The Comeback (2021)

by E.L. Shen
ASN/ISBN: 9780374313791
Publication: January 19, 2021

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

Maxine is a 12-year-old figure skater with dreams to one day be an Olympian, so she’s working hard on the ice to perfect her routine while trying to finish homework and attend ballet classes. When a bully at school starts to pick on her because of her Chinese heritage, it negatively affects Maxine. Rather than be able to find solace on the ice, Maxine has to face a talented new competitor who may affect her chances of making it through to the next competition.

Racism is difficult to deal with no matter how what age someone is. Shen’s depiction of racism feels true to life, showcasing how Maxine internalizes it and ultimately tries to deal with it on her own. While the latter may seem like a solution, sometimes love and support from the people who care about us are the best remedies.

I wasn’t great at sports, and I didn’t watch it very much either, but I always made an exception to pay attention to figure skating. It was one of the few sports where Asian faces were televised. Like Maxine, Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan were two Asian American figure skaters I admired. Both are just two of the many Asian figure skaters Shen name drops throughout the novel, helping to capture how these specific individuals served as Maxine’s role models. It highlights the importance of representation and the positive effects of seeing faces like your own reflected in things you enjoy. Is descriptive representation important? Yes!

It also doesn’t matter how old you are when you see representation in books you enjoy, especially when you never saw it growing up. I was excited to see a reference to Tiger Balm! Can you believe it?! It does solve everything! I see that now as an adult, although I would have been self-conscious about using it as a kid. What a throwback to a classic also! Although I’m not Chinese, Teresa Teng’s “The Moon Represents My Heart” was a song I grew up with. (Enjoy it with the English translation below. It’s so beautiful and relaxing). I was so excited to see both of these referenced here.

Overall, The Comeback is a thoughtful novel about a young Chinese American figure skater’s experience with racism at school and how internalizing those racist acts affects her mentally and spills over into her life at home and on the skating rink. I found the story well-written and appreciated the Asian American representation. Maxine has the potential to serve as a character that other Asian American girls can identify with, serving as a role model just as Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan served as her role models.

**A big thank you to the publisher for also providing a finished copy of the book. I purchased a copy for my niece, so I hope she’ll like it as much as I did, although she probably won’t be as familiar with tiger balm or Teresa Teng–I must remedy this. HA…

Eyes that Kiss in the Corner (2021)

by Joanna Ho
Illustrated by Dung Ho
ASN/ISBN: 9780062915627
Publication: January 5, 2021

This is the book I needed when I was growing up. My eyes were an attribute I was very insecure about because they were just one of many things other kids teased me about. Eyes that Kiss in the Corner highlights the uniqueness, the beauty of eyes that look like mine. They’re special because they reflect those of my parent’s, passed from one generation to the next. They are “eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea.” They “crinkle into crescent moons and sparkle like the stars.” The book impaled my heart with such warmth and positivity. If only someone had described my eyes as such when I was younger, it would have made a world of difference. Eyes that Kiss in the Corner celebrates diversity and promotes self-love. It’s not just about acceptance, but appreciating yourself just the way you are.

Rebelwing (2020)

by Andrea Tang
ASN/ISBN: 9781984835093
Publication: February 25, 2020
Series: Rebelwing #1

Prep school student Prudence Wu regularly smuggles out illicit materials to customers outside of the city. In her haste to complete a deal, she leaves without her partner Anabel Park and, of course, it just has to be the one where she meets with dire consequences–her customer double-crosses her, and enforcers come after her. After being unexpectedly rescued by a cybernetic dragon, Pru is forced to work for a secret organization to keep her “extracurricular activities” off her records.

The overall story and the world Tang creates is an interesting one. The story is set in an alternate United States, in a different Washington D.C., one of the last places that has yet to be consumed by a growing authoritarian regime the UCC. The efforts of a past resistance have kept New Columbia one of the last strongholds of democratic governance; it’s not only independent but thriving in the aftermath of wars fought long ago. Although a tenuous peace has been established between it and the UCC, it’s becoming more difficult to determine how long peace can be maintained. This is the world that Pru, an Asian American teen, is trying to survive in.

Pru is a tough, wise-cracking heroine, and I liked her a lot. I’m prone to liking sarcastic heroines who stand up for themselves when life tries to shove them around. It’s especially when in the face of authority that her sarcasm and defiance are entertaining. In many ways, Pru bucks the model minority myth placed on Asian Americans. She is by no means a straight-laced rule follower, but one who takes risks (i.e. smuggling censored materials like graphic novels to UCC incorporated areas). She isn’t as privileged as her colleagues but does the best she can with what she has. Sure, she might be taking calculus but things don’t necessarily come easily to her–you know, like bonding with a mechanical dragon. As a fan of science fiction growing up, Pru and Rebelwing would have been the book I needed to feel represented in the literature I was so fond of. 

While the story was promising, it was lacking in one of the elements I was most excited about: the sentient cybernetic dragon. Rebelwing is the mecha dragon that saves Pru, imprinting on Pru and leaving her in a difficult situation. While Rebelwing is pivotal to the plot, there are only glimpses of her whereas I expected more interaction and bonding between Pru and the sentient dragon. I would have gladly read on for another hundred or so pages if it meant that I got more Pru and Rebelwing together, hopefully getting a better understanding of why Pru was chosen when there were so many potential pilots such as Alex or Anabel that would have been better options. Of course, this is touched on slightly, but not near the extent I was hoping for.

While I enjoyed Pru’s story, the more interesting storylines were not that of Pru or her peers, rather it was of Pru’s mom and Alex’s uncle. Who were they in their past lives? Who are they now? Who could have they been in the present had they made different choices? The little that is revealed about Pru’s mom and Alex’s uncle, of each of their past and how those decisions shaped who they eventually became was intriguing to me. Yes, I would have settled for more reading if it meant reading more about these two as well. Or, how about a prequel novella?

Rebelwing is a fun book and packed with action. Is it good? Yes. Is the writing good? Yes. However, it left me somewhat unfulfilled due to my expectations of the Pru and dragon imprinting bond. If you’re expecting a metal dragon, you won’t see too much so it’s best to put that notion aside and soak up what you do get. If you can set that hope aside, you’ll be able to enjoy the novel a lot more. The sequel Renegade Flight was released on March 23, 2021. That will be a forthcoming review while I wait for it to arrive.

**If you’ve read Rebelwing, I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’ve read reviews that range in ratings, from one end to the other, so I’d like to know what you think. There are different themes it touches on that I didn’t talk about in the review, but I’d love to discuss some more as well. And the ending was pretty good.**

Romance Interlude 2.8

These interludes have turned into more of me ranting than actual reviews. I apologize profusely for that and also because it will likely remain this way. I like having these as outlets so I can shout about how much I love a book or gripe about how much a book was just okay. So far, I’ve been on a roll with romance books that are “just ok” so I’ve been doing more rereads, which means less interludes. Hopefully it will pick back up soon. If you have any recommendations, I’d love to hear about them!


The Accidental Kiss (2019)
by Heatherly Bell
ASN/ISBN: B07P16B1MD
Publication: April 25, 2019
Goodreads Summary
Series: Miracle #1

One liner: Best friends are secretly in love with each other and are unsure about whether they should move their relationship to the next step due to occupational hazards.

Friends-to-lovers is one of my favorite tropes so I was looking forward to this one. The opening is hilarious because Charley is trying to chase down her foster sister’s baby daddy. The problem is that she doesn’t know who it is so she’s just tracking down men in her foster sister’s life and basically scaring the sh*t out of them. I loved the opening and thought I would really like the book but there were parts I liked a lot and others were just okay. Eventually, it started to drag just a bit. I enjoyed Charley and Dylan’s friendship. They were perfect for each other, balancing one another out, but their fears kept them apart, specifically Charley’s unwillingness to stay in one place long enough and Dylan’s fear that being a firefighter could mean leaving behind someone he loved should anything happen. The whole sunset kiss legend wasn’t something I was particularly fond of. It felt a bit cheesy to me in this context. I loved the epigraphs! Here are a few of two of my favorites: “I just don’t want to look back and think, ‘I could have eaten that’ “and “Each month has an average of 30-31 days, except the last month of pregnancy, which is 1,453 days.” Funny, right?


Dante’s Angel (2015)
by Laurie Roma
ASN/ISBN: B08K9HLS77
Publication: September 27, 2020
First Published: November 21, 2015
Goodreads Summary
Series: Breakers’ Bad Boys #3

One liner: Zoe is a musical prodigy hiding her identity in Breakers while working for and falling in love with Dante Fox.

The first half of the book was good and there was a lot of chemistry between Zoe and Dante. One of the most memorable parts of the book is the opening when Dante heads back from the gym and finds Zoe playing her violin in his bar. This set the tone for the first half of the book–lots of repressed feelings from both Dante and Zoe and a somewhat slow burn. I was on board for the majority of the book–despite some cringey/cheesy lines–but then the last portion I didn’t enjoy where the book was headed and the dialogue between Dante and Zoe also got cringier at times. The book doesn’t drag. I was nearly done with the book when I remembered to check progress.


Rush (2013)
by Beth Yarnall
ASN/ISBN: 9781940811987
Publication: October 13, 2013
Goodreads Summary
Series: Pleasure at Home

One liner: Miyuki Price-Jones is being stalked so her employer hires bodyguard Lucas Vega to protect her.

This one took me a while to finish because I kept jumping from book to book. While it started off interesting enough, I was close to DNF-ing it because it went from strangers to insta-lust in just a few pages. It’s insta-lust and not love. I know it happens but it just didn’t work well here for me. I tried setting that aside, and when I successfully did that, I could enjoy the story a lot better. Then another problem arose: there was so much going on. Not only was there a stalker, but there were protestors, Miyuki had secrets, and Lucas had some personal things going on including his family and an ex-fiance. There were not enough pages to thoroughly give attention to everything so some of these storylines didn’t go very far. When the book was solely on Miyuki and Lucas, it wasn’t bad. The storyline I was most disappointed with was Miyuki’s family secret and her relationship with her brother. One minute he was a jerk and all of sudden he wasn’t. There was a lot of potential there.

Something’s Wrong! A Bear, a Hare, and Some Underwear (2021)

by Jory John
Illustrated by Erin Kraan
ASN/ISBN: 9780374313883
Publication: March 23, 2021


**I was provided a copy of the book by the publisher. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own (and that of my nieces).**

BearandUndewear

At first, it’s not quite clear what exactly is going on. The cover and the title will surely make you raise your eyebrows. We have a bear and some underwear, so of course something is wrong. Even all the other animals are wondering why there is a bear with some underwear. The kids found it hilarious! A bear…with UNDERWEAR?! They knew exactly what was wrong! It’s not until the hare that everything becomes clear. It’s a cute book with lovely illustrations. The bear and his underwear that even has a place for his tail…heh. The ending of the book is not only funny but underlines the importance of friendship. Even adults will smile at the truth of it.

The Reread Tag

I saw this tag at a few places, but most recently at Kristin Kraves Books. I love rereading books. It’s one of the indicators of how much I enjoy a book, so I needed to do this one.

THE RULES:

1. A childhood favourite that you could read 100 times and still love.

Can you believe this was written in 1958? I had to read this for class a long time ago, but I now consider this a favorite and read it a few years ago. I remember liking the romance in this…I still do. It’s sweet.

2. A book you DNF’d but would be willing to give a second chance to.

I started it back in February but had to temporarily put this on hold while I tried to catch up with work and reviews. I am currently trying to finish reading it. (Review from Debjani’s Thoughts)

3. A newer favorite you would reread.

I adored this book. I already reread some of my favorite parts and will likely be rereading the whole thing soon. (My Review)

4. A book you hated and never want to read again

I’m not sure if I would say that I hated it as much as I was extremely frustrated with the main character who changed on me. I had such high hopes and then it was like I didn’t even know her at all. Don’t even get me started on the love interest in here. He made me mad too. (My Review)

5. A classic you read in school but want to try again.


I think Great Expectations might be something to reread just to see how I might feel about it now versus how I felt about it in school. This also just reminded me of Mono’s “Life in Mono” from the movie soundtrack. I included it for nostalgia’s sake.

6. An author you would reread anything from

This is a hard one but the first author I thought of was Lucy Score. She’s writes steamy romance novels. Of those I’ve read, there have been at least a few I’ve given 5 stars or nearly 5 stars too. Here are some of my recommendations.

7. A series you want to reread for the fun of it

This was one of my favorites in 2020. Colleen Cowley crafted a series that hit all the right places and a slow burn romance that had me wondering, “if this isn’t loooooove then why does it hurt so bad?” (Okay… so those aren’t the lyrics but please listen to Ruth B’s “If This is Love” and sing the above for the chorus instead. Ha…)

8. A book you’ve read but want to listen to the audiobook

Because it’s a good book and I know I’m doing an awful job pronouncing words, I’d like to listen to Firekeeper’s Daughter. For someone who has always had her name mispronounced throughout life, I think it’s important to try to get it right. (My Review)

If you decide to do the tag, I’d love to read your post!

Sweethand (2021)

by N.G. Peltier
ASN/ISBN: B08GV497WC
Publication: March 30, 2021
Series: Island Bites #1

(Review at the End)

Goodreads
Amazon | Nook | Kobo | Apple Books


DESCRIPTION

After a public meltdown over her breakup from her cheating musician boyfriend, Cherisse swore off guys in the music industry, and dating in general for a while, preferring to focus on growing her pastry chef business.

When Cherisse’s younger sister reveals she’s getting married in a few months, Cherisse hopes that will distract her mother enough to quit harassing her about finding a guy, settling down and having kids. But her mother’s matchmaking keeps intensifying.

Cherisse tries to humour her mother, hoping if she feigns interest in the eligible bachelors she keeps tossing her way, she’ll be off the hook, but things don’t quite go as planned. Turns out for the first time in ages, she and Keiran King, the most annoying man ever, are on the island at the same time. Avoiding him is impossible, especially when Keiran’s close friend is the one marrying her sister, and he’s the best man to her maid of honour.

Keiran doesn’t know what to make of Cherisse now. They’ve always butted heads. To him she’s always been a stuck-up brat who seeks attention, even while he secretly harbored a crush on her. Now with Cherisse’s sister marrying one of his good friends he can’t escape her as the wedding activities keep throwing them together.

When things turn heated after a rainy night of bedroom fun, they both have to figure out if they can survive the countdown to wedding day, without this turning into a recipe for disaster.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

N.G. Peltier is an anime watching, book reading, video-game playing, story writing kinda girl.

A devourer of words and books from a young age, she enjoys writing romance and creeping people out with the Caribbean folklore stories she grew up hearing.

A Trinidadian born and raised, she currently lives in Trinidad with her mountain of ideas and characters battling each other for whose story get told next.

She is represented by Lauren Abramo of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret LLC

Website | Goodreads


REVIEW

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

First, let’s admire the cover. I adore it so very much! I love the color scheme with the warm tones giving off such a cozy, homey feeling. It’s reminiscent of one of my other favorite covers, A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow, which exudes similar feelings but with a bit cooler tone. Just in case it wasn’t enough that Cherisse is a baker and bakes so many delicious goodies, the cover also made me crave tangerines and sherbert. (Yes, food is always on my mind.)

Did what was on the inside live up to the beauty of the outside? Yes, for the most part it does. I enjoyed the novel and liked both lead characters.

Cherisse is confident and advocates for herself. She’s smart and knows her worth so when someone like Keiran tries to minimize who she is and what she does, she is more than willing to kill with kindness. Keiran is musically talented (for the most part) and petty too. He’s a genuinely nice guy, but just not to Cherisse. This is a classic case of two nice people (friends swear they’re both great individuals) who just can’t seem to be nice to each other. For some reason, they bring out the worst in one another, and, luckily for us, we get to read about their evolution from hate to love. Being forced to work together on the wedding festivities puts them in close proximity (squee!), and they slowly, although somewhat begrudgingly, overcome their misconceptions of each other. Overcoming one’s biases is a consistent theme in the book, and Cherisse and Keiran’s evolving relationship portrays it well.

I enjoyed the antics and the development of their relationship up until nearly the end. Everything was going well until the third act conflict hit. It didn’t seem like such an overwhelming obstacle but maybe to Cherisse’s character it is. I was hoping for something just a bit…more. The solution was cute, but it was also swift and led to an abrupt ending. Also, I never used to care about epilogues but, darn it, I think I’ve gotten so spoiled with the prevalence of epilogues in romance novels that I was extremely sad there wasn’t one in here. It would have helped with the book’s ending because I really really want to know what happens next in their relationship.

There were a few things I could see coming from pages away but it did not mean I enjoyed the book any less. It was nice to bask in the feelings those moments evoked because Cherisse and Keiran had great banter often followed by inner turmoil over what they were feeling toward one another. There were a few subplots I wanted more about. They served their purpose to push the romance along but then I kept wondering what happened next. Since this is just the first book in the series, maybe I can get some closure in the next book even if it’s a quick throwaway to say this is what happened with that thing that happened in the first book.

Overall, it was a good read. If you’re an enemies-to-lovers fan, this book will hit the right spots.

Into the Crooked Place (2019)/City of Spells (2021)

by Alexandra Christo
Series Review

**Includes spoilers for Into the Crooked Place.**

**I was provided copies of both books through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed them. All opinions are my own.**

intothecrookedplace_cover

Into the Crooked Place
ASN/ISBN:  9781250318374
Publication: October 8, 2019


Into the Crooked Place (2019) invites readers into a gritty underworld through the eyes of four individuals: Wes the underboss of Creije with eyes and ears everywhere; Tavia the busker with a moral code; freedom fighter Saxony who is hiding among crooks; and warrior Karam who serves as Wes’s bodyguard. Christo has crafted a bleak world where the only thing you can trust is that the people around you are more than willing to betray you. The authorities, with few exceptions, are just as untrustworthy as the crooks they are meant to police. When Wes enlists Tavia, Saxony, and Karam, to help protect the city he loves, it’s unclear whether they can truly trust one another.

The book switches between the four main characters, interspersed with chapters told from the point of view of a few minor characters. Through their chapters, we learn about their motivations, their regrets, and their plans. We also get to see the lies they tell each other. With the book switching between the four, I didn’t feel connected to any of them, although I did gravitate toward Tavia as my favorite character. While I enjoyed the first book in the duology, it’s very much an introduction from the characters to the world, so it’s not as exciting as it could be. It’s easy to see the book is building to something possibly bigger that can’t be contained in a single volume. The ending makes up for a somewhat slow start.

cityofspells_cover-1

City of Spells
ASN/ISBN: 9781250318404
Publication: March 9, 2021

City of Spells (2021) is the exciting conclusion to the duology. The loss of Wes is more detrimental than expected. Tavia was said to have been the glue, but Wes was the mastermind. While Wes is left to fend for himself, Tavia, Karam, and Saxony are forced to look for allies to help bring down the Kingpin.

Because the first book already introduced the world and our characters, City of Spells doesn’t require as much time setting up what will happen here. They have to find allies and take down the Kingpin. Although Tavia and Karam maintain their status as main characters, I couldn’t help but feel they were, in many ways, relegated to the background in favor of Wes and Saxony. Karam doesn’t get to do as much except try to maintain peace between Saxony and Tavia. I wish there had been more chapters for Tavia but she doesn’t have as much to do here either so those things feed into each other. Of course, that could just be me being partial to her and wanting more pages allotted to her.

Despite a fairly straight-forward plot, there are enough twists and revelations in the book to ensure readers forge ahead; I couldn’t put it down once I got through the beginning. I can’t help but praise Christo for the ending of City of Spells: it was so good, maybe even better than the one for Into the Crooked Place.

Overall, the duology is a good read with edge of your seat action as each book heads toward their individual conclusions. There is enough world building to make Creije come alive. With a focus on the underbelly of the city, it’s difficult to fully realize the entire Creije society, its governing system, and the rest of the realms. There were times when a sense of place was missing for me. Even though both books have points where the story slows down or drags just a bit, Christo makes up for it with explosive endings–she excels at them. I was impressed with the endings for both books. Also, I don’t really talk about it for fear it might be spoilery but there is also romance and yes, I liked it. It’s only a small part of both books and doesn’t distract from main story.

The Secret Recipe for Moving On (2021)

by Karen Bischer
ASN/ISBN: 9781250242303
Publication: March 23, 2021


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

Senior year is off to a heartbreaking start after Ellie’s boyfriend unexpectedly breaks up with her. Forced to continue taking home ec(onomics) with her ex and his new girlfriend, Ellie sets her eyes on beating the other teams by working with her group to ensure they get the most points in the class. Initially, she doesn’t have high hopes for her group of misfits–horse racing obsessed Isaiah, tough guy A.J., and biker Luke–but she begins to change her mind once she gets to know them. They even start feeling like a family.

Change is hard but maybe it’s the motivation needed to force us to do things we normally wouldn’t do. The breakup forces Ellie to get out of her comfort zone and pursue activities she would never have thought about before or things her ex wouldn’t have approved of. As readers come to this realization alongside Ellie, they’ll cheer her on just like I did. Her growth from the beginning of the novel to the end was a mostly pleasant experience. Why only mostly? Despite knowing the break up is inevitable–it’s right there in the blurb–it’s still a pretty uncomfortable experience to read through. It can only mean that Bischer did a great job setting it up.

The best part of the novel is the camaraderie that eventually develops between Ellie and her home ec group. While the other groups in the class are cohesive from the start because most are already friends, Ellie, Isaiah, A.J., and Luke are a makeshift group. They’re individuals who don’t hang out together and probably wouldn’t have spoken to each other outside the classroom. Being forced to work as a group (I know, I know we all generally hate group work) facilitated meaningful interaction between the members in the classroom, eventually spilling over into life outside of class and even school. If we only stick to what we know and the people we know, we might be missing out on so many other wonderful things!

I enjoyed it overall. It’s a high school slice-of-life novel about growing up and trying to find your bearings after a breakup. It’s a cute, light read–something that can be quickly read in an afternoon.