up having a sculpture displayed in a local art gallery. Everyone makes up, and all is right in Stoneybrook once more. 

Doritos (location undisclosed)
Bazooka Bubble Gum in her hollow book
Cookies under her pillow
Twinkies in her sock drawer
Pretzels in an old pajama bag
Crackers in the Monopoly box
Marshmallows in a shoe box
Licorice Sticks under her mattress

Claudia's English class are doing a project on a selection of books that have won a Newbery Medal. The Newbery Medals were started by the American Library Association in 1922, named after "the father of children's literature 18th century bookseller John Newbury, who is credited with making children's literature "a sustainable and profitable part of the business market". They are awarded annually to an author who has made "the most distinguishing contribution" to children's literature. You can view the full list of Newbery winners here

Claudia plays a game called "Red Light, Green Light" with some children she's sitting. We called this game Statues as kids, it's where one person faces away and the others try to creep up behind them before they turn back around. 

Claudia mentions having watched Woodstock, a 1970s documentary on the famous 1969 New York festival of the same name. I personally prefer the 1995 Wigstock movie, an equally defining moment in culture that can be seen on YouTube across 8 parts starting here

Stacey is wearing Moonlight Mist perfume and Claudia remarks that it smells like roses. This has to be Helena Rubinstein's Moonlight Mist, a fragrance released in the 1950s under both her main brand and her husband's Gourielli line. There's a beautiful high quality print ad currently listed on eBay that you can view here

Tissues at the ready for the next book, because Stacey's about to skip town.