Romance Interlude 1.2

This was an unplanned “heart eyes-sending so much love-squee!” books by Pippa Grant post. This was especially fun with quirky characters and unexpected crushes (on my part…hahaha). If you’re looking for rom-coms with ridiculousness-infused plots that will make people stare at you for laughing a tad too loudly, Pippa Grant novels should be on your list. While these can be read as stand-alone, which is how I read them, you will see recurring characters here and there.

Real Fake Love (2020)
by Pippa Grant
ISBN: 9781940517865
Publication: September 3, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: Copper Valley Fireballs #2

One liner: Woman asks ex-fiance’s friend to teach her how to not fall in love but things backfire.

This is my first book by Pippa Grant, and I did not know what I was getting myself into. It is ridiculously funny! I had to reread the beginning just to make sure I didn’t accidentally skip a few pages because I had to ask myself a few times “did this really just happen?” I liked Henri a lot because she is a book geek and in love with being in love. She is quirky and full of heart. Luca is prickly at first but when Henri starts breaking through his exterior, you get to learn a lot about why he hates love. It’s an opposites attract, fake dating novel that had my heart fluttering at the end. Unfortunately, I think this also set the bar and I couldn’t help comparing the subsequent books I ready by Grant.

America’s Geekheart (2019)
by Pippa Grant
ISBN: 9781940517506
Publication: March 31, 2019
Goodreads Summary
Series: Bro Code #2

One liner: A misogynistic tweet to the wrong person leads to fake dating but real falling in love.

What can I say? I couldn’t help searching for more by Pippa Grant. The book is almost as entertaining as Real Fake Love but I found it slower-paced. The breakout character for me here is Beck Ryder who falls pretty quickly for Sarah Dempsey, our geeky environmental engineer. If I could choose a character who would be my best friend to fall in love with, I would choose him. We’d obviously already be best friends already because he is goofy. We would have so much fun together. More importantly, he’d love me for me because that’s how he loved Sarah…except it would be me. (Yup, he was my unexpected crush. Yup, I know this was supposed to be a review but I couldn’t help turn it into how he and I would be great together. Hahaha.) I cannot gush about this book without also mentioning how I also loved the references to Firefly and Serenity. This is another opposites attract, fake dating novel and my eyes couldn’t keep from shooting hearts at Beck. Sarah is great but read this one for Beck.

Hosed (2019)
by Pippa Grant & Lili Valente
ISBN: 9781940517506
Publication: March 31, 2019
Goodreads Summary
Series: Happy Cat #1

One liner: Game developer returns home to give her sister a much needed break and meets the boy–now a firefighter–who broke her heart in high school.

I never could have imagined I would be reading about dildo football and arson at a sex toy company. This wasn’t as fun to read as Real Fake Love (and at this point, what book will be?) but the romance is nearly as sizzling and Ryan the firefighter is right up there with the rest of Grant’s male leads in his swooniness. Cassie is nerdy and just a bit awkward–I liked her.

Rockaway Bride (2018)
by Pippa Grant
ISBN: 9781940517384
Publication: June 29, 2018
Goodreads Summary
Series: The Girl Band Books #3

One liner: Rockstar kidnaps bride of the person who stole his money but gets more than he bargained for when she takes him hostage instead.

Growing up poor and raised by a single mother, Willow always ensures her mother doesn’t worry about her, choosing to live against her more daring nature. It takes Dax kidnapping her, if you could really even call it that after their roles somewhat quickly switch, to push her to embrace her true nature. I liked Willow. She was funny and genuinely kind but by no means a prude. It’s clear that she cares about the people around her. Willow’s journey resonated with me–I was even teary at a few points–because it’s about living life the way you want to, embracing who you are rather than hiding from it, and not letting people–even those you love and love you–hold you back from who are…or maybe in this case not holding yourself back for them. Also, I was wrong earlier. I think this one rivals my love for Real Fake Love, except for the ending being a bit drawn out. I laughed a lot, almost as much as with Real Fake Love.

The Wise One (2020)

by K.T. Anglehart
ISBN: 9781777331719
Publication date: October 28, 2020
Series: The Scottish Scrolls #1

**I was provided a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

The Wise One is an urban fantasy that incorporates Celtic folklore to create a world in which McKenna, the main character, journeys to discover who or what she is. While the novel begins in Massachusetts, it quickly shifts to a trip to Ireland with new friend Nissa along with Cillian, someone who just happens to be going that way. Oddly enough, everything seems to fall magically into place…as if something or someone is ensuring she arrives at her destination. (Hmm…)

With the title being so mysterious, and the beginning of the book not giving too much away, I couldn’t help but turn to the next page, swiping quickly through the book because I needed to know who or what the wise one was. I was not disappointed at the reveal. In fact, the reveal and the events surrounding it were probably my favorite parts of the novel.

The story moves quickly and the beginning immediately had me engaged in McKenna’s story. I did have a lot of questions though. Why does Nissa follow McKenna without question? Why is a random couple helping McKenna and Nissa out? How is everything just falling so easily into place? The answer seems to be that events are being set in motion to ensure McKenna is headed where she is supposed to be. While an acceptable answer–for now–I hope more will be explained in the next books.

I expected magic to play a bigger role than it actually did. Readers shouldn’t expect to see much magic utilized or else they’ll be disappointed. The book is more of an introduction., leading to something that doesn’t happen in this one. We get glimpses of the world Anglehart is constructing and the magical creatures that inhabit it but not much else until closer to the end. It’s mostly about the manifestations of McKenna’s powers and her trying to figure them out–like an origin story. I do hope this is building to something bigger.

Something that bothered me immensely was one of McKenna’s dads (Andre) being okay with her running away from home. She’s underage with nowhere to stay. How was it that he felt they should just wait at home for her to return or contact them when she was ready? Sure, it’s the ’90s and all but even in the ’90s your kid running away from home doesn’t mean you just let her go. I was confused by his attitude. Maybe…more on this in the next installment??

Despite all these questions, I liked the story overall. It’s a lot of traveling and nothing big happens but it’s still interesting. I want to know more about the wise one and the role the wise one will play going forward. This alone kept me turning pages even when I might have stopped if it were some other book. It does end abruptly with a cliff hanger. I had to make sure that it really was the end of the book. If you’re not a fan of cliff hangers, you might want to wait to read this.

The Hallotober Tag

Thank you, Liza from The Inharmonious Heroine for tagging me!

The Hallotober Tag was created by Jordanne from The Life of A Glasgow Girl.

Hallotober Rules

  1. Thank the person who tagged you and link to their post 
  2. Put the rules at the beginning or after introduction
  3. Answer the 13 questions 
  4. Tag 13 people to do the tag 
  5. Delete Question 13, add a new number one question of your own
  6. You are free to use the tag image somewhere in the post

My Answers

  1. What’s your favorite spooky book?
    I don’t do horror or spooky well but I must say Hanna Alkaf’s The Girl and the Ghost (2020) is spooky (at least for me) and one of my favorite reads this year.
  2. What’s your favourite thing about October?
    I like that it’s the start of the cold season in California (U.S.), and I can start eating more chili and all sorts of soups. Although not as picturesque here as compared to the rest of the country/world, I do love watching leaves change colors.
  1.  Are you a big celebrator of Halloween?
    Not really. I like Halloween, and I love dressing up but I never get to because no one wants to dress up with me.
  2. What’s your favourite horror movie?
    I am terrified of anything remotely scary. I’ve tried to outrun my shadow before I realized it was my shadow so you can only imagine how horror movies make me feel. This likely does not qualify as a horror movie but one of my favorite movies is The Frighteners (1996).
  1. Would you rather a cosy night in watching horrors or a big night out in a costume?
    The cozy night but please no horrors.
  2. Which has been your most favourite costume to date?
    Does it count if I haven’t actually worn it? Even though I can’t technically go anywhere this year, I decided to go steampunk with leggings, corset, coat….the works. We’ll see how that pans out…
  3. Bobbing for apples or pin the hat on the witch?
    Bobbing for apples.
  1. How do you celebrate Halloween?
    For the last few years, I’ve accompanied my nieces trick-or-treating. When I tried to stay in, I was roped into going because they wanted to know why their auntie didn’t want to go with them. (Sucker for kids…)
  2. What’s your least favourite horror?
    Hmm..Nothing comes to mind at the moment. I probably haven’t watched enough.
  1. Do you have a favourite trick or treating memory?
    Because we weren’t going anywhere too far from the neighborhood, our chaperone (either dad or uncle) would let us sit in the back of the truck so we didn’t have to walk. It was so much fun.
  2. What’s your favourite thing about Halloween?
    I love how excited kids are when they’re dressed up and walking door-to-door. It makes my heart happy. (I’m sappy. I know…)
  3. Scary costume or silly costume?
    Silly costume.
  4. What’s your favourite Halloween candy?
    Anything chocolate will do for me! I have a sweet tooth and eat just about anything.

My Questions

  1. If you were paid $1 million to stay the weekend in a house that was haunted, would you do it?
  2. What’s your favorite spooky book?
  3. What’s your favourite thing about October?
  4.  Are you a big celebrator of Halloween?
  5. What’s your favourite horror movie?
  6. Would you rather a cosy night in watching horrors or a big night out in a costume?
  7. Which has been your most favourite costume to date?
  8. Bobbing for apples or pin the hat on the witch?
  9. How do you celebrate Halloween?
  10. What’s your least favourite horror?
  11. Do you have a favourite trick or treating memory?
  12. What’s your favourite thing about Halloween?
  13. Scary costume or silly costume?

(Tag. You’re it.)

  1. Priya | The Bibliophilic World
  2. Heather | Young At Heart Reader
  3. Em | A Girl Called Em
  4. Kathryn | Kathryn Books
  5. Sharon | Sharon the Book Dragon’s Hoard of Books
  6. Bella | Bella’s Book Obsession
  7. Ellie | Books by the Boats
  8. Emily | Books with Raven
  9. J | Midnight Book Blog
  10. Queenie Clem | Queenie’s Booktalk & Reviews
  11. Kalea Vy | Merely A Fable
  12. Lyra | Defiantly Yours
  13. Sandee | Fictionally Sandee

Romance Interlude 1.1

I read romance novels like how I breathe, inhaling them for my survival. As noted in a prior post, I like the guaranteed HEA and the zings that come when our romantic leads fall in love. Romance novels also serve as a bit of a palate cleanser when I find myself in a book coma after reading my other favorites, SFF novels.

I often read several romantic titles in a week and haven’t been able to properly provide much feedback other than ratings or noting them as “read,” so decided wrap ups (when possible) might be helpful. These will be mini-reviews of books that might have made me swoon or made me shake my fists in the air and everything else in between. Be forewarned, these will probably be more gushing or griping–reactionary and maybe less review-y. I do promise to try to remain as sensical as possible.

This inaugural post is filled with bad boys, some more likeable than others.

Rock Strong (2015)
by Virna DePaul
ISBN: 9781947419629
Publication: June 22, 2015
Goodreads Summary
Series: Rock Candy #2

One Liner: Music school graduate and bad boy frontman fall for each other.

One of my favorite tropes is when opposites attract. Liam Collier is immediately attracted to the band’s cellist Abby Chan who is “different from the other girls.” (I know, I know…this one can be an *eye roll* sometimes.) He immediately tries wooing her but keeps screwing up even when he gets the girl–which pissed me off but made for good groveling. While I liked Abby, Liam only had moments–sometimes he was sweet and other times I didn’t understand what Abby saw in him. I connected with Abby’s character and didn’t mind Liam’s groveling too much. The more I think about it, the more I waver between a 3 and 4 so 3.5 it is–I really dislike Liam’s behavior. (Content warning: Cheating but it’s not over the top. I hate cheating and would likely have stayed away if I knew ahead of time.)

Sing to Me (2019)
by Ketley Allison
ISBN: 9781706902706
Publication: November 14, 2019
Goodreads Summary

One Liner: Rockstar hires new nanny and fights their mutual attraction.

I’m a sucker for kids and single fathers. I immediately liked Harper (the new nanny). She made such a great first impression on me and on Rex–late for the interview and soaking wet from the rain while still unafraid to go up against a scowling potential employer who tries questioning her abilities. Rex loves his daughter a lot, which always makes my knees go weak. Rex was immediately physically attracted to her and tried fighting his attraction (well, they both do) but I would have liked some more development before he jumped into it especially because of his reasons for needing a new nanny. I liked Harper’s backstory and found it unique among the romance novels I’ve read this year. (I haven’t read very much so it might not be that unique but just my first brush with it.) Rex’s life is complicated but he sure knows how to make grand gestures.

Riot House (2020)
by Callie Hart
ISBN: 9798639801532
Publication Date: April 29, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: Crooked Sinners #1

One Liner: Campus bad boy makes claim on new girl but ends up falling for her.

I can see why it’s rated highly by readers, and I can also understand why many reviews gush about how good the book is…(here it comes) BUT I couldn’t stand male protagonist Wren Jacobi. He was supposed to be this mysterious, brooding (maybe even misunderstood?) individual. In the beginning, I didn’t mind but then it just kept going on and on. I got so irritated with his attitude that I couldn’t take it anymore. For some reason, Elodie Stillwater couldn’t help but be attracted to him. I have no idea why because he is such a d*ck. (Yup, I had to go there.) The best part of the book was the end (certainly not because it finally ended–I’m not being sarcastic either). I wish this subplot had been a larger focus of the book. I would have probably enjoyed it more. Despite my dislike of the male lead, it is well-written and I will probably pick up something from Hart again.

A Stitch in Time (2020)

by Kelley Armstrong
ISBN: 9781596069688
Publication Date: October 13, 2020/October 31, 2020
(Goodreads/Amazon shows 10/13 while Netgalley provided me with 10/31 but it seems to be available already)

**I was provided a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Time slips, lost love, and a haunted manor…oh my! As a child, Bronwyn visited Thorne Manor nearly every summer but stopped due to extenuating circumstances.  She becomes convinced William, a boy she befriends after traveling to the past, was just a figment of her imagination and ghosts aren’t real.  Of course, this all changes after the first ghost appears when she returns to Thorne Manor, and she accidentally meets William again.     

A Stitch in Time is a story for those who are faint of heart but still want to enjoy a book with ghosts in it.  It’s not terribly scary—this comes from someone timid about anything frightening—so the book is certified for reading alone at night but just to be safe you should leave the light on.  The ghosts won’t have you hiding under the covers but they’re creepy enough that you’ll shrink into yourself to get away from the pages while your eyes stayed glued for what’s coming next. 

Part of the reason why it isn’t as scary is that the haunting of Thorne Manor takes a backseat to the romance. I always find rekindling lost love to be compelling and Armstrong makes a strong case for Bronwyn and William reuniting.  What’s better than lost love except lost love separated by hundreds of years? Also, can you deny them a relationship after how they meet again more than twenty years later? (Rawr!) While I liked the romance a lot, sometimes the excessive focus on the romance meant less time for the mysteries surrounding the ghosts. (I never thought I’d say that…ever.)

I like time slips but one of the most difficult things about crafting a book with time travel is all the rules that come with it, and the book didn’t seem to have many of those.  Overall, the book is entertaining but it is best enjoyed when the time travel rules, or lack of them, can be overlooked.

Jane in Love (2020)

by Rachel Givney
ISBN: 9780063019089
Publication date: October 27, 2020

**I was provided a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**
(Did I mention I was an Austen fan…)

Jane Austen finds herself in modern-day England after being promised that a spell will lead her to true love. She befriends Sofia Wentworth, who coincidentally is starring in a movie adaptation of Northanger Abbey, and finds a potential love interest in Sofia’s brother Fred. Just as she finally has love within her grasp, time travel deals her a harsh blow: staying means her literary works will disappear from history but returning home means she will lose a love that doesn’t exist in her time.

The beginning is a bit slow but picks up once Jane has been in the present for a while. There are multiple storylines, making it difficult for the author to allot enough time for each to appropriately play out. There’s Jane and Fred falling in love. There’s Sofia trying to figure out how to get Jane back home. Then, there’s Sofia trying to get back with her husband. At first, the latter story seems a bit out of place but Givney does successfully connect it all in the end.

With so many moving parts, I sometimes did not know what I was getting in the next chapter. A lot of time was spent on Jane’s marveling at the new world and trying to get around that I don’t think enough was spent on establishing Fred and Jane’s relationship. They do have some cute moments but I’m not sure if I could add it up to love so quickly. Their relationship felt rushed. But, that could just be the skeptic in me. Sometimes when you know, you just know I guess.

The other story I wanted more time with was that of Sofia and her ex-husband. Sofia initially came across snobbish but she quickly became a favorite character. Her personality grew on me, and she had some of the funniest lines in here. One of my favorites is probably at the hospital, and she’s talking to the doctor: “ ‘What’s the prognosis, Doc?’ Sofia asked. ‘Don’t dumb it down. I did a three-episode special-guest run on ER where I played a beautiful but troubled neurosurgeon.’” I couldn’t stop laughing. I think Sofia’s story could have been a book of its own. I would definitely pick that one up.

There doesn’t seem to be any rules with the time traveling. Jane travels through time and items travel with Jane. How does it work exactly? I’m not really sure but if you just take it as is and not ask a lot of questions, then you’ll be fine. The book is somewhat predictable as well but it doesn’t necessarily take away from being able to enjoy the book. If anything, you just have to stick through Jane seeing the modern world and once you do that, the rest is a good read (much closer to a 4 star).

Overall, I enjoyed the book. It was slow to begin but once friendships were formed and love was found, I was fully immersed in the novel and invested in the relationships. The ending was expected, albeit bittersweet. Givney does an excellent job of tying everything in but it nevertheless left me a bit dejected, making me wonder if Austen’s true ending was still a happy one… because I like her and I want people I like to have happy endings.

Pride and Papercuts (2020)

by Staci Hart
ISBN: 9798695274769
Publication: October 13, 2020
Series: The Austens #5 (also connected to series The Bennet Brothers)

**I received a copy of the book from the publisher and author. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

You don’t have to be a Pride and Prejudice (P&P) fan to enjoy Pride and Papercuts.  In fact, not reading P&P might even be beneficial because if you’ve read (or watched) the former, you might end up making too many comparisons and forget to enjoy Hart’s retelling on its own merit. Overall, Pride and Papercuts is better than average at 3.5 stars. 

The book tracks the original well, integrating new elements into the original plot quite nicely.  There were points when I wondered how an incident would fit in, but Hart managed it seamlessly.  In particular, Lydia is now Luke and married (see Coming Up Roses) so I wondered what would happen to Wickham but this was resolved satisfactorily.  Hart infuses enough of her flair to make the story her own. Like many of her other novels, the imagery and the evocation of emotions is present (these are largely why I am a fan of Staci Hart and continue to read her novels even if I haven’t loved all of them).  While I came here for the romance between Liam (Darcy) and Laney (Lizzy), it was the bonds between siblings and the commitment to family that I truly took away from the novel. Of course, this isn’t to say that readers will be disappointed in the romance.  This is an enemies-to-lovers novel after all, and it checks all the right boxes: bickering, angst, and desire.

***The remaining is the comparison I couldn’t help but make.***

I found the elements outside Liam and Laney’s relationship to be the real standouts of the novel.  Hart’s Georgie is the most welcomed change. Georgie is a combination of two characters, Bingley (Darcy’s best friend) and Georgiana (Darcy’s sister).  I always felt Georgiana was a missed opportunity in Austen’s novel. She was treated delicately with nothing much to do but this iteration of Georgiana is one I like much better. Georgie still loves her brother but she isn’t so fragile that something like seeing Wickham again could break her.  While Georgie still listens to Liam, they are at least on a more equal footing than they were in P&P. 

Georgie and Liam’s relationship, one of respect and adoration, demonstrates Hart’s strength in writing strong familial bonds.  Like Georgie and Liam, Jett and Laney are quite close, likely even closer than P&P’s Jane and Lizzy. The lengths they’re willing to go to for one another made me root for their HEA even more.  I did wish more time was spent showcasing Mr. Bennet’s fondness for his daughter.

More difficult for me to enjoy or settle into was Liam and Laney’s relationship. I did like Laney and felt she was an accurate depiction of present-day Lizzy. I liked Liam as well–I really liked being able to see into his head– but I’m not exactly sure how I feel about them together. They verbally sparred so often it became difficult for me to believe they could be attracted to one another despite each repeatedly noting how they were attracted to the other.  While P&P has less interaction between the leads (as compared to Pride and Papercuts) it still creates this slow burn that makes hearts race when Darcy unexpectedly confesses, Pride and Papercuts’ leads, more often than not, left me frustrated. The consolation, however, was how much I liked them working together when they could overlook one another’s perceived faults. Of course, I’m also quite aware that I hold Lizzy and Darcy in a special vault in my heart.  I may have made Lizzy and Darcy too much to live up to.  But, it’s also possible I would still feel this way about the book even if I wasn’t a P&P devotee.

Sharing the Refugee Experience: The Paper Boat (2020) and The Most Beautiful Thing (2020)

Recently, I had the opportunity to review two children’s books, both providing a glimpse into the refugee experience. As a child of refugees, I grew up with the mentality that I encompass the hopes and dreams of my parents and their sacrifices. My success is not necessarily my own. My parents drilled this into me at a young age, but I don’t think I truly understood this until I was older. (While it remains a heavy burden, some days are easier than others.)

What was this idea of communal success? What were my parents’ sacrifices? Why was it important for them to see me succeed (other than being their child of course)? These ideas, these concepts were already difficult to comprehend but made more so when I was underrepresented at school and couldn’t find books that remotely shared anything close to the story of my life or that of my parents’. Lessons in the classroom were not exactly helpful either.

When I was in around 9 years old, I had an assignment to write about my ancestors in the United States. Who was I supposed to write about? My ancestors tilled the fields of China and roamed the jungles of Laos. I had no ancestors in the U.S. whom I could lay claim to, unlike my friends who discovered their connections to individuals like Annie Oakley. The first people in my family to come to the United States were my aunt and her husband, who arrived in the late 1970s just a few years before my parents. With the parameters set, I didn’t see any other option but to write about my aunt and her family. Ancestors were relatives and my aunt was a relative, right? And my aunt was in the United States, right? That fulfilled the assignment requirements…right?

When I think back on this assignment, it often feels like blasphemy. I come from a culture that believes our ancestors continue to watch over us even after they pass, bringing fortune and helping us to overcome the bad. And, I couldn’t share their stories, their accomplishments. I’ve never forgotten this experience. This memory is one that lingers, often appearing at the most unexpected moments but bringing with it my hopes and wishes for the future, for change.

The incessant call for diversity in publishing, especially as the demographics of the United States shift to become minority-majority, is an opportunity for stories that better reflect the plethora of rich narratives in our communities. When I came upon The Paper Boat (2020) and The Most Beautiful Thing (2020), I was overwhelmed with emotions. I wish I had these stories to read when I was growing up to better understand my parents, to better understand my history, to know that I wasn’t alone.

**I was provided a copy of each book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed them. All opinions are my own. I will be purchasing them for my personal library to share with nieces and nephews.**

The Paper Boat (2020)
by Thao Lam
ISBN: 9781771473637
Publication: September 15, 2020
Goodreads Summary

Children of Southeast Asian refugees like myself will appreciate the harrowing journey Lam shares of a girl and her family’s escape from Vietnam. Presented without words, readers must interpret the story through images illustrated with collage art. It encourages a more intimate connection by having readers closely observe the actions and emotions on each page so when readers finally reach the author’s note, there is a greater emotional impact. The Paper Boat provides an opportunity to share the sacrifices of our families, passing down stories to a younger generation so they may understand their history is not only one filled with pain but also courage and hope.

Thao Lam is an award winning author and has written several children’s books that include her collage art. She was only two when her family fled Vietnam. She currently resides in Canada and is also an art buyer for an educational publishing company.

The Most Beautiful Thing (2020)
by Kao Kalia Yang
ISBN: 9781541561915
Publication: October 6, 2020
Goodreads Summary

The Most Beautiful Thing is the heartfelt story of a Hmong girl and her relationship with her grandmother. It’s a simple and meaningful story with the lesson that beauty is more than just what we can see or buy. The book is beautifully illustrated with an array of colors reminiscent of traditional Hmong clothes. I would have appreciated a book such as this when I was growing up, one with a character who looks like me and shares a similar family history. I cannot wait to share this book with my nieces once it is published so they can also see themselves reflected in the books they read.

Kao Kalia Yang is a Hmong American author, public speaker and teacher who has garnered several awards for her books. Born in the Ban Vinai Refugee Camp in 1980, she came to the United States with her family when she was seven. Currently, she resides in St. Paul, Minnesota.

**For those who do not read Hmong or are unsure how to pronounce the Hmong words, the phonetic spelling of each at the beginning of the book is helpful.

I would love to know what books you have read that you wished had been published when you were growing up? What books would you love to share with children?

{teaser blast} Pride & Papercuts (2020)

Only one more week!! Staci Hart is heading back to her Austen series and bringing us Pride & Papercuts, a modern love story inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice!

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Hate is a strong word.

Depending on the company, loathe is a good substitute. Abhor might be a little fancy, but it gets the job done. But the word that really sums up how I feel about Liam Darcy is, without question, hate.

He doesn’t seem to think much of me either. The second he lays his fault-seeking eyes on me, he sets out to oppose me. Everything about him is imposing, as if he consumes the nearby air to power the rise and fall of his broad chest, and it’s clear he resents my presence on his advertising team. Every idea I have is shot down. Every olive branch I offer is set on fire by nothing more than the blistering coals he calls eyes.

In return, I light him up with my words.

It’s not as if he can dismiss me, since I work for his client, Wasted Words. Instead, he’s forced to tolerate me, which seems the closest we’ll ever be to friends. Fine by me.

I can be civil and still hate Liam Darcy.

But if there’s more to him than his exterior shows, I won’t be able to hate him at all. I might stumble over that line between love and hate and fall right into his arms.

Staci has been a lot of things up to this point in her life — a graphic designer, an entrepreneur, a seamstress, a clothing and handbag designer, a waitress. Can’t forget that. She’s also been a mom, with three little girls who are sure to grow up to break a number of hearts. She’s been a wife, though she’s certainly not the cleanest, or the best cook. She’s also super, duper fun at a party, especially if she’s been drinking whiskey. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, sleeping, gaming, or designing graphics.

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Hush (2020)

by Dylan Farrow
ISBN: 9781250771667
Publication: October 6, 2020
Series: Hush #1

**I was provided a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

After her brother dies of the Blot, Shae and her mom are ostracized and forced to move outside of the village.  When her dreams start to come true and the things she stitches manifests itself in real life, she begins to worry that maybe the Blot has not only taken her brother but has also cursed her.  Her search to remove the curse is cut short when her mother is murdered and the village refuses to acknowledge her account of what happened, effectively trying to silence her.  Lies are twisted into truths, making Shae question what she knows, or thought she knew, but she will not stop until she finds her mother’s murderer. 

The tone she sets at the beginning of the book is eerie and ominous but it doesn’t quite carry through to the rest of the book. The latter part of it left me more frustrated than intrigued, more exasperated than in suspense–states both largely attributed to Shae’s behavior even understandable as her behavior was. Shae is a generally likeable protagonist but has a penchant for not listening and being impulsive. (Also, don’t get me started on her crush on Ravod.) The best way I can explain this is when you’re watching a horror movie and the character does something you know will put them in danger, or worse killed.  While you should be at the edge of your seat, you’re instead sitting back and just yelling, “Why did you just do that? Don’t open the door!  Now, you’re going to die!”  That’s how the last two thirds of the book felt like: “What are you doing? Why did you just say that? Stop bumping into things!”   Again, her behavior is understandable (I need to remind myself of this) but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating or infuriating.  I guess if that was in fact Farrow’s goal, then it worked. Everything does come together at the end fairly well, maybe even a little too nicely, but it leaves you with enough questions that you’ll want to read the next installments. 

Despite my frustration, I found Farrow to be a masterful storyteller.  The strength of the book comes from the recurring theme of truth.  Farrow weaves it into the story so effortlessly.  The magic of the Bards or the gift of Telling is illusion and manipulation.  Someone with the gift can Tell a lock to become mangled so that a door can be opened but the power of the illusion, or the lie, has a limited lifespan. It will eventually revert back to its true form yet the illusion was still powerful enough to allow someone to walk through the door, essentially making a profound impact on outcomes. Ink is powerful in its ability to communicate the truth. Instilling fear in ink, in spreading words, works effectively to obscure truth.  What is the use of learning to write or learning to read when one can die from it? The sickness that comes from ink is known as the Blot, and what does a blot do but to stain and hide. It’s all so smartly done. This is the reason for my 4 stars when the story started to dip into 3 star territory.