First Lines Fridays 1.5: The moment…

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 moment Anh Nhi Walsh stepped into her wedding dress and shimmied the eighty-year-old silk over her hips, she knew there had been a mistake.

A mistake so terrible, all the chocolate in the world couldn’t fix it.

romeanticallychallenged_cover


by Marina Adair
ASIN/ISBN: 9781496727664
Publication: July 28, 2020
Series: When in Rome #1

Growing up the lone Asian in a community of WASPs, Annie has always felt out of place. Her solution? Start a family of her own. Not easy when every man she’s dated, including her ex-fiancé, finds “his person” right after breaking up with Annie. Even worse than canceling the wedding eight weeks beforehand? Learning the “other woman” plans to walk down the aisle wearing her wedding gown. New plan—find a fresh, man-free start. Too bad her exit strategy unexpectedly lands her working at a hospital in Rome, Rhode Island, rather than Rome, Italy, and sharing a cabin with a big, brooding, and annoyingly hot male roommate.

Home on medical leave after covering a literally explosive story in China, investigative photojournalist Emmitt embarks on his most important assignment—cementing his place in his daughter’s life. Three men and a baby might work in the movies, but with a stepdad and devoted uncle competing for Paisley’s attention, Emmitt has lost his place at the family table. Then there’s the adorably sexy squatter in his cabin, who poses another problem, one he’d very much like to solve up close and personal. But he can’t win—Annie has sworn off men, Paisley’s gone boy crazy, and Emmitt’s estranged father reappears with a secret that changes everything.

Annie and Emmitt are about to discover love comes in many forms, and sometimes the best families are the ones we make. (from Goodreads)

In between new books, I’ve been rereading books I enjoyed. One of them is RomeAntically Challenged. I liked Annie and Emmitt can be charming when he wants to be. Their first meeting is pretty funny.

The Stolen Kingdom (2021)

by Jillian Boehme
ASIN/ISBN: 9781250298836
Publication: March 2, 2021

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

Mara goes from being the daughter of a well-known vintner to the heir of the Perrin Faye throne after her lineage is uncovered. Her appearance sets in motion a secret plot to free the kingdom from the Thrungraves, which includes killing the king and his two heirs.

The Stolen Kingdom is good but has the potential to be better. The plot is interesting with some twists I saw coming and others I did not. While I enjoyed the novel, especially as the magic system was slowly unveiled, I never reached that climactic moment where I thought it was too good to put down. I was, instead, continually thinking how great it would be as a duology or even a trilogy because there is a lot packed here that could easily be expanded had there been more details. For instance, with minimal descriptions, there lacked a sense of place with the world appearing generic even if the political intrigue and the magic system kept me interested in continuing to the end.

In addition to a lack of detail, there was little build-up to pivotal moments in the plot. I didn’t have to wait long to find out what would happen or how a problem was resolved. I only just inched toward the edge of my seats, and then it was over. While this wasn’t as much an issue in the beginning while the story was being set up, it was more apparent in the latter half when events happened one after the other. This also contributed to a pace I wanted to be slowed down so things wouldn’t just keep flashing by. Aside from these factors, I generally liked Boehme’s writing style, especially as it relates to characterization.

Mara and Alac, with their backstories and aspirations, are compelling characters even if I didn’t particularly connect with them like I have other characters in similar situations. They are similar in their desire to do something different from the paths open to them.  Mara is smart and has compassion for the people affected by Thungraves’ rule although her family has suffered less than most. She’s also quite frank. All these things have her fall into the “not like other girls” trope, but that isn’t a trope I particularly mind, and it’s also what draws Alac to her. Alac is “the spare,” and wants to get away from his princely duties secretly to have his own winery. Unlike his father and brother, he doesn’t appear to be particularly power-hungry and is considerate of others. His status hasn’t gone to his head either–his best friend is head of his guard. Mara and Alac seem like they’d be perfect for each other as soon as they’re introduced in the book. While their time together is sweet–the attraction is instant between them–I questioned how their feelings so easily overcame their common sense. 

I enjoyed the book. The book is written with all the pieces fitting together, which is good but almost too easy. I liked Mara and Alac even if the connection I had with them wasn’t entirely present. I look forward to more from Boehme, with hopes that future books will provide greater detail and keep me on the edge of my seat.  

The View Was Exhausting (2021)

by Mikaella Clement and Onjuli Datta
ASIN/ISBN: 97815301010
Publication: July 6, 2021

**A positive review of the book from a fellow blogger prompted me to read an excerpt of it through NetGalley, which then lead me to purchase a copy because I needed to find out what happened.**

The View Was Exhausting is a book about a relationship of convenience used to quell negative media attention. Win’s and Leo’s on and off again “relationship” is complicated by, what appear to be, very real feelings. Win is reluctant to follow those feelings and pursue what she and Leo could be. While Leo has a seemingly laid-back attitude, Win is overly conscious of media scrutiny, which is why they are constantly reconnecting. Although her life appears glitzy and glamourous, melancholic overtones are scattered throughout as their past and present relationship unfold on the pages. At times, the interweaving of the past and present leads to some confusion about what is happening at the moment, making some things a little hazy. Their friendship and even their potential for more are at risk when something in Leo’s past comes to light.

The first few chapters lulled me into believing I would not get hurt by this book. Wasn’t it obvious these two individuals who couldn’t be themselves around many people were often only genuine toward one another? Wasn’t it obvious they had such sizzling chemistry? However, the book did a number on me. I wanted to slam it (but carefully and gently because it’s still a precious book) on the table because it left me vulnerable to a trigger I didn’t recognize I had until some books ago. At one point, I wanted to stop reading but the need to know what would happen next was ultimately greater–a testament to how much I liked the writing and even the storyline itself despite the pain I incurred. Would the dilemma get resolved? Are they in love with each other? What will Win choose?

Win and Leo won me over with their fabricated romance. Like the public they are trying to convince, I had beautiful illusions of two people on the road to figuring out that love, above all, is a worthy risk. Win and Leo are more vulnerable than they seem. Win has learned to reinforce herself with armor–she’s isn’t always likeable–but Leo often seems lost, without drive or purpose. Together, they’ve created a kind of haven. They’re friends who put their lives on hold for each other, who show each other their true selves even if they have to put on a show for the rest of the world. Underlining their trust in each other and how readily they rely on one another is their scorching chemistry, even if they both (mostly Win) try to hide from it. 

The social commentary also kept me glued to the novel. The undue pressure on members of marginalized groups when they succeed is captured well in the novel. There is an expectation that the successful individual is now representative of an entire group of people, and there requires a delicate balancing act the individual must endure. Every action is scrutinized and there are those just waiting for the person to fall. People want to place you neatly into a box, and if you break out of the box, they wait for any mistake, big or small, to put you “where you belong.” Win’s success places her in such a position. She loves acting and she’s great at it, but it all gets overlooked as soon as rumors begin to circulate about anything. She can be described as cold and calculating, but she’s learned to be this way to survive in an industry that is ready to strike her, to replace her on any whim. She succumbs to the pressure, and even when she wants to speak up, she self-censors because there is a price for her every action. 

Ultimately, this isn’t a feel-good type of novel. That was one of the more difficult parts of reading the book. I tend to read less angsty novels, those that are more toned down and focus on the good as opposed to the bad, but the writing coupled with leads I couldn’t help but want together propelled me to keep moving forward. 

Gin’s Tonic (2020)

by Olivia Owen
ASIN/ISBN: B085RQJYWR
Publication: April 16, 2020

Virginia “Gin” Lee’s life is turned upside after a devastating loss. Running away from what’s left of her life in So Cal and looking for a place where she can be no one instead of someone, she finds herself in small town Jasper, Colorado after nearly running someone over. Yup, it’s a “city girl looking for escape in a small town” book. This may prompt an eye roll because of the abundance of similar books but Gin’s Tonic is so well-written. I picked it up on a whim but it was the book I needed in that exact moment. It embraced me like only a comfort read could. With imperfect characters, found family, and healing, Gin’s Tonic soothed a part of me I didn’t realize needed it.

Gin is broken and aware of it. She recently takes up smoking to purposely shorten her lifespan. She considers ending her life, even attempting it at one point. Anyone in her situation–going through the motions of living while not really living at all–might act in a similar way. While I cannot relate to Gin on every level, there were things about her I identified with, making the story feel more personal in some ways. The town easily embraces her, and she finds herself becoming part of the town’s “we” rather than the no one she wanted to be. The church ladies break the typical church lady stereotypes and are a fun bunch, and Aunt May and Becca essentially adopts her into their small family.

Roman is a big brooding alpha male. He’s the silent, protective type and seems to always show up when Gin needs him most. If this was real life, I’d be a little bit terrified but it’s a romance book so, for now, let me have swoon. I’m always on the fence about alpha males and some of their tendencies but Roman’s personality and overall behavior doesn’t particularly trigger any of my alarms and eyerolls the way other alpha male characters normally do. I loved how patient he was with Gin.

It’s told solely from Gin’s perspective, which is surprising considering the majority of my romance reads alternate viewpoints of the potential couple. As much as I liked Roman and would have liked to hear his thoughts–in the beginning I was wondering when would I get his perspective–I quickly realized that I preferred it without. I liked that this was solely Gin’s story; this was her journey to healing.

I flipped back and forth on the romance. Initially, I loved it because Gin and Roman seemed to fit so well but upon rereading my favorite parts over, it was difficult to understand why they gravitated toward each other. In piecing their progression from strangers to lovers, I found I wasn’t as easily convinced the second time around. It’s attraction at first, but becomes this unexplained connection that draws them to each other. It’s attraction mingled with lust bordering on instalove but they talk about it as if it’s something more. Eventually, it could be but I don’t know if I believe it is. Of course, maybe it’s just the cynical me who comes out when I try to understand rather than simply believing. Alternatively, it makes just as much sense to say Owen just doesn’t explicitly write it. It could be the brokenness they see in each and their loneliness that connects them to each other or something but there’s no explicit confirmation. Of course, after all of that (I’m so sorry for putting you through my rant) the hopeless romantic in me still enjoyed them together.

This is Owen’s debut novel and I liked it so much. I continuously looked at how much I still had left to read every few pages because I was scared I was getting close to the end. And, I didn’t want it to just yet. While I wished it would keep going, my heart was content with the ending, epilogue included. The book leaves a lot of room to continue the stories of those connected to Gin, but I’m not sure if I’m ready to leave Gin and Roman behind just yet. I will be rereading this book many times over.

Romance Interlude 2.10


Give Love a Chai (2021)
by Nanxi Wen
ASN/ISBN: B08NS6V82S
Publication: March 18, 2021
Goodreads Summary
Series: Common Threads #2

One liner: Tia needs to divorce her husband before she can get married to her fiance.

The book started off rather interestingly with Tia in her car trying to gather the courage to serve her husband with divorce papers…again. She didn’t realize she was still married when she accepted her boyfriend’s proposal. I has hooked pretty quickly from there but it didn’t pan out to be the romance I expected. It’s established immediately that even after 10 years, both Tia and Andrew still have feelings for one another but they’ve forged different paths. The book hit so many right notes for me and yet I felt a bit distant from their relationship, like the emotional aspect of it that would make me root for them was missing. Additionally, it didn’t make sense to me that the only emotion they seemed to display was desire for each other and the pain and anger were muted. They should have been pissed some of the time rather than just still feeling like they were still in love….even if they were supposed to be. There were things thrown in at the end that were unnecessary, so I had to drop a star.


Choose Me: A Small Town Romance (2021)
by Leah Busboom
ASN/ISBN: B093MPLQBZ
Publication: May 16, 2021
Goodreads Summary
Series: Connor Brothers Book 9

One liner: Austin decides he wants to date someone he normally wouldn’t so he decides to pursue Luci, a software engineer who took his ski course.

It started out as a cute opposites attract novel with non-athletic software engineer Luci taking a ski class from trainer, ski instructor, and rock climbing instructor Austin. Austin ultimately makes the first move and before long they’re dating. Before long, he’s pretty sure she’s the one. Before long, her parents object. And before long…well, the clichés pile up and make this one a pretty forgettable book. I actually forgot I read it even though I finished it not too long ago.


Love’s Defense
by Laura Marquez Diamond
ASN/ISBN: B092SZLNFS
Publication: April 16, 2021
Series: The Thrasher Series #2
Goodreads Summary

One liner: Daniel is attracted to Stella, his dog’s new vet, but different obstacles stand in their way.

The book started off interesting but for a somewhat short book at just under 200 pages, it packs in a little too much from Stella’s fear of starting a new relationship to Daniel’s complicated family. I would have liked it to stick to one main plot and have the subplots take up less space. The dialogue also gets a bit cringey at times. The book was okay the first time around but I don’t know if I could reread it in full again.

First Lines Fridays 1.4: Like so many things..

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!

Like so many things in the palace, the map is deceptively beautiful.

Jet smooths the creamy parchment on the desk, its golden border glimmering as he weighs the corners with stones, a piece of artwork with gilded details and jewel-studded houses that turn my stomach. This is not how my hometown looked the last time I saw it.

Warning: This one is a sequel so the book description might ruin the first book. Proceed at your own risk.

TheCruelestMercy_cover


by Natalie Mae
ASIN/ISBN: 9781984835246
Publication: June 15, 2021
Series: The Kinder Poison #2

After surviving the Crossing, Zahru has sworn off adventures. While crown prince Jet navigates the looming threat of war, she’s content to simply figure out what the future holds for them. But they’re dealt a devastating blow when prince Kasta returns with a shocking claim: he’s the true winner of the Crossing and the rightful heir, and he bears the gods’ mark as proof. Even more surprising–he’s not the only one.

Somehow, Zahru possesses the very same mark, giving her equal right to the throne. The last thing she wants is to rule beside her would-be executioner, but she can’t let Orkena fall into his merciless hands. So Zahru, Jet, and their allies must race against the clock to find a way to stop Kasta, because once he’s crowned, there’s no telling what horrors he’ll unleash to win the war.

Zahru will do whatever it takes to keep Kasta from taking the throne…but to stop a villain, is she willing to become one herself? (from Goodreads)

Here’s another book I’ve been waiting for! The Kinder Poison had a cliffhanger ending so my fingers were itching to read the sequel…only to find it this was trilogy. I’m excited but I might possibly strangle the book if it ends on another cliffhanger.

Six Crimson Cranes (2021)

by Elizabeth Lim
ASIN/ISBN:  9780593300930
Publication: June 6, 2021
Series: Six Crimson Cranes #1

**I was provided a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.** (Loved it so much I had to purchase a copy though…just saying)

Six Crimson Cranes is a retelling of The Wild Swans that incorporates other legends such as Chang E the Moon Goddess and Madame White Snake. It reads as magical as a fairy tale with a princess, a kingdom in peril, and the deceptions of a stepmother. Lim’s descriptive prose, from the rendering of lush landscapes to the decadent food, immediately transported me to Kiata. I’ve always appreciated this nearly dreamlike quality that accompanies Lim’s novels that make them so enchanting.

After discovering her stepmother’s true identity, Shiori’s brothers are cursed and turned into cranes while she is forced to remain silent about their conditions lest she kills a brother with each word she speaks. Shiori begins as a headstrong troublemaker, used to being indulged by the family and getting her way. The curse forces her to be more thoughtful toward others while still retaining her headstrong tendencies. I appreciated that she didn’t completely transform into someone new because I liked her curious nature and willingness to stand her ground.

The sibling dynamics is another element I enjoyed. Despite their duties forcing them to spend most of their time apart, Shiori and her brothers all love one another dearly. There isn’t as much one-on-one time between her and each brother, but it’s easily discernible that her relationship with each is different, but she is cherished among all her brothers. (Being the youngest and the only girl can be so hard…hehehe.)The curse reinforces how much they love one another as they search for one another and work together to break the curse. 

The romance is both expected and unexpected. I couldn’t help but smile at the direction the book takes in terms of love interests. It’s gradual, beginning soft and subtly, seemingly not like much until a few key lines made me swoon. The book hints at a potential love triangle, and I’m hoping if that becomes the case in the next book, it is short-lived. I dislike love triangles a lot.

Lim includes a letter at the beginning noting the different tales she includes in the book. I grew up with similar tales and also watched some as wuxia movies. Familiarity with the stories does not take away from enjoying the book nor should being unfamiliar with the tales. Lim creatively weaves them effortlessly into each other, although there are a few times when just a bit too much was going on. It was fun identifying details from the various stories as well as trying to figure out how different parts would play out in the novel. Although more still needs to be done, the increase in diverse books creates positive opportunities like this one, allowing readers to not only see themselves in the books they read but also the stories they grew up with. Six Crimson Cranes is now my favorite of Lim’s novels.

Quarterly Progress 2021: Q2 (April – June)

YEARLY GOAL

  • READING GOAL: 125 Books
    I am nearly there. I think I might hit this goal by the end of Q3 (July-September). I am just 14 books shy of 125 books. Woohoo! I’m hoping there won’t be a slump. Also, Trope-ical Readathon will commence in August for it’s second round of the year. It should help me stay on track, and possibly even help me exceed my goal.
    • Q1: 60 books
    • Q2: 51 Books
  • BLOGGING GOAL: 1 YEAR MILESTONE
    It’s July! I hit my one year on June 27. I’m ecstatic! I really didn’t think I’d make it a whole year and I did. I posted a blogiversary post too! Who woulda thunk that was gonna happen? Not me!

QUARTERLY GOAL

  • 2nd QUARTER GOAL: CATCH UP ON NETGALLEY BACKLOG
    Current NetGalley Ratio: 72%
    I’ve been working away at those with the latest publication dates but I need to pick up my pace with those published in in February/March. Surprisingly, I kept my distance from the request button for most of the quarter but then I went on a small spree in June.
  • 2nd QUARTER GOAL: READ CINDERELLA IS DEAD
    I read it all the way through! Woohoo! I’m ecstatic about this because I’ve been trying to read it since it first came out last year.

GOALS ACCOMPLISHED

  • Blogging Goal: 51 Posts

FINAL ASSESSMENT: ON TRACK. TWO out of THREE YEARLY GOALS HAVE BEEN SMASHED!

  • one of my favorite blog hopping activities is to search and read reviews of books I’ve read. Not only does it help me keep my TBR down since I’ve already read the book (hehehe), but it allows me to interact with more bloggers. On the other hand, this also means the amount of bookmarks of reviews has slightly increased since I like to bookmark reviews of books I’ll be reading soon so I can return to the blog post and comment.
  • memes and tags help me take a break from reviews, allowing my mind to reset if necessary. Memes are a great way to interact with the bookish community but it’s also a chance to let my mind relax from writing reviews. Sometimes I feel like I’m reading one book after the next without giving myself time to breathe, to fully contemplate and appreciate what I just read before I’m moving on to the next book. Meme creators are awesome! Music Monday, Six Degrees of Separation, First Line Fridays, and Let’s Talk Bookish are now part of the blog and I hope to add a few more.

I read this in April and have not forgotten about it since I first read it. This is my favorite read of the second quarter. It’s a second chance romance but the massive amount of groveling swayed me to root for the couple. MacLean’s writing was also beautiful. There were so many quotes I loved from it. (Review)


MADe ME CRY

Nicole Lespearce throughly pierced me with Eli’s longing for her mother. I ugly cried heading into the end, and also missed my mom dearly. My partner also happened to find me in my sad state, wanted to record it for viewing later, and was immediately kicked out of the room so I could cry in peace. This was a memorable read for multiple reasons. Hahaha…(Review)

DESERVES MORE ATTENTiON

Please read books by Anela Deen! After reading In the Jaded Grove, I picked up more of her earlier novels to read and I’m excited to get started on them. (Review)

EXCEEDED MY EXPECTATiONS

I promised this book would show up again. I tend to gravitate toward emotional reads, which often ends up being slower paced as well. I was not expecting to like Before I Saw You as much as I did. It mostly took place in a single hospital room and yet I didn’t get bored. Most of the time we’re in Alfie’s and Alice’s heads and the bond that forms between them is lovely and sigh-inducing. It is such a lovely read. (Review)

  • I will try to catch up on my backlog of ARCs. This is likely the goal for the foreseeable future. My NetGalley ratio keeps fluctuating up and down. A book I requested long before the publication date was finally declined…a month after it was already published. Hmm… I promise I will try to keep my requests to a minimum while I play catch up. Keyword is TRY.
  • I will finally read
    • Jade City (2017). A friend recommended it and then I tried participating in a Jade City readathon, but still came up empty. I need to finish this especially with the final book coming out soon.
    • These Violent Delights (2020). I tried reading this for the Trope-ical Readathon and then for the Asian Readathon but was unable to complete it. I need to finish this because it’s companion is also going to be coming out soon.