Happy Endings (2021)

by Thien-Kim Lam
ASN/ISBN: 9780063040847
Publication: May 18, 2021

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

Trixie is an independent sales rep for an adult toy company but has hopes to open her own boutique. While hosting a bridal party in a friend’s restaurant, she runs into her ex Andre. Not only is he bartending the event, but he also happens to be co-owner of the restaurant. Although still on bad terms, Trixie and Andre both decide it is in their best interest to team up to continue holding joint pop-up events. She needs to be the top seller to win a $10,000 prize to open up her boutique, and he needs to make more money to help the restaurant get out of the red.

Despite my conflicting feelings about second chance romances, I couldn’t stop myself from reading Happy Endings.  The storyline sounded interesting, and there was a diverse set of characters. Trixie is Vietnamese American and originally from New Orleans, but she is now living in DC. Her best friends–the Boss Babes–are strong, independent women from diverse backgrounds. Andre is Black, and those he includes in his family circle are the aunties and uncles he grew up around. They’re a diverse bunch as well. And the food…I loved the mention of food from pho to collard greens to kimchi. Additionally, the book is sex-positive. Trixie not only loves what she does, but she also teaches sex education classes.

While I gravitated toward the book for the biracial romance and the promise of diversity, I was extremely frustrated with the central conflict that led to Trixie and Andre’s past break up. It’s one of my most despised tropes. When the multiple reasons for their breakup come to light, it still didn’t help temper my feelings because communication is key. It was severely missing from their relationship in multiple ways. Groveling would have helped a lot to bring me around to liking Andre but, alas, there was hardly any of it. Additionally, there were several things he did that led me to believe the two of them getting back together was not the best outcome.

I wished the writing had been more descriptive to evoke the images of such a beloved neighborhood or the aroma and taste of the delicious food Andre concocted. This also extends to the feelings Andre and Trixie had for one another. I never felt the emotions as much as was told about them.  I might have been more open to the second chance had the writing evoked a sense of longing between the characters to support them getting back together, which would have helped push my niggling doubts aside. Additionally, the book is a fair length but felt long-winded at times. There was a lot to like about the book, but the delivery fell flat.

Prom Theory (2021)

by Ann LaBar
ASIN/ISBN: 9781534463080
Publication: March 30, 2021

Prom Theory reminds me of classic teen movies like Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, and She’s All That. There’s the regular lead, the best friend(s), the popular potential interest, and the popular rival. They’re all variations of the same teen romance and I can’t ever get enough of them. Prom Theory also adds its own twists to the story. Iris Oxtabee isn’t interested in Theo Grant, the popular athlete who recently became single, but she is interested in proving to her best friend Seth/Squeak that love, like many things, is a product of science and can be explained through the use of the scientific method. She comes up with a social experiment to get Theo to ask her to prom, which will also help her other friend Esther to get her crush to ask her to prom.

I’m always excited to see diversity in all its forms. In this case, we have a neurodiverse protagonist in Iris. She has nonverbal learning disability (NVLD), which has many traits associated with autism. Individuals with NVLD struggle with social skills, with one difficulty being an inability to fully comprehend social cues (NVLD.org). Science and structure help Iris to make sense of the world. It’s why she is committed to her experiment and unwilling to put an end to it even after she recognizes things aren’t going exactly as planned.

I also couldn’t help but crush on how sweet Squeak/Seth was. Prom Theory succeeded in giving me butterflies because Squeak/Seth is really sweet. While he is Iris’s best friend, there are multiple hints throughout the book that he might possibly see her as more than a friend. He goes above and beyond to be with her when she needs him, and I was completely all for it. Can we have more sweet best friend/potential love interests like this?

Despite how much I liked it, by about halfway I was ready for several things to happen. I needed the experiment to come to an end or at least be interrupted, preferably indefinitely. I was ready for Iris to pay better attention to her experiment and all the things that weren’t going the way she planned it. I appreciated the thoroughness in Iris’s experiment but it became redundant (for reading purposes) after a while. She would implement a new variable and readers would get to read the experience. Then there would be observations written down by Iris and Esther, and the process would start over again. This continued for many chapters.

Iris is super smart for someone her age and has taken a psychology course so…it wouldn’t be a stretch for her to know about human subjects regulations and the difficulty of determining the effect of a variable when dealing with human subjects. There is a lot of variability in a social experiment, especially when the environment cannot be easily controlled. I am sure I am just being nit picky but I had to put it out there since science is her thing.

I needed Squeak to stop being so evasive and just spit it out. What I wasn’t a fan of was his insistence that she understand certain nonverbal social cues. Uh, hello? You’re her bff and knows she doesn’t do very well with them but you expected what now?

It’s a cute story, and I came away with a lot of fluttery feelings. I was also stretched thin with frustration so couldn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I thought I would. If you like teen romances, Prom Theory puts its spin on it but also be prepared to be a bit frustrated as well.

Hot Heir (2018)

by Pippa Grant
ASIN/ISBN: B07GBC345Z
Publication: August 31, 2018
Series: The Royals #3

Goodreads
Amazon: US | UK | CA | AU
Free in Kindle Unlimited

Audio & Paperback
Audible | Amazon | Apple Books | Paperback

Cover Design: Lori Jackson
Photo: Wander Aguiar


DESCRIPTION

If I’d known he had dimples, I never would’ve agreed to marry him.

Some people are born for parenthood.

Not me.

But I’m about to get it anyway, since there’s no one else who can take care of my wild child baby sister. I’m supposed to be spending my days running a flight adventure company with my best friend, but instead, I’m inadvertently getting myself into trouble, just trying to do the right thing and keep her out of trouble, to the point that it’s clear I cannot do this on my own.

But who else would want to help us?

Turns out, my biggest enemy.

Mr. Tall, Dark, and Cranky just inherited a country, but in order for Amoria to crown him as King—you know, that job they give to people with no more demanding qualifications than flared nostrils, proper manners, and a taste for crumpets—he needs a wife. Now. Obviously the only person he would ask is as irresistible (and desperate) as me.

And I see no better way to prove I’m ready to take care of my sister than to wear the crown of a queen. No one’s ever found fault with royalty, and hey, the job comes with round-the-clock security.

Except in return for helping save my sister, Mr. I’m-Not-Sure-You’re-Even-A-Real-Prince Viktor tells me he needs the teeniest, tiniest favor. You see, he doesn’t just need help saving his crown. He needs help saving his country.

Remember when I said no one ever found fault with royalty? Try asking that question after you see your frazzled face under the front-page headline of a small country’s leading gossip mag…

Hot Heir is a romping fun marriage of convenience romance between a surprise heir and a southern hot mess, complete with the bedroom to end all bedrooms, a run-down alpaca, and that thing with the hot air balloon. This romantic comedy stands alone with no cheating or cliffhangers and ends with a royally awesome happily ever after.

EXCERPT

Taking a bullet or a knife, I can do.

But soothing a terrified, sobbing, otherwise competent woman is not something I’ve often—ever—accomplished successfully, nor have I ever found myself in many situations in which it was necessary.

I stroke her back, and gradually, they both cry themselves out.

Which is good, because seeing a chink in Peach’s armor is bloody terrifying.

“Papaya,” she says, her voice thick and wobbly, “you’re on kitchen duty for the next four weeks.”

What?”

“And if you get fired by the chef, you’ll be on maid duty. And if you get fired by the maids, you’ll be shoveling shit in the stables. And you don’t get to see Fred until your chores are done.”

I suck in a surprised breath.

Papaya gasps. “You can’t do that.”

“And if you don’t show up for kitchen duty, you won’t be going to Joey’s wedding next weekend.” She swipes at her eyes, which silences any objections I might have to keeping track of Papaya whilst Peach is away for a week. “You scared the ever-loving patootles out of me. I thought you were kidnapped. And instead, you’re here, spooking the daylights out of these poor guards who were trained on an invalid king who couldn’t even get out of his own bed to pee.”

Ah. I’m beginning to see from whom Papaya gets her creativity.

And it hasn’t escaped my notice that Peach is still leaning on me.

My knees are going quite numb from squatting, but I could crouch here for hours if that was what was required to make her feel better.

“You have two choices.” Her voice is growing steadier, more Peach-like. “You do your punishment, and we’ll find you a better outlet for all your creative energy, or we’re going to have one hell of a rough year.”

Papaya scowls. Her tears have also left her. “I don’t like those choices.”

“They’re what you’ve got.”

“I want to go home and live with my daddy.”

Peach’s entire body goes so rigid, I have to stop myself from grabbing Papaya and dangling her by the ankle for being such an ungrateful arse.

“He lost the privilege to keep you.” Peach’s voice wobbles again. “Meemaw and me and Viktor and Alexander and Samuel are what you’ve got.”

An emotion I cannot name blooms in my chest, swells into my throat, and renders me momentarily tongue-tied.

She’s just claimed us all as family.

“Get up. I want that armor shined and sparkling before it goes back where it belongs in the tower study, and don’t you dare give me any lip, or you’ll be shining and sparkling every single suit of armor in this whole entire castle if you so much as think at me wrong.”

I swallow hard, wishing my own voice were not so much more husky than I intend it to be. It seems emotions are going around. “I believe there are fifty more stored in the dungeons, my lady.”

My shirt is damp and cold where the tears from Peach’s cheek have soaked through, I’ve nearly watched a teenage girl outwit and terrify an entire team of guards who were quite ready to maim, if not outright kill her, and I’m playing parent for the first time in my life.

Being a team.

With Peach.

It’s disconcerting at best.

Irresistibly attractive at worst.

I’ve a kingdom to run. There’s no time to fall for my wife.

But I fear it might be too late.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pippa Grant is a USA Today Bestselling author who writes romantic comedies that will make tears run down your leg. When she’s not reading, writing or sleeping, she’s being crowned employee of the month as a stay-at-home mom and housewife trying to prepare her adorable demon spawn to be productive members of society, all the while fantasizing about long walks on the beach with hot chocolate chip cookies.

Facebook |Facebook GroupTwitter | Goodreads
 Bookbub |Website | Instagram | Book+Main


REViEW

**I was provided a copy of the book by Give Me Books as part of the promotional campaign. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.** 

I’m not the biggest fan of the royal-plebe relationship trope in contemporary romances, but I’m willing to read it since it’s a Pippa Grant book. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Royally Pucked, which is technically the first book in The Heirs series but also second in The Copper Valley Thrusters series. Hot Heir is the third in the series and starts with a runaway air balloon and lots of bickering between leads Viktor, our king-to-be, and Peach, part-owner of an aviation company and guardian of her younger sister.

Like prior female protagonists, Peach is feisty and quite a character, with some vulnerability in her. She speaks her mind and rarely is one to ever back down, making her a good match for Viktor, a former royal bodyguard now turned king. Because Peach is always annoyed by him, Viktor purposely likes to rile her up–he enjoys it a lot. He’s an honorable person and seems stern, but he’s a pretty amusing character when reading his chapters. They’re perfect together, especially as the attraction builds and they struggle with the discovery that it could be more than attraction. I wanted to like Peach’s younger sister Papaya but I couldn’t. If she could have been given more to do than just to create havoc and laughs, I think I would have found a way to understand her better. Hopefully, she’ll get a book in the future.

I expected to feel about Hot Heir the same way I felt about Royally Pucked, but, interestingly, I liked Hot Heir a lot more. It likely has to do with liking Viktor a lot more than I liked Manning. Like all her other books, Hot Heir promises hijinks and lots of laughs.

Let’s compare covers!

I’m not really into the vest and open collar shirt of the new cover. He would look better buttoned up instead. I miss the hot air balloon too. Overall, I like the old cover better. Thoughts?

New Cover
Old Cover

Blade of Secrets (2021)

by Tricia Levenseller
ASN/ISBN: 9781250756800
Publication: May 4, 2021
Series: Bladesmith #1

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

Ziva is a famous blacksmith, known for the magical weapons she makes, and people from all over commission pieces from her. Due to social anxiety, she prefers to stay in her forge, immersed in her craft, while her more beautiful and sociable sister Temra deals with the people side of things. After creating an indestructible blade that eats the secrets of its victims, Ziva and Temra go on the run to keep it away from the power-hungry warlord who commissioned it.

Blade of Secrets is a light YA fantasy full of laughs and likeable characters. It’s a fast read that felt like it was over as soon as I started it. Despite the fast pace, it never felt lacking in character development or world-building. I was immersed in the novel and engaged with the plot to outrun the warlord. With its medieval setting and Levenseller’s straightforward way of writing, the book immediately called to mind Tamora Pierce and her beloved works. I enjoyed the book for being uncomplicated and effortlessly itself.

The success of the novel also has a lot to do with a set of likeable characters.

  • Kellyn was a breath of fresh air for being so open and unguarded in his feelings. Being that he is a mercenary, I liked his honesty about what kind of a relationship he was looking for or could have if he suddenly found himself attracted to someone.
  • Petrik is a scholar and inexperienced in combat, but an asset for his cooking skills. It seemed like he would be annoying and even a hindrance, but Petrik ends up being the comic relief simply by being himself. I snorted a few times. 
  • Temra is flirtatious and boy crazy but loves her sister, which is why she is more than willing to uproot her life to go on the run. Being the one without magical abilities, Temra can often feel overlooked. 
  • Ziva, similarly, loves her sister but also tends to hide behind Temra during social hour. She also tends to smother her little sister and be slightly overprotective, but that’s what often happens when you’re the biggie trying to raise your little sister. She’s the book’s first-person narrator, and I found myself identifying with her at times, especially as she commented about her social anxiety. Her thoughts about how she wished people would just leave her alone often mirror mine, especially when forced to attend social gatherings.

I enjoyed the camaraderie that develops between our main characters as they begin to learn about each other and become more than just traveling companions. I have a confession to make though…After experiencing so many betrayals in books, I was a bit terrified of liking anyone too much. What if Temra actually hated her sister? What if Kellyn was leading them straight to the warlord? What if Petrik was a spy? I adored Ziva but was hesitant about everyone else. Any one of them could rip my heart out at any time! I’ve become utterly paranoid when I find a cast of characters I like. So…did they? You’ll have to pick it up to find out what happens. Ha! 

I had fun reading and it was hard to put down. The book ends on a cliffhanger, and it’s been a bit difficult waiting to get my hands on the next book. I can’t underscore how much I liked other than to say it was soooo good.

Discussion: Second Chance Romances

Reflecting on My Love/Hate Relationship with Second Chance Romances

THE TROPE

Two individuals are in love but then something happens, leading them to break up.  For some reason or other, they’re back in each other’s lives. Time is especially pivotal here. What happened during the time apart? How has distance, emotionally and, often, physically, affected our leads such that romance is still possible? Eventually, one thing leads to another, feelings can no longer be ignored, and they’re back together. Maybe this time around, the ending will be a better one. Better yet, maybe there won’t be an ending because they’ll be together forever.


Second chance romances always leave me with twisted emotions, torn between anger (e.g. Don’t do it! He doesn’t deserve you! ) and swooning (e.g. He loves you! You still love him! Just kiss each other already!). After reading Priscilla Oliveras’s Anchored Hearts, I had a sudden revelation about why I always feel a slightly uncomfortable with second chance romances. (Light bulb moment!)

I hate second chance romances because of the vulnerability that comes with it–this is where the discomfort comes from.  Someone can always hurt you at any time, but the problem with second chance romances is often times one person has already hurt the other–someone hurt you or you hurt them. Now, you’re giving them an opportunity to do it again, but what’s worse is that you’re doing it with your eyes wide open–I guess this can be a good or a bad thing. It also feels like you’re giving them permission to do it again. I hate this feeling and it usually rears itself just about every second chance romance novel I read.

Yet, I continue to subject myself to this pain because I also can’t help loving the trope. A new beginning brings with it hope that the outcome will be different. Hopefully, time and distance has allowed each to grow, to mature. It’s not just knowing everything that went wrong or even right, but understanding what happened. Maybe, we will be smarter this time around. Past hurts can be overcome. Maybe happily ever after is possible with each other. But then there’s always this little fear in the back of my mind, whispering that hope can be a dangerous thing.

I’m a sucker for second chances, and I’m a sucker for hope even though it means restarting something that might lead to painful consequences. Then again, I’m usually reading this trope in a romance novel where HEA’s are guaranteed. (Thank goodness!) My favorite second chance romances are where there is growth and lots of groveling, especially on the part of the love interest. It helps to tamper that niggling discomfort that the lead is making themself too vulnerable and they’ll be hurt all over again.

Second Chance Romances

Persuasion_cover

Persuasion (1817)
by Jane Austen
ASN/ISBN: 9780192802637


**One of my favorite Austen novels where time has allowed for greater introspection by the offending party. **

Goodreads Summary
Twenty-seven-year old Anne Elliot is Austen’s most adult heroine. Eight years before the story proper begins, she is happily betrothed to a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but she precipitously breaks off the engagement when persuaded by her friend Lady Russell that such a match is unworthy. The breakup produces in Anne a deep and long-lasting regret. When later Wentworth returns from sea a rich and successful captain, he finds Anne’s family on the brink of financial ruin and his own sister a tenant in Kellynch Hall, the Elliot estate. All the tension of the novel revolves around one question: Will Anne and Wentworth be reunited in their love?

Jane Austen once compared her writing to painting on a little bit of ivory, 2 inches square. Readers of Persuasion will discover that neither her skill for delicate, ironic observations on social custom, love, and marriage nor her ability to apply a sharp focus lens to English manners and morals has deserted her in her final finished work.

thegoodluckcharm_cover

The Good Luck Charm (2018)
by Helena Hunting
ASN/ISBN: 9781538760154


**Not nearly enough groveling for me but an ultimately satisfying read.**

Goodreads Summary
Lilah isn’t sure what hurt worse: the day Ethan left her to focus on his hockey career, or the day he came back eight years later. He might think they can pick up just where they left off, but she’s no longer that same girl and never wants to be again.

Ethan Kane wants his glory days back. And that includes having Lilah by his side. With her, he was magic. They were magic. All he has to do is make her see that.

Just when Lilah might finally be ready to let him in, though, she finds out their reunion has nothing to do with her and everything to do with his game. But Ethan’s already lost her once, and even if it costs him his career, he’ll do anything to keep from losing her again.

daringandtheduke_cover

Daring and the Duke (2020)
by Sarah MacLean
ASN/ISBN: 7980062691996


**Second Chance Romance/Lovers-to-Enemies-to-Lovers novel with so much groveling from the male love interest that I couldn’t help but love it. No discomfort here at all. Nearly perfect. My favorite read of the quarter so far (My Review)**

Goodreads Summary
Grace Condry has spent a lifetime running from her past. Betrayed as a child by her only love and raised on the streets, she now hides in plain sight as queen of London’s darkest corners. Grace has a sharp mind and a powerful right hook and has never met an enemy she could not best, until the man she once loved returns.

Single-minded and ruthless, Ewan, Duke of Marwick, has spent a decade searching for the woman he never stopped loving. A long-ago gamble may have lost her forever, but Ewan will go to any lengths to win Grace back… and make her his duchess.

Reconciliation is the last thing Grace desires. Unable to forgive the past, she vows to take her revenge. But revenge requires keeping Ewan close, and soon her enemy seems to be something else altogether—something she can’t resist, even as he threatens the world she’s built, the life she’s claimed…and the heart she swore he’d never steal again.

incaseyoumissedit_cover

In Case You Missed It (2020)
by Lindsey Kelk
ASN/ISBN: 9780008384654


**While it’s a bit slow and Ros isn’t the most interesting protagonist, I added it here because it provides a different perspective on second chance romances from the other books listed. The overall message of the novel resonated with me as well. (My Review)**

Goodreads Summary:
When Ros steps off a plane after four years away she’s in need of a job, a flat and a phone that actually works. And, possibly, her old life back. Because everyone at home has moved on, her parents have reignited their sex life, she’s sleeping in a converted shed and she’s got a bad case of nostalgia for the way things were.

Then her new phone begins to ping with messages from people she thought were deleted for good. Including one number she knows off by heart: her ex’s.

Sometimes we’d all like the chance to see what we’ve been missing…

AnchoredHearts_cover

Anchored Hearts (2021)
by Priscilla Oliveras
ASN/ISBN: 9781420150193
Publication: April 27, 2021


**The one that got me thinking about second chance romances. Alejandro’s light bulb moment happens on the pages, but I really wanted to smack Anamaria over the head and make sure she knew what she was doing because Alejandro is pretty selfish. (My Review)**


Goodreads Summary
Award-winning photographer Alejandro Miranda hasn’t been home to Key West in years–not since he left to explore broader horizons with his papi’s warning echoing in his ears. He wouldn’t be heading there now if it wasn’t for an injury requiring months of recuperation. The drama of a prodigal son returning to his familia is bad enough, but coming home to the island paradise also means coming face to face with the girl he left behind–the one who was supposed to be by his side all along…

Anamaría Navarro was shattered when Alejandro took off without her. Traveling the world was their plan, not just his. But after her father’s heart attack, there was no way she could leave–not even for the man she loved. Now ensconced in the family trade as a firefighter and paramedic, with a side hustle as a personal trainer, Anamaría is dismayed that just the sight of Alejandro is enough to rekindle the flame she’s worked years to put out. And as motherly meddling pushes them together, the heat of their attraction only climbs higher. Can they learn to trust again, before the Key West sun sets on their chance at happiness?


How do you feel about second chance romances?

Hurricane Summer (2021)

By Asha Bromfield
ASN/ISBN: 9781250622235
Publication: May 4, 2021

GOODREADS | PURCHASE

Welcome to my leg of the blog tour for Hurricane Summer by Asha Bromfield (April 26 – May 10). Thank you to Wednesday Books for allowing me to be part of this tour. Links to different sections are below, but also feel free to scroll on through.


DESCRIPTiON

Publisher: Wednesday Books
Age group: YA
Genres: Contemporary

In this sweeping debut, Asha Bromfield takes readers to the heart of Jamaica, and into the soul of a girl coming to terms with her family, and herself, set against the backdrop of a hurricane.

Tilla has spent her entire life trying to make her father love her. But every six months, he leaves their family and returns to his true home: the island of Jamaica.

When Tilla’s mother tells her she’ll be spending the summer on the island, Tilla dreads the idea of seeing him again, but longs to discover what life in Jamaica has always held for him.

In an unexpected turn of events, Tilla is forced to face the storm that unravels in her own life as she learns about the dark secrets that lie beyond the veil of paradise―all in the midst of an impending hurricane.

Hurricane Summer is a powerful coming of age story that deals with colorism, classism, young love, the father-daughter dynamic―and what it means to discover your own voice in the center of complete destruction.

Content Warnings (For a more comprehensive list please see Book Trigger Warnings):
abuse (physical/emotional), cheating, colorism, death, incest, sexual assault


ABOUT THe AUTHOR

Asha Bromfield - Author Photo, Copyright Felice Trinidad

Asha Bromfield is an actress, singer, and writer of Afro-Jamaican descent. She is known for her role as Melody Jones, drummer of Josie and the Pussycats in CW’s Riverdale. She also stars as Zadie Wells in Netflix’s hit show, Locke and Key. Asha is a proud ambassador for the Dove Self-Esteem Project, and she currently lives in Toronto where she is pursuing a degree in Communications. In her spare time, she loves studying astrology, wearing crystals, burning sage, and baking vegan desserts. Hurricane Summer is her debut novel.

Instagram | Twitter


REViEW

**I received a copy of the book from the publisher through NetGalley as part of my participation in the blog tour. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Hurricane Summer is an appropriate title for the experience Tilla has in Jamaica while visiting her father for two months. Her hopes of reuniting with her dad and spending time with him over the summer go astray as soon as she gets there, proving once again why she feels the way she does about him. It hurt my heart to know that both she and her sister Mia waited so long to see their father only to hardly spend time with him. The father-daughter relationship was the heart of the novel but so many additional issues, including classism and colorism, piled on top of it that there was never time to fully explore each issue. The conversation Tilla has with her cousin about colorism is an especially poignant one though. This was one of my favorite moments in the book. I liked their relationship.

I’m a fan of emotional reads. The book tugged at me right away with Tilla longing for her dad’s love, secretly hoping to repair her broken image of him. As things slowly begin to spiral downward, with hurricane warnings abound, my anxiety level increased along with Tilla’s confusion about what exactly was going on around her. Just about everything that happens, except for moments of respite with her cousin Andre who might be the only character I liked in the book, is heart breaking. I kept wondering when it would stop. The answer? Like a hurricane, it’s unrelenting. However, as it neared the end, the final few chapters didn’t have the same impact. One event in particular did not add much to the story, and I felt it was unnecessary. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed by the ending.

One of the weaker parts of the novel is the romance. I couldn’t buy into it, and I was constantly questioning Tilla’s decisions regarding her love interest. The connection felt superficial at best, and when the word love is mentioned, I was taken aback. I couldn’t see how their limited interactions suddenly turned into love. But, the most difficult part for me was Tilla knowing the complications that would ensue from continuing the relationship yet still choosing to pursue it.

I was immersed in the book because of the writing. It’s poetic and the descriptions kept me reading–one of the most memorable being when Mia and Tilla bite into mangoes. Tilla feels a lot, and Bromfield was able to place me in Tilla’s emotional state of mind. It’s also well-paced. The plot moves along, never feeling disjointed or abrupt, despite the multitude of things that happen. I never felt the urge to jump pages or chapters to get to the end, with the exception of some of the heavier components of the book.

Hurricane Summer‘s beautiful cover hides a devastating coming of age novel about a young woman trying to come to terms with her relationship with her father while on vacation in what looks like paradise. It’s a heart wrenching novel filled with multiple events meant to break Tilly, culminating in what she decides to do: will she break, or will she overcome them? It’s a departure from the books I normally read, with a slew of triggers that pile on one after the other; it’s a heavy read. Despite the this, I did like the book even though it might not have hit all the marks for me. If you decide to read it, please be aware of the content warnings. I’ve listed them above in the book description, but I’ll include it here too: abuse (physical/emotional), cheating, colorism, death, incest, and sexual assault. Again, for a more comprehensive list, please see Book Trigger Warnings.

Today Tonight Tomorrow (2020)

by Rachel Lynn Solomon
ASN/ISBN: 9781534440241
Publication: July 14, 2020

**May contain spoilers. Please proceed with caution.**

When Neil is announced as the school’s valedictorian, it puts a dent in Rowan’s diabolical daydream of having him finally bow to her as the more formidable opponent. Now, she has only one last chance to beat him, the school’s annual scavenger hunt for graduating seniors known as the Howl. The competition takes an unexpected turn when she finds out a group of seniors are out to eliminate both her and Neil, turning the academic rivals into an unlikely team. Spending time working with each other as opposed to against one another has Rowan reevaluating her perception of Neil, seeing him in a different (possibly more rosy-colored) light.

As a fan of Sleepless in Seattle, Rachel Lynn Solomon had me at Seattle but my adoration of the book is all Solomon’s doing. “It was like…magic” mixed with a hefty dose of nostalgia when I first read it last summer. It remained much the same when I reread it recently. During my first reading, words evaded me when I tried writing a review. Even months after, I was unable to express how I felt about my best read of 2020. As May comes around with graduation ceremonies abound, I finally found the words to write something coherent.

Today Tonight Tomorrow completely and unexpectedly overwhelmed me. It felt like I was thrown back into high school. I was flooded with nostalgia as I simultaneously lived Rowan’s last day of high school and recalled celebrating my last days–mine was nowhere near as exciting as the Howl but I did get one last hurrah with friends.

Rowan and Neil were well-rounded characters. We learn about their hopes, dreams, and fears. I couldn’t help but adore them as they turned from rivals into an unexpected team. Initially, they have a one-dimensional relationship due to their rivalry but teaming up forces them into a different relationship that allows them to discover different sides of the other. While the events of the book take place in the span of 24 hours, the feelings that blossom in a single night don’t feel new at all–just newly uncovered. The feelings have been nurtured throughout their rivalry, and the layers of their relationship are now being peeled back, or maybe more accurately ripped off like a bandaid considering the time frame. With the book told strictly from Rowan’s point of view, it was entertaining to observe her thoughts and feelings, to see the different stages of her discovery, and to witness her initial shock that (gasp!) Neil is a person with feelings (I’m completely exaggerating here), that he could be someone she would feel anything other than antagonism toward. It was deeply satisfying.

There are so many things I admire about Rowan, including her passion and drive to go after what she wants (like bringing Neil down). One of my favorite scenes is when her friends tell her that for someone she dislikes, Neil occupies an alarming amount of her thoughts and time. Rowan thinks they’re clearly out of their minds for suggesting she feels anything beyond wanting to take him down. I couldn’t help but also agree that her friends were onto something. I also admire her commitment to her writing aspirations, which leads to Rowan explaining her love of romance novels. I agree with her assessment of the genre and the less than warm reception it generally receives. Solomon, through Rowan, helped me be comfortable with my love for romance novels even as my friends cringed when I (cautiously) confessed my undying love for the genre.

In an interview, she says the book is an homage/a love letter to Seattle. What a love letter it is! I’ve never been to Seattle, but I’ve always wanted to visit one day. Solomon created a sense of urgency to visit the rainy city, as though I should have done it yesterday. She does a tremendous job creating a sense of place with the vivid descriptions of the many places, both touristy spots and hidden gems, throughout Seattle. All this is possible because Solomon isn’t just a writer, she’s a conjurer of images and feelings, able to stir my long-forgotten memories of high school to life and make Rowan and Neil feel alive.

Today Tonight Tomorrow solidified Solomon as an automatic buy author for me. If you’re still wondering if I recommend Today Tonight Tomorrow, then I haven’t done a good job of divulging my love for this novel. I hope you’re itching to read it, even if you’ve already read it before. It’s my chef’s kiss of 2020!

To deal with the feelings you might have after finishing the book (book coma anyone?), here’s a short list of things that might help. I wish I had prepared them in advance. You know what they–whoever they are–say, “Hindsight is always 20/20.”

GRADUATiON PLAYLiST

YouTube | Spotify

Six Degrees of Separation: May 2021

**I have to do a shout to Mikaela at MikaelaReads first. This is my first Six Degrees post and I wouldn’t have a first post had I not seen this meme on Mikaela’s blog in April. I enjoyed the meme so much I decided to do it too. **

HOW IT WORKS:
Six Degrees of Separation is a meme that began with Annabel Smith and Emma Chapman and has been hosted by Kate over at Books Are My Favourite and Best since 2016. Each month a new book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Links can be formed in multiple ways. For instance, books can be linked through author, themes, settings, or even publishing year. Links can also be more personal such as books you reread often or books that remind you of a time in your life. The possibilities are limitless!

Join in by posting your own six degrees chain on your blog and adding the link in the Linky section (or comments) of each month’s post. If you don’t have a blog, you can share your chain in the comments section. You can also check out links to posts on Twitter using the hashtag #6Degrees

STARTING BOOK: Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Clearly

Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary is the first in a series of middle grade books about sisters. Unfortunately, I don’t recall ever reading this particular book or series by Cleary, but her name is a part of my childhood because she wrote Dear Mr. Henshaw.

DearMrHenshaw_cover

Dear Mr. Henshaw, on the other hand, was a book I had to read for class. It’s about a boy who writes to his favorite author Boyd Henshaw every school year. They become friends through these letters, and Mr. Henshaw is a source of encouragement. Guess who also wrote to one of her favorite authors?

DealingWithDragons_cover

Me! I wrote a letter to Patricia C. Wrede, author of The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, when I was in elementary school and she wrote me back! I don’t know where the letter is anymore, and I can’t remember the content of the letter, except that it was encouraging. I probably told her something about wanting to write when I grew up. I treasured it so much and even shared it with my teacher. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles is a set of four books. The first three books are about Cimorene, a girl who decides to go live with a dragon, and in the last book her son is the main protagonist. Dealing With Dragons is the one I’ll use to make the connection because this is the earliest book I remember reading (and loving) with dragons; thus, igniting my love for fantasy novels, kickass protagonists, and dragons. Now, speaking of dragons…

GirlWithDragonTattoo_cover

There’s this Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. While I never read the book by Stieg Larsson, I watched the movies and was blown away by the awesomeness of Lisbeth Salander. She’s a punk prodigy and is enlisted by journalist Mikael Blomkvist to help figure out what happened to a woman who disappeared over 40 years ago. Salander has the dragon tattoo and is a kickass protagonist. Who else is a kickass protagonist that is very good at what she does and is enlisted for help?

WHTF_JKT_2p.indd

Zafira bint Iskander of We Hunt the Flame is known as the Hunter and is gifted with her bow and arrow. She disguises herself as a man so that she can bring back food for her village. She enters a forest and is always able to return whom while others are unable to make it back alive, or if they do, they’re not the same when they return, which is why she is sought out to go on a journey to bring magic back Arawiya. It was published in 2019, but I didn’t get a chance to read it until recently. This was one of my favorite reads at the beginning of 2021.

EvvieDrakeStartsOver_cover

Also published in 2019 is Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes. Holmes’s debut book is about a woman whose husband died in a car accident. A year after his death, she rarely leaves her home so people think she’s still devastated over his loss. Her best friend’s childhood best friend Dean needs a place to stay while he tries to figure out why he can’t throw a baseball straight anymore. He moves into an apartment at the back of Evvie’s house and they become friends. This was one of the few books that set me on the path toward not only overcoming a long reading drought but consuming romance novels one after the other.

One of my latest reads with just the right amount of romance in it is Tricia Levenseller’s YA fantasy Blade of Secrets. Two sisters are on the run with a mercenary and a scholar to hide a weapon commissioned by a warlord who wants to reunite 6 countries under a single rule, the warlord’s rule. I hadn’t expected the romance and was fueled by the intriguing plot because the weapon was created by one of the sisters, Ziva, a blacksmith who imbues her weapons with magic. I’ll be posting a review for it soon (spoiler alert: I liked it…a lot.)

ENDING BOOK: Blade of Secrets by Tricia Levenseller

That was an unexpected ride through books I loved when I was young and books I now enjoy as an adult (more like a big kid). Also, I didn’t expect to end back up at a book about sisters.

Asian Readathon: May 2021

Start Date: May 1, 2021
End Date: May 31, 2021

I was supposed to be working last night but I needed to create my TBR for the Asian Readathon hosted by Cindy (withcindy). I was suddenly reminded of the Asian readathon while scrolling through my feed. (I know, I know…that’s not work either.) This is my first year participating in it, and I’m excited. (Look at me branching out and doing more readathons! Woohoo!) You can watch Cindy’s announcement video or access the Google doc for more information.

The goal of the readathon is to encourage reading more books by Asian authors and what better month than May, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month to do it in! While challenges can be combined, the twist is that books should feature a character or an author of a different Asian ethnicity. If one book features a Japanese character, then the next book read should a character of a different ethnicity/nationality for it to fulfill any remaining challenges. I really like the push for diversification.

  1. Read any book written by an Asian author.
  2. Read any book featuring an Asian protagonist.
  3. Read any book written by an Asian author in your favorite genre.
  4. Read any nonfiction book written by an Asian author.
  5. Read any book written by an Asian author that’s not US-centric.

I know that I’m not as productive when school/work is in session, but hopefully I can get these done. The most difficult one for me will be reading a nonfiction book. ACK! Unless it’s something I HAVE TO read, I tend to stay away from nonfiction because I use books for escapism…

PLANNeD TBR

This has already undergone multiple transformations because the diversity twist that seemed fun was a bit harder than expected. This is the final planned TBR–keyword is planned. Heh…

Author
Protagonist
Fave Genre
Non Fiction
Not U.S.-Centric