Chances for Serendipity (2021)

by Natalie Chung
ASIN/ISBN: B099X6L8R2
Publication: August 16, 2021

Chances for Serendipity begins with a meet cute. While playing tennis with her best friend Liz, Serendipity (“Sere”) accidentally hits Aiden with a tennis ball. They spend an entire day together teaching kids to play tennis, and it’s not until years later when they meet again. Serendipity means “an occurrence of an event that happens by chance in a happy way.” Playing on the concept, the chapters in-between their first and second meeting is filled with time jumps. Sere lives her life, from helping at the bakery to contemplating college, all the while mildly paying attention to Aiden’s tennis career. While I ultimately enjoyed the book, it took me a while to warm up to it.

Serendipity takes a long time to hit. Because this is a contemporary romance, I was extremely disappointed when it took nearly half of the book for Sere and Aiden to meet again. With each chapter focusing on different moments in Sere’s life, the time jumps made sense with the overall theme. The problem was I kept expecting Aiden would show up any moment, but he didn’t. When they finally see each other again, it moved too quickly for me, and I wasn’t entirely on board. There are cute moments, one or two that made me all fluttery, but the lack of relationship development and interaction in the first half prevented me from being emotionally committed to their potential HFN/HEA ending. However, the last tenth of the book ultimately bumped it up by half a star. I wish the majority of the book had been more like this.

The themes explored are relatable ones, and that’s one of the highlights of the book. Family plays a strong role in both their lives. Sere’s indecisiveness over what she wants to do while also trying to fulfill promises she’s made to her family is apparent throughout the book. It’s difficult when you want to find what’s best for you but it potentially means disappointing those around you.  While the hints are placed throughout as to her decision, I was still left somewhat perplexed because her feelings about her passion always felt subdued to me. Aiden’s predicament is also hinted at in the beginning as his relationship with his father seems to be a tumultuous one.

Overall, I liked the concept of the book and its focus on serendipity. However, the book didn’t always hit the mark for me. As a side note, there is bonus material from Aiden’s point of view if readers sign up for the author’s newsletter. I enjoyed the bonus chapter. If most of the book had been like the ending and the bonus chapter, I would have enjoyed it a lot more. It’s a good first novel, and Chung is someone I will look out for in the future.

Music Monday 1.17: Red leaves on…

This meme was created by Drew @ The Tattooed Book Geek. You pick a song you really like and share it on, you guessed it, Monday.

So…I have a tendency to listen to things on repeat until I get it out of my system. There’s a vulnerability here to Lee Brice’s “Memory I Don’t Mess With” that I love, which is why this is my most recent song on repeat. And, yeah, I have memories of my own that I also don’t like to mess with. (Hahaha…)

It’s good running into you like this / But, girl, I’m close as I can get /
To a memory I don’t mess with / The girl I was the best with

Yours to Keep (2020) was the book I immediately thought of. This was one of my first books by Layne, and I completely adored it because I liked Olive Dunn and her down-to-earth character. Pro baseball player Carter Ramsey returns to his hometown to recover from an injury, lured to return because of a pact made long ago to his high school sweetheart. What he doesn’t foresee is a different high school classmate, his former science partner Olive, putting a dent in his plans. The more time he and Olive spend together, the more he begins forget the reasons he is home in the first place. I loved Olive because of her confidence in herself. She makes no apologies for who she is, even if other people (used to) think she was a bit peculiar.

Let’s Talk Bookish: Cut and Paste Character Archetypes

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: Are there any characters you feel like you’re seeing over and over again recently? The same love interest in multiple romances? The same protagonist over and over? I’ve seen a lot of complaints about Rhysand-like characters recently so I’d love to hear what characters you’ve seen too much of.

First, I do gravitate toward certain types of characters, so I will see them more in what I read. My favorite novels feature a strong female protagonist. I haven’t tired of this archetype yet. Stories may have similar premises, but there’s enough to differentiate one from the next.

Alpha romantic interests or leads are abundant in romances but I try to steer clear if them as much as possible. I’ve been trying to write a discussion on why I love and hate alpha characters. Just to be clear, not all alphas are bad; it’s only those with certain characteristics that I despise. I see a lot of these in romances. I hate the overly jealous, controlling type alphas who tells the leads what they can wear and try to dictate the lead’s interactions with other people. All this is often done under the guise of loving the lead too much and claiming the lead as their’s. If I despise individuals like this in real life, I don’t want to read about it in my novels.

Are there any characters you’re seeing too much of?

First Lines Fridays 1.16: The ghost knew…

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!

The ghost knew his master was about to die, and he wasn’t exactly unhappy about it.

He knew that sounded bad. You’d think, after all those years together, that even he might have a twinge of sadness about the whole situation. But it’s hard to feel sorry for someone when: a) you’re a ghost, and everyone knows ghosts don’t have hearts, and b) that someone made her living out of forcing you to make other people miserable.

thegirlandtheghost_cover


by Hanna Alkaf
ASIN/ISBN: 9780063062795
Publication: August 4, 2020

I am a dark spirit, the ghost announced grandly. I am your inheritance, your grandmother’s legacy. I am yours to command.

Suraya is delighted when her witch grandmother gifts her a pelesit. She names her ghostly companion Pink, and the two quickly become inseparable.

But Suraya doesn’t know that pelesits have a dark side—and when Pink’s shadows threaten to consume them both, they must find enough light to survive . . . before they are both lost to the darkness. (from Goodreads)

This is one of the best middle grade reads I’ve read. It’s a charming book that turned me into a pile of goo because Suraya, the girl in the title, is completely endearing. I would categorize this as a must read.

The Hawthorne Legacy (2021)

by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
ASIN/ISBN: 9780241480748
Publication: September 7, 2021
Series: The Inheritance Games #2

**Proceed with caution. There may be spoilers for The Inheritance Games.**

At the end of The Inheritance Games and even at the beginning of The Hawthorne Legacy, I kept wondering how there were supposed to be news clues. Tobias is dead, so who created this next round? The new game managed to surprise me and was cleverly incorporated. Tobias Hawthorne was very clever when he put the games together. As Xander tells Avery in the first book, “even if you thought that you’d manipulated our grandfather into this, I guarantee that he’d be the one manipulating you.” 

The experience of the first book provides the framework for this second one resulting in a mystery and search for clues that no longer feel as novel. Of course, that didn’t mean I wasn’t going on the adventures; I still wanted to find the answers to this game. I was hoping this one would allow Xander a chance to shine and even provide greater insight into Alisa and Nash. Unfortunately, I didn’t get either.

I was disappointed because Xander kept getting left behind. Are there any Ouran High School Host Club fans out there? Xander reminds me a lot of Honey-senpai. He’s smart and often underestimated because of his generally cheery nature, but he’s actually a force to be reckoned with if given the opportunity. As with the first book, he’s not given a chance even though he tries hard to be part of the game. Don’t worry, Xander, I completely adore you!

As much as I like the sort of triangle between Libby, Nash, and Alisa, I really like Alisa for some reason–please don’t break my heart Alisa–and want better closure between her and Nash relationship. I don’t know if I will get it. I’m dying to know what happened, and there have been hints throughout both books. Can’t Alisa and Nash work things out even though they annoy the hell out of each other? There’s so much Barnes is purposely not saying that it is frustrating.

With regard to the main triangle, Avery had me smacking my head on my desk because she still has mixed feelings. It doesn’t help that Max, her best friend, doesn’t see a problem and encourages some things too. Despite Avery learning information about the boys from the first book, she doesn’t learn from it. I was not very happy about it. Again, I get it. She’s still young, and anyone can make mistakes or fight their feelings, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

The themes remain the same, emphasizing the importance of family and how money can corrupt, but the stakes are a lot higher for nearly everyone involved. The Hawthorne Legacy was nearly as engaging and fast-paced as The Inheritance Games, although the games themselves lose their luster just a bit. I was somewhat conflicted at some of the events and revelations at the end. It wasn’t seamlessly concluded and even felt a bit from left field compared to the ending in The Inheritance Games. 

If you enjoyed the first book, the second book is a must-read, especially if you want to know more about Avery and are looking for some closure. But, there is a third book, so I’m not sure how much closure may mean here…dun Dun DUN!!!! (heh…)

Discussion: Ebooks and Print Books

I used to say I would never read an ebook. Well, I lied. Ebooks have become an essential part of my reading experience. I currently read more ebooks than I do print books. Although I’ve learned to love ebooks, I still love print books as well. And, I don’t think you necessarily have to choose one or the other.

Here are 5 reasons I love ebooks and 5 reasons why I still cannot give up print books.

WHY I LOVE EBOOKS

  1. I can take it anywhere with me.

When I’m on the go, it’s usually just my keys and my phone, which my wallet is now conveniently attached to. With my books on my phone, it’s made living a bookish life easier. I pull out my book when I’m in line, when I’m in the car, when I’m in a waiting room, and just about anywhere I have a few minutes to spare. These moments have added up to a lot of pages read.

  1. Language barriers can be minimized.

Sometimes books have words or phrases in different languages that I might not understand. With the translate feature on my reading app, it’s easy to find out what most words or phrases mean by highlighting and selecting translate. Of course, not all languages are available, but it’s still helpful. This is one of my favorite features.

  1. Highlighting and taking notes are at the palm of my hands.

I like annotating because it helps me process information and helps with my recall. I don’t need additional accessories to highlight favorite quotes or to write thoughts down; my finger(s) will do the trick. I can look over my annotations by clicking on my notebook. This is especially helpful to refer back to when I’m writing a review or when I just want to bask in the warmth of a lovely scene.

  1. There is minimal lag in delivery.

Being a mood reader means I usually read what I feel like at the moment. Rather than a planned TBR, I often discover it along the way. With nearly instantaneous delivery while I sit at home, I can read a book right away, unless I’m checking it out from the library and there are a few people in line. On the other hand, it will take longer to get a book delivered, and delivery times are not always reliable either.

  1. The savings can be significant.

The financial strain of reading can be significantly reduced. New hardcover books can cost as much as USD$ 30 while their ebook counterparts may be half that, or even less when on sale. Because I mostly read ebooks now, a few dollars can go a long way.

…BUT STILL CANNOT GIVE UP PRINT BOOKS

  1. I take my time when reading print books.

I noticed I read a little slower when I have an print book open. After switching to mostly ebooks, this bothered me until I realized what was going on: I read nearly every word. I don’t feel as rushed when I have a book in hand, and I’m also much more calm for some reason.

  1. My hands are thankful.

I have a tendency to binge and to stay up all night to finish a book. When I’m ready to set my phone down, my hands have turned into lobster claws and are likely cramping. Books do not give me the same aches and pains because I am much more likely to set my book down on a table to read it than I am with my phone.

  1. The presence of a physical book is comforting.

I love being able to hug a book especially if it was particularly good. The physical act of closing a book when a series ends is also very satisfying–you’re closing a chapter on a life you’ve just lived. Both bring comfort in different ways. Reading an ebook and hugging my phone hasn’t given me the same kind of comfort.

  1. I love seeing books on my shelves.

This sounds materialistic of me but hear me out. I didn’t always like reading–gasp!–but when dislike turned into love, the library became a sanctuary. We couldn’t afford many books when I was growing up, so now that I can, I try to fill my shelves when possible. I’m creating my own personal sanctuary at home and trying to share my love of reading with my family–so far my nieces are resisting it.

  1. I’m always afraid something will happen to my ebooks.

Reformatting portable hard drives, laptops refusing to turn on, and phones crashing instilled in me a need for backups, and in some cases, backups of backups. Electronics and the cloud are great, but there’s always a possibility they can fail you. These were traumatic experiences because I couldn’t recover important documents and photos. When I love a book, a print copy sometimes serve as my backup of the ebook. It gives me a sense of security.

What are your thoughts? Do you read both formats? Are you clearly one side over the other? Or, maybe it doesn’t matter and a book is a book? I would to hear what you think!

The Inheritance Games (2020)

by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
ASIN/ISBN: 9781368052405
Publication: September 1, 2020
Series: The Inheritance Games #1

After her mother dies, Avery is left under the care of her half-sister. She discovers her financial struggles are solved when she unexpectedly becomes the heir to billions of dollars despite not knowing the man who left it to her. With a disinherited family that calls foul on her new position, the biggest questions become what is the link between Avery and the Hawthornes and what game has Tobias Hawthorne forced them into.

The book is fast-paced and kept me engaged the entire time. I couldn’t stop reading it. While the main plot is about trying to solve the clues left behind by Tobias Hawthorne, multiple subplots helped to make the book interesting, including the dangers that come with being the heir to billions and navigating a new school and relationships. The book invokes the importance of family as well as the influence of money on behavior. Both themes are prominent throughout the book and manifests itself in different ways, but especially through Avery’s relationships with her sister and the Hawthorne boys.

I was immediately intrigued by Avery with her willingness to help those around her, despite her current means, and her personality. Avery is smart, loves puzzles, and wants to be a statisician. I liked her as soon as I read that–I’m a nerd who also loves data and stats. Avery has to learn to adjust to her new life including a new school, having a security detail, and living with the Hawthornes. While her integration into this new world isn’t without its problems, she tries to remain grounded. She doesn’t give up and tries not to let the money corrupt her. One of the curious pieces of this entire puzzle is that her mind works scarily similarly to that of the Hawthorne boys, especially Jameson and Grayson, even though she has no idea of her connection to Tobias or the entire Hawthorne family. Barnes skillfully injects clues here and there to make the reader question what they think they know.

Aside from Avery, everything is a mystery, and I enjoyed unraveling the clues alongside her. The estate immediately reminded me of the Winchester House in San Jose, CA with the many mysteries and secrets within the Hawthorne House. Of course, the Hawthorne boys are also one of the biggest mysteries in the book. I couldn’t tell whether they were genuine about helping her or if they wanted to depose of Avery in a roundabout way. When Avery’s paranoia began to set in, I thought it was smartly written because even I started to question everyone around her, especially the boys. I did have a soft spot for Xander, the youngest of the boys, and kept hoping he had nothing to do with the danger lurking in every corner.

There is a budding romance, or should I say romances, although it’s not the main focus. As someone who abhors love triangles, I feel it is my duty to report that a love triangle is brewing. Avery’s indecisiveness contributes to it and I hated that. I get it, she’s still just in high school and trying to navigate a nearly nonexistent social life with the mystery of the inheritance so I’m sorry…but also not sorry. It had to be said. I didn’t like her confusing actions.

After finishing it, I completely understand the hype around the book when it first came out. Individuals who like a good mystery and scavenger hunt will enjoy The Inheritance Games. The book ends on a cliffhanger, which I had somewhat expected, so with The Hawthorne Legacy already on hand….Let the games continue!

Fall Bucket List Book Tag

I’ve been trying to catch up with tags. I’m so sorry if I haven’t completed some of them. Sometimes WP doesn’t show me if I have any pingbacks so I’ve been trying to search through what I can. I was tagged by Francesca Lucy from Rarely in Reality. The Fall Bucket List book tag was created by Read With Tiffany. It’s perfect for the season!

Light a Scented Candle – A Book That’s Lighthearted

Wow. This one was a hard one! I think Blade of Secrets fits this pretty well because Levenseller infuses the story with a lot of humor. At one point three of the characters loudly discuss the other and what his intentions might be while he pretty much just tells them, “I can year you all.” I’m definitely looking forward to the second book. There’s magic. There’s adventure. There’s romance. (My Review)

Drink Pumpkin Spiced Lattes – A Book That Has a Lot of Hype

Don’t kill me, ya’ll! I must confess that I’m not the biggest fan of anything pumpkin-flavored. I’ve never actually had a pumpkin spiced latte, although I hear it’s all the rage. Iron Widow was a book I was excited about. While there were things I didn’t like about it, Zetian is such a kickass protagonist. (My Review)

Go Apple Picking – A Book That Has Fun Friendships

The Bone Shard Daughter has one of my favorite friendships. Jovis is a smuggler and he ends up saving a creature from the ocean, Mephi. What is it exactly? I’m not sure, but Mephi steals the show, and their friendship is one of the highlights of the book. At first Jovis doesn’t want to keep Mephi but they slowly become inseparable. Mephi is all sorts of adorable. (My Review)

Wear a Cozy Sweater – A Book That Warms Your Heart

When I think of autumn reads, especially one that is warm like a sweater, the first book I think of is A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow. I read it in November and now I associate it with the season, not only because of the warm tones of the cover but the sweaters Lila wears. It also gives Taylor Swift’s “Cardigan” vibes. Read this with a cup of tea. (My Review)

Bake Cinnamon Rolls – A Character Who’s a Talented Chef

This one is a short story that I recently read. I’m working my way through the entire Love All Year 2021 multicultural anthology but “Yes, Chef” is about a lawyer who enlists the help of a sous chef to teach him to cook when he tells his mom he will cook Lunar New Year dinner. It’s short and sweet. If only all short stories could be like this one. (My Review)

Jump Into a Pile of Leaves – A Book That Made You Jump For Joy

I jumped for joy when I was approved for The Bone Shard Emperor. I couldn’t keep my excitement down. I pushed pause on everything and read the book in one sitting. If you enjoyed The Bone Shard Daughter, you will love it’s sequel. It’s possibly even better than the first book. Yes, there’s a lot of Mephi! I’m still working on a review for this. (Review from Under the Radar SFF Books)

Thanks for tagging me, Francesca Lucy! I TAG:

The Orphan Witch (2021)

by Paige Crutcher
ASIN/ISBN: 9781250797377
Publication: September 28, 2021

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

The Orphan Witch is filled with loneliness and longing as Persephone May searches for a place she can call home. Because of the strange things that happen around her, she continues drifting from place to place. After receiving an email from her only friend inviting her to Wile Isle, she finally feels like she has found what she’s been searching for all her life. Her arrival puts her in the middle of a fierce family feud and a century-old curse.

It starts as a lovely book about finding family but slowly turns into something more suspenseful with secrets looming, dark forces lurking near, and magic demanding a price possibly greater than many are willing to pay. I was immediately charmed by the writing with its rich descriptions and the sense of yearning it evokes from Persephone’s desire to find a family. I appreciated the level of detail that went into the history of those on the isle as well as the magic system. The moderately slow pace worked well in the beginning, helping to create a comforting atmosphere as Persephone starts to feel like she belongs–I was completely immersed in the first half of the book.

As the mystery of the isle deepens and the rift between cousins begins to affect Persephone’s livelihood, the pace and certain plot elements began to impede what could have been a more exciting second half. The slow pace became frustrating as the time left to break the curse started to tick away, and there was still so much to do…and read. My frustration was further exacerbated by the miscommunication or misunderstandings in the story, preventing a very much-needed reconciliation that would have continued pushing the story forward. There were times when I just wanted straight answers and couldn’t get them.

Persephone was initially someone I easily sympathized with because I understood her longing for a place and people to belong to. This theme of belonging and a desire to be among family was a heartbreaking one. Anyone who has ever felt out of place will be able to connect with Persephone’s loneliness and desire for love. I desperately wanted Persephone to get a happy ending. The book managed to keep me engaged for the majority of it; however, I was not a fan of the ending. Individuals who enjoy slower reads and magical novels that emphasize love and family while also pitting good against evil may enjoy The Orphan Witch.