Fellowship of the Ring Tag

The Lord of the Ring tag was created by Unputdownable Books, and I found it over on Shelves of Starlight.

I love the movies but haven’t read the books except for The Return of the King. I read it because I couldn’t wait for the last movie to come out. Ha… I’ve had the tag saved but all my drafts just kept pushing this tag lower until I nearly forgot about it. I’m excited to finally do this one!!

QUESTIONS

Gandalf – a book that taught you something.

There’s always something I’ve taken away from every book I’ve read. Romance novels have particularly helped me with being more comfortable in my own skin and given me different perspectives on relationships. Love Her or Lose Her, for instance, gives insight into how not all love is shown in the same way. Some individuals show their love their actions as opposed to words, and it doesn’t necessarily mean they love you any less. (My review)

Frodo – a book that left a mark on you.

How about a scar on my heart? The ending was one of many alternatives I suspected. Suspicions are one thing, but to read it, to experience it is another. I was left in shock. (My review)

Legolas – a book you finished in one sitting.

I’m cheating a bit here since this is a novella. At just under 200 pages, it was a fast read. I read a review that said this was a must read, and I have to agree. I enjoyed the novella so much, more so than the couple’s actual novel Happily Ninja After. It ends abruptly, so it’s good to have their book on hand. (Review from Feeding My Addiction Book Reviews)

Gimli – a book that features an unlikely friendship.

After Ellie’s boyfriend breaks up with her, she ends up being grouped with a bunch of boys she doesn’t really know in their home economics class. Soon, working together in the class also spills into friendships outside of the class. This is a cute, light read I enjoyed. (My review)

Merry – a book that pleasantly surprised you.

I will be posting up a review for this soon, but I needed to put it here today. This book was a pleasant surprise. I enjoyed it so much despite the pain of unrequited love. Baines made me cry. (My review is nearly done; Review from the Lit Buzz)

Pippin – a book that made you laugh.

This was my first book by Kayley Loring and solidified her as one my favorite romance authors. I was looking for Christmas books and took a chance on it. It’s hilarious! I couldn’t stop laughing when I first read it. The audiobook narrators are also wonderful. (My Mini Review)

Boromir – a book/series you think ended too soon.

I know I can’t stop shouting about how much I adore this book. The ending was fitting, but I can’t help wanting Milan to write more. I wasn’t ready to leave behind my new favorite kick ass protagonist. (One day I’ll finish my review; Review from The Last Reader)

Sam – a book with memorable side characters who stole the show.

Kayley Loring needs a second showing here because her books always contains a cast of characters who steal the show. While the book focuses on Scarlett and Dylan’s relationship, their family members steal the show through emails and text messages. (My review)

Aragorn – a good book with a bad/average cover.

The cover is unique, not a bad/average cover, and didn’t exactly entice me at the time, but the blurb was really interesting. It turned out to be such a great book! I enjoyed it immensely. (My review)

Gollum – a book that had great potential but disappointed you in the end.

In the Ravenous Dark had all the makings of an excellent book. I was hooked from the beginning but was disappointed when the pace was incredibly fast, jumping from one event to the next, without allowing me to take in everything going on. Additionally, lust and attraction was suddenly love without much development. (My review)

I TAG YOU
if your blog or your name has a “K”
and if the tag is something you’d enjoy doing.

I especially love tags like this one because I get to think of the movie and characters as I connect them with books. I must go watch the movies now. Enjoy! I hope you decide to do the tag. I can’t wait to read your answers!

First Lines Fridays 1.17: If someone had…

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!

If someone had told me yesterday that I’d be spending my Saturday morning in the aisle of a stuffy bookstore searching for ghost stories, I would’ve told them they were nuts. But here I am, staring down an entire row of books with titles like Windy City Mysteries, Chi-Town Haunts, and Second City Ghosts.

I guess I should have expected this.

ScritchScratch_cover


by Lindsay Currie
ASIN/ISBN: 9781728209722
Publication: September 1, 2020

A ghost story about a malevolent spirit, an unlucky girl, and a haunting mystery that will tie the two together.

Claire has absolutely no interest in the paranormal. She’s a scientist, which is why she can’t think of anything worse than having to help out her dad on one of his ghost-themed Chicago bus tours. She thinks she’s made it through when she sees a boy with a sad face and dark eyes at the back of the bus. There’s something off about his presence, especially because when she checks at the end of the tour…he’s gone.

Claire tries to brush it off, she must be imagining things, letting her dad’s ghost stories get the best of her. But then the scratching starts. Voices whisper to her in the dark. The number 396 appears everywhere she turns. And the boy with the dark eyes starts following her.

Claire is being haunted. The boy from the bus wants something…and Claire needs to find out what before it’s too late. 

I got this for Christmas last year, and I’m terrified to read it because I don’t do scary very well. I know it’s a middle grade read but everything about it is creepy. The title is creepy. The tagline is creepy. It’s perfect for the holiday though! Have you read it? Is it as creepy as it looks?

Attachment Theory (2021)

by Kayley Loring
ASIN/ISBN: B09HPD7ZDY
Publication: October 7, 2021
Series: The Brodie Brothers #2

Attachment Theory is the second book in Loring’s The Brodie Brothers series. It features the youngest Brodie brother Dylan searching for love. Unfortunately, his past partners–of which there have been many– have all been co-stars. Their relationships have never lasted longer than the length of their joint movies or projects. He keeps looking for that one person he can form a lasting relationship with. Scarlett is a marriage and family therapist. Having been betrayed by her ex, she is reluctant to date actors. A chance encounter with Dylan Brodie, however, left a lasting impression. When they finally meet again, in her office no less, it will take a lot of willpower to refuse his advances and ignore her attraction to him.

Kayley Loring has been strumming my heart and making me laugh for nearly a year. Attachment Theory (2021), while embodying everything I adore about Loring’s novels, surprisingly bears a tinge of sadness that hasn’t been nearly as present in her other novels. Much of it stems from both Dylan’s and Scarlett’s past. Scarlett is still recovering from her ex-husband’s betrayal and seems hesitant to start any relationship, especially with an actor. She blames herself for not being enough for him, but also believes that she has never really been in love. While Scarlett has put a pause on her love life, Dylan’s failed relationships haven’t stopped him from looking for “the one.”

Dylan isn’t the most likeable of Loring’s leads. He’s confident but there was also this arrogance about him that I didn’t really like. However, he displays a deep sense of insecurity along with a less pronounced vulnerability that also made me want to hug him. He’s looking for a relationship that will provide him sustenance, someone for him to love and to be loved in return. Despite having been programmed by his multitude of short-term relationships to believe he may not be enough, he continues to war his heart on his sleeve.

I’m torn about how I feel about this book because instalove isn’t my cup of tea, yet there’s something different about Dylan and Scarlett’s foundation–a woman in a red dress and the man who bends down to tie her shoelaces. It’s terribly romantic because this one moment is burned into each of them, feeding them until they see each other again. I enjoyed the slow burn of the first half as Scarlett struggled with her feelings. Unfortunately, the second half felt rushed just as their relationship was beginning to feel solid. I can’t quite be sure if I believe in their happily ever after because the ending felt so abrupt to me (e.g. more groveling was needed). The three epilogues didn’t make up for it either.

This would have been four stars, possibly even five stars, had the second half been as equally moving as the first. The ending was too sudden and would have fared better with an additional few pages or even a chapter. While fun reads, the three epilogues didn’t make me feel better, because I wanted better closure. Also, I’m looking forward to the audio book. I love the duet narrations. It’s really an ensemble when it comes to the text messages.

Additional highlights:

  • It was refreshing to have characters who had good relationships with their families. Scarlett’s relationship with her parents was a highlight for me. Her banter with her mom was probably my favorite as they traded sayings, her mom’s Chinese ones with her American ones. My mom and I have had similar conversations. We can agree to disagree. Hmm…
  • I love the character cameos. As a fan of her Name in Lights series, it was fun to see the mention of the That’s So Wizard family–Shane and Nico make appearances but, alas, Alex is only name-dropped.
  • I enjoyed the text messages and the emails. They add so much humor to the book and provide insight into the relationships between the characters, especially between the Brodie family.
  • The Garçon commercial. Everyone needs to watch the commercial.

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.

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…)

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!

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.