Romance Interlude 2.13

Look at me venturing into (sub)genres I don’t normally read! They’re not exactly hard hitting suspense novels, but a few months ago I probably wouldn’t have wanted to read any at all. Anyhow…on to more ranting and less actual reviewing. Sorry.


Cold Secrets (2017)
by Toni Anderson
ASIN/ISBN: B01N2GB6WQ
Publication: July 31, 2017
Goodreads Summary
Series: Cold Justice #7



One liner: FBI agent Lucas Randall falls for fellow agent Ashley Chen while they pursue an international trafficking ring but Chen may be hiding something that could affect the outcome of the case.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading Cold Secrets. The topics made me uncomfortable but thankfully there wasn’t anything overly graphic. I liked Ashley and her sense of duty to protect people. I was often annoyed with the how much they disregarded her abilities despite the fact that she was assigned to the case and not the absent genius Alex. Ashley and Lucas also had great chemistry. Her backstory was done well but I don’t know how believable some of the events related to her would be.


Blind Justice (2019)
by Gwen Hernandez
ASIN/ISBN: B07P83PC9F
Publication: November 15, 2017
Goodreads Summary
Series: Men of Steele #5

One liner: Tara becomes a target after avenging her sister’s death and she’ll need Jeff the security specialist to keep her safe.

The book started off with Tara trying to capture the guy who essentially ruined her sister’s life and led her to commit suicide. Things quickly go awry when Tara becomes a target because she’s seen things she shouldn’t have. Once Tara becomes the target, unfortunately the book also drops quickly in quality. One moment they’re just colleagues and the next they can’t keep their hands off each other and then it’s definitely love. And, it’s also very complicated. It started off pretty interesting and was okay for a quick read, but I probably won’t pick it up again.


Spirit Bound (2011)
by Christine Feehan
ASIN/ISBN: B004IYIJA2
Publication: January 1, 2011
Series: Sea Haven/ Sisters of the Heart #2
Goodreads Summary


One liner: Russian undercover agent Stefan comes to New Haven to insert himself into artist Judith’s life to find information she may be holding onto for a past lover.

**I’m a bit all over the place with this one. Sorry!**
I started reading this one in January and had to put it away after the first chapter or so because I just couldn’t get into it. The pace was a bit slow. Then Stefan and Judith have instalove-we-are-mates attraction, and I just couldn’t do it to myself. After finally deciding to give it one more try, I found it to be better than my first attempt…after I set aside the whole instalove thing. But then…Stefan and his alpha maleness got to me at times. He went to extremes to protect Judith. What does he do that bothered me? **spoiler alert** He drugs her to knock her out so he can go do some assassin hunting. You see, he has lots of secrets and some trust issues because he’s never really been with anyone before or wanted to protect anyone before. Still…WTF, right?! Feehan writes well with lots of nice details. There’s some interesting things going on here with Sea Haven and the bond between the sisters–they each have elemental abilities too. One of my favorites is when they make it rain. I enjoyed the amount of detail that went into explaining how they all contributed to creating it. Then their conversations would just not be very interesting at all to me. Blythe is one of the sisters and her story is probably one I’d like to read but the others didn’t sound as interesting.

Let’s Talk Bookish: What is one book everyone must read?

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. Discussions pertain to topics related to reading or books. Share your opinions, and spread the love by visiting other “Let’s Talk Bookish” posts.

Prompts: There are some books that are just required…or at least you personally think they are! Maybe it’s a book that changed your view on everything, or maybe it’s just the BEST vampire book ever written. What book do you try to get everyone in your life to read, even the non-readers?

Wow. This is such a difficult question! I want to cheat a little and say this is the one book in this genre to get a few books in, but I will attempt to keep it at one. I read The Sun Is Also A Star last year during a time when I was questioning a million different things. The entire concept of the book spoke to me, although the instant love nearly steered me away. It remains one of the elements that I am back and forth about, but within the context of this book, I’ve grown to be okay with it. Within the context of this book, I can let myself believe in it because, while only a day, their connection is electric.

The scientific method is not only what Natasha, one of the main characters, believes in, but also one way to view the book: a series of hypotheses testing what could have been’s and showing what is. It pushes you to contemplate the consequences of your actions. There is a multitude of choices that you can choose from, but the series of decisions you make along the way guide you to this particular point in your life and the set of choices before you. However, the outcome of your decision also intersects with the decisions made by others. It’s difficult to isolate the causal effects. For every decision made, there was an alternative. The book provides a glimpse into how things might have turned out differently. These are the “what if’s” that we often think about, the multitude of experimental groups had different decisions been made. This is my scientific lens speaking, of course, because the heart of it remains a story about love, fate, and how we are all connected as Natasha races to extend the limited amount of time–24 hours–she has left in the U.S. It’s a phenomenal read that makes you think and believe that it is possible to fall in love in a single day.

What book do you think is a must read?

First Lines Fridays 1.9: Moth Egg

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

Moth Egg

a) an oval or round object that is laid & contains a developing embryo
b) a roundish home from which the hungry sprout
c) a boundary from the living because we are not ready to live yet

This is long work. A
finding spell,
for roots destined to twine.

Me(Moth)_cover

by Amber McBride
ASIN/ISBN: 9781419739828
Publication: August 17, 2021

Moth has lost her family in an accident. Though she lives with her aunt, she feels alone and uprooted.

Until she meets Sani, a boy who is also searching for his roots. If he knows more about where he comes from, maybe he’ll be able to understand his ongoing depression. And if Moth can help him feel grounded, then perhaps she too will discover the history she carries in her bones.

Moth and Sani take a road trip that has them chasing ghosts and searching for ancestors. The way each moves forward is surprising, powerful, and unforgettable.

Here is an exquisite and uplifting novel about identity, first love, and the ways that our memories and our roots steer us through the universe. (from Goodreads)

This is Me (Moth) birthday week. This is one my favorite reads this year. It’s an amazing book in verse. You can find my review here.

The Worst Best Man (2020)

by Mia Sosa
ASIN/ISBN: 9780062909879
Publication: February 4, 2020

Lina is a wedding planner and asked to compete to be permanently on staff for a prominent hotel group. She’s excited at the prospect, but decidedly less so when she meets the marketing team–her ex- fiancé and his brother Max–who is supposed to help make her pitch. Although Max may have encouraged his brother to leave her on their wedding day, he can’t help but be attracted to her the more they work together. Similarly, Lina starts feeling like more than just work is happening with Max.

The Worst Best Man has a trope I hate, dating an ex’s sibling. I get it. You can’t help who you fall in love with, but there’s a code somewhere that has to be followed, right? The book addresses it, and the characters have a tough time figuring out their situation, but it’s still such a messy ordeal and feels nearly incestuous. This decreased my enjoyment of the novel, but I liked Max and Lina together enough that I would forget they were almost in-laws. The problem was when I would remember out of nowhere. **shudders** My other gripe was how quickly they became attracted to each other. It’s a substantial hurdle to overcome, going from despising the guy who encouraged your fiancé/his brother to leave you to being nearly instantly attracted to him. There needed to be more time to knock over the hurdle than was given.

Despite being conflicted about their prior connection and the pace of their interaction, I enjoyed Lina and Max’s relationship, from enemies to lovers, because they were so easygoing with each other. They not only worked well together, but they had fun while doing it. The aspect I enjoyed most was how they brought out the best in each other by helping to quell negative thoughts and provide comforting words. Their relationship, which may have started with some petty moves mostly on Lina’s part, had substance to it. This was a healthier relationship than I’ve seen in most books, one not marked by possessiveness but a willingness to talk and listen. While they were great together, the passion felt subdued. I am a fan of emotional reads (Kennedy Ryan owns so many pieces of my heart that it’s not funny), and The Worst Best Man doesn’t have that. Although it didn’t make my heart flutter miles a minute, part of me enjoyed that their affection toward each other wasn’t the all-consuming kind–it was nice to breathe and not be left in a book coma.

The subdued feelings, however, play well into Lina’s character. Lina is dedicated to her job and possibly even loves it, but I’m not sure because she doesn’t seem to express joy over it as much as she is dedicated to doing a good job. She is petty, which makes for some funny situations especially when her family is in the picture, but she is mature when it counts–seeing your ex and the cause of your breakup calls for a lot of maturity and restraint. It’s this latter ability that forms the basis of her character arc. She displays a lot of emotional restraint, while Max is the opposite. He’s very willing to take chances on what he feels, but he’s also patient, allowing Lina the space she needs to make her decision. Max isn’t perfect, which makes him all the more likeable. His insecurities often hinder his potential, but Lina reinforces how wonderful he is. He might be the worst best man, but they’re well-suited for each other.

Additional highlights in the book include Max and his heart-to-heart talks with best friend Dean. I enjoyed their bromance. Friends should be supportive like Dean. At one point, Dean lets Max crawl into bed with him, and it was too cute. Lina and her family are also fantastic. Natalia is fierce and ready to back up Lina at any moment. She’s awesome!

The Worst Best Man didn’t sweep me off my feet, but it didn’t have to. With characters who complement each other so well, it was easy to support the main romance, even if I wasn’t on board with the “dating an ex’s sibling” trope.

Just Last Night (2021)

by Mhairi McFarlane
ASIN/ISBN: 9780063036857
Publication: May 4, 2021

Eve was in love with Ed in their teens, and now in their thirties, she remains in love with him. Although he has a girlfriend, she still keeps wondering about what could have been, hoping there might still be a chance for them, especially since she believes he might still be in love with her too. Everything changes in a single night and secrets are revealed that make Eve doubt the things she thought she knew.

Just Last Night retains the elements that make me gravitate toward McFarlane’s books from realistic characters to poignant reflections on life, yet I couldn’t help but be unfulfilled by it. It’s almost as though there are two distinct books bounded together into a single novel. Separately, I’d give the first half 4 stars and the second would also receive 4 stars, but when they’re together the sum is not exactly equal to its parts–I’m giving it 3.5 stars. It’s a story of love, grief, hope, and learning to move forward.

Part I: Eve recalls how she and Susie became friends with Ed and Justin along with memories of Ed and Eve’s missed connection. Eve is incredibly lucky to have a close knit group of friends, but just because they’re close doesn’t mean there are aren’t secrets. Betrayal can be found in unexpected places. Eve learns this the hard way when she discovers secrets that make her wonder if she might have been better left in the dark. Eve’s seemingly blind loyalty is challenged, which adds on to the grief she is already battling with. This first part tugged at me because I hate regrets and loose ends. McFarlane emphasizes that, unfortunately, we don’t always get the answers to the questions that we have. The emotional turmoil is prominently center as Eve is left struggling to understand why.

Part II: Eve makes several realizations about her life and about the people around her during and after an unplanned road trip. Insight from an unexpected individual helps her discover that she deserves better than what she’s had. In this section, I discovered that Eve is definitely a better person than I am–she is much more forgiving. My reaction would been terrible and I would cut off ties. It was empowering to see Eve ask for more for herself. It was a “hand raising, finally” moment for me. It’s true. Sometimes we don’t get the closure we want, so we have to create our own. It’s ultimately up to us to decide what is worth keeping, what we need to let go, and how to keep pushing forward.

The two parts are connected with Eve’s arc being the thread. They are very much before and after, but I would have liked something to help transition from one part to the next. It is a hard hitting book, so if you pick it up please be prepared.

Three Bookish Things Book Tag

I was tagged by Jenny @ JenJenReviews in July. Thank you so much for tagging me!

As Jenny notes in her tag, the origin of Three Bookish Things seems to be unknown although it was possibly started on Instagram. If you or anyone knows who initially started it, please let me know!

Three read once and loved authors

  • Leigh Bardugo
    I’ve only read The Ninth House for a book club and it blew me away. I loved it. I plan to remedy this, but I’m not sure when. I have The Grishaverse on standby though.
  • Tricia Levenseller
    I read of Blade of Secrets and became enamored with Levenseller’s writing. The plot was fast-paced and the characters were entertaining. I’m hoping to start the Daughter of the Pirate King soon. (Um…my poor TBR)
  • Sarah MacLean
    MacLean set the bar really high with Daring and the Duke, and now I’m a bit afraid her other books won’t meet the bar. As soon as I find another book from MacLean that sounds as good, I will give her another chance.

Three titles I’ve watched but haven’t read

  • Brooklyn
    I first watched Brooklyn because I was in the mood for something historical and I also love Saoirse Ronan. I’m not sure if I will read the book, but it will remain a movie I rewatch. Domnall Gleeson is also in it, and I’m very partial to him too.
  • Stardust This was one of the first movie premieres I attended. There were multiple surprises throughout with great performances from Clare Danes and Robert Deniro. I like to rewatch this one a lot. It’s turned into a comfort movie.
  • Game of Thrones
    I binged Game of Thrones while waiting for the last season. I’m an Arya Stark fan. I was not a fan of the last few episodes though. Unfortunately, with the book series still unfinished, I probably won’t be reading it. Maybe in the future?

Three characters you love

  • Jo Kuan (The Downstairs Girl) is smart and understands her worth. The advice to the letters she receives for her column are clever; some even hilarious. Here’s one I loved and had to make a post for.
  • Karigan G’ladheon (The Green Rider) is courageous with a sense of duty and loyalty to her kingdom. She’s more than willing to speak her mind, even though it can get her into trouble.
  • Liya Thakkar (The Trouble with Hating You) defies the stereotypes people have of what she should be like. Even though she has a tough exterior, she’s also incredibly kind sweet. She’s kind to the people who love her and more than willing to stand up for them. I saw bits of myself in her.

Three series binged

  • Clandestine Magic Trilogy
    I can’t recommend this trilogy enough. There twists and there are turns. There’s romance and lots of magic. It’s pretty much a mash of all my favorite genres together with a dose of political science. Don’t let the latter deter you because this is a fantastic trilogy!
  • Green Rider Series
    I’ve binged this a couple of times. Why? This is one of my favorite medieval fantasy series. Every time I think I have the world figured out, there’s more to learn about it. I’ve followed the series since nearly the beginning–over 20 years–and I don’t regret it one bit.
  • Throne of Glass
    Does it count if I’ve never read Tower of Dawn and don’t really want to? Chaol broke my heart so I couldn’t bring myself to read it. It was difficult to get into the first book, but when I finally did, I couldn’t stop. I was a zombie afterward.

Three favorite book covers

I think the covers speak for themselves. I love the silhouette on the cover of Before I Saw You. The image and colors for The Sound of Stars is stunning. How beautiful is the sky for Under A Painted Sky?

Three goals for this year

  • Take a leadership development course. This pertains more to work life since I’ve been charged with greater responsibilities that forces me to play a more visible role when I’d rather just help from behind the scenes.
  • Be more comfortable with promoting my blog. I still have this desire to allow it to be as obscure as possible because I’m self conscious about what I write. What if I have no idea what I’m writing about?
  • Read Jade City. I’ve heard so many good things about the book and Jade Legacy will be out soon. I need to read it this quarter, so next quarter can read Jade War.

I tag:

Red Tigress (2021)

by Amélie Wen Zhao
ASIN/ISBN: 9780525707851
Publication: March 2, 2021
Series: Blood Heir Trilogy #2


Warning: There may be spoilers for Blood Heir. There are some elements from Blood Heir I couldn’t help but to comment on as well. Sorry. Please proceed with caution.

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

Red Tigress picks up right after the events of Blood Heir. With a new ruler on the Cyrilian throne, Affinites are seemingly safe, except the new ruler expects loyalty from everyone. Those who refuse to submit face execution. With her people and her country in peril, Ana must seek allies to take back her throne. With Ransom Quicktongue and new friends in tow, Ana heads across the ocean for help.

Like its predecessor, Red Tigress moves along at a fast pace. Before I realized it, I was already halfway through the book. Along with the pace, I also particularly enjoyed the descriptive detail and the ending battle. Zhao’s writing is evocative, and I savored a lot of the imagery. I especially loved the descriptions of Linn taking flight and Ramson’s dip in the pool. The final conflict is detailed, a real nail-biter as the main characters fight for their lives. The ending of the book is a different story. I am not a fan of how the book concluded, and it’s made me eager to read the final book with the hope that the ending will be better.

Ana remains ruled by her emotions, impulsive and only recalling the consequences after. This leads her into a few skirmishes early on that she manages to just barely escape. Despite all she’s been through, it bothered me that she endangered her plans by not thinking ahead. This is why Ramson is crucial. He is her opposite, thinking and planning before making a move. He gives her structure and stability. Other than being the true heir to the throne and having a desire to help her people, there isn’t much to demonstrate Ana’s ability to rule. From a practical point of view, it isn’t enough that she loves her empire and the people within it, although it’s a start. While I was able to overlook it in the first book, it was difficult to do that here with so much riding on her leadership abilities. She needs to undergo a fair amount of growth before she can prove herself fit to rule. I hope the next book provides character development in this area.  

The status of Ramson and Ana’s relationship was also something I was never fully on board with mostly due to how quickly it developed. I’m a hopeless romantic (albeit often cynical and yes, I know, a conundrum) and hoped for a dash of romance, but Ramson and Ana’s feelings felt more contrived than organic to the story. The switch from enemies to allies can be explained by their circumstances, but their attraction to each other felt sudden. In Red Tigress, their attraction to each other strengthens, and there’s a fair amount of tension between the them with the will they or won’t they moments. A few moments, especially one in particular, felt out of place. As much as the particular moment made me tingly, it halted the story at an inopportune moment.

May is meant to signify hope and provide Ana a purpose, but I never thought her character in Blood Heir necessary in the first place. Some of their moments and some of the things May said made me cringe. In Red Tigress, Ana often thinks about May and the promises they made, which keep Ana moving forward. I believe Ana’s plight and experiences were more than enough to spur her into action without using May as a plot device. Unless I missed something crucial, I wasn’t sure whether Empress was aware that Ana was alive. It seems like she should know because of the fliers, but that would also mean that one of Ana’s allies should be dead and the ally is not. Maybe this will be better addressed in the last book.

Red Tigress was a slightly better than average read but I couldn’t help question many of the things the characters did or did not do. The final conflict is a highlight of the novel. I look forward to the final book.

{book birthday} How We Fall Apart (2021)

THE WAIT IS FINALLY OVER!

Katie Zhao’s dark academia novel How We Fall Apart is out today!

Goodreads
Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

HowWeFallApart_cover-rs

by Katie Zhao
ASIN/ISBN: 9781547603978
Publication: August 17, 2021
Series: How We Fall Apart #1

Nancy Luo is shocked when her former best friend, Jamie Ruan, top ranked junior at Sinclair Prep, goes missing, and then is found dead. Nancy is even more shocked when word starts to spread that she and her friends–Krystal, Akil, and Alexander–are the prime suspects, thanks to “The Proctor,” someone anonymously incriminating them via the school’s social media app.

They all used to be Jamie’s closest friends, and she knew each of their deepest, darkest secrets. Now, somehow The Proctor knows them, too. The four must uncover the true killer before The Proctor exposes more than they can bear and costs them more than they can afford, like Nancy’s full scholarship. Soon, Nancy suspects that her friends may be keeping secrets from her, too.

Students at an elite prep school are forced to confront their secrets when their ex-best friend turns up dead. (from Goodreads)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Katie Zhao is a 2017 graduate of the University of Michigan with a B.A. in English and Political Science, and a 2018 Masters of Accounting at the same university. She is the author of THE DRAGON WARRIOR series (Bloomsbury Kids), HOW WE FALL APART (Bloomsbury Kids), forthcoming LAST GAMER STANDING (Scholastic), and forthcoming WINNIE ZENG series (Random House Children’s Books). She is represented by Penny Moore of Aevitas Creative Management. She’s a passionate advocate for representation in literature and media.

The New Kid Has Fleas (2021)

by Amy Dyckman
Illustrated by Ida Kaban
ASIN/ISBN: 9781250245243
Publication: June 15, 2021

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

There’s a new kid in town and everyone is unsure of what to make of her. According to one student, the New Kid has fleas, but no one really knows for sure. The New Kid is different but the main character realizes there’s nothing wrong being different after pairing up with her for a science project and meeting her family.

Children will enjoy it. I expect lots of giggling to ensue as soon as they meet the New Kid’s family. I enjoyed the illustrations with its muted colors. The expressions on the kids’ faces were entertaining, all a bit confused about the New Kid while the New Kid just does her own thing, howling to her own tune and climbing on trees. I especially loved the attention to diversity in the book with kids of different backgrounds on the playground together. While I enjoyed it, I couldn’t also help but wonder about the implicit comparison of new kids and their families to being wild like animals. I had to drop a star for that. Despite this, the book advocates acceptance and being open to differences. I like the message it imparts. Especially with schools going back into session, this is a worthwhile read.